Review: PAWS 3: Umbrae

Umbrae is the third book in the P.A.W.S. series by Debbie Manber Kupfer and this review was supposed to be up on Saturday – I swear I typed it up. Stupid internet. Anyways, better late than never.

I’ve been enjoying the P.A.W.S. series. This is a YA urban fantasy series that focuses on shapeshifters of varying types. The main character is a teenage girl named Miri. Miri can shift into a cat with the help of a magical talisman.

In this book Miri learns a lot about her family history while back at the P.A.W.S. Institute of the Midwest there is trouble brewing. Loyalties are tested. Secrets come to light while others are buried deeper.

The author does a wonderful job of continuing to create tension even after Miri has defeated her enemy (back in books 1 and 2). This book introduces many new complications and raises as many questions as it answers.

Another interesting aspect of this series is that many of the main characters are Jewish. I love books that explore cultures outside of the White-Western-Christian experience. Also love that the Canadian exchange student is loud and gets into trouble!

This is a series that has remained strong and interesting through three books and ends with a great hook. If you’re looking for a good YA series this is one I recommend taking a chance on. 5 out of 5 stars.


Review: P.A.W.S. Argentum

Argentum is the second book in the P.A.W.S. series by Debbie Manber Kupfer. P.A.W.S. is a contemporary paranormal series set mainly in St. Louis with parts of the book taking place in Europe and New York.

The cast of this book his huge but the main character is Miri Katz, a fifteen year old Jewish girl who can change into a cat with the help of an ancient amulet that has been in her family for generations. She is living at a secret facility that is part base part school part research facility in Forest Park with most of the cast.

There is the leader of their location, her son (who is also Miri’s romantic interest), a half dozen werewolves, a kangaroo exchange student, Miri’s roommate (another cat shifter), an ancient bird shifter (who may be friend or foe), and several side characters who are staff or students at the facility. As well there are three or four human characters and two or three “bad guys”. Plus about a dozen side characters in other locations.

The large cast wouldn’t be a problem but the story arc in this book branches and instead of closely following JUST Mirir’s journey you are now involved with a half dozen intersecting arcs, many of which are actually lengthy flashbacks. These chapters are interesting and full of their own tension and plot but there is no real clear distinction, no date at the beginning of a chapter, nothing to tell you if you’re in flashback or not. This wouldn’t be bad if they were short – a few paragraphs – and you were slipping in and out of memory with the characters, but some flashbacks are chapters long. And some of the flashbacks were very recent which made keeping the current timeline straight a little difficult.

The book felt long. There was a lot going on but I think the looking back nature of the book made it feel slower than book 1.

I will say that I liked the Canadian exchange student who was so un-Canadian it was refreshing. This author does not fall back on stereotypes.

I am curious to see where this series is going so the flashbacks haven’t turned me off the story. I think that they could have been shorter, hinted at, and that she might have taken those lengthy flashbacks, made them more showing and less tilling, and released a series of short stories instead. But they were interesting.

3.5 out of 5 stars from me.

Review: PAWS

PAWS is the first book in an urban fantasy paranormal series by Debbie Manber Kupfer.

The main character of PAWS is a teenage girl named Miriam Katz. The cast includes werewovlves, shapeshifters, and magicians who have mastered the art of changing shape.

The story revolves around a rather old, cruel, werewolf and his quest for power. PAWS is an organization of magical beings who can, in some way, change their shape into animals. The bad guy feels that PAWS is one of the biggest threats to his quest for power.

The beginning of the book is rather long and it takes a while for Miri to find out how she fits into the paranormal side of this world. This book also has a lot of training and practicing and backstory.

One interesting thing was that many of the main characters, Miri, Josh, and Mandy, were Jewish. It was actually quite the diverse cast with an Irishwoman and her son, a British magician, and an Australian exchange student who could change into a kangaroo.

There were a few things that bothered me. First of all, shapeshifters are sort of genetic and their magic relies on a talisman of sorts. The magicians who learn to change shape do not have these talismans. At one point Joey, the kangaroo, had an amulet that he shouldn’t have had because he doesn’t need it. There were a few places where the formatting was wacky as well. I found the pacing was a little off. She spent the whole book building towards this fight scene and it was short and lacked tension.

Other than that the book was very good. It is definitely designed for younger teen readers – say 12 or 13 and up. It was a very easy read with a very simple story. The violence was not graphic, there was no swearing, and the romance was teen sweet with no sex scenes.

I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. It has great potential and I hope the rest of the series will pick up a little.