"A Medieval Road Movie - Well worth a listen"
This is quite different from what I usually listen to, but I'm very glad I made the break. It's 1348 and the black death is sweeping England. Nine unlikely travel companions are thrown together and unite in their quest to outrun the pestillence by heading North.
The characters are nicely drawn and we get to know them through the stories they tell while sitting around the campfire trying to keep warm. The author evokes the mid 14th century well and the book seems to be well-researched (although I'm not an expert on medieval England, so it could all be rubbish!!). There is a bit of mystery thrown in, but although there are murders involved, it's not a traditional murder mystery. The end of the story is not as strong as it might have been, and clues to one of the twists in the tale are given early in the book. There is a final twist, which some might find cliched, but I enjoyed. Finally, what made this a 5-star for me was David Thorpe's narration - the story on its own would have been a four. The voice characterisation is great and consistent throughout - he really helps to bring the characters and the stories to life. Highly recommended!
"Biting, inciteful, educational"
If you have seen or heard Mark Steele before, you'll know you're in for a treat. If not, give him a go! 30-minute oral essays on famous characters from history. Mr Hatton's history lessons were never like this!!
"Not terribly plausible!"
This book is number 24 in the "in death" series, but it is the first one that I have read/listened to. The main protagonist is New York cop Eve Dallas and she sets about trying to solve the apparently motiveless killing of an elementary school teacher. What I hadn't realised from the blurb is that story is set about 50 years in the future - this only dawned on me some time into the story! The plot itself was OK, and there are some nice twists and turns in the story, but for me it was spoilt by the totally incredible (in the literal sense) identity of the sociopathic serial killer!
The narrator for the most part does a great job, the only exception being her Irish accent. Unfortunately, one of the main characters is Irish! Obviously, this is my personal opinion, and this series (including this book) get 4*-plus reviews on the US site, so don't let this one review put you off - I'm tempted to give the series another go, but this one was just a little to implausible for me.
"A bit far fetched, but a great listen"
I came to this book after enjoying Relentless. Whereas the hero in Relentless, is an ordinary Jo, the protagonist here is ex-forces with specialist training. He wakes up with amnesia next to a headless corpse, and his day goes down-hill from there. Like Relentless, this a fast-paced thriller, and though there are moments where you need to suspend disbelief, it is an enjoyable listen. There are some fairly graphic descriptions in the book, so best avoided if you're squeamish. I will certainly be looking out for other for other Simon Kernick novels in the future.
"Good Story, annoying narrator"
Once I got into this audiobook, I enjoyed the story. The book is written as a series of letters from Eva, the mother of Kevin, to her estranged husband Franklin. Through this correspondence (probably the wrong word as we never hear back from Franklin), Eva explores her culpability for her son's school killing spree at age 15. This is not a thriller, but an examination of the human condition.
There are two main problems I have with the book. Firstly, the characterization of the male characters. Kevin is a caricature of pure malice. From birth he seems determined to ruin his mother's life. Eva is convinced that he is out to make her life difficult, conspiring to make her seem like a callous uncaring mother. Kids can be difficult (I have 3), but she would surely have sort help for a kid as relentlessly sociopathic as Kevin from a very early age!
Franklin the husband is equally caricatured. He is completely blinkered when it comes to Kevin's faults and has an explanation for everything - he is gullible enough to believe every excuse that Kevin comes up with.
This brings we on to my second, and major problem with the audio - the narrator Barbara Rosenblatt. Her monotone is grating and her charaterization of the male voices further adds to the negative portrayal from the author. Franklin sounds like he's a permenantly stoned surfer dude! But the most annoying thing of all is the readers extraneous sounds - She must have a serious problem with her salivary glands as she is constantly swallowing and smacking her lips - it seems very unprofessional to me and surely should have been edited out.
Having said all this, it is still a good story. There a couple of nice twists, one about halfway through which I didn't see coming, and one at the end which I picked up on fairly early.
"A great listen - not just chicklit"
This was one that I wasn't really expecting to enjoy, but I was wrong. I normally prefer thrillers, but the blurb (and rave reviews from my wife) persuaded me to listen.
You'll have got the gist of the story above, so I won't go through it again. Suffice to say, that this is a very thought-provoking novel with some nice twists and turns along the way. The narration is very good with each chapter told from the point of view of one of the characters and each character narrated by a different person.
Jodie Picoult sometimes gets labled as 'chicklit', but this one is definitely worth a listen - I doubt you'll be disappointed.
"OK, but don't believe the glowing endorsements"
OK, they say never judge a book by it's cover, but I was somewhat swayed by the glowing endorsements (eg Stephen King) for this book. It's in the 'teenagers/twentysomethings' in peril genre and as far as it goes, it's ok. However, without giving too much of the plot away - the reasons underlying the peril are never adequately explained. I like my science fiction / horror to have at least a semi-tangible explanation (a la Michael Crichton for example). There are many aspects here that are just not explained, such as where the peril comes from and why the villagers behave as they do (don't think that gives too much away!). However, there is reasonably good tension developed between the characters, and it's not a bad listen - just not quite as great as the blurb would have you believe.
"Very disappointing ending"
I thought that I was going to quite like this book - it started off well, an intriguing crime scene and an interesting lead. However, this was not what I was expecting. From the blurb, this sounded like a straight thriller, but it soon becomes clear that the baddy has strange, mystical powers. Now I don't have anything against this genre, but it was not what I was expecting, and I don't think it was particularly well done. Secondly, the male lead disappointed me. After starting off promisingly, he turned into a bit of a wet blanket when it came to the female lead - I may be lacking a sense of romance, but I'm just not sure she was worth it! She didn't have any real depth, but she had unresolved issues. Finally, and my biggest gripe of all - the ending was a farce. **SEMI-SPOILER AHEAD** At the denouement, a completely new character, not even hinted at in the rest of the book, is introduced to tie up the plot. And then after the final action scene the author switches to a series of emails to draw the story to a conclusion. Very disappointing - almost like the author got so far into the book, got bored, and just wanted to finish it - new character, series of emails - done. However, thought the narrator was good - some nice characterisation - in fact that's probably what kept me going to the end. I might have given up otherwise. Not recommended!
"OK, but a little over-hyped"
The book has an interesting premise and is undoubtedly well researched. The plot is a little slow to get going, but holds ones interest. However, there are much better thrillers out there. There are very many characters and as mentioned by another reviewer, this can get a little confusing. This wasn't one that I took the long route home for!
"OK but I can't agree with the 5* reviews"
I quite enjoyed this book, but I definitely don't think that it warrants the 5*s that others have given it. I can't critique it too much without adding spoilers, but this was not a book which had me taking the long route to work to listen more. Don't get me wrong, it's a reasonable listen with numerous twists and turns (not all of which come as a major surprise), but I found myself having little empathy with the main protagonist.
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