"Plot and narration superb"
It is not often that one of the world's best actors reads a narrative about one of the world's great detectives. Horowitz has recreated the very essense of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in a superb tale that cuts to the heart of Victorian sociopathy. But this is elevated to an even higher paltform of excellence by Derek Jacobi's magnificent narration - possibly the best I hav\e heard. Not since Stephen Fry read Harry Potter was a narrator as luscious as the plot. Every syllable is considered and there is emotion even in tthe punctuation. You must listen to this book. It is like being immersed in a cream bath - but the subject matter is pure grime.
"Entertaining, informative and profound"
It was probably Chinua Achebe’s recent death that prompted me to read this book – many years after everyone else had read it and raved about it. It is rave-worthy. It is a wonderfully evocative story narrated by a mother and her four daughters reluctantly dragged into the pre-revolutionary Congo by a fire-and-brimstone, Southern Baptist father. The mission family experience life in an obscure African village at the most tumultuous time on the continent as the wave of independence sweeps through (or past) them.
My first encounter with Kingsolver was The Lacuna and I stopped less than halfway through because the story was tedious and the author was also the narrator (audiobook) and she was just dreadful. So it took me a little while to forgive her and try another title.
This time I was very pleasantly surprised. I expected a very sombre exploration of cultures and religion, and although these exist throughout the book, my first reaction was to laugh out loud. The voices of the narrators bring out their idiosyncrasies, their (sometimes) hilarious perspectives on their lives. The story is strong and simple. They remind me of the Paul White Jungle Doctor stories which my father used to read to us. The tone is identical and the stories are simple, honest and natural.
But in addition to the quaint retelling of these village events, the deeper issues of competing religious views and the tragic consequences of fanaticism make this a most memorable novel. Very highly recommended.
The narrator (this time) is exceptionally good and her French is quite acceptable. I won't comment on her Afrikaans pronunciation but that is understandable.
"A long and winding road but rewarding in the end"
This is at once a strange, puzzling and good novel. Of epic proportions, it is offered in a series of books or “parts” each one (initially) dealing with a different epoch in this saga.
While reading the first part I thought Justin Cronin was a phenomenal discovery for me: a cracking story, unrelenting pace, brilliant characters, and credible but still intriguing plot – this was Michael Crichton on steroids. Had he stopped at the end of part one this assessment would have remained intact. He tells a story of a government-funded scheme to implant a life-extending virus into selected humans and how it all goes wrong. I won’t spoil the story.
However as he gets into post-apocalyptic territory (parts 2 onwards) the story lags, his pace dwindles, the world he describes is barely believable and some literary devices are predictable. At one stage I thought of giving up. However through parts 3-5 it picks up where it started and he saves his reputation by delivering a massive novel that leaves one breathless and entertained.
The story is about real people who get caught up in the government’s scheme, who are victims of the new creatures created by the scheme or who try to survive in a world where humans are scarce, isolated and threatened. I am not into science fiction, but this book does not fit comfortably into that genre either by its subject matter or its writing style. It offers love, suspense, military daring, vampires, futuristic cities, catholic nuns and secret agents in a heady mix of themes and characters. Somehow Cronin manages to keep it all together in a series of very well thought-through manoeuvres and well-planned details.
If you have the time, I would recommend the book. PS - very good and sensitive narrator.
"The Scientific Argument"
This is the classic work on the justification of the atheist point of view. Dawkins, one of the most respected biologists in the world, mounts a scathing attack on religion. Although he dismisses the fundamentals of all religious beliefs with the same argument, he gets particularly nasty with Christianity (and Judaism) because he is most familiar with these sets of beliefs. He systematically deals with each known argument raised by theists, creationists, agnostics etc and argues very cogently about the gaping holes in their arguments. Although he does sometimes get emotional he rarely strays away from his core tenet: that religion (in any manifestation) is not defensible from evidence or logic and can only survive by asking its believers to surrender rational thinking and scientific evidence - which characteristics he believes defines humanity. He is particularly angry that religions revert to subversive means in order to survive: they get their "victims" young when they are vulnerable and unable to defy the insistence of their parents or teachers. He uses many interesting historical facts and scientific illustrations to back his argument, as well as some really frightening quotes from religious leaders. Written in 2006 it makes for compelling reading, no matter what your belief system comprises. Great narrator too. Highly recommended (and quite quick to read actually).
"Not your average blood sucker"
Joanne Harris can take the story of the hare and the tortoise as her raw material and use this to construct a majestic novel. In this case it is a potentially very lame theme of vampirism. But in her hands it becomes a three-generation saga with mystery, intrigue and perfectly formed characters - no werewolves, no glistening skin and no crap. In fact the characters and plot are the focus, not the cliché’s about vampires. There is blood and gore but it is not gratuitous. As with all her work the plot twists and turns into corners where you cannot imagine a solution, but somehow (and credibly) she adds a simple new twist and we are back on track. She is a master story teller and this is the fourth of her books that I have enjoyed. I like the way she thinks almost as much as her unequalled use of descriptive language - surely unique in this genre. Both narrators are outstanding and I would highly recommend this set.
"The great "What if""
I first enjoyed Sansom's Matthew Shardlake novels about a hunchback medieval detective. Here he tries his hand at something more recent - World War II Britain, except what if the world never went to war but Chamberlain's feeble attempts to seek peace with Hitler were successful? That's where the novel starts, with the UK effectively occupied by the Germans. The start of the novel is its weakest part. Sansom struggles to paint a complete picture and instead spurts out the facts instead of describing the situation. Once he has set the scene (about three chapters in) he settles down to write a great spy novel which has some brilliant characters, a fast-moving plot and a terrific climax. Worth every minute. Highly recommended. The narrator, Daniel Weyman, is excellent.
"Salt of the earth"
Steinbeck defines the rural spirit of America. It is this spirit to which shallow politicians appeal in their search for votes and it is of this spirit that people think when they say "real America". The story traces a poor Oklahoma family - forced off the land where they have lived for generations - as they make their increasingly desperate trek westwards towards California, the Promised Land.
Every conceivable hardship and betrayal is visited on them and through it all the human spirit shines through. Steinbeck writes in a terse, masculine style. He clearly loves his characters and draws them well. His abrupt style sometimes leaves one yearning for more colour and more depth, but there can be no doubt that this is an America classic, worth reading to see a portrait of the pioneers who made that nation what it is – good or bad.
The narrator is excellent, sensitive and versatile.
"Mantel sets new benchmark"
Historical fiction is difficult to get right, and with this work Mantel creates a new standard of excellence. Writing in the New Yorker James Woods provides the most balanced view of this great achievement. He correctly points out that Mantel's strength is that she does not dwell on historical detail but weaves it seamlessly into the plot so as never to slacken its pace. She is a literary craftsman - every sumptuous sentence drips with character and context. She paints a masterpiece of Thomas Cromwell - his deeds, thoughts, motives and desires. It is a balanced portrait which shows his cunning; his ruthlessness as well as his kindness towards those who have walked the same path but have not shared his good fortune. The narrator is superb - light, incisive, precise and calculated. I cannot recommend this book enough and truly hope it wins the Booker in two weeks time. It is certainly of the same quality as Wolf Hall.
"Great but too many doubles?....."
I really enjoyed McIntyre's first two books and although the information in them had appeared elsewhere he delivers the details in such a detailed and personable way that the book reads like a weird blend of a thriller combined with a news bulletin.
In the latest book he sketches the most complex and daring orchestration of wartime deception - all based on fact, newly released by MI5. Although the plot is rich and unbelievably complex, and although the daring of the spies is far greater than before, the book never reaches the intensity of its two predecessors. This could be that there is less focus on one small cast of characters and the canvas is bigger, more complex with less opportunity to understand the lives and motives of the main characters. At times the cast of characters is unwieldy because of the number of characters and the complexity of the charade they were developing.
As always one is looking forward to the epilogue to explain how the people ended up. The work they did was amazing and it affected the outcome of the war and therefore the course of world history. Ben M has written well, again, but with fewer main and subsidiary characters the book may have risen to the levels of its predecessors. Narration is brilliant with flawless accents applied consistently.
"Obscure and slow - like Ancient Greek poetry"
Not sure what to make of this one.To begin with it is read by the author (a woman) trying to sound like a 20-year-old guy. Her reading is monotonous and why on earth you would get a woman to read the sole male narrator is beyond me. She has no characterisation either in her voice nor in her writing. The story has some promise and there are definitely some highlights, students studying Greek in wintry Vermont with an obscure Professor. However the victim of the murder is revealed on the first page as is his killer. So for the next 21 hours of audio we are drawn into the shallow, weird and meaningless world of Vermont undergrads. The telling is artless and the characterisation is particularly shallow. The plot is not brilliant, there is little tension but just plenty of he said, she said, bla, bla, bla. There is so much promise in the novel: the setting is fantastic, the crime is interesting and the milieu is intriguing. But the promise is deflated by emotionless writing which contains little creativity and less art. Not recommended.
"Playing the readers to the end"
Had I stopped listening at the half-way mark this would have been a fairly pedestrian but well-written thriller with a fairly predictable plot. But then the twists come - completely unforeseen and astonishing. They are so overwhelming that one wants to re-listen to see where one missed the clues - but there are none. In the end I thought this one of the very best thrillers I had heard. Harris is superb in the way she leads the reader on - the story just credible enough to keep reading until it suits her to unleash her arsenal of surprises. The narration is truly brilliant - subtle changes in tone and pitch convey different characters very well. I can't really say more without revealing too much. No doubt about the five stars - see for yourself.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.