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  • Post Captain

  • Aubrey-Maturin Series, Book 2
  • By: Patrick O'Brian
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 551
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 477
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 476

This tale begins with Jack Aubrey arriving home from his exploits in the Mediterranean to find England at peace following the Treaty of Amiens. He and his friend Stephen Maturin, surgeon and secret agent, begin to live the lives of country gentlemen, hunting, entertaining, and enjoying amorous adventures. Their comfortable existence, however, is cut short when Jack is overnight reduced to a pauper with enough debts to keep him in prison for life. He flees to the continent to seek refuge.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Post Captain

  • By John on 27-06-12

More romance, less havoc

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

Reviewed: 16-05-18

When I read this book the first time, I nearly didn’t continue with the series. The promise of erudite and knowledgeable historical writing that had been evident in the first novel, Master and Commander, was not fulfilled in this sequel. In fact, the naval theme was completely over shadowed by romantic intrigue, which is not even remotely as exciting as a detailed account of the trials of the ‘slaughterhouse’ during an enemy engagement. Rather than the expected plot that would tell of an exciting and bloody period in Britain’s naval history we are presented with the tedium of Georgian courtship rituals, rapacious potential mother-in-laws and a great deal of enigmatic brooding.

Jack Aubrey, land-bound, is indeed a different animal to the one on the high seas. The same, it would seem, goes for his surgeon and the blossoming intelligencer, Stephen Maturin, who loses all self-respect along with his logic when presented with the manipulative beauty, Diana Villiars. There’s a lot of falling in and out of affections, mood swings and far too much jaw-clenching for my taste. I have read most of the series now and I happily skip this one when I re-read them chronologically. If you like the drawn out game-playing of the romances of yesteryear then this tale may be for you. Alas, it is not for me.

Ric Jerrom, as before and after, does a faultless job with his narration.

  • The Man from the Diogenes Club

  • By: Kim Newman
  • Narrated by: William Gaminara
  • Length: 21 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 91
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 84
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 84

The debonair psychic investigator Richard Jeperson is the most valued member of the Diogenes Club, the least-known and most essential branch of British Intelligence. While foiling the plot of many a maniacal mastermind, he is chased by sentient snowmen and Nazi zombies, investigates an unearthly murderer stalking the sex shops of 1970s Soho, and battles a poltergeist to prevent it triggering nuclear Armageddon.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great stories. Well performed.

  • By daron richard donnelly on 06-03-18

dated but weird anyway

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

Reviewed: 10-05-18

I reckon you've got to be a die-hard sci-fi fan to get into these tales. There are too silver space suits for my liking. I normally enjoy Newman's idiosyncratic style but these collection of linked stories are very much of their time and I'm not feeling particularly retro at the moment. I'm certainly not comfortable with this particular era of sexual, social and cultural upheaval. It's too awkward.

One thing of note, though, is the clear 'inspiration' for Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series - if I hadn't started this book I'd never of known that Mr Aaronovitch was quite such a plagiari.......ahem....devotee of Kim Newman.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Smoke and Mirrors

  • By: Neil Gaiman
  • Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
  • Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 176
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 160
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 160

This definitive collection of Neil Gaiman's short fiction will haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul. An elderly widow finds the Holy Grail beneath an old fur coat. A stray cat fights and refights a terrible nightly battle to protect his unwary adoptive family from unimaginable evil. A young couple receives a wedding gift that reveals a chilling alternative history of their marriage. These tales and much more await in this extraordinary book, revealing one of our most gifted storytellers at the height of his powers.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I couldn't stop listening and felt empty when it was over.

  • By tara on 27-03-17

Smug and Supercilious

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

Reviewed: 01-05-18

If you have read this collection I wonder how you got past the introduction? If you didn’t read it then you probably did the right thing. I wish I hadn’t. I listened to Neil Gaiman’s creative philosophy and varied writing inspirations with increasing unease. But, when he smugly told the reader that, as far as he could see, adulthood meant plenty of ‘foreign travel and getting up late’ whilst implying that he couldn’t understand why the majority of the population’s workplace dissatisfaction couldn’t be rectified by finding a job as ‘easy’ as his, my unease turned to anger. When I thought of how many of his readers will have to work HARD to buy the very books that clearly makes his life so comfortable that he can be so superciliousness, I realised I could not stomach reading what came thereafter.

Perhaps Mr. Gaiman needs less of the distracting ‘mirror’ with which he metaphorises the fantasy genre and more of a window onto the reality of his readers' lives. I shall return this book and put its value towards my hard-earned annual holiday to Bognor AND consider even so modest a destination a privileged.

4 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Inspector Hobbes and the Blood

  • Unhuman, Book 1
  • By: Wilkie Martin
  • Narrated by: Tim Campbell
  • Length: 10 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 237
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 222
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 223

Set in a small Cotswold town, Inspector Hobbes and the Blood is a fast-paced comedy cozy mystery fantasy about the adventures of Andy, an incompetent reporter, when he is reluctantly working with Inspector Hobbes, a police detective with a reputation. Andy soon finds himself immersed in a world where not everyone is human, and a late-night visit to a churchyard nearly results in grave consequences, and a ghoulish outcome. An accidental fire leads to Andy having to doss in Hobbes's spare room.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great performance & story - but not quite British

  • By Ali Brewis on 16-01-18

Woah!

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

Reviewed: 28-04-18

Hang on a minute!
What on EARTH is this hideous sound making my ears bleed?
MAKE IT STOP.

Can't judge the story.
Can't... make it....past.....terrible.......narration........

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • The Body on the Doorstep

  • A Romney Marsh Mystery, Book 1
  • By: A. J. MacKenzie
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 35

Murder and smuggling, conspiracy and treason - can Reverend Hardcastle catch a killer? Kent, 1796. Shocked to discover a dying man on his doorstep - and lucky to avoid a bullet himself - Reverend Hardcastle finds himself entrusted with the victim's cryptic last words. With smuggling rife on England's south-east coast, the obvious conclusion is that a dodgy deal has gone wrong. But why is the leader of the local Customs service so reluctant to investigate?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • good story

  • By eb on 26-05-18

A romp with a rector

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

Reviewed: 28-04-18

I really enjoyed this book and not because it was inspiring or thought-provoking but because it was entertaining. It’s lighter-than-air detective fiction, but I don’t think it has pretensions to be otherwise. It’s one of those stories that just trots along at a comfortable pace, with endearingly fallible characters and comes to a satisfactory, if far-fetched, conclusion.

The creation of the irascible, drunken rector as the prime mover whose decent into the bottle is because of historically thwarted ambitions is a fine one, and I thoroughly applauded his belated victory at the end. Pairing him with a young female widow worked well, although I would have preferred a less predictable choice such as the character of Miss Godfrey, one of a pair of ‘Sapphic lovers’ who have a taste for intrigue and brandy laced tea.

The historical background adds interest: smugglers, revolutionaries and Jacobins, all set in and around the Kent marshes. The plot is lively and has great pace with enough pleasing twists and turns to keep you interested but not frustrated. The Poirot-style gathering to expose the guilty parties at the end was, frankly, laughable but at no point were we expecting any particular deviation from the standard formula.

My aunt would have called this a chewing-gum read and I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoyed each mastication.

Ric Jerrom is a brilliant narrator - such depth and tone - just great.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Outcasts of Time

  • By: Ian Mortimer
  • Narrated by: Barnaby Edwards
  • Length: 12 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 806
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 745
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 744

December 1348: With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and go to Hell. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries - living each one of their remaining days 99 years after the last. John and William choose the future and find themselves in 1447, ignorant of almost everything going on....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Imaginative, thought-provoking historical fiction

  • By Kirstine on 13-10-17

Neither here nor there

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

Reviewed: 10-04-18

This is a tricky book to review and I’m not even very clear how I feel about it. I actually admire an author who tries to do something different and, with the moral overtones being quite unsubtle, Ian Mortimer has been brave in producing an unfashionable novel.

I THINK he was going for a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress type structure although, in this book, the pilgrimage is through time, several centuries, in fact. What confuses me is that the motivation is not always clear and the philosophical messages, if I’m honest, aren’t very weighty. Ultimately, the authorial directive seems to be that we can all achieve grace through trying to do good deeds for one's fellow humans - hardly revelatory. So, as an historian, was Mortimer actually attempting to be instructive? If so it wasn't very successful. The narrative comes across as rather formulaic and repetitive and focusses on trivialities. That is why the writer’s motivation is confusing - if the moral message is secondary then is this novel just a descriptive lecture about the changing nature of our country, along the lines of the docu-dramas that seem to be quite popular on our screens? I am not sure.

The narrator did a pretty good job in jollying us along, by the way.

In the end, I had to think hard about why I didn’t love this novel. It is not because I do not like hearing sermons - I am always open to hearing philosophical or theological lessons providing it is robust and convincing. Neither is it because I don’t need to know what undergarments or washing implements my forbears used. I am open to new learning provided it is more than I already know or can imagine. Then I had my answer: my indifference to this book was because Mortimer just didn’t challenge me: He didn’t enlighten me, he didn’t teach me, he didn’t motivate or inspire me. Not remotely.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Prophecy

  • By: S. J. Parris
  • Narrated by: Laurence Kennedy
  • Length: 14 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 333
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 314
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 310

The follow-up to the best-selling Heresy sees the return of Giordano Bruno, religious exile and renegade monk…Autumn, 1583. As an astrological phenomenon heralds the dawn of a new age and Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp Elizabeth, a young maid is murdered, occult symbols carved into her flesh. Giordano Bruno is called on to use his cunning to infiltrate the plotters and find evidence against them. In fear for his life, Bruno discovers that the young woman’s murder could point to an even more sinister truth…

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Getting better as a series

  • By Ron on 19-11-15

Bond, Elizabethan style.

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

Reviewed: 07-04-18

There is a little too much Bond in this book for it to be great historical novel. Bruno dashes about far too much and gets the occasional pasting by the increasingly stereotyped villains - the dastardly Catholics. In fact, if the Duke of Norfolk had been stroking a cat rather than a crucifix he would have been Blofeld by any other name.

Despite the fact that the writer has gone down the path of the standard tropes of detective and spy fiction and bypassed the elements of historical interest that were more of a feature of her first instalment of this series, I still found it an engaging read. I enjoyed following the scrapes that the unlikely hero, Giordano Bruno, gets into, and his life as a double agent adds spice. The pace of the plot is also well maintained as are the romantic diversions and other shenanigans that Bruni is swept into along the way.

This is not a challenging read by any means and, as an historical novel, neither is it instructive. The presentation of Francis Walsingham and Lord Burghley as rather benign grandfatherly types is, frankly, ridiculous. However, if you can overlook the overtly Anglicanised version of the aftermath of the Reformation and are after an enjoyable piece of light entertainment then you will find this book quite good fun.

The skill of the narrator, I feel, is a particular highlight. He maintains Bruno’s Italian accent throughout despite having to change from that to two different Scottish accents, several cut-glass English voices, French, Spanish ….a masterful performance and certainly gave an average story a touch of class.

  • Heresy

  • By: S. J. Parris
  • Narrated by: Laurence Kennedy
  • Length: 14 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 534
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 480
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 479

Oxford, 1583. Giordano Bruno, a radical thinker fleeing the Inquisition, is sent undercover to Oxford to expose a Catholic conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth. But he has his own secret mission at the University, which must remain hidden at all costs. When a series of hideous murders are committed, Bruno is compelled to investigate. What he finds makes it brutally clear that the Tudor throne itself is at stake....

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Good enjoyable lightweight read

  • By S Price Sinclair on 08-02-15

A ripping yarn

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

Reviewed: 03-04-18

This is a great yarn. Heresy starts at a brisk pace and you can soon tell that the author has achieved a nice balance of action, character dynamic, historical detail and light humour. Giordano Bruno is a very likeable protagonist, perhaps because of is fallibility, and Parris/Merritt enables him to gain the sympathy of the reader early on and keep it.

Not being an aficionado of the historical period, I cannot, with any certainty, affirm Parris/Merritt’s accuracy, however, the detail sounds plausible enough. I would say her portrayal of the period stays very much inside orthodox lines: The catholics are hypocritical, irrationally fanatical or deviant, often all three, and the Protestants are generally pragmatic realists who are forced into torture, conspiracy and deceit in order to outwit a cunning enemy all in the name of ‘the greater good’. Even I, as a relative novice know that the reformation was far from this simple. I prefer C J Sansom’s more balanced presentation of the era, as it’s more plausible. However, this is a small matter; it is the intrigue and detective stratagems that drive the interest of the reader and in this the we are not disappointed.

  • The Haunting of Highdown Hall

  • By: Shani Struthers
  • Narrated by: Sheila Dearden
  • Length: 9 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 73
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 67
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 67

Based in Lewes, East Sussex, Ruby and her team of freelance psychics have been kept busy. Specializing in domestic cases, their solid reputation is spreading - it's not just the dead that can rest in peace but the living too. All is threatened when Ruby receives a call from the irate new owner of Highdown Hall. Film star Cynthia Hart is still in residence, despite having died in 1958. Winter deepens and so does the mystery surrounding Cynthia. She insists the devil is blocking her path to the light long after Psychic Surveys have 'disproved' it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A n Entertaining Story

  • By Amazon Customer on 05-01-18

Archaic tosh

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

Reviewed: 31-03-18

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently terrible about a tale that is lighter than air and is blown from the memory with the merest puff of the everyday trivia that makes up life, such as the fact that the bin men are late, again. However, there should be some kind of warning system for a discerning purchaser, in this case those that are literate, that one is buying from the Ladybird end of the literary canon. This text is not far from, 'See Spot run.'.

The plot is thin and the reader is effortfully drawn down into uninteresting culture-de-sacs littered with irrelevant character background. The characterisation used cliched and, frankly, tired tropes and the dialogue is spattered with casual sexism.

I think it was the patronising assumption that Ms Struthers' reader would buy into her fetid world of gender stereotypes that really got up my nose. The fact that the protagonist, Ruby, runs her own company but is absolutely fine with falling for a man who is not comfortable with her fulfilling her role as managing director unless he polices her - this is called giving her his 'protection', or insisting on her accounting for her whereabouts or accepting his permission for doing her job. The reader is supposed to be fine with the fact that he naturally knows her limitations more than her.

Surely, we're not okay with this archaic tosh, are we?

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Great Poets: Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  • By: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Narrated by: Michael Sheen, John Moffatt, Sarah Woodward, and others
  • Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 12
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in collaboration with his friend, William Wordsworth, revolutionized English poetry. In 1798 they produced their Lyrical Ballads, poems of imagination and reflection using "the language of men" - pointing the way forward for a generation of Romantic poets.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Not exactly Sublime.

  • By K on 30-03-18

Not exactly Sublime.

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

Reviewed: 30-03-18

To be honest, my reading experience was definitely affected by the fact that many of the narrators seemed to read the poetry in their grammar school voices. You could virtually hear the lungs being expanded to bursting point in order to make the requisite explosive 'Oh!'.

Coleridge is a poet very much of his time and now his 'simple expression' and the extasy provided by nature seems either contrived or tame. It is hard to imagine him as a controversial figure or writer. Personally, I find a great deal of solace in nature and I feel spiritually energinsed by isolation, so I do enjoy many of Coleridge's flights of the sublime.

However, I am not a devotee of the tone of many of his poems. His inverted snobbery and occasional pomposity smacks too much of the bitterness of having to rely on patronage rather than being born to completely independent means. He reminds me of a second home owner who claims to be 'local' and desperately wants to be accepted by the yokels despite depending on Waitrose home delivery and asking what 'craft' ale the local pub serves.