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Mr. P. D. Selman

Kent, U.K.
  • 30
  • reviews
  • 21
  • helpful votes
  • 121
  • ratings
  • Fevre Dream

  • By: George R. R. Martin
  • Narrated by: Ron Donachie
  • Length: 13 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 203
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 188
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 187

Abner Marsh has finally realised his heart's desire, he has built the Fevre Dream, the finest steamship ever to sail the Mississippi river. Marsh hopes to race the boat some day and prove its supremacy, but his partner seems determined to prevent him from fulfilling this ambition. Joshua York funded the creation of the Fevre Dream, but now rumours are spreading about the unusual company he keeps, his odd eating habits and strange waking hours. As the Dream crosses the great river, it leaves in its wake too many sinister stories.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A fine melding of form and content.

  • By Mr. on 11-04-13

Brother Louis?

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

Reviewed: 15-07-16

This was my first George RR Martin book. I watch the Game of Thrones tv show, which is what sparked my interest in reading something by him, but thought I'd try out a stand-alone novel before I plunged headlong into A Song of Fire and Ice.

So, what did I think? Well, my initial reaction was that it was a complete swipe of Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire, to be honest. As the book went on, and as Martin started to demonstrate a large Mark Twain influence as well, it started to veer away from being a complete swipe and go off in its own direction.

Despite my early reservations, I found myself swept up in the tale Martin was spinning and enjoying the (steamboat) ride quite a bit. It was certainly sinister and bloodthirsty enough to satisfy the horror fan in me. I really liked the protagonist; Abner Marsh is about as unlikely a hero as you'll find in modern fiction and that accounts for a good portion of his charm.

Martin certainly knows how to pace a story and his prose style is delightful; I'll definitely be reading more of his work in future. As for this novel, though, despite enjoying it I felt it was too close to the 'swipe' end of the 'love-letter or swipe?' scale for me to give it more than three stars. I mean, it says on the cover that this is a groundbreaking vampire novel but his vampires, apart from some minor elements that I won't mention for fear of spoilers, were identical to Anne Rice's. The story's even set in the same part of the world! While this wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment completely, I'd hardly call it groundbreaking.

Regardless of this, Fevre Dream remains an entertaining romp of a horror novel. You could do a lot worse.

  • Against a Dark Background

  • By: Iain M. Banks
  • Narrated by: Peter Kenny
  • Length: 18 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 327
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 252
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 255

Sharrow was once the leader of a personality-attuned combat team in one of the sporadic little commercial wars in the civilisation based around the planet Golter. Now she is hunted by the Huhsz, a religious cult which believes that she is the last obstacle before the faith's apotheosis, and her only hope of escape is to find the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Guns before the Huhsz find her.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • It's probably just me but...

  • By Paul on 25-10-12

You want a strong, female protagonist? Here 'tis.

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

Reviewed: 15-07-16

This is my first Iain Banks novel since he passed away and I was concerned I'd be too upset to enjoy it fully... but figured it was time. I needn't have worried; this book is so much fun all thoughts of the author's sad passing were soon pushed to the back of my mind. I guess this is how writing can bestow a kind of immortality on an author.

While this is one of Banks' science fiction novels, it isn't part of his Culture series. This is a great little space opera/heist adventure/action extravaganza with some deep thinkin' mixed in for good measure. This being Banks, said thoughts are often woven into the plot with a liberal dose of humour. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of these aspects would make Douglas Adams smile.

If you're not already a fan of Banks, I'd recommend this to fans of Firefly, Killjoys, Saga and (dare I say it?) Star Wars. This certainly isn't Banks' best work but it's a Hell of a lot of fun and I enjoyed it so much I went back and re-read it from the beginning as soon as I finished it!

P.S. - Banks wrote an epilogue to this novel which he posted online but never added to any published copy of the book. It's rather nice and brings things full circle (sort of). A quick search online should find it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Oscar Wilde: The Poems

  • By: Oscar Wilde
  • Narrated by: Sean Barrett
  • Length: 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 6

When we think of Oscar Wilde we think of his wonderful wit and of course his plays and short stories. We rarely think of his poetry. We should. His work brings new insights into both his view of the world and how we can view him.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • ballad of reading jail

  • By JTT on 02-08-18

An exceptional hour

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

Reviewed: 15-07-16

'... Sweet, there is nothing left to say
  But this, that love is never lost,
Keen winter stabs the breasts of May
  Whose crimson roses burst his frost,
    Ships tempest-tossed
Will find a harbour in some bay,
    And so we may.

And there is nothing left to do
  But to kiss once again, and part,
Nay, there is nothing we should rue,
  I have my beauty,—you your Art,
    Nay, do not start,
One world was not enough for two
    Like me and you...'

- Extract from 'Her Voice' by Oscar Wilde, 1881

Some days, when the world is grinding me down, and my own body is failing and I feel my mind is surely soon to follow, I need to read some Oscar Wilde poetry. Today was one of those days.

This is a wonderful collection, full of romance, tragedy, beauty, humour and art. It is beautifully read by Sean Barrett. Stick it in your ears; it only lasts an hour, but what an hour...

  • A Spool of Blue Thread

  • By: Anne Tyler
  • Narrated by: Kimberly Farr
  • Length: 13 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 428
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 387
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 386

"It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon..." This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Not For Me

  • By Alison on 23-05-16

Unwinding

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

Reviewed: 05-07-16

I don't have too much to say about this one other than that I really, really, really liked it.

I've not read any Anne Tyler before but she was recommended to me by a friend, so when I saw this in a sale I snapped it up. I'm so glad I did.

This book tells the life story of an extended family who are a perfectly normal family in as much as there is such a thing (I'm pretty sure there isn't). The characters aren't exceptional people but they are exceptionally well developed and written. They became so real to me that I kept forgetting this was fiction!

Tyler's writing is nothing short of beautiful. She has a rhythmic, lyrical prose style that sucked me in and wouldn't let go. I'll definitely be reading more of her work. Everything comes together perfectly and I found myself deeply moved in a number of places. I'll admit it; there were tears!

If, like me, you read a lot of fantasy, horror and science fiction but occasionally like to read about a world that's a little closer to the one you actually live in, you could do worse than to give this a try.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Complete Poetry

  • Sonnets and Narrative Poems
  • By: William Shakespeare
  • Narrated by: Charlton Griffin
  • Length: 6 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 9
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6

The sonnets are a collection numbering 154 poems dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty, and mortality. They were probably written over a long period of Shakespeare's life up until 1609, when they were first printed. The first 17 poems, traditionally referred to as the "procreation sonnets", are addressed to a young man urging him to marry and have children in order to immortalize his beauty by passing it on to his descendants.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful (and easy!) intro to the Bard's poetry

  • By William Tarvainen on 20-04-14

Where there's a Will...

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

Reviewed: 05-07-16

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover,
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bettering of the time,
And though they be outstripp'd by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O, then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
'Had my friend's Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died, and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love.'

- William Shakespeare, 1590-ish (disputed)

There once was a young man called Will,
Who couldn't be happy until,
He'd written a sonnet,
And spent hours upon it,
Only then could he kick back and chill...

- Me, yesterday (undisputed, alas)

OK, well I'm not actually going to try to review the whole of Shakespeare's poetic output, obviously. I'm not nearly qualified enough to do so. Instead, I'll just say that the bard is one of my favourite poets. His work has resonated with me since I first studied it at school and I've returned to it time and again over the years. Actually, the fact that I know it so well enables me to just kick back and read it for pure, unadulterated pleasure, without the slightest taint of academia clawing away at my mind. Bliss.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • A Beautiful Mind

  • By: Sylvia Nasar
  • Narrated by: Anna Fields
  • Length: 18 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 16
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8

John Forbes Nash, Jr., a prodigy and legend by the age of 30, dazzled the mathematical world by solving a series of deep problems deemed "impossible" by other mathematicians. But at the height of his fame, Nash suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown and began a harrowing descent into insanity, resigning his post at MIT, slipping into a series of bizarre delusions, and eventually becoming a dreamy, ghostlike figure at Princeton, scrawling numerological messages on blackboards.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very different to the movie

  • By Mr. P. D. Selman on 28-06-16

Very different to the movie

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

Reviewed: 28-06-16

It seems to be a commonly held belief that genius often goes hand-in-hand with mental illness. I've often wondered if this is actually the case or whether it's just that most people have never heard of most genius level intellects that aren't afflicted in this way. How many of us could honestly say we'd ever have heard of John Nash if it weren't for his prolonged battle with schizophrenia (if 'battle' is even the right word)?

I admit that I'd not heard of him until my wife recommended the movie to me after watching it with friends. I quickly bought it and loved it (I know which side my bread is buttered, folks) and this lead me to read the book the movie is based on.

Having now finished the book, I have to say that it's made me reappraise the film. While I'm sure I'd still enjoy the movie, I now see that it is an extremely idealised version of Nash's life. It has left out large chunks of the less sympathetic aspects of the man's personality. It's almost impossible to say how much of Nash's (how to put this?) dickish behaviour was due to his as-yet-undiagnosed schizophrenia but it is clear (to this reader, anyway) that the man was a rather unlikeable individual long before he became ill.

I don't, however, only want to read about people I'd like to have a drink with and, despite the rather unsavoury aspects of Nash's character, this is undeniably a fascinating book and I'm very glad I read it. It manages to be a 'warts-and-all' autobiography without ever stooping to sensationalism and remains respectful of its subject even while recounting some of his worst facets. I recommend it to anybody who has seen the movie version that would like to know the truth behind the Hollywood fairytale.

It's also made me want to read more about game theory...

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Buried Giant

  • By: Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Narrated by: David Horovitch
  • Length: 11 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 779
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 711
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 712

The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at last the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased.The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards - some strange and otherworldly - but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Hmmmm

  • By Jenny on 12-03-15

An unusual quest

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

Reviewed: 07-10-15

** Minor spoilers below **

Kazuo Ishiguru’s foray into the fantasy genre is, without a doubt, a sharp contrast to his previous work. I’m not surprised by it, however, as he’s already written a science fiction novel (‘Never Let Me Go’) so he’s clearly not a man to be hamstrung by the genre expectations of his readers.

I really enjoyed this book. It has a Tolkien-esque voice, which appealed to me, being a huge fan of Tolkien’s work. ‘The Buried Giant’ is a gentler, more studied type of fantasy than your usual sword and sorcery fare. There is swordplay and magic here and the violence isn’t shied away from or downplayed but it’s not the focus of the book, as is often the case in the fantasy genre (and I say this as a huge fan of the fantasy genre). Magic and fantastical creatures are also present in this story but they, while not exactly commonplace, are just accepted as being part of the world.

The main themes of the book are memory (or lack thereof), prejudice and loss. A fog of forgetfulness has swept over this post-Arthurian Britain and the specific contents of the populace’s lives prior to this fog are largely a mystery to them. The two central protagonists, Axl and Beatrice, are an elderly couple who suddenly remember they once had a son and set out on a quest to find him. They meet a few other characters on the way who end up travelling with them for some of their journey, including an elderly Knight of the Round Table.
In fact, one of these characters is the reason I haven’t given this book four stars. For some reason I can’t put my finger on, the chapters told from the point of view of Edwin, a young boy searching for his mother, had my concentration waning. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in him as a character but in the handful of his chapters I found myself thinking about other things and suddenly realising I wasn’t paying attention to the book. You know when you’re reading a book and then realise that you haven’t taken anything in for the last few pages and have to go back and re-read them? That. I suppose Edwin’s ‘voice’ just didn’t click for me like the other characters’ did.

When you cut to the heart of this book, it is essentially a love story and a very moving one. I could really empathise with Axl in particular and he was definitely my favourite character. Despite marking this review as containing spoilers, I’m not going to tell you what happens in the end but, suffice it to say, I was having trouble holding back tears as I read the final chapter.

Recommended to fans of Tolkien. Not recommended to fans of Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms. If you like both, you’ll just have to make your own mind up; I can’t do everything for you!

  • Oh Dear Silvia

  • By: Dawn French
  • Narrated by: Dawn French, James Fleet, Llewella Gideon, and others
  • Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,181
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 895
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 899

Who is in Coma Suite Number 5? A matchless lover? A supreme egotist? A selfless martyr? A bad mother? A cherished sister? A selfish wife? All of these. For this is Silvia Shute, who has always done exactly what she wants. Until now, when her life suddenly, shockingly stops. Her past holds a terrible secret, and now that she is unconscious in a hospital bed, her constant stream of visitors are set to uncover the mystery of her broken life. Meanwhile she must lie there, victim of the beloveds, the borings, the babblings and the plain bonkers. Like it or not, the truth is about to pay Silvia a visit. Again, and again and again...

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hilarious!!!!

  • By Indigoleopard on 01-11-12

Family Ties

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

Reviewed: 25-09-15

I have a stinking head cold so I’ll keep this brief.

This book is amazingly good. The concept is original, the structure is flawless, the characters are all fully realised, the dialogue is very human and real, the plot twists are genuinely shocking, the funny sections are really funny and the sad bits had me weeping openly in my car on the way to and from work.

Dawn French’s first novel ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ was really good but this second novel is incredible. I can honestly say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever had the privilege to read. It gets my highest recommendation.

  • The Real Thing

  • By: Tom Stoppard
  • Narrated by: Andrea Bowen, Matt Gaydos, Carolyn Seymour, and others
  • Length: 1 hr and 41 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 16
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 16

Henry may be the wittiest playwright of his generation, but he’s hopelessly naïve when it comes to understanding love and infidelity. Writing about betrayal is one thing, living with it is another. After Henry leaves his wife for another woman, he’s confronted with being the cuckold himself. Both dazzlingly clever and emotionally naked, Henry’s search for the “the real thing” in art and love demonstrates beautifully why both are worth the effort in the end.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • It's the real Real Thing

  • By Mr. P. D. Selman on 28-08-15

It's the real Real Thing

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

Reviewed: 28-08-15

Don't be fooled by the title; this isn't a play about Coke or Faith No More's best album (you watch; I'll get an argument on that last one) but rather a searching character piece about LOVE.

To be more specific, it explores the nature of love and how it means different things to different people. It includes betrayal, devotion, sex, parental love and that old favourite, unrequited love.

It also includes a brief exploration of highbrow and lowbrow art which, I suspect, is meant to draw a parallel with the nature of love... but, Hell, what do I know? My English Literature A Level was over twenty years ago now.

This is Tom Stoppard so you're guaranteed that it's going to be very clever and very funny. I laughed out loud a few times and listening to this play on my drive home was a great way to wash away the working week. Highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane

  • By: Neil Gaiman
  • Narrated by: Neil Gaiman
  • Length: 5 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,620
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,492
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,496

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark - from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman. It's about memory and magic and survival, about the power of stories and the darkness inside each of us. It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Cunning Darkness

  • By Simon on 08-10-15

How much do you want to remember?

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

Reviewed: 28-08-15

In the foreword to this book, Neil Gaiman warns the reader that the book is dark. Having now read the book, I don't think he means dark in the metaphorical, thematical, tonal sense (although it does fit that bill too)... I think he means the kind of darkness that we only really experience as children. The kind of darkness that lingers, stealthily, in every corner, eagerly anticipating the flick of the lightswitch from on to off. The kind of darkness that also lives outside in the alluring, bewitching night that taunts us to come outside and dance under the moonless sky with the fantastical, magical creatures that are the denizens of the lightless world...

Do you remember that kind of darkness? If you don't, when you read this book it will come flooding back to you. You'll remember what it felt like to be a child; the centre of your universe yet scared of so, so many things. You'll recall that moment when you first realised that the adults who were supposed to be your protectors could oh, so easily relinquish that role... leaving you quite alone... in the dark.

I absolutely loved this book. Can you tell? It's a wonderfully told tale of the parts of the world where the mundane meets the fantastic and the beings that dwell in those fragile but fascinating places. Places that never look the same twice. Places that children search desperately to find, little knowing that, once found, may never allow you to go back home... at least, not in the same state in which you came.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who remembers their former self... or who would like to. Just remember the old adage about being careful what you wish for.