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Miss M

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Top-notch Karen Swan

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

Reviewed: 07-06-20

I’m a big Karen Swan fan and this is one of her best. There’s also some extra historical heft that gives this work an added dimension. The horrors of the Spanish Civil war - such a complex and still little known about part of our recent past - are interwoven with the pacy and addictive present day story.

The shortcomings of history and the forgotten human stories only ever truly known by those who lived them, are beautifully and cleverly woven into the arc of the whole unfolding drama.

Some wise reflections that give pause for thought on wealth among other sage and beautifully articulated human truisms, blend pleasingly in to the deliciously light, romantic, and highly compelling feel-good read one is guaranteed with this talented writer.

(Personal favourites by this author are The Summer Without You, Prima Donna, The Christmas Party, The Christmas Secret and Players.)

Light, Easy and absolutely lovely

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

Reviewed: 31-05-20

I’ve always found Fforde’s works cockle-warming, absorbing and an easy delight but have had to avoid so many due to excessive use of a narrator who adopts such a silly infantilising voice every protagonist and player in any story she narrates immediately becomes gratingly puerile, no matter how well-drawn they might be by the author.

Whilst this may not be a top-notch Fforde novel, it really was a lovely listen after such a long break.

Commenting on her main character during the novel Fforde writes: “She wanted her own bed and a novel where nothing bad happened.” This is exactly that kind of novel, and if unchallenging, warm and romantic entertainment is what you’re after, this delivers.

Just lovely

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

Reviewed: 16-05-20

Light, lovely and absorbing. This was uplifting feel-good fare without being saccharine. I very much enjoyed and, though descriptions of locations can sometimes err towards the long-winded and tedious this made me fall in love with this region of Italy.

Nice

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

Reviewed: 10-06-18

Seared into early school memory was the commandment never to use the word ‘nice’ when writing, but nice is what this audiobook was. Nice characters and a nice enough story to keep one listening (always hoping for a bit more juice).

The book’s description led me to believe there would be more of the book set either in the war or more richly drawing on historical detail that would be woven into the story to form the main arc of the book. However, the war was rather tacked on very much towards the latter stages of the book.

I’d like to have learnt more - a personal preference - for any novel rooted in real events.

What was included was indeed interesting and doubtless well-researched, but as with the book overall, it needed a bit more heft to elevate it from nice to lovely. Both words might conjure more that’s saccharine than I intend, or that is fair to this book, which has more body than anything so sickly sweet.

Lovely, was another virtually heretical word teachers sternly guided us from using in any writing. But for all the wish-washy flaccidity of either descriptor, I think both nice and lovely have their place. And this book is, in this reader’s/listener’s opinion, nice, which is one rung down from lovely.

A whiling away pleasant distraction rather than an itching to get back to carry on sort of listen.

Brilliant

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

Reviewed: 16-05-18

Absorbing, moving and historically fascinating. A book with real heart, that doesn’t shy away from the despicable horrors of war without descending into relentless grimness. Highly recommended.

Thank you Belinda Alexandra for the evocative creation of so many characters of light and shade and a courageous and loving protagonist living in an unimaginably tough time in Italian history both pre and during the Second World War.

Top class read ranking as an all-time favourite

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

Reviewed: 24-11-16

Any additional comments?

Original, hilarious, poignant, acerbic, The Humans, is brimming with accurate observations and truisms about the absurdity, the loneliness and the extraordinariness of being a human on this isolated watery little planet.

This is a fantastically entertaining, humorous book that at once satirises the hypocracies, venal cruelties and myriad flaws of our species, whilst simultaneously showing compassion and a gentle determination to see the courage, bravery and truth about what it means to get through life as a human.

The external look at our own often risible, also tragic ways and circumstances is provided by a nameless alien from a far-away advanced planet appropriating the recently deceased body of a self-absorbed but brilliant mathematician ( and rather less brilliant husband and father.)

Through the alien, now living as Professor Andrew Martin, we are able to take several steps back and look at ourselves. Our flawed, mercurial ways; our strange contradictions and needs, become almost as off-putting, peculiar, beguiling and ultimately tragi-heroic to us the reader, very much the life-form under observation, as they do to our nameless indifferent, but ever more curious, alien.

As the title so plainly states this is very much a book rooted in human life - human nature and earth's place in the unfathomably large universe is cleverly and marvellously considered. For those so anti sci-fi, that even the term alien is off-putting, do overlook such an objection because this is a beautiful, funny, perceptive book with the heart, humour and wisdom to stay with you for a long time.

2 people found this helpful

Ok but not her best

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

Reviewed: 09-09-16

I've enjoyed some of Evans' previous books. Her accessible writing and talent as an author of books that hook but are bereft of unutterable woe and miserable endings that I, as someone bedridden and too often in intolerable pain, cannot cope with; made her works ones I looked out for.

Sadly this did not capture my heart and mind or absorb as I had hoped or needed. It is pleasing enough and I'm sure will be popular with many, but it is plods rather and doesn't have the magnetism, charm and pull I'd hoped for.

4 people found this helpful

To gentle and slow

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

Reviewed: 22-07-16

I'm sure, by the many positive reviews, that many will continue to enjoy this. I like and need the escapism of lighter fare, and this certainly ticks those boxes and seemed promising.

The characters were likeable enough but the gentleness and slow-burn intrigue were all just a bit to just too gentle and too slow to invest over fifteen hours in and that's despite being bedridden and living for audio. I eventually gave up after ten hours.

Too many characters for an audio

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

Reviewed: 14-05-16

Any additional comments?

This is quite possibly an unfair slur on an enjoyable novel as I am very severely ill but I just could not maintain the concentration of real care and interest in such a vast cast of characters. Those that strike a chord and whom one does develop more interest in, vanish because we switch scenes and coteries of characters too regularly. And we return too fleetingly to build any kind of concerned desire to continue finding out the fates and journeys these characters go on as their lives, no doubt, all interweave with more oomph and plot advancement.

Other audios have kept my attention whilst enduring shocking degrees of agony over days but this one wasn't to be. For someone better able to concentrate I am quite sure this is a decent book worth persevering with. If anything, I am disappointed I eventually gave up.

5 people found this helpful

Ruined by 'dead' tones of a sleeping-pill narrator

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

Reviewed: 28-02-16

Any additional comments?

What an epic disappointment. Having heard the author speak on a history podcast (Dan Snow's History Hit) I was certain this, Frankopan's magnum opus work, would be an enlightening, informing, thought-provoking read.

Where the author has an engaging, captivating delivery and intonation, the same cannot be said of this, the most achingly dreary, of narrators.

Laurence Kennedy's reading voice - and it must be a reading voice, for one does not feel as if one is being spoken to or appealed to listen in any way - has echoes of BBC newsreaders of the 1950's. Yet it is not so much his slightly archaic, anachronistic sound rather his wholesale lack of energy, verve and zip in his flat delivery, that really drains the listener.

I have not managed to concentrate on, or imbibe the information of a single sentence, and as someone who is bedridden 24/7, I am a voracious consumer of audio-content, used to hearing many varied speakers.

I have no choice but to return this. It is like listening to the very worst monotonous history lecture given by a stodgy, distant teacher, unconcerned that he is boring his pupils senseless.

I know I am the loser as this is undoubtedly a capacious and fantastic book capable of delighting its readers as much as the author did himself when I heard him speak. How incredibly sad that the audio version has been massacred by the wrong narrator.

14 people found this helpful