Category Archives: Audio

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

I have read a few other Dickens novels; Little Dorrit, Bleak House and Great Expectations. When a friend mentioned she was listening to Hardy’s novels, I decided I should try to read (listen) this one and Our Mutual Friend (I am listening to this one now – 34 hours!).

Who hasn’t heard of Madame Defarge and her infamous knitting?

Here’s the blurb …

A Tale of Two Cities is Charles Dickens’s great historical novel, set against the violent upheaval of the French Revolution. The most famous and perhaps the most popular of his works, it compresses an event of immense complexity to the scale of a family history, with a cast of characters that includes a bloodthirsty ogress and an antihero as believably flawed as any in modern fiction. Though the least typical of the author’s novels, A Tale of Two Cities still underscores many of his enduring themes—imprisonment, injustice, social anarchy, resurrection, and the renunciation that fosters renewal.

The narrator was excellent (I think it was Martin Jarvis). His narration brought the story to life and I feel that Dicken’s novels are meant to be listened to. Towards the end, there were a lot of convenient coincidences (very Dickensian), but the characters were fabulous particularly Jerry Cruncher and Miss Pross. I love they way they talk – Jerry about his wife ‘flopping all over the place’. The story is full of action and has a bit of foreshadowing of how it’s all going to end. There’s a too good to be true heroine, handsome hero, a dedicated hand-maiden, two people who look alike (a very important plot point), a lovely older business man, and the blood-thirsty Madame Defarge. It all makes for an enjoyable (if occasionally tense) romp through the French Revolution.

A review.

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Filed under 4, Audio, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Recommended

The Murder Rule – Dervla McTiernan

The Murder Rule – Dervla McTiernan

I listened to a short story by Dervla McTiernan while driving to a holiday spot. So when this one popped up on Borrowbox I thought why not?

Here’s the blurb …

For fans of the compulsive psychological suspense of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a mother daughter story—one running from a horrible truth, and the other fighting to reveal it—that twists and turns in shocking ways, from the internationally bestselling author of The Scholar and The Ruin.

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

I listened to this one as well. It was good and unexpected (which is what I want in a crime novel). The characters were well-rounded and sympathetic (the ones that should be sympathetic). It had a nice structure with diary entries from Laura (from the past) and chapters from Hannah’s perspective.

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French Braid – Anne Tyler

French Braid – Anne Tyler

I have read a number of Anne Tyler novels. I like the domesticness and ordinariness of them.

The blurb …

When the kids are grown and Mercy Garrett gradually moves herself out of the family home, everyone determines not to notice.

Over at her studio, she wants space and silence. She won’t allow any family clutter. Not even their cat, Desmond.

Yet it is a clutter of untidy moments that forms the Garretts’ family life over the decades, whether that’s a painstaking Easter lunch or giving a child a ride, a fateful train journey or an unexpected homecoming.

And it all begins in 1959, with a family holiday to a cabin by a lake. It’s the only one the Garretts will ever take, but its effects will ripple through the generations.

This is a family saga, but it has an interesting structure. At the start there is a couple and one of them finds it strange that the other one thinks she sees her cousin at the train station but can’t be sure. How is it possible to not recognize your cousin? We then get the life of the Garretts from different time periods and different perspectives.

I find it difficult to separate my thoughts about the novel from my thoughts about the characters. And I didn’t really like Mercy (and when she took the cat, Desmond, to the animal shelter and then threw out all of his belongings I wanted to cry). I wasn’t a fan of Robin either, although, to be fair, I did warm to them both by the end.

This is a novel about an American family – with all of the rivalries and every day pettiness, but also the connections.

A review.

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Sweet Danger – Margery Allingham

Sweet Danger – Margery Allingham

I have joined Kate Davies’ Summer of Mystery Club and this is the first book. I listened to it (from Borrowbox)

Here’s the blurb …

Way back during the crusades Richard I presented the Huntingforest family with the tiny Balkan principality of Averna but since then the kingdom has been forgotten, until circumstances in Europe suddenly render it extremely strategically important to the British Government. They hire unconventional detective Albert Campion to recover the long-missing proofs of ownership – the deeds, a crown, and a receipt – which are apparently hidden in the village of Pontisbright. On arriving in Pontisbright, Campion and his friends meet the eccentric, young, flame-haired Amanda Fitton and her family who claim to be the rightful heirs to Averna and join in the hunt. Mr. Campion and his two young friends, Eager-Wright and Farquharson, posted as the Hereditary Paladin of Averna and his entourage! Unfortunately, criminal financier Brett Savanake is also interested in finding the evidence of the oil-rich state’s ownership for his own ends. Things get rather rough in the village as Savanake’s heavies up the pressure on Campion to solve the mystery before they do. In the course of the hunt, Campion dresses in drag, takes refuge in a tree, is nearly drowned in a mill race, and his friends find themselves bound and gagged in sacks, shot at, and witnesses to a satanic ceremony led by the local doctor. The rural calm of Pontisbright is well and truly shattered.

This was a lot of fun in a very English way – like a grown up Famous Five. I am not sure if I would describe it as crime, but more an adventure with a bit of crime thrown in. I would love to see it as a TV series (apparently it was in 1990)

Next up Death of a Ghost.

A review

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Birnam Wood – Eleanor Catton

Birnam Wood – Eleanor Catton

I read and enjoyed The Luminaries, but I resisted reading this one for a while. And then I needed a new audio book and noticed it in my husband’s library.

Here’s the blurb …

Five years ago, Mira Bunting founded a guerrilla gardening group: Birnam Wood. An undeclared, unregulated, sometimes-criminal, sometimes-philanthropic gathering of friends, this activist collective plants crops wherever no one will notice: on the sides of roads, in forgotten parks, and neglected backyards. For years, the group has struggled to break even. Then Mira stumbles on an answer, a way to finally set the group up for the long term: a landslide has closed the Korowai Pass, cutting off the town of Thorndike. Natural disaster has created an opportunity, a sizable farm seemingly abandoned.

But Mira is not the only one interested in Thorndike. Robert Lemoine, the enigmatic American billionaire, has snatched it up to build his end-times bunker–or so he tells Mira when he catches her on the property. Intrigued by Mira, Birnam Wood, and their entrepreneurial spirit, he suggests they work this land. But can they trust him? And, as their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust each other?

A gripping psychological thriller from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries, Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its wit, drama, and immersion in character. A brilliantly constructed consideration of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is an unflinching examination of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.

I really enjoyed this until the last ten minutes and then I hated it. What’s with terrible endings that ruin everything that went before? (Game of Thrones for example). I suspect it has a very ‘literary’ ending and I am alone in disliking it.

A review.

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Filed under 2, Audio, Fiction, Thriller

These Old Shades – Georgette Heyer

These Old Shades – Georgette Heyer

This is the third novel in my read all Heyer’s romance novels in publication order. First was The Black Moth and second Powder and Patch.

This one is still set in the Georgian era – think powdered wigs, high heels, and lots of silk brocade. It has some characters from The Black Moth (the evil Duke of Andover is reformed – somewhat, and he is now the Duke of Avon, so maybe not the same character?).

Here’s the blurb …

The Duke is known for his coldness of manner, his remarkable omniscience, and his debauched lifestyle. Late one evening, he is accosted by a young person dressed in ragged boy’s clothing running away from a brutal rustic guardian. The Duke buys “Leon” and makes the child his page.

Reading the novels in order highlights Heyer’s growth as an author. In my opinion this ‘sequel’ is better than The Black Moth.

I think modern readers will struggle with the age difference (20 plus years) and the fact the heroine is the hero’s ward.

It’s witty, well-researched, and there is a bit of intrigue. A very entertaining read.

A review.

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Filed under 4, Audio, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

Spook Street – Mick Herron

Spook Street – Mick Herron

I listened to this one in preparation for the next TV series.

Here’s the blurb …

What happens when an old spook loses his mind? Does the Service have a retirement home for those who know too many secrets but don’t remember they’re secret? Or does someone take care of the senile spy for good? These are the questions River Cartwright must ask when his grandfather, a Cold War–era operative, starts to forget to wear pants and begins to suspect everyone in his life has been sent by the Service to watch him.

But River has other things to worry about. A bomb goes off in the middle of a busy shopping center and kills forty innocent civilians. The agents of Slough House have to figure out who is behind this act of terror before the situation escalates

Something happens very early in the novel, which made me think I might be done with the Slow Horses novels, but I pushed on, and it was fine. High body count, but would you expect anything else?

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Filed under 4, Audio, Crime, Fiction, Spy, Thriller

Good Material – Dolly Alderton

Good Material – Dolly Alderton

I listened to the Audible version of this.

Here’s the blurb …

From the bestselling author of Ghosts and Everything I Know About Love: a story of heartbreak and friendship and how to survive both.

Andy’s story wasn’t meant to turn out this way. Living out of a suitcase in his best friends’ spare room, waiting for his career as a stand-up comedian to finally take off, he struggles to process the life-ruining end of his relationship with the only woman he’s ever truly loved.

As he tries to solve the seemingly unsolvable mystery of his broken relationship, he contends with career catastrophe, social media paranoia, a rapidly dwindling friendship group and the growing suspicion that, at 35, he really should have figured this all out by now.

Andy has a lot to learn, not least his ex-girlfriend’s side of the story.

Warm, wise, funny and achingly relatable, Dolly Alderton’s highly-anticipated second novel is about the mystery of what draws us together – and what pulls us apart – the pain of really growing up, and the stories we tell about our lives.

At first it reminded me of High Fidelity (all that moaning), but it grew on me. We have the break up from two different points of view – Andy for the first two thirds and then Jen for the last third. I enjoyed Jen’s section, Andy’s not so much. Mainly because he was annoying not anything to do with the writing. All of the action is happening at the end of 2019 and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to them in 2020? Andy was planning on taking a show to Edinburgh (was that even possible during the pandemic) and Jen quit her job and was going to travel (also not very likely).

A review.

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Lola in the Mirror – Trent Dalton

Lola in the Mirror – Trent Dalton

I have read all of Trent Dalton’s works. I thought Boy Swallows Universe was fabulous.

I listened to this one, which might have been a mistake, because I think there were illustrations in the paper version? I am not sure.

Here’s the blurb …

Bighearted, gritty, magical and moving, Lola in the Mirror is the irresistible new novel from international bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe and All Our Shimmering Skies , Trent Dalton.
‘Mirror, mirror, on the grass, what’s my future? What’s my past?’ A girl and her mother are on the lam. They’ve been running for sixteen years, from police and the monster they left in the kitchen with the knife in his throat. They’ve found themselves a home inside an orange 1987 Toyota HiAce van with four flat tyres parked in a scrapyard by the edge of the Brisbane River – just two of the 100,000 Australians sleeping rough every night. The girl has no name because names are dangerous when you’re on the run. But the girl has a dream. Visions in black ink and living colour. A vision of a life as a groundbreaking artist of international acclaim. A life outside the grip of the Brisbane underworld drug queen ‘Lady’ Flora Box. A life of love with the boy in the brown suit who’s waiting for her in the middle of the bridge that stretches across a flooding and deadly river. A life far beyond the bullet that has her name on it. And now that the storm clouds are rising, there’s only one person who can help make her dreams come true. That person’s name is Lola and she carries all the answers. But to find Lola, the girl with no name must first do one of the hardest things we can sometimes ever do. She must look in the mirror. A big, moving, blackly funny, violent, heartbreaking and beautiful novel of love, fate, life and death and all the things we see when we look in the mirror. All of the past, all of the present, and all of our possible futures. ‘Mirror, mirror, please don’t lie. Tell me who you are. Tell me who am I.’

Trent Dalton is very good at dialogue, I love the conversations the characters have. The body count is high in this novel (and it’s not always the people you want it to be). It is very grim.

A review.

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Study for Obedience – Sarah Bernstein

Study for Obedience – Sarah Bernstein

I listened to the audible version of this novel (I discovered it because it was short listed for the Booker prize last year (2023)).

Here’s the blurb …

A haunting, compressed masterwork from an extraordinary new voice in Canadian fiction.

A young woman moves from the place of her birth to the remote northern country of her forebears to be housekeeper to her brother, whose wife has recently left him. 

Soon after her arrival, a series of inexplicable events occurs – collective bovine hysteria; the demise of a ewe and her nearly born lamb; a local dog’s phantom pregnancy; a potato blight. She notices that the local suspicion about incomers in general seems to be directed with some intensity at her and she senses a mounting threat that lies ‘just beyond the garden gate.’ And as she feels the hostility growing, pressing at the edges of her brother’s property, she fears that, should the rumblings in the town gather themselves into a more defined shape, who knows what might happen, what one might be capable of doing.

With a sharp, lyrical voice, Sarah Bernstein powerfully explores questions of complicity and power, displacement and inheritance. Study for Obedience is a finely tuned, unsettling novel that confirms Bernstein as one of the most exciting voices of her generation.

I think listening to it was a particularly good idea as it is narrated by a young women in a way that feels like she is telling the story to you. I liked her voice and her thoughts about herself, the world and her place in the world. As the novel progresses, I wondered if I should be taking her words at face value. In the end she might be an unreliable narrator or have a different view of the world than everyone else. I don’t want to give too much away – it’s a short novel, so you can read it yourself if you want to know.

A review.

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