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  • Doomsday Book

  • By: Connie Willis
  • Narrated by: Jenny Sterlin
  • Length: 26 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 185
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 140
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 139

For Oxford student Kivrin, traveling back to the 14th century is more than the culmination of her studies - it's the chance for a wonderful adventure. For Dunworthy, her mentor, it is cause for intense worry about the thousands of things that could go wrong.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • enthralling tale of time travel

  • By lesley on 18-03-10

This is a really good read!

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

Reviewed: 17-07-18

Two parallel stories, one set in a strange modernish Oxford hit by a flu pandemic, the other on a medieval Oxfordshire village where the Black Death has just reached local communities. It's set in a world where time travel exists as a modern technology, complex and sometimes fallible. It's reserved as the tool of historians who use it to verify and expend their understanding of the past from our best available evidence, so it is organised in university departments and managed by academic historians. The clash between traditional academics and the technology they barely understand is horribly realistic.

Connie Willis is a fine storyteller and I enjoy her style. Many science fiction writers can't write characters for toffee and you have to make do with mere action, but this novel works as good modern literature as well as a thoughtful story. She describes human stupidity and bureaucracy so well! You feel the frustration of trying to make things better while surrounded by people who're obsessed with beliefs, their mundane housekeeping issues or their prestige and status. Her characters are full of life and uncertainty, struggling to cope with life and death. It is their human response to overwhelming pandemic disease that is the main theme.

It's a long read, but I was sorry when it ended, so I sat down and read it again. A compelling book.

  • A Plague on Both Your Houses

  • The First Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew
  • By: Susanna Gregory
  • Narrated by: David Thorpe
  • Length: 13 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 221
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 202
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 203

Matthew Bartholomew, unorthodox but effective physician to Michaelhouse college in medieval Cambridge, is as worried as anyone about the pestilence that is ravaging Europe and seems to be approaching England. But he is distracted by the sudden and inexplicable death of the Master of Michaelhouse - a death the University authorities do not want investigated.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • If I could give 3.5 I would. Entertaining enough

  • By Louis Hall on 05-06-17

Cardboard characters & a dull whodunnit

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

Reviewed: 31-07-17

I was desperate to finish some weeding in the garden, so persisted longer with this book than I might've otherwise. Had I been driving, I would have slept, so a safety warning here!

Some whodunnits are just plain dull and formulaic. Despite the historical setting, the use of disgusting period detail and the nature of the college rule books at the time, this is one of those. Part of the problem is the cardboard characters. They don't live and this is one of those dreary potboiler books in an endless series. Trouble is, the first book in such a series has to hook the reader to keep them reading. This fails, but at least I won't waste any more dosh on the rest of them!

The narrator does his best and gives a creditable performance of this dismal material.

If you want a truly ripping yarn set in the time of the Black Death and full of excellent characters and atmospheric historical detail, I suggest Connie Willis' novel 'The Doomesday Book'. Dunno whether her stuff is on Audible yet, but it should be!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Winter Pilgrims

  • Kingmaker, Book 1
  • By: Toby Clements
  • Narrated by: Jack Hawkins
  • Length: 17 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,157
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,082
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,077

February 1460. In the bitter dawn of a winter’s morning, a young man and a woman escape from a priory. In fear for their lives, they are forced to flee across a land ravaged by conflict. For this is the Wars of the Roses, one of the most savage and bloody civil wars in history. Where brother confronts brother, king faces king, and Thomas and Katherine must fight just to stay alive....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A fantastic read

  • By Loraine on 10-01-16

Ripping yarn!

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

Reviewed: 14-11-16

AT last, a well written historical novel!

So many historical are full of cardboard characters and limited study of the periods when they are set that I had almost given up on this genre. Particularly when any part of the tale is written from a female perspective, many historical authors slip into slush Mills and Boon would retch at, or lose track of the facts of the time and try to move the setting to fairyland. This book is refreshingly different, with decent research on the era and the warfare of the times and the bonus of characters who seem human and believable.

The story is based on humble characters in difficult situations, solidly set in real historical settings with all the difficulties and hazards of day to day life and a mystery about a book which isn't solved. This underlying puzzle is not part of the dramatic story of the everyday dangers and compromises of a country in wartime, where social mores operate in favour of the powerful and not the ordinary people.

I was pretty happy with the narration too, with the exception of some irritating mispronunciations. The text is well handled and read with feeling, but not over dramatised.

Hope the rest of the series are of similar quality - this is certainly an encouraging start.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, the True Queen

  • By: Alison Weir
  • Narrated by: Maggie Mash
  • Length: 27 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 197
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 184
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 184

The lives of Henry VIII's queens make for dramatic stories, and Alison Weir writes a series of novels that offer insights into the real lives of the six wives based on extensive research and new theories. In all the romancing, has anyone regarded the evidence that Anne Boleyn did not love Henry VIII? Or that Prince Arthur, Katherine of Aragon's first husband, who is said to have loved her, in fact cared so little for her that he willed his personal effects to his sister?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fabulous

  • By Erica Oliver on 14-11-16

A mixture of good historical work & a bad novel

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

Reviewed: 16-10-16

I do wish some kindly publisher would deter Alison Weir from writing novels! They're all dire and the Maggie Mash narration makes it even worse. I had thought this was a non fiction work when I bought it, but the first part is fictionalised. This bit is pure People's Friend level slush. I had to bail out of her Elizabeth book (the first I tried) after a couple of chapters because the narration made me want to hurl my faithful old Ipod out of the window.

It's not that Weir isn't a fine historian and her non fiction work is great. I found the outline of the lives of the later queens really interesting and that's why I didn't just return this work entirely. Her work on Isabella is one of my favourites and her Katherine Swinton biography is a good long read too.

Gregory et al make free with the historical facts, but that is the art of novelists after all! The ability to write decent fiction of its genre helps a lot and I really enjoy Sansom, Cornwell and Iggulden too. But please, let the excellent Alison Weir stick to her trade!

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Foxglove Summer

  • Rivers of London, Book 5
  • By: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
  • Length: 10 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,103
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3,839
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,824

In the fifth of his best-selling series Ben Aaronovitch takes Peter Grant out of whatever comfort zone he might have found and takes him out of London - to a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children. But while you can take the London copper out of London you can't take the London out of the copper. Travelling west with Beverley Brook, Peter soon finds himself caught up in a deep mystery and having to tackle local cops and local gods. And what's more all the shops are closed by 4pm....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • You can take a city wizard to the country but...

  • By Sarah on 17-11-14

Exceptionally good fantasy

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

Reviewed: 25-11-14

The voice of the reader seemed uncertain at first (though I bet recorded books aren't done sequentially) and didn't work with some of the humour in the early chapters, but his voice and accent are perfect and it just got better with each chapter.

The story is short but full of the interesting ideas which have characterised the series. The characters are sustained and developed well. Some series can become tedious potboilers and I tend to avoid anything that says it's the umpteenth book in a series because it's usually very dull & mechanical. I could point to the initially excellent 'Foreigner' series by Cherryh which has become a weary soap opera.

I also enjoyed the research behind the text, which lifts it out of the basic level of most fantasy novels. It's a genre which can get lazy and use invention too easily, IMO. But these books have a solid basis in their ideas and sense of place which makes the incongruity quite gripping and add to the fun.

Looking forward to the next one - some good teasers in the text!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Norman Conquest

  • The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England
  • By: Marc Morris
  • Narrated by: Frazer Douglas
  • Length: 18 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 103
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 98
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 95

An upstart French duke who sets out to conquer the most powerful and unified kingdom in Christendom. An invasion force on a scale not seen since the days of the Romans. One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ever fought.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Great story, poor reading

  • By Matthew on 21-11-14

Great book, but annoying mispronunciations

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

Reviewed: 25-05-14

The whole thing is great read, especially if you are interested in this era and the effects of conquest on medieval England. It's scholarly, thoughtful and shows a good grasp of sources.

The only really irritating bit was the frequent mispronunciations by the narrator, using neither modern names nor trying to guess how words were pronounced at the time, but rather getting both wrong all by himself. A bit more research would've helped, given that these particular audiobook producers don't seem to have any quality control on such things.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Immanuel Kant

  • The Giants of Philosophy
  • By: A. J. Mandt
  • Narrated by: Charlton Heston
  • Length: 2 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    2.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 3

Immanuel Kant's "transcendental" philosophy transcends the question of "what" we know to ask "how" we know it. Before Kant, philosophers had debated for centuries whether knowledge is derived from experience or reason. Kant says that both views are partly right and partly wrong, that they share the same error; both believe that the mind and the world, reason and nature, are separated from one another.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Completely ruined by hopeless choice of narrator

  • By Heather on 05-01-14

Completely ruined by hopeless choice of narrator

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

Reviewed: 05-01-14

This was one I just couldn't stomach. The 'cold dead hand' of the late Charlton Heston completely drains any sense from the narrative and makes it impossible to concentrate. I'd really been looking forward to this book, but Heston obviously read it out on autopilot as if he were reading a phone book, without any sense of what he was doing.

It's a classic example of how a really lousy choice of narrator can spoil an audiobook.

I shall wait for a better version one day. The material deserves better than this.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Modern Scholar

  • A History of the English Language
  • By: Prof. Michael Drout
  • Narrated by: Prof. Michael Drout
  • Length: 8 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 12

Professor Drout addresses the foundation of language and its connection to specific portions of the brain. The components of language are explained in easy-to-understand terms and the progression of the language from Germanic to Old, Middle, and Modern English is fully illustrated - including such revolutionary language upheavals as those brought about by the Norman Conquest and the Great Vowel Shift.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Well up to this speaker's high standard - enjoy!

  • By Heather on 05-01-14

Well up to this speaker's high standard - enjoy!

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

Reviewed: 05-01-14

Ignore the tedious intro by the old buffer. It's not a fair representation of the recording itself, which is very good indeed. I can't find a way to skip the intro, but the main lectures are well worth waiting for!

The lecturer's heavy American accent is hard to take at first, but the scholarship draws you in. Drout is so besotted with his subject that you will be taken to a new level of understanding, even if you're not a specialist and this is new for you. The material is uncompromisingly academic - he pulls no punches when it comes to some complex linguistic material - but the way in which it is presented is so enthusiastic and informal that it's like listening to a very intelligent friend who just happens to be obsessed with the English language and its development.

Tolkein fans will soon realise that they have a kindred spirit in Dr Drout. His lectures on fantasy and science fiction extends this and his Anglo Saxon audio lectures are also great and all on Audible.

In this cynical and shallow world, it's lovely to come across real academic depth matched with sheer enthusiasm for the subject. If this blend appeals to you too, prepare for some serious fun!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
    
    
        By:
        












    





    





    
        
            
            
                
            
        
        Tony Judt
    
    


    
    
        Narrated by:
        












    





    





    
        
            
            
                
            
        
        Ralph Cosham
    
    


    
    Length: 43 hrs and 1 min
    314 ratings
    Overall 4.4
  • Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

  • By: Tony Judt
  • Narrated by: Ralph Cosham
  • Length: 43 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 314
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 231
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 229

Almost a decade in the making, this much-anticipated grand history of postwar Europe from one of the world’s most esteemed historians and intellectuals is a singular achievement. Postwar is the first modern history that covers all of Europe, both east and west, drawing on research in six languages to sweep readers through 34 nations and 60 years of political and cultural change—all in one integrated, enthralling narrative.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A stunning piece of synthesis

  • By Judy Corstjens on 19-08-14

Brilliant history - explains our modern obsessions

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

Reviewed: 01-07-13

The history is eyewitness and documented, fresh as if it were yesterday. It is beautifully written and read with no intrusive accents, mispronunciations or odd speech mannerisms.

This book explains the history I was vaguely aware of as a child growing up in the 1950s and 60s and the politics which affected my life in the 1970s. It also serves to explain our modern British obsession about Europe in terms of post war economics and the influence of the USA and Soviet Union.

If you've ever wondered why Europe is the way it is now and what problems had their roots in the postwar period, this book will help you understand. It covers the politics and economics, the beliefs and prejudices, the movement of peoples in the war damaged continent and why the borders ended up where they are. This period is the root of many of our most difficult relationships with our continental neighbours and this book explains them with clarity.

One of the single most gripping non fiction books I've ever bought. Great value for anyone with an interest in our country and its government, the collapse or our industries and the changes to our railways.

Feed your head!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Captive Queen

  • By: Alison Weir
  • Narrated by: Adjoa Andoh
  • Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 21
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9

It is the year 1152, and a beautiful woman of 30, attended by only a small armed escort, is riding like the wind southwards through what is now France, leaving behind her crown, her two young daughters and a shattered marriage to Louis of France, who had been more like a monk than a king, and certainly not much of a lover. This woman is Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, and her sole purpose now is to return to her vast duchy and marry the man she loves, Henry Plantagenet.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Passes the time...

  • By Heather on 10-11-12

Passes the time...

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-11-12

It's OK, not an intolerable read if you're busy in the garden or to accompany a long walk, but Weir's factual history is much more interesting and surprisingly, much better written. I don't think her fiction works because she's clearly more at home in non-fictional history than novels. Her dialogue is clunky and the descriptions sound awkward and contrived. The sex scenes are dire - definitely a candidate for the Bad Sex award in fiction!



Her non fiction books on Queen Isabella and Katherine Swinford are great reads and I thoroughly enjoyed them - she's one of my favourite historians - but I think she should leave historical fiction to Hilary Mantel. Try one of her proper histories intead!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful