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David M

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Occupation

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-08-20

Rami Elhanan (a Jew) and Bassam Aramin (a Palestinian) co-found a small group that calls itself Combatants for Peace, to oppose Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The group meets in the Everest Hotel, Bayt Jala, near Bethlehem, just off Highway 60. The conflict has already killed both of their daughters. They embark on speaking tours to share their anguish with as many people as possible, and campaign for the end of hostilities on both sides and the end of oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli army.

This is largely a true story. In chapters 500, (the two middle chapters), both the main characters give us a substantial account of their individual stories. The other 998 chapters consist of short snippets of things closely, or not so closely relevant to the main story. We get: mathematics, olive trees, birds, geography ("geography is everything in the West Bank"), history, sling shots, atrocities, cruelties, injury - often in graphic detail, oppression, sounds, silence, music, the price of water, military service, checkpoints, repetition, heat, horses, nuclear technology, lists - many lists, and did I mention repetition.

The book really did teach me an awful lot about the area that I didn't know before. Quite amazing really. Right from the start I was researching the region on-line to supplement what I was hearing from the book. My first urge was to find a map of the West Bank. Then to find out what areas A, B, and C are all about.

I thought this book was was not unlike "Milkman" which won the Man Booker Prize in 2018, though in my opinion, not quite as good. Trying to structure the book mathematically like an apeirogon was a clever idea in theory, but a little tedious to listen to.

They really should have paid a proper actor to perform this. The voice we heard was low energy and miserable for all 15 hours 20 minutes. A reader can only take so much misery - even if misery has some relevance.

Sci-Fi meets philosophy

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-08-20

"If you could assemble a human body from all the right atoms and molecules, would it be conscious or does something else, non-physical need to be added?"

A delicious amalgamation of story and thought-experiments. Not always clear where the thought-experiments end and the stories begin. Thought-experiments are invented in order to consider the validity of alternative solutions to hypothetical situations that cannot necessarily be created in practice. Alternative answers are not necessarily right or wrong. Different mutually-exclusive solutions may both both exist. That is the flavour of the book.

An ant burrows into Rachel's eye and from there into her brain. What is the ant doing there, where did it come from? How is the ant going to affect Rachel going forward?

The 10 chapters are almost 10 self-contained stories, but they are both incomplete and linked. Each one doesn't fully make sense as you finish it but a later chapter provides some explanation - retrospectively. This gradual revelation of what is going on is the main joy of this book, so I won't spoil it by offering an explanation here. Just to say that Rachel (not the ant) is the main character running through the 10 chapters, and we only gradually find out who she is. The listener has to wait until chapter 9 for the main explanation.

Audible classify this as "Genre Fiction". I think they wanted it to sound intriguing and to appeal to the widest market possible. I'd classify it as "Science Fiction" - the thought provoking kind.

1 person found this helpful

WOW !!!!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 30-07-20

Once it got going this turned out to be a really good psychological / legal thriller. (Audible only classify it as "Genre Fiction".)

The basic premise is that two babies were swapped by mistake in the maternity unit, their parents only became aware 2 years later. Initially there was friendly co-operation between the families then gradually the relationship began to turn sour. Luckily the author had much more up his sleeve than that. He had really done his research on the subject; social services, legal, psychology. (I learnt a lot just listening to the story.) There were many, many twists and turns in the last third of the book.

If the listener has any empathy with the parents of a two year old, they'll probably enjoy the book even more than I did.

Listening to the book was compelling, yet didn't take too much concentration. The narrators were all excellent, especially Amelia Cormack who was called upon to do accents in Welsh, South African, Australian and English - which she achieved magnificently.

DC Cat Kinsella Trilogy Book 3

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 25-07-20

Very much in the same mould as the first two books, Sweet Little Lies and Stone Cold Heart. We follow a Metropolitan Police murder investigation through the eyes of young Detective Constable Cat Kinsella who came over from Ireland with her family some years ago.

To properly follow the family aspect of the story (Cat's Father and Uncle & their connections to organised crime), I think it would help if the books were read in sequence.

The main murder investigation aspect of the story is free-standing, although it involves many of the police colleagues that we met in the first two books.

Like the first two books, it is a very well written story, I could relate to the police as ordinary people going to work and doing a job just like everybody else. This is the main strength of the book, we can relate to the police as real people. The story was perhaps a little slow to get going, but a cracking good last 3 hours of listening, and reasonably complicated. As good as the first two books.

The narrator was OK, just a rather dodgy French accent.

The ending leads us to believe that this will be the last Cat Kinsella book, at least in the form we've come to know.

Police Procedural

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-07-20

An indifferent story, not well written. No emotion, no empathy with any of the characters, no twists and turns. Just a police investigation; questioning witnesses, following leads, then finally convicting somebody.

The audible summary covers everything if you take out the hyperbole: A TV celebrity (Tristrin Heart) goes to a local wedding and somebody hits him over the head with a champagne bottle in a remote area of the hotel grounds, fatally wounding him. Police are called. This is after we've listened to a couple of hours of introducing characters, (about 60 in all), and a lot of minutia - much of it unnecessary and doesn't add value to the story.

To be fair, we do hear in depth about the victim's wife and daughter (Isobel and Flora), also the Ridley family with whom they are close. They all do a little investigation of their own, mainly around whether Tristrin has been faithful to his wife, but don't share this information with the police.

In all, I think a good writer could have made more of the story. It definitely didn't come over to me as a "gripping and moving thriller with emotional drama". It's just a police procedural. Lucy Paterson as narrator did her best to breathe life into it.

1 person found this helpful

Genuine Psychological Thriller

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-07-20

So well written! I actually felt myself in the position of Witness Protection. The agonising choices of who to take, who to leave behind, where to draw lines. Agreeing to rules that absolutely demand the old life being left behind and forgotten without any contact whatsoever - especially difficult with today's social media.

That much I expected from the book, but additionally it turned out to be a really good thriller as well. You could call it a Domestic Thriller, but NOT just with the woman as the lead character, in this book we get the perspective from ALL family members in turn.

This is not a police investigation, it's better than that. The family are the protagonists with twists and turns as threats emerge from the footballing gang who we already know are murderers. Very real threats that we as listeners can relate to. It's a book with multiple threads, but despite this, not hard to follow.

Very good surprise ending.

There are a few editing issues in this recording, some words repeated, some completely missing (e.g. at 3:24:13 we get 12 seconds of silence). These issues did not unduly affect enjoyment of the book.

3 people found this helpful

Reads like a Classic

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-07-20

What an amazing read. I'm not sure I fully understood everything that was in there. I feel like I want to go back and listen to everything again - carefully!

Set against the 30 years war in Europe. (I'd never heard of it, but apparently it was devastating and ran from 1618 - 1648.) The plot follows some of the key protagonists of the war, and the famous Tyll Eulenspiegel who keeps popping up at different points over the 30 years in different guises. He's an entertainer, circus performer, juggler, court jester etc. He has decided not to die, just moves on as required.

It felt like a deep and meaningful plot (partly because I didn't 100% follow everything!) It jumps between time periods during the war, and after each jump the reader spends some time trying to catch up with what has happened. Many, many names get thrown at the reader - most of them are immediately killed or never mentioned again. It really does feel like you are in the 17th Century, with superstitions, curses, spells etc. as well as the 17th Century politics.

Fantastic performance by Jonathan Keeble, He fully understood the work and seemed to relish every word he was reading. Amazing range of voices that he managed. His donkey voice especially.

Thoroughly recommended

1 person found this helpful

A Decent Story, but not 5 Stars

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-06-20

A tried and tested formula about a young reporter out to do a better job of investigating murder(s) than the police have been able to do - eventually finding herself in personal danger as she gets close to her goal. At the same time, we follow the ups and downs of her love life. Quite entertaining and a good read.

What put me off slightly was the stilted, unnatural dialogue, and some historic inaccuracies. (The story was set in 1970.) Even in 1970, nobody said things like "she bewitched me". Nobody in 1970 reminisced about 1968. Ambulances didn't have bells! (etc.) Other snippets from 1970 were good and quite nostalgic - like afghan coats with beads.

The narrator didn't do a great job of male voices, but I gradually got used to her.

A rather extended ending. The story just kept going for some time after what felt like the natural ending.

A Challenging Read, but Clever Writing

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-06-20

Contains much symbolism and references to Homer's Odyssey. To better understand what is going on, you really need to read that book first, or do what I did and follow Spark Student Notes which explains chapter by chapter.

Donal Donnelly as narrator does a great job of helping us differentiate between the actual narration and what the characters are just thinking. He seems to completely understand Joyce's poetry & prose and relishes the sound of every word that he reads. That all helps. He does read rather slowly though, hence the book lasts over 42 hours. I'm pleased a went for this version. It is clear that a lot of work has gone into making this the definitive recording of the book.

The story is superficially quite simple, following just one day (Thursday, 16th June 1904) in the life of the 3 main characters in Dublin. Our main, main-character, Bloom, goes to the butchers, buys a kidney, comes home makes breakfast, goes to the toilet, then off to church, then a funeral, then a pub, then the beach... (hope that isn't too much of a spoiler!) Paths cross with the other two main characters.

Mainly, I think, James Joyce just seems to be exploring the possibilities of the English language and its sounds. At times he doesn't even bother to use sentences. A real challenge to follow, especially episode 14 where the author is playing with all kinds of writing styles (alliterative Anglo-Saxon, Medieval prose, seventeenth century prose, etc.) Each of the 18 episodes of the book are different in some way. Very clever writing.

5 stars on the basis of a good intellectual challenge. For me, a refreshing change from the usual over-commercial, domestic thrillers.

Really Boring

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-06-20

I'm a big fan of Mark Edwards, but he seems to have run out of steam with this one. Disappointingly, there's little originality in the story and the writing style is plain.

Mainly, it's NOT about a house guest, it's about a person being taken into a cult while somebody else runs around investigating what happened to them - asking lots of questions. The "cult" idea is nothing new, and the main story is just an investigation. Just lots of talk and questioning. YAWN!!

I couldn't relate to any of the characters, neither liked them nor hated them, and I really couldn't care less how it all turned out. I was glad when it was over. (Luckily less than 8 and a half hours long.)

I didn't like the narrators either. Will M. Watt made all the female characters sound like drag queens, especially the American ones.

2 people found this helpful