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ratings
239
REVIEWS
79
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HELPFUL VOTES
160

  • Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Anna Funder
    • Narrated By Denica Fairman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (147)
    Performance
    (102)
    Story
    (101)

    In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited, and East Germany ceased to exist. Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany. In a country where the headquarters of the secret police could become a museum literally overnight, and one in 50 East Germans were informing on their fellow citizens, there are thousands of captivating stories.

    Jane says: "Important book"
    "Important book"
    Overall

    Anna Funder visits what was East Germany, armed with fluent German and knowledge of international law. She listens to the stories of those who endured immense pain at the hand of the Stasi, the regime which replaced Hitler as dictators of this part of Germany. She also listened with undisguised amazement and horror, to the world view and self justifications of some of the Stasi themselves. In Stasiland she portrays a society imprisoned by the notorious Wall as well as webs of betrayal, lies, mental and emotional torture.

    This is neither sensationalist or a horror story. It is an intelligent, measured exploration of the extremes of human nature, from bravery and the capacity for endurance, to the self delusion and cruelty of dictators. It reveals the insidious ways that a people can be controlled through their minds -- in effect, life was simple if everyone capitulated without question to the arbitrary, contradictory, the blatantly ridiculous. In return, citizens were given apparent certainties in housing, employment and health, certainties which some now mourn.

    This is a shared personal journey and the narrator, Denica Fairman, offers a reading that works as an outstanding partnership with Funder.
    Stasiland not only delves into recent history, but places before the reader the realities of human nature that contribute to human society -- from small communities to whole nations.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Even Money

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Dick Francis, Felix Francis
    • Narrated By Tony Britton
    Overall
    (19)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (13)

    On the first day of Royal Ascot, the crowd rejoices in a string of winning favourites. Ned Talbot has worked all his life as a bookmaker - taking over the family business from his grandfather - so he knows not to expect any sympathy from the punters as they count their winnings, and he counts his losses. He’s seen the ups and downs before - but, as the big gambling conglomerates muscle in on small concerns like his, Ned wonders if it’s worth it any more.

    Jane says: "Reassuringly 'decent' characters"
    "Reassuringly 'decent' characters"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Desite the odd murder and person of evil intent, the Dick Francis books are a consistently and reassuringly the England of a few decades ago: the dramas of the racecourse (never attended one in my life and never likely to, so this is a new world) and traditions of basic decency being upheld.

    This book held my interest throughout, the characters are alive and entertaining and it culminated in an unrushed and satisfying conclusion.

    And speaking of old boys, I always find the voice of Tony Britton, excellent reader that he is, much older than the late thirty something that is required in the Francis books. Also, his women's voices leave a lot to be desired. But for all that, his moderate and thoughtful tone underscores the world and its values that are being evoked.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Silkworm: Cormoran Strike, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Robert Galbraith
    • Narrated By Robert Glenister
    Overall
    (81)
    Performance
    (75)
    Story
    (76)

    When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives - so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

    Ian says: "Pretty much perfect"
    "The second in this series did not disappoint"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Book One, The Cuckoo’s Calling, deftly, convincingly, introduced detective Cormoran Strike and his offsider, Robin (of course). The Silkworm smoothly continues this narrative and with a new ‘case’, though referring to, and building on, the previous one.

    This time, the contrast between Robin’s unwavering decency, echoed ponderously by her tedious fiancée, and Cormoran’s life-induced cynicism and capacity for the self sacrificing pursuit of social and legal justice, is further underlined by characters who take these two to the seamy, low life, indecent under-belly of society.

    This side of life got to be bit much for me! I’m not a fragile flower: I was just edging on the bored because involving the reader in vile humans can edge towards the gratuitous – and Galbraith was coming pretty close to that line, much closer, I suggest, than in Book One.

    But nothing would deter me from following the lives of these two detectives, who were more interesting.

    The book was structured with the skill of a consummate and successful author (AKA Rowling).

    The reader, Robert Glenister, complemented the material flawlessly: his acting was superb.

    Bring on the next book in the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Long Knives

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Charles Rosenberg
    • Narrated By Kate Rudd, Christopher Lane
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (48)
    Performance
    (43)
    Story
    (44)

    Jenna James’ life has been smooth-sailing since she left the high-powered law firm of Marbury Marfan. She’s happily ensconced as a professor at a prestigious law school, where she’s well liked by her students, coupled up with a handsome colleague, and on track for tenure. But things take a shocking turn one morning when a student, Primo, comes to Jenna’s office seeking her advice about a treasure map he recently inherited. When Primo turns up dead and Jenna is suddenly the prime suspect in a murder investigation, everyone turns on her.

    Charles Atkinson says: "Disaster on Campus"
    "Did not disappoint"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I downloaded this novel as the last words faded from Rosenberg's first novel, Death From a High Floor. How's that for a recommendation. The quality reading from Christopher Lane is complemented by co-reader, Kate Rudd. And, so engaged was I with the characters I had just met, I wanted to know more about them.

    Bring on book three!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Death on a High Floor

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Charles Rosenberg
    • Narrated By Christopher Lane
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (562)
    Performance
    (492)
    Story
    (494)

    On the 85th floor of a glittering high-rise in Los Angeles, Robert Tarza steps into the lobby of the Marbury Marfan law firm to discover his partner Simon Rafer lying in a pool of blood - an ornate dagger plunged into his back. Robert had worked with Simon for decades, and their relationship was fraught with conflict. But he never imagined he would wind up as the prime suspect for his colleague’s murder. As the evidence stacks up against him with frightening speed, he quickly falls from his respected position to that of a criminal dragged through the tabloids.

    Charles Atkinson says: "Excellent Mystery, Brilliant Narration"
    "What a good find!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This novel was casually, randomly chosen as an under $10 book to use up a credit. What a find! Upon completing it I immediately downloaded the sequel (equally low cost – goodness knows why – these were quality books).

    The reader was first rate – want to hear more from him. The characters strong. I think there may have been too much detail if I had been reading this but listening to it I devoured every word (again, because of the quality of the writing and reading).

    Ok Grisham etc, there is a new writer to join your ranks. The writer a lawyer so I assumed the proceedings were soundly presented: Google search shows he was the legal script advisor to three prime time television shows which included my personal favourite, Boston Legal. I am waiting enthusiastically for the third book from Charles Rosenburg.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Signature of All Things

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Gilbert
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    Overall
    (45)
    Performance
    (41)
    Story
    (42)

    Elizabeth Gilbert’s first novel in twelve years is an extraordinary story of botany, exploration and desire, spanning across much of the 19th century. This audiobook follows the fortunes of the brilliant Alma Whittaker (daughter of a bold and charismatic botanical explorer) as she comes into her own within the world of plants and science. As Alma’s careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she loves draws her in the opposite direction into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical.

    Jane says: "Superb"
    "Superb"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This has the sedate, carefully structured, beautifully nuanced atmosphere of a nineteenth century classical novel. Appropriate, since that is the setting. This is underlined by the glorious, melting intelligence of the ever-superb reading of Juliet Stevenson.

    This is many novels. Broadly, it is about the British dominating the globe through individual strivings, even personal sacrifices, both at home and abroad. It is relationships and dealing with loneliness (the sexual tension was very well done), family, mandated personal self sufficiency. Life and meaning -- where there is no apparent meaning; and the courage to generate meaning. Each and every character lives.

    It is also a novel that reaches over time. It visits the theories of evolution. For those who are comfortable with the conclusions of Darwin and Wallace amongst others, it is a journey into the minds of those who walked this path and wonderfully sympathetic to the limits imposed on Victorian women which denied the full flowering of their brilliance; it is an eloquent sharing of these thought processes for those who continue the doubts of those now long distant times.

    It is an introduction to new worlds. I now look at mosses completely differently -- and with real appreciation and curiosity!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Sea Swept: The Chesapeake Bay Saga, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Nora Roberts
    • Narrated By David Stuart
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (884)
    Performance
    (597)
    Story
    (610)

    A champion boat racer, Cameron Quinn traveled the world spending his winnings on champagne and women. But when his dying father calls him home to care for Seth, a troubled young boy not unlike Cameron once was, his life changes overnight.

    Louise says: "Outstanding"
    "Tedious"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Roberts is a prolific and popular writer. I was interested to check out some of her work. So, of course, this was a well presented story. But I certainly was not one of her target readers. Rare for me, lots of fast forwarding, well, to see if what happens in the end is what is clearly going to happen in the end! It just went on and on. However it is an optomistic read for women who need the hope imbedded in a saga of tough no-housework, no-children, no-settling-down men being converted into dedicated and skilled family men.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Barracuda

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Christos Tsiolkas
    • Narrated By Grant Cartwright
    Overall
    (28)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (26)

    He asked the water to lift him, to carry him, to avenge him. He made his muscles shape his fury, made every stroke declare his hate. And the water obeyed; the water would give him his revenge. No one could beat him, no one came close. His whole life Danny Kelly's only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he's ever done, every thought, every dream, every action takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best.

    Can't listen enough says: "Loved it"
    "Interesting, confronting."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The selfishness of young Dan was almost claustrophobic. I assumed something was going to happen beyond his excrutiating hyper focus on being the best swimmer in the world and his mother's subservience to him (or was it just pure love -- imponderable) and the theme of social exclusion based on class and behaviours. But this young man really didn’t interest me at all.

    But I decided to continue because this book has attracted widespread attention in Australia.

    Dishearteningly, this was also being read in the context of two key events outside the book. Our newly elected national leader was speaking and behaving in a way that made me ask if his was the voice of an older Dan, modified by time but the core aspirations still there – sport: to be the strongest and the best; leadership: the strongest and the best. Whatever it takes. And not particularly adept when the prize was his.

    Secondly, a local television station aired a distressing discussion which included victims, their loved ones and rescuers, about the marked increase in attacks on people, young people, that do not lead to a good old fashioned dust up, but are glassings, and king hits, coming from nowhere. Echoes of Dan. This level is new in Australia.

    One has to keep listening to see if this selfishness will be resolved. It is true, there is a constant and almost contradictory underpinning of generosity and patience in Can's care for ill people and this suggests a path that will transcend earlier behaviours. But for me there is a sense of ‘wishful thinking’. This difficult person sweeps past others, not with the power of hope and the holy grail of excellence, but with an urgent self absorbed belief that validates all that he does. The oft repeated mantra of his goal of strength and being the best has unsettlingly echoes, again, in many models of political leadership. Self indoctrination. Indoctrinate the others around us.

    So much does the author want to donate Dan a socially acceptable future that there is even a hint that his crime has some justification as a social critique.

    I agree that the role of the family as a more selfless decency is a heartening theme and the Tsiolkas effectively bestows on these poor people a positive role amid random acts of violence and personal disorientation.

    So, there you go. I have read a book that has offered an interpretation, or explanation, of selfish and singleminded youth (is this a comment on the modern generation?), the school based training of a closed selfish and singleminded upper class, the comforting power of the family, and the acceptance of the fulfilment of homosexuality. OK. Done. But I found the language without music (intentional?) but I thought it was read very well -- with compassion, appropriately paced.

    But despite any increase in understanding the human condition I may have gained from it, I really didn’t like the book but thought it had been worth completing.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Bleak House

    • UNABRIDGED (33 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Charles Dickens
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (327)
    Performance
    (117)
    Story
    (114)

    First published in monthly parts from March 1852 to September 1853, this novel follows the fortunes of three pedestrian characters; Esther Summerson, Ada Clare, and Richard Carstone. The story they tell embondies Dickens' merciless indictment of the Court of Chancery and its bungling, morally corrupt handling of the endless case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, giving the novel its scope and meaning.

    UU Ma says: "30 hours was too short for me"
    "Simon Vance and Charles Dickens: superb"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Dickens demands a certain way of reading and thinking: a nineteenth century mindset, one that enjoys several grand themes (some melodrama, please) and entertaining minor characters intermingled with the necessarily self sacrificing Beautiful People and the Evil Ones who are the main characters. Long sentences, yes, and detailed descriptions of place and create an all pervading atmosphere.

    So, reading Dickens can take some getting used to. But I had read and enjoyed Bleak House many years ago, and so, with the help of Simon Vance's outstanding narrative, persevered through the often ponderous beginnings. All the while, I admired this stunningly disciplined writer -- he held together the complexities of plot after subplot for 20 monthly installments.

    Slowly but surely, I was increasingly immersed in the spell of this attack on the perfidy of the prevailing British legal system. What a combination: Vance and Dickens. Extraordinarily, each sentence (33 hours of sentences) has a musicality, a balance that reflects the subject matter. Vance understands this -- he flows with what Dickens is all about: the campaigner for social justice, the satirist, the sentimentalist. What a way to appreciate the power and elegance of this writer.

    But more than that. Dickens is the supreme script writer for the cinema of the mind. His characters live, and Vance, a superb actor, gives them breath.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Great Masters: Brahms-His Life and Music

    • ORIGINAL (6 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Greenberg
    Overall
    (15)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (15)

    Johannes Brahms was a man of contrasts. His serious Teutonic music was balanced by joyful dance music. His kindness to working people with a biting, malicious wit reserved for those he encountered in artistic and aristocratic circles. Yet you can know this enigmatic genius though this 8-lecture series, which uses biographical information and musical commentary to link the complexities of Brahms the man with the electrifying music of Brahms the composer.

    Jane says: "First class introduction to a wonderful composer"
    "First class introduction to a wonderful composer"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    How have I gone so long in life getting so much joy from the works of Brahms without understanding something of this great composer and his life. How many times has my heart been lifted listening to his violin and piano concerti, his symphonies -- oh, why did I start making a list, all his works are all wonderful.

    Upon downloading this series of lectures,a new and eminently accessible view of Brahms was revealed. I've only just finished listening and I am still under its spell.

    Yet, for the listener who knows little or nothing about classical music, let alone who Brahms actually is, this would be an inspiring introduction. Professor Greenburg is funny, insightful, compassionate, and at times, delightfully satirical -- in short, a clever and effective communicator. Infectious, really.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Cuckoo's Calling: Cormoran Strike, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Robert Galbraith
    • Narrated By Robert Glenister
    Overall
    (236)
    Performance
    (226)
    Story
    (226)

    When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.Strike is a war veteran - wounded both physically and psychologically - and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model's complex world, the darker things get - and the closer he gets to terrible danger...

    Jane says: "Hopefully this is the first of a series"
    "Hopefully this is the first of a series"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Surely the sign of a really good book is when the last words have been spoken and listeners find themselves disappointed at having been abruptly separated from people and events that have been a real part of their lives (in this case for nearly16 hours). Well, if that is the case then this qualifies as a Really Good Book -- it ticks all the boxes.

    The narrator: great voice, acted out the roles very convincingly (change of accents and voices very well done) and, best of all, didn't differentiate male and females voices through changing pitch. The writing was vivid. Elegant and succinct prose endowed each sentence an energy which created settings and personal characteristics.

    While this was a crime mystery, that was only part of it. In fact, despite the urgency of the plot, for me the people became the most interesting aspect because The Cuckoo's Calling (clever title) was also the story of the lives of many individuals. Cormoran Strike, for example, is the detective, but he has his own compelling story which entwines throughout the central plot. I found myself caring about his well-being along with the decisions that Robyn will make about her life direction, and I was also repelled by, or drawn to the many other characters that moved in and out of my life through this book.

    I had not read any of J K Rowling (Robert Galbraith) before but this book demonstrates what a talented writer she is and why she has been so very successful. I hope this is the beginning of a series.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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