The Book of Three (Audiobook) by Lloyd Alexander, James Langton

The Book of ThreeThe Book of Three

by Lloyd Alexander, James Langton (Narrator)
Series: Chronicles of Prydain, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs, 56 min.
Listening Library, 2004
Read: March 6 – 9, 2017


I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned once or twice before here that The Chronicles of Prydain were the books that got me into fantasy. The Chronicles of Narnia made me a fan of Narnia, but really didn’t carry over to anything outside of Narnia (at least until I got older and tried Mere Christianity). But Prydain got me appreciating the tropes, conventions and characters that’d get me into Brooks, Weis & Hickman, Eddings, etc., etc. Listening to the audiobooks seemed like a nice way to revisit the series.

Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper to Hen Wen (an oracular pig), dreams of glory to be found with a sword on the battlefield. His charge is frightened by something and escapes from her pen — Taran chases after her, leaving the only part of Prydain he’s ever known behind in the process. This hunt for the pig takes him to the far reaches of Prydain, where he encounters the son of the High King, Gwydion; Princess Eilonwy — about his age, and a fantastic foil and friend for Taran; Fflewddurr Fflam, an unofficial bard; Gurgi — some sort of simple-minded Sasquatch-like being; and others. Taran also encounters the forces of evil — the Horned King; Archen the enchantress; and other minions of the Dark Lord Arawn.

The themes of true nobility, heroism and what it means to be a man are prevalent (and Alexander maybe gets a little didactic here) — nothing I object to, just it seems a little thick by contemporary standards. Taran learns (for the first time) that there’s as much honor to be found in doing your everyday work well as there is on the battlefield. It probably feels a little old-fashioned to many, but there’s value here. Taran begins to mature here, but it takes (as I recall) all but the last 30 pages of the fifth book for it all to come together for him.

There’s a little audio recording of Alexander before the book kicks off as an introduction — that was pretty cool. Langton’s narration was okay — the narration was okay, maybe a little slow. His interpretation of Taran and Gwydion didn’t do much for me (and actually made me realize how clunkily Alexander wrote their dialogue), but they slowly grew on me. I really couldn’t find anything to like about Gurgi (one of my favorite characters ever). But I really liked everything else — his Eilonwy and Fflewddurr were perfect and a lot of fun. He deserves kudos for his Hen Wen alone, really.

This isn’t the greatest writing you’ll encounter — for the age group or genre. But it’s effective, there’s so much to appreciate here (and not just for nostalgia’s sake). I remain a big fan of the series, and do appreciate the audiobook.

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4 Stars

The Doll (Audiobook) by Taylor Stevens, Hilary Huber

This post was supposed to go up this morning, but I thought of a point or two I wanted to add. So during my morning break, I pulled it up on my app and the post vanished. Well, not the whole post — the tags, categories, and headline stuck around — but the actual content vanished. Thankfully, I don’t compose in WordPress, so I didn’t lose that much, just some minor tweaks. But still — any one else ever have this trouble with their app?

The Doll (Audiobook) The Doll (Audiobook)

by Taylor Stevens, Hillary Huber (Narrator)
Series: Vanessa Michael Munroe, #3

Unabridged Audiobook, 13 hrs., 47 min.
Random House Audio, 2013
Read: February 17 – 24, 2016


The novel starts with Miles Bradford witnessing Vanessa Michael Munroe being kidnapped — and in a most impressive way. He mobilizes he members of his private security team in town and begin looking for her — and Logan — immediately. Miles assumes (correctly) that if the object was to hurt Michael, he and Logan would be the top candidates to join here. If she’s being kidnapped to do a job, Logan would be the ideal candidate for a hostage — as long as someone has him, Michael will do whatever it takes to keep him alive. Ergo, since he knows Michael’s out of the country, but he’s not sure where, the best thing he can do is to free Logan from whoever took him, eliminating the leverage they have over Michael.

Meanwhile, Michael wakes up somewhere in Europe where she’s presented with this simple choice: do a job for this man she recognizes as The Dollmaker — or he’ll have Logan killed (and he threatens to do similar things to others Michael cares about). The job is to deliver a young woman into a life of sex slavery and torture. This particular young woman is a rising movie star who’s gone missing — the surrounding publicity makes her one of the best known faces in the wold. She needs transported over a few European borders without being seen or injured in any way. Doing this will repay a debt to The Dollmaker that Michael incurred in a previous case.

Just typing that makes it sound like Michael’s a monster for even considering delivering Neeva — and she certainly thinks so — but in the context, Michael can’t seem to do anything better (although she does hope that Logan will be rescued, giving her the opportunity to save Neeva). Michael also knows that no matter what happens, she and Logan are dead as soon as the girl is delivered (barring a successful rescue). Most of the book is a compelling race against the clock, followed by Michael’s hunt for revenge.

This is the first time that we really get to see Bradford’s operation outside of just him — I’d enjoy a novel or two about he and his team without Michael, I must say. The best parts of this book involve Miles and his team doing their thing.

Huber did a great job, as per usual — I honestly can’t think of anything to say about her work that I haven’t said before. Neeva frequently sounded like Anna Faris to me — which helped solidify the character. There is one thing that I’ve meant to say since the last book and forgot about until this instance — there’s a playfulness that creeps into Huber’s voice as Michael prepares to do something violent. I love that little touch. It says so much about the character (and I hope Stevens agrees with what it says) — it also speaks volumes about Huber’s attention to nuance.

A gripping tale — with some of my favorite moments in the series — even if I found some character choices hard to believe/stomach. With plenty of callbacks to earlier books to cement this in Michael’s story. Still, another good entry for Stevens, Huber and Munroe.

—–

3.5 Stars

Mercy Thompson Audiobooks 1-3: Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs, Lorelei King

Rather than try to talk about these individually, I thought I’d save time and tackle them in one post. Let’s hope it works…

Moon CalledMoon Called

by Patricia Briggs, Lorelei King (Narrator)
Series: Mercy Thompson, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 14 min.
Penguin Audio, 2009
Read: December 23 – 38, 2016

Blood BoundBlood Bound

by Patricia Briggs, Lorelei King (Narrator)
Series: Mercy Thompson, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 2 min.
Penguin Audio, 2009
Read: December 28 – 30, 2016

Iron KissedIron Kissed

by Patricia Briggs, Lorelei King (Narrator)
Series: Mercy Thompson, #3
Unabridged Audiobook, 9 hrs., 11 min.
Penguin Audio, 2009
Read: December 30, 2016 – January 4, 2017


I’ve only posted about a couple of the books in this series, since I read most of the series before starting this blog, it feels strange not to have old posts to go back and steal from. How do I do this concisely, now? I mean this should be one of the longest posts I’ve written, if I was going to do it right.

But I’m not going to do it right, I’m going to do it quick. Simply: Mercy Thompson is a skinwalker of sorts, who was raised by a pack of werewolves (a pack led by the Alpha of North America, it should be noted), who has an English degree and works as a VW mechanic. When we meet her in Moon Called, she’s living near the Alpha of the Tri-Cities of Oregon, is friends with a vampire, knows a couple of the Fae who live on the (Fae) reservation nearby. Almost no one knows about her ability to shift into a coyote (other than these supernatural folks), and she has no intention of changing that. However, she finds herself in the middle of a few goings-on in the supernatural community and becomes a prominent player in the area.

In Moon Called Mercy discovers a group experimenting on werewolves — even creating some for the sole purpose of being guinea pigs. In Blood Bound, Mercy is called upon by the local vampires to pay a debt by helping them track and destroy a rogue über-vampire/serial killer. Then in Iron Kissed Mercy begins helping local Fae investigate a series of murders on the reservation, using her special abilities — in the end, she has to dance around Fae politics while trying to prove that a dear friend wasn’t behind the killings. Throughout this, she has a love life, some friends, helps the local pack with some internal issues, and finds herself in mortal danger frequently. All while maintaining her shop, sense of humor, and independence.

I love these characters — all of them, I can’t think of a single one of them I wouldn’t want to spend more time with. Mercy has an attitude, perspective and humor that I enjoy, and good taste in friends/acquaintances, too. Briggs’ approach to werewolves, vampires, etc. is fantastic and I frequently judge other UF writers by how they match up to Briggs’ approach.

There is a richness to Briggs’ writing and to the world she’s created that’s truly impressive. It takes me less than a chapter to feel absolutely at home in the books (this happened when I first tried Moon Called and has happened with every successive volume — not just in my going through them again on audio). What blew me away going through these books is how much of this series (and the spin-off series, Alpha and Omega) is established in Moon Called — she’s what, 14 books or so in and 98% of those books can be traced to this first one. Whether that’s because she’s good at going back and picking up details to flesh out or because she plotted things out so well, it really doesn’t matter — the material was there and she’s using it well. The world she established is so well-formed that she can keep playing in it without having to invent new things, change the rules she established, or anything else. I can’t think of another UF universe that was so well-built from book one.

King gives a really strong performance here — her characters are spot-on, the narrative stays engaging. Really, a bang up job, with one big flaw: she can’t pronounce local geographic names. Granted, most people who don’t live in Washington/Idaho/Montana(ish) aren’t going to notice, but man, it’s hard to listen to. If I have to hear her butcher “Coeur d’Alene” one more time . . . On the other hand, there’s this scene in Iron Kissed between Adam (local Alpha) and Ben (British werewolf who joined the pack because he had to leave England under suspicious circumstances) where Ben has to explain to Adam the psychological trauma Mercy’s suffered and how she’s reacting. When I first read the book, I was in shock a. because of the traumatic scene (really well written) and b. Ben’s more than capable and empathetic understanding/explanation. This time through, King’s performance just stunned me — it was so good. She nailed the whole thing and almost had me in tears in my cubicle.

I loved the books, I think the audiobooks are among the best I’ve heard — the only reason that I haven’t gone further in this series of audiobooks is that the library system here doesn’t have #4 (they do have the rest of the series, oddly enough), and I haven’t justified the expense for myself yet. For old fans of the books, or people looking for something new to listen to — these are well worth your time. Great material presented in a pretty compelling way.

—–

4 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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

—–

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).

—–

4 Stars