Audiobook Review: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

20 06 2013

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (Night Huntress, Bk. 1)

Read by Tavia Gilbert

Blackstone Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Quick Thoughts: Halfway to the Grave is a fun paranormal action tale, which had enough sexy parts to satisfy romance fans and enough detailed action and mystery to keep non-romance fans like me in the game. Frost definitely has the skills to create characters to cheer for while providing a solid plot to highlight their strengths.

Grade: B

My experience with Paranormal Romance has been pretty well documented. I am not a big romance fan. I get uncomfortable listening to off camera, and light foreplay sexual encounters in audiobooks. I’m pretty sure there are a few narrators I may never be able to look in their eyes without thinking about the strange man on man on woman three-way or the time Jack Reacher had sex to the rhythms of a train. My first time listening to a paranormal romance was First Grave on the Right, which I thought was just another Urban Fantasy, until the main character started banging a ghost, and I was like…. ummmm…. she’s banging a ghost… can someone please tell her to stop? Then, last year we had my Armchair Audies sexy dragon experience with Dragon Bound. Dragon Bound frustrated me… *clears throat* because the sex was so descriptive, each moment meticulously detailed, then when the fun mayhem of violence and destruction comes, it was like "Then the dragon killed him." WHAT? No rendering, no detailed evisceration. You can explain what each pore on the areola does while being licked by the tongue of an arrogant Alpha asshole, but can’t give me just a touch of blood and gore! Add to this the fact that the main love interest was such a misogynistic asshat, I just wanted to bash my skull in. Now, I understand, as someone whose fantasy life dwells more around zombies and robots, that these titles are catering to a group I may not be a part of. I accept that the handsome domineering man may be a viable fantasy for many people, but I just wanted to see him get stabbed, repeatedly. So, I put out a call for a Paranormal Romance that I may actually like, and received a suggestion for The Night Huntress series. My first though…. but it’s a sexy Vampire novel. Vampires are monsters! NOT SEXY! Then I looked at the cover. Hot scantily clad redhead! What am I getting myself into? Wait… hot scantily clad redhead… Hmmmmm…..

Cat Crawfield has been raised to believe all Vampires are evil. Her mother, who was raped by a Vampire leading to Cat’s conception, encourages Cat to use her unique skills as a half human half vampire to hunt and kill Vampires. Yet, when she meets the mysterious Vampire Bones after attempting to kill him, she begins to question all she has been taught. As she works together with Bones to hunt a Vampire who has been trafficking women, Cat resistance begins to break away, finding herself falling for the very monster she has been hunting. So, bottom line, I actually really liked Halfway to the Grave. Sure, all the sexy business made me feel, well, awkward. I could probably nitpick little things here and there, and sure, I could bemoan the experienced Vampire Bones teaching the young and inexperienced Cat in the ways of love, but I think that would undermine the fact that Cat was a strong character and that Bones was not a big flaming douchebag. Sure, I wanted to not like the centuries old Vampire, and I though this instant attachment to Cat was a bit on the unrelatable side, but I found myself being won over by the quirky Vampire. Beyond that Frost included enough other stuff, like hard core action scenes, some decent twists and entertaining characters, to allow me to get over my awkwardness quickly. I did have mixed feelings on some of the Vampire mythos Frost has developed. Much of the supernatural aspects of Vampirism has been stripped away. While I like this focus on Vampirism as either an evolutionary process or an ancient Biblical curse, I would have liked to see more on this aspect of the novel, but since it’s a series, I imagine these are issues we will return to. While I understand the whole stripping away of myths, like holy water and religious icons, I think sometimes I enjoy these bits of oddity with Vampires and will find myself missing it. I also really liked Cat as a character. I like how Frost dealt with her internal struggle, not to just accept her Vampire side, but also her struggle to appease her mother. I often battled emotionally with Cat’s mother, because at times, I felt her view point was justifiable, due to her personal history, but at other times I found her reactions reprehensible. I found this to be much more realistic than the often stereotypical black and white portrayals that show up in novels. My only issue with Cat was the sort of Might makes Right mentality that transformed her from the naive but amped killer of Vamps to a potential highly skilled operator and training of a paramilitary kill squad. There is more than just the ability to kick ass needed to lead and train any paramilitary group, and I struggled to see Cat as up to that particular challenge. Not that it was unrealistic, per se, I just felt her training under Bones was a bit glossed over, and I had trouble reconciling early Cat with the Cat she will need to be. Overall, despite some nitpickingness on my part, I found Halfway to the Grave to be a fun, fast paranormal action tale, which had enough sexy parts to satisfy romance fans and enough detailed action and mystery to keep non-romance fans like me in the game. Frost definitely has the skills to create characters to cheer for while providing a solid plot to highlight their strengths.

Tavia Gilbert is a name I hear often when discussing narrators, yet, had only listened to once before, nearly 5 years ago, with John Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale. Here, in Halfway to the Grave, I found her narration to be top notch. Gilbert allowed you to really feel the transformation in Cat’s life. She took you right into the Cat’s internal struggle, managing to find a balance between Cat’s strength and her insecurity. This was one of those audiobook moments where the narration helps you feel the character development in a way you might not experience in print. Gilbert read the action with a crisp pace, pulling the listener into the scenes, allowing them to get immersed in the action. The highlight of the audiobook was the "under the influence" scenes, where Gilbert was able to capture the humor of the slurring intoxicated Cat, while still maintaining the gravity of the situation. My only problem with the Audiobook wasn’t really the narrator’s fault. I had trouble imagining Bones as, well… sexy. I think Gilbert nailed his voice, blending British and Australian accents but, there was an almost cockney edge to it, I couldn’t help but picture some older Victorian Monty Pythonesque guy, and not a young looking sexy Vampire. Probably comes from watching too many British comedies on PBS when I was faking sick as a teenager. I’m not saying that most people wouldn’t find Bones sexy, just I didn’t. Not that I expected to find some Vampire dude sexy, but… well… I didn’t. Yet, I really enjoyed Gilbert’s performance and I think this series has a lot of potential both in telling a strong tale, and in making me feel kind of awkward.

Audiobook Review: Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

26 04 2012

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (The Elder Races, Book 1)

Read by Sophie Eastlake

Tantor Audio

Length: (Hmmmm….) 12 Hrs 59 Min

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Quick Thoughts: If you like highly detailed sexual encounters in a magical alternate America, full of fae court politics and with a sexy, yet overly possessive male lead, than by all mean, give Dragon Bound a listen. Thea Harrison knows what her fans want, and she delivers the goods. Don’t worry, I’ll still respect you in the morning.

Note: I decided not to give this title an actual grade, because this is so far out of what I would normally listen to, grading it would be a disservice to the audiobook and fans of Paranormal Romance novels.

Dragon Bound was nominated for a 2012 Audie Award in the Paranormal category.

Fair warning ladies, if you are looking for a stunningly handsome shape shifting dragon to ravage you, fulfilling your deepest physical needs, I am not your man.  Obviously, I am not a shape shifting dragon, nor am I what you would consider classically handsome. Or, well, everyday handsome. While our shape shifting dragon has a chiseled, rippling chest, my chest is less rippling and more undulating.  One look at me will not take your breath away, and if it does cause you to feel an ache in your loins, I would recommend you go talk to your lady parts doctor. I am definitely not an alpha male, nor am I a beta male. I am the sort of male that follows at the back of the pack making snarky comments about those males leading the way. Last time I heard the term “enormous member” used to describe me was when I was considering signing up for Weight Watchers. You see, I will never star in my own Paranormal Romance novel and well, I am OK with that. I’m a flesh and blood guy whose parents are both human, and I work a pretty boring job. Not really fantasy making material. Recently, as part of the Armchair Audies, I took on the task of listening to all the audiobooks nominated in three categories, one of them being the Paranormal category. Luckily, most of the titles were novels I had some level of interest in. Well, there was one exception, that being Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison. Paranormal Romance really isn’t my thing. Personally, most romance novels seem to be about incredible attractive people who meet and fall into some sort of intense relationship. This really isn’t something that interests me. I have no disrespect for the genre, heck, I love books about zombies, ultra violent ex-soldiers roaming America, and Space Aliens coming to enslave the human race and eat our spleens, which, if your not familiar with those types of books, are not high literature. I am a big proponent of not being ashamed of what you choose for your personal entertainment, and while Romance is not really my thing, I will proudly stand next to my sisters and brothers who are Romance fans. I also may just try and sneak a peak at their voluptuous breasts and large throbbing members, you know, just for fun.

Dragon Bound tells the story of Pia Giovanni, a half wyr, half human resident of an alternative New York City, who is blackmailed into stealing something from the shape shifting wyr dragon Dragos. Dragos is one of the most powerful figures in wyrkind, and also happens to be, well, sort of hunky. When he tracks Pia down, he is instantly drawn to her in a mysterious way, and the two begin a whirlwind tryst that will put them up against the forces of the dark fae. Did I enjoy Dragon Bound? No, not really. Did I have fun with it? Absolutely. The main reason I didn’t enjoy Dragon Bound was I utterly despised with all the loathing possible in my heart, the character of Dragos. The guy was an utter asshat, treating his people, and Pia like property, ordering them around, and just finding multiple ways to act like an arrogant dill weed. Now, I understand this was all part of his dragon nature, but that didn’t make me like him. I personally hate when the female character falls for the alpha male. I still am pissed that Dee left Billy for Lee Adama (obligatory Battlestar Galactica reference.) Pia, whose response to Dragos misogyny and possessiveness was snarkiness followed by hissy fits and crying temper tantrums didn‘t really win me over either. Their relationship was the type that makes me feel awkward when exposed to it in the real world, so why would I want to read about it? Also, Harrison brilliantly, and in great detail describes every moment of physical contact between Dragos and Pia, whether sexual or otherwise, from limb placement to what parts of the bodies rub up against the other parts and its affect on their nether regions, yet, when it comes time for the Dragon to get all Dragony violent, she basically just says, “He rips them to pieces.” I want the gore. I want to know in what order he rends the limbs from his enemy. I want blood and splatter and giant dragon action, crushing skulls and eating the flesh of his enemies. Instead, I got a lot of Dragos boning Pia. Now, I enjoyed some of the characters, like Tricks, the fae PR “person” for Dragos, and the griffins. and the story was OK, but it was the romance that drove the narrative, and not the violence, or the mystery or even the magical alternate world she created. As someone who is not a romance fan, it’s just not what I’m looking for. Yet, for Paranormal Romance fans, I can see why this novel would be popular. If you like highly detailed sexual encounters in a magical alternate America, full of fae court politics, and with a sexy, yet overly possessive male lead, than by all mean, give Dragon Bound a listen. Thea Harrison knows what her fans want, and she delivers the goods. Don’t worry, I’ll still respect you in the morning.

Dragon Bound was narrated by Sophie Eastlake, and I feel she did an excellent job, even if I’m not sure I’d be able to look her in the eyes if I ever met her in real life. I like that her voice wasn’t especially sultry, but had an everyday, wry tone to it that captured Pia very well. You could tell she just embraced the novel, describing things that would make porn stars blush, with relish and excitement. She had fun with the characters, and gave them all her own little twist. I will warn audiobook listeners that is you are listening to this audio in your car with your windows down, and you roll up next to your old English teacher from high school it may lead to an awkward moment., but don’t worry too much, she’s probably hiding a Danielle Steele paperback under her Proust novel.

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