I have a Borders gift card I got for Christmas and will probably be going to Borders tomorrow to get some books to go with my other Christmas books (The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind by Fuyumi Ono and a numbered signed copy of Storm Constantine’s The Oracle Lips, which is a very lovely collection of short stories). Since I have not read much urban fantasy, I was thinking about getting a couple of urban fantasies to try. Any suggestions for where to start?

Last year I branched out and read more science fiction and found I really enjoyed it at least as much as fantasy. I had read some science fiction with mixed results since I rarely found one where I liked the characters as much as in the fantasy books I read. I still tried reading books in the genre that were highly praised on occasion, such as Altered Carbon (which wasn’t bad but had way too much testosterone for my taste) and Neuromancer (which was just plain dull with flat characters I didn’t care one bit for). Maybe I just tried reading too much cyberpunk; I couldn’t get into Snow Crash either.

Then I started reading more space opera – Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro, Grimspace by Ann Aguirre, The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks – and discovered I really liked it and needed to read more. Last year I had pretty good results with these books – Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles series, more from Asaro’s Skolian Saga, Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse, Gabriel’s Ghost and Shades of Dark by Linnea Sinclair, and the famous Dune.

So, this coming year I want to continue trying a few different types of books, and I’ve decided to try urban fantasy outside of the realm of what I’ve read in the genre before (books like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which was good). Vampires and werewolves have never seemed all that appealing to me, but you never know unless you actually try it so that’s what I plan to do. Maybe I base my feelings too much on cheesy vampire movies and am missing some great novels.

Books I am currently considering are:

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (this one has been recommended to me enough times that it’s a must-get if it’s in stock at Borders)

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton (I’ve heard the first few of these are good anyway; don’t know if I really want to start a series that is going to go downhill that quickly, though)

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin (Tia of Fantasy Debut is not a vampire fan either but enjoyed this one so it sounds promising)

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Is there anything else that should be on my list? Or any of these that should be at the top of the list? Which books have both good characterization (preferably with gray characters) and an interesting story? And are not so cheesy that I’ll get eye strain from rolling them too much?

Any advice is much appreciated!