Audiobook Review Speed Dating – September 2011

Damien DamienJacquelyn Frank; Narrator: Xe Sands;
Length: 11 hrs 4 mins
Tantor Media, Inc. 2011
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Speed dating notes:

“Oooh, this one is a hunk of hotness and he sure knows how to show a girl a good time. Take him home for the night but not to meet Mom. He won’t be good for a long term relationship”

Story: C+
Narration: B+

The Vampire Prince Damien has seen and done it all but when he rescues Lycanthrope Princess Syreena from the series-wide nemesis, sparks fly and his life becomes interesting again. Syreena has lived a constricted life as her sister’s heir and giving in to her attraction to Damien will have repercussion not just for the lycanthropes but for the entire Nightwalker world. A shift away from demons as the central characters keeps this fourth book in the series relatively fresh and lots of steam and very good narration by Xe Sands make up for phrasing and sentence structure that’s more convoluted than necessary.

 

Blaze of Memory Blaze of MemoryNalini Singh; Narrator: Angela Dawe
Tantor Media, Inc. 2011
Length: 11 hrs 25 mins
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Speed dating notes:

“Oh, honey. I’ve seen you here six times before tonight. I really think we’d be compatible but those unexpected pauses when you speak that started showing up with your fourth outing make me worry for your health. And now you’re yawning while talking to me? No wonder you’re looking for a match; someone needs to vet you before you leave the house.”

Story: B+
Narration: D+

When a Psy with amnesia is dropped on Dev Santos’ door, he suspects she’s a Trojan horse meant to destroy the Shine organization but distrust soon turns to passion. Will they win the race against the clock to solve the mystery of her past? I liked the story a lot and congratulations on being the first PNR to make me cry but my mad love for this audiobook series has waned as strange pauses in Angela Dawe’s narration started showing up, ruining what is otherwise enjoyable storytelling.

 

Flowers for Her Grave Flowers for Her GraveJudy Clemens; Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 8 hrs 55 mins
Blackstone Audio, Inc. 2011
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Speed dating notes:

“Not my usual type but there is just something about you…I can’t take my eyes off you. I forget about you between date nights but when I know you are going to show up I practically stalk you. Your tragic history and struggle to overcome your emotional scars keep me coming back. If we do hook up, though, you’re going to have to get rid of your buddy, Death”

Story: B
Narration: B+

Casey Maldonado is a woman on the run from her past. This third series installment finds Casey in Florida and assuming a new identity as fitness instructor Daisy Gray. As Casey slowly starts to heal from the death of her family, her relationship with her constant companion – Death – has altered. Still a contentious one, Casey and Death are now interacting more like friends rather than adversaries. Solving the mysterious death of a resident of the Flamingo apartments pulls Casey into a twisty mass of blackmail, jealousy, and secrets. I really enjoy this series although this book less so than the previous two. The theme of health/exercise/maintaining outward appearances was over-emphasized and struck a discordant note for a book where the motivations for the central mystery had nothing to do with that. Casey is a very sympathetic character and Death makes for an amusing diversion. I am glad to see Casey starting to heal and the ending makes me oh so anxious for book four. The narration has done nothing but improve as the series continues, especially in the delivery of male voices, and I enjoyed Tavia Gilbert’s delivery.

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.