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Welsh Mafia

North Cornelly
  • 191
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  • 187
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  • 194
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  • Conclave

  • By: Robert Harris
  • Narrated by: Roy Mcmillan
  • Length: 8 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,208
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,031
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,023

The Pope is dead. Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, 118 cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world's most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next 72 hours, one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Unexpected Gem

  • By SalES on 12-01-17

With a key to future memories....

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

Reviewed: 04-12-16

It’s now very nearly thirty years - September 1987 - since my bout of Stendhal syndrome in the Sistine Chapel, three hours with a lump in my throat sitting staring up at that ceiling and around the walls wishing never to leave - having been back to that spot only once and having that spoiled by the crowds. Any opportunity to re-live the experience is one that I’ll not pass over - so, on that basis, I threw open the doors on this current best seller.

Initially, it’s hard to avoid falling into the brother Brown-town trap of reading Conclave like an Infernorous thriller and racing to find out whowunnit. And, there was for me a disappointment that, inevitably, the narrative is based on finding the arrière-pensée rather than the vérité of Moretti’s Habemus Pappam cinematic working of the same story. More than made up for, however, by my taking the opportunity between installments to view Michaelangelo’s works on line and relive a happy time in the long ago past.

The story has to be judged on its own merits: an enjoyable romp through the Vatican pomp, which fleshes out an entertaining cast of Borgiagese pretenders to the Holy See, a fiction that pitches belief against science and amuses with a vision of the near future that is absolutely new Millennium contemporary - its white smoke from me......and an Old Pope screen adaptation, I wonder?

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Periodic Table

  • By: Primo Levi
  • Narrated by: Neville Jason
  • Length: 9 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 60
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 52
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 51

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi is an impassioned response to the Holocaust: Consisting of 21 short stories, each possessing the name of a chemical element, the collection tells of the author's experiences as a Jewish-Italian chemist before, during, and after Auschwitz in luminous, clear, and unfailingly beautiful prose. It has been named the best science book ever by the Royal Institution of Great Britain and is considered to be Levi's crowning achievement.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Delightful! Elements of a Life Well Lived.

  • By Jim Vaughan on 11-12-16

Returno to Torino

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

Reviewed: 24-06-16

With a fifty minute bus journey each way and the prospect of a couple of hours to kill on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the end of Business Studies and the start of night school, the colourful cover of a 1977 paperback purchased from a now-gone bookshop on Nolton Street, Bridgend was my first encounter with this book. I’d forgotten what first fascinated me with Turin when I made a longed-for visit to that city, remembered some of the names and the streets and a general feeling.

Primo Levi’s writings are distinguishably Northern Italian, industrial, technical, chemical nuts and bolts - it is an Italy that makes things, that prides itself on calling itself an engineering nation and which looks for echoes of itself in the Works and workings of the Germany machine. The same as the South but different. Similar to the North, but again crucially different. Jewish, of course, and tragically and sickeningly apart from those Wartime neighbours - and there is no better or more arresting description of what it was to be alone as a group in a Europe that does not seem to want you and offers no respite. Poetical, by discovery, the exegesis of any atom of Carbon in Expressionist-standing for the whole of the living and dead world down to the final full stop.

Re-read forty years there is enough that is pedestrian in the prose to confirm that others, such as Eco and Tabucchi have surpassed in style - however, the ability to reach across the years with an undimmed bridge to the central humanity of this man. One of the essential writers of late twentieth century European literature, deserves always to be read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Apostle

  • Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve
  • By: Tom Bissell
  • Narrated by: Tom Bissell
  • Length: 14 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9

Peter, Matthew, Thomas, John: Who were these men? What was their relationship to Jesus? Tom Bissell provides rich and surprising answers to these ancient, elusive questions. He examines not just who these men were (and weren't) but also how their identities have taken shape over the course of two millennia.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Reaching a higher plain

  • By Welsh Mafia on 03-05-16

Reaching a higher plain

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

Reviewed: 03-05-16

Here’s a book that I immediately had no hesitation in recommending to friends when I was only a couple of chapters in and in which Tom Bissell delivers a travelogue, a detailed exegesis of the Gospels an early Christian history, and an insightful reflection of current geopolitics. Along the way I was hugely entertained by the day to day practicalities of the Kyrgyzstanian webcam trade, the sanctuary offered by Dominos Pizza’s restrooms in the former Madras and the reactions of foot pilgrims achieving their goal at the courtyards of Santiago de Compostela

The central idea was immediately attractive. (I say immediately - although I’ve been annoying the kids for years having spent time in Turin Duomo di Torino - San Giovanni Battista when the Shroud was publicly displayed in 2000, wandering around Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin just off the Piazza della Bocca della Veritas in Rome, looking for the skull of St Valentine when the boys wanted ice cream.....linking the bones found in Amalfi’s Cattedrale di Sant'Andrea and St Andrew’s Edinburgh and reading and making a mental note to visit Sainte-Chapelle when they wanted to be on the beach). The delivery was informative and authoritative whilst never condescending, not like holiday Dad I'm sorry to say.

Tom Bissell’s take on modern day Jerusalem seen through the prism of Judas Iscariot would, in itself, make this book worthwhile - but he continues on through countries and early centuries....always fascinating and always provocative. I could easily point to the Toulouse excursion as another highlight - and then to have the added bonus of listening to readings from St John and the Acts of the Apostles afresh...whilst unearthing a cogent and coherent guide New Testament apocrypha just added another level of delight.

Not once did I find the unanswerable question lying somewhere down the blind alley of belief prove a distraction to my enjoyment of his writing - you bring to and take from this book what you want, or is that what you need! As stated to my friends from Chapter 1 - a great read and, an effortlessly great writer.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Noise of Time

  • By: Julian Barnes
  • Narrated by: Daniel Philpott
  • Length: 5 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 236
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 217
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 217

In May 1937, a man in his early 30s waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now, and few who are taken to the Big House ever return.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The noise in his head

  • By Annelie on 15-02-16

Hey, Shosti......Nabokov and the CIA

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

Reviewed: 12-03-16

Any personal consideration of this novel is driven initially by a comparison to David Pownall’s 'Master Class' which I saw in around 1983 at the Theatre Royal Newcastle. The pairing of Shostakovich and Stalin was, in that instance complemented with the appearance on stage of Zhdanov and Prokofiev. I remember thinking that the get-together was a fantastic pretense and a wonderful construct on which questions of artistic intention and integrity were played out with lots of laughs, some real reflection and great skill on the part of Trevor Cooper.

In Julian Barnes’ novel the focus is entirely personal, built around a series of historic events rather than a single pivot. Its a more natural choice for a novel, of course, and these days its great to be able to quickly interrogate the British Pathé archive viewing the arrival of Shostakovich in New York as described and do the background checks on Nicolas Nabokov and the CIA.

Entirely satisfying? Not really. Unlike The Sense Of An Ending there is no sense of an edge in that, where historical facts are blended into the narrative, there is no clear cut between that inventive narrative fiction and documentary. That impacted my reading of the latest effort from a great contemporary novelist - not to say that the novel represents beautiful clear writing stopping off at all of the important emotional and intellectual points along the way to enjoy the view. A struggle between 4 and 5 star stuff although I am sure that the author didn’t trouble himself with my tape-measure considerations. A victim of his own high standards in this case, perhaps and emblematic of its subject.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Landmarks

  • By: Robert Macfarlane
  • Narrated by: Roy McMillan
  • Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 186
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 167
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 165

Penguin presents the unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Landmarks, a fascinating exploration of the relationship between language and landscapes by Robert Macfarlane, read by Roy McMillan. Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes are grained into our words. Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Love it, but it's costing me a fortune!

  • By Coffee snob on 09-09-15

Routed in the land...flies in the mind.

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

Reviewed: 28-02-16

The idea of this book is very attractive, to collect and collate the various terms that define our understanding of the old/current world around us through the peculiarities of language passed down in near history.

I was very happy with this and very interested - although not entirely satisfied in the way in which the promise was delivered through. The ‘falling short’ for me was that the individual characters who were used to deliver the message - a Lancastrian musician being one example - seemed to lack depth of characterisation and, where offered, their link with the land seemed at times tenuous. This, of course, from me as anything but a son of the land - albeit, a Welsh and Irish heritage does give one a sense of entitlement when it comes to the wide-open spaces in the world of nature-spirituality.

What was enlightening, was the worrying news that so many common-place words now have no place (and are they so common?) with the youngest literate generation that we currently have in our care. If nothing else, the stir that this caused me was justification enough to read this work - but, to be fair there were lots of small pleasures along the route (Tyneside to South Shields, south along the river on a daily commute as it happens).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Wolf Totem

  • By: Jiang Rong
  • Narrated by: Jason Culp
  • Length: 22 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 21
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 6

Beijing intellectual Chen Zhen volunteers to live in a remote settlement on the border of Inner and Outer Mongolia, where he discovers a life of apparent idyllic simplicity amongst the nomads and the wild wolves who roam the plains.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The grand loop....a Mongolian Circle of Life?

  • By Welsh Mafia on 28-02-16

The grand loop....a Mongolian Circle of Life?

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

Reviewed: 28-02-16

The imperative to pick this one up was an article that I read in a Saturday Review section of The Guardian, where it was listed as one of the school reading books on the list of the Eton head of English - well, if its good enough for them, its worth a look for me.

As in the past, one of the most satisfying parts, if not the most satisfying, is the discovery of new voices in the most unexpected of places. And this saga certainly fits that bill.

Its a simple, complex tale where the progress of life under the Mao marching cosmos is contrasted against Tengri-observing herding population of Inner Mongolia. Inevitably, there are continual references to the underlying ways and rhythms - but Big Life and Little Life are beautifully sketched out and the metaphor of the Wolf is worked but not over-worked.

This is a long book which needs continued attention (lots of prep!) but there is no effort to sustain attention since it is well written in translation. I was thankful for the recommendation - privileges flow from those who are prepared to work for their education, a universal principle as much at home in super-charged China as on the playing fields of Eton.

  • Nudge

  • Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
  • By: Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
  • Narrated by: Sean Pratt
  • Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 17
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 17

Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we are all susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes can make us poor and unhealthy. We often make bad decisions about education, personal finance, health care, family, and the environment.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Good start but drifts a little

  • By Nadia on 11-04-09

Nudge, fudge - think, think!

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

Reviewed: 28-02-16

Taking an oxymoron as your starting point, the anticipated route would be explore the apparent contradictions and show that from the thesis and anti-thesis there can be a synthesis that is something greater than the original parts. At least that's how Carlo Marlowe had it.

In the first instance I’d have been re-assured to see any evidence whatsoever for the existence - let alone the validity - of ‘Libertarian Paternalism. Our recent history lurches from one corporate scandal to covert operations emanating from one state after another.

Their central posit (whilst following the American way of liberally making nouns with founding-father verbs of our common language) is the idea that it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice, as well as the implementation of that idea. When and where did this ever happen?

And what follows then is the application of the term ‘Architect’ to those who write the questions on which algorithms are programmed. It is enough to know that this most modern of dating-site drivers, derives from the name of the mathematician, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi, who was part of the royal court in Baghdad and who lived from about 780 to 850 to confirm that a ‘Choice Architect’ is simply a grandiose common-place and an affectation served to flatter those who see themselves as the subject of this treatise.

And who are these targets - Whitehall Mandarins, Central Bankers, State Department Heads.....well, er..no....Pension Plan administrators, School Admission administrators - functionaries rather than our commissaires .

Bureaucracies do not speak unto Power - Power is delivered through the minutiae of everyday life...that’s the big idea that’s missing from this work.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Gone Girl

  • By: Gillian Flynn
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
  • Length: 19 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,501
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,865
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,877

Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do? Just how well can you ever know the person you love? These are the questions that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren't his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Keep going with this

  • By E on 23-02-13

Misogamy and misogyny....maybe

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

Reviewed: 06-10-15

I’d heard mixed reviews from people in the office - all female - who’d read this and decided that, with a link to the film, this would make a good holiday read for both of us when we went to Menorca in the late summer. I made the mistake of reading it ‘in conjunction’ with Umberto Eco’s Focault’s Pendulum - and where that became the motif for all that is good in literature, the shadow cast from Bologna definitely obscured any chance of enjoying this.

My fault with Gillian Flynn is two-fold - and in the first instance purely a matter of personal taste and in the second a link that no other reader would readily make, I’m sure: but here goes.

Primarily, I didn’t like the take on the female characters - specifically, I’m sorry to have to report, the olfactive pronouncements which are made repeatedly. They are not nice and, whilst I am sure they would be defended as a narrative trick, I just didn’t get how this best selling novel was so nasty in the mouth. I’d heard declarations of misogamy and suggestions of misogyny and was left thinking that if I’d written this book I’d be embarrassed that the world would know that I was capable of this take.

The wider reserve relates to my readerly wanderings in the fictional woods....and Chesterton’s trope ‘When Man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything’ which swings in at the start of Signor Eco’s book. Because here you really do have to sell your soul to Mammon to get even a foothold. The wild supposition is that you are alone, fixed and fixated and that the world is your tool and, actually, God or no God - that’s something I just don’t buy.

I’ll watch the film, though.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

The Hidden Pleasures of Life cover art
  • The Hidden Pleasures of Life

  • A New Way of Remembering the Past and Imagining the Future
  • By: Theodore Zeldin
  • Narrated by: Saul Reichlin
  • Length: 14 hrs and 53 mins
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3

Are you truly alive? Move from mindfulness to thoughtfulness as Theodore Zeldin opens up new perspectives on life,in a series of intimate conversations with figures both famous and obscure, from civilisations throughout time. Each chapter reconsiders one of the big decisions that every person has to make. What is the answer to the shortage of soul mates? How can one escape from work colleagues who are bores and organisations that thrive on stress?

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Assignment extension that never gets delivered

  • By Welsh Mafia on 03-10-15

Assignment extension that never gets delivered

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

Reviewed: 03-10-15

The totem seems to be ‘more questions than answers,’ which is a real shame because the questions are good ones and the answers, when glimpsed, seem to hold great promise.

As much as Father Corbyn represents socks and sandal Socialism and the problem with the proletariat revolution is that it takes up too many Saturdays, Zeldin’s neo-Con self-empowerment seems to have been quickly over-powered and wrestled to the ground by the pull of narcissism........

He graduated from London University (Birkbeck College) at the age of 17, and then from Christ Church, Oxford (with Firsts from both); he helped (what does that mean?) to build up St Antony's College, Oxford as the university's postgraduate centre for international studies, and was its Dean for thirteen years; he wrote a 2000 page History of French Passions, in five volumes: Ambition and Love, Intellect and Pride, Taste and Corruption, Anxiety and Hypocrisy, Politics and Anger (hands up anyone who has read it); he won Britain's top historical award, the Wolfson Prize (this year’s prize winner wrote a history of British Conscription 1945-63); he is "the most popular Englishman in France" (does Ken Loach know?); he was president of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais Planning the Future Commission in 1993-5, adviser to the French Millennium Commission, and presenter of the Prime Minister's web site, and most recently a member of the Attali Commission advising the President of France on economic revival. He has been made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters of France and called "the world's foremost authority on Frenchness" by Time Magazine (lots of meetings, then). His project on The Future of Work, initiated with support from the European Commission, inaugurated his development of a new model for business (essential reading on Teesside this week). He is married to Deirdre Wilson, the co-inventor of the Theory of Relevance (wasn’t that Dan Sperber?). They live in an Art Deco House outside Oxford, his hobbies are painting, gardening and mending things......so why doesn’t your website work, mate?

The examples and referencing are excellent, much like both my sons recent dissertations (I had the pleasure of meeting one of his subjects in Tokyo back in the 1990s) but in the end the conclusion and the answers didn't get handed in - so its a Third, I'm afraid.


1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Children Act

  • By: Ian McEwan
  • Narrated by: Lindsay Duncan
  • Length: 6 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 812
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 731
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 729

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of 30 years is in crisis. At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful 17-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Who is the ultimate judge?

  • By Kaggy on 10-05-17

Grateful to The Dead

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

Reviewed: 06-09-15

Having panned Solar I was delighted with this complete return to form - and amused to see that Ian has taken my earlier criticism positively and delivered to formula.

Simpatico and substance on the basis of a well fleshed out female character coping with circumstances that fall squarely within the ambit of everyday life - albeit the everyday life of the senior judiciary. The main action is played out around the Inns of Court, but there is a well-judged diversion up to my now home ground of Newcastle Upon Tyne, the Quayside Courts and a country hotel on the way out to Hexham that read strangely familiarly (but its not Close House).

Most familiar of all was the ending - and whilst it is important to never judge a cover by its book - the homage to James Joyce is beautifully executed.

Right, we are back on literary track - medical, professional and judicial now ticked off and a classic short story translated into a satisfying epiphanous novella, you’ve done outside London, in the wind and the rain of a British autumn to boot......eyes on the prize now Ian, surprise us with something really big and inventive, go on son!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful