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Ian C Robertson

Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

South Australia, Australia | Member Since 2010

156
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 80 reviews
  • 93 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 19 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
3
FOLLOWERS
19

  • Atonement

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Ian McEwan
    • Narrated By Carole Boyd
    Overall
    (34)
    Performance
    (26)
    Story
    (25)

    Atonement is the novel for which Ian McEwan will always be remembered. Enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, class and England, at its centre is a profound and profoundly moving exploration of shame and forgiveness.

    Jennifer says: "Astounding, satisfying, what Audible does best"
    "Good, but Disappointing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The seemingly contradictory title for this review really sums up my feelings. I truly loved this book the first time I read it (the year it was short-listed for the Booker Prize). I even recall being vaguely upset that it did not win, because I thought it more engaging that Peter Carey's, "True Story of the Kelly Gang". However, about a decade on, I simply was not as taken with the whole piece. I felt the female characters were a bit predictable (in the sense that this is how McEwan draws his female characters) and the male characters (especially Robbie) are surprisingly wan. Of course one might expect Robbie (in Part 3) to be jaded, but the vitality that so marked him out in Part 1 (sufficient for him to wite the forbidden word) is completely absent by Part 3. It makes you wonder how Cecelia can bear to be with this shell of the man she loved. Maybe that's the point; Briony's deceit having forced everyone to live in the past. If it is, then I simply didn't enjoy the second visit to this well crafted novel.
    There is no doubt about the craft of the book. In fact, re-listening to it re-minded me why I hadn't enjoyed Sweet Tooth when I listened to it earlier this year. The female characters are very alike (even to the point that Briony's buxom, but fun friend in nursing training is a very close match to the MI5 friendship i Sweet Tooth) and the "twist" is very similar. Maybe that's why I picked the "twist" in Sweet Tooth, but what ever it was the comparison between the two titles is unflattering. This is one of those rare books that I enjoyed on a first read that I should have lived with the memory of and left alone.
    A thought Carole Boyd's performance was good and, again, very like Juliet Stevenson's in Sweet Tooth. I suspect if you listen to this first you will enjoy it (as I did the first time). If you read it after Sweet Tooth, you will prefer the former. For me, they are too similar. The rating for Story reflects my first read. The overall rating reflects this second listening.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Autobiography of Black Hawk

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Black Hawk
    • Narrated By Brett Barry
    Overall
    (1172)
    Performance
    (1007)
    Story
    (1000)

    This story is told in the words of a tragic figure in American history - a hook-nosed, hollow-cheeked old Sauk warrior who lived under four flags while the Mississippi Valley was being wrested from his people. The author is Black Hawk himself - once pursued by an army whose members included Captain Abraham Lincoln and Lieutenant Jefferson Davis. Perhaps no Indian ever saw so much of American expansion or fought harder to prevent that expansion from driving his people to exile and death.

    Darwin8u says: "A NO HOLD BARRED and unflinching narrative"
    "Same Story, Different People"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It has taken me a while to get around to listening to this Member's Gift, but I am glad that I have now taken the time. It tells an all to familiar story of colonial misconduct perpetrated upon an essentially honourable, less modern civilisation.
    In this autobiographical account, the Chief of the Sauk nation, Black Hawk, tells his life story concentrating on the years of the American Revolution and the expansion of settlers across indigenous lands. He states this is to correct the record. The tale is very familiar, although at least the Indians were required to be conquered and, in theory, they were protected by law; something that did not occur in my home until 20 years ago, this month (June, 2014). Even allowing for the fact that the story is likely to seek to paint the Sauk in the best light, and thereby paints the settlers in the worst light, the tale is too familiar to be fanciful, in my opinion. It made me angry and sad to listen to it and to feel its resonance.
    The text is read by Brett Barry as written (or I should say, dictated) by Black Hawk. The telling is appropriate and authentic, without being inflammatory.
    A thoroughly good listen to a thoroughly bad experience.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The God Delusion

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (53)
    Story
    (54)

    As the author of many classic works on science and philosophy, Richard Dawkins has always asserted the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm it has inflicted on society. He now focuses his fierce intellect exclusively on this subject, denouncing its faulty logic and the suffering it causes.

    Ian says: "Excellent"
    "An Agreeably Disagreeable Book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have read a lot Dawkins and Hitchens and the difference between the two, telling the same tale about gods, is usually quite stark. On this occasion however Dawkins delves down into the arena, get his hands dirty with invective and (particularly at the start and the finish) resorts to rhetoric. Of course, in his inimatable way, he acknowledges he's doing just this and he even has the good grace to sound apologetic about that. However, the method is not as persuasive as I have come to expect from him, although the key (middle) Chapters return to the well learned practices of his past writing, full of sound reasoning, inferences and evidence.
    I have some sympathy for the lack of evidence, but then I am already a "convert", to borrow from the iconology of the religiously minded. It is hard to prove a negative, as every lawyer will confirm. Still, I would have been happier with the central Chapters without the soapbox start and finish. That said, the starkness of the language and the boldness of the frontal attack have the consequence of making even a convert think about the extent of their conversion; has it gone far enough? To paraphrase a former PM, this is a book for the true disbelievers. It will probably not persuade anyone else, which is a pity.
    Again, the combination of Lalla Ward and Dawkins works well for the listener.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Christopher Hitchens in Conversation with Salman Rushdie

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 16 mins)
    • By Christopher Hitchens
    • Narrated By Salman Rushdie
    Overall
    (113)
    Performance
    (98)
    Story
    (93)

    Over the course of his 60 years, Christopher Hitchens has been a citizen of both the United States and the United Kingdom. He has been both a socialist opposed to the war in Vietnam and a supporter of the U.S. war against Islamic extremism in Iraq. He has been both a foreign correspondent in some of the world's most dangerous places and a legendary bon vivant. He is a fervent atheist, raised as a Christian, by a mother whose Jewish heritage was not revealed to him until her suicide.

    Ian C Robertson says: "Very Entertaining"
    "Very Entertaining"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I confess to have completely misread the blurb for this title. I thought it was Hitchens interviewing Rushdie. In fact, it is the opposite. However, that doesn't matter. The discussion on the eve of the release of Hitchens' third to last book, the autobiographical, Hitch 22, is stimulating, interesting and very entertaining. The source of the name alone is worth the listen.
    Rushdie is, of course, a literary giant. Hitchens was one of the most read, and a very well read, commentator. Their long time friendship is apparent on listening and their literary games are in a class apart.
    You won't regret the hour or so of your life you spend with these two.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Sense of an Ending

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Julian Barnes
    • Narrated By Richard Morant
    Overall
    (832)
    Performance
    (699)
    Story
    (694)

    Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour, and wit. Maybe Adrian was more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is retired. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.

    Melinda says: "'Something Happened'..."
    "Deservedly Praised"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    These days we are all skeptical. This includes our perception of literary awards. Once upon a time, a prestigious award like the MAN Booker (then the Booker) would have been a strong recommendation to read and own a novel. Now I sometimes regard it as a forewarning! Accordingly, the last two awards of that famous prize have been a pleasant return to the old form.
    In this deservedly praised novel Barnes achieves the rare feat of capturing a time and place. Actually, it's not so much A time or A place as capturing the state of mind that, I suspect, 90% of his listeners have visited or inhabited sometime in their lives. That place and time seemed very familiar to me although the plot line and my experience is quite different. I think this is a rare gift of insight.
    I won't delve into the plot because its unfolding is a pleasure, a surprise and a joy. It made me wince and smile, in turns. Also, the book is blessedly short. Oh for the return of the short novel. Bravo!
    The late Richard Morant's reading was very good, too. It completely suited the text and the principals. It took me a while to stop thinking of Julian Clary (because Morant has, for some reason, a Surrey accent), but that wasn't much of a distraction.
    Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Redeemer: A Harry Hole Thriller, Book 6

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Jo Nesbo
    • Narrated By Sean Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (102)
    Performance
    (73)
    Story
    (73)

    One freezing night in Oslo Christmas shoppers gather to listen to a Salvation Army street concert. An explosion cuts through the music, and a man in uniform falls to the ground, shot in the head at point-blank range.Harry Hole and his team have little to work with: no immediate suspect, no weapon and no motive. But when the assassin discovers he has shot the wrong man, Harry Hole’s troubles have only just begun.

    Christian says: "Recommended without reservation"
    "Getting Better"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    By the time one reaches the tipping point in a series, they might be expecting the standard and pace to level out. This is certainly not the case for Nesbo's Harry Hole series. This title is a marked development (for the better) on the previous title, "The Devil's Star"; not that it was poor - it was the best in the series to that point. It is also a world apart from the more recently released "The Cockroaches", which was in fact Book 2, and the book that I last read. In other words, Nesbo's plots are getting more complex, the characters are getting deeper (as they should after 5 books) and suspense is the winner. I normally rate myself on being able to pick the plot twist in this genre, and, although I picked the principal plot line, the sub-plot was a surprise to me.
    Again, Sean Barrett does a bang-up job as Harry; again, I am looking forward to the next installment (especially with the high praise that has been bestowed upon it).
    This title is well worth the read, but it probably is improved if you have read Books 3, 4 and 5 first. It can stand alone, but it is much better with the back-story intact.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Letters to a Young Lawyer

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Alan M. Dershowitz
    • Narrated By Joe Barrett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (19)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (14)

    As defender of both the righteous and the questionable, Alan Dershowitz has become perhaps the most famous and outspoken attorney in the land. Whether or not they agree with his legal tactics, most people would agree that he possesses a powerful and profound sense of justice. In this meditation on his profession, Dershowitz writes about life, law, and the opportunities that young lawyers have to do good and do well at the same time.

    Jacqueline says: "A pleasure"
    "Only for Lawyers, But Not Just Young Ones"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I truly enjoyed this title. Not only id it resonate with my memories, but it reflected many of my own lamentations about what what I consider to be a profession, not just a job. If that is too hard a distinction, I apologise. My intent is a reflection of my own view, not an intent to disparage working in any other job or profession.
    I particularly delighted in the discussion of what it is to be a good person and aa good lawyer, the drive for the almighty dollar and the unachievable, but commendable, ambition to be a good lawyer. What comes with the latter is being disliked sometimes and loved at others. Sometimes there is great reward (money or justice) and other times great disappointment (loss or injustice). Dersh' (pardon the familiarity) gets it right, in my opinion.
    Joe Barret is a good substitute for the real thing. I would have loved the author to read this (as he did "Genesis of Justice"), but absent him, Barret gives a wonderful performance. I have listed to parts of it 4 or 5 times already and I will listen to the whole again within the year. It, the title, has become something that I think I will give to all my out going Clerks.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Art of War

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Sun Tzu
    • Narrated By Don Hagen, Victoria Gordon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (63)
    Performance
    (62)
    Story
    (60)

    This Chinese treatise on war was written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC. Each one of the 13 chapters is devoted to a different aspect of warfare, making it the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its time. Studied by generals from Napoleon to Rommel it is still one of the most influential works on the subject and is required reading in most military academies around the world.

    Ben says: "It was OK"
    "Not for Listening"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is one of those volumes I have always meant to read, but had not. I wish I had. This is really a Manual. It is not meant to be listened to, in my opinion. It is meant to read, consulted from time to time and, if you have a combative or adversarial occupation (like mine), adapted to your application, as necessary. Many of its observations are sage and well expressed, in a pithily Oriental fashion (Confucian like).
    However, it is very difficult to listen to. I persevered, but I enjoyed reading the passages that resonated with me, more. Accordingly, the performance scores are not a reflection on the narrators, but on the suitability of this text for narration. The story score reflects its applicability to what I do and the fact that centuries ago someone thought about this enough to write a manual at all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Lost Symbol

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Dan Brown
    • Narrated By Paul Michael
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (288)
    Performance
    (103)
    Story
    (102)

    Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object is discovered in the Capitol Building. The object is an ancient invitation, meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of hidden esoteric wisdom. And when Langdon's mentor is kidnapped, Langdon's only hope of saving him is to accept this invitation and follow wherever it leads him.

    tess says: "Very typical of Dan Brown. Easy brilliance."
    "Really a 3.75"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It's always hard to review books like this one. It's not meant to be literature, so you don't want to measure it on that scale, but it's not (intended) trash either. In this pseudo cerebral, pseudo-action come whodunnit genre, it is above average, but not as good as, say, his "The Da Vinci Code". It's not at the top of the tree with some of Le Carre's classics, but it's better than the Gabriel Allon series (in my opinion, although to be fair, that's more espionage than cerebral). In the end, I've opted for the upper end, although in truth I should have "split the difference" (if that were possible) overall.
    Basically, this conforms to all of the formulaic traditions common to these books. There is a protagonist and an attractive assistant. there is a constant threat from a very scary individual whom appears to have no moral compass. The Chapters all end on a cliff's edge, making them perfect for serialisation (and, for that matter, for motion pictures). There is a wicked twist (although the astute of this genre will pick it early) in the tale (and tail); and there is the declamation of the little know, but startling, in the true habit of a a conspiracy theory. For all that, it is a page turner and, given its Masonic underpinning, a vaguely interesting yarn.
    I thought Paul Michael did a sterling job, too, especially with the evil one (Mulah) and the snaky one (Kato). The latter reminded me of the boss lady from Monsters Inc! Good fun listening.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Oscar Wilde
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (527)
    Performance
    (297)
    Story
    (304)

    Dorian Gray, a handsome and narcissistic young man, lives thoughtlessly for his own pleasure. One day, after having his portrait painted, Dorian makes a frivolous Faustian wish: that he should always remain as young and beautiful as he is in that painting, while the portrait grows old in his stead.

    The wish comes true, and Dorian soon finds that none of his wicked actions have visible consequences. Realizing that he will appear fresh and unspoiled no matter what kind of life he lives, Dorian becomes increasingly corrupt. Only the portrait grows degenerate and ugly, a powerful symbol of Dorian's internal ruin.

    Robert says: "Excellent rendition"
    "Genius"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There is no other word that truly describes Oscar Wilde. In this, one of his very best, there is the hallmark of his genius, his wit, his insatiable urge to shock and to flirt with danger. In De Profundis, his farewell apologia in exile, he wrote of how he "entertained at dinner the evil things of life ... [because] ... the danger was half the excitement." This sums up this title, too. In it, Lord Henry Wotton is Wilde's alter ego and one can't help but speculate if the physical attractions of Dorian Gray were drawn from the real life canvas of Lord Alfred Douglas, whom was to be Wilde's undoing.
    I listened to the narrative and followed along in my Folio copy, interspersing passages with the transcript from Wilde's famous defamation trial. Sir Edward Carson's classic cross examination about this very book and whether Wilde adhered to the view that "there is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. It is well written or badly written", is so much clearer with the book in hand. The fact that Wilde could hold at bay such a prodigious legal assault by strength of his intellect in the face of its obvious innuendo is amazing in itself.
    The story, so Gothic yet so simple and clever, is as ageless as Gray's features.
    I loved Simon Vance's performance, too. There were times when it reminded me of his dialogue in the Audible Edition of Dracula between Jonathan Harker and the Count. Other times, it was Wilde speaking to Lord Alfred. The intonation is perfect and the timing impeccable.
    I loved re-visiting this classic. Top marks!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mockingjay: The Final Book of The Hunger Games

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Suzanne Collins
    • Narrated By Carolyn McCormick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (26108)
    Performance
    (20054)
    Story
    (20238)

    Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena live, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge....

    Sue Schreiber says: "A very satisfying ending"
    "Third Time Better"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I gave in and read the third installment!
    Mostly this was because of pressure from my 12 y.o. (whom just finished reading it and wanted me to be as entertained as she was). This at least shows that the target audience (ie, not middle aged men in grey suits) are getting something out of it. That has to be a plus.
    I'll give her (my daughter) this, the third book is certainly the pick of the three. It finally got to a point (although it was not the point I was hoping it would make). I still found the plot predictable, but I won't spoil it for those contemplating the listen by explaining it or disclosing the point I hoped it would make. I did like the little tribute to Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451", and the segue to Greek mythology's Castor and Pollox and the ironical reflection that they are here helping the Theseus character, not challenging it for the return of Helen (later of of Troy). However, I still can't understand how it can be the case that Amazon reports that this series had 29 of the highest 100 highlighted passages on Kindle, and, more recently, 17 of the top 20 (according to Wiki). Maybe it is on the school reading list.
    As to the performance, I regret to write that I still can't get into Ms McCormick's performance. The characters voices are too similar (Peeta and Hamich, for example) and too stylised (Plutarch, Clarissa and Efie, for example). Admittedly her Katniss is close to Lawerence's delivery in the films, but that is where the tribute must stop.
    Finally, I thought the short commentary at the end by the author was interesting and might have benefited from coming at the beginning of the Series, rather than at its conclusion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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