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Stephanie Jane

a caravan somewhere in Europe
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  • Old Loves Die Hard

  • A Mac Faraday Mystery
  • By: Lauren Carr
  • Narrated by: James C. Lewis
  • Length: 7 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3

In Old Loves Die Hard, Lauren Carr continues the rags-to-riches story of Mac Faraday, an underpaid homicide detective who inherits 270 million dollars and an estate on Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Mac is settling nicely into his new life at Spencer Manor when his ex-wife Christine shows up-and she wants him back! Before Mac can send her packing, Christine and her estranged lover are murdered in Mac's private penthouse suite at the Spencer Inn, the five-star resort built by his ancestors.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A satisfying mystery

  • By Stephanie Jane on 10-05-17

A satisfying mystery

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

Reviewed: 10-05-17

I have enjoyed spending several hours over the past week walking around my town even though I have actually been thousands of miles away in my head. It's what I love most about listening to a good audiobook - exercise without realising it! Old Loves Die Hard is the second in Lauren Carr's Mac Faraday mysteries series, but I was able to fully enjoy the story without having read the first instalment because concise recaps fill in the gaps. Mac is now ridiculously rich after an unexpected inheritance, but still wants to spend his life solving local crime of which there is rather a lot in Spencer.

Carr introduces us to a large cast and, although she has a good eye for characters, I wasn't always immediately able to remember who was who in the early chapters. I thought that James Lewis did a good job of the narration though which helped immensely. His creation of numerous different voices meant that, once the book was underway, I could often tell who was speaking without being told. I was surprised by how much Mac and Archie were able to be involved in the police case despite being civilians themselves. Enough money opens many doors! In this aspect I was reminded of vintage British mysteries such as Agatha Christie novels where amateur sleuths tend to be the most adept. Carr's emphasis on the affluence and old money of the Washington communities also helped reinforce this vibe.

The mystery itself is intricately plotted and ultimately satisfying to unravel. A good level of concentration is needed throughout the story and I think I did miss some of the clues. I had worked out some elements but not others so felt both pleased with myself and surprised at the end.

  • The Rape of Nanking

  • By: Iris Chang
  • Narrated by: Anna Fields
  • Length: 8 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 70
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 61
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 59

In December 1937, in the capital of China, one of the most brutal massacres in the long annals of wartime barbarity occurred. The Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking and within weeks not only looted and burned the defenseless city but systematically raped, tortured and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. Amazingly, the story of this atrocity- one of the worst in world history- continues to be denied by the Japanese government.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Lest we forget

  • By Labrador with class on 10-04-17

A harrowing listen

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

Reviewed: 16-01-15

Although not completely unaware of the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s, I knew very little of the details or the scale of this war. Therefore, when I saw Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking on Audible, I thought the book would help to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge. It most certainly does.

The Rape of Nanking is not a book to be taken lightly and is eight hours listening to despicably savage and brutal inhumanity on a truly incredible scale. Anna Fields does an excellent job of the narration and Chang's research was obviously lengthy and thorough to have uncovered such a wealth of detail. I'm sure so much exposure to this level of horror would have turned her mind, even without the harassment she apparently suffered after her book was published.

For me, her most frightening findings are that the events at Nanking, while being perhaps on the largest scale the world has ever seen, are by no means an exclusive result of Japanese culture - a frequent argument I've heard about other WW2 Japanese atrocities. Similar crimes are an all too human failing, as is our ability to remain at a distance and watch rather than instinctively leaping in to protect the victims. I was disappointed but unsurprised by the fact of post-war political shenanigans allowing Japan's government to essentially get away with their actions. Such is the power of money and political paranoia.

I did find it a little odd than the few 'unsung heroes' of Nanking presented by Chang were all white Europeans and Americans. Surely some Chinese must have shown similar bravery? Or perhaps such heroes died before their stories were discovered. I understand that Chang wrote for an American audience, but that gives the book an odd Colonial slant that I found hard to reconcile with her earlier points. Also, I thought the repeated attempts to calculate total numbers were unnecessary and removed me as a listener from the immediacy of the rest of the work. My mind was blown by the initial discussions of between quarter and half a million dead in less than two months. Returning to this numbed me rather than increasing my outrage as presumably was the point.
The Rape of Nanking is a tricky book to evaluate as its subject matter is so horrific and emotive. That it is also still controversial is a bizarre twist. I appreciate Chang's efforts to spread knowledge and open discussions about Nanking. In this, she certainly achieved her aims. However, this is not the strongest written history and, at times, her inexperience shows through. I am sure by now, nearly 20 years later, other historians have taken up her challenge and further titles are out there. I'm not sure that I will be able to cope with returning to the horror in the near future though.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Ark Before Noah

  • Decoding the Story of the Flood
  • By: Dr Irving Finkel
  • Narrated by: Dr Irving Finkel
  • Length: 9 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 104
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 96
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 97

In The Ark Before Noah, British Museum expert Dr Irving Finkel reveals how decoding the symbols on a 4,000 year old piece of clay enable a radical new interpretation of the Noah's Ark myth. A world authority on the period, Dr Finkel's enthralling real-life detective story began with a most remarkable event at the British Museum - the arrival one day in 2008 of a single, modest-sized Babylonian cuneiform tablet - the palm-sized clay rectangles on which our ancestors created the first documents.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • What a delightful book!

  • By Sydney on 04-06-14

Fascinating history

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

Reviewed: 16-01-15

I downloaded The Ark Before Noah from Audible in a version which is read by the author, Dr Irving Finkel. For the first few minutes, I found his unpolished narrating style awkward to listen to and wondered if I had made a mistake. However, once his wonderful enthusiasm began to shine through, I was hooked. Finkel discusses his academic life, British Museum career and fabulous fairly-recent discovery of an ancient clay tablet containing details concerning the story of the ark and the flood. He also introduces us to the earliest origins of the story - waaay before the Hebrew Bible - and collects together other tablets with parts of the famous tale and shows how it evolved over some 4000 years into what we know today.
I was particularly fascinated by the comprehensive comparisons of the different tablets and their meshing story versions. As I have only heard the heroes' names, I am not going to attempt to spell them, but it had not previously occurred to me that Noah wasn't always called Noah! The earliest flood version wasn't occasioned by sin either - humans had simply become too noisy for the Gods to endure! Finkel goes into immense detail in his tablet comparions. He examines ark building techniques, mountain landing sites, and intricacies of language in a way that could be too in depth for less nerdy souls. I appreciated his dry humour throughout but am unsure whether this would come across via the printed page. This purely aural version obviously didn't contain images though so I think now a trip to the British Museum is called for so I can see the Ark tablet and Babylonian Map tablet 'in the flesh'. I am so intrigued by their existence that I might visit even if it's not raining

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Walking Home

  • My Family and Other Rambles
  • By: Clare Balding
  • Narrated by: Clare Balding
  • Length: 8 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 280
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 252
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 250

In Clare Balding's family, walking just took too long - she galloped through the countryside and she galloped through life. Then, in 1999, Clare took a call from a BBC producer looking for a presenter for a new radio series. "Do you walk?" she asked. "Well, I walk the dog...." That series, Ramblings, is still going strong - and Clare's caught the walking bug. Now she wants her family to share some of that pleasure. Her and her brother Andrew are determined to conquer the Wayfarer's Walk, a 71-mile route. What could possibly go wrong?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I felt like I knew Clare as a friend

  • By Heidi on 31-10-14

Inspiring walks but a bit too rambly a book

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

Reviewed: 16-01-15

I enjoyed the audio version of Clare Balding's My Animals and Other Family back in the summer and so have been looking forward to downloading her newest book, Walking Home. I got this one on audio as well. Balding reads her own words and is a very professional narrator. The memoir is based around Ramblings, the Radio 4 series that Balding has presented for many series. I don't think I've ever actually heard an episode. I go through stages of being a Radio 4 listener and my most recent phase must have been over a decade ago. However, I got the gist pretty quickly - Balding goes on walks all around the UK and chats with Interesting People. I particularly enjoyed hearing her talk about her experiences making the programme and the places she has walked. Perhaps someone should have had a quiet word about attempting mimicry and accents though - most really didn't work for me. I listened to practically every word through headphones whilst walking around Mojacar in Spain - there's some fab walks here, Clare! - so I felt particularly inspired. Not having a convenient notepad and pen was an error though. I can now only remember the names of St Oswald's Way in Northumberland and the Wayfarer's Walk near her family home as ones we really must do too! Maybe there is an index in the printed book edition? Balding's attempts to get her family to do various sections of the Wayfarer's are humorous to listen to and I recognised several situations in which Dave and I have also found ourselves - what do you mean it's flooded? How flooded?!
Balding does also ramble in the other meaning of frequently going off topic and I did find this irritating at times. Her other subjects, including a long section on the London Olympics, are probably interesting in their own right, but when I was being inspired by walking tales, the sudden veers away were distracting.

  • Lagoon

  • By: Nnedi Okorafor
  • Narrated by: Adjoa Andoh, Ben Onwukwe
  • Length: 10 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 55
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 52
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 52

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria's legendary mega-city, they're more alone than they've ever been before. But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Decent

  • By Aleisha on 14-05-15

Inventive and magical science fiction

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

Reviewed: 16-01-15

I was first attracted to Lagoon on Audible by the dramatic cover art which incorporates a myriad of sea creatures into the title word. The book is expertly narrated by Adjoa Andoh and Ben Onwukwe who between them portray many Lagos residents, a smattering of aliens, and also several magical beings from Nigerian folklore. From her initial chapter, spoken as a swordfish who is vandalising an oil pipeline, Okorafor doesn't let up for a minute. The science fiction storyline of alien invasion is fairly standard, but her inventiveness and understanding of human nature makes Lagoon a cut above the norm. I could easily visualise each location from their detailed descriptions and would love for it to be possible to visit that beautiful underwater world! There are some fabulously memorable characters populating this frightened yet vibrant Lagos. Father Oke is great and so true! I sympathised with poor overlooked Philo and even Adaora's husband Chris is stuck in an all too understandable predicament. Plus I don't think I've ever felt sorry for a tarantula before! I did initially have trouble keeping up with the pidgin english, but could generally work out enough to get the gist without having to replay the sentences. The environmentalism and the message of change are nicely done without being preachy and I liked the unusual ending. Nice touch.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Collectors

  • By: Philip Pullman
  • Narrated by: Bill Nighy
  • Length: 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,790
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,488
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,502

"But the thing is," said Horley, "they didn’t know each other at all. Never heard of each other. It wasn’t about the makers. Only about the works." On a dark winter's night in 1970, Horley and Grinstead huddle for warmth in the Senior Common Room of a college in Oxford. Conversation turns to the two impressive works of art that Horley has recently added to his collection....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderfully dark story engagingly read

  • By Alexander Patterson on 12-09-15

Nice Christmas present!

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

Reviewed: 16-01-15


The Collectors in an audio version read by Bill Nighy was Audible' Christmas gift to its members this year and I enjoyed Nighy's narration of the tale. It is a short story at only just over thirty minutes so there isn't much time for character development, but the language Pullman uses means that we do get amazingly detailed portrayals of people and places. His expert use of few words, perfectly chosen, is practically a masterclass! The suspense builds nicely and I liked the knowing nod to Lyra's alternate universe. The ending is expectedly bizarre for a seasonal horror tale, but I didn't really buy into it, hence the drop in stars. However a fun listen all the same. Thank you & Merry Christmas Audible!

A Monster Calls cover art
  • A Monster Calls

  • By: Patrick Ness
  • Narrated by: Jason Isaacs
  • Length: 3 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 262
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 227
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 228

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming.... This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Beautiful, touching and poignant.

  • By @Scattered_Laura on 09-07-12

Incredibly intense and moving

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

Reviewed: 16-01-15

I've had a different Patrick Ness book on my Goodreads To Be Read list for ages, but recently spotted A Monster Calls as part of an Audible two-for-one offer so ended up buying it first. A relatively short audio book at just under four hours, I listened to it in two chunks whilst walking around Mojacar in Spain. Had I known what an amazing listen it was going to be, I think I would have arranged to complete the whole tale in a single walk! I understand that the printed version has some excellent illustrations which are obviously not included in the audio, but, for me, Jason Isaacs' superb narration more than compensated. His voice and style are perfect.
Patrick Ness has an uncannily accurate understanding of the guilt and anguish of slow bereavement. His story is told through the eyes of a teenage boy yet Connor's emotions are universal and not restricted to someone of his age. I found myself identifying with his anger and dread despite having been more than twenty years older when going through a similar experience. Although intended for a younger audience, I think A Monster Calls would be a powerful listen for most adults as well. Connor's grandmother's tight-lipped reactions as she copes with both her grandson and her daughter are heartrending.
The portrayal of the tree is fantastic in all senses of the word and I loved the device of the four stories, both their non-traditional fairytale quality and Connor's contemporary retorts to them. Stories Are Important! I was surprised by how much I was affected by this story. It was a struggle to keep my tears at bay during the final chapters and I have been thinking back over it in the days since finishing. I now have a clearer view of my own experience and, thanks to that fourth story, an appreciation that it's not just me who has felt that way.
A Monster Calls is a brilliant audio book and I believe any others I listen to in 2015 will be have to be incredible to match its intensity.

  • The Unknown Terrorist

  • By: Richard Flanagan
  • Narrated by: Humphrey Bower
  • Length: 9 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 29

What would you do if you turned on the television and saw you were the most wanted terrorist in Australia? Gina Davies is about to find out. From the author of the international bestsellers The Sound of One Hand Clapping and Gould's Book of Fish comes a fast-paced thriller that paints a devastating picture of contemporary Australia. Five days, three unexploded bombs, and every truth of your life turned into a lie. What would you do?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Unknown Terrorist

  • By Barbara on 30-06-09

Well read but falls between two stools

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

Reviewed: 17-06-14

I haven't read any Richard Flanagan before so cannot compare his writing style in The Unknown Terrorist to other works. I suspect others would be more my cup of tea though.
The Unknown Terrorist is a fairly standard thriller which employs the mass media and an unscrupulous journalist as its evil. Our supposed heroine, Gina, also named throughout as The Doll, is hounded to madness over the period of just a few days by drummed up hysteria and the cynical machinations of anonymous powerful men in suits.
I was interested in the descriptions of Sydney, having never been to Australia. However, Flanagan's vision of the city is hardly tourist friendly! I liked his frequent mentions of the various immigrant populations, showing a country made up of many layers of cultures, much like Britain, and the way this was set against rampant hostility towards Muslims was also sadly familiar as this attitude is also widespread over here. The main characters never leapt from the page for me though which made it difficult for me to really invest in their story.
I'm not sure this book had decided what it wanted to be. It doesn't have the pace-at-all-costs approach of slick American thrillers, but the occasions where it tries for literary fiction fail too because of their isolation. My audio version was nicely narrated and passed a week of bus journeys, but I had hoped for a deeper novel and was ultimately a bit disappointed.

  • Tinder

  • By: Sally Gardner
  • Narrated by: Robert Madge
  • Length: 4 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 33
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 31
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 31

A young soldier, a captive princess, witches, wolves and Death walk hand in hand in Costa Award winner Sally Gardner's exquisitely written new novel inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Tinderbox. Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, but when he defies Death he walks a dangerous path. A half beast half man gives him shoes and dice which will lead him deep into a web of dark magic and mystery. He meets the beautiful Safire - pure of heart and spirit, the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wow, start to finish in one night. Excellent!

  • By Linda-Ann Forrester on 25-04-14

Not quite magical enough

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

Reviewed: 03-06-14

I'm not quite sure why, but Tinder didn't enthrall me in the way I hoped it would. I enjoy fairytales by modern authors such as Neil Gaiman but felt this one lacked a truly magical spark. There are a number of unexpected flashbacks which made the story a bit tricky to follow on audio as if I missed a few seconds, I wasn't always able to pick the story up again easily.
Based on The Tinderbox tale by Hans Christian Andersen, Sally Gardner has cleverly worked the trauma of child soldiers and civil war into her story and set in in the period of the 30 Years War about which I know precious little but am now intrigued to research. She tells us a little about her influence and inspiration after the tale which was interesting to hear.
Robert Madge does a good job of the narration and his voice fits how I imagine Otto would sound. The story trips along at a good pace with frequent fantastical imagery, but some descriptions are overly repeated which I found annoying. For example, the 'pointless quill' of a lawyer is a great visual phrase, but I didn't need it hammered home so many times in quick succession.
As is typical of fairytales, the characters are not particularly well developed, there are goodies and baddies a plenty and they tend to stick to type. I did like the Lady of the Nail and the hotel keeper is fun.
Reading other reviews, I have discovered the printed book is illustrated by David Roberts which adds greatly to the atmosphere of the tale. Perhaps for Tinder, this would have been the better option, however I don't think I will be buying a second version to find out.

  • Orlando

  • By: Virginia Woolf
  • Narrated by: Clare Higgins
  • Length: 8 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 124
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 87
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 88

Fantasy, love and an exuberant celebration of English life and literature, Orlando is a uniquely entertaining story. Originally conceived by Virginia Woolf as a playful tribute to the family of her friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West, Orlando's central character, a fictional embodiment of Sackville-West, changes sex from a man to a woman and lives throughout the centuries, whilst meeting historical figures of English literature.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An imaginative classic...

  • By Nicholas on 18-01-09

Deserved classic

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

Reviewed: 23-05-14

I deliberately didn't read up about Orlando before I started listening to my Audible download because I didn't want to be be distracted by trying to fit facts of Woolf's life with Vita Sackville-West into whatever the story would bring. I think I made the right decision - and probably wouldn't have got the references anyway!
Orlando is written as the biography of an Elizabethan boy who ages only twenty-odd years while the rest of the world advances by several hundred years. Oh, and Orlando also becomes a woman. As you do.

I absolutely adored Woolf's descriptions of Elizabethan England. Her prose when she allows it to run away with her is sublime and many times I felt as if I were really there. My audio was narrated by Clare Higgins who does a fantastic job throughout, especially during such passages. Other highlights for me were the encroachment of the damp and the sudden sweep of the Victorians. However, I wasn't convinced by the Turkish Gypsy episodes and felt they lacked the same immediacy, and the writing seemed to lose structure towards the very end, probably deliberately, but I thought this made the conclusions tough to follow.

Recurring characters made it seem perfectly natural that Orlando aged so slowly and the story never came across as contrived which, having just reread my two line synopsis, is pretty amazing! The poet Nicholas Greene and his Groundhog Day pronouncements showed just how far people haven't come in so many years. And the same is true of Orlando's androgynous outlook which Woolf uses to great effect to show the restrictions placed on women by societies that revere and patronise concurrently.

I enjoyed listening to Orlando and would even wish that it had been longer. There is a lot of humour, which I hadn't expected, and it didn't seem to matter that I didn't recognise the real people behind many of the characters. The story can be appreciated on its own terms with further layers of understanding added by Googling later.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful