LISTENER

Sean Inglis

Matlock,UK
  • 18
  • reviews
  • 49
  • helpful votes
  • 36
  • ratings
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain

  • By: Ian Mortimer
  • Narrated by: Greg Wagland
  • Length: 19 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 452
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 412
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 413

If you could travel back in time, the period from 1660 to 1700 would make one of the most exciting destinations in history. It's the age of Samuel Pepys and the Great Fire of London, bawdy comedy and the libertine court of Charles II, Christopher Wren in architecture, Henry Purcell in music and Isaac Newton in science. In The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain, Ian Mortimer answers the crucial questions that a prospective traveller to 17th-century Britain would ask.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Informative, interesting and entertaining history

  • By Kirstine on 21-09-17

Fascinating, appalling, and entertaining

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

Reviewed: 15-12-18

Another book that's saved me on a long, dark commute. Packed with information and drama, and compelling enough to move me straight on to another in the series

The narration was first class

The atmosphere evoked in the final 15 minutes or so of the book is spellbinding and unexpectedly moving, something I think was only made possible by the layers of fact and reserved delivery experienced over the previous 19 hours.

  • The Good Doctor of Warsaw

  • By: Elisabeth Gifford
  • Narrated by: Peter Noble
  • Length: 8 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18

Deeply in love and about to marry, students Misha and Sophia flee a Warsaw under Nazi occupation for a chance at freedom. Forced to return to the Warsaw ghetto, they help Misha's mentor, Dr Korczak, care for the 200 children in his orphanage. As the noose tightens around the ghetto, Misha and Sophia are torn from one another, forcing them to face their worst fears alone. Meanwhile, refusing to leave the children unprotected, Korczak must confront a terrible darkness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Humanity and inhumanity

  • By Margaret on 26-06-18

Simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting

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

Reviewed: 26-05-18

This is a story I'd never heard of - even vaguely - so I had no real idea how things would end up in the case of these specific people.

But it's a recounting of events seen from several points of view, and with just enough exposition to allow you to keep track of the overall arc. Elisabeth Gifford's characterisations are memorable, and memorably realised by Peter Noble (both artists in their respective fields that I'd seek out again)

Hard to know what else to say; the period and description frame things so that you know there are only so many ways things can unfold. But it's resolved in a way that is respectful to the true story and still hopeful. Not something I thought it would be possible to pull off. In some respects, what you can realistically take away as comforting as a reader runs in parallel with the diminishing options faced by the protagonists; things become pared down to necessity at a suddenly accelerating rate.

I'm surprised to see the book was ~9hrs long when I came to review. I felt I'd spent far more time in the company of these people by the end, and it's a tribute to the writing and performing styles. No wasted prose, no longueurs.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Secrets of the Sea House

  • By: Elisabeth Gifford
  • Narrated by: Cathleen McCarron, Douglas Russell, Sarah Barron
  • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 171
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 153
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 154

Scotland, 1860. Reverend Alexander Ferguson takes up his new parish, an isolated patch on the Hebridean island of Harris. His time there will change his life, but the Sea House, on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after Alexander departs. More than a century later, Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building for the family they hope to have. But their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Slow start but really enjoyable in the end.

  • By Lucy on 13-05-14

Satisfyingly woven tale and a great ensemble cast

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

Reviewed: 12-05-18

Several interleaved narratives that never quite head in the direction you expect, and brought to a satisfying conclusion. I'm not in a position to judge how historically accurate it is, but it feels authentic in the telling. Thoroughly recommended.

  • The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

  • By: Claire North
  • Narrated by: Peter Kenny
  • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,506
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,381
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,382

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. 'I nearly missed you, Doctor August,' she says.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Déjà vu all over again

  • By S. Kingston on 07-07-14

Groundhog Day for grown-ups

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

Reviewed: 11-10-14

First, hats off to whoever put together the image and short description for the book; it managed to intrigue me enough to at least stick on a wishlist and consider, and that turned out to be a great decision.

A difficult book to summarise without spoilers. but the closest parallel is Groundhog Day, spread over a (variable) lifetime rather than 24 hrs.

North's writing and Kenny's performance never leave you in any doubt who's voice is who's, or what's going on, in what could be a complex set of circumstances to relate to the listener.

As well as having elements of a thriller and a good detective story, this is a meditation on ethics, purpose, meaning, moral dilemma, love and loss. That may sound overblown, but it's done with an expert touch, never preaching or overstretching itself.

The problems faced by the protagonist communicating and acting across the decades are neatly described and cleverly resolved - just enough complexity to have me rewinding a couple of times, but never enough to warrant the headache inducing diagrams required to understand the likes of Primer.

Although not lurid, there are a couple of scenes or interrogation and punishment that will stay with me for a long time.

But the abiding sense on finishing it is satisfaction at the way things are resolved (or left dangling) and some regret that the time spent in the company of these characters had come to an and.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • The Mote in God's Eye

  • By: Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle
  • Narrated by: L J Ganser
  • Length: 20 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 454
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 307
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 313

The Mote In God's Eye is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel of mankind's first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre. No lesser an authority than Robert A. Heinlein called it "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read".

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A classic showing its age

  • By Simon on 25-11-14

Fizzing With Ideas - But Showing it's Age

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

Reviewed: 05-05-14

The scores here are based on the first few hours - I didn't make it to the end of the book unfortunately (a decision I might revisit).

For me the main problem is that a lot of science fiction has been written since this was first published, so many of the themes of the book that were novel on publishing aren't anymore. That doesn't detract from the level of detail and imagination, but although I can acknowledge and admire it, I can't unread what I've read in the meantime.

Dialog is dated and off in odd ways - "Rape the passengers!" as an exclamation of dismissal may well be idiomatic for the naval period on which the working command structure described might be based, but it can't help but jar.

Ganser's performance follows the slightly dated and clipped feel of the prose. 3* feels a bit unfair written down as I couldn't fault it technically, he has a good voice for this sort of thing (as you'd expect), but in matching his style to that of the prose and basing it on that, 3* is where I get.

So in summary, a lot of ideas squeezed into a small space (despite the length of the book), but either too dated or not dated enough to make it worth persisting with for me at the moment.

  • Dominion

  • By: C. J. Sansom
  • Narrated by: Daniel Weyman
  • Length: 20 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,346
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,036
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,045

The Great Smog. London. A dense, choking fog engulfs the city and beneath it, history is re-written…1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Dominion: Fantastic and Atmospheric Novel!

  • By David on 21-11-12

Convincing alternate history / stiff-upper-lip ism

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

Reviewed: 26-03-14

The single downside first.

Amongst everything else, the book manages to evoke a sense of grim austerity and repression. Although this adds considerably to the realism, it inevitably means that there are sections where the pacing's slow and you do feel a bit of the daily grind.

This is largely limited to the start of the book, it's still well written and narrated and it's necessary, but it's there - don't expect to have much of a spring in your step at first.

However I'd urge you to stick with it. The plotting picks up considerably and Sansom's writing and Daniel Weyman's performance result in very well fleshed out characters. I had a very specific picture in my mind for each of the main protagonists, not always the case, and a huge amount of respect and sympathy for several characters.

Famous figures are performed in a way that makes them instantly recognisable (to people of my generation anyway) without descending into parody or stereotype - a great job by Weyman.

A great sense of tension and unease and a number of satisfying conclusions. I could have easily listened to more.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Hyperbole: A Novel

  • By: Ryan Parmenter
  • Narrated by: Ryan Parmenter
  • Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2

DC gets destroyed. Harland gets wasted. America gets the leader it deserves. This pitch-black satire follows a disillusioned pothead and his friends navigating an American minefield of domestic terrorists, power-grabbing opportunists, and meaningless dead-end jobs. Philosophical, irreverent, and sometimes oddly hopeful, Hyperbole explores what might become of the laymen when America's head gets chopped off.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Strangely Rewarding

  • By Sean Inglis on 01-03-14

Strangely Rewarding

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

Reviewed: 01-03-14

This is an odd book, in the best sense of the word.

I'll admit that initially I found the style and narration needed a bit of time to tune into, but that only took a chapter or so.

Nearly every paragraph made me laugh, had me wanting to memorise something to quote at someone later, or had me silently agreeing "me too, me too". And this was managed without sounding irritatingly arch or too clever for it's own good: not easy to pull off.

Vocabulary, sentence construction, pace, comic timing, sparse sound effects, perfectly balanced.

Parmenter narrates, and did a great job. His native accent is distinctive but he manages to give each character an instantly recognisable voice without hamming it up.

Although there's certainly a degree of misery in this book, I thought the summary made it sound far bleaker than it actually was. Can't decide if that makes it a failure from some angles or not.

In the end, I cared about just about every character, laughed immoderately far more times than I expected to, and was left with a strong feeling of nostalgia for a place and way of life of which I have no experience. Very satisfying.

My one reservation is that it feels like a book that has so much original material that it may be a one-off. I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

  • Reamde

  • By: Neal Stephenson
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
  • Length: 38 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 987
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 780
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 785

Richard Forthrast created T’Rain, a multibillion-dollar, massively multiplayer online role-playing game. But T’Rain’s success has also made it a target. Hackers have struck gold by unleashing REAMDE, a virus that encrypts all of a player’s electronic files and holds them for ransom. They have also unwittingly triggered a deadly war beyond the boundaries of the game’s virtual universe - and Richard is at ground zero.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This virus really infected me!

  • By Samuel on 08-11-11

Twisty Tech Thriller

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

Reviewed: 23-02-14

Not quite up to the standard of Cryptonomicon, but it weaves multiple viewpoints in the story arc in an engaging way. In ten years time, some of the technology described will seem old fashioned (and of course it will be), but it's the usual mix of well researched detail and plausible very-near-future speculation from Stephenson.

It doesn't make the mistake of speculating *too* far into the future; everything described *could* be done now, so coming back to it at a later date, or picking it up in 5 years time may feel slightly nostalgic, but it will dodge sounding dated and inaccurate.

A wide range of likeable and thoroughly unlikeable characters thrown into challenging and increasingly tense situations.

I enjoyed Malcolm Hillgartner's performance; the accents are a bit variable in places - you may pause for a second or so to tune into the character - but all-in-all pretty effortless to listen to, clear, and well paced.

  • 14

  • By: Peter Clines
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter
  • Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,296
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,174
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,169

There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much. At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A good one!

  • By Robyn on 23-11-16

Enjoyable ensemble page-turner

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

Reviewed: 30-01-14

A load of identifiable and fairly memorable characters piecing together a mystery with various levels of enthusiasm or reluctance.

That may seem a bit thin, but after coming out of a couple of more difficult scholarly works, this was just the contrast I needed.

After a great opening half and a nice build up and sense of unease and uncertainty, I groaned a bit at the reference to some familiar scifi tropes, but it's saved with a few neat twists and a satisfying end.

It's not something that will stick with you in the same way as some of the more lurid Banks' for instance, but that's not what it's for; it's pure entertainment and succeeds admirably at that task.

  • Hitch-22

  • A Memoir
  • By: Christopher Hitchens
  • Narrated by: Christopher Hitchens
  • Length: 17 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 777
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 628
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 622

In this long-awaited and candid memoir, Hitchens re-traces the footsteps of his life to date, from his childhood in Portsmouth, with his adoring, tragic mother and reserved Naval officer father; to his life in Washington DC, the base from which from he would launch fierce attacks on tyranny of all kinds. Along the way, he recalls the girls, boys and booze; the friendships and the feuds; the grand struggles and lost causes; and the mistakes and misgivings that have characterised his life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Honest but difficult listening

  • By Penny on 18-06-16

Wide ranging, erudite and opinionated

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

Reviewed: 30-01-14

Anyone looking for a biography / memoir of Christopher Hitchens probably has a decent idea what they're in for, so there's little point in dwelling on his opinions and analyses as such.

However the background describing how he came to be were he was is well told, entertaining and at least appears even-handed.

A fair bit of clever wordplay without being too clever for it's own good and, if you're anything like me, it'll have you entertained scuttling down various rabbit holes to follow up references.

The performance / recording is a bit more problematic.

In general terms, he has a great voice, and who better to understand how it should be stressed and delivered than the author?

However within that delivery there are issues; he has a tendency to start off a sentence in a booming and declarative way, but finish in the equivalent of an off-hand or conspiratorial whisper.

This means that in situations where there was any ambient noise - walking the dog for instance - it was impossible to achieve a comfortable volume and the experience degenerated into an exercise in constant swearing, rewinding, adjustment and replaying.

In the end, I gave up attempting to listen in anything other than ideal conditions, and that improved the experience by leaps and bounds. Maybe best listened to and reflected upon in that way anyway.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful