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Canberra Dilettante

garfish

Canberra, Australia | Member Since 2013

ratings
18
REVIEWS
14
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
0
HELPFUL VOTES
8

  • The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: Book 15 in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Alexander McCall Smith
    • Narrated By Adjoa Andoh
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    As Botswana awaits the familiar blessing of the rains and their eternal cycle, upheaval is taking place at the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Not only is Mr J. L. B. Matekoni attempting to reform himself into a modern husband but, following her marriage to Phuti Radiphuti, Mma Makutsi has joyful news.With the arrival of an heir to the Double Comfort furniture empire and Mma Makutsi busy with motherhood, cobras and a senior aunt, Mma Ramotswe must grapple alone with tea-making, detective work and a new uncertainty.

    Canberra Dilettante says: "Another lovely visit with Mma Ramotswe"
    "Another lovely visit with Mma Ramotswe"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I know these books are so cozy you could put a crocheted blankie on them and call them Grandma, but I love them deeply and truly. Like all in the series, this book is beautifully written, spare but eloquent, wise and charming. The plot is inconsequential, really - what remains with you is the characters, who are like old friends (including their quirks and flaws) and the satisfaction of justice achieved. And Adjoa Andoh is a wonderful narrator. Every character is given their full due, and she brings to the story all the warmth of Botswana. Buy this audiobook and then save it for the perfect afternoon to curl up and enjoy with a cup of tea and the cat on your lap.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Whimsey: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Kaye Wilkinson Barley
    • Narrated By Susanna Burney
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    The magic was already there when cigar-smoking matriarch Elizabeth Calhoun established an artist's colony on an island off the coast of Georgia and named it Whimsey. Elizabeth's ghost still drops in from time to time to make sure things are going as she planned. There's also a wicked pixie named Earlene who fancies tight-fitting designer clothes and Louboutin stilettos.

    Canberra Dilettante says: "Just the place for Dr Pangloss..."
    "Just the place for Dr Pangloss..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    ... because indeed, on the island of Whimsey, everything is, indeed, for the best, in this best of all possible worlds.

    This book came along at just the right time for me - I was laid up with a badly injured ankle, in a lot of pain, and in need of all the good cheer that could come my way. And Kaye Barley's novel is as full of good cheer as Santa, Disneyland and the collected works of Norman Rockwell.

    Jewellery designer Emma has lost her mojo in the wake of a personal tragedy, and is persuaded by the many who love her to return to the wonderful world that is Whimsey, an island established as an artists colony by her Grandmother (who still likes to hang around, a benign post-mortem presence, along with Emma's imaginary "evil" twin Madeline and a pixie names Earlene). Someone isn't pleased to see her back, even if old boyfriend Eli and a host of friends certainly are - but it's no spoiler to say that all ends well. This is a story of pure fantasy, where wonderful art meets fabulous food, friendships are deep and enduring, families are fully functional, and everyone can spend her days creating things of beauty in between reading her favourite books (Lee Child), playing with cats and corgis, wearing gorgeous clothes, drinking wine, and meeting her musical idol (Willie Nelson).

    Susannah Burney does an excellent job as narrator, bringing light and colour, warmth and humour, and doing well to differentiate characters. I will look for more of her work.

    I received this audiobook free for review purposes (though I had already bought the e-book on my own account), but my opinions are independent and my own.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Red Shoelace Killer

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Susan Sundwall
    • Narrated By Lee Ann Howlett
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    First in the Minnie Markwood Mysteries: Minnie Markwood can out-sleuth Miss Marple any day of the week - in her imagination. But when a real killer begins to target Minnie and her young sidekicks, reality trumps imagination big time. Who's buying up all the red shoelaces at the mall and stalking a cashier? Is it the killer who terrorized Minnie on the highway and kidnapped her coworker?

    Betty Johnson says: "A Delightful Mystery"
    "Great fun romp of a traditional mystery"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A bit of a guilty pleasure this one - not deep, but highly enjoyable! Minnie Markwood is a retired librarian now making ends meet with some market research, teamed with the gorgeous-but-ditzy Rashawna. The mysterious Joel tumbles into their boring survey and all are flung headlong into the mystery surrounding the death of a young woman at the hands of the "Red Shoelace Killer". Mayhem, hijinks, and some serious sales tactics ensue.

    It's all pretty improbable, but it's a lot of fun! Age Elaine Viets' mystery shopper sleuth Josie Marcus some thirty-plus years, and team her up with the sister from "Mike & Molly", and you get some idea. I won't be queuing for a sequel like it was another Reginald Hill or the new Laura Lippman, but I will nevertheless look forward to another adventure from Ms Markwood.

    At first I found the narration much too slow, but when I sped it up to x1.25 it was perfect, and the narrator did a good job at keeping my interest and giving personality to each character. Others might enjoy a slower pace, but if it drags, try it at x1.25; I was surprised at how much happier it made me!

    I received this audiobook free for review purposes, but my opinions are independent and my own.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Hounding: Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson Mysteries

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Sandra de Helen
    • Narrated By Jess Reed
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    Tall, thin, androgynous Shirley Combs considers herself the world's greatest living detective because she uses the methods and casebook of Sherlock Holmes to solve crimes of the gentry of the American city most closely resembling London, England - in terms of the weather, at least. Sidekick/narrator Dr. Mary Watson both delights in and is frustrated by her partner's behavioral resemblance to Sherlock. Combs is unemotional, analytical, and given to pacing through the night in the streets of the almost perfectly livable city of Portland, Oregon.

    Holly says: "Fun Mystery - Over Too Soon."
    "A feminist spin on the Holmes/Watson legend"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This was a fun traditional mystery, and a good solid listen. Naturopath "Dr" Jane Watson meets the ascetic, acerbic and angular financial planner Shirley Combes, makes the obvious joke, and finds herself in an enduring friendship and partnership, seeking answers to the death of a millionaire environmentalist at the paws of a pack of dogs.

    There is a slight naievete to the style that made me feel at times I was listening to a YA novel (though the excerpt to the sequel, included at the end of the audiobook, contains a pretty sizzling sex scene, so presumably the author was not intending a YA series). There's a good cast of interesting suspects, the plot is twisty, and occasionally the dialogue is quite amusing.

    If you are a dedicated Sherlockian, like me, a few things won't ring quite true (it's hard to imagine the original Holmes teaming up with a naturopath, for example). And there are some slightly confused eco-feminist political messages that I found a bit hard to follow, and detracted slightly from my enjoyment of the story even when I agreed with them. If you simply enjoy a traditional mystery, this might be worth your while.

    The narrator was OK and not hard to listen to, but a bit more differentiation amongst characters would have helped add interest, although it was always clear which character was speaking.

    I received this audiobook free for review purposes, but my opinions are independent and my own.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Book of Beasts

    • UNABRIDGED (30 mins)
    • By E. Nesbit
    • Narrated By Karen Krause
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    A young king finds a magical book once owned by his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather and unwittingly sets a wicked beast loose in his kingdom. Now he must find a way to best the beast and win back the love of his subjects. Edith (E.) Nesbit was a master at weaving imagination and real life into timeless fairy tales, with fantastic mythical creatures, princes and princesses, magic, and just the right touch of silliness. The Book of Beasts is the first in a series of fairy tales with a common theme: Dragons!

    Canberra Dilettante says: "Absolutely delightful!"
    "Absolutely delightful!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I grew up adoring every word that E Nesbit wrote, so was very pleased to have the opportunity to review this audio version of the Book of Beasts. I am even more pleased to be able to say that it does not disappoint. It remains the same jewel of a story I remember, about a small boy who suddenly becomes King and releases a dragon from a magic book in the royal library. His gruff and pompous but well-meaning royal advisors are helpless; his down-to-earth old nurse keeps him on solid ground. And of course, it all ends happily. I think children of all ages will enjoy this, and indeed might revisit it often and for years.

    Karen Krause is a charming narrator, with a warm voice full of humour that perfectly suited the story. All her characters were well-differentiated, and she tells the story like she's your favourite aunt, perched beside your bed and turning the pages as she reads. I will look for more of her work.

    I received this book free as a review copy. My opinions are independent and my own.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Pawnbroker

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Jerry Hatchett
    • Narrated By Jay Wohlert
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    Would you give killers what they want to get them to leave you and your family alone? Gray Bolton might, if he knew what it was. His life as a pawnbroker in a Mississippi town is good. He has a beautiful family and the future looks bright. Then he kills an armed robber and discovers that he was anything but a common criminal. Trouble cascades upon Bolton from the police, from home, and from unknown parties who may be the most vicious of all. They all appear to be after the same thing and they will all do anything to get it. Unfortunately, Bolton has no idea what that thing is.

    Curtis says: "An interesting convergence of characters"
    "Great fun for lovers of good old-fashioned pulp"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I am a bit conflicted about this book. It starts off hinting at schlock-horror in a prologue, but then kicks off the novel proper with a protagonist I could really have come to like if positioned in a different story. I LOVE the idea of a pawnbroker as a protagonist - at times this character,and the best of the writing, reminded me of the late great Willam Tapply and his small-town lawyer Brady Coyne. A decent human with a strong sense of justice and a fine judge of character, in a job which brings him into contact with all sorts of people in trouble for all sorts of reasons. I could devour a series like that.

    Gray Bolton isn't Brady Coyne, though - Hatchett doesn't flesh him out quite enough. The story is fast-paced and fun once you come to terms with the fact that it's also so pulpy it's verging on camp: the whip-smart gorgeous kick-ass black female sidekick who is also utterly compliant and worships the hero for no apparent reason is just one example (even her name is gimmicky, per Ian Fleming, or indeed Austin Powers). The unremitting redneck evil of the bad guys is another. But if you stop looking for Meaning and just enjoy the sex, violence and thrills per minute, this is an enjoyable ride.

    Preference in narration is a personal thing, and I confess this aspect of the book didn't work for me. The style is very laid-back for a story that is so hyper-energised, and I felt the narrator struggled with women's voices and in differentiating characters generally. But, as I say, this is a personal thing - if in doubt, download a sample and see what you think.

    I received this book free, as a review copy. My opinions are independent and my own.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Second Chance

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Chet Williamson
    • Narrated By Chet Williamson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    A breathtaking novel of dark suspense and bittersweet nostalgia, Second Chance breaks new ground for a writer whose work critics have favorably compared to such disparate writers as Camus, Cheever, and Stephen King. In Second Chance, Chet Williamson defines a generation and gives readers the ride of their lives through a disquietingly different and threatened America.

    Canberra Dilettante says: "The Big Chill meets Germ Warfare & the Nazis!"
    "The Big Chill meets Germ Warfare & the Nazis!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A couple of years ago I was privileged to moderate a Bouchercon panel featuring the great F Paul Wilson; a blurb from the creator of Repairman Jack was enough to sell me on this even without the comparison to Cheever (albeit one I'm not sure is entirely accurate). So I enthusiastically put up my hand for a review copy. I received that for free, but my views are independent, honest and my own.

    I'm therefore pleased to be able to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It revolves around a famous musician now mourning his lost love from college days, who, in a fit of nostalgia, gathers around his friends from the old days and through a series of events that I won't ruin for you, finds himself embroiled in thwarting a devastating eco-terrorist, who is in turn on the trail of a Nazi germ warfare consipracy. It's a lot of high-voltage fun, with some sweetness and sadness thrown in; a broad range of well-drawn and convincing characters, and if there are a few moments which require quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, I found myself happy to suspend away.

    The real strength of this audiobook, however, is the narrator. I was a little sceptical of how good an author could be at narrating his own work, but Williamson is absolutely outstanding. He has genuine acting chops and was convincing at everything from adolescent children to a middle-aged black woman to an old white farmer, and all points in between. Not all authors can read their own work persuasively, but in Williamson's case I felt like I was in his head, seeing what he saw.

    And yes, there are a few unresolved questions left at the end of this book, but the only one I really cared about is: Why hasn't this been made into a movie yet?!

    I'm already adding more of Chet Williamson's work to my wishlist, and hoping to find more he has narrated himself, too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Heart of a Dragon: Book I of the DeChance Chronicles

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By David Niall Wilson
    • Narrated By Corey Snow
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    When Anya Cabrera, a Voodoo Houngan in San Valencez California’s Barrio, tampers with the ceremony that draws the Loa to possess the faithful, Donovan DeChance, book collector, mage, and private investigator is contacted immediately. Donovan helps to maintain the balance of supernatural forces in the city – and that balance is in serious danger. The Dragons, a local motorcycle gang, live under a shaky truce with a neighboring Hispanic gang, Los Escorpiones, who are now aligned with Anya. The two groups face off in a battle that becomes more than the Dragons expected.

    Canberra Dilettante says: "Jim Butcher & Buffy & a touch of Dennis Wheatley"
    "Jim Butcher & Buffy & a touch of Dennis Wheatley"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a really appealing urban fantasy story with some great original themes (especially around the overlap between colour, art, and spirit). If you like the idea of Buffy, or the Dresden Files where apparently ordinary humans turn out to have hidden talents and fight paranormal evil while exercising a nice line in witty repartee, then you'll enjoy this. As I did. Rival gangs, animal spirits, zombies, voodoo, dragons and all kinds of magic infuse this story, and Donovan de Chance is a thoroughly enjoyable hero with a D&D-esque bag of tricks and a library Giles might envy. So a lot of fun to be had here!

    The only sour note, for me, came in the sort of scene I've not read much since Dennis Wheatley which involves a female character having her clothes torn off in an assault and the hero stopping, literally, to smirk and enjoy it. It was a weirdly misogynist moment and threw me out of a story I had been enjoying and a protagonist I was beginning to like a lot. I liked him a lot less after that bit of creepishness.

    But that was one moment, and there really was a lot to enjoy here. This is the first in a series, so I'm very willing to give Donovan another (de) Chance - especially if his mysterious cat Cleo, feisty sidekick Amythest and talented young artist Salvatore make more appearances.

    Narrator Corey Snow is very good, tackling a variety of accents, ages and genders convincingly and with good differentiation. I will be looking for more of his work.

    Disclaimer: I received this audiobook free for review purposes. My opinions are my own and independent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Adventure of the Speckled Band

    • UNABRIDGED (59 mins)
    • By Arthur Conan Doyle
    • Narrated By Ben Lindsey-Clark
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Arthur Conan Doyle once remarked that The Adventure of the Speckled Band, first published in 1892, was his best Sherlock Holmes story. In it, a young woman, Helen Stoner, consults Holmes about her ill-tempered stepfather whom she suspects had some part in the death of her twin sister, Julia. She fears her stepfather has the same plans for her: he has forced Helen to move into the mysterious and disturbing room in which her sister died under suspicious circumstances.

    Canberra Dilettante says: "One of the greatest of the Sherlockian classics!"
    "One of the greatest of the Sherlockian classics!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What made the experience of listening to The Adventure of the Speckled Band the most enjoyable?

    I love the Sherlock Holmes stories deeply and truly - one of the great delights of a good reading (like this one) is that I can almost recite the best lines along with the narrator!


    What other book might you compare The Adventure of the Speckled Band to and why?

    Ooooh - "Silver Blaze"; "The Red-Headed League"; "The Reigate Squires" - all the best Sherlock Holmes stories!


    Which character – as performed by Ben Lindsey-Clark – was your favorite?

    So hard to choose! But I was surprised what a lovely job he did with Helen Stoner's character. And the evil Dr Grimesby Roylott was perfect!


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    What dreadful evil lurks in the heart of the English countryside? It was the band - the speckled band!!


    Any additional comments?

    Great fun. I hope the rest of the Canon is to come!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A Clash of Kings (Part Two): Book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By George R. R. Martin
    • Narrated By Roy Dotrice
    Overall
    (314)
    Performance
    (283)
    Story
    (285)

    This is Part Two of Book 2 of the A Song of Ice and Fire Series. George R. R. Martin’s superb fantasy epic continues in consummate style as bloodshed and alchemy lay waste the Seven Kingdoms. This second volume of A Song of Ice and Fire is unabridged and split into two parts. The Iron Throne once united the Sunset Lands, but King Robert is dead, his widow is a traitor to his memory, and his surviving brothers are set on a path of war amongst themselves.

    Ian says: "Writer & Narrator in Perfect Harmony"
    "Pt 2 Vol 2: Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones)"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    See my comments for Part One of Vol 2 of Song of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings (Game of Thrones)


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Isn't Tyrion everyone's favourite? Though I have a sneaking fondness for Davos the Onion Knight. And (heresey!) Sansa.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    I guess so. Dotrice is a little ponderous, and I'm thrown out of the story too often by his ill-fitting accents and mangled pronunciations.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I'd love to listen to the whole Song of Ice and Fire in once sitting, but (a) the series isn't finished yet; and (b) I'd need to take a fortnight off work and arrange to be fed through a tube!


    Any additional comments?

    I think these books are probably perfect for Whispersync and might try that for Volume Three. They are so dense and complex that I think that the immersive experience of listening and reading together would be an idea way to make sure I'm capturing all of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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