Elijah by Jacquelyn Frank

Elijah by Jacquelyn FrankElijah by Jacquelyn Frank
Narrator: Xe Sands
Series: Nightwalkers #3
Published by Tantor Media on 8/15/11
Genres: Paranormal, Romance

Book: C+
Narration: B+

Book three in the Nightwalkers series is the story of Elijah, Demon Warrior Captain extraordinaire, and Siena, the Lycanthrope Queen. See all those capitals in that sentence? That is what Jacquelyn Frank’s writing is like for me: emphatic, a little bigger than life, sometimes a little too important sounding, but at the same time quite fun. This audiobook made for an excellent weekend listen while I got on with the mundane tasks of life.

After almost losing his life in a traitorous attack, Elijah is rescued by Siena. She nurses him back to health and the time they spend together sparks an attraction that quickly turns into an inferno. Ruler of a generally matriarchal society and genetically programmed to mate for life, Siena is reluctant to accept her feelings for Elijah. After the death of her mother, her father assumed control of the monarchy and his hate for the demon race drove centuries of conflict. As a result, Siena refuses to share her sovereign power with any male. In addition to the emotional struggle the couple faces, the forces that ambushed Elijah have devised a plan that, if successful, would plunge the entire Nightwalker world into war.

What I liked:

I enjoy the power dynamics in the characters’ relationships. Ms. Frank does an excellent job at combining alpha and beta characteristics in her heroes rather than mainlining one genre convention. We also get some relationship angst but these characters are able to actually have discussions with one another and relationship conflict resolution is almost always over by the first half, leaving the second half of the book for external conflict resolution.

More so than any other author in the genre, Frank writes love scenes that vary widely in tone from serious and intense to passionate and just plain fun. I enjoy the playful scenes because so often in this line of stories, intimate acts are all about dominating animalistic need and quite frankly, variety is the spice of life.

What I didn’t like so much:

I haven’t completely bought in to a level of gravitas in the world-building that requires the word choices Frank employs. On one hand, I get the ‘ancient demon society with years of culture’ aspect that drives the prose to grandiose levels but I sometimes think it can be interpreted as pretentious.*

This book was a bit heavy on exposition and on catching the new reader up on the back-story.

The narration:

I think a large part of what makes this series so successful for me is the narration. Ms. Sands uses a cadence for the exposition that makes me take the text more seriously than if I was reading it and the dialogue has a natural flow with excellent character differentiation. There is an intimate quality to the reading of the sex scenes that invests them with emotional content and avoids the type of over-dramatic narration that tends to make me uncomfortable. Objectively, I might question the true-to-life nature of the French and Russian accents but to be honest, I’ve never seen the Nightwalker world as an alternate reality so I’m not listening for real-world analogs; I take the accents as given for the various races.

If you are looking for an intro to Paranormal Romance or prefer your PNR heavy on dominant alpha men, this isn’t the best book to pick. If you’re looking for an audiobook that can suck you in to a larger-than-life story with well-voiced characters, this series would be a good choice.


The true confessions part of the blog:

*I feel a bit like an idiot for writing that because I imagine I sound like that sometimes and I completely understand the idea that ‘but that’s just what that word means so it’s the right word to use!’ When I hear it, though, it just strikes me as jarring and makes me roll my eyes a bit.

Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs

Flash and Bones by Kathy ReichsFlash and Bones by Kathy Reichs
Narrator: Linda Emond
Series: Temperance Brennan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 8/23/11
Genres: Mystery

Book: B
Narration: B+

In a series that remains surprisingly fresh in its 14th outing, forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan is back in North Carolina and investigating the remains of a body discovered in a landfill near the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The discovery of the remains, found packed in asphalt in a metal drum, restarts a long-dead investigation into the disappearance thirteen years earlier of a twenty-four year-old man and nineteen year-old woman who were last seen at the speedway. A plea from the missing girl’s brother and the confiscation of evidence by the FBI induces Dr. Brennan to initiate her own investigation in cooperation with Detective Slidell of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD. The two cross paths with Cotton Galimore, the former lead detective on the initial investigation and now head of security for the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the investigation begins tracking a winding course through the world of NASCAR racing, bio-terrorism, extremist militia groups, and prejudice.

This book delivered what I have come to expect from this series – not in the “been-there-done-that” sense but in terms of a good story with a complex and involved mystery that requires careful listening. The characters – well-developed, often familiar, and certainly intriguing – weren’t what drove the story for me. The central force that carries the reader forward is the mystery and I enjoy being able to rely on Ms. Reichs to consistently deliver a new and utterly engrossing puzzle within the expected mystery conventions of death, investigation, and the unmasking of a killer. Yes, there were some problematic parts of the story for me. I asked myself at least once what a forensic anthropologist was doing becoming so involved in the police investigation portion of a murder. There were a few points in the book where I raised an eyebrow at the level of coincidence in how various characters had ties to each other in both the past and present. Tempe’s repeated internal commentary on how the parts of a case remained just shy of cohesion in her brain until her big “ah ha!” moment is an overly familiar device from previous books. After drifting through my mind, though, those niggling complaints disappeared and I was pulled under by the narrative.

I found the pacing to be ideal, the scene descriptions gave me a strong sense of place that helped build my mental story board, and while I am not going to pretend that reading this series qualifies me as a forensic anthropologist, I’m quite certain I could play one on TV after absorbing the detailed forensic descriptions that pepper this series. They are very well done; clear and neither too abstruse nor too simplified. I always come away from a book in this series feeling a little smarter and vastly entertained.

My listening tastes, in terms of a narrator’s delivery, tend more toward the subtle than the dramatic so for the most part Linda Emond’s narration worked very well for me. I found her voice to be quite pleasing and the various character voices easy to track. I expect that listeners who prefer a more robust performance might have some complaints since even I didn’t feel the level of urgency the plot suggested during the climactic scene. I haven’t experienced Ms. Emond’s narration outside of this series and I’ll be interested to seek out some of her other work. She has created a unique “voice” for Temperance Brennan not just in tone but in what I hear as a specific speech pattern. That distinct cadence (which, if I was transcribing from the audio would cause me to add half-again as many commas as the text indicates) and the inflections perfectly convey Brennan’s droll commentary and have come to be the voice of this character in my head, evicting the voice of my internal reader. It does, though, bleed over into the other character voices which in most audiobooks tends to diminish the level of character differentiation but worked for me in this first-person narrative that is sprinkled with mild Southern drawls.

A complex and engrossing mystery with narration that pulled me in – I would recommended this one for most listeners but only after sampling the narration.