Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Narrator: Holter Graham

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 10 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 1 Alpha and Omega

Author’s Page

Set in Montana, this book starts up right after the events in the prequel, Alpha and Omega. While it’s not necessary to have read the prequel story first, it does help explain several things about Anna Latham and her first impressions of Charles Cornick. This romance driven tale follows Anna and Charles on their quest to find a rogue werewolf in the wilds of Montana.

Charles is the son of Bran, the Marrock for North America. Bran leads all the werewolf packs and Charles is his right hand man for handling disputes among the packs, hunting down rogue werewolves, and sometimes carrying out executions. Anna just came out of the Chicago pack; having been terrorized by them for a few years, she is now learning what it’s like to be part of a caring and mostly stable pack in Montana. She’s an Omega, which means she isn’t compelled by the werewolf magic and hierarchy to follow the rules all the time. She can be a peacemaker and become the glue that holds a pack together.

On the surface, these both seem like interesting characters. For me, they were OK. Charles is Native American, but that part of his character feels a bit forced. Perhaps it will become more natural as the series progresses. Anna is so submissive and while I get she’s just come through the other side of some hellish years, I expected her to blossom a bit more in this tale. I don’t need her to become some badass archer. I just need her to feel like she can go have a pee without asking permission first.

Asil was the most interesting character for me. His past is a bit nebulous, but he looks Middle Eastern and had spent some quality time in Spain at some point. He’s still in mourning for his wife and adopted daughter after all these years and his mind may be slipping. Lots is going on with this character and I really wanted to know more about him. There was this other really interesting character, but they were eliminated, so I can’t name them without giving out a spoiler. I was bummed. I thought they added something to the story and Briggs could have done much more with that character in subsequent stories.

The ladies in this tale, for the most part, have no status unless the man in their lives has status. Such a turn off. A woman’s self-worth is not inherently tied to the men she’s related to nor the man in her bed. I’m OK with characters believing this, but I need the storyline to show why this isn’t the case, show me how women step outside of the system, or show me the shadow hierarchy among the ‘lesser’ members. That way, we have something interesting going on instead of a worn-thin trope.

Now the hunt for the rogue werewolf was fun. Anna had the chance to show off some of her camping skills, which was great. And who doesn’t like watching werewolves frolic in snowy forests? The mystery surrounding the rogue werewolf was two fold and I enjoyed watching Charles and Anna figure out what was truly going on. There were some chilling moments and I wasn’t sure everyone was going to make it out OK. This part of the tale was well done.

The sex scene was brief. It started off hot and we got just so far before all the truly interesting details were skipped over and the lovers are laying side by side, satisfied. Since this is paranormal romance, I could have used more here. It would have made up for the weaker points of the story.

The Narration: Holter Graham continues to be an excellent Charles and an excellent Bran (the Marrock). His female voices were OK, though sometimes I had trouble discerning one woman from another. I love his accent for Asil! He sounds so much like Puss in Boots, so I kept picturing Asil as a large orange cat.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; Montana woods; Bran’s level head; Asil is a complex guy; the rogue wolf mystery; Anna’s camping skills.

What I Disliked: In werewolf society, a female’s worth is tied to the men in her life; a character I felt had much more to give is killed off; Anna feels she needs permission all the time.

What Others Think:

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Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs

Narrator: Holter Graham

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2013)

Length: 2 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 0.5 Alpha and Omega

Author’s Page

Set in Chicago, Anna is the lowest in her pack, a werewolf pack she wasn’t given the choice in joining. After years of abuse, she is ready for a change. The Marrock has sent his son Charles to sort things out. Neither Charles nor Anna get what they expected.

I listened to this book as part of a group read and it’s a prequel to Cry Wolf. The Alpha and Omega series is a spin-off of the Mercy Thompson series and is more romance oriented. Honestly, it’s been some years since I read Mercy Thompson but I believe I like that series quite a bit more than this series.

So Charles is a dominant male among the werewolves and he’s a big handsome guy with skills. He meets Anna and discovers she’s an Omega, which is a person who can soothe and bind a pack together. However, her pack isn’t using her skills; instead they are just using her. By that I mean they take a chunk of her paycheck, have her clean and run errands, and pass her around sexually to reward pack members for questionable deeds. Obviously, Charles is not pleased at this at all. There shall be a reckoning!

There was insta-love between Anna and Charles on a primal level in which their inner wolves recognized it but their human sides took longer to figure it out. I liked the dual nature of this aspect of the story. I also like that this tale shows just what the Marrock, Bran, doesn’t want among the North American packs.

While some justice is meted out by the end, I felt that certain wolves didn’t show remorse over their actions, claiming they were ordered to abuse Anna and other lesser members. Obviously, some of these wolves will need further calibration.

The story had some intense moments, but the romance was a meh for me. I felt that Anna’s character was just too submissive all around. There’s the need to survive a bad situation, sure, but we could have used some inner Anna thoughts about how to avoid the worst of it, or change it, or sabotage food. Something.

The Narration: Holter Graham makes a very good Marrock and a very good Charles. His feminine voices were OK. I liked the harsh tones he can adopt when two wolves are squaring off. I also liked his soothing, patient voice for the Marrock.

What I Liked: Werewolves; Chicago; not all that bend are weak; the dual nature of the werewolf; the worst of the batch do meet justice.

What I Disliked: Anna is always bending, giving way; many of the misbehaving wolves showed no remorse over their actions. 

What Others Think:

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All Things UF

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Tofu cleaning his foot
Tofu cleaning his foot

Narrator: Jeff Gurner

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 15 hours 57 minutes

Series: Book 1 Daemon

Author’s Page

When master computer game creator Matthew Sobol passed away, gamer geeks mourned. Life continued for everyone else… except for two programmers who each died mysteriously. This sets off a chain of events which appear to be controlled by Sobol himself. However, it’s really Sobol’s computer daemon, a near AI program that Sobol created to carry out all these tasks upon his death. Those who realize what is really happening race against the daemon, attempting to stop it in it’s tracks before it’s final task can be carried out.

There were some things I liked about this book and some things that I did not. So let’s start with the negative and get that out of the way. This book did drag in several places. Each time I thought it was time I gave it up, something exciting would happen and pull me back into it. But then it would drag again and I contemplated shelving this book unfinished perhaps 4 times throughout the story. While there are some female characters, this book is definitely male dominated, which is bordering on unlikely in today’s age. Plus this is science fiction, so why not live a little and have a few more female characters, right? Finally, there were several times where I simply thought to myself, ‘That’s not bloody likely, ‘ in regards to a characters decisions or actions. Each time I did that, it took me out of the story and made me question how much thought did the author really put into this story.

So, besides all those things that dragged a decent book down into mediocrity, there’s some exciting stuff going on here. The major premise of the story, a master daemon program that can carry on after your death making decisions as you would have made them, was the thing that drew me to this book. Then we have the murder mysteries happening. Detective Seebeck was one of my favorite characters, being assigned to the investigation on the death of one of the programmers early in the book. He played an important role for the entire story. Lots of crazy stuff happens to him and he’s hard-pressed to explain much of it.

The news media plays a significant role in this book. For instance, the daemon is triggered to come on and run it’s program when news headlines report the death of Matthew Sobol. The reporter Anderson is contacted by this Daemon and offered the story of her life if she follows it’s instructions. Then, of course, the news agencies have a feeding frenzy over all the deaths and strange attacks linked to Sobol in some way. For instance, there’s this pretty intense attack by remote controlled Hummer vehicles at Sobol’s estate.

Finally, Sobol was a computer game programmer and a fan of computer games in general, so there’s at least one Easter Egg for game savvy fans to hunt down. I really liked this aspect of the story since that is so true to Sobol’s character, which we learn about through his daemon. It also allows tech analyst Ted Ross, who has played Sobol’s games, to predict some of the daemon’s next moves.

There’s many action scenes and plenty of odd deaths in this book. Yet there are stretches were things are just being reiterated and characters are making decisions that aren’t in line with what has already been established. All told, there’s a decent story in here somewhere and at the end I was glad I stuck it out and finished the book. I may or may not continue the series.

The Narration: Jeff Gurner was really great with this book. There’s a handful of accents for the characters and he does them all well. He kept all his character voices distinct and his female voices were passable. I liked his voice for the daemon quite a bit.

What I Liked: Computer game geeks; a master daemon carries on his creator’s wishes after his death; remote controlled everything!; news media can be a help or a hazard; plenty of action scenes; murder mystery.

What I Disliked: There were plenty of places that dragged in this book; few female characters; unlikely character decisions.

What Others Think:

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Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

FranklinMistressOfTheArtOfDeathWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Rosalyn Landor

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2007)

Length: 13 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 1 Mistress of the Art of Death

Author’s Page

 

Set in medieval Cambridge, children keep turning up dead. The local Catholics begin to blame the local Jewish community and then the local law must lock up the Jews for their own safety. However, this is not a tenable situation that can last for long. King Henry II wants to continue to receive his Jewish taxes, and for that to happen, his Jewish constituents must be free to work and trade. He contacts his cousin in Sicily and asks for an expert on the art of death to help clear matters up. What he gets is the highly trained and skilled Adelia.

This was a fascinating murder mystery and historical fiction.  First, I think like many folks, I once had this idea that the medieval ages were somewhat dark dreary, except for the tourneys. The ideas of medical degrees and college attending women are not what usually jumped to the forefront of my brain when I heard the word ‘medieval’. So right off I was caught up in what Adelia was doing in this story. Yes, she had to push to be allowed to go to university in Sicily and she had a fair amount of bullying from idiot men, but she persevered and got her medical degree. Now, she is a medical examiner of the dead.

Yet here in Cambridge, where very few people have any education at all, she has to cloak her skills in the role of assistant to the ‘real doctor’, her male travel companion. Cambridge is full of superstition and bad blood between rivals. There’s so many pitfalls for Adelia as she tries to go about her gruesome work. And gruesome it is indeed! Unfortunately, these children did not have an easy death and studying the remains is difficult work on several levels.

As she and her companions narrow in on the killer, things get more dangerous. Not everyone gets out unscathed and that was a definite sorrow. However, it added weight to the story and reminded Adelia that she and her group were not untouchable.

I loved all the medical stuff too. It’s very interesting to me what people can deduce and analyze when they have so little to go by. It’s not like Adelia has an 18th century lab to tinker around in. Nope. She’s got a cold stone slab in a chill room with a few candles, a handful of medical instruments, and her own wits. It was a pleasure to watch her work. Definitely looking forward to Book 2!

Narration: Rosalyn Landor was a great choice for this audiobook. Her voice for Adelia is both rich and compassionate. She brought the right amount of emotion to any situation in this book. Her accents were well done and all her characters were distinct.

What I Liked: A deep mystery; religious politics; Adelia’s degree; medical stuff; the Cambridge medieval setting; the story has weight; a satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a very good book.

What Others Think:

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Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Chupa slightly disturbed.
Chupa slightly disturbed.

Where I Got It: Won a copy

Narrators: Amy Ryan, Michael Stuhlbarg

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2015)

Length: 10 hours 7 minutes

Author’s Page

The story opens with Lars Thorvald and his virginity due to his long-standing family affair with lutefisk. Finally in his 20s, he falls in love with Cynthia over pesto. Their daughter, Eva, is born in 1989 and Lars immediately starts her on a life-long food journey with pureed shoulder roast, among other things. Unfortunately, Cynthia is considerably less interested in her own child and soon exits the picture. Adding to that, Lars passes away soon after and Eva is raised by her loving, but less food conscious, aunt and uncle. The rest of the story shows how she rises in society through her incredible palate and food sense.

This story started off very interesting and stayed that way until about the half point. At roughly 50% of the way through the book, Eva is no longer the main character, but rather a side character that the main characters are all talking about. Because of that shift, I found the second half of the book way less interesting. The entire book is made up of connected stories. Each story could probably be read on its own. While this worked for the first half of the book, where each of the stories featured Eva, it didn’t work so well for the second half of the book.

There’s tons of great food in this book and anecdotal info on how to make such great food. I loved watching Eva explore the foodie world, especially after she got a job at a decent restaurant. As a kid, she had this crazy tolerance for hot foods and because of that, hot peppers were the things she explored first. From there, it went to tomatoes, and then fresh caught fish, and onward. Eva’s love of food takes her into circles she never expected to be and her honest unpretentiousness makes her an oddity in the foodie world.

Eva’s also got this whole convoluted family thing going on. She’s raised by her aunt and uncle, though they decided to never tell her she was adopted and for much of her childhood, she knows them as her parents. Lars, her real dad, is in turn referred to as her uncle. Then we toss in the cousins Brock and Randy. For a while there, I was confused about who were the parents to Brock and Randy, but eventually that becomes clear. Brock is such a fun character! She’s a total jock and about 8 years older than Eva. She is so blunt! I just loved the chapters with her.

Later in the book, as Eva becomes less of the focus, the chapters explore more and more how people use food to separate themselves from others – a kind of food snobbery. There’s some very interesting characters in these chapters but I never got attached to them like I did with the recurring characters in the first half of the book. Finally, Eva and some of her friends have established this elite pop up exclusive supper deal. They pick a place, set up a guest list, charge a large amount of money, and serve a really decent meal. Then they clear it all away and do it again when they want to. The on-line waiting list is long and can take years to get your name called. While I found this a very interesting idea, we never get to see what Eva truly thinks about it all because she’s no longer the focus. I was a bit sad that we no longer had access to her thoughts on such things.

All together it was a quirky story with some highlights and a few memorable characters.

The Narration: Amy Ryan and Michael Stuhlbarg both did great jobs with this book. They had distinct voices for all the characters. I loved Ryan’s voice for the character Brock. Both had that Minnesota Scandinavian swing in their voice for all the characters that required it. 

What I Liked: Eva is a great character; loved the affair with the hot peppers; lots of great tidbits about food in general; characters who love food and find connections with other people through food; showing the pretentious nature of some foodies; Brock rocks!

What I Disliked: The second half of the book didn’t feature Eva so I had a lot less interest in it.

What Others Think:

Kirkus Reviews

 

Booking Mama

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

Sleepy Tofu kitty
Sleepy Tofu kitty

Where I Got It: Won a copy

Narrator: Drew Barrymore

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2015)

Length: 7 hours 5 minutes

Author’s Page

 

Drew Barrymore takes a look back on her life, sharing the funny, the sad, the intimate, the beautiful with her readers. She talks about the events and people that helped shape her into the positive, healthy person she is today.

I won a copy of this book from Penguin Audio on a faceboook giveaway and decided to give it a listen. I have seen several of Barrymore’s movies over the years but have not followed her private life at all. So there was plenty here for me to learn. The book is not laid out chronologically, but jumps around. I didn’t find this to be a problem as this is a book comprised of anecdotes from a person’s life.

So here are a few of the things I didn’t know about Drew Barrymore before reading this book. She was emancipated at age 14. Yep. On her own and legal at 14. But of course she had been working in TV and movies since she was 5, so this probably wasn’t as big a leap for her as it would have been for me at 14. I didn’t know that she and the other stars of E. T. had done a world tour. Her business, Wildflower, has branched out from movies to cosmetics and wine. That’s just a few things. I am sure each reader will find plenty to enjoy.

Barrymore speaks most eloquently about the relationships that have made her a better person. I especially liked these stories. Her father was a mostly absent man in her life though she did get to know him somewhat when he was passing away from cancer. She made the most of an awkward and strained relationship. She has a chapter to each daughter in which she is talking directly to them about what makes them unique and how they make her more than she could ever be without them. Normally, I shy away from such gushiness, but Barrymore’s motherly love hits home because she grew up with so little in the way of parental love. In some ways, this book is a kind of big thank you to friends and family that had these positive influences on her over the years.

Barrymore also speaks candidly of her wild child days. She reflects on her mind set at the time and other experiences she had (or didn’t have) to compare her behavior to. While many encouraged her exhibitionistic behavior, only a few close friends encouraged her to channel that sexy behavior into a more wholesome outlet. As she has gotten older, she’s added in modesty clauses to movie contracts while also holding onto that sweet girl next door appeal.

Then she talks about her dogs. Honestly, I found these to be the most touching. Her first three pups helped shaped the human she would become as much or more than the people in her life. I was a little surprised that she took the cremated remains of one of her dogs to spread at various locations in India. Still, if I had the wherewithall and inclination, perhaps I would do the same. Overall, this was a thoughtful look into Barrymore’s life. And it’s OK to be short. Plenty of the female population of the world is.

 

The Narration: Drew Barrymore did a really good job narrating her own book. She never sounded bored or hesitant in reading her own work. She imbued many scenes with a touch of emotion, whether it be pleasure, sadness, happiness, sorrow, etc. Her volume does vary a bit – not greatly – but if you are listening on ear buds there are some scenes (such as the parachuting scene) where she is screaming. Sometimes she screams cuss words (which I find amusing, but perhaps not everyone would in certain locations). 

What I Liked: It had more meat to it than I expected; learned several things I had not known before; touching scenes with her dogs; candid talk about her wildchild days; the book is like one big thank you to all the good people in her life.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was fun.

What Others Think:

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