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Scott Matthewman

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A Monster Calls cover art

Leaves you a trembling mess

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

Reviewed: 21-02-16

The story of Connor, a boy who is struggling to cope with his mother's cancer, is brought to evocative life here. The supernatural twist, the monster who calls on Connor each night, works as both a literal and figurative bogeyman. Jason Isaacs' interpretation of each character is superb, none less so than <very slight spoilers> in Connor's cries of anguish during a climactic nightmare sequence.

It left me in bits. A superb, superb work.

Standard theatrical bio – until Sunset Boulevard…

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

Reviewed: 30-09-13

Where does Patti LuPone rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's a good listen – and essential if you work in, or have any passion for, theatre in general and musical theatre in particular.

What other book might you compare Patti LuPone to, and why?

Seth Rudetsky's Broadway Nights – a novel which plays on the neuroses and obsessions of musical theatre actors for comedy, but which LuPone reveals aren't all that far from the truth.

Which character – as performed by Patti LuPone – was your favourite?

Well, it's an autobiography, so I'd have to say "herself".

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Her recitation of her professional life starts out interesting, but a little dry. And then it gets to her involvement with Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Really Useful Group when she is cast as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Then the claws come out, the blood pressure raises and you won't believe that any company could act so cavalierly towards its star.

Intriguing thriller with a perfunctory ending

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

Reviewed: 18-07-13

Where does Unknown: A Special Edition of Out of My Head rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's fine – an intriguing thriller, rather than an ultra-tense one, but with a premise that's worth sticking with. However, it's comparitively short, and the ending feels rather perfunctory.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Unknown: A Special Edition of Out of My Head?

There are several confrontations between the protagonist, Martin, and the people who claim not to know who he is – or who are beginning to doubt him – where the character's evident frustrations are most keenly felt. Also, the burgeoning possibility of romance between Martin and the female taxi driver who hit him, putting him in hospital in the first place, is quite sweetly and tentatively played out.

What about Bronson Pinchot’s performance did you like?

Bronson PInchot ensures that all the principal characters are clearly distinct from one another. In a story about identity, and what it means to be you, that's pretty important. And for a story set in France with a multinational array of characters, none of the accents feel out of place or mannered.

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

There's a scene between the hero, Martin, and the young son of the taxi driver that is incredibly sweet. It makes the inevitable twist that you know must be coming – because there's always a twist in these stories – that much more tantalising. You could just about swallow adults being betrayed – be it Martin's wife or his new lover, someon'e bound to get hurt. But a kid?...

2 people found this helpful

Not Vowell's finest, but still fun and informative

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

Reviewed: 09-07-13

Would you try another book written by Sarah Vowell or narrated by the narrators?

I'd previously enjoyed The Partly Cloudy Patriot, and so had been looking forward to this one. It didn't engage me as much as my first Vowell audiobook, but I love her writing style and sense of humour, so will be listening to more.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The history of Hawaii is told in an engaging way that makes you wonder what life on the islands was like before the settlers from Britain and America came to dominate.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Absoutely. Sarah Vowell's delivery can start off sounding like a robotic monotone at first, but once your brain falls in step with the pace and rhythm of her voice, you realise it matches her disarming brand of self deprecation and sarcastic charm completely.

Did Unfamiliar Fishes inspire you to do anything?

One day, I'll visit Hawaii for myself. One day.

1 person found this helpful

Fantasy crime thriller that disappoints in audio

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

Reviewed: 09-07-13

Where does Rivers of London rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's a reasonable listen, but I had higher hopes for it than it delivered. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's lagubrious style is warm and welcoming, giving us a route in to the world of magic that, Aaronovitch suggests, exists besides us in London. But his lagubrious style works against the novel's more action packed moments, robbing them of a sense of urgency.

Would you recommend Rivers of London to your friends? Why or why not?

I still think fans of urban fantasy – people who liked, say, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere – will get something out of it.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Despite the slow pace of the reading, the climax of the battle between the protagonist, Peter Grant, and his quarry on the stage of the Royal Opera House was full of visual description that made for a suspenseful confrontation.

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

It's maybe a little too long for that – but the story does rattle along and is never boring.

Warm, funny take on the life of a struggling actor

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

Reviewed: 08-07-13

Where does Someday, Someday, Maybe rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's great – quite a bit shorter than most of the books I tend to read, but I was in the mood for something lighter and shorter, and it fit the bill perfectly.

Would you be willing to try another book from Lauren Graham? Why or why not?

I'd definitely listen to more stuff either by, or just read by, Lauren Graham again. She has a bone-dry delivery, matched by her writing, that allows both humour and pathos to come through.

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

There's an inherent advantage to the author reading their own work anyway – you hear the dialogue in the voices, and with the cadences, that best deliver the humorous or the romantic lines without risk of misinterpretation.But Graham being a now-successful actress who would have been at the point of her career where Franny is in the mid-90s adds additional levels. Not only can we choose to believe that there is an element of autobiography in there (whether there is or is not), we know that, at the very least, the situations in which Franny finds herself are real. And that makes her more real to us as a result.

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

She's given herself three years to make it as an actor. Maybe this time…

Any additional comments?

In print, there are visual depictions of the heroine Franny's Filofax diary, which break up the narrative at key points. It took me a while to discover that Audible places a PDF version of those pages in your library (they've since added a note to the book's description to this effect) – it's worth keeping them to hand so that you can read them at the appropriate points.

2 people found this helpful

Great story but a delivery that makes me miserable

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

Reviewed: 27-06-13

Would you try another book written by Victor Hugo or narrated by Frederick Davidson?

Victor Hugo remains one of the greatest masters of European literature. Unfortunately, I really struggled to get through Davidson's awful style of delivery.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The character of Javert and Valjean, and the way they circle each other over the decades, is as compelling as ever.

How could the performance have been better?

Davidson wheezes and rasps – every inhalation is picked up. He has a habit of finishing sentences as if he is only pausing, full stops replaced by commas,

When he continues at a different scene, it's quite, quite jarring and very annoying.

Was Les Miserables worth the listening time?

It's absolutely worth sticking with for the story. But you'll want to inflict every form of physical violence imaginable on the narrator.

8 people found this helpful

A compelling story, let down only by the ending

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

Reviewed: 27-06-13

What made the experience of listening to The Killing the most enjoyable?

Christian Rodska's delivery, combined with David Hewson's prose, brings back memories of the TV series upon which it is based, while being completely separate and working in its own way.

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

Imagine Mark Billingham's Thorne novels, transposed to Denmark

Which character – as performed by Christian Rodska – was your favourite?

Sarah Lund's partner, Jan Meyer

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

Hewson captures the grief of the Larsen family particularly well, although he can't quite match the visceral impact of the same scenes in the original TV series.

Any additional comments?

There is a flaw in the original series – if you rewatch the first episode knowing who the killer was, there's a scene that flatly contradicts the evidence pointing to him.

Hewson corrects that error – but then introduces new plot points near the end. As a lover of the original series, it feels tacked on, and you can almost tell that the new story elements have been scripted by a different hand. I have other concerns, but to go into details would mean discussing spoilers...

An intriguing mystery

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

Reviewed: 20-06-13

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

The intriguing tale of how the sole survivor of a brutal attack on her family – presumed to have been perpetrated by her brother, who is serving a life sentence for the crime – is drawn into finding out the truth. The "heroine", Libby Day, is not driven by a higher moral purpose, but self-interest: the charity fund set up for her as a little girl has run dry, the book she wrote about her life didn't sell – so she is reduced to accepting money from a group of true crime fans who are convinced her brother is inncoent.

Told with a series of flashbacks, Flynn paints a picture of a family that was barely struggling to survive financially. It's a story that's less of a thriller than I was expecting, but is enjoyable as a slice of life with a terrible secret at its heart.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

As the flashbacks – and Libby's investigations – draw ever closer to what really happened, you can't help but feel for all the Day family, no matter who the perpetrator will eventually be revealed to be. And considering that Libby Day starts out as far from a likeable character, that's some achievement.

What about Lorelei King’s performance did you like?

Lorelei King always works hard to distinguish each character within the story. This is no exception: she is the twelve-year-old girl with ink from a chewed pen leaking out of her mouth, just as much as she is the wayward father found living in an abandoned water tank. Her narration brings the characters to life, and draws you in to life on the poverty line.

9 people found this helpful