LISTENER

K. J. Noyes

West Yorkshire, UK
  • 114
  • reviews
  • 253
  • helpful votes
  • 114
  • ratings
Meat Market cover art

Warts-and-all look at the modelling industry

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

Reviewed: 29-07-19

Warts-and-all look at the modelling industry in the light of #MeToo.

Juno Dawson covers topics applicable and of interest to Young Adult readers with honesty and realism. This latest looks at the experiences of a novice model, plucked from everyday life to be a superstar, and gives us the highs and lows of what the life behind the glamour would entail.

Jana Novak has never thought herself attractive - tall and unfeminine, she has a loving boyfriend but can't believe it when a scout approaches her at a funfair and tells her she has the perfect physical qualities to be a model, the Next Big Thing. Agreeing with her parents to give it a go, needing the money to improve her family's lives, she puts her sixth form studies on a back seat to enter the world of not-quite-diets, make-up and hair calls before sunrise and exhausting worldwide assignments.

Meeting other models along the way who show Jana the hidden side of this seductive world, Jana battles hard to remain down-to-earth and in touch with her boyfriend and those back home, while coping with the intense pressure, loneliness and temptations of her new life.

I admired the frankness in witnessing Jana's relationship with her boyfriend (some very real issues there that readers will appreciate seeing written about), as well as pitfalls and problems a young, vulnerable model is likely to have to face.

Jana tells us the story herself, making the Audible version a very upfront and immediate account, with her London accent and young voice, the audio version was hard to put down. Jana is recounting her experiences to someone, so we too are following the events of what she has recently experienced, wondering to whom she is explaining and why.

Jana is decent and sincere, though of course flawed and susceptible, and the plot builds slowly, gradually removing the layers of glitz and allure until the stark reality is left.

I was impressed with the creation of Jana's model world and hope it shows the raw reality of what so many 'aspire' to. There is some fairly graphic content, meaning this is best suited to readers aged 14 and above, and it is very likely to excite questions and discussion.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World cover art

Much of the parenting advice rings true

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

Reviewed: 27-07-19

Some snort-out-your-drink moments, a lot of the parenting advice/stories rings true.

Backman really lays his own life bare here, a few secrets and anecdotes from his own family's vaults, as he speaks to his baby son in chapters that give him all the advice he'll need for when he's older.

The audiobook highlights the hilarity of the author's compositions, the narrator bringing his work to life with gusto. I laughed aloud while walking and driving at times.

From the joys of 'poop' (though I disagree with the author over the centrality of this to the life of the new parent - for me it was feeds that everything rested on), the book takes in various topics including finding a life partner and various milestones of parenthood, as well as more general life advice. Backman tells stories of his own marriage and life, making this part biography as he also makes this a future guide for his child.

I've already recommended this to friends with children or who are planning on having them. It's a joyous and lively listen, a lot of it rings true, and for parents it would be just as useful as any of the parenting books out there.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

The Wild Robot cover art

Loved this! Has the feel of a classic already

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

Reviewed: 27-07-19

And by classic, I would also compare it to established modern classic The Iron Man, which it resembles in its opening chapter and tone.

An 'everyrobot' central character, Roz, is washed ashore on an island, luckier than her fellow shipwrecked travellers, all broken to metal pieces on the rocks. Like Frankenstein's monster, the robot comes to consciousness and teaches herself about her world. Like the Iron Man, she begins as speechless. Through observation she begins to learn animal languages and to feel the island is home, especially when she finds herself in charge of an orphaned egg.

Lonely through fear, but accepted through love and compassion for her fellow beings, Roz exemplifies the best attributes in people - tolerance, friendship, love and altruism.

The novel is actually quite exciting at times, with chases and banding together to defeat an enemy, and also sad with scenes of winter weather that shows the reality of life in the wild. We see geese learning to fly, and other scenes of animal love. There are contemporary messages about taking care of the world and each other, despite our differences. Can't fault it.

I just loved this. An accessible style for primary-aged readers, it would make an enchanting class read for a teacher to share, as well as being a good bedtime read for ages 7 or 8 and above. It would make a great TV series as well.

I've already ordered a copy of the second in the series from the library, and enjoyed sharing this first with my 8-year-old on Audible - he wants to listen to the second straightaway. We liked the robot voice the narrator uses, and the story's short chapters were great on an audio format for keeping the attention fixed. It went by very quickly and my son's comprehension was high, he took it all in, it works very well as a listen on a commute (though you'll miss Brown's lovely black and white drawings).

Highly recommended. Adults without children will find it reads a lot like The Iron Man and has deeper messages than children will notice - a universal read.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

The Ministry of Truth cover art

Fascinating 'connect the dots' history

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

Reviewed: 27-07-19

Unexpectedly fascinating 'connect the dots' history of the creation of a masterpiece.

This caught me up throughout in its breaking down of Orwell's own history and background, weaving together the threads that would become his magnum opus.

In two parts, we see how Orwell's life, his meetings with others, seeing wars and Communist revolutions, his work in propaganda, rivalry with writers, illnesses, all fed into the mind of the man who would create 'Nineteen Eighty Four'.

The second part looks at the book's effect on future films and books, music and culture in general, which was just as compelling a listen as its inception. It brings us right up to date with references to the Trump administration, and made me consider books and films I know and how they have been influenced.

'Behind the scenes' is always an enthralling genre for me, seeing how an author creates, but here the extra dimension of what came after, both for the book itself and its impact on the Western world since.

Well narrated, it was not difficult to follow as an audiobook. I'd recommend this method of connecting with the material.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

Evie and the Animals cover art

Dr Doolittle idea...

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

Reviewed: 22-07-19

Dr Doolittle idea with contemporary conservation issues

Haig's standalone chapter book is exciting and enticing - who wouldn't like to talk to animals?!

Evie can understand other species. Neighbourhood dogs, the school rabbit who only wants to be set free. Almost discovered, her dad makes her promise not to use her ability again. But animals begging for help that she's ignored are now turning up on 'missing' posters...

There are a lot of missing animals. And there may be more to her ability than she knows. Will she use her power to try and help?

This is a fairly short but stimulating story, full of features that readers will love - talking animals, exciting episodes (big cats at the zoo!), a bad guy, mystery. Evie and her power are key to the whole thing, and she's a realistic young protagonist, never scornful about her ability, caring of animals and people around her, brave.

It's quite a good little mystery for children, and pitched at a reader who can read by themself and needs some stimulating, more grown-up feeling short-ish novels.

I enjoyed the book but didn't like the narrator on the Audible version I'm afraid. And my husband who listened partway through said this too, without me commenting first. Can't really put my finger on why, but she didn't feel right voicing Evie and the animals. My son wasn't at all bothered, he listened quite avidly and followed the story easily.

For ages 7-11.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

The Good Thieves cover art

Exhilarating heist story for children

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

Reviewed: 20-07-19

Exhilarating heist story for children, a period piece with immigrants, jewels and a host of young heroes.

Girl Savage an impressive debut, Rooftoppers was a stunning and award-winning book. I love seeing an author switch genres and keep us guessing as to where s/he will take us next. And Rundell here takes the period route and gives young readers an exciting story usually left for adults - the heist/robbery.

Vita and her mother scrape together the money to reach New York when letters from her grandfather show distress. His family home and jewels have been tricked out of his possession and he is living in near poverty. Taking the initiative, Vita investigates the wealthy man who dishonestly cheated her grandfather, and discovers that it might be possible to gain it back... but she'll need some help.

With a few conveniently-placed accomplices, other children with 'special skills', Vita assembles a team that can hopefully pull off a clever plan to return what is rightfully her family's.

Loved the setting and characters, enjoyed the backstory of Vita's grandfather, and the villainy of the bad guy. The heist will have readers turning pages to see just what Vita's team manage to do, and Vita's skill of knife-throwing was very well used in the action.

Exciting. Would make a good mini-series on television.

Enjoyed the audio version from Audible, narrated with clarity, though the voice sounded older than Vita, she made an easy-to-follow narrator.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

More Orgasms Please cover art

Empowering is the word...

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

Reviewed: 20-07-19

Empowering is the word - explicitly candid yet hilariously entertainingly look at the rarely-discussed area of female pleasure.

First thing - I am about to look up the podcast, now into its second year, having just completed this audiobook. I'd never heard of it, but will be both recommending the book and I suspect the original podcasts to friends.

The title caught my eye on Audible, its an area that probably has interest for every woman, whether we admit it or not. As a student of psychology, this held an extra layer of interest for me: just what does society see as the different between male and female sexual pleasure?

The authors/narrators are excellent in their format and chatty tone. Never dictatorial, dry or condescending, it is basically an elongated podcast episode broken down into chapters, with jokes, euphemisms, roleplays and a huge amount of frank and uplifting talk that means embarrassment goes quickly out of the window and a sense of unity and sisterhood come to the fore.

With facts at their fingertips on who, how and when, sexual pleasure is both normalised and celebrated, we have some illuminating figures on the truth about body parts, their capabilities and anatomies. Some rather alarming statistics on orgasms (or lack of).

The chapters (different and more racy titles in the audio!) are as follows:
- What are orgasms?
- Bad sex
- Clitoris
- Orgasms as a feminist issue
- Sex education
- Self image
- Sexual fantasy
- Oral sex
- Anal sex
- Porn
- Lies in sex
- Kissing
- Hormones
- Pelvic floor
- Long term relationships
- Growing old
- Future of sex
- Resources

It was a varied and very comprehensive look at female sexual queries across the spectrum. And not just for heretosexual women.

From the science of orgasms, biology, the useful information on pelvic floors and how hormones affect us, all the way to some frankly riotous roleplays of customers asking for lube for various sexual scenarios, it was both educational and highly entertaining. I laughed aloud while running and listening along.

The seriousness of sexual abuse isn't shied away from, there is a whole chapter at the end of resources and contacts to be made use of. And the emphasis on safe and comfortable sex is reiterated several times.

The authors don't give it all an omniscient spin, they bring their own sexual history and stories into the mix, though some of their stories of adolescent naivety could make the average woman cringe. Brilliant, honest and a rather universal experience on the whole.

Some very good points are made regarding porn and sexual education (or the lack of a comprehensive and useful one) in schools, and some excellent motivation is offered on allowing yourself to fantasize as you wish, to demand equal pleasure with your partner's, to enjoy sex in a mutually consensual relationship as you see fit, and to not be embarrassed by any of the above, or the body you've been gifted for enjoying it in.

I'll be subtly sounding out friends who might enjoy / benefit from this and taking on board some of the attitudes and advice offered here, as well as subscribing the Hotbed's podcast.

Not just for women, men will gain a lot from listening to this and pondering perspectives and ways forward in their relationships as well. For women, I'd take this as a study guide to making sure you are getting what you can out of whichever world of pleasure you wish to inhabit.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

The Book of Wonders cover art

Reminiscent of Me Before You

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

Reviewed: 20-07-19

3.5 stars.

Sweet and teary family story, with a sub-plot about sexism in the workplace. For me though, neither lived up to the promise.

Thelma adores her adolescent son, Louis, and is as distraught as any parent would be when he is hit by a lorry and sent into a coma. Luckily, Louis has written a diary with a Bucket List of things he'd wanted to do with his life (this didn't quite sound like the actions of a typical 12-year-old but never mind), and Thelma decides that, if she tries to fulfil his wishes on his behalf and let him know about her progress, he might just wake up from unconsciousness.

At the same time, Thelma struggles to hold onto her job, one in which she has experienced daily acts of chauvinism.

I wanted more from the workplace storyline, but this was actually wrapped up very neatly and quickly, with little drama, I'm not sure why it was there really. And the book itself being quite short, Thelma's international exploits didn't last particularly long either, it felt as though it could have been expanded. There were some rather funny moments (Louis wanting to do something that is quite typical of adolescents but that is entirely inappropriate as well as embarrassing for his mother) which brought up issues of consent as well as objectification.

While it was pretty agreeable, it felt too short, tidied itself up neatly (or left things far too open), and didn't make the most of the potential of either interesting storyline.

Worked well as an audiobook however, Thelma's voice as mother and professional working woman came across strongly through the narrator, and her telling us the story worked.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

Goodness Gracious Me cover art

Bitingly witty Asian sketch show

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

Reviewed: 15-07-19

I adored this TV series as a teenager, and was thrilled to see the original radio show available on Audible. It's the first time I've ever listened to the sketches, rather than viewing them.

Admittedly, I missed the memories I have of costumes and facial expressions, but the verbal humour is no less here, with a few characters and scenes I wasn't familiar with.

The actors carry over their characters with expertise, just a moment of the vocal and you know exactly which favourite you're about to hear. The teenagers ('as if!', 'kiss my chuddies!'), the Coopers/Kappors, Mr India, the Guru, and the wonderful costume drama remakes and mockumentaries, they are all here. I always loved the songs too, with their lyrics cleverly using the originals but digging at Asian culture.

As someone very 'white British' but who grew up in a multicultural town as a minority, I loved both seeing some familiar stereotypes and some I know only from Goodness Gracious Me but recognise as similar to those in my own background and culture - some things are universal.

And surely - Going Out for an English will go down as a classic sketch alongside the Dead Parrot as a beautifully realised piece of comic perfection.

A chortlesome delight to listen to, entertaining and also rather informative. A few cultural references are slightly dated now, but these were in the minority. The main cast of four still impress me with their writing/acting/comedy skills.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample copy.

Runaway Robot cover art

Normalising artificial limbs...

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

Reviewed: 12-07-19

Normalising artificial limbs, an entertaining 'robot' story.

A very enjoyable Audible listen, my eight-year-old is still talking about it, weeks later. Wonderful to have heroes with artificial limbs as funny and real characters.

Alfie escapes school one day, ending up at the airport and the Lost Property department. Himself a recipient of an artificial arm, he ends up discovering a hidden robot on the shelves, also missing a leg. A rather eccentric robot called Eric. Who doesn't know why he's there. A cross between Kryten (Red Dwarf - pompous and forever quoting roles) and Buzz Lightyear (he thinks he's new and state-of-the-art), Eric and Alfie end up helping each other, as these stories often go.

With lots of funny scenes about a strong but oblivious robot causing mayhem, and a rather grand way about him that made us laugh, we really liked Eric. His stilted voice came over as very funny in the audiobook. And Alfie, with his detailed description of his missing arm, how he copes, his time with other similar children, made an appealing protagonist.

The history of robotics contained inside the story was also rather fascinating and my son had never even considered this side of a robot before, how old the technology might be. And to be honest, I learned something too.

As ever from Cottrell Boyce, well-developed characters and an engaging storyline. Suitable for ages 8-12. We would recommend the audio version, a very easy listen with a narrator talented and children's and robots' voices.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.