An Leughadair

An Leughadair

I tend to read non-fiction: history, archaeology, folklore, Gaelic polytheism, and witchcraft.  I listen to fiction: Scandi-Nordic crime, magical realism, and Scottish authors.

4 Stars
"The Wine of Angels" by Phil Rickman: An Audiobook Review
The Wine of Angels (Merrily Watkins, #1) - Phil Rickman

Why did I read (listen to) it?


I had this on my iTunes in audio format for ages, so I can't actually remember why I chose it, but I'm glad I did.


What's it about? Merrily Watkins arrives in a Hereford Village with her teenage daughter, Jane. Merrily is the priest-in-charge and soon finds herself courting controversy, while struggling to make sense of her dreams. Jane, too, finds herself in a sticky situation. When they finally move into the vicarage, events seem like they will overtake them.


What did I like? The dramatic opening during a wassailing was interesting, but then the book started again with the mundane matters of moving from the pub to the vicarage, and providing an introduction to the characters introduced in the first scene. Bit of a jolt, but then matters build, and build to the point I had to listen to the last three hours without interruption - I wanted to get to the climax.


I liked, too, the somewhat supernatural element interwoven into a mystery. I am a fan of crime fiction and this added a new, and interesting element. The story was well told: dramatic opening, a quick come down, and then an enthralling ride to the finish. The characters seemed stereotypical village types - at first - but as the story continued, it became clear that there was much going on underneath; some of which is never fully explored, much as happens in real life wherein you know there is more, but you're also very aware you will never fully understand. The author really shows the incongruous nature of the modern village - old traditions meets chattering classes incomers.The audio edition I listened to from Audible was clear, and without fault.


What didn't I like? I have to admit, as much as the narration was good, and clear, the character voicing was such that I was not always sure which character was speaking. There was attempt at accents, but I was not convinced. 


Once or twice there were jumps in the time line of the story that I felt left too big a gap, and for this reason I have removed a star.


Would I recommend it? Actually I would, but I'm not entirely sure to whom. That said, I will be reading the next book in the series to see how this unique, crime fiction develops.

3 Stars
"Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road from Debt to Freedom" by Ken Ilgunas
Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom - Ken Ilgunas

Why did I read it?


I have a significant amount of unsecured debt which I have been paying off for years, and I am contemplating returning to university to change my life, so this book definitely caught my eye, having read the synopsis.


What’s it about? Ken Ilgunas recounts his adventures as he seeks to pay off his undergraduate debts in the first part of the book, and, then how he secured his post-graduate degree at Duke University without going into further debt.What did I think?


Though this book was what I thought it might be from the synopsis - it provided food for thought as I contemplated my own future, and how I might manage financially - somehow it missed it's mark with me. I certainly know I could not undertake the route the author chose to become, and remain debt free.


Ken Ilgunas worked in some awful places to pay off his original debt, before living in a van, parked up on campus, while undertaking post-graduate study Duke university. The path he chose to travel is definitely different from the norm including working in a remote outpost in Alaska, working as part of an environmental group both of which included room and board, so any earnings could be utilised to pay off his debt quicker. Ken then undertook a journey with a group seeking to replicate the experience of the Canadian voyageurs of the 18th and 19th centuries before undertaking his post-graduate degree without going back into debt.


Although there are some interesting anecdotes about his adventures while reducing his debt, and he provides details of his budgets, overall, something is lacking in the telling of Ken Ilgunas's tale; I’m not sure I know what though. In some sections of the book I felt I was being preached at about how bad it is to join corporate America, or the rat race; in other places, the narration became somewhat wordy in describing feelings about places and/or people. As much as the author seemed to go into detail, I’m not sure I really know just how he did cope on a day-to-day level under the strict, self-imposed budgetary, and living conditions. Throughout this recollection, I always had the feeling something was missing.


Ken Ilgunas eschews the normal path people take through life, consisting of (in his opinion) getting an education, working in a job they may dislike to paying off the debts they accrue getting that education, getting a mortgage, continuing to work in a job they dislike to pay off the mortgage and other consumer debts, then retiring without having really lived. It’s a point-of-view held by many who seek the simpler life, but others may disagree believing it is more about “dropping out” of humanity, something which Ken’s mother hints at in the book.


The narration by Nick Podehl was quite well done, though I did query the pronunciation of some words, but this might have been accounted for by the difference between American and UK English. The audio edition I downloaded from Audible was crisp, clear and without any faults.


"Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom" is an interesting read about one young man’s journey to find his place in the world, and getting out from the under burden of being in debt, but it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.


Would I recommend it? Yes, I would recommend it to any person contemplating university and taking on student loans. Read this first.

4 Stars
"The Third Policeman" by Flann O'Brien
The Third Policeman - Flann O'Brien

Why did I read it?  It was recommended to me by the son of an Irish author as essential reading.


What's it about?  Yes, I'm still trying to figure it out.


What did I like?  The narration by Jim Norton was fine and the audio was clear.


As to the book:  A very different style of book from my usual; and I guessed where it was heading, yet, despite this, it held my attention.  I'm sorry, it's hard to describe.  It starts someone like a biography, but soon diverts into something "other". 


What wasn't too like?  I was never sure where this book was going, but I cannot decide if that is a good thing or not.


Would I recommend it?  Yes, just for the experience alone.

3 Stars
"Diary of a Witchcraft Shop" by Trevor Jones
Diary of a Witchcraft Shop - Trevor  Jones, Liz Williams

Why did I read it? It was the group read for a group on another book site.


What's it about?  Essentially it is a diary of the lives of the owners of a witchcraft shop in Glastonbury, England: their day-to-day lives; and their encounters with personalities. Though in diary format, following a whole year, the entries are not all from the same year.


What did I like? I found this book very well written; not to heavy, not too light. The diary format made it easier for me to pick up and put down when other matters took precedence. It was a quick read for me.


What didn't I like? The promotional blurb, synopses, and reviews led me to believe this would be a humourous look at the oddities that sometimes converge on Glastonbury and, more particularly, in a witchcraft/occult shop. I was expecting to be as fun a read as Coarse Witchcraft, which had me in stitches from beginning to end. Whereas, the situations in Coarse Witchcraft were based on real events, and all personalities remained anonymous throughout, this was not the case in Diary of a Witchcraft Shop. Too few entries raised a smile; far more raised an eyebrow. There were some comments made in this book that I personally felt crossed the line; opinions perhaps best aired among friends, rather than copied from a diary to a published book. These entries detracted from the book's (expected?) lightness, occasionally giving the impression of a tool to vent.I also found the use of both real names (both first and last), and initials puzzling. I'm not sure providing an initial would guarantee anonymity in a small village, or community, so why not use a pseudonym instead? Real names were provided for the well-known, either to the general public or the pagan community. I felt Diary of a Witchcraft Shop could have been a much more enjoyable book, but it missed the mark somehow.


Would I recommend it? If you are looking for lots of entries similar to the one mentioned in the promotional blurb, I'm afraid you will be disappointed. Personally, I'm not likely to recommend Diary of a Witchcraft Shop despite the quality of the writing.

2 Stars
The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1)
The Next Always - MacLeod Andrews, Nora Roberts

Why did I read it? Nora Roberts|625|Nora Roberts often appears on the readings lists of friends, and has occasionally turned up as a recommendation. As Audible were offering it for free, I downloaded the audio book.


What's it about? The three Montgomery brothers are renovating an historic home into an Inn. This book focusses on Beckett and his affections for the Inn, it's ghostly resident, and his boyhood crush, the now-widowed Clair the Fair.


What did I like? It was a light, quick listen during the commute to and from work. It wasn't an overly mushy romance.What didn't I like? It was a romance and a heavily foreshadowed one at that. I can even see the storyline, and on whom the focus of any follow-up books. The characters are as predictable as the storyline.


Would I recommend it? For readers of romance, who like a hint of the supernatural, this might fit the bill, but it's not for me, to which the shortness of this review can testify; I just can't be bothered to even write about it.

4 Stars
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens, Tom Baker
Why did I read it? Because I enjoy audiobooks, and I also relished Tom Baker's contribution doing voice-overs on "Little Britain".What's it about? Mr. Scrooge is a miserable, friendless, mean old man, who employes one poor clerk with a large family and a crippled son to support. Christmas arrives and with it, three spirits of the season to show Scrooge the error of his ways.What did I like? Tom Baker is an excellent narrator, who breathes life into the words of Dickens like no other I've heard; Mr. Baker really made the book come alive for me, and I have read it several times, so this was a novel experience. Mr. Baker is a masterful storyteller, whose enthusiasm shone through in his performance, without over-acting or any hint of condescension in his reading. I sincerely hope he chooses to do more recordings of books in the future.Some sound effects were employed in the recording, and these enhanced my enjoyment of the story. Would I recommend it? I think this audiobook can be enjoyed by all the family, though I would suggest that it may not appeal to children under the age of 9. Better still, if you have a long drive to the grandparents for Christmas, put this on to make that journey a joy.Overall, a highly enjoyable listen which is just perfect for the winter holiday season.Note: The rating should be 4.5 stars.
2 Stars
"Autumn Killing" by Mons Kallentoft
Autumn Killing (Marlin Fors, #3) - Mons Kallentoft,  Jane Collingwood,  Neil Smith

Why did I read it?  I had read the first two books in the Malin Fors series, "Midwinter Sacrifice" and "Summertime Death" . I had enjoyed the former far more than the latter, and I had hoped "Autumn Killing" was a return to form for Mons Kallentoft.


What's it about? Jerry Petersson's body is found in the moat of Skogså Castle, his home. A self-made man, he obtained the castle from a family that had owned it for generations upon his return to his hometown of Linköping. Malin Fors struggles with the case, and the rest of the investigating team come to the for, as Malin's life is near to collapsing from her inability to deal with the kidnap of her teenage daughter Tove by a serial killer the year before.


What did I like? The narration by Jane Collingwood was up to speed, and I still enjoyed the male narrator of the victim's voices, and the sound effects for telephone conversations, etc. that are employed in the audio versions of these books. When parts of the storytelling began to weary me, Ms Collingwood did exceptionally well to keep me listening.


The audio version was clear, without mistakes, and the pace felt even and steady, even if the actual storyline didn't.The characterisation of Malin has felt more realistic in these last two books, and I'm pleased to find I feel comfortable with her now.


There is still an unsolved matter from the first book still lurking in the background that has kept me tempted to read this series, and mention was made of it several times within "Autumn Killing". I should like to see it resolved - eventually.


What didn't I like? For me, there was an extraordinary amount of focus on Malin's personal life, and this gave the impression of overwhelming all other aspects of the book. The murder, and solving it was secondary, if not tertiary to the inner life of the main detective, Malin. I really didn't understand this at all. There was some insight into the home and/or personal lives of the other investigators in "Autumn Killing", but there was no real surprise much of them seemed stereotypical cop characters, and because of this, I lost interest in them, too. It really felt like no effort had been made at all to draw intriguing characters other than Malin, and I was so tired of hearing her voice/thoughts, that I almost did not make it to the end of the reading.


The murders also lacked lustre, the reason for them feeling a somewhat overused (or maybe I've read too many crime fiction novels), and I feel it the whole mystery could have been far more prominent within the book overall. It was almost a cliché, like the other characters in the investigation team.


Oh, how I wish that either the author, or translator (whoever is responsible), would learn another word, or two, or three for "says". When conversations run for a while, the use of the word "says" really began to grate my nerves. Here are some options to consider: responds; posits; replies; queries; thinks aloud; states; affirms; and swears. There are any number of other words which can be found in a thesaurus which can be used as an alternative to "says". Use them. Please!


I don't know. "Midwinter Sacrifice" held so much promise for me, but any originality seems to have been depleted by "Autumn Killing", as has my enthusiasm for the series. It feels so tired already.


Would I recommend it? No, I'm afraid not. Enjoy "Midwinter Sacrifice", but I wouldn't take it any further than that with the Malin Fors series, and avoid the audiobook altogether. [See my review of "Midwinter Sacrifice" for reasons why you should steer clear of the audio.]

4 Stars
"Click Clack the Rattlebag" by Neil Gaiman
Click-Clack the Rattlebag - Neil Gaiman

This is a short story, rather than a book, written and narrated by Neil Gaiman. Scary? Yes, but only if you really think about it and then you realise just how scary.


A spooky short story just perfect for the autumnal season of Halloween, as we move into the darkness.

4 Stars
"The Bat" by Jo Nesbø
The Bat (Harry Hole, #1) -  Sean Barrett, Jo Nesbø

Why did I read it? A number of my friends have been recommending the Harry Hole series to me, and the books keep appearing on (targeted) recommending reading lists. As "The Bat" was the first book in the Harry Hole series, and it was released in audio format, almost at the same time as the print copy, I downloaded it.


Aside from which, it was a Scandi-Nordic, crime fiction story set in Australia. How could I resist?


What's it about? Harry Hole is in Australia as the representative of the Norwegian police in the investigation of the murder of Inger Holter, a Norwegian national. Upon arrival, he is met by Andrew Kensington, an indigenous Australian policeman who guides Harry through the investigation, despite attempts to side-line him. It soon becomes clear that Inger's death is just one of many of young, blonde women up and down the eastern seaboard.


What did I like? Let's start with the narration by Sean Barrett. His vocal characterisation was so solid that just before the perpetrator’s name was revealed, I knew who it was by voice alone. General Australian accents are reasonably well done, even if regional differences are omitted. Have to love the various pronunciations of Harry's surname, too; it provided me with giggles. I felt the pacing of the audiobook was perfectly matched to the storyline; and it helped build the tension for me. It seems as though a considerable amount of Harry Hole's past is revealed in this book, and I think I might have appreciated "The Redbreast" (3rd in the Harry Hole series) more had I been able to read the Harry Hole series in chronological order.


I particularly enjoyed the view of my compatriots from the Norwegian perspective, well Harry Hole's perspective at least. The comparison made between Australia and New Zealand by one policeman was particularly amusing.There are great characters in this book, many of whom act as narrators of stories and tales; some of which act as clues, and Harry narrates his own past. "The Bat" was very much a character piece, and I enjoyed that aspect of it; even so, the investigation unfolded in a wonderful way; the whole coming together beautifully.


I don't understand those reviewers who say this is one of Jo Nesbø's weaker books, believing he has improved as the series has progressed, because I found "The Bat" far more enjoyable than "The Redbreast". Then again, that could be because I knew nothing of Harry Hole or his past, so did not understand his actions, or thinking.


What didn't I like? I'm not sure I have anything bad to say about this book, except, perhaps the fate of the perpetrator, I could kind of see it coming when I knew the location, which ever-so-slightly spoiled the end for me. A very small gripe though.


Would I recommend it? Oh yes. Definitely. This book made me laugh out loud, and cry, too. Odd for a crime fiction, I should think. I would also recommend the audiobook, as read by Sean Barrett.

4 Stars
"In the Darnkess" by Karin Fossum
In the Darkness: An Inspector Sejer Novel (Inspector Sejer 1) - Karin Fossum

Why did I read it? Because it was by an author listed in the Scandinavian and Nordic Crime Fiction group at another booksite, and it was on offer from Amazon's ARC programme.


What's it a about? This is the first Inspector Sejer book by Karin Fossum set in a small town in Norway.  Eva and her daughter, Emma, are out walking along the river when a body appears in the water. Eva appears to recognise the shoes on the body. She tells her daughter she will ring the police and drags her to a telephone box, but instead Eva calls another number before whisking Emma to McDonalds. The body turns out to be that of a man who has been missing for months, having disappeared around the same time a prostitute died, a crime which remains unsolved. Inspector Konrad Sejer investigates both, as it's unusual for two murders to occur in the town.


What did I enjoy? The book, actually the story is tightly edited. There is no excessive anything; and it's sharp with a mystery so brilliantly conceived, I truly struggled to see the connections until the reveal. I particularly enjoyed Karin Fossum's organisation of the story: the first part set in the present, then it travels back in time with a whole section revealing how events unfolded in one long narrative, before coming back to the present and tidying up. It was a great format, though it may not sound like it from my description. It really made the story flow, and provided a real sense of suspense as I struggled to see the connection between events past and present.


Descriptions seem minimal, but everything that is needed for a good story is there. There is an absence of long, gory details about bodies, or murders, no autopsy, or long forensic scenes, which I found refreshing. The fact it is translated into English doesn't seem to have impacted on the style, or format at all.  Only the main characters are fully formed, the ones on the periphery remain a little blurred. I imagine these characters will be developed further as the series continues.


What didn't I like? Strange, but I can't think of anything I disliked about "In the Darkness".


Would I recommend it? Yes. I'll definitely be reading more of Karin Fossum's book, especially in the Inspector Konrad Sejer series. I may have issued four stars, but it's closer to five.


Why not five stars then? I didn't enjoy ""In the Darkness" as much as I would have expected, given how well it's written and presented, but that it my own fault; I read "In the Darkness" over a long time period in between reading another crime fiction book. I feel had I sat down and read it over a shorter period, i.e. one sitting, and without another mystery to distract me, I would have appreciated it much more.

0 Stars
Some Kind of Fairy Tale - Graham Joyce
Will do a proper review over the weekend, but, until then ... I have to say I truly enjoyed this book. In essence, it is more about the affect the return of a family member can have after a 20 year absence, rather than the telling of a fairy tale.
3 Stars
Summertime Death - Mons Kallentoft,  Jane Collingwood,  Neil Smith
Why did I read it? I had listened to Midvinterblod by Mons Kallentoft, and enjoyed it, despite the poor narration, so upon noticing a new narrator for the audio edition of Sommardöden, I chose to download and listen.What's it about? It is the hottest summer anyone can recall in Linköping, in addition to which forest fires are raging. Having sent her daughter away with her ex to Bali, Malin Fors finds herself investigating the abduction of one girl and the murder of another, both of a similar age to Tove. The unbearable heat makes everyone rather sluggish; it's hard to think; and, as the investigation to uncover the abductor seems to lead nowhere, Malin grows ever more worried at the imminent return of her daughter.What did I like? This time, Malin's inner dialogue seemed more appropriate, and realistic of a woman, much more so than in the earlier book; however I put some of this down to the fact this version was narrated by a woman. I was more drawn into the personal, and inner worlds of Malin this time, too.The narration of this book was much more lively than in Midvinterblod by a different narrator, but the same author. The little sound effects used were just as effective, and the voice characterisations were better, too. Once again, I had no idea who the perpetrator was, but, then, these series of book unfolds differently than in other crime thrillers I’ve read in the past.The use of the weather was wonderful. The heatwave increasing the feeling of sluggishness, weariness of the Linköping police, and Malin in particular. At the time I was listening, a heatwave was occurring where I live and I could feel the effect for myself, but Mons Kallentoft conveyed it beautifully throughout the book.What didn’t I like? Though Malin thinks more like a woman, had this not been narrated by a woman, I would still think her voice a male one. The overuse by the author of the word “says” nearly drove me to distraction at times. There are other words one can use such as “responds”, “questions”, “replies”, “states”, “posits”, “remarks”, “utters”, and so on. It felt rather lazy, and took away from the style of the book.Although the narration by Jane Collingwood was an improvement, it still somehow felt too laid back, or soft to me. I wish I could find the words to describe how it affected me better. What I can say is that I felt a lot of tension was diffused by both the narrators of the two books thus released (in English) in this series; however, it could just be Mons Kallentoft’s style of writing that does not lend itself to building tension. Though I may not have known who the perpetrator was, I was not surprised by certain developments in the plot. Everything was so heavily foreshadowed, I knew what was coming.I was also confused by how Malin arrived at her revelation about the perpetrator. I could not figure out, from what she knew, how she made the connections. It rather spoiled the end for me.Would I recommend it? Actually, despite my gripes, yes. This was less an exciting story idea than in Midvinterblod, but the narration of Sommardöden was superior and I still enjoyed listening to this book.
4 Stars
The Broonie, Silkies & Fairies: Travellers' Tales - Duncan Williamson, Alan B. Herriot
Why did I read it? I had read Duncan Williamson’s “Land Of The Seal People” and truly enjoyed it, so I purposely sought his other publications, mostly because he includes so many tales of the Silkie, also known as the Selkie and seal people, a subject which truly fascinates me: a race people who move between two worlds.What’s it about? This is a collection of fireside tales told to Duncan Williamson during the years he spent travelling. The tales are from the north-west of Scotland and include:“The Silkie’s Revenge”;“The Broonie on Carra”;“Saltie the Silkie”;“The Taen-Awa”;“Torquil Glen”;“The Lighthouse Keeper”;“Archie and the Little People”;“The Broonie’s Curse”;“The Fisherman and his Sons”;“The Tramp and the Boots”;“The Crofter’s Mistake”; “The Broonie’s Farewell”; andan annotated glossary.As can be gleaned from the titles, all are tales involving other folk, and include lessons on how to behave, or not when encountering these folk.What did I like? Aside from relishing the tales of the seal folk, I was particularly taken aback by the lack of happy endings often encountered in children’s tales of the modern age. These stories contain warnings, though not all, and very few have a particularly happy ever after feel. Though these are cautionary tales, none was overly terrifying; rather the some characters terrified themselves, particularly in the case of “Torquil Glen”.I also enjoyed learning different lore surrounding certain creatures, such as the broonie. I had always understood them to be attached to particular families, or homes, but this appears not to be the case in the stories presented in this book relating to the broonie. Rather, a broonie appears as a travelling man to assess the nature of a human’s character and reflecting their fortune accordingly; more as a short lesson than a lifetime curse.Each story is preceded by a few paragraphs revealing the source of the tale; many have summaries wherein Duncan Williamson adds his own thoughts and feelings on the preceding story, which provides a unique insight into the purpose, and culture of fireside storytelling.What didn’t I like? It was the small matter of some of the dialect. There are footnotes for some words, and the editor, Linda Williamson, the author’s wife, provides an explanation in the glossary of how they arrived at appropriate language for the publication, it was still sometimes a little hard to discern what was being said. Still, the language did evoke a sense of authenticity of the tales.Would I recommend it? Yes. I highly recommend “The Broonie, Silkies & Fairies: Travellers' Tales” by Duncan Williamson to anyone that enjoys a good story, folklore, fairy tales, or has an interest in otherworld beings, and/or the culture of travelling folk, crofters or the north west of Scotland.Rating: 4½/5.
4 Stars
The King with Horse's Ears and Other Irish Folktales - Batt Burns, Igor Oleynikov
Why did I read it? I've always enjoyed fairy and folk tales and this collection appeared several times in recommendations on various book sites.What's it about? It is a collection of tales remembered from the fireside telling by the author's grandfather. An eclectic collection of magical creatures, and characters from old Irish myths illustrated rather sparsely by Igor Oleynikov.Contents: “Back from the Fairies”; “The King with the Horse's Ears”; “Fionn Mac Cumhail and the Fianna of Ireland” “The Greedy Barber”; “The Charm Setter”; “A Famous Thief”; “Oisin in the Land of the Ever Young”; “Just One Choice”; “Paying the Rent”; “The Boy and the Pooka”; “A Strange Night”; “A Clever Leprechaun”; “The Lost Land of Lonesome Seals”; Glossary; and Sources.What did I like? The author's style of writing lends itself to recital to others, and, frequently, it is easy to imagine each tale being told by the fireside of a grandparent's home. There is a mix of tales here, nothing too scary for wee children, though not all have an easily discernible moral. The language is simple enough, and there are pronunciation guides provided as footnotes, presumably based in the speech of the county of Kerry. The book also provides a glossary of terms and further reading, especially handy for the adult narrator whose listeners are bound to ask many a question. The illustrations are sparse, but delightful. Each tale was a delight.What didn't I like? Some of the stories ended rather abruptly, and in nearly every story a little more description of characters and places would not have gone astray.Would I recommend it? Yes. To any parent who wants to introduce folklore, particularly of Ireland, to their progeny.
4 Stars
The Killing (The Killing, #1) - David Hewson,  Christian Rodska
Why did I read it? I have been on a Scandi-Nordic fiction kick since midwinter 2011, and I heard the television drama series was good, but I couldn't afford to purchase the DVD; so I snapped up a preview copy from Amazon, but found it already released in audio format and downloaded it instead.What's it about? Detective Inspector Sarah Lund is leaving her job with the Danish police and moving to Sweden with her fiancé and Son, but on the last day a teenage girl goes missing. Nanna Birk Larsen is found raped and brutally murdered, and Lund is unable to break from the case to leave, despite her replacement, Detective Inspector Jan Meyer, itching to take over.What did I like? There are mistakes made by the police in their investigation, not everything is straightforward because - to quote the fictional Dr. Gregory House from television - "Everybody lies". The listener is not always sure of Lund's thinking, or how she makes the connections she does in her investigations. Lund seems very well drawn, as do the all the other characters.Like most detectives in Scandi-Nordic crime fiction, the family life of Lund is dysfunctional, as are her working relationships, adding to the character interest; she is fallible but apparently not vulnerable. In The Killing we have the addition of the dysfunctional world of politics, and the disintegration of the family of the victim.I liked that things seemed rather all over the place, and it all only draws together in the last 20 minutes of the audio version. The audio was clear, without error and with a steady, even volume.What didn't I like? I can't say what it was, but when I first started listening, I gave up very early on. It just could not hold my attention. I can't say if it was the narration, the storyline or what. Months later, I started re-listening and was completely and utterly drawn in.Though based on the television series, it seems to stray from it in many places, at least according to synopses and analyses I've found in various places on the internet. In that respect, I am not sure I got what I wanted from it, which is an alternative to watching/buying the DVDs.Christian Rodka as narrator seems to struggle to find unique voices for the characters, employing various English accents, but somehow it just wasn't engaging. I though it rather forced and false. Eventually, I got used to his style, but I didn't think his narration enhanced the book.Would I recommend it? Yes, though I would warn it's not an exact replica of the television drama and, perhaps would recommend reading, rather than listening to it.
4 Stars
The Lollipop Shoes  (Chocolat, #2) - Joanne Harris,  Juliet Stevenson
Why did I read it? It was available in audio, and I adored Chocolat by the same author, Joanne Harris, a dose of magical realism, romance and embracing life.What's it about? Vianne has escaped to anonymity of the city of Paris with her two daughters, Anouk and Rosette, and is seeking a normal, ordinary life. She's taken on her mother's name Yan, she has stopped creating her own confections with the result her shop is failing, and her landlord is in pursuit of her when the glamorous, exciting Zozie de l'Alba enters their lives with the winds of change flirting around her. Annie (Anouk) instantly likes and admires Zozie for her pride in being unique, different, and as both Yan and Annie come to rely on Zozie, the wind, their pasts and (long held) secrets continue their relentless pursuit.What did I like? First, the narration by Juliet Stevenson. It is clear she was a great actress, and when voicing the male characters, I actually thought a male actor had been employed. Ms Steveson's performance of this story was superb and I will actively seek out other books she has chosen to narrate. The story is told through three characters: Vianne, Anouk and Zozie. Ms Steveson made it easy for me to determine to whom a particular chapter related in just the first few words; her characterisation of each individual voice so skillfully personified. I just cannot praise, or thank Juliet Stevenson enough for narrating The Lollipop Shoes, in unabridged format at that.I adored the inclusion of folk and fairy tales throughout the story. Each was a morality tale, as was the whole book (see below for more on this aspect), and each raised the suspicions of this reader. As an adult, I still have my childhood compendium of fairytales and I read them in times when I need to feel comforted, so to find an adult book along the same lines is refreshing. These folk and fairy tales are the clues to the secrets in this book, so pay attention. The Lollipop Shoes is darker than Chocolat, more like those old-fashioned Grimm fairy tales (before sanitisation) highlighting the gruesome fate that awaits the unwary child who ignores their parent's warnings, and which have a hard lesson to impart wrapped up in a cloak of alluring magic. The magic in this story was much more overt and fairytale-like than the subtle magical realism employed in the first book. I probably enjoyed this because of my penchant for those tales I read as a child, though I can see where it might not be to everyone's liking who enjoyed the more subtle, more believable (?) magic in Chocolat. The Lollipop Shoes is more of a mystery book, with a dire sense of danger to it, rather than the quaint tale of the battle between different outlooks, beliefs and morals of the earlier book, though these do play a significant part in the story.The characterisation of the three narrating voices - Vianne, Anouk and Zozi - had depth, and the tension between them was palpable. Shining light on a situation/scene from the point of view of different characters enhanced the feeling of something not being right. In fact, the tension and danger was palpable because of the insights into the thought processes of three, rather than the usual one, or two characters. As the ending approached, the tension tightened and I found myself on edge, and having to listen all through the night and into morning until the climax; I could not stop listening so desperate was I to learn the fates of these three, desperate women. The Lollipop Shoes is also a coming-of-age tale and explores themes of finding one's place in the world-at-large, bullying, the growing pains experienced by parents and children as time passes, and the tension this causes between the two. There is also a window on how a parent might balance protecting their children against preparing them for adulthood, and the unique challenges encountered with children that are outside (what society might consider) the norm.Finally, the food; so enticing; so delicious. Joanne Harris knows how to awaken the senses with her descriptions, and I could smell, see and almost touch every culinary creation within the book. With Juliet Stevenson delivering the lines with such sumptuousness, the kind that raises real cravings within me, without resorting to that overt food porn voice employed by those Marks and Spencer's commercials that are meant to entice the whole of the UK, I am ever so grateful that I didn't have a scrap of chocolate in the house when reading this book, or unhealthy food of any type, as temptation was invoked with every word.What didn't I like? One aspect of morality explored in the book was particularly distasteful: the ethics explored in the employment of magic. It felt like the ongoing animosity between (non-initiate, non-lineaged) Wicca and other magicians/witches. The so-called laws of magic frequently voiced by the former were applied to Vianne in this book and it truly began to grate, almost to the point of shredding my last nerve, especially when it alluded to the neopagan point of view being the "good", in opposition with the traditional outlook being the "evil", despite Vianne following the old ways in the book. Even the resolution, when it came, left a bitter taste in my mouth, and not a pleasant one like that provided by chocolate. This was more than disappointing.Yan (Vianne) was very whiny in The Lollipop Shoes and the repetitive nature of her complaints did begin to wear, though I know this is often how those of that state of mind behave, not realising they are sounding like a broken record. In a similar vein, I am not sure if Joanne Harris believes her readers to be a little dim, or possessing poor memories, but there was quite a bit of repetition in the book and not just because the same scenes were being voiced by different characters. There was more than one instance when I thought: "Aren't these the exact words she used before and the same story? Has my iPod backtracked without me knowing?"I'm afraid there were a few issues with the audio version in that the volume was a little too low and, though perfectly appropriate for this style of story, it meant I had to turn up the volume on my player and this led to some unusual background noises: static; someone receiving an email on Outlook (we all know that pinging sound, don't we?); and some other, not quite discernible, but nevertheless potentially distracting sounds.Would I recommend it? Yes, oh yes. I shall definitely be listening again. It's a strong story that draws you in and you listen in wonder, all the while hoping that when the battle comes, your chosen heroine will be triumphant and the villain punished. Just remember, real life is more a Grimm fairytale, than Disney-like "dreams come true" tale.

currently reading

Progress: 130/448pages
Understanding Scots Law - Christina Ashton
Going Loco: Further Adventures of a Scottish Country Doctor - Tom Rob Smith, Tom Rob Smith, Isis Audio Books
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman, HarperAudio
The Sons of Macha - John Lenahan