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  • End of Watch

  • By: Stephen King
  • Narrated by: Will Patton
  • Length: 12 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,887
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1,758
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,754

End of Watch is a compelling and chilling suspense novel which sees retired detective Bill Hodges back on the trail of his nemesis, Brady Hartsfield, the criminal the press called The Mercedes Killer. Foiled in his attempt to commit a second mass murder, Hartsfield is confined to a hospital brain-injury unit in a seemingly unresponsive state. But all is not what it seems: Brady is able to influence both his physician and the hospital librarian to commit crimes in the outside world.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Disappointingly Supernatural

  • By Mr D C Finnimore on 27-10-16

The Man Behind the Curtain

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

Reviewed: 20-06-16

Stephen King’s enjoyable and addictive ”Bill Hodges” trilogy that started two years ago with ”Mr. Mercedes” (2014) reaches its end. Very much like its predecessors, ”End of Watch” (2016) is impossible to put down: a week ago I hadn’t even started the first novel, yet here I am now, jotting down my thoughts. (I think Whispersync for Voice was created for books like this, don’t you agree?)

Although reading Stephen King was the bee’s knees when I was young (even having ”The Shining” in the house felt like the most daring thing in the world), we parted ways somewhere, sometime. In fact, I had become such an outsider that as I listened to ”Dr. Sleep” last year I realized I hadn’t read any King in the past 15 years.

Suffice to say, I really liked these. Suspenseful and gripping to the point they’re impossible to stop listening to, King offers brilliantly dour stories that ricochet farther into a darkness that matches that in his more supernatural offerings. Indeed, he’s masterful with his ability to imbue the domestic idyl and day-to-day routines with a foreboding undersong, similar to the fabled monster under the bed, never seen and exaggerated in the imagination.

So, I saw the ads and read the synopsis, and recognized a possible thrill ride not too far removed from one of my favourite movies, Fritz Lang’s ”The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” (1933). By the end of ”Finders Keepers” (2015) I was giddy: that was exactly what I was going to get. If you’ve ever seen the Mabuse film (the second one of the three Lang made), you’ll immediately recognize the kind of trouble Hodges finds himself in. Throw in some ”Clockwork Orange”, and it’ll be a ride to remember.

And Brady, let’s face it, is the one who steals the show. While I wholly enjoyed ”Finders Keepers”, I’m very glad he’s back, since he is an excellent antagonist. Wounded, intelligent, obsessed, angry, hungry for recognition. King’s hardboiled detective and his gang have gelled by now, and there is a strong emotional current that flows through the narrative.

As for the narration, Mr. Will Patton continues to astonish me. I’ve now listened to four of his audiobooks, and while I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed King’s story very much anyway, something essential would’ve been missing without Patton. He is such a joy to listen to not only because of the multitude of voices he does but also the life he gives the words on the page and the narrative that unfolds. The characters, all recognizable from each other, are scary, funny and dramatic in turn, in short, full-fledged human beings, and listening to him is to witness a genius at work who won’t fail you. I take my hat off to him.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Golem and the Djinni

  • By: Helene Wecker
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 19 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,093
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,044
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,041

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899. Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free - an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extraordinary

  • By AnneDriscoll on 29-01-15

Magickal

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

Reviewed: 15-05-16

I’ve been listening to audiobooks very seldom this year, and only during the past month have I been remedying that in earnest. I tried both of Ernest Cline’s sci-fi romps, but didn’t really feel they took me anywhere special.

Then I found Helene Wecker’s beautiful debut, ”The Golem and the Djinni”. The most appropriate match, since I’ve been enjoying every page of the mammoth three-volume ”The Arabian Nights” by Penguin Classics. Both of these share a similar world full of magic, mystery, profundity, love, yearning, death, happiness, and the bitter in the sweet. In short, everything.

I’ve read some of Scholem’s work on Kabbalah, and of course I’ve seen my share of films and read enough books to recognize its influence on Western storytelling. By no means can I count myself as an expert on the subject matter. But no matter, since Wecker guides the narrative lucidly enough so that while some background knowledge enriches the work, the enjoyment doesn’t depend on it. Indeed, Wecker’s writing is immensely beautiful but it gazes forward; descriptive yet minimalist, even. The ideas behind the book and its structure are complex, but she’s able to navigate the material so masterly that it all reads so effortlessly. She has the gift to conjure up magical things in few words, very appropriate considering the subject matter. I can only imagine the work put into polishing it to such degree. Certainly a very ambitious work for a debut novel, and I eagerly wait for the sequel, and whatever path the author wishes to tread in the future.

If the book itself is absolute joy, George Guidall’s narration is the only way to match such magical storytelling. He’s immense, and I couldn’t imagine certain characters existing, speaking or thinking without his voice. The perfidious Yehudah Schaalman, the pliant golem, the plaintive Michael, the impatient and proud djinni, the weary Avram Meyer, all impeccably brought to life. I had to get more Guidall, so now I’m into Franzen’s unabridged ”The Corrections”, after which there are Pynchon’s ”Gravity’s Rainbow” and Eco’s ”Baudolino” to look forward to.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Against the Day

  • A Novel
  • By: Thomas Pynchon
  • Narrated by: Dick Hill
  • Length: 53 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 36
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 28
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 28

This novel spans the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I. With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Work of genius well told

  • By P on 23-12-12

"And when Franz Ferdinand pays, everybody pays!"

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

Reviewed: 11-05-16

"There are stories, like maps that agree . . . too consistent among too many languages and histories to be only wishful thinking. . . . It is always a hidden place, the way into it is not obvious, the geography is as much spiritual as physical. If you should happen upon it, your strongest certainty is not that you have discovered it but returned to it. In a single great episode of light, you remember everything.” — Thomas Pynchon, ”Against the Day” (2006)

I have never published reviews for books I’ve not finished, but I’m doing so now because in all honesty I think it’ll be quite a long time until I’m ready to try Pynchon’s ”Against the Day” (2006) again. If you’ll allow me, I’ll try to explain why I still want to jot some thoughts down.

I had arrived rather late (I have no idea why) to the Pynchon party that had been going on for almost half a century before me, and chose ”Mason & Dixon” (1997) as my way in (again I have no idea why) in 2014. From the very first sentence I knew my life as a book reader had changed forever. There was beauty in it, both wild and precise, funny and truly profound often at the same time. There was a treasure to be found on every page, sentences were like whirlwinds. It took me a month to read, which was quite a feat since I not only was I working full-time during the day, we also had three small children to look after, and the book, not the shortest of tomes, was just so beautifully written I often had to read it out loud.

I truly was transfixed. I still return to it, sometimes reading from the beginning, sometimes just opening it at random and I’m transported. Thinking I could read anything after that, I tackled ”Against the Day” (2006) in the hope that this sense of omnipotence would easily carry through that work as well. I had heard it was difficult, but I had heard the same thing about ”Mason & Dixon” as well, so I figured that since it came so easily to me, would there be any reason to doubt why this one wouldn’t as well?

But the well had run dry. I couldn’t get past the first hundred pages, and let it be. I let it be, read something else meanwhile and in early 2015 tried to return. I read the first forty pages and again hit the wall. I did manage to read ”Inherent Vice” rather quickly, and enjoyed it a lot, and then entered ”Gravity’s Rainbow” (1973), which I slumbered through and couldn’t get a grip on, regardless of also perusing George Guidall’s audiobook, at this writing not available here. Last autumn I tried again. I bought the Kindle version to go along the audiobook, the Whispersync for Voice a rather wonderful technology, and bought the first edition hardback for about US$1, a beautiful book in its own right.

And here I am now, some six months later, stuck somewhere around page 350. (”But how many times did it take to stop being a coincidence and start being a pattern?”) And while I know I won’t be able to finish it in who knows how many years (I don’t even really want to return to it in the foreseeable future), I can still attest to its remarkable beauty. Regardless of my inability to tackle the book, Pynchon remains a master of language, narrative and ideas. I mean who is able to conjure something like this: ”As they came in low over the Stockyards, the smell found them, the smell and the uproar of flesh learning its mortality—like the dark conjugate of some daylit fiction they had flown here”, or ”Out the window in the distance, contradicting the prairie, a mirage of downtown Chicago ascended to a kind of lurid acropolis, its light as if from nightly immolation warped to the red end of the spectrum, smoldering as if always just about to explored into open flames”?There are heartbreaking moments, many laugh-out-loud funny bits (”Men in this era are not being known to sigh, he exhaled expressively”). There’s a ball lightning that makes a great reading companion in otherwise lowlight conditions, there’s even a Finn there, who’s just as unpredictably insane as one could wish; a smart dog quickly presents itself, and there’s even a mysterious object that arrives from our deep mythological past, absolutely thrilling stuff.

I like the episodic structure of the thing, and it makes for enjoyable reading and listening for the most part, but it’s also what made it impenetrable for me. If not impenetrable, since that’s perhaps too hyperbolic a word, then at least consuming. As enjoyable as the book was, it was also moving a bit too quickly for me to keep up. I ended up lost, my knees and wrists bruised. ”I almost got it!” I might have exclaimed like a mad scientist, eyes bulging. It’s just too much for the time being, and I’ll happily admit the fact. And it’s not the length in itself, it’s the complexity and relentlessness Pynchon moves through time and space, as well as the details he’s able to put on the page that while completely immersive, they also make for a rather daunting experience.

As for Dick Hill, he does an admirable job. I’m not completely won over, though, as most people seem to be. His is a lively reading, and tremendously funny, too, but he also sometimes reads it a bit too over the top, which at times feels like it’s gone a tad too bonkers for my taste, by which I mean that he goes from straight out shouting to lullaby-style whispering in a split second. And while this is my problem and not yours, I find the dynamics of the recording a bit too all over the place to be enjoyable in any other circumstance than complete silence, regardless of how well my earphones block outside noise.

In short, a wild masterwork of imaginative writing (”And when Franz Ferdinand pays, everybody pays!”), a remarkably ambitious audio recording and, for the time being, I feel too much like a Sisyphus to be able to say I’ve read it. But I like it, regardless.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Armada

  • By: Ernest Cline
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,319
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,152
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 3,146

Zack Lightman is a dreamer. He fills his days with wishful thoughts of life on other planets and spends hours playing videogames, neither of which have helped him make friends or find a girlfriend. His refuge from the daily disappointments of life is Armada - an online space-fighter simulator based on defending Earth from an alien invasion. It’s when he’s playing that he feels closest to his father, a champion gamer who died when Zack was a baby.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another great book by Ernest Cline

  • By Evil RobotNixon on 18-09-15

Millenium Falcon Has Problems With Hyperdrive

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

Reviewed: 09-05-16

Unlike many readers and listeners, I wasn’t exactly won over by ”Ready Player One”, and I admit that only a third into ”Armada” I was ready to give up. The premise was too thin for my liking, and while I could appreciate fantastical things taking place out of the blue, unlikely turns and even, as it happens, the likeliest and most obvious ”twists”, I felt completely detached from what was going on to the point where I asked myself why I should bother reading further.

I did, however, until the very end, but I’m not quite sure if it did me any good. As has been pointed out, Cline’s referential style revolves around him writing his versions of his favourite stories, amply referencing them and toying with them along the way, but his hybrid just doesn’t seem worth the trouble to me. Perhaps I’ve never been into the whole fan fiction thing to appreciate what’s going on, but then again, this isn’t really supposed to be fan fiction as far as I’m concerned.

Yet then again, this is a light read, and to some extent fulfills its function. In some way I think the strength in Cline’s writing is that he trusts the reader to know what’s coming next so that he can offer his variation on it. And to be honest, isn’t this what storytelling has been about since forever? Not that there weren’t awkward moments, or that the deus ex machina he used so much in ”Ready Player One” didn’t pop up conveniently here as well. It’s just that when it read well, it read incredibly well. I suppose that’s part of the irritation, really: I’m boarding Millenium Falcon and just as we’re about to hit hyperspace, it doesn’t work, fiddlesticks! See, I was trying to be the geeky me.

As for narration, I wasn’t too fond of Wheaton before, but he’s really growing on me. There are moments where he’s the one making it all click with his enthusiasm and obvious freewheeling fun he’s exuding. Definitely carries the narrative.

15 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Ready Player One

  • By: Ernest Cline
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 15 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18,444
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 17,383
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17,336

It's the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This Book Changed My Life 💙 New Hobbies Found 💜

  • By Amazon Customer on 05-04-18

Ready Player Repeat

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

Reviewed: 28-04-16

I really thought I’d like this. It is a fun ride for the most part, its pace is lightning quick, there are twists and turns. It has interesting things going on, and the premise is excellent.

But probably because of its incredulous pace, it cuts corners, and it does so very often. Narratively I feel it often takes the easy way out, marching forward on a predestined path that effectively kills off any suspense it would have needed to keep me invested in it. In fact, if one needs a good example of the use of deus ex machina in modern fiction, this is an excellent place to find many such examples. Unfortunately it’s used so often it becomes tiring, and indeed sucks the life out of the narrative. What do I care anymore what happens next because I know it will be resolved in such and such a way sooner rather than later? (The infiltration storyline injects a great deal of needed energy into the narrative, but it too resolves too easily to my taste)

But it is funky, alright. Just enough for me to actually try out ”Armada”, regardless of the abundant negative reviews that say that it is the disappointing novel, not this one. I’m about 70% through, and I have to say it is pretty the same old, same old. But something about Cline’s writing moves so relentlessly forward that I’m still going to finish it, no matter what.

Wheaton narrates with ease, and while his voice and accent doesn’t do it for me, sorry to say, it sounds like he’s having fun with the material, and it’s no wonder many applaud his performance.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • SPQR

  • A History of Ancient Rome
  • By: Mary Beard
  • Narrated by: Phyllida Nash
  • Length: 18 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,332
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,200
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,184

Ancient Rome matters. Its history of empire, conquest, cruelty and excess is something against which we still judge ourselves. Its myths and stories - from Romulus and Remus to the rape of Lucretia - still strike a chord with us. And its debates about citizenship, security and the rights of the individual still influence our own debates on civil liberty today. SPQR is a new look at Roman history from one of the world's foremost classicists.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting and erudite

  • By Mr. D on 01-12-15

Passion and Majesty

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

Reviewed: 30-10-15

"Who could be so indifferent or so idle that they did not want to find out how, and under what kind of political organisation, almost the whole of the inhabited world was conquered and fell under the sole power of the Romans in less than fifty-three years, something previously unparalleled?" – Polybius (c. 200 – 118 BCE)

Mary Beard is everything one could ask from an academical mind writing for anyone else rather than one’s most immediate peers. A gifted scholar, she’s also a great writer and storyteller; a great teacher, that is, she knows that knowing isn't enough without the ability to share that knowledge. That to teach is to always remain a learner oneself.

Ms Beard knows how to unfold her story. The most thrilling audiobook I’ve listened to this autumn hasn’t been the new Galbraith thriller nor the David Mitchell ghost story, it has been Ms Beard’s version of Rome. The book is masterly chiseled out of marble. One of its strengths is that it doesn’t sell its vision as the definite word, but rather as one version, as reflected in the subtitle for the book, where instead of the pompous definite article it reads ”A History of Rome” instead. I also had to get the book so that whenever I was unable to listen, I could at least steal an occasional glance or two at it. It’s that good.

I’ve had a soft spot for Roman history not only for the interesting and larger-than-life stories the era presents, but also because of its centrality in the spreading of the early Christian Church, as well as the evolution of the Latin language and its influence on two that I happen to a be a teacher of. Beard’s new book is a welcome breath of fresh air to this interest of mine, and in history in general.

Where does one start with the history of Ancient Rome? From the ”beginning”? From the ”end?” Ms Beard starts from 63 BCE, the year of Cicero’s consulate and the Catiline conspiracy. From there she reaches all the way back to the mythical beginning, proceeds to the age of kings before the Republic, and advancesuntil the 2nd century CE, well into the golden age of the Empire. Her constant focus is the Senatus Populusque Romanus, the senate and the people of Rome, so she ends her book at 212 CE, when the emperor Caracalla made every free inhabitant of the Empire a full Roman citizen. This structure works well. She’s able to look at the big picture, plunge in and discuss details, move back and forth in time, and emphasize connections between ideas and events.

Ms Beard also proves her experise and academic maturity with her historical skepticism, and the book is full of he fine humour as well as an obvious passion for knowledge. All of this presented with great majesty of style.

Phyllida Nash’s narration is exquisite and really gets the conversational tone of Beard’s writing. This audiobook successfully transcends a mere ”reading”. It’s like Nash and Beard are telling all this just for me as we’re walking through Villa Borghese and marvelling at the cityscape, full of new and old.

”Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town” is also available, also read by Nash. It’s a must. This year we’ve also been treated to Peter Fankopan’s ”The Silk Roads: A New History of the World” so there’s a lot to be excited about if you love gazing at the horizon.

42 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Finnegans Wake

  • By: James Joyce
  • Narrated by: Jim Norton, Marcella Riordan
  • Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20

Finnegans Wake, the greatest avant-garde novel of all time, was first published 70 years ago - and people are still trying to work out what it is about. There is Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker - aka HCE (Here Comes Everyone) - and Anna Livia Plurabelle, but also Finnegan the hod carrier (or was he a giant?), whose wake is the subject of the book. This is a masterly reading of the abridged version, with copious notes aiding comprehension.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Elucidating

  • By caz on 13-04-13

Into The Deep Darkness of the Dreamnight

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

Reviewed: 29-10-15

Frustrating. Brilliant. Opaque. Organic. I had always wanted to read ”Finnegans Wake”. I had had it in my bookshelf for ages, and I had started reading many times. Nothing really came of those attempts. Then, in early 2014, as if life wasn’t full of many other exciting “projects” already (fathering three little girls just might make the list), I thought I’d try to read it all, finally. The shocking thing is that I did. 


To enjoy ”Finnegans Wake,” or to try, one may have to relinquish some convictions and go down a road not many are accustomed to. To willingly lose control. That reading is about making sense. Do I have to understand everything I read to enjoy what I read?

Joyce’s dreamworld works in the mode of the nightly slumber, since incoherence and nested narratives are in part what make dreams dreams. And, in the words of Jorge Luis Borges, what is literature but “guided dreaming”? And, by extension, what is the ”Wake” but the most elaborately constructed dream?

Part of the “point” of the book is that endlessly it spirals deeper into itself. When there is no beginning or end, merely a point in which we join the flowing river of word-images, where are we going, really, and where are we coming from? I’m really not supposed to bother. I’m supposed to breathe in the nocturnal air. This, for me, is an endlessly encouraging thought.

This doesn't mean it's not terribly frustrating at times, since I’ve been educated to read stories, not ”Finnegans Wake”. But do I have to enjoy everything I like all the time? It's not only once that I wondered why this couldn't have been a tale of 100 pages instead of 628. But I'm glad it's not, since its effect wouldn’t quite be the same. In the words of Harold Bloom, ”devote an inordinate part of your lifetime to ’Finnegans Wake’, and it will reward your labors; that is its design." Also, in the words of Adalaine Glasheen, ”’Finnegans Wake’ is willfully obscure. It was conceived as obscurity, it was executed as obscurity, it is about obscurity." I love plunging into the ”Wake” on a random page, often reading out loud. No other work really conjures up such magic when read aloud.

Considering that ”Ulysses” ended with Molly falling asleep, this is the logical next step. There is no turning back. What could possibly follow ”Finnegans Wake”? It will eternally spiral into the deep darkness of the dreamnight. Its path, unlike Dante’s, doesn’t resurface in light.

As such one could say ”Finnegans Wake” is one end to the idea of the novel itself as we know it. Not that there’s nothing meaningful written after it, but rather, there’s hardly anything that can retrace it and go further. It has shown us the limits of darkness, the ultimate culs-de-sac. Perhaps, like with poetry, it's best revisited in bits here and there, working with the passages that have struck the deepest chord. It's an endless, cyclical work after all, so it doesn't really matter where one enters and exits.

This is where this excellent abridged audio production comes in. At first I shunned it because I had to have an unabridged version. But after getting over myself, perchance swayed by my own words in the preceding paragraph, I can say that this recording is so precious it’s beyond measure. If they were to make an unabridged version, I’d be among the first to flock the virtual streets to get it. But if they don’t, I don’t mind. This, at about five hours, is a tour-de-force blastoff that shows how much fun reading ”Finnegans Wake” aloud is, and how enjoyable it is to hear it being read to you. It’s the first spiraling steps into the abyss.

And, really, is there a pair better qualified to read this than Mr Norton and Ms Riordan? I will have to listen to ”Dubliners” and ”A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” soon, since I couldn’t imagine anyone doing Joyce better than Jim Norton. I mean, really! His voice is bliss! And considering I’ve been reading ”Wake” to myself (my idea of having fun, you know, really cranking it up, baby!), it’s electrifying to hear his rendition. I think this will be the recording I’ll listen to when I want to clear my mind and ready for the night. Can I give this ten stars instead of five, just to prove a point?

”Finnegans Wake” is a beautiful poem, a nightsong of immense magnitude after which it's quite impossible to see the world, and dreams, and literature, the same way as before. This audio production is a testimony to its power, and both a wonderful introduction for new adventurers and a steadfast eyeopener (or eyeshutter) for those who’ve been lurking in the dark a bit longer. If Mr Norton and Ms Riordan ever decide to record a full, unabridged version, it could top this, but otherwise what we have is a wondrous treasure I will be listening for many years to come.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Slade House

  • By: David Mitchell
  • Narrated by: Tania Rodrigues, Thomas Judd
  • Length: 7 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 720
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 669
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 669

Prepare to be chilled, electrified and entertained - a gem of a novel from 'one of the most brilliantly inventive writers of this, or any country' ( Independent). Walk down narrow, clammy Slade Alley. Open the black iron door in the right-hand wall. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn't exactly make sense. A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won't want to leave. Too late, you find you can't....

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Classy Supernatural Tale

  • By Simon on 03-11-15

Hypersensory Extravagance

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

Reviewed: 28-10-15

Skip to the last sentence of the last paragraph, turn left, back away slowly and that’s my review in a nutshell, no greater harm done to the reader. If you start from the beginning, however, you might notice that I’m rambling. Help is on its way.

The thing is, people keep telling me it’s already a year since ”The Bone Clocks”, David Mitchell’s latest lengthy metaphysical romp à la ”Cloud Atlas”, but I just can’t believe it. Surely it was just yesterday that I finished it, and I had to have it the day it came out. Time is out of joint, surely. Warped, even.

Yet so it goes that again, as my drives to work grow darker morning after another, and the black starlit sky makes it seem like the moon’s floating so close it’s there for the taking, Mr Mitchell starts to reappear in my dreams. This time it’s a shorter piece, a ”companion volume” to last year’s osseous timepiece. One might be tempted to disregard this one as a mere trifling afterthought, but that’s not exactly appropriate. The thing is, no matter how much I like his books, I just found ”The Bone Clocks” too long. I felt like it had said what there was to be said, and still kept saying it. Or then I’m just a git. Be that as it may, the slender appearance of ”Slade House” sure was inviting.

The premise is delicious. A mysterious ghost story of a haunted house that seems to exist in a sort of parallel, metaphysical dimension that’s only occasionally accessible. Wonderful stuff!

The book gets on wonderfully. ”The Right Sort” is irresistibly tasty. The constant sense of something askew lingers behind every page. Everything about it is perfect. ”Shining Armour” is almost as good. These stories attack you right away. No explanations, not even an attempt at a discussion or a friendly warning. It is indeed the sort of work the dark evenings of late autumn and winter were created for. In terms of its metaphysical aspirations it wouldn’t be too dissimilar to Philip K. Dick’s explorations of reality, or Murakami’s wild existential labyrinths. But on the other hand, it aligns itself well with the classical tradition of literary horror, be it Western (Lovecraft, Poe) or Asian (”Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio”, ”Tales of Moonlight and Rain”).

But by the third story, ”Oink Oink”, it has become apparent exactly how deep-rooted ”Slade House” is in ”The Bone Clocks”. This means that ultimately the mystery aspect vanishes, and almost half of the work is spent waiting how the inevitable resolution, itself equally apparent as seen in the context of last year’s novel, will pan out. ”You Dark Horse You” and ”Astronaut” wrap the story up, but now it’s become more exposition than anything, and the nature of the novel has changed dramatically. The suspense is gone.

As such, I admit I’m let down. Three-fifths of a great thing leaves so much to be desired for since you know how good the whole thing would have tasted. I felt like a new and adventurous road was opening up ahead of me, only turning into the one I travel to work every single day. I seriously need to listen to ”Black Swan Green” to try to get back on track, since this is the second Mitchell in a row I’ve been critical about. Help is on its way.

The work of Thomas Judd and Tania Rodrigues warrants mention. Although I’m not too partial to Rodrigues’s delivery of ”Oink Oink”, what’s good about their narration is how they’re treading with a light step, something inherent in the text as well. This feels, after all, a bit like the hypersensory extravagance of ”Hausu” (1977), where everything in the genre comes together, goes through a whirl in a blender and is splattered on the wall in an explosion of style and characterization. At times, though, it feels a bit too elaborate, a similar problem I’m having with Dick Hill’s reading of ”Against the Day”, whose performance everybody seems to love.

I think much will be written about whether ”Slade House” is really a novel, a novella, a collection of short stories or something else entirely. But as a work of fiction, it keeps it short and sweet, at least for the most part. Those who have been enthusiastic about ”The Bone Clocks” will probably be enthusiastic about ”Slade House” much for the same reasons.

19 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Career of Evil

  • Cormoran Strike, Book 3
  • By: Robert Galbraith
  • Narrated by: Robert Glenister
  • Length: 17 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,242
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 5,809
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,803

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past whom he thinks could be responsible - and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another gripping story.

  • By Bernadette on 22-10-15

Acid and Oil on a Madman's Face

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

Reviewed: 24-10-15

Having not listened to the two earlier Galbraith novels, I’m coming aboard ”in media res”. Not that I haven’t been practicing freighthopping, since I’ve been spending quite a bit of my time recently with the Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter audiobooks, the latter which are a fun take on the genre and its preoccupations.

There’s certainly a downside to arriving to a party late, since most people have been introduced to everybody already, but the upside is attempting to figure out the connections between people, places and events. It works with a self-contained work like this, where knowing where it’s coming from helps but doesn’t destroy one’s enjoyment. Although I think knowing a bit more about Blue Öyster Cult would be a definite plus.

And I did enjoy the ride. Rowling has always shown great skill in pulling the reader in from the very first page on, and I think this is mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, the prose flows relentlessly forward. It’s fun, without pretense and to the point, abiding enough to the laws of the genre to settle us in quickly, and still conscious enough of these laws to bend them a bit here and there, to whet one’s appetite for more. Secondly, I think it shines through that she’s enjoying every moment, and this usually gives the narrative a lighter step. The first chapters are aggressive and pack such a punch my heart was racing when Glenister’s impeccable narration kick-started the tale. What follows is a neatly structured tale that alternates between the detective side of things and the personal tensions of the two extremely interesting main characters, both likable and flawed. There’s also a host of good minor characters, especially Shanker and Tempest, and the scene at Alyssa’s is superb. The antagonist is given chapters, too, drawing an appropriately bleak picture of obsession and self-justification. The pace lulls as they travel north, I think, although it picks up for the outstanding last third, which is a grand slam of thrills, suspicion and red herrings.

”The Cuckoo’s Calling”, ”The Silkworm” and ”The Casual Vacancy” are already in my Library, and these 18 hours certainly encourage me to get to them earlier rather than later.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Complete King James Version Audio Bible

  • By: Simon Peterson (publisher)
  • Narrated by: Christopher Glyn
  • Length: 86 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 61
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 52
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 51

The King James Version of the Holy Bible is the most influential and widely published book ever written. It has been translated into over 2,000 languages and is still the world’s best-selling book every year. After its original publication in 1611, the King James Bible quickly became the standard for English-speaking Protestants. Its flowing language and prose rhythm has had a profound influence on the literature of the past 400 years.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Superb paced reading.

  • By platosdunce on 16-11-13

Flawless

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

Reviewed: 22-10-15

I’ve had the Scourby reading for many years, and since the KJV has been my principal English version, it’s been on heavy-duty rotation. When I purchased the Lutheran Study Bible by Concordia Publishing House, which uses the ESV, I was out shopping for another audiobook to compliment it. I listened to the Max McLean version available here on Audible, encouraged by the high 4.7 rating. Not even getting to the end of Genesis, I found that his reading felt rushed, and to top it off, I don’t think the audio quality of the recording itself was up to snuff. Once I had started thinking about this while listening, I knew it our relationship was beyond repair. One isn’t supposed to pay attention to stuff like this after pressing ”play”.

So I was back looking for an audiobook of the Bible, and the high rating of this version caught my attention, and after sampling it, I was sold. So was the audiobook. And reading through the reviews here I can only join to rather harmonious choir singing the production’s praises. The recording itself is of high quality, and Glyn’s reading is, well, perfect. Considering that one has to listen to a voice for over 80 hours if listening from start to finish, Glyn is so pleasurable that I’d switch that verb from ”has to” to ”gets to”. (Do it mid-sentence, I dare you, and it’ll make for some James Joyce-worthy brainwork.) His voice and diction are clear and pleasing to the ear, and his sense of pace as well as rhythm is second to none, whatever the category of audiobooks. There’s no pomp and circumstance these productions often have that makes my toes curl.

Not only this, he succeeds in bringing out different voices without overdoing it. There’s deep emotion in the Bible, vociferous and unrelenting, and Glyn’s reading captures it. I think this will become my go-to audio Bible, if it isn’t already — it’s that good.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful