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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-12-14

Wonderful surprise

Oh! Wow!

I listened to this as a way to whittle away at the time before an appointment radio programme. I know Pullman's works, though I've not read them for a while (I must remedy that in the near future), and I lurve Bill Nighy.

When the pennies dropped into place it was a real 'oh!' moment, and I stopped knitting and started grinning (it's okay, no-one was watching...).

A thoroughly enjoyable read, and I'll be listening to it again and again.

Thank you Audible, this was an extremely pleasant treat!

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-10-14

Charming childhood adventure on the high seas

It is with great pleasure that I am revisiting the Swallows and Amazons series I first enjoyed as a child.

This, the third in the series, is the first with any sense of real peril, though of course the bad things only happen to the secondary characters. Susan is dependable and sensible as expected (oh to be excited by the gift of a first aid box as a Christmas Present), and all the characters remain true to form.

I liked the addition of extra characters of Peter Duck and Bill, and an actual sea voyage and buried pirate treasure! Wonderful stuff!

Of course the adult me wonders slightly at the plot - would the Swallow's crew's mother really have let them disappear with Captain Flint and the Amazons for weeks on end without knowing where in the world they'd gone? Would the children really have escaped unharmed from the happenings on the island?

But then I remember it's a book written for children from a completely different time, and allow my sense of disbelief to settle back into its state of suspension.

My top tips for maximum enjoyment of this series - read them in order, and don't overthink them!

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-10-14

A Strange Book Indeed

I was intrigued by the premise of this book: a missionary going to a strange new place to live with his flock and bring them the word of God, whilst maintaining a relationship with his wife who is only reachable via a form of email with no pictures.

It's difficult knowing what to write without giving away any plot. There *is* plot, but it's tenuous, and what there is is slightly fantastic to say the least. And by that I mean fantasy-like, rather than brilliant.

The team of people at the USIC base seem jaded and gelded. The happenings around Bea feel too far fetched to happen so fast. The way Peter and Bea react to each other's messages seems a little unconvincing.

I thought the narrator did a very competent job. I found him believable as Peter and felt he gave him all the colour and personality allowed for in the book. As for his pronunciations, bravo that man! I have no idea how they compare to the spellings in the text (a drawback of audio over a paperback), but they sounded convincing to me!

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-10-14

Gone Girl? Good riddance?

Hmm. The narrators were very good. As is the writing. The style is interesting, though not my usual fodder - his story, her story, his story, her story. Which helps to build a sense of suspense and a wish to hear more.

My biggest problem is that the main characters are unlikeable in the extreme - I found them more and more repugnant the further into the story I was.

About a third of the way through I was on the point of giving up. It was only due to a colleague telling me the storyline and my reading of a web based summary that kept me going! Knowing the outcome I was intrigued by how the author was going to get there. If it wasn't for that I'd have moved on and left this one alone.

Flynn has been very clever here; there is not a single loose end, they are all tied down pat. I agree with other reviewers that the amount of profanity is unnecessary; it has a shock value to start with but then it just gets irritating and feels pretentious.

I won't be returning to this book, nor will I see the film. The predominating feeling upon finishing this novel is a deep sympathy for the policewoman.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 30-09-14

Breathtaking

I've just finished listening to this book and wanted to write this review straight away.

I love this story. It's intricate, compelling, well put together and beautifully narrated. I was completely drawn into the lives of the people under the dome, feeling hate and fear for the 'bad' characters, and love, sympathy and hope for the 'good' ones.
There is a large amount of stereotyping going on here - small town America, Southern-style, with country hicks, pompous politicians, outsiders, the army.... But it all works so well.

'Under the Dome' bears more than a passing resemblance to Golding's 'Lord of the Flies', certainly in the behaviour of some of the more unsavoury characters. I'd certainly not recommend listening whilst eating; some plot lines are not for the squeamish. And if you happen to have asthma, a cold, or any other breath-shortening/wheeziness-inducing issue, just make sure you have your medication to hand!

This was a long listen but I found it hard to put down. A special word of thanks for the incredible narrator, Raul Esparza. His work is magnificent! The voices he gave Second Selectman Rennie and Junior will stay with me for a long time.

I hope that you enjoy this book as much as I have. I know I'll be coming back to it again and again.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-04-14

Beautifully written, but difficult characters

I bought this book to listen to as soon as I'd finished The Persimmon Tree, which I adored.

This book takes up Nick Duncan's story many years after the end of The Pesimmon Tree. I was immediately saddened to learn of the death of one of the characters, and was shocked by how strident another had become. While the story was just as well written as previously, and the narrator again was magnificent, I am left with a feeling of ambivalence. The innocence of the first book, in marked contrast to the war and atrocities it was set around, has been thoroughly and rudely ripped away in this book.

One part of the story which I particularly liked was Anna and Nick's visit to Japan. The style of this section was much more akin to The Persimmon Tree.

But sadly, the overall feeling I am left with at the end of this book is a distaste for all three of the main characters. Such a shame.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-03-14

Touching love story

This is an intimate, intricate story which I will return to many times in the future. The characters are vividly drawn and the storyline shows real humanity and humility. Seeing how war touches certain characters and how they react to it made me angry, sad - desperately sad, hopeful, touched, and, in the end, inspired.

The book is long, with lots of narrative and dialogue, yet it never feels forced. It flows beautifully. Each time the story moves from one place to another I was left bereft, wondering what was going to happen next in the previous storyline, before being very quickly swept up in a new or delighting in a continuance of a previous thread like I was greeting an old friend.

This is the first novel I have read/listened to by Bryce Courtenay but I will be looking out for him again. I remain moved by his writing.

Humphrey Bower is a masterful narrator with a wonderful array of voices to bring each character to life. Again, I will be looking for more novels narrated by him.

I found it hard knowing I was drawing near to the close of this story and I know I will be thinking about it for a very long time.

I hope that you love this story as much as I do, and that you are left feeling moved. I feel my life is richer for having experienced this story.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-03-14

Scandi crime - gritty and intelligent

Would you consider the audio edition of Guilt to be better than the print version?

No. I believe different formats each have their own characteristics. Having said that, I don't actually have the print version.

One advantage for me of the audio edition is that I don't trip over the pronunciations of the unfamiliar names. The disadvantage being that I have no idea how to spell them!

What other book might you compare Guilt to, and why?

This is the fourth 'Department Q' series novel and I've listened to all the others too. Obviously this one compares to the preceding three. In addition, I had a niggling feeling most of the way through this book that it's rather too similar in concept to 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' - disadvantaged girl has bad start in life and is badly let down by authority figures who should actually be helping her.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

I enjoyed the whole book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes. Very close to the end the doctor is told to introduce himself properly to the lady next to him. The realisation of the lady's identity I found particularly moving. Not from the narrative, but from what I as the reader could infer and emote from all I'd learned before.
Apologies, that sounds rather cryptic but I don't want to give anything away!

Any additional comments?

One of the aspects I am drawn to with this series is that each book has its own case, completed within the book. But running through all the books is the aftermath and continuation of a different case which happened prior to the start of the first book. I want to keep reading the books so I find out how it resolves!

I'm also a little bit in love with the quirkiness of the three main characters, Mørk, Assad and Rose, as well as the secondary characters of Mørk's household, ex-wife, and girlfriend.

I enjoy the scandi crime genre and the fact that the author is very clever in the way he weaves the various elements of the story together.

Just one final point - I'd strongly recommend you read this series in order. It'll make far more sense if you do.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-01-14

Nostalgic children's adventures

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Oh yes, it's a charming story well narrated.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Swallows and Amazons?

I can't say the most memorable one as I don't wish to give part of the story away! But Captain Flint the retired pirate was great, especially after peace and war, and I did enjoy Able Seaman Titty's fabulous feat - I applauded her as much as the others did.

What does Gareth Armstrong bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Having read this series of books as a child I gave all the characters my own voice. It wasn't until hearing this audiobook that I thought of course, the Amazons are bound to have accents from that region!

The flip side of that though was my thought that if Mrs Walker grew up in Australia, surely she'd have an Australian accent rather than a Home Counties one?

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Captain Flint's apology, or rather John's reaction to it.

Any additional comments?

It was with trepidation that I got this book and started listening to it. This was a very much loved series of books in my childhood and I've been disappointed several times as an adult reader going back to cherished books. I needn't have feared though. A slow start until I got used to the narrator, followed by a long knitting/audiobook session had me falling back in love with this book. It's funny isn't it: as an adult with a different perspective on the world, I had a new level of appreciation of certain events within the story and a different reaction to them. As a child this book was full-on drama action and adventure. As an adult it was much more gentle, whilst appreciating that the young characters were indeed experiencing full-on drama, action and adventure! I was also better able to put the story into context from the time it was set. As a child I just thought it was a story about a set of children a long time ago. Listening now, knowing it was set in 1929 (if I recall correctly), places it at a set moment in time.I did so enjoy going back into Ransome's world and I will savour each story again. My sister and I were given the books over a few years for birthday and Christmas presents from one particular relative. It worked out at about four books a year. I'll aim to listen to them in about the same time frame so as to get maximum enjoyment again.If you choose this book I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy listening!

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-01-14

Jolly good romp

What made the experience of listening to Raising Steam the most enjoyable?

This is pure Pratchett genius. The characters are well drawn and the storyline cracks on as fast as good old Iron Girder herself. Being the fortieth Discworld novel it's a delight to see so many well known and loved characters from previous stories, but in true Discworld style you don't need any prior experience of the series to keep up.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Raising Steam?

Ah, there are so many. Without wishing to spoil anything I'll leave it at this: the kitten treatment, the railway children and the bridge crossing.

Have you listened to any of Stephen Briggs’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I've listened to four other books, all Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs. I used to think he read too quickly, but I'm not sure if he's slowed down or if I've just got used to his style. I've read many Pratchett books in hard copy so occasionally he gives a character a voice which is different to the voice I have given the same character... But that's fine, and it's just a momentary 'oh, okay', rather than a jarring note which impedes enjoyment of the story.I would now find it rather odd listening to a Discword novel which wasn't read by Briggs!

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I always have a reaction to Pratchett books! Yes, this one had me laughing out loud, and grinning like a maniac in various places. I particularly liked his borrowing of Dylan Thomas's 'motif', if you like, of place naming in one particular instance.

Any additional comments?

This is yet another jolly good romp around various parts of the Discworld and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with a sense of the absurd about human life. Or troll, dwarf, goblin, or indeed any other form of non-human life. Or non-life. Enjoy!

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