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critical friend

England
  • 24
  • reviews
  • 16
  • helpful votes
  • 24
  • ratings
  • Music and the Brain

  • By: Aniruddh D. Patel, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Aniruddh D. Patel
  • Length: 9 hrs and 10 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

Music is an integral part of humanity. Every culture has music, from the largest society to the smallest tribe. Its marvelous range of melodies, themes, and rhythms taps in to something universal. Babies are soothed by it. Young adults dance for hours to it. Older adults can relive their youth with the vivid memories it evokes. Music is part of our most important rituals, and it has been the medium of some of our greatest works of art.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Clear intro to the neuroscience of music

  • By Jan W. H. Schnupp on 26-11-15

Need two devices or set-up to see as well as hear

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

Reviewed: 14-08-18

The topic is fascinating and the lecturer is knowledgeable, citing his own research several times. The audio is better than just reading as music is an integral and necessary part of the experience.

So too, sadly is visual input because the lecturer refers several times to graphics and notation which you cannot access and integrate if driving or without ability to stop and look as well as listen.

The theses are developed from comparison of human musicality with other animals and its evolutionary advantage through brain or genetic defects that affect the ability to perceive music to possible practical applications underpinning brain plasticity.

Both those with science or arts backgrounds can benefit from the lessons and it is of particular relevance to educators, especially in the timing and inclusion of music instrumental playing as opposed to passive consumption. Because of the language/music links some of the ideas and techniques could be used in those with language or sequencing difficulties. The effect of culture and biology is also explored..

  • Master and Commander

  • Aubrey-Maturin Series, Book 1
  • By: Patrick O'Brian
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 15 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 936
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 785
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 788

Master and Commander is the first of Patrick O’Brian’s now famous Aubrey-Maturin novels, regarded by many as the greatest series of historical novels ever written. It establishes the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey RN and Stephen Maturin, who becomes his secretive ship’s surgeon and an intelligence agent. It displays the qualities which have put O’Brian far ahead of any of his competitors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • At last, unabridged and well read...it begins.

  • By John on 19-01-12

Best to begin at beginning

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

Reviewed: 28-12-17

I doubt that Patrick O'Brian knew how long and how many episodes these two contrasting and complementing characters would have together at the outset.

This is the first in the series and should be read first as the two main characters are introduced and their foibles and personalities are unfolded.

The context is the Royal Navy at the turn of the eighteenth into the nineteenth century. Military discipline; press-ganging; class and social structure; naval conflict and sailing terms and tactics are all woven into the story fairly painlessly and enrich the similar scenarios developing between the two men.

Despite the grand sounding title, the real status and security of a "master and commander" is explained and pertinent to the story. The only downside (without giving obvious plot spoilers) is that as these two are part of a long series we know that they will survive the perils that they face.

The narration is done very well with accents and there is good differentiation between the characters.

The next in the series is called "The Post Captain" and well worth reading for plot and character development.

  • Mermaids Singing

  • By: Val McDermid
  • Narrated by: Saul Reichlin
  • Length: 13 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 847
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 768
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 768

Up until now the only serial killers Tony Hill had encountered were safely behind bars. This one’s different - this one’s on the loose. Four men have been found mutilated and tortured. As fear grips the city, the police turn to clinical psychologist Tony Hill for a profile of the killer. But soon Tony becomes the unsuspecting target in a battle of wits and wills, where he has to use every ounce of his professional nerve to survive.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good ( if a little too gory) book but terrible narration

  • By S. Christie on 09-08-16

Dangerous intro to dysfunctional protagonists

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

Reviewed: 15-11-17

This is the first in the series made into "Wire in the Blood" for tv in UK.
McDermid has created a cast of human, fallible and intriguing characters as well as a really scary villain. Having invested that time in understanding and maybe even sympathising with some of these she does not spare some of them from dangerous and terrifying experiences.
The plot develops steadily without any jarring twists in logic, but the climax is a real shocker (in the emotional sense rather than judgemental). She has added a little spice with the teasing about whether or not the main characters will get together romantically, but without slush or blushes.
Worth reading this first so that you can see the development over time of the characters and also have less of the narrative taken up by making the introductions.
Wire in the Blood is the next in the series and also a great read.

  • Medicus

  • A Novel of the Roman Empire
  • By: Ruth Downie
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 191
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 174
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 170

Gaius Petrius Ruso is a divorced and down-on-his-luck army doctor who has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia. After a 36-hour shift at the army hospital, he succumbs to a moment of weakness and rescues an injured slave girl, Tilla, from the hands of her abusive owner. And before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I'm hoping a successor to Falco!

  • By Mary Carnegie on 18-10-16

A medical detective "operating" in ancient Rome

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

Reviewed: 19-09-17

What did you like most about Medicus?

The way that historical information was woven into the story without interrupting the narrative flow.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Medicus?

Don't want to spoil it, but the main character is in danger several times from various sources.

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The emotional attitude of the characters toward each other and a reminder of their rank or station in society.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Not particularly tense, but is interesting and reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Any additional comments?

This is first in the series and obviously introduces some strong characters who appear in later books.

  • Alex's Adventures in Numberland

  • Dispatches from the Wonderful World of Mathematics
  • By: Alex Bellos
  • Narrated by: Alex Bellos
  • Length: 12 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 237
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 160
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 159

The world of maths can seem mind-boggling, irrelevant and, let's face it, boring. This groundbreaking book reclaims maths from the geeks. Mathematical ideas underpin just about everything in our lives: from the surprising geometry of the 50p piece to how probability can help you win in any casino. In search of weird and wonderful mathematical phenomena, Alex Bellos travels across the globe and meets the world's fastest mental calculators in Germany and a startlingly numerate chimpanzee in Japan.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A wonderful journey through mathematics

  • By Nichiless on 09-12-11

Enthusiastic explanation of life and maths

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

Reviewed: 19-09-17

What did you like most about Alex's Adventures in Numberland?

The painless way in which the relevance of numbers and maths to life was explained with passion, enthusiasm and knowledge. Seeing the patterns and connections in numbers is beautiful, yet much is relevant to life in understanding probability and our own perceptions.

What did you like best about this story?

Logical and clear. Links and clear breaks made obvious with history, psychology and personalities thrown in.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The explanation of probability and the relevance to gambling and calculating odds with advice on strategy to not lose too much.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I did and I did!

Any additional comments?

Normally suspicious of books narrated by the author, but his passion and pleasure in numbers came through without sounding boastful or condescending. Enjoyed when he put himself in the story e.g. when discussing numerology.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Difference Engine

  • By: William Gibson, Bruce Sterling
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 14 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 91
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 77
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 75

The Difference Engine is an alternate history novel. A prime example of the steampunk sub-genre, it posits a Victorian Britain in which great technological and social change has occurred after entrepreneurial inventor Charles Babbage succeeded in his ambition to build a mechanical computer called Engines. The fierce summer heat and pollution have driven the ruling class out of London and the resulting anarchy allows technology-hating Luddites to challenge the intellectual elite.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Managed about half an hour

  • By Nick on 26-12-17

Original steampunk and raunchier than expected

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

Reviewed: 19-09-17

Where does The Difference Engine rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the top 50, difficult to be precise as different genres and styles.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The main female character (who went by different names). She was integral to the plot and able to be a chameleon in her actions and interactions with others.

Which character – as performed by Simon Vance – was your favourite?

All were good and sympathies changed as this is a mystery with possibly unreliable narrators.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Victorian version of the Matrix

Any additional comments?

Had read this years ago and was struck in this version by how sexy the characters were in supposedly repressed times.

  • Out of Practice

  • The Larkford Series, Book 1
  • By: Penny Parkes
  • Narrated by: Anna Bentinck
  • Length: 16 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 768
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 698
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 696

Out of Practice is based around a large country medical practice, which proves to be a hotbed of rivalry, resentment and romance - and that's just the doctors. Think James Herriot meets House.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Truly Enjoyable Read

  • By L Hayes on 04-04-17

Crashingly ignorant of procedures central to plot

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

Reviewed: 17-08-17

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

Those wishing for pure escapism and suspension of belief in real world or relationships.

What could Penny Parkes have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Researched the scene central to her story setting. Gets wrong: senior partner process; doctor/patient relationships; practice staff personnel and composition for size of practice described; career move of central character to be a GP without appropriate training or accreditation; jargon and politics - PCTs were abolished in 2013.

What about Anna Bentinck’s performance did you like?

Ability to voice males and also distinguished the different characters well. Good portrayal of a female character changing her nature and attitude too.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Not too much of a spoiler that it is feel-good with heroine triumphing over adversity.

Any additional comments?

Better editing is needed to correct the glaring errors. The characters were mainly clichéd tropes and the plots predictable given the genre that it seems to sit within.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Apple Tree Yard

  • By: Louise Doughty
  • Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
  • Length: 14 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,134
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,963
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,957

Yvonne Carmichael has a high-flying career, a beautiful home and a good marriage. But when she meets a stranger she is drawn into a passionate affair. Keeping the two halves of her life separate seems easy at first. But she can’t control what happens next.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant Recommendation!

  • By Mrs. Helen M. Herbert on 09-02-14

Grips you then plays with your sympathies

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

Reviewed: 07-05-17

Where does Apple Tree Yard rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the top quintile although difficult to rank amongst non-fiction, biography, humour, science fiction and fantasy, historic fiction and young adult fiction.This question is not well designed.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Apple Tree Yard?

The courtroom sequence, but I don't want to give any spoilers away.

What does Juliet Stevenson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Enhances the attitude of the characters towards each other and their reactions to events. As the central character is female, her exposition of thoughts and feelings is very credible and well done.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Already a TV adaptation done so film possible. Tag line as in title or perhaps "do you know where you are?".

Any additional comments?

The book has a different ending from the TV adaptation so worth a listen even if seen the TV already.

  • The Hanging Girl

  • Department Q, Book 6
  • By: Jussi Adler-Olsen
  • Narrated by: Graeme Malcolm
  • Length: 15 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 723
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 678
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 675

In the middle of a hard-won morning nap in the basement of police headquarters, Carl Mørck, head of Department Q, receives a call from a colleague working on the Danish island of Bornholm. Carl is dismissive at first, but then he receives some shocking news. Carl then has no choice but to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious 17-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Narrator???

  • By Alexandra Allan on 16-12-15

The girl isn't the only one left hanging

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

Reviewed: 07-05-17

Where does The Hanging Girl rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Lowest in the Department Q so as it's sixth in the series = 6
Read too many and different genres to rank it accurately in all the others.

What other book might you compare The Hanging Girl to, and why?

The other department Q books as they share the main detective character. The audible versions of these are all better performed than this one in my opinion.

What aspect of Graeme Malcolm’s performance might you have changed?

More varied pace, changing of tone and/or accent for the different characters. Did not voice females at all well and more distinction between characters to distinguish who is speaking in dialogue. More humour and more expression of emotion.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Wanted to as it has suspense and tension, but not practical at over 15 hours.

Any additional comments?

Do not read this before all the other Department Q books as they do a better job of introducing the main detective, his sidekick, his former colleague and their backstories This one centres on a plot set away from the main operation and they are brought in at a tangent.
Because the plot is removed from the main characters' locale there is less of their personality, humour and motivation to appreciate and enjoy.
However, suspense, plot twists and peril for characters abound.

  • The Foundation Trilogy (Dramatized)

  • By: Isaac Asimov, Patrick Tull - adaptation, Mike Stott - adaptation
  • Narrated by: Geoffrey Beevers, Lee Montague, Julian Glover, and others
  • Length: 7 hrs and 49 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 283
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 220
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 217

The opening episode begins on Trantor, capital of the Galactic Empire, with the meeting of Seldon and Dornick, their trial, and their exile to Terminus. The action then jumps forward 50 years, to the first Seldon Crisis, where the repercussions of the recent independence of the Four Kingdoms of the Periphery are being felt on Terminus, and are handled by the first Mayor, Salvor Hardin....

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • A Muffled Foundation

  • By Robert on 28-04-11

Abbreviated dramatisation of Asimov's Foundation

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

Reviewed: 07-05-17

What made the experience of listening to The Foundation Trilogy (Dramatized) the most enjoyable?

Different voices for different characters bringing to life familiar characters

What other book might you compare The Foundation Trilogy (Dramatized) to, and why?

Dune series by Frank Herbert or Ender Wiggins series by Orson Scott Card, but predates both of these.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Their expression and interpretation of the character.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. Too long for practical chance and is broken into almost an hour hour sections anyway from way originally broadcast.

Any additional comments?

This dramatization does tell the story, but the audible version misses out a lot of the tensions, doubts and ambivalence in the original stories that make this a thought-provoking and seminal work.

Much of the tension and some of the mystery is lost which detracts from the impact as there is much abbreviation of several large books.

An example where the audible version is inferior to the written work original.