Audiobook Review – The Vanishing Witch By Karen Maitland

I picked this up as part of a two for one offer so was not sure what to expect other than it sounded interesting from the blurb…

The Goodreads blurb says about the book…

The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It’s a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust? The dour wool merchant? His impulsive son? The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes? Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones?

And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it’s time to fight back, it’s all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.

First, let’s deal with the facts

I really enjoyed this book, first, the narrator, though many of the characters were female the actor reading the book was able to perform each part in a way which allowed you to differentiate between them and not be distracted by the fact it was a man. He read it was enough passion to draw you into the story without distracting from the actual words and I have to say that is something I am discovering to be incredibly important when coming to audiobooks and have already changed my mind about buying some books based on listening to a sample of the narrator’s voice.

I love the overall all story, which I am not going to spoil by telling you, let us just say it is a nice tale of witchcraft. lust and murder. The balance between historical influence and plot is nicely done, I especially like the snippets of witch lore at the beginning of the chapters. The perspective switches from one character to another as you go through the chapters but at no point do you feel like it is repetitive as it can be telling a story from multiple viewpoints, the fact that the speaker is named at the start of each chapter also aids in keeping the story straight.

So the score, part of my wants to give it full marks, but there is something which holds me back, I think it is in part pacing, there are periods where the story moves slower, then you reach the end and it seems to fly through complex revelations, there is a lack of resolution regarding certain characters, which though not affecting the storyline you do wish you had more knowledge of their fates. I decided, in the end, to log it as a four on Goodreads but for this blog, I am going for 4.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend this in audiobook form.

 

Audio Book Review – The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book had been sat on my TBR pile for ages and I confess I had got a little worried it would not live up to the hype, finally I decided to take the plunge but in audio book format…

Running Length; 10 hours and 59 minutes

Narrated by; Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher

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The Goodreads Blurb…

A debut psychological thriller about a woman who becomes emotionally entangled in a murder investigation because of something she witnesses on her daily commute.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and every night. Every day she rattles over the same track junctions, flashes past the same stretch of cozy suburban homes. And every day she stops at the same signal and she sees the same couple, breakfasting on their roof deck, living the perfect life that Rachel craves for herself – a lifestyle she recently lost. She looks forward to observing this household every morning, even makes up names and narratives for its residents. Then one day Rachel sees someone new in their garden, and soon after, the woman who lived there disappears.

Unable to keep this information to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and in the process is drawn into the lives of the couple she thought of as Jason and Jess but whose names – she has learned from the news – are really Megan and Scott Hipwell.

But the police accuse Rachel of being unreliable, and it’s true that her memories can’t always be trusted. Plus there are the stories that her ex-husband’s new wife has been spreading about her. By the time Megan’s body is found, Rachel is in over her head, intricately entangled in the details of the investigation, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she put others in danger? Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by listeners across markets and categories.

Strangely given all the hype I was surprised when I went to get the blurb how low the rating is for this book but I think I get why and also why as an audio book this might actually blow the written version out of the water.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints, three distinctively different women with three very different views on what is happening within the story, obviously I can only speculate given I did not read the written version but I suspect it can get hard to keep the three separate in your head. The advantage of this audio version is each of the women is narrated by a different actress, and they are all incredibly talented ladies.

The story plays with the idea of memory, not only the unreliable one of Rachel but also the way in which it is selective and allows people to fool themselves into believing their own take on things. In the end though the story is about love, betrayal and heartbreak, though the characters are very different in one way or another they are all self destructive, searching to find fulfilment in the wrong places and irreconcilably bound together by an invisible thread.

Would I recommend this book yes but I would add the proviso that I would recommend this audio book even higher, there is talk of a film but I have to say if they do they need to use this same cast and even then I am not sure it can out do this, a huge 5 out of 5 stars.

Gold star

Audio Book Review – One Of Your Own By Carol Ann Lee

This is the first true crime/biography audio book I have listened to and I was a little unsure of what to expect…

Running Length; Approx 18 hours 9 minutes

Narrated by: Maggie Mash

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The Goodreads Blurb…

On 15 November 2002, Myra Hindley died in prison, one of the few women in the UK whose crimes were deemed so indefensible that ‘life’ really did mean ‘life’. Without a doubt Britain’s most notorious murderess, her death has done nothing to diminish the shadow she casts across our collective consciousness. This book presents a study of Hindley.

I was not sure what to expect from this, so far my experiences with audio books had revolved around fiction so when I decided to try out the true crime genre and this popped up I thought why not, I am pretty sure everyone is familiar with the story of the Moors Murders so I am not going to discuss that here in detail, but before we discuss the content I want to talk about the narration.

I had to go double check the narrators name as she was not known to me, it seems she is most known for audio work and has split the reviews down the middle when it comes to narration. I lot of people did not like the ways she attempts various accents as she was reading the book, and I will confess a couple did jar, but overall I liked her voice, it was quite conversational, almost as if she were sat across from you telling you the story.

However, I have to say when she puts on the Lancashire accent and you here her speak Myra Hindley’s own words, it sends chills down the spine, but that is nothing to when she reads the words from the Lesley Ann Downey tape. For me her narration works but I can understand who it might distract people who are less used to the accents she depicts.

So the story itself, well, it is fascinating. I don’t think you necessarily learn anything new about the case but what you do get is a slightly different perspective on some things, and there was one aspect I had never thought of before. we all consider the pain left for the family of the victims but I had never really stopped to think about Myra’s family, they did nothing wrong, played no part in the crimes but their lives were also changed forever. You here about her mother, ending her life in a nursing home, spending most of her life living under different names and hiding in her room so no one knew of the relationship and the other event which made me stop and think was her sister’s funeral. Myra was refused the right to go, quite rightly I believe but what I found disturbing was that the flowers at the grave where ripped apart and destroyed, now maybe I misunderstood, but it sounded like it was not just flowers that might have been sent by Myra but all of them and I could not help but feel anger and sadness for her family, they did not do anything but at a time where they are grieving for someone who was innocent and had suffered terribly, both through illness, personal loss and the infamy of her sister, for her grave to be wrecked as a way of lashing out at someone else seems cruel, if someone had done that to a victims grave or the relative of a victim there would have been an outcry, but are Myra’s family not as much victims of her actions as the others? Some may argue if the stories of childhood abuse are true you might pass some level of blame onto the parents but her sibling did not deserve that, my feelings after listening to this anyway.

It also raised another question in my mind, one which has been asked over and over again, would either of the have committed crimes if Myra had never met Ian? My feelings are that Ian would have still gone on to abuse if not kill, he might not have been as prolific but I think he sexual proclivities would have surfaced no matter what, Myra is a different matter. I think she would have moulded herself to fit whatever was required by the person she fell for, if it had been a gangster she would have been a moll, if it had been a banker she would have turned herself into the perfect businessman’s wife, the fact it was a psychopath meant she become his partner in crime.

This book worked well on audio book I think partly because the case is so well known, obviously you miss out on the photos, maps etc that feature in the actual book but because it is well know it does not diminish your understanding of events. I do recommend it and I will certainly try other biographies and true crime books on audio.

The score for this one is 4.5 out of 5 stars it would be five if maybe they offered some for of file download option for the images in the book, as I say maybe not as big an issue for those acquainted with the case but would be useful to someone who was not.

images 4.5

 

 

Audio book Review – The Shambling Guide To New York By Mur Lafferty

First up a slight provision which is I listen to podcasts by this author and heard this and the sequel as weekly instalments on a podcast the first time I heard them…

Running Length; 7 hours 23 minutes approx

Narrated by Mur Lafferty

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The Goodreads Blurb…

A travel writer takes a job with a shady publishing company in New York, only to find that she must write a guide to the city – for the undead!

Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can’t take off her resume — human.

Not to be put off by anything — especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess co-worker — Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble — with Zoe right in the middle.

I love this book, it works far better in the audio book format than it did getting the episodes weekly, but this is a review so there are a couple of parts where I do feel things could have been done better.

Mur narrates her own novel, and while I like her voice, and there is certainly nothing wrong with her reading, I do in places wonder if it could have been even better with an actor reading the story, while she knows the story best an actor/narrator can often bring more in terms of diversity for various characters, though given the book is written primarily in third person this is not as big an issue as it might have been. I will say I think it would make a fabulous film or play or could even be adapted into a good full cast audio drama.

My second gripe is a small one and it is not major however it is in one way a spoiler, between the chapters you get little snippets from the guide book the fictional character is working on, however about two thirds of the way through the snippet is the dedication and actually gives away the fate of one of the characters, and while you may have an idea already that things will not end well for the character in question it is still up in the air at that point how it will end.

The story is fun and appealing, my son has heard clips from in and wants to listen to the whole thing but it is not suitable really for children as there is an encounter with an incubus which might lead to you having a few questions to answer, but once he hits his teen years I would have no problem with him listening to it. Sadly the sequel Ghost Train To New Orleans is not available via Audible UK so bear that in mind if you decide to go with the audio format, though I will say Mur has quite a distinctive voice so if you listen to the first I am sure you will hear her voice as you read the second.

So we have to go with scores and I have to penalise for the spoiler so…4.5 out of 5 stars.

images 4.5Just a quick P.S since I wrote and scheduled this review I have heard news that it has been picked up by Netflix so maybe a tv version is on the way.

Audio Book Review; Apple Tree Yard By Louise Doughty

Something a little different but as I am unlikely to read the books once I have listened to the audio book I have decided to review them this way.

So first up important information…

Running Length; 14 Hours 1 Min

Narrated by Juliet Stevenson

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GOODREADS BLURB

Yvonne Carmichael sits in the witness box. The charge is murder. Before all of this, she was happily married, a successful scientist, a mother of two. Now she’s a suspect, squirming under fluorescent lights and the penetrating gaze of the alleged accomplice who’s sitting across from her, watching: a man who’s also her lover. As Yvonne faces hostile questioning, she must piece together the story of her affair with this unnamed figure who has charmed and haunted her. This is a tale of sexual intrigue, ruthless urges, and danger, which has blindsided her from a seemingly innocuous angle. Here in the courtroom, everything hinges on one night in a dark alley called Apple Tree Yard.

This has been on my, to read list, for a while since I listened to a review on the Richard and Judy pod-cast, when it came up on my list of suggestion of titles to spend my credits on I though why no, I have not bought a physical copy yet so I clicked and down loaded. Listening to audio-books is something I have done for years but have never really considered reviewing them but the criteria is the same as for a written book but with the added layer of narration, after all the narrators voice can affect how a story is told by the emphasis placed on a few words here or there.

So let’s start with the narration on this one and I have to say I do love Juliet Stevenson’s voice, I have several Jane Austen audio-books where she does the narration, her voice is perfect for this book and you can really relate to the woman she is portraying as the main character. The story draws you in and in many was make you feel like a conspirator or maybe in the end it should be an accomplice as in some ways as the outsider we see things a little clearer than some of those involved.

It is a story of lies, cause and effect and how sometimes we see what we want to see in order to justify our own actions. There are numerous points in the book where the characters could have taken a different path, yet despite the options you cannot help but feel right from the start the end is inevitable, there could never have been a happy ending,

I am going to use the same star system to give marks for these as I would if I had sat with the physical book and read it, so I give this 5 out of five stars and a high recommendation if you want an audio book to start out with.

Gold star