Audiobook Review: ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.’ by Gail Honeyman, narrated by Cathleen McCarron

What a treat.

The Book: What’s it about?

This extraordinary novel has won best seller awards and been praised for its literary originality and for being acutely perceptive,endearing and also funny. I cannot disagree.

This is what it says on the inside cover of the book:

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

An astonishing story that powerfully depicts the loneliness of life, and the simple power of a little kindness

The Audiobook: my review

A truly positive immersive experience: I loved it!

I chose to listen to this book on the recommendation of my daughter, and it’s been on my wish list for several months. Being a writer can sometimes take up most of my time, so listening to a wonderful story while I’m pottering around catching up with the mundane chores is always a treat.

Narrator Cathleen McCarron inhabits Eleanor, she is Eleanor Oliphant. The book is written in the first person and therefore we are treated to an intimate insight into Eleanor’s world.

Set in Glasgow the story takes you to work with Eleanor, into her home and her routines, and allows you to understand, to a degree, how much Eleanor’s understanding of human behaviour differs from what is broadly accepted as being the norm. How she deals with relationships, lack of them, and new experiences in an attempt to ‘fit in’, as well as learning about herself – is depicted with sensitivity and gentle humour.

What a superb job the narrator does and justice is truly done to the magnificent writing of Gail Honeyman. Not once did I drop out of the story or feel let down. Just the opposite in fact. This audiobook is a tonic.

As an added bonus there’s an interview between the narrator and the author at the end of the audio. Very enlightening.

I may have to listen to this particular audiobook several more times. Like a favourite film, this one will stay with me and be repeated.

Five stars without hesitation. Alison Morgan

Audiobook Review: The Murder of Harriet Monkton by Elizabeth Haynes

A Historical Murder Mystery

What is the book about?

The Murder of Harriet Monckton is based on a true story that shocked and fascinated the nation

‘On 7th November 1843, Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, was found murdered in the privy behind the dissenting chapel she had regularly attended in Bromley, Kent. The community was appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the autopsy revealed that Harriet was six months pregnant. 

Drawing on the coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, the novel unfolds from the viewpoints of each of the main characters, each of whom have a reason to want her dead. Harriet Monckton had at least three lovers and several people were suspected of her murder, including her close companion and fellow teacher, Miss Frances Williams. The scandal ripped through the community, the murderer was never found and for years the inhabitants of Bromley slept less soundly. 

This rich, robust novel is full of suggestion and suspicion, with the innocent looking guilty and the guilty hiding behind their piety. It is also a novel that exposes the perilous position of unmarried women, the scandal of sex out of wedlock and the hypocrisy of upstanding, church-going folk.’


The Audiobook: My Review

All credit to the publishers of this audiobook for having the foresight to use a number of different narrators for the production of this novel in audiobook format; it is undoubtedly what makes this such an enjoyable listening experience. Without the use of the very different voices to tell each character’s story this would not have done the book justice. It is a vital part of the experience to hear each point of view as there are so many possible suspects. The Narrators are:

Lisa Coleman  Joe Jameson  Richard Reed  David Thorpe  Becky Wright 

I thoroughly enjoyed this exploration of, what is in essence, a true story. Elizabeth Haynes has bravely sought to fully research the actual death of Harriet Monkton and then fictionalised it to generate her own interpretation of what might have happened. Harriet’s murder in 1843 was never solved, leaving it wide open to speculation and supposition.

I loved the writing style, the use of language, the twists and turns and how easily the listener can become fully immersed in the story, swinging allegiances as you go. The voices of the characters really make this story come alive and settle you comfortably into time and place. I still think about poor Harriet, so a round of applause to Elizabeth Haynes. Superb writing.

If you enjoy a historical mystery I highly recommend this one. Loved it.

Alison Morgan

Audiobook review: The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J Walker narrated by Jot Davies

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J Walker 

Described as ‘a post apocalyptic thriller’ this book was originally published  over two years ago and was a best seller for it’s Australian born author who, raised in the UK, now lives in Scotland . I can see why the book did so well. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What’s the book about?

One blurb says:

Do the impossible, or lose your family forever….

Edgar Hill, unsympathetic husband and halfhearted father, finds himself in a hopeless situation. Despite all his best efforts, he hasn’t managed to keep his family together. In fact they are further from him than ever – 550 miles, to be precise.

And in a world near annihilated by a terrible disaster, leaving the UK harsh and brutal, uncrossable by car or bike, his journey to find his loved ones will be fraught with challenges.

His best option is to run. But what if your best isn’t good enough?

Set initially in Edinburgh the story describes ‘the end of the world as we know it,’ to quote from R.E.M. But in the song, the line continues …’but I feel fine’. The main character this thriller certainly doesn’t feel fine. Anything but. Edgar Hill, Ed, is your ordinary man who has to learn to push himself to achieve extraordinary feats of endurance in order to stand any chance of seeing his young family again. What a premise.

My Review

The title appeared in the list of ‘recommendations for you’ on Amazon, and I’m glad it caught my eye because I wouldn’t normally seek out a post apocalyptic thriller as a rule. Having checked the sample – very important to me to have the right voice if they are going to be in my head for hours at a time –  I popped in my ear plugs and the poor dog ended up going for a much longer walk than originally planned because I was enjoying the change from my more usual crime thriller fare.

The story, told from Ed’s perspective, makes you consider just how you would react in the most extreme of circumstances. There is a strong supporting cast of other characters that feature throughout, and despite some having unsavoury habits and less than attractive character traits you really bond with them as a reader. I was willing them on, desperate for Ed to be reunited with his family and survive the most harrowing of experiences and physical endurance along the way. No, I’m not going to spoil it for you… suffice to say that I really enjoyed my little foray into survival fiction. Great escapist entertainment.

The audiobook

The story came alive through the excellent narration skills of Jot Davies with the delightful addition of some original music from the author too. Jot Davies brought the characters to life with consistently good use of accents and a sound delivery of the storyline with dramatic flare and comedy in the right places. He must have enjoyed the story to give such an enthusiastic performance. Top job and a lovely voice.

Well worth downloading.

Audiobook Review: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear narrated by Jane Collingwood

 Sweet Little Lies was an Amazon Bestseller last year, and as usual I never quite got round to reading it at the time. However, there it sat on my TBR pile along with so many others – so many books , so little time. Aha!  Audiobook to the rescue. I’m so glad I picked this novel, it’s got all the ingredients of a good crime novel – whodunnit, why, and how. However this book is not a police procedural and not a psychological thriller but is in fact a mixture of the two. Refreshing, tense, warm and funny.

I have no idea why Audible have categorised it under Self Help and How To Guides, Parenting and Families (whaaaaaat?)  as well as Thrillers …It is a thriller.

About the book: here is the blurb from Amazon.

What I thought I knew: in 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared, and Dad knew something about it. Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

What I actually know: in 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle. Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub. Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder.

My Review:

Cat Kinsella is part of a murder investigation team and this immediately places her in a compromising position when her father could very easily become a suspect in a local murder and linked to the disappearance of Maryanne Doyle. Cat’s no angel and her father is/was a bad boy, in fact good or bad no one in this story is what they seem to be and this tests Cat’s loyalties to breaking point.

The story was well plotted and the characters very believable which is a sound basis for any decent book, which this is. It wasn’t at all difficult to find myself totally absorbed by the twists and turns of this debut novel and, because of the engaging writing style, the first person perspective worked extremely well. As did the settings for the story and the dynamics of Cat’s family. I say family, but she has two families really – one by virtue of her birth and the other her work ‘family’. The title says it all, it’s packed with secrets and lies and yet Caz Frear pulls all the threads together at the end. Neat and very satisfactory. I really enjoyed this one!

The Audiobook:

Congratulations to the narrator. What a fine job especially with the number of characters she had to find voices for. None of the male voices grated on me which can, I’m afraid to say, sometimes happen when females are narrating (A personal view). This is a top quality production.

If you haven’t read or plugged in to this book yet, give it a go.

 

Audiobook Review: Sweetpea by C J Skuse, narrated by Georgia Maguire.

Sweetpea: (click for link to Amazon)

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

An innocent sounding title, but Sweetpea isn’t a book for the genteel. Take heed.  If you are easily offended, don’t have uncharitable thoughts about others, and don’t revel in inventive explicit language and ‘scenes of a sexual and or violent nature’, then this book should be avoided. Personally, I loved the turn of phrase employed by C J Skuse throughout the telling of this story, it shocked me in the most wonderful way! Superb.

Sweetpea has been Shortlisted for the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award 2018 and I’d had it on my ‘want to read’ list for a while. Having downloaded the audiobook, within minutes my jaw needed resetting. Sweetpea is told entirely in the first person and takes the form of a diary kept by a young woman whose past has had a direct and devastating impact on her personality. Rhiannon lives in a British West Country town, with her small dog and her boyfriend. She works for a local newspaper and that is where the fragile veneer of normality ends.

Rhiannon keeps a list. Each chapter begins as she recites the names on this list. The names change depending on what transgressions those individuals have committed, or on Rhiannon’s mood that day. People from work, friends who irritate or betray in some way, other road users, scum or ne’er-do-wells. I have similar lists, the difference being that I don’t often act on my dark thoughts. She does. And she loves it.

Rhiannon, the clever and insightful psychopath, is brought to life in this book by someone who understands the social pressures of being a young adult in today’s world of conforming to expectations about how they should live their lives, interact with others and aspire to the happy ever after. The need to fit in and how this cannot happen for Rhiannon is joyfully recorded using great evil expressions, deeply derogatory comments, fierce put-downs and downright revolting descriptions.

Sweetpea is hugely entertaining to listen to because the narrator ‘gets it’. She has just the right voice for the job and with her excellent timing, inflection, and ability to set the right tone of the story, it comes alive right into your ears! It was hard not to plug myself in for the whole twelve and a half hours and forget the rest of the world for a while, but in truth I rationed myself. Now, there is hole in my life which is about to be filled by another audiobook from the same author or the same narrator, possibly both …

Review of audiobook Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh narrated by Adam Sims

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Narrated by Adam Sims

Highly recommended! Five big stars out of five from me.

A bit about the story:

Thirteen has a clever premise as clearly outlined in the tag line. The killer is on the jury. This isn’t a spoiler in any way it is the hook that prevents you from putting down the book or switching off your bluetooth headphones. The blurb says it all.

‘Hollywood actor Robert Soloman stands accused of the brutal stabbings of his wife and her lover, but he is desperately pleading that he had nothing to do with it. This is the trial of the century, and the defence want Eddie Flynn on their team.

The biggest case Eddie has ever tried before, he decides to take it on despite the overwhelming evidence that Robert is guilty. As the trial starts, Eddie becomes sure of Robert’s innocence, but there’s something else he is even more sure of – that there is something sinister going on in the jury box.

Because of this, he is forced to ask: what if the killer isn’t on the stand? What if he’s on the jury?’

What’s it like to listen to?:

Being as English as  afternoon  tea, I usually stick to British narration. Usually, but not always by any means. This book had been calling to me for some time but as I now write crime thrillers to supplement my pension, – I was going to say that I write ‘for a living’ but that would be lying – I often listen to an audio book while doing the gardening and other household tasks. The garden furniture needed attention and so, as I put brush into jar of teak oil, I plugged in to Thirteen and, my goodness, what a treat.

The story makes use of first person to give the perspective of Eddie Flynn, defence lawyer with a great backstory. I think this draws the reader/listener in to the suspense more than if third person had been used throughout. Cleverly, Steve Cavanagh serves up the rest of the deliciously descriptive dastardly tale in the third person. His research into the workings of the law and of the jury selection process allows those of us unfamiliar with US judicial systems, a chance to understand the ins and outs of the plot. Intelligent stuff.

The characters drive the plot. Eddie Flynn is a delight. Flawed, human, bright and sharp witted. I liked him a lot. Happy to invest. The twisted antagonist, Kane, is a work of  art with depth of psychological damage as well as intelligence and motives that make sense.

What leads me to conclude that this thriller works so well as an audiobook is the narration. Adam Sims understood the story, the characters and he brings them to life. His accents don’t grate and I for one prefer a male narrator when it comes to female voices rather as opposed to a female attempting male voices.  This audio book is a credit to all involved. If you like courtroom dramas, crime thrillers with a psychopath at the heart of the story, suspense and twists a plenty, then you’ll love this. I did.

Alison Morgan  

 

Experiment time: A little audio snippet, does it tempt you?

Here is my confession. I have only recently become acquainted with the work of Philip Pullman and I downloaded The Ruby in the Smoke as an audiobook. The narration by Anton Lesser was sublime and, without doubt, contributed to my decision to read more books by Mr Pullman.

I do enjoy a good audiobook, but nothing irritates more than a bad one. Rather sadly I’ve come across too many examples of badly read stories – some beautifully written –  and I do wonder how much negative influence a poor audio experience can have on future book sales.

In a risky experiment I have created a short audio sample, a reading from part of a chapter of Stench, (written and narrated by me).

My question is this: Would a short audio sample tempt you to buy the book? Or would you be more influenced by a written sample?

 

The Chalk Man : by C J Tudor – audiobook review

The Chalk Man: 'If you like my stuff, you'll like this' STEPHEN KING I’ve taken to listening to books these days, because, to be honest, I have little opportunity to sit, guilt free, and read a book. Although I write crime novels, I live with a non-reader  – which in Harry Potter terms is like saying I live with a muggle.

However …

Plugging into my bluetooth headphones I can multitask by doing the gardening, the ironing, the boring housework and be entertained while walking the dog. I can tune in and drop out.

I’d like to share my personal thoughts on this audiobook: The Chalk Man

  1. The story. A terrible accident, an unsolved murdermysterious chalk drawings, decisions, lies and betrayalsHow cleverly thought through this storyline was and it flowed so well. We are treated to two timelines of events from the perspective of a young  Eddie in the 1980’s and from the adult Ed who is the product of events in his childhood. With him on his journey are a group of lively friends; Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky through whom the book comes alive because of the author’s ability use the language of the young, to enter their mindset and remind us readers (listeners) how confusing the world can appear to be from the perspective of a child. The mystery weaves from the past to the present adult world that Ed inhabits as he attempts to find elusive answers to the puzzles and events that unfold.
  2. The narration. The two male narrators are both easy to listen to, there are no jarring tones or peculiarly unnecessary extremes of accent, and, most importantly, the young Eddie is distinguishable from the adult Ed. I wondered at first why the adult Ed had a soft Irish brogue, but it’s an irrelevancy because both narrators make the story come alive and enable the listener to quickly tune in to the timelines. There is admirable use of the pause and of dramatic inflection that help to paint visual imagery, enhancing the words on the page.
  3. Overall: Great Entertainment. My mind didn’t wander off anywhere other than into the story and I was fully absorbed in the lives of Eddie and his friends. Bravo to all involved.