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Anfisa

Cambridge, UK
  • 13
  • reviews
  • 36
  • helpful votes
  • 13
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  • Pietr the Latvian

  • Inspector Maigret, Book 1
  • By: Georges Simenon, David Bellos (translator)
  • Narrated by: Gareth Armstrong
  • Length: 3 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 168
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 151
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 148

The first audiobook which appeared in Georges Simenon's famous Maigret series, in a gripping new translation by David Bellos.Inevitably Maigret was a hostile presence in the Majestic. He constituted a kind of foreign body that the hotel's atmosphere could not assimilate. Not that he looked like a cartoon policeman. He didn't have a moustache and he didn't wear heavy boots. His clothes were well cut and made of fairly light worsted. He shaved every day and looked after his hands. But his frame was proletarian. He was a big, bony man.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Easy Reading of a classic cop

  • By Viv on 28-01-14

Great start to a series

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

Reviewed: 11-02-17

I am well familiar with both Christie's and Doyle's creations, but I've only ever seen the odd Maigret TV film, and haven't actually read the books. What a treat I'm in for if the rest of the books in the serie are written in the same style!

Fans of any longstanding procedural, whether in books or on screen, will know that while a particular story may leave you cold, if you like the style of the author and the main character, they will carry you through. The central mystery of this book was pretty standard detective fare, but Simenon's writing is wonderful. Before reading the book, I have just finished "The spy who came in from the cold" and so I was able to compare two male authors writing in a vaguely similar field. I was rather disappointed with Carré as it felt that he shoehorned his characters into whatever philosophical argument he wanted to pursue and nothing in his book felt completely believable. Reading Simenon straight after was a joy, as he brings every single character, street and room to life. His style is very descriptive, but never florid and I really felt immersed in the backstreets of prewar Paris.

Gareth Armstrong is a great narrator and he gives just enough individuality to every character without chewing the scenery or adopting silly accents which would have been easy to do given the multicultural cast of the story.

I look forward to the rest of the series!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • A Tapping at My Door

  • By: David Jackson
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 10 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,264
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,162
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,164

From the best-selling author of Cry Baby, the beginning of a brilliant and gripping police procedural series set in Liverpool, perfect for fans of Peter James and Mark Billingham. A woman at home in Liverpool is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She's disturbed to discover the culprit is a raven and tries to shoo it away. Which is when the killer strikes. DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent Story well worth a listen

  • By Cathryn B. on 11-04-16

Mind-numbingly awful waste of time.

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

Reviewed: 21-10-16

This was a 'deal of the day' book, so at least I didn't waste a credit, but I did waste 11 hours of my life on this dross.

Full disclosure - I'll happily watch some derivative, third-rate procedural, but if I spend my time on reading, I expect it to be at least of Simenon standard. And if this book was a TV show, it would be a really bad one - we're talking CSI NY season no-one-is-counting-anymore bad.

I don't know what made my ears bleed more - the awful cardboard characters or the ridiculous mystery behind it all. Let's start with the former; we have - the Main Guy, aka a loose cannon, the man with the past, he of few words and even fewer coherent thoughts. He's joined by The Girl who's mainly here to provide some chemistry, as she and the Main Guy have A Past (of course they do). Lording over all of this is DCI Stella Blunt (yes, that is the actual surname that Jackson decided upon) who slams a lot of doors and bellows at a lot of people and does whatever else one would expect from a grumpy DCI in trope-land. During the course of the book we also meet a slimy reporter, a browbeaten wife with a brute of a husband and - I kid you not - a cop who comes to an unfortunate end on his last job. Though due to some oversight, Jackson fails to specify whether the poor guy was just a few days away from his retirement.

All of this would be tolerable if at least the main baddie wasn't a mouth-breathing nitwit. I won't include spoilers, so let's just say - Hannibal Lecter this ain't. Once we get to the grand reveal it becomes apparent that all the good origin stories for serial killers are taken, and in his next book, Jackson will entertain us with a devious murderer who goes on his abominable spree because the shop was out of milk that one time. I appreciate that the backstory for the book's antagonist is a real-life event, but, firstly - few people outside of a specific UK town care or know of that event, and secondly, Chernobyl and the Armenian Genocide were also real-life tragedies, but you don't see them often mentioned in crime drama.

Jonathan Keeble is an experienced narrator and does his best with this drivel, but somehow his efforts just add an extra layer of ridiculousness to the proceedings. He adopts a female voice for the female characters, so it often sounds like the suspect is being interrogated by Mrs Brown's Liverpudlian sister. When the text calls for suspense (or what Jackson believes to be suspense) Keeble puts on his best stage whisper and chews the scenery as some cretinous soon-to-be corpse trips up on their shoelaces and gets startled by cats.

Avoid, avoid, avoid.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Life of Greece

  • The Story of Civilization, Volume 2
  • By: Will Durant
  • Narrated by: Stefan Rudnicki
  • Length: 32 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 29
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26

Here Durant tells the whole story of Greece from the days of Crete's vast Aegean empire to the final extirpation of the last remnants of Greek liberty, crushed under the heel of an implacably forward-marching Rome. The dry minutiae of battles and sieges, of tortuous statecraft of tyrant and king, get minor emphasis in what is preeminently a vivid recreation of Greek culture, brought to the listener through the medium of supple, vigorous prose.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent introduction to Greek civilisation

  • By Anfisa on 06-10-16

Excellent introduction to Greek civilisation

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

Reviewed: 06-10-16

Following on from volume 1 of the series where Durant gave an overview of the earliest days of mankind, here we finally makes it to the first "Great Civilisation" that we encounter in schools - ancient Greece. So why read this book and not the hundreds of others dedicated to the subject?

Continuing his systematic approach and endeavour to give everything its place in the world context, Durant sandwiches Greece between the Minoan period that preceded her rise and the emergence of Rome that led to her ultimate downfall.

His actual approach to Greece is a mixture of chronology and themes. So he starts with Homer's Greece and divides the period into arts, military conquests, mythology, politics, etc. Then he moves on to a later period and does the same thing again. The great benefit of this system, particularly for the audio format, is that if you space out and don't pay much attention at some point, that period will be re-visited later, albeit at a different angle.

Greece can be approached from many sides - philosophy, architecture, poetry - and this book is an excellent primer that provides solid foundations for whatever branch of ancient Greece a curious reader might want to pursue in the future. I had to study the Peloponnesian War at university, and it was nice to finally put that episode into the greater historic context. Having read four volumes of this series so far, I believe that Durant's greatest achievement is tying up together the myriad of narratives that a history buff will come across in their reading, but won't necessarily be able to piece together.

My only quibble with the text is that Durant sometimes goes into just a little too much detail. Perhaps it is his own preferences coming through (or my trauma of dealing with Thucydides), but I could have done with fewer names of various generals and minor military skirmishes. Durant's description of Hannibal in the next volume of the series is breathtaking, but some of the battles and politicians afforded space in this book, feel rather inconsequential to the greater picture.

I am assuming that the written version of this text is illustrated, and the audio format does suffer when Durant goes into abundant detail describing various columns and other technicalities of the Greek art world.

Stefan Rudnicki provides a great narration. His delivery is sharp and - as far as I could tell - he pronounces everything properly. His timing is impeccable - he doesn't rush, and gives enough time to absorb the flood of information, but neither does he drag his feet, which some narrators unfortunately do when presented with a "big narrative".

Overall, this is a commendable second installment in this wonderful series.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Our Oriental Heritage

  • The Story of Civilization, Volume 1
  • By: Will Durant
  • Narrated by: Robin Field
  • Length: 50 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 32
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33

The first volume of Will Durant's Pulitzer Prize-winning series, Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization, Volume I chronicles the early history of Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Meandering work with a difficult narration

  • By Anfisa on 19-07-16

Meandering work with a difficult narration

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

Reviewed: 19-07-16

To fully appreciate Durant's encyclopedic work on the story of our our world, several things need to be understood.

Firstly, his approach to history is synthetic, as opposed to analytic - he doesn't look at one aspect or one period of human history, but rather he sets out to describe the entire experience of mankind from the Neolithic age to Napoleonic over the course of 11 volumes totalling around 9800 pages. That is a huge endeavour, especially considering that he wasn't writing a reference text, but a book that you could in theory pick up and read from cover to cover. Durant appreciated the challenge of his task and in the foreword to this, the first volume, he apologies in advance for the invariable omissions or mistakes.

Secondly, if you decide to read the entire series, you will, by virtue of what this work attempts to do, encounter whole cultures and/or time periods of which you knew little, if anything at all, and it can feel very discouraging and bewildering to listen to 6 hours on the ancient Chinese empire if your knowledge of China begins with Mao.

Thirdly, this volume was written in 1935 (it took Durant his whole life to finish the series together with his wife, and he died before he could write the volume on the 20th century), so both our knowledge of the ancient world and of our immediate history has obviously moved on since. It is particularly obvious in the section on Japan where Durant discusses her imperialistic ambitions as a possible catalyst for war with the USA.

Having said all that, the work is a great text as a standalone book, and indispensable if you want to read the entire series. Durant gives a great overview of cultures and intertwining politics of the period that few people study in school nowadays - ancient Assyria, Babylon, Sumer and the Persian empire, for example. It is hard to appreciate the greatness of Greek victory at Marathon (discussed in Vol II of the series), without first reading in this book about what a formidable enemy the Persians were. The Carthaginian civilisation (discussed in Vol III) makes more sense if you know about the ancient Phoenicians that were their ancestors.

My view of history has always been eurocentric and I knew next to nothing about India, China and Japan before reading this book. I am still more inclined to read about Rome and Renaissance Europe, but I have already added some books on China to my wishlist, as due to Durant's overview, I am more comfortable with where China fits in with the rest of the world and the history I have studied so far.

As this is the first volume in his work, there are teething problems. His thoughts tend to meander sometimes and there are parts that I feel were given undue attention - there is an extensive section on various Hindu holy texts that would have been more appropriate for a specialised book, as opposed to the general history of mankind. Having said that, I appreciated his overview of Akhenaten's religious reforms in Egypt (1350s BC), as I didn't realise that someone made such a strong attempt at monotheism before the Jews.

If you persevere with the series, Durant's writing gets much more streamlined and succinct - I'm on Vol III at the moment, and it's wonderful!

The biggest issue with the book is the narration. If you look at all 11 volumes of the series on Audible, you will see that after this book, everything is narrated either by Stefan Rudnicki or Grover Gardner; there is a reason for that. Robin Field's narration is soporific and monotonous and that is especially apparent (painfully so) when Field gets to the more obscure parts of the texts. Maybe my issues with the section on Hinduism had less to do with the text itself and more to do with the fact that it sounded like Field was reading an eulogy for the most boring person in the world.

In spite of that, if you decided to read this as a standalone book, I say - persevere! I don't know of any other book that could take you from 10 000 BC to Ancient Greece in a more succinct or logical way.

If you want to read the whole series, I promise that it gets much better - the writing is more edited and structured and one of the narrators - Gardner - is also the guy whom Audible reviewers consider the quintessential Mark Twain narrator, so he is perfect for Durant's witty asides of which there are plenty.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • The Innocents Abroad

  • Or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress
  • By: Mark Twain
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 18 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 13

In June 1867, Mark Twain set out for Europe and the Holy Land on the paddle steamer Quaker City. His enduring, no-nonsense guide for the first-time traveler also served as an antidote to the insufferably romantic travel books of the period.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hilarious, but poignant

  • By Anfisa on 15-07-16

Hilarious, but poignant

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

Reviewed: 15-07-16

A peculiar fact about the most famous humourist of the 19th century is that of all his numerous works, it was the serious and even sentimental "Joan of Arc" that he was most proud of. This dichotomy between the merciless satirist and a man capable of deep empathy and enraged by social injustices is nowhere as apparent as in this travelogue.

Published in 1869, this book witnessed the period immediately succeeding one of the most tumultuous periods in European social history and Twain pulls no punches from his perspective of a more politically advanced and enlightened American citizen. He gets our laughs by ridiculing everything from great art ("some of us said that certain of the great works of the old masters were glorious creations of genius - we found it out in the guide-book, though we got hold of the wrong picture sometimes") to the trade in relics (of the Holy Cross: "I would not like to be positive, but I think we have seen as much as a keg of these nails"), but then immediately offers a moving description of the abjectly poor Italian masses, forced to beg in the streets.while the Roman church hoards gold and flogs holy trinkets to tourists. This work is as much a short introduction to the 19th century European politics as it is a hilarious road trip through the Old World.

Gardner's narration is wonderfully suited to Twain's mix of laughs and poignancy. His comic timing and delivery are impeccable - sometimes his narration is so dry, that you have to rewind to make sure that he really just said what you think he did. Gardner appreciates that this is Twain's gig and the text is strong enough to stand on its own without any 'nudge, nudge' encouragements from the narrator, so the laughs remain unexpected and fresh and you don't see many of them coming even after you have listened to most of the book.

Word of advice - be careful about listening to this on public transport if you have a tendency to snort.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Joseph Andrews

  • The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams
  • By: Henry Fielding
  • Narrated by: Rufus Sewell
  • Length: 11 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 5

Riotous, sexy and groundbreaking, Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews: The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams, published in 1742, was one of the first English novels. Fielding was melding and parodying the two major forces battling for control of the fiction market at the time - the mock heroic, neoclassical tradition as practiced by Pope and Swift and the popular and populist fiction of the new novelists such as Defoe and Richardson.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Humour at its best

  • By Anfisa on 15-07-16

Humour at its best

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

Reviewed: 15-07-16

If you somehow ended up suffering through Richardson's abysmal "Pamela", first of all - have a cookie, you deserve it. Secondly - read this book, it's even better than the cookies!

Fielding wrote this novel in direct response to Richardson's morality tale of a young girl protecting her virtue from the dastardly Lord of the manor and praying for all and sundry along the way. Fielding takes the formula and turns it on its head while seemingly ticking all the boxes of the genre. His protagonist is Pamela's brother, just as good-looking and just as virtuous, who sets off on a perilous journey back home after rejecting (mostly by accident and through sheer stupidity, rather than due to his exceptionally high morals) the advances of his merry widow Lady. Hijinks ensue and along the way Fielding lets us know exactly what he thinks about noble ladies, pious clergymen, Christian compassion and the general fount of human kindness.

What elevates this novel even further is Sewell's magnificent narration; if ever there was a perfect marriage between a book and a narrator, this surely is it. Honestly, it's a crying shame that he hasn't narrated anything other bar this book and another, as he brings even the more archaic bits of the text (this was published in 1742) to life. His portrayal of Lady Booby, who tries to seduce Joseph, while still preserving outward propriety and of her servant Madam Slipslop who is equally enamoured with Joseph and can be best described as a horny old goat is worth the price of the book alone!

If you need any more convincing, here's a brief excerpt - Joseph has been robbed and beaten by some highwaymen and left for dead in a ditch:

"The poor wretch, who lay motionless a long time, just began to recover his senses as a stage-coach came by. The postillion, hearing a man's groans, stopt his horses, and told the coachman, he was certain there was a dead man lying in the ditch, for he heard him groan. "Go on, sirrah," says the coachman; "we are confounded late, and have no time to look after dead men." A lady, who heard what the postillion said, and likewise heard the groan, called eagerly to the coachman to stop and see what was the matter. Upon which he bid the postillion alight, and look into the ditch. He did so, and returned, "that there was a man sitting upright, as naked as ever he was born." — "O J — sus!" cried the lady; "a naked man! Dear coachman, drive on and leave him." Upon this the gentlemen got out of the coach; and Joseph begged them to have mercy upon him: for that he had been robbed and almost beaten to death. " Robbed ! " cries an old gentleman: "let us make all the haste imaginable, or we shall be robbed too." A young man who belonged to the law answered, "He wished they had passed by without taking any notice; but that now they might be proved to have been last in his company; if he should die they might be called to some account for his murder. He therefore thought it advisable to save the poor creature's life, for their own sakes, if possible; at least, if he died, to prevent the jury's finding that they fled for it. He was therefore of opinion to take the man into the coach, and carry him to the next inn." The lady insisted, "That he should not come into the coach. That if they lifted him in, she would herself alight: for she had rather stay in that place to all eternity than ride with a naked man."

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Pride and Prejudice [Audible Studios]

  • By: Jane Austen
  • Narrated by: Lindsay Duncan
  • Length: 12 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 667
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 461
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 462

Pride and Prejudice has delighted generations of readers with its unforgettable cast of characters, carefully choreographed plot, and a hugely entertaining view of the world and its absurdities. With the arrival of eligible young men in their neighbourhood, the lives of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five daughters are turned inside out and upside down.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • First of many

  • By DooeyDuck on 19-08-08

Wonderful book, beautifully narrated

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

Reviewed: 15-07-16

I haven't read the book prior to purchasing the audio version, but I stayed up all night to finish listening to this deliciously witty novel narrated with such wonderful skill that it would surely meet even Mr Darcy's high standards!

My favourite was, without a doubt, Mrs Bennet, and Lindsay Duncan really pulls out all the stops with her character. Thankfully, Mrs Bennet appears much more often than her daughters and husband would wish her to, so Duncan has plenty of opportunity to entertain with her ridiculous, yet sympathetic, portrayal of this silly mother hen.

Duncan also achieves the impressive feat of distinguishing between all the Bennet girls, even when they are all on the same page, without overpowering the text with her acting skills.

I'm just waiting to forget this book a bit, so I can listen to Duncan again!

  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes

  • The Heirloom Collection
  • By: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 58 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,825
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,688
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,685

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales are rightly ranked among the seminal works of mystery and detective fiction. Included in this collection are all four full-length Holmes novels and more than forty short masterpieces - from the inaugural adventure A Study in Scarlet to timeless favorites like “The Speckled Band” and more. At the center of each stands the iconic figure of Holmes - brilliant, eccentric, and capable of amazing feats of deductive reasoning.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A long and rewarding listen....

  • By Lee on 29-04-15

Fantastic narration

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

Reviewed: 15-07-16

My first book on Audible (hence, a freebie), Vance's narration almost single-handedly convinced me to sign up and pay for further books. I listened to the entire book over the course of several days and after the first 15 hours Doyle's (whisper it - rather poor) style began to grate on me, but Vance carried me through. Bombastic, sarcastic, poignant - he hit all the notes of Doyle's melodramatic stories without going overboard.

Simon Vance - one of the cases where you search Audible by narrator, rather than by author.

As a side note - if you really want to enjoy Doyle, don't do what I did and listen to the entire book pretty much in one go. Doyle published his stories over a long period of time, and let's just say he forgot some pretty important details and plotlines along the way; furthermore, what passed for believable, if highly dramatic, a hundred years ago, comes off as a Bollywood movie today. If you dip in and out of the book, it will be easier to overlook these small, but annoying issues.

  • Sense and Sensibility

  • By: Jane Austen
  • Narrated by: Marion Castle
  • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 27
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 22
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 23

Sense and Sensibility is a sharply detailed portrait of the decorum surrounding courtship and the importance of marriage for women in early 19th-century upper-class English society. The story revolves around Elinor and Marianne Dashwood who, as members of the upper class, cannot "work" for a living and must therefore make a suitable marriage to ensure their livelihood. Elinor is a sensible, rational creature, while her younger sister, Marianne, is wildly romantic - a characteristic that offers Austen plenty of scope for both satire and compassion.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A decent reading of a great classic

  • By Jennifer on 02-09-13

Classic work in 'classical' narration.

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

Reviewed: 15-07-16

I felt this book was over-populated with characters and the various plotlines were more convoluted and meandering than the crisp, sharp story of "Pride and Prejudice" where every sentence feels expertly crafted and essential. However, this is a classic and that is the treatment it gets from Marion Castle, which isn't necessarily a compliment. Her delivery is faultless, appropriate to the period and... just a bit bland. I believe that a narrator should go above and beyond technical ability and bring some life to the characters; I wish Castle would have concentrated less on her perfect enunciation and more on conveying Austen's famous dry wit. Suffice it to say that I didn't notice much difference between her portrayal of the silly Marianne and the reserved Elinor.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Emma [Naxos]

  • By: Jane Austen
  • Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
  • Length: 16 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 558
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 454
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 452

One of Jane Austen's most popular novels. Arrogant, self-willed, and egotistical, Emma is her most unusual heroine.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Lively and fresh

  • By Kirsten on 04-09-12

Perfect narrator

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

Reviewed: 14-07-16

I found this book a weaker work than Austen's other titles, as the characters are less differentiated between each other than, say, in "Pride and Prejudice" and Emma is frankly, a bit of a bitch, but Stevenson narrates this supremely, as she does all the other Austen novels. She is a wonderful character actress and it translates into her audio work as well. She especially shines in conveying Austen's dry humour and acerbic observations of seemingly mundane small town life.