What kind of a loser keeps the forces of evil at bay by dragging his lawyer with him everywhere he goes? The main character is an arrogant, cheeky guy in a dumbed-down world, and I was never convinced that he's as clever as the novel seems to think he is. I might listen to the others in the series if they're on sale, because from a technical standpoint the book is fine, but I don't really get where all of the love in the other reviews is coming from. I guess there's a lot of pent-up demand for urban fantasy that's more dude-centric and doesn't involve romance. Which is fine, but this book still didn't do a lot for me.
The story was great - another good Molly Harper book. But as other reviewers have noted, Amanda Ronconi's accent really missed the mark. I get what she was trying to do, and maybe it was an impossible task - the main character is supposed to have some combination of a Boston accent and an Irish one. But I'm not sure where she got her idea of what a modern-day Boston accent sounds like - the net effect was how I imagine Maude Lebowski doing a JFK impersonation would sound like. Really grating, and I never could get past it.
After reading the description, I held off on buying this book for a while because it just sounded too silly to be good. I'm glad I snagged it during the post-holiday sale, because I actually really enjoyed it. In a way, it reminds me of Christopher Moore, especially "Sacre Bleu" - the characters and situations are a little bit ridiculous, yet somehow also real enough to be convincing and draw you into the story. The description also makes it sound like "chick-lit", which it is definitely NOT - the clothes and shoes described here are strictly historical. There is a romance plot line but it's not what drives the story. Anyway, this will probably be my go-to gift book for a while - it's a fun, fast-paced, slightly madcap, entertaining listen.
When I try to rave about this book to people, they never believe me. Which is sort of understandable, since any accurate description has to be something like, "It has the most amazing dry humor and matter-of-fact tone, funny without ever descending into outright silliness, it's deeply moving while also being totally unsentimental, the characters read like real people with real relationships... it's about a family who finds a zombie baby by the side of the road and takes care of him." This book completely transcends the genre, and I recommend it to everyone. I can't wait for more from this fabulously talented author!
I guess one positive thing about this book is that it made me realize how good all the other books in this series actually are. In the other books, the characters are real people with clear and believable motivations, relationships develop gradually over time for understandable reasons, and the author creates something that's a cut above the standard romance novel formula. But everything in this book was just a little bit... off. The setup really just boiled down to, "he's a hot guy who's pushy and inexplicably possessive; she's a hot chick with amnesia." And then they have some kind of out-of-nowhere adventures, he pushes her away several times due to being kind of an indecisive jerk, and then they fall into bed together. It's like Nalini Singh outsourced the writing to a fan-fiction author: it's set in the psy-changeling world, and the characters get from point A (stone-cold alpha male, damsel in distress) to point B (happily ever after), but the story was driven by poor logic and the unjustified emotions of the characters. So, I've realized how well the author handles narrative logic and character development in the other books which are, at least by the standards of this genre, rock-solid. I hope this was just a misstep and the next book is better.
Let me start off by saying that I absolutely loved Mary Roach's 3 other books available on Audible. She has a real talent for using narratives of her personal experiences to bring scientific and historical topics to life. I guess that's what I'd consider the first mistake that lead to the existence of this audiobook: the majority of "Spook" is simply not science (no matter what the psychics and ghost-hunters believe) and Roach's skepticism is never challenged in any interesting ways. In this case, the lens of her personal experience serves to deaden (sorry) the topics explored, because the fact that it's all garbage is a foregone conclusion, so why bother suffering through it with her? Certain sections (I'm looking at you, ectoplasm) are far too long already, and the author's attitude makes them even more tedious.
The second travesty here is the narration. When portraying everyone other than the author's voice, the narrator sounds like... like my drunken uncle doing impressions of family members after Christmas dinner, but with even more petty meanness. In a book where the author is already too dismissive of the subject matter to make it particularly interesting, the narrator does no favors by making every single person interviewed sound completely ridiculous. Ordinarily, the narrator's over-dramatic reading of Roach's delightfully deadpan writing style would be unfortunate on its own, but combined with all the other problems it makes this audiobook nearly valueless.
All in all, I wish I'd never downloaded this - although there is a moderate amount of interesting content - because the whole endeavor makes me think less of the author. I enjoyed her other books so much, it was almost like she was a friend - and now I've seen a side of her that I find a bit distasteful. She is very talented, but the message of the audiobook seems to boil down to "silly people believe silly things," and it doesn't strike me as a good use of anyone's time - either the listener's or the author's.
This book really did nothing for me the first time I listened to it, and I still don't really think it stands alone very well. Since it's set in the same world as the Mercy Thompson series AND there is a preceding novella which I hadn't read, I didn't have any context for the characters. Anna seemed like a very stereotypical "survivor of abuse" character, which I didn't find very interesting, and if you don't know anything about Charles other than what's in this book, his strong-silent-stoicism isn't very interesting either. It seems like so many popular werewolf books are just an excuse to construct a world in which women are powerless victims who need to be rescued/redeemed by strong, virtuous men.
However, I gave this book another listen after I read the novella and listened to the first couple of Mercy Thompson books. After having more context for the characters and their actions, I did enjoy this book and the sequel a lot more. So I'd recommend these books for people in Mercy-withdrawal, but in my opinion they're not a good entry into Briggs's larger body of work.
Audible did this book a huge disservice by implying that it resembled "Outlander" in any way, shape, or form. "The Winter Sea" was adequately written and atmospheric, and I guess it did include Jacobites, but it lacked the high-stakes drama and suspense that made me spend (literally) hundreds of hours listening to Diana Gabaldon's series. Once I accepted the fact that my expectations of this book were not going to be fulfilled, I basically enjoyed it on its own terms. The present-day main character never stopped grating on me - maybe it was just jealousy on my part, but I found the "independently wealthy writer with the terrible problem of too many rich/handsome suitors" rather insufferable :)
This is definitely a 3.5 star book. The writing is so beautiful and striking that I just couldn't stop listening - it's certainly the most understated yet engaging description of a jungle I've ever read. But for most of the book, there was a total lack of forward momentum - after the first third of the book or so, I felt kind of like I was hanging around in the jungle with the main character waiting for some larger purpose to emerge. Maybe that's the effect the author intended, but it left me rather frustrated. Given how long I felt that way, the ending seemed like more of a cop-out than a resolution.
Ok, yeah, this book was kind of like "Lover Unbound Part 2", but it was still really good! Frankly, I was never satisfied that "Lover Unbound" was the end of V and Jane's story anyway, so I was glad to see it re-visited and resolved as a more convincing "happily ever after". As far as character development and melodramatic-yet-believable feelings go, this is one of the best books I've listened to in a very, very long while. There is also plenty about the main pairing in this book, Manny and Payne, as well, although I admit I wasn't quite as invested in them as in the characters I already knew. This series has been veering more towards urban fantasy and less towards one-off romance novels for a while, so I don't know why anyone is surprised that "Lover Unleashed" is like this too.
The only difference is that the plot devices that drive me crazy in this series were less prominent in this book - finally (FINALLY!) we didn't have to spend any time narrated from the POV of some deadly-boring Lesser in this one. And I can't stand the stilted, repetitive language that the non-modern-day characters use (seriously, does Ward know no other old-sounding words than "tarry"?), but in this one she's finally toned it down enough that I'm not ready to throw my iPod across the room. I guess I'll know that I'm done with this series if I'm ever emotionally uninvolved enough that there is no danger of me throwing my iPod across the room, but it hasn't happened yet.
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