In this anthology, each author was asked to write a short story which included a werewolf or other supernatural creature and Christmas. I didn't like all the stories, but I tend to be picky. There were enough good ones that I don't regret spending my credit on it. I will rate the stories individually.
“Gift Wrap” by Charlaine Harris (Part I)
A Sookie Stackhouse story. Not very long. It involves a lonely Christmas that turns into something more. A nice story with a good ending. 4 stars
“The Haire of the Beast” by Donna Andrews @43 minutes (Part I)
Amusing but a bit mean-spirited. I gather that this story is not part of the series she is apparently best known for - Meg Langslow. I liked it well enough that I’m going to get “Murder with Peacocks”, the first book in the Meg Langslow series, which is available here on Audible. Unfortunately, at this time Audible only has three books of the 14-book series. I’ve also ordered the first book in her Hopper Turing series in paperback. 4 stars
“Lucy, at Christmas-time” by Simon R. Green @59 minutes (Part I)
I didn’t care for this one. Very British tongue-in-cheek. Reminds me of Terry Pratchett. I think (but am not sure) that we were expected to find this darkly amusing, but I just found it dark and downbeat. Not my cup of tea. 2 stars
“The Night Things Changed” by Dana Cameron @1:12 (Part I)
Has werewolves and vampires, but they are quite different from your typical ones. I didn’t really care for the accent that the narrator used for them, but that is just a personal taste thing. Basically an upbeat theme which I liked. I gather that Cameron is turning this into a series with the first entry coming out in 2013. If they acquire it for Audible, I will get it. 4 stars
“The Werewolf Before Christmas” by Kat Richardson @2:21 (Part I)
A werewolf replaces Rudolf pulling the sleigh. I found it preachy in an illogical, rather sickly over-emotional way. 2 stars
“Fresh Meat” by Alan Gordon @3:19 (Part I)
This was not my favorite book in the anthology, but not the worst either. It’s about a man who trains guard dogs, and takes place on Christmas Eve. I plan to look into other things he’s written. 3.5 stars
“Il Est Ne” by Carrie Vaughn @4:22 (Part I)
Google translate tells me that “Il est ne” means “It is not.” I’m writing this review a few days after I listened to this story, and I can’t figure out what “It is not” has to do with the story. Anyway, this story is part of her series about the werewolf named Kitty who has a late-night radio talkshow. I read the first book in that series and felt no compulsion to read the second, and this story was the same. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t quite do it for me. You’d think that two werewolves investigating a horrible serial killer would be exciting, but I found the story dragging. 2.5 stars
“The Perfect Gift” by Dana Stabenow @5:35 (Part I)
I didn’t quite understand this story. I think I might have followed its subtleties better if I’d actually read it rather than listening. If I ever choose to listen to this a second time, maybe I’ll pick up more. Anyway, there are vampires and cops and where those two elements come together there must be blood. 3.5 stars
“Chritmas Past” by Keri Arthur @6:08 (Part I)
I didn’t care for this one. We have two cops who are undercover to find a bad guy. One is dressed as a Christmas elf and is manning one of those donation buckets one sees outside shopping areas around Christmas, and the other is supposedly hiding in a dark doorway to spring out upon the bad guy when he appears. But they keep talking to each other. I couldn’t help thinking that the bad guy would notice that the elf kept talking when no one was around and would locate the hidden one. Illogicalities like this just kept on occurring. And there was actually very little mystery. There would be one paragraph about the ongoing investigation and then three pages about their romantic problems. Then another paragraph about the investigation and another five pages about how mouth watering the elf found the werewolf. I listened to this less than a week ago, and I can’t remember a thing about the bad guy. Was he supernatural? Did they kill him or merely catch him? I can’t remember. He had little to do with the story. Did the hero and heroine get back together? I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so you’ll have to guess. You’ll only need one. 2 stars
“SA: by J. A. Konrath @18:00 (Part II)
I found this story indelicate but very amusing. It involves some very unusual shapeshifters and a great triumph. 4 stars
“The Star of David” by Patricia Briggs @1:48 (Part II)
This story is part of the Mercy Thompson series. It involves David Christensen, the first werewolf to come out to the rest of humanity. I can’t think what else to say because I don’t want to spoil anything. Just say I liked the story. 4 stars
“You’d Better Not Pyout” by Nancy Pickard @2:58 (Part II)
I didn’t like this story. It involves two Russian vampires and Santa Claus and I just didn’t find it amusing. Tastes differ. Maybe you will. 2 stars
“Rogue Elements” by Karen Chance @3:50 (Part II)
Another instance of former lovers getting back together and starting up the same tedious arguments that broke them up the first time around. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish this one and I tried twice. Werewolf politics. A “hero” who smokes cigars, cheats at cards and isn’t interested in rescuing young women who have been kidnaped. Sorry, but I didn’t like him. In fact by the time I’d been listening to this story for forty minutes, there was not a single character I liked. 1 star
“Milk and Cookies” by Rob Thurman @5:11 (Part II)
A teenage boy having trouble with the school bully. I thought I was going to like this one in spite of the narrator’s terrible rendering of children’s voices. However, it took a turn at the end that I didn’t care for. But tastes differ. Give it a try. 2.5 stars
“Keeping Watch Over His Flock” by Toni L. P. Kelner
A young werewolf on Christmas Eve. I liked this story despite the same narrator as “Milk and Cookies” doing his worst with the children’s voices again. 4 stars
I, too, thought they picked the wrong guy to be the voice of Dante. Some people are far more sensitive to the narrator's voice than others (this means you, Gordon). But if you can just relax and pay attention to the words rather than how they are delivered, I think you will find this a powerful story.
This is the last book of a trilogy and it brings the story to a magnificent ending which I would never have suspected was awaiting us as I read the first book. I suppose it would be possible to understand and follow this book as a stand alone, but your experience and understanding will be very much richer if you read all three books in their proper order.
The main character through most of the book is Dante, a sorcerer. He is a very powerful magician with particularly bad control of his temper. In this third book of the trilogy, we finally learn about those parts of his past which contribute to his apparent hatred of everybody. But we also learn that he has a destiny which even he has never suspected which also drives his rages.
I find Dante not only the most interesting character in this trilogy but one of the more interesting and original characters in all the fantasy I have ever read.
I recommend this book.
Many fantasy series are very predictable. There is the sword and sorcery type typified by Tolkien. There is the paranormal detective typified by Jim Butcher, etc. I found this trilogy to be quite different from any I had read before.
I liked it.... with some reservations.
Each of the three books in the trilogy is quite long (17, 18, and 21 hours), and in the early parts of each book, the story dragged a little for me. But each book comes to an exciting and unusual ending which very definitely justifies the long buildup.
I didn't always understand everything that happened. I suspect that this arose from lapses in my attention. If I had been reading rather than listening to this, I suspect I would have gone back from time to time to skim a few pages and figure out what I had missed. But you can't really skim in an audiobook, so I just plowed on and eventually I'd figure things out. However, if you are into the possibility of getting the Kindle book along with the Audible book, this trilogy would probably be a good one to do it with. (Or check out the book from your local library and have it on hand while you are listening.)
The cast of characters is about the same over the three books, but each book is narrated from a different point of view. The characters are complex and interesting and I didn't find any of them to be ripoffs of any other characters I have ever known.
Each of the first two books comes to a satisfactory end, but the third book is a triumph. It will be well worth your trouble to complete the trilogy.
I know that I am in the minority here, but I don't care. I've got to have my say on this book. Every. Single. Blessed. Person. In. This. Book. Is. NEUROTIC!
I heard so many good things about Ruth Rendell, that I tried the first book in this series. And I hated it. But, I told myself, sometimes it takes a few books for the author to hit her stride. So I went down about halfway on the list and tried this one. ARRRRGGGHHH!!!
I plan to ask Audible for my credit back on this one.
There wasn't a single person in this book that I liked. Every person was neurotic. The murder victim was a compulsive liar, hated her mother and wasn't willing to marry a man unless he had power and money. The detective's sidekick was pathologically over-protective of his children, treating older teens as if they were preschoolers. One woman's husband worked from home, and she didn't dare leave the house lest he should want a cup of tea or something. She didn't read a book or watch television, she didn't get a part-time job, she didn't go for a walk in the garden on nice days. She just sat by the window and stared out at the world while waiting for her lord and master to call. And meanwhile he showed his contempt for her at every opportunity.
Everyone felt obliged to apologize for everything. Sometimes they would apologize for such innocuous behaviors that I had to roll my eyes. Yet everyone felt free to criticize everyone around them. There was nothing that didn't merit criticism: If you decorated your house differently than someone else would have decorated it, you were crude or coarse. No matter what you wore, someone would criticize it. It would be too modern for some and too dowdy for others, but no one would like it and they'd all look down their noses at you for it. Everyone was judging everyone else at all times.
The Wikipedia article on Ruth Rendell says that she has been praised for her psychological crime novels, but it seemed to me that she bought a 1950s-era abnormal psychology text at a used book store and then assigned one chapter of the text to each character. They were so cartoonishly overdrawn as to be ridiculous.
If English people are really like this, I'm amazed that there are any English left in the world. I'd think that most would commit suicide and the remainder would be too depressed to reproduce.
I absolutely DO NOT recommend this book or this series.
I have now read all three books in this trilogy and I sincerely hope that Wrede's readers will convince her to turn this into a series. I can see plenty of paths she could take towards turning out more books about this interesting young woman.
Over the arc of the trilogy, I really enjoyed the unfolding of her personality, from a disregarded and dismissed child to struggling adolescence to blossoming young woman. I don't want to provide spoilers, but I find that while Lan is an admirable and deserving young man, Eff is by far the more creative and interesting character.
I enjoyed the interplay between events in our history and how they differ in Eff's. And I really enjoyed learning that both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were seventh sons of seventh sons. (We should have guessed.) 8-)
I kept thinking during the first book in this trilogy that she kept hanging revolvers on walls and then not shooting them (see Wikipedia article, "Chekhov's Gun") It was revealing in this book to see all those guns being taken down and used. Clearly, this entire series was mapped out before she completed the first one.
To sum up: Don't start with this book. Read them in their proper order: "Thirteenth Child", then "Across the Great Barrier", and then this one.
This is the second of the Great Courses I have read which is done by Professor Fears, and I have thoroughly enjoyed both of them. He has a very lively and at times humorous way of telling his stories which is very easy to listen to. Also, he goes into detail enough about background and culture so that we can really understand why these stories matter to us today.
He covers a really large variety of topics, too. There are political events like Caesar crossing the Rubicon or the Athenians driving off the Persians or the ascension to power of Adolf Hitler. There are religious events like the life of Buddha or Jesus. There are scientific or medical events like the lives of Hippocrates, Pasteur or Darwin. There were a few events I had never heard of, but there were many more events I had heard of but didn't know much about. He brought these events into sharp focus and helped me understand that my life today would be very different than what it is if this or that event had not taken place.
Many of the events in the early part of the course were religious in nature--because, I suppose, religion was such an integral part of the lives of ancient peoples. I am not a believer in any religion, but I can see that these events were still very important in shaping our world into what it is today, so they needed to be included in this course.
Bottom line: I really enjoyed this, and I recommend it to you.
A number of years ago, before I joined Audible, I listened to a biography of Winston Churchill. I had heard all my life what a great man he was and I decided I wanted to know the details. To my amazement, this biography revealed that Churchill wasn't a great man at all. He was rather stupid and petty and got a lot more credit than he deserved, etc., etc. I was quite confused. I wasn't totally willing to give up my idea of him at a great man, and I wondered why the author of that biography would put in so much time and effort writing a book about a man he despised.
Toward the end of THIS biography, the author mentions that there have been a couple of biographies in recent years that basically set out to make Churchill seem a failure at everything. I liked this book much better.
Yes, Winston Churchill was a flawed personality. Maybe this had something to do with the way he was raised. His mother was promiscuous and his father died of syphilis. Both his parents neglected him terribly as a child. He was sent off to boarding school at the age of seven, and when his father traveled to the city where the school was to give a speech, he didn't bother to visit his son, even though the school was just across the street.
He was also highly intelligent and he was a true hero on many occasions. I really liked this biography. While the author mentioned where he fell short occasionally, he spent more time detailing Churchill's many positive attributes.
I finished this book in only two days, which shows how gripping it was. I didn't want to turn it off for sleep.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It is the first book in a new series for King. I can understand that she might be feeling burned out on Mary Russell and want a change. I just wasn't sure about this one.
First of all this story takes place in Paris, and I speak NO French. There was a lot of French conversation going on, and while King was generally good about going back and providing the translation, there was so much of it, I got impatient at times.
Second, the story was creepy. A lot of the creepiness was my own imagination kicking in, I admit. And I admit that it is an indicator of how good a writer King is that I could feel that creeped out on the basis of so few details. And I know that many people like creepiness. To let you gauge how timid I am when it comes to creepiness, I don't read Stephen King or Dean Koontz at all because I'm afraid of them. So you can judge this based on your personal Creepometer. If you read Stephen King or Dean Koontz, you shouldn't have any problem with this book. But if you are a solid yellow coward when it comes to creepiness, beware.
I like the main character (mostly). He is a manly man. I like his English friend and hope he will turn up in future books in the series. I like the way real people who were really in Paris at the time turn up in the story. (I really got a kick from the Hemingway references.) Ms. King always seems to do massive research about her locations and includes details that make a place and time come to life.
The plot was complex. There were several very viable candidates to choose from for the role of murderer, and I didn't figure out who it was until close to the end.
Bottom line: I WILL be getting the next book in this series. I recommend that you try it.
Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors in the whole world. Her first book is entitled, "Beauty" and is the story of Beauty and the Beast. Oddly, many years and books after "Beauty" Robin chose to tell the story of Beauty and the Beast again. And that is this book.
Both books have some things in common. They are both telling the same fairy tale, after all. But this story is fairly different in many ways. When this book first came out on paper, I got it immediately, but I was Very fond of "Beauty" and I think I was jealous on its behalf. I did not reread "Rose Daughter" again until this audio version came out. I can see now that "Rose Daughter" has much to offer. I think "Beauty" was the romantic ideal of an unmarried woman in her 20s, and "Rose Daughter" is the romantic ideal of a married woman in her 40s.
I still like "Beauty" better.
My advice if you have never read any of Robin's books: Start with "Beauty" or "The Blue Sword" or "The Hero and the Crown". Then if you fall in love with Robin's work, branch out into her other books, including this one.
Robin McKinley's protagonists are usually young women. In this book the main character is a teenage boy. That boy is telling his story in the first person, and it is a story which he finds hard to tell. So in the beginning the story seems rough, clumsily written. This is not a sign that Robin McKinley is a poor writer. It's an indicator that she is a masterful writer, and she is telling the story not in her own voice, but in the voice of that inexperienced young man.
And it is a wonderful story.
In much science fiction and fantasy, the aliens or talking creatures simply seem like humans in funny looking costumes. But the dragons in this story truly seem alien in their being. Their thoughts and attitudes are not human. Their point of view is not human. And they don't find it any easier to understand humans than humans can understand them.
If you have read her most popular books (The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword, Beauty, etc.), please don't go into this one expecting more of the same or you may be disappointed. This book is fairly different from most of her books. It needs to be taken on its own. But if you can leave all your preconceptions at the door, I think you will find this a story well worth reading.
A word about the narrator. I think his voice fits the main character admirably. He did a good job.
There are a lot of versions of Beauty and the Beast out there. I've read different versions of the fairy tale, seen a TV movie, and of course Disney's version. This one is my favorite.
Audible has this categorized as a book for 8-10 year-old kids. I didn't encounter it until I was in my 30s, I am now in my 60s, and I still reread it. So I recommend this book to women of any age.
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