Hungry Heart (Audiobook) by Jennifer Weiner

Hungry Heart (Audiobook) Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing

by Jennifer Weiner , Jennifer Weiner (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 13 hrs, 15 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016
Read: February 6 – 14, 2017


I’m not the biggest Jennifer Weiner fan in the world, nor am I in her target demographic in any way, shape, or form — but I’ve enjoyed (in some cases more) those books of hers that I’ve read. So I figured there was a better than even chance that I’d appreciate this collection of essays about her life, career, love life, dogs, social media and more. It’s also read by Weiner herself, which is almost always a winning characteristic for me.

Sadly, this audiobook was better in theory than it was in real life.

There’s a scene in the last season of Gilmore Girls where Logan points out to Rory that despite her prejudices, attitudes and belief, she’s actually part of the same privileged class that he is — which she doesn’t take too well (understandably). I kept thinking about that as I listened to some of Weiner’s tales of woe about her childhood and college life. I’m not saying that she didn’t have problems in her childhood, that she didn’t have trials that no one should have to go through, or overcome a lot in her professional life. But man…the self-pity was overblown — she got an Ivy League education, came out of it with less debt than many people I know who went to less prestigious schools, took a high school trip to Israel, and a largely pleasant childhood.

It doesn’t get much better when she starts talking about her adult life, either. She assumes sexism — and has faced, continues to face, and will probably face a good deal of it in the future — but seems to have some fairly strong gender biases herself. She will frequently say something like “As a woman, I know I’m supposed to be X in this situation.” Almost every time she said something like that I thought, actually a man in the same situation would be expected to behave the same way — it may not be honest, healthy, or “authentic” in the contemporary understanding — but it’s what how an adult person in polite Western culture should act.

Oddly, for someone who lamented her own inability to be a stay-at-home mom/writer, the scorn she displays for stay-at-home moms later in the book seems out of character. Actually, she is dismissive of people with other beliefs and convictions than hers. I’m not suggesting for a moment that she shouldn’t be an opinionated person (of any sex), but it’s hard to respect anyone who can’t reason with their opponents with out dismissing or vilifying them.

I actually had a few more things in my notes along those things, but seeing this on the screen makes me want to stop before this becomes a diatribe against the book. Because, believe it or not, I enjoyed this book — when she tells a narrative or goes for a laugh, I really got into the book and wanted to hear more. It’s when she gets on her soapbox or when she doles out advice that wouldn’t work for women less-well-off than she is, I couldn’t enjoy it.

If anything, this book makes me like her fiction more — because the flawed people she writes about are a lot more relatable than she presents herself as. But listening (I think reading would be better — see below) to Weiner describe her problems with overeating, or the journey to get her first book published (and the real life experiences that shaped the book), her mother’s reactions to her book tours, getting the movie In Her Shoes made, stories about her dogs, and so on — man, I really liked that and would’ve gladly consumed more of that kind of thing.

As an audiobook, this was a disappointment. I found the little sound effect/chime thing between chapters grating. Weiner’s reading was too slow and her cadence demonstrates that she reads a lot to her kids. Which would be fine if the prose matched, but it didn’t.

I can’t rate this too low — it was well-written I laughed, I felt for her and some of the other people she talked about in a way that I can’t justify rating below a 3. But man, I want to.

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3 Stars

The Innocent (Audiobook) by Taylor Stevens, Hilary Huber

The Innocent (Audiobook) The Innocent

by Taylor Stevens, Hillary Huber (Narrator)
Series: Vanessa Michael Munroe, #2

Unabridged Audiobook, 12 hrs, 30 min.
Random House Audio, 2011
Read: January 23 – 30, 2016


Michael Monroe’s best friend and most trusted ally, Logan needs help — he was raised by a cult as were most of his close friends, and despite being free of them for all of his adult life, he’s not been able to truly put The Chosen behind him. His friend, Charity, is possibly the only one closer to him than Michael, she grew up in the same cult and also left when she was old enough to make it on her own. Eight years before this book, her daughter was kidnapped by a member of The Chosen and taken somewhere to South America . Now, after years of searching, and her being moved from location to location, they have located her. There’s only one person that Logan trusts to bring Hannah home.

Locating one girl in the city of Buenos Aires is no easy feat. Extricating he from a controlling atmosphere without harming anyone isn’t much easier. Getting her out of the country and back into the US? More difficult yet. Throw in some donors and allies to The Chosen that aren’t who you’d expect — and aren’t nearly as pacifistic as the cultists — and you’ve got yourself a thriller.

Ever since the events of The Informationist, some months earlier, Michael’s been haunted by the deaths she’s caused — and is experiencing some kind of night terrors that keeps her chasing danger. Her own subconscious might be the biggest opponent that Michael has to deal with.

Frankly, for the first third or so (probably less), I had to force myself to stay with it, trusting that Stevens knew what she was doing — the way that Michael’s internal conflict was presented — as well as the way that Logan approached things, just didn’t work for me. I’m not sure if it was the way Stevens wrote the problems/solutions. But it wasn’t until the Michael got to Argentina that things really got me interested.

Hubner’s narration was capable and engaging — it wasn’t dazzling, but it delivered everything you want.

Despite a rocky start, once things got moving, this proved to be another satisfying thriller with Michael Monroe — and demonstrates what this series can be. I’ll be back for more soon.

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3 Stars

The Informationist (Audiobook) by Taylor Stevens, Hillary Huber

The Informationist The Informationist

by Taylor Stevens, Hillary Huber (Narrator)
Series: Vanessa Michael Munroe, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 12 hrs, 30 min.
Random House Audio, 2011
Read: December 7 – 13, 2016


When I read this 4 years ago, I only had a little to say, but let’s start with it:
Heckuva ride. Vanessa Michael Munroe is Lisbeth Salander with a healthier mental state (not saying she’s perfectly well adjusted…she’s just better adjusted). Same intensity, same ferocity, same tenacity. A character you want to see more of.

I think the novel had a couple too many twists and turns–don’t ask me which could be cut out w/o sacrificing the whole, though. But really, if my major complaint about the novel is that the mystery is too complex, keeps you guessing too much? Is that really a knock?

This time through, I think I appreciated the depth of Munroe’s character and backstory a bit more. Stevens created a rich character and I look forward to seeing what she does with this world.

Huber’s narration was pretty good — she kept things going well, and captured both the emotion and tension. The only problem I had was with one character — an African male sounded too much like Kate Mulgrew doing a Russian accent for me.

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3 Stars

Hunted (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

Hunted Audiobook Hunted

by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles, #6

Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 52 min.
Random House Audio, 2013

Read: November 21 – 23, 2016


I loved listening to this one this week — hated for it to end. I’m not sure why this volume works so much better for me than others in this series (not that there’s a bad one in the bunch), but it does. I’m still pretty satisfied with what I wrote the first time I read the book, so I’ll pretty much copy and paste it below with a few minor tweaks and a word or two about the audio performance.

Try as I might, I can’t figure out a way to get Goodreads to let me give this as many stars as it deserves — 6. I don’t think it’s possible for Hearne to write a bad book, but Hunted is beyond good. Not that Hearne has ever seemed anything but self-assured and capable (sorta like Atticus), but he’s really firing on all cylinders here — from the jaw-dropping and series-changing events of Chapter 1 through all the plot, twists, character moments, quips, action, and development that follows — Hearne delivers with verve and panache.

I don’t know how to describe the storyline without plunging neck-deep into spoiler territory, so let’s just say that this picks up minutes (if not seconds) from Trapped and keeps going from there. Virtually every character from the previous five novels makes an appearance (if only with a name-drop), and we get a few new characters from the pages of myth (Irish, Greek and Roman predominantly, but most of Europe is well-represented here) as well from Hearne’s own imagination. Our favorite Druids face off with a couple of new opponents, try to broker a peace with Greek and Roman pantheons, prepare for Ragnarok, and try to suss out who amongst the Tuatha Dé Danann might be working to bring about their untimely demise. (clearly, our heroes don’t get a lot of rest in these fast-moving 300 pages to get all that addressed)

Not that Atticus has had an easy go of it since the beginning of Hounded, but Hearne really puts the hurt on him this time around. He has two of the closest calls I can remember a first-person narrator dealing with in recent history — and he gets both of them in one book! Though honestly, the emotional and intellectual challenges he faces are probably harder for him to deal with — his Bear charm and tattoos can’t help him with those. Naturally, he rises to the challenges and even pulls off a couple of schemes that would make his buddy Coyote proud. While remaining Atticus at his core, there are flashes of a ruthlessness and hardness that we haven’t seen much of before. A good reminder that a Celtic warrior was formidable opponent (thankfully, there are things that still make him balk!)

While most of the book is told from Atticus’ POV as usual, we do get a few chapters from Granuaile’s POV — Daniels is able to pull these off well, I should add. I appreciated seeing things from her perspective (not just the parts that Atticus couldn’t relate, either) and I learned a lot more about a character I thought I knew pretty well already. I think she’s just about at the point where we could get Granuaile novels with minimal use of Atticus (see the Joe Pike novels) and not feel we were missing much — if anything, the fight scenes might be a bit more savage. There’s a danger here (I think Atticus himself sees this) in her becoming too much of an eco-warrior (think Captain Planet as told by Tarantino), and I think that could make for problematic reading if it went on too long or too extreme. But until then, I’m enjoying the heck out of this warrior woman.

If you’re already reading this series, you’re in love with Oberon (or have no soul). If you’re not reading it, you’ve probably not read this far — but if you have, just know that it’s worth buying the 6 books just to spend time with this most wonderful of Irish Wolfhounds. This is the best use of Oberon yet — of course, he’s hilarious and inappropriate as always — but he also gets to be heroic, inspiring and even moving. I’m not kidding, my eyes got misty a couple of times just because of him. I remembered — very clearly — Oberon’s response to Atticus’ shooting as very moving. Luke Daniels’ work made it heartbreaking (thankfully, I knew what happened afterwards, or I’d have been openly weeping at my desk). A couple of hours later, I did audibly crack up when Oberon used Mercury’s leg for a fire hydrant. Similarly to the way that the audio performance made Oberon’s grief more tangible, his joy in the Epilogue was incredibly contagious.

Any book that does all that while pulling off things like citing Wheaton’s Law within a few pages of quoting Dante (in the original!) needs to be celebrated. Add in Daniels’ outstanding performance? An absolute winner.

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5 Stars

Trapped (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

Trapped Audiobook Trapped

by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles, #5

Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 2 min.
Random House Audio, 2012

Read: November 7 – 10, 2016


Huh. I apparently didn’t write up anything when I first read this. Not only that, but I couldn’t remember a thing about it. At least while I was downloading — chapter after chapter I kept saying, “Oh, that happens in this book?” Some fan I am.

Granuaile is finally bound to the Earth, Atticus starts making things up to Odin, Bacchus tries to get his revenge, Vampires and Dark Elves have similar ideas — as does a certain recently-freed Norse god. Well, many individuals seem to want Atticus dead — preferably before he can bind Granuaile. And well, many, many other things transpire — both positive and dangerous.

Oberon gets to be a hero, as well as comic relief. Which is all anyone can ask for, really.

The way Hearne ends this book is criminal, really — thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long to get to the next book in the series this time through — I put up with the months of waiting once, I’m not sure I’d have been able to do it again.

I liked the way that Hearne describes the differences between Hermes and Mercury (which carries over to all Olympians both here and the next book) — it reminded me of some of Riordan’s takes in The Heroes of Olympus series, while not duplicating things.

I’ve run out of ways to describe Luke Daniel’s work — it’s just spot-on, not sure what else to say. Hearne’s writing is crisp, well-paced (although I think a couple of the stories from Norse figures drag a bit), and the fight scenes here are among his best. All in all, an important and entertaining installment in this series.

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3.5 Stars

Tricked (Audiobook) by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels

Tricked Audiobook Tricked

by Kevin Hearne, Luke Daniels (Narrator)
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles, #4

Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 30 min.
Random House Audio, 2012

Read: October 19 – 24, 2016


This novel is essential to pivot from the first books to the remainder of the series — after drawing attention to himself by killing Aenghus Óg and the other shenanigans in next books, Atticus needs to disappear for a while — but first he has a promise to Coyote to keep.

When I first read this, I summed up the book by saying, “Again, Hearne doesn’t just deal with one people’s pantheon–Tricked is a mashup of Irish, Norse and Navajo stories (with a side order of several representatives from other continents). Not to mention a returning cast of urban fantasy monsters, and plain ole humans. Of course, Oberon gets time to shine after being absent for so much of Hammered, and he steals every scene he’s in.” I think I’ll let that stand for this time through the book, too.

Once again, I love listening to Daniels’ Coyote — and his other Coyote is pretty good, too (it makes sense in context, really). I’ve really got nothing else to say — it’s typical Daniels, fun and easy to listen to — his narration and characters keep you listening and do a great job of bringing the story to life.

It’s not the best book in the series, but it moves the overall story along, provides some good excitement and proves that Atticus doesn’t need his home environs, and his readers can be entertained while he takes his show on the road (which will prove to be a very good thing for the series).

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4 Stars

‏Eleanor & Park (Audiobook) by Rainbow Rowell, Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park

by Rainbow Rowell, Rebecca Lowman & Sunil Malhotra (Narrators)

Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 57 min.
Listening Library (Audio), 2013
Read: May 31 – June 1, 2016


Okay, so yesterday I talked about a book that was hurt by the audio narration — this is one that’s helped by it (but not much, because it really doesn’t need much). I read this back when it came out, and gave it 4 Stars — which boggles my mind, was I a harsher grader back then? I remembered liking it more than that, though. Anyway, this audiobook is the perfect example of what the medium can be.

It perfectly captured the flavor, the emotion and the detail of the original. Now, it didn’t become all about the performance, the narrators brought the words to life, but not at the expense of the text.

Lowman and Malhotra were spectacular — they were Eleanore and Park. You fall for them while the characters were falling for each other, and when they expressed emotion, you certainly felt it. Well, I don’t know about “you,” but definitely me.

I’m really not sure what else I can say. This is a perfect story about first love, how it defines who you are in a way you didn’t expect — how it reveals the best of you and improves the worst of you. Using these two social misfits to tell this story grounds it in a way that the Prom King and Queen couldn’t — I just loved it. It’s probably the best thing Rowell’s done, and it’s one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever heard.

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5 Stars