Friday, 20 July 2012

Audiobook Review: Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin

Purchased from Audible. 16hrs 10 mins. Narrator Alex Jennings.

Judging by the size of the paper book I expected the audiobook to be longer. However, it was long enough and near the end I found myself losing the plot - literally. I do find listening to non-fiction to be a challenge, whereas fiction tends to work well by ear.

The content itself is brilliant and I learnt more about Dickens than I expected he knew about himself. Hats of to Claire Tomalin for a superb biography. I have no idea how someone can curate all those snippets of information and turn them into a cohesive and readable text. 

The narrator was good; perhaps a bit sing-songy at times as though he was reading to a group of children, but overall I'd listen to a book narrated by him again.

This gets a 4 stars from me - dropping a star only because it seemed to go on for an hour longer than necessary.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Book Review: Shelter by Harlan Coben

Shelter by Harlan Coban
Purchased from WH Smith as part of The Times' Weekly Deal

I'm a Harlan Coben fan. I've read all his books and enjoyed them - until this one. I purchased the book as it was one of The Times' weekly deals. I didn't bother reading up about it beforehand as I already knew the author.
I was part way through the book, shocked by the poor structure and rather strange behaviour of the characters, when I discovered it was the author's first foray into the Young Adult genre. Suffice to say, I don't recommend any young adults read this. We have examples from JK Rowling and Phillip Pullman how literature can be well written for this genre - it does not mean a lowering of the standards.
The characters we not fully believable in their actions or motivations. The sense of place was weak. The structure barely held together.
Shelter is advertised as the first in a series. I'll not be buying the rest. It's a real shame to have to give a poor rating to a good author, but he has stepped away from what he does well and, for me, his narrative skills have not translated into the young adult genre.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Audio Book Review: The Broken Bridge by Phillip Pullman

The Broken Bridge by Phillip Pullman
Narrated by Miriam Margolis
Purchased from Audible, Unabridged, 7hrs 10 mins

Hmmm, are we allowed to give anything other than an excellent rating to one of our National Authorial Superstars?

This story of an Haitian 16 year old girl living in Wales has some interesting moments and is best for conjuring up a good sense of place. However, there are numerous clich├ęs and the one about "feeling white in a black skin" really got on my nerves after a while.  The ending is remarkable for the fact it relies on a rather forced conversation between two people who explain how it all ends. Really weak in structure.
The story gets 1-2 stars from me.

The narrator, Miriam Margolis gets a glorious 4 stars. I'd choose a book again if she was narrating it.