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Last Night I Dreamt of Manderley

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

Reviewed: 22-02-20

This book is perhaps the best book I have ever read for a very very long time. Written in 1938, I could not have imagined a classic being this suspenseful or this tense. It is in no way a romance (as has been attached to this story) but a study of jealousy—a jealousy we have all felt, which makes it all the more unnerving.

Daphne du Maurier has written in this the greatest psychological portraits of all time; and I wish more books could be as elegant and as subtle as this. The sinister fascination with the titular character stays with you—and the first chapter also stays with you, and the most famous opening sentence “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” is on that lingers on the tongue and lips.

The characters are so convincing that you can believe them to have been flesh and blood. The cast of main character is short, so we can focus on them, and the atmosphere is thick when we reach Manderley, on the coast of Cornwall.

Du Maurier was a mistress of language and she told cracking good stories. It’s little wonder this book has never been out of print since its first publication. The movie was amazing, but there is no rival to the book.

Lee and Iorek together again

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

Reviewed: 25-11-19

His Dark Materials has a very special place in my heart, and it is amazing to have this book to listen to. Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrinson were my favourite characters of HDM, and I always wanted to know the story of when they met. I adored it! It was thrilling and funny and sweet; though I wish and would beg and plead for a full length novel with more of Iorek in it, as this was mainly Lee’s story, Iorek felt a little sidelined. But I would definitely ask for a very fat novel or short series of books about the adventures of Lee and Hester along with Iorek. Iorek Byrinson. This was a fantastic book, with Pullman’s magic prose and seemingly effortless storytelling: thrilling, dark, fun, and it holds the attention of anyone who will read or listen. A definite five star performance.

What a Joy it is to Dance and Sing!

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

Reviewed: 16-11-19

This is perhaps one of Carter’s best worlds and I adore it! The Chance twins are girls you can get in the same level of, they’re like the two aunts you’ve always been told about but get on with like a house on fire. They’re sweet and vulgar and honest and just all-round hilarious.

The novel is the funniest and has the clearest prose of any book I have ever read; and it’s a sad fact that this was the last novel she wrote before she died, aged 51 in 1992. What delights she might have given us had she more time. Dora and Nora are some of the best twins in literature and you can relate to them a good deal.

My favourite bit, and the most memorable for me, is when they’re putting on their make-up to go to their Father’s 100th birthday party. It’s a poignant piece about growing older and how the ravages of life get to you. But it’s never maudlin or sad. It’s always got itself on the up and it is kicking healthily and wonderfully.

This is perhaps one of the best ways to end a career in writing. And I’m glad that the last novel she wrote was about the joys of living life.

A Legacy - for us to learn from

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

Reviewed: 12-11-19

This book strikes home for me a good deal as a huge fan of John le Carré’s work. His Cold War novels have always had a very strong impression on me, especially as to their morality. Always about the grey area of spying. This novel, which the lawyer’s very black and white sense of right and wrong, have got it entirely wrong too.

And it shows. Though the aren’t cardboard villains. You never get a cardboard villain in le Carré. They just don’t know. They’ve probably never stepped out of their cosy worlds, and are commenting on deeds done in a time the world barely remembers. They look at the scars it has given and they wonder how they got there in the first place.

And trussing up the past to pin the blame on someone, is more relevant than it has ever been. We are living in a more conscious, scrutinised age. And bringing back old friends like Jim Prideaux, and mentioning names like Percy Allileine, Bill Haydon, Toby Esterhase, it’s like walking back into the halls of the Circus. And Alec Leamas, the hero of “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”, having him back was just altering.

Le Carré has done a bang-up job with this novel. It’s probably one of his best works. And a lovely way to tie off the Smiley saga. And seeing him for a change not as the gilded master of spies we know and love, but as a flawed human being too. Very much the man at the end of “Smiley’s People” and the words near the end of the book: “Is that all the information you require?” “No.” “I envy you.” That is so powerful. Rarely do thrillers delve that deep.

I recommend anyone to read or listen to this book, along with the rest of the George Smiley books.

Alien: Sea of Sorrows

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

Reviewed: 22-10-19

That was one hell of a rollercoaster, I shan’t lie. Alien: Sea of Sorrows was perhaps one of the best Alien audio dramas I’ve listened to, just as good as Out of the Shadows.

It was nice to have someone other than Ripley, though someone connected to her, as the protagonist. It gave it a fresh angle to look from. The empathy trait was a very very interesting thing to do.

The only thing I would have complained about was repeated dialogue, which took away from the variation of it, but it was still a 5 star performance and story from me. This did what it was supposed to do, as an Alien drama. And to return to the planet which features so heavily in Alien: Out of the Shadows, was more than excellent. Reliving some of it was more than terrifying.

And excellent drama. I can’t wait for the next instalment, especially with such a cliff-hanger as we got.

Alien: River of Pain: the story expanded

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

Reviewed: 19-10-19

I am a huge fan of the Alien franchise and I adore how terrifying it can be, and it makes me fear going out into my dark hallway a lot of the time. They give me such a great thrill!

I love the slow-burner form of story, but I think this was a little too slow to begin with, but once the action pics up and the horror begins its intense. And finding out what actually happened to Newt’s family was heartbreaking.

Some characters I thought were a little cardboard: when it comes to Weyland Yutani, there’s always a cardboard thing, and the plot of wanting the Aliens alive. I was like: “it doesn’t feel realistic, and takes from the real plot.” But the more I got into it, the more I was drawn in. I cried near the end.

This was a great story! Not as good as the others I’ve listened to. But the acting was amazing. The writing was a little sloppy in places but it had the corny 80s feel in a few places which was great. The action was brilliant. And the Aliens were terrifying as usual.

A More than Suitable Job for a Woman

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

Reviewed: 03-09-19

PD James has left her mark on the detective genre for decades, and the introduction of Cordelia Gray is perhaps one of the bear things to come out the genre altogether. Cordelia is such a great character, it was impossible to not like her. She’s smart, fun, incredibly brave, and she knows her way around. It was quite fun having a character of the same age as the reader to go along the mystery with.

As to the mystery: the clues definitely do their work. I was able to work it out before the reveal. And that’s what the crime story ought to do: the clues are fairly laid and the reader ought to arrive at the solution before the end logically. In some stories I haven’t, but with PD James, I have most of the time.

This is the only time I have not sympathised with the killer in her books. Most of the time the killer is often more sympathetic than the victim, and this was not the case. Thought the victim, the more I learned about him, wasn’t entirely likeable either. But I feel that, had he more time to grow, he might have been better as a person.

This is a first rate mystery with intrigue, beautiful writing, tense plot, and a genuinely diamond quality yarn. It’s more a whydunnit than a whodunnit, but that’s what makes it all the more interesting.

An Extremity of Terror

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

Reviewed: 23-07-19

Ghost stories are traditional, to be read at Christmas or on Halloween (both are quite acceptable). And there are none better than those of M. R. James, scholar, antiquary, and master of the art language.

These stories are short but they are very characteristic, and most of the main characters can be seen to be thinly-veiled self portraits of the author, Monty (as he was affectionately known in his circle). This can be seen in the first story, “Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook”. But as the stories progress, the darker they become. “Lost Hearts”, with its inclusion of children as ghosts (classic staple); “Count Magnus” (perhaps one of my favourites), and “Number 13”, make you question everything about the world we know. But the last story, “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas”, is perhaps the most claustrophobic of all the stories. It’s climax is terrifying, and it makes the skin crawl with that “pleasing terror”, as Monty called it.

If you want a ghost story collection to read, I would definitely, ultimately, recommend this one as a start to the best ghost stories ever written. This is the first volume, there were three more to come: “More Ghost Stories”, “A Thin Ghost and Other Stories”, and “A Warning to the Curious and Other Stories”.

These are the greatest ghost stories I have ever read: up there with J. Sheridan le Fanu (who was an influence on Monty), Algernon Blackwood, and E. F. Benson.

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Alone in the Dark

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

Reviewed: 21-07-19

There are books that consume you and take you to the heart of darkness. Others are just silly fun about ghosts that go bump in the night. This books is certainly in the former category. In it are stories that take you to weird places but they are so realistic that it’s almost incomparable to anything else I have ever read. “The Willows” and “The Wendigo” were two stories that stayed with me long after I had finished them. Their sense of realistic nature and of the malevolence of its beauty and power stayed with me. Nature can be our friend, but it can be a terrible foe should it choose to see us as such. A powerful foe, a foe that is indifferent to us. Algernon Blackwood wrote some of the best weird tales ever, certainly up there with E. F. Benson and M. R. James. Highly recommend this book to anyone who loves ghostly tales.

His Dark Materials

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

Reviewed: 22-06-19

This is the first book of His Dark Materials, and I ADORED it! Philip Pullman has written a book that is comparable in its world building to Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or Rowling’s Harry Potter. But the themes are deep and run through the narrative seamlessly. It’s beautifully written and beautifully narrated by he author, and a cast of actors to play the different voices; at first it was quite strange. But the more I listened the more I loved it. I can’t wait to listen to volumes two and three of this series! Now that BBC will be making a new version of His Dark Materials, I hope it’ll be better than the movie of The Golden Compass (which was good in its own right, so that’s not a bash). Northern Lights has closed, now on to The Subtle Knife.