AudioBook Review: Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

So…. just realized I have not posted a book review this entire year. What? Some of that is because a lot of the new series or new books I was trying out at the beginning of the year did not make me excited enough about the story line to write a review. Some of it is because this year has seen a lot of changes and my reading time has diminished so I’m not reading as many books. I’m going to attempt to get caught up. (Where’s my laughing/crying emoticon when I need it?)

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill Read by Cynthia Holloway

I borrowed Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill as an audio book from my local library, it is read by Cynthia Holloway.

Summary from Goodreads:

They killed me. They healed me. They changed me. Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was mine. I was doing fine until Chicago’s vampires announced their existence to the world—and then a rogue vampire attacked me. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker…and this one decided that the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead. Turns out my savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now I’ve traded sweating over my thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred-year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude—and servitude. Right. But my burgeoning powers (all of a sudden, I’m surprisingly handy with some serious weaponry), an inconvenient sunlight allergy, and Ethan’s attitude are the least of my concerns. Someone’s still out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches? My initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war—and there will be blood.

OK, I’ll admit I picked this one because it was about vampires in Chicago. I mean what is not to love about that premise? It’s the reason I picked up Jim Butcher’s books, and I loooove those. I was also excited because this is currently a 12 book series with the 13th book to publish this year. I love finding new series and being able to binge read them. But I just couldn’t get into this book.

While there were some intriguing family dynamics that added some interest to the over all plot of girl gets made into a vampire and is trained by a really old, but extremely hot, vampire who expects submission, but Merit is a modern woman who refuses to submit, it wasn’t enough to make the series stick out from the rest of the genre. I really wish there had been a little more about the transition from being an academic whose life revolves around an all consuming thesis to becoming a vampire who has to give up that life long dream. Perhaps that is developed later in the series as sometimes it does take an author a good three books to really develop a character.

Cynthia Holloway was a decent narrator. She has a low and interesting voice. I generally do not have difficulty with narrators, I like listening to audio books and respect the hell out of voice actors. I took a class on it in Chicago and it is hard work! I do recommend listening to a sample reading before downloading and audio book if you find that some narrators turn you off the story. I do this if I’m going to buy the audio book and not just borrow it from the library.

Chloe Neill is a good writer and so this was not a bad book to read, I did enjoy parts of it, I was just wary of how much time I should continue to give the series as there were some “this has been done” parts as well. Obviously the series is popular or there wouldn’t be so many books in the series, and there are some reviews on Goodreads that suggest as a series it is quite good, so maybe I should borrow the other books in the series to see if I find the series to be more interesting than the first book.

But can we have some urban fantasy covers where the female characters are in actual fighting gear? Or even fighting? Midriffs and belly rings are hella sexy, I agree, but not exactly fighting gear. Just saying.

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Webseries Review: Through the Door

In August I was contacted by Andy Kushnir writer for the webseries “Through the Door.” Andy is located in Chicago and all the actors are from the local comedy/improv schools. How could I not be interested in a series that stars people from Second City. I still remember with great fondness my own time spent there.

“Through the Door” is a series about “those foot-in-mouth moments that take place in every relationship. Each episode highlights a different couple who get into an argument resulting in one of them locking themselves in the bathroom. The meat of the episode takes place as the two work through their problem, Through the Door.”

I thought this was a clever concept. Each scene takes place in an apartment building and all they really needed for the sets were a bathroom and a hallway. Can I just take a minute here to say how much I really really miss Chicago apartments. They are full of crannies, weird entry ways, real wood floors, and steam heaters. I miss my Chicago apartment on a daily basis. It had FRENCH DOORS! Texas is full of high ceilings, laminate floors, and carpet. So much carpet. Besides the nostalgia, I thought the apartment sets were a great idea, it meant having only six homes to film in. The shots taken in the bathrooms were cleverly done and interesting, I was afraid a shot of a person in a bathroom would get old, but it did not. The light and sound production was very good, to the extent I didn’t really notice it except to note I should make a point of saying so in my review.

But the best part was each and every couple and their dilemma. The writing was excellent, the acting really great, and I laughed every single episode. Such mundane little moments that show how people use laughter in their relationships to get over those bumps in the road. My favorite episodes were four and six and not just because they were LGBTQ inclusive. Dance recitals are the worst, though admittedly not as bad as Sound of Music remakes. Snide comments at parties are hard to take back and can be demoralizing and don’t help with anti-social tendencies.

If you want a laugh, check out “Through the Door.” With each episode lasting only about five minutes it wont take you long to get through all six . You can watch the first episode below and all of them here.

Wings – Episode One from Andy Kushnir on Vimeo.

 

Doctor Who Day: Tutus, Monsters, and Crossovers

This TARDIS tutu is rather simplistic, but I do love the idea. I’m not sure it is worth $150 as it looks like a cami (with TARDIS printing on it) has been sown onto tulle, but it is pretty. Aaaand further research shows that the $150 is only for the skirt. Hmmm. Well, perhaps tulle is expensive?  Hmmm, well it does look labor intensive? I guess. Anyway, interesting idea. [via]

I know I have posted other mash-ups with Sully and Mike and the TARDIS door, but I just love this concept art. I just rewatched Monsters Inc. because Chris had never seen it and I wanted to rewatch it before I saw Monsters U, but then I never saw Monsters U. Which is still a bummer. Perhaps I’ll try to see it this weekend. [via]

I really enjoy beloved characters meeting each other, like this Doctor Who and Garfield cross over. The only time I want to see a Dalek and wouldn’t take a bat to it is if it were here to exterminate Mondays. You can buy it as a t-shirt or hoodie on Redbubble.

So there is this concrete bench down by the lake near where I live that gets painted every year. A committee comes up with a theme, divides the wall into sections and participants are given a section to paint as they will. It’s a  cool concept and a great time with food vendors and music every year. Unfortunately this year I was on vacation while the festival took place, but my mom went and she got a picture of a very geeky section of the wall.

Photo by Tara Noftsier at http://dragonbug.com/

Photo by Tara Noftsier at http://dragonbug.com/

Audio Book Review: Cry Wolf

For years I have seen the front covers and read the back covers to Patricia Biggs books and was extremely intrigued. But I could also tell that once I started on a series  of hers, I would get hooked. Unfortunately, I’ve so many series that I read now, that I didn’t want to get hooked onto another. Plus, even though the book covers intrigued me they show a lot of midriff. I’m not opposed to midriff, but it usually is an indicator that the plot will be heavier on steamyness and less on good plot lines. However, I was bored one week (i.e. I didn’t want to tackle my tbr pile and wanted to listen to a book instead) and found several of her books available through my libraries eaudio service and decided to give them a try.

Overall, she builds a great world, interesting characters who have distinct voices, and she tells captivating stories. I flew through several of them via eaudio and then started getting them in paperback when the eaudio version was not available. The first one I listened to was Cry Wolf, read by Holter Graham.  I found out later it was written after one of her novellas in an anthology became popular, so I kind of missed out on the beginning part of the story. However, it was action packed from the get go, I figured out what I had missed without trouble, and I was entranced with the story.

Cry Wolf

In Briggs alternate universe, Vampires, Werewolves, and all manner of Fae exist. The Werewolves, in America, are governed by the Marrok, Bran, who lives in Montana. Bran has two sons, and all three men make an appearance in each of in Briggs’ series. In Briggs’ universe Werewolves are ranked by dominance, but a dominant male is not necessarily an alpha of a pack. Submissives also play a role, they are the ones with no expectations of rising in the ranks, and instead rely on the alphas to take care of them. The exchanges between Dominants and Submissives is well written and true to my experience with animals. (If you recall, that is quite a bit of experience. With farm animals, anyway.) Anna, is a different kind of Werewolf  altogether, she is an Omega. She has dominant characteristics, but she doesn’t need to show her dominance through aggression. Rather, she uses submissive techniques to get what she wants.

Anna was turned into a Werewolf, against her will, three years prior while working as a waitress in the Chicagoland area. (I’m sorry, but the suburbs are not Chicago proper people.) Anna knows she is different, but not exactly how. Her pack leader makes sure she remains ignorant of her unique talents. He constantly abuses her and lets the other dominant Werewolves do the same thing. Until Charles, the Murrok’s son, rescues her by killing her alpha, and replacing him with someone else.

Anna moves to Montana with Charles, fleeing her awful life, and hoping that, as Charles claims, her Omega abilities will be a help to the Werewolf population. Her inner wolf already brings calm to Charles’ inner wolf, Brother Wolf. And for a man that has been around centuries, taming his beast isn’t easy. Anna hopes that by bringing peace into Charles’ life, she will find a measure of peace and stability herself. But of course, right after she moves to Montana, the Murrok has a job for them. Charles needs to figure out who the rogue Werewolf is that is killing humans in the area. Whenever a Werewolf goes rogue, or the wolf side of a person goes bad, Charles acts as the Pack’s Enforcer, putting down those who are a danger to themselves and others. Anna insists on helping Charles, and together the two of them track the rogue. Thus begins their journey to get to know each other, which is a struggle because of their poor communication, issues that haunt them from the past, and the danger in the present.

What I found interesting about this series were the relationships. Brother Wolf claims Anna’s wolf, who eagerly responds in kind, as his mate the two wolves bond (marry) even though the human side of Anna and Charles are not even sure how attracted they are to each other. Charles explains that normally, it is the man and woman who meet, court each other, and fall in love – then their wolves do the same. But Brother Wolf didn’t follow protocol. So Charles asks, half insists, Anna move to Montana with him as their wolves are now mated and he will court her there. Anna agrees because her life in Chicagoland was a poor life and she feels safe with Charles.

Because of the abuse, Anna’s two sides war with each other. Her inner wolf recognizes safety and care from Brother Wolf and is happy to be in Montana with Charles. But Ann herself is still dealing with the intense feelings that come from finally being free of her abusers, and she doesn’t really know Charles  at all. I’m not sure how realistic it is to assume just because someone walks away from their abuser that a couple of months of understanding will help them deal with the trauma of their previous life. I would, personally, like to see Anna get some counseling instead of relying on the animal side of her to forget things and move forward in life.

In the end, while the mystery of finding out who the rogue is was a lovely plot line structure, I found the relationships and interpersonal drama far more interesting. The story was well paced and well written. Briggs does an excellent job of creating fascinating people who have characteristics  of an untamed wolf which drives their psychology. The why which motivates people will always be more interesting to me than their actions.

Holter Graham has a really nice voice. It is deep and he reads the narration with nice inflection. I’ve found with some audio books that some people’s voices get shrill when I have to up the volume to hear it over the sound of the train, but this does not happen with Graham, making it pleasant to listen to as I went to and fro from work. He doesn’t really do different voices, some are more growly than others, but that is about it. His pacing is excellent, and I don’t need a narrator to do voices, even if that is kind of fun to listen to sometimes. He speaks clearly and has great diction, that is all I needed from an audiobook.

I do have a two issues with both of Briggs’ series overall and they apply to this book, the first more than the second. The first issue I have is that, while her books have strong female characters, there is a lot of abuse verbally, emotionally, and sexually that happens to them. I understand wanting to give a reason for a character to be strong, but I think falling back on abuse can be a cop-out. I also understand some authors use what happens to characters to talk about important issues in a less threatening manner. However, in neither of Briggs’ series (that I’ve read) has either woman undertaken any kind of trauma counseling to help her understand her issues. Instead, a shining knight appears, she decides she is a strong woman, and BAM! it’s mostly forgotten. I feel that is a distinct lack of discussing a serious issue. I feel it leans more toward using abuse as an excuse for behavior.

I’m purposely being vague here, because I don’t want to spoil what I think is overall two really great series.

I recently read Maggie Stiefvater’s post about literary rape because of a posting by Stephanie, and I think it encapsulates what makes me uncomfortable with having sexually abused women in books who don’t receive any other kind of help, but a shining knight on a white horse. In Cry Wolf, the abuse has already happened so it isn’t explicitly shown and the couple deal with the after effects of such trauma. But I’m not sure that the way they deal with it is the most healthy, nor a great example. It’s all fine and dandy for Anna’s she-wolf to help her be calm, but real women who have been through abuse, don’t get that crutch. I think it would be awesome if the character in the future perhaps gets some kind of professional help so the reader gets to experience that journey as well.

The other issue I have, which is not as prevalent in this series as in the Mercy Thompson series, are Briggs’ definite Christian themes. There are some Mercy Thompson books where I am surprised it’s not filed in the Christian Fiction section. I’ll get into this a little more when I review that series, because in this book, it is more of a spiritual side to the werewolves than a definite Christian religion bias. Charles is part Native American and he communes with the spirits, who are in some way connected to an overall God/Being of the Universe. They guide him and affect his gut feelings about situations. It is not a major theme to the Alpha and Omega series, but I wish I had known that was the bent of Briggs’ work..

In spite of a few minor flaws, that could possibly be rectified as the series progresses, the series was an enjoyable read. I like Anna, she’s strong in a way not many female characters are written. She doesn’t walk all over people, or beat them up with her ideas. Yet, she doesn’t let other people walk all over her either. She uses her understanding of situations and the people to make her plays behind the scenes, to move people in the direction they need to be going in such a way they can’t balk at her. She doesn’t get into headlong fights with people, she just asks them really smart questions until they come around to her point of view. She calms people down and she gets them to think. She trusts her instincts. She spends her time trying to get to know a man that will probably be her life mate, and in spite of a really awful past three years she tries to move forward with her life to better things. I like Anna a lot.

Charles is a great character also, he has an even harder time opening up to Anna than she does to him. There is a lot of assuming that goes on in this book, which is frustrating, mostly because I know what that feels like from the other end. But he tries, he’s patient, and he improves his communication with Anna even as quickly as the next book. I recommend Cry Wolf to people who want to sink their wolf like teeth into a book instead of their grandma, especially if they are interested in reading about different relationship dynamics.

You can read another great review at Awesome Sauce Book Club and a review by Scooper Speaks who talks a little bit about the anthology.

Miniature Museum Piece

Actually it is a tilt-shift view of Chicago which creates the effect of it looking like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  I remember the first time my  best friend flew in a plane she said to me, “Everything looked like they were toys.” I was like, “Yah, I told you that.” She said, “I just always thought people were exaggerating.” Well, I wasn’t exaggerating then, and I’m not now, this is cool looking miniaturization of Chicago. [via Geekosystem]

I Met the TARDIS

One evening as I stood on the “el” platform I saw the TARDIS. She was a lovely girl in a couture styled TARDIS dress. It was gorgeous and she was great to meet! She was part of the Wheres The TARDIS contest. The contest has closed with winners from Wisconsin. But I just had to post pictures of her awesome dress (unfortunately, the contest came and went without my knowledge or I would have posted sooner).

Check out her flicker pictures here.

Her blogspot here.

And her contest entry (with more pictures) here.

 

Doctor Who Dream Come True

According to The Nerdy Bird, Doctor Who appears in Chicago sometime this next season.  REALLY?!! I think not really, because I would have heard. Wouldn’t I? I’m guessing they probably used Toronto and said it was Chicago. Because all cities look the same apparently. I’m really excited about Neil Gaiman’s episode to air this year. What a rich season of t.v. awaits us!

Matt Smith recaps Doctor Who for newbies:

Best line, “He’s sort of like Willy Wonka, but a bit older and more alien.” OMG I love Matt Smith.

Also, according to Com Bom, the Daleks wont be back this season. I pray this is true. I really hate them. So much. And not because they are the Doctor’s archenemies, but because of their stupid voices, that they look like trashcans, that they move slow but nobody can seeming to out run them or their lasers which don’t even have a great mobility range. UGH. I hate them. Worst aliens ever.