Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine HarrisMidnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
Narrator: Susan Bennett
Series: Midnight, Texas #1
Published by Recorded Books on 5/6/14
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal

Story: B
Narration: A

Publisher’s Blurb:

“From Charlaine Harris, the best-selling author who created Sookie Stackhouse the world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, comes a new, darker world – populated by more strangers than friends. But then, that’s how the locals prefer it.

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town. There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own). Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth….”

My Thoughts:

Charlaine Harris culls two characters from other series she’s written and drops them in the town of Midnight, TX.  Manfred Bernardo – a young psychic who makes a living providing scam readings over the internet interspersed with true psychic visions – moves from the Harper Connolly series to this new trilogy. Bobo Winthrop – on the run from a family legacy of racism and violence covered in depth in the Lily Bard series – lands in Midnight and seems to have found his place in the world. Of course, there’s a host of other residents in town who weave into the story and each one is unusual. Bobo’s tenants: pale Lemuel who only comes out at night and the drop-dead gorgeous Olivia Charity are as deadly as they are mysterious. Across the street from the pawnshop Bobo runs is Fiji Cavanaugh – the proprietor of a new-age shop offering occultist paraphernalia and self-discovery workshops – who is a witch with unexpected power and and amusingly named pet cat: Mr. Snuggles.

This book is a tightly woven combination of mystery and paranormal with the cast of a small-town cozy. As a standalone, it works very well. As someone familiar with the characters from her other series, I had a very hard time adjusting. The Harper Connolly and Lily Bard series always struck me as straight contemporaries, despite Harper’s psychic abilities. To find characters from that world thrown into a small Texas town with vampires and werewolves was jarring. Other than the genre change speed-bump, they actually work really well as characters here and anyone unfamiliar with their pasts should find their presence seamless to the story.

As Manfred learns more about the town and its residents, Bobo’s ex-girlfriend’s body is discovered and he’s the primary suspect in her death. To compound his situation, white supremacists who believe he is in possession of his dead grandfather’s weapons cache are eager to do whatever it takes to get their hands on it. The story moves at a nice clip and I found myself entirely engaged throughout. It was only after it was over that I felt the lack of character building. There’s a thin layer of background for each person and an emotional depth (or lack) that’s primarily comprised of longing and unrequited love but with nothing for a reader to really sink her teeth into.

That kind of perceived flaw is usually a significant issue for me but the story was a lot of fun and it was such a nicely paced plot with a well-blended mix of genres and character types that, in conjunction with an audiobook narration that gave so much vocal depth to characters that it masked much of their actual lack of depth, I ended up enjoying this audiobook immensely and recommend it.

The Narration:

This was my first experience with narrator Susan Bennett and part-way through I stopped to look at what other books she’s done with the intent to pick some up. I was very impressed with her performance. First and foremost was the delightfully dry delivery she brought to the humor; she nailed all the amusing lines without missing a beat. Her character interpretations were excellent, giving me fully-voiced personae with clearly transmitted emotional nuances and varied speech patterns. Her voicing of the eventually-revealed villain of the story was excellent and surprisingly hackle-raising in its ability to reveal shifting glimpses of the evil hiding behind a… well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

The story opens with a third-person present tense narrative, a la Pushing Daisies, and Ms. Bennett provides the vocal equivalent (via voice tone) of a camera slowly spiraling in on the little town of Midnight as the omniscient narrator lands us in the story underway. With the switch to third-person past, the sense of being present in every moment is nicely delivered and the narration was perfect for my tastes: lightly burnished with a down-home flavor in terms of accents and laconic delivery and sweeping me into the story without distraction.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah HarknessA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: All Souls #1
Published by Penguin Audio on 2/8/11
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Book: B+
Narration: A

A decision tree to help you decide if you should listen to the audiobook of A Discovery of Witches, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda (yes, there is an actual review after the flowchart):


This audiobook had excellent narration and pacing that, unless you like character-driven novels, might drive you crazy. I, however, loved it. I’ve read comparisons of other books with the Twilight novels and have never seen it as anything other than a marketing ploy but really, if the Twilight series married Gabaldon’s Outlander series and had a literary child this would be it.

Diana Bishop is a professor of history at Yale who has turned her back on the power her abilities as a witch grant her in order to focus on academics. While researching at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Diana discovers an enchanted alchemical manuscript that has been long hidden. The “creatures” that populate the world of this novel (witches, vampires, and daemons) all want the manuscript and they need Diana to get it. Enter Matthew Clairmont, a 1600 year-old vampire and Oxford professor whose quest for the manuscript quickly turns into a more personal interest in Diana. The battle to obtain the manuscript carries the pair from England to France, America, and … well, you’ll have to listen to the book to find out the last location.

The author clearly loves her area of academic study and included info from it in the book in such a way as to completely intrigue me about the history of science and the allegorical imagery to be found in alchemical manuscripts. I rarely regret not pursuing post-graduate studies but this book reminded me of the joy found in academics. There was a well-delivered (although not often exciting) plot progression that appealed to my logical side which probably explains the flowchart. The world-building feels very realistic and rational (if I can say that about a fiction book). I did struggle with the heroine’s passive nature for much of the book and I was frustrated with the hero’s paternalistic actions but was still captivated by the book and enjoyed the growing romance. The secondary characters were well developed and wove their way through the plot rather than popping up as throw-away characters. I ended up listening to this book a second time and only then realized there was a lot of subtle characterization that my conscious mind ignored the first time around. The ending, while not a cliff-hanger exactly, opened a whole new setting for the next book in the series and I look forward to it.

I found Jennifer Ikeda’s narration to be perfect. My previous experience with her work was a YA novel set in Canada so I was unprepared for the level of skill she displayed in managing the multitude of accents that permeate the story. Silly me. She seamlessly switches between multiple English dialects, Scottish, French, Australian, and American and while I am far from an expert on accents, they all sounded very natural and accurate to me. She employed a smooth and almost conversational delivery for the narrative. Usually I would anticipate that style would make a long story seem even longer but the vocal inflections more than held my interest and at the half-way point in the book I was wondering where the time went. The dialogue was voiced in a manner that easily allowed me to immerse myself in the characterizations and get swept away in the story.

An excellent audiobook for the romance reader who likes character-driven stories and with minimal bedroom time, even non-romance readers will find a lot to enjoy.