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Catriona

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Definitely not another Georgette Heyer

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

Reviewed: 16-03-18

I don’t know why I allow myself to be persuaded when people liken an author to Georgette Heyer. Where her characters are interesting and witty these felt one dimensional. The humour seemed forced. There were a number of scenes which were intended to be funny, but didn’t raise a smile.

It could have been very interesting - the problems a widow with no right to money of her own can face and a story of later love, but my interest wasn’t engaged. I grew bored with lengthy conversations. Some characters were introduced, but not really developed- the companion and Mr Martin for example seemed interesting, but dropped out of sight. I was in any event left puzzled by him. He had been a fellow student of Lord Ryde’s, but, where Ryde is in his 40s, he is described at one point as a young man. Although they are friends he never addresses Ryde by name.

The mystery seemed tacked on and was highly unlikel. As someone asks during the revelations, did no-one make enquiries at the time, rather than leaping to unlikely assumptions?

The narrator adopts a very nasal voice for all main characters, which I found quite jarring.

of its time

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

Reviewed: 07-03-18

Derek Jacobi's performance is very good and keeps the narrative flowing.
In relation to the story -it's difficult to comment on this. As any one does I had the general idea of a man who created another creature, but I didn't know the detail. As modern reader I am coming to this with my knowledge of how Mary Shelley's ideas and themes have been used many times since then, so can't perceive it with the freshness that her original readers would have had.

I found it difficult not to become intensely annoyed by Frankenstein. He represents himself as being highly clever, and indeed the narrator who starts and finishes the book is hugely impressed by him (I think he describes him as god-like). My view was that he completely lacked common sense and forethought, did not learn by his own mistakes had no empathy whatsoever for the creature he had created and seemed to be subject to breakdown rather than coping with the consequences of his actions.

The whole story is told in first person, so it is difficult to know what Shelley's own view of Frankenstein's character might be. I had assumed she was in sympathy with him, but whenever she gave the creature voice I came to doubt that.

She herself clearly brought in her own travel experience with the descriptions that characters give of their travels. (although she might have benefited from an atlas to check the distance between Orkney and Ireland).

It's not a book I would listen to again, but I found it interesting and worth hearing.

Gave up after six hours

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

Reviewed: 21-01-17

I might have stuck with this if it had been edited down to a more reasonable length as I did have some curiosity about the story, but I concluded I couldn't give it another sixteen hours of my life.

Narration - there is a narrator and people voicing the characters. They have clearly been recorded separately, as the person playing Cassandra always sounds as though she is in a large echoing room, when people she is talking are not. The actress does not appear to have read around her lines and generally is fairly unemotive. It is especially noticeable when she says something with no emotion, then the narrator says - "she said angrily/sleepily etc.."

It's not giving anything away to say Cassandra and her niece are the sole survivors from Earth. They are on a spaceship and the story picks up again a few days later. I can only think that their rescuers are particularly unempathetic, as a couple of times people with whom they have been interacting over those days apologise for not remembering that every one they know has just died.

There is very little background or world building. Cassandra herself, who is meant to be super intelligent, shows no curiosity at all about their rescuing race or their enemies. It is some five hours in that we are told a little about their family system, but that doesn't arise out of any enquiry by her. By the stage I stopped we have been told nothing at all about the enemy except their name. If I were the only one of two survivors I would be asking for a little more information. As a reader I also wanted more idea about the ship she was on - it has families on board, is that because it does long voyages; there is more than one place to eat - so are there hundreds of occupants; it apparently doesn't have a captain, as Cassandra's lover is the admiral, but also is in charge of the ship. I don't think the author has visualised things for herself. We are constantly told that Cassandra, at six foot one, is considered very small, yet there is no comment that she finds everything outsized for her use.

I found the characters quite one dimensional and was left wondering how William ever achieved the rank of admiral. His reaction to any problem seems to be to yell and swear at whoever brings him bad news.

All in all, if this had been cut down to a short novel the basic plot would have kept me going, but there was insufficient to keep me interested for its length.

1 person found this helpful

an early story?

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

Reviewed: 11-01-17

I was very pleased when it occurred to me to look for Charlotte MacLeod books on Audible and found several I'd not read together, with this whole series I'd not heard of, as they written under a different name.
My impression was that this might have been written earlier than the Kelling/Bittersohn series, as it didn't feel as strongly written, particularly initially. The first part is seen from Janet's view point and she keeps casting through her list of suspects with what felt like multiple choice questions on why they might be the killer. I've since looked at publication dates and see this was published a year after The Family Vault, so the difference in style may be deliberate.
Once the characters were set up I think the story became much more interesting and the stereotypes began to have a little depth.
The story line itself was somewhat absurd (particularly the red herring elements), but I think no-one is looking for gritty reality in this type of book. As with her other books there is plenty of wry humour and poking fun at characters.
The narrator was generally good, but was apparently trying to play Rhys with a Welsh accent. [I'm not sure if the character is Welsh or of Welsh heritage]. The accent was nearer to Irish, but overall,-odd. There were also one or two strange mispronunciations where the emphasis in a word was wrong eg proVENder.

I'll certainly try the next in the series

Left me longing for more

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

Reviewed: 15-10-16

I think I was expecting a light fairytale. Instead this was a well plotted novel with interesting characters and a plot which moved along well. Not only did the golem and the djinni have well rounded personalities, but there were also many subsidiary characters who were interesting and were properly fleshed out.
The narration was effective.
I will be looking for more by both the author and the narrator.

Accessible and entertaining

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

Reviewed: 29-03-16

Any audiobook which has me choosing to listen to it rather than Radio 4 when I'm driving must be good.

Initially the information given was more along the lines of what I'd already heard and half remembered or sometimes what seemed obvious once explained; but more and more the course took me into unfamiliar territory, yet remained easy to listen to.

It certainly also swept away some preconceptions that I had about Mayan and Aztec scripts which I gphad not particularly thought about, but had not realised were so developed.

I would say the one draw back is that although there is a PDF which can be downloaded with the book this must be the audio track of a video course. There are a number of references in later sections where it is clear Zender is showing something, for example he spoke of different styles of copying Mayan script, but we only have the final version in the pdf. This should should not put off those who have a general interest in the subject as he gives a good verbal description, but might be more of a problem to someone who is listening as part of a formal study programme. This is the only reason I've marked it down slightly.

6 people found this helpful

observational and melodramatic

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

Reviewed: 01-11-15

This book (or rather books as it's two combined) are an odd mixture. There is what I might describe as observational comedy. The author is quite wry about the intelligence of her protagonists and generally describes Emily as childlike.
She is also very frank about the precarious position of women in society. Emily is of good family, but has to earn her own keep in a genteel way. She is rather unimaginative, so is able to be quite cheerful about this, but when she receives a knock that will take away the one real comfort in her life she realises how dependent she is on knowing she has that comfort.
Another character in the first part of the book is under huge pressure to find a husband in a short space of time and her duty to her family to do so is emphasised in daily letters.
Both these women simply see this as their role in life, but it is clear the author is as not accepting.
The second section is quite patchy. It is melodramatic, but I don't feel the melodrama works well - I couldn't wallow in it and it seems to go by fits and starts, rather than building to a climax.

Interspersed with the melodrama there is more observation. Again a woman who felt the need to marry because of security, but it did not work for her. We are also shown the build up of tension as people find themselves drawn more and more into the path of wrongdoing, because they can't the face the thought of losing what they have currently and might have in future. It's clear that but for their situation they might have carried on as they were, in an unhappy marriage, but would probably have gone no further. In fact for a long time I was not certain which way Hester would go.
What leaves rather a bad taste, but would be indicative of the time the book was written is the attitude to Indians, though even there a couple of characters confess their difficulty in liking an Indian woman, as they know they should make an effort to do so.

The book is well narrated, with characters' voices coming through well.

1 person found this helpful

Well worth a listen

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

Reviewed: 29-06-15

The narrator is very good. His voices are varied, but not obtrusive. Even the women are well voiced.
The telling of the story by Shute, like many of books, is sparse, but he keeps the story going. His characters may have different views on what is right, but each wants to do the right thing.
As I was listening I was thinking what an interesting picture this gives off the early days of the war. Food is clearly not short yet - there are references to grapes; people go on from a dance or a pub for a late night supper; one pilot views fighters as being the safest posting. There is no sense of jingoism. Just the intention to get the job done. It was interesting then to realise this was written in 1940. I'm listening with the benefit of hindsight. Shute was living this.

1 person found this helpful

One to be avoided

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

Reviewed: 21-06-15

I'm astonished by all the positive reviews this book has. The heroine protests every so often about being called stupid, but there seems no other word to describe her. She withholds information from detectives, makes off with items from crime scenes and investigates murders for no good reason I could discern.
Some characters did have the potential to be interesting, but others are so strange I thought at first the author was being ironic - a private investigator who is likened to James Bond, was an RN commander and drives a Bentley. He is of course a love interest, but in a plot line out of the 1970s starts off distrusting our heroine before any crime takes place and for no reason that is ever given.
The author does apparently know book binding, but dumps paragraphs of information about the process into the story with no subtlety. She does not however know anything about foreign languages; the heroine, who speaks no German is able to read something which, from what we are told would be quite complex, in German armed with no more than a dictionary.
The only reason I would recommend this is that it's so bad you keep going to see what horror comes next

1 person found this helpful

Be aware this is only one lesson

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

Reviewed: 18-04-15

The first quarter of an hour is discussion of the learning process, followed by one lesson. That seemed to be effective; introducing a couple of phrases very intensively. It was only when I looked at the next stage that I realised I could have acquired units 1-5 together.

1 person found this helpful