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A good place to start is to learn how to learn!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-12-2019

If your new year’s resolution is to learn a new language, this audiobook might be a great place to start.

Wyner speaks multiple languages and, over the years, has combined the best elements of different learning programs and psychology to work out the fastest and easiest way to learn and retain a new language – for himself.

Different people have different capacities to learn and remember. Ultimately, it’s our own interest and commitment that will make the biggest difference. Where Wyner’s teachings succeed however, is through providing a lot of tips and techniques that can be combined to help wake up our memory.

He reads his own audiobook successfully and varies the recording from the printed version to acknowledge the different medium. It would help enormously to read along with the printed version however, so making use of Amazon/Audible’s Whispersync option might be the way to go.

Wyner refers a lot to his own website and has set up a section for audiobook listeners to access the references that need to be seen, not heard.

In Fluent Forever, Wyner discusses tongue and lip positions, the use of flash cards, word lists and word associations, delving in to the way our brain connects information and the power of visualising the meaning of a word. He pushes the need to recall, not translate and goes on to explain the difference.

On top of his own teachings, Wyner also directs the listener to lots of free and paid online resources, and printed resources such as phrase books and language dictionaries.

If you’ve not been successful learning a language in the past, Wyner teaches you how to learn, which is an important first step. Take the time to learn about learning and you might be surprised by what you learn!

Fluent Forever is an older audiobook, released back in 2017, but it’s still a current and valuable 8 hour lesson.

Disappointing and repetative

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-12-2019

It’s difficult to sympathise with a one-note character, which is the downfall of what should have been a good read with a strong setup. Instead, A Life of Her Own is a repetitive read with a central character that’s too weak and frustrating to care about.

It’s important to note that McCallum presents a realistic sense of oppression in the protagonist, Alice Hamilton, whose passive-aggressive boyfriend manipulates her regularly by chipping away at her self-esteem. Add an aggressive, manipulative boss at work, and poor Alice struggles to find her own self-worth.

It’s a setup that offers a lot of potential but instead, Alice becomes perhaps the most unlucky woman in the world, moving from one manipulative influence to the next on a cycle that doesn’t show enough variation to be interesting.

Jennifer Vuletic does a nice job in the narration of the audiobook. She has a real sense of character, particularly in showing the wide expanse of personalities, ranging from weak to strong, and making something of some one-dimensional personas. Fans of McCallum’s writing may prefer the audiobook version to breathe life into this disappointing tale.

As an introduction to McCallum’s writing, this story doesn’t make me want to explore her further as an author, despite her popularity as “Australia’s master storyteller” (according to the Harper Collins website). It’s meant to be an inspirational story, but only inspired me to want to sleep.

Wells’ writing holds up across the years

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 23-12-2019

This Audible exclusive recording brings HG Wells’ five most popular novels to the fore, each read by a well-known and much loved actor who brings new life to the source material that has spawned so many adaptations across the past century.

For the sadly uninitiated, HG Wells’ prophetic novels are the father of modern science fiction storytelling. American filmmaker Eli Roth introduces the collection by outlining with examples, how Wells’ powerful imagination foretold the coming of space travel, mobile phones, gene splicing and more. He discusses how Wells’ stories have endured the test of time by tapping into the condition of the human heart, making them as relatable today as they were when written in the 1800s.

In this superb collection, David Tennant (Dr Who, Broadchurch, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) reads The War of the Worlds in his native Scottish accent. Welsh actor Alexander Vlahos (Merlin, Truth or Dare) follows up with The First Men in the Moon. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Tomorrow Never Dies) reads The Time Machine; Sophie Okonedo (Hellboy, Spooks) reads The Invisible Man; and Jason Isaacs (Hotel Mumbai, Star Trek: Discovery) finishes the set with The Island of Dr Moreau. All these actors are at the top of their game, providing unabridged readings with strong character work and sometimes, character voices.

Running at more than 27 hours, this latest collection of HG Wells’ most popular works is compulsory listening for fans of his writing and anyone wanting to discover or revisiting the source material after so many film, television, audio and stage adaptations. It’s a magnificent set that offers many hours of excitement and imagination. Wells’ writing holds up across the years, and is an easy listen, unlike some classic literature which has dated poorly.

It’s a bargain for so many hours of quality adventure.

1 person found this helpful

A heartwarming story

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-12-2019

Amanda Hampson’s heartfelt novel is a travelogue of both Europe and the lives of three women turning sixty.

Maggie, Fran and Rose are long-time friends who are each disenfranchised with their lives. In an attempt to rediscover the dreams and hopes they’d lost, the trio decide to relive their European holiday from forty years earlier. Now older and wiser, with a different view on life, the holiday is far from what they expect but precisely what they need to rediscover themselves and what’s important to them now.

The personalities and relationships of Hampson’s characters are all distinct and recognisable, from the friendship between the three main protagonists, to the needy family, disapproving yiayia and the people the women meet on their journey.

Hampson’s storytelling is full of warmth and humour, while her descriptive prose conjures up wonderful images of the locations through the reminiscing eyes of the travellers.

It’s great to find an adventurous book centering around an older generation, particularly one as well realised as Sixty Summers where the characters and situations are relatable to readers of any age.

The audiobook version runs for twelve hours and is narrated by the ever-talented Taylor Owynns, an Aussie actor who with a penchant for accents, making her an ideal choice to present the multicultural parade of characters in this books. It’s well worth a listen for both the quality of Hampson’s writing and the skill of Owynns engaging reading.

A satisfying, unpredictable entry in the market

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-12-2019

Audible’s 2018 Thriller of the Year is a twisting, tense Australian thriller that exposes the duplicity of reality television when TV producer Jack Quick creates a true-life crime series about the brutal murder of Eliza Dacey four years earlier.

The killer was captured and convicted based on dubious evidence, and Quick’s documentary peels back the events leading up to his incarceration. Towards the end of the series, Quick unexpectedly discovers a piece of missing video evidence that may prove the killer’s guilt. Having focussed the series on the potential innocence of the killer, it’s a discovery that would throw his whole narrative out, and so he hides it with some minor editing – a move that results in the killer being released. Soon after, another similar murder occurs.

Stevenson’s debut novel is a complex beast that not only provides a gripping narrative, but questions the responsibility of the media, particularly within the realms of ‘reality television’ and how public opinion can be easily swayed.

The audiobook is expertly narrated by Rupert Degas, an award-winning voice actor with over 25 years’ experience. The re-enactments of the central character’s television series are presented by a full cast of actors who include David Tredinnick, Jennifer Vuletic, Glenn van Oosterom, Paul English and Mariele Runacre-Temple.

Running more than 11 hours, Greenlight was released in September 2018 and is a wonderful Australian production that is available exclusively through Audible. Crime thrillers are a popular genre and Greenlight is a satisfying, unpredictable entry in the market.

Don't miss it!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-12-2019

Jeff Wayne has reimaged his popular 1978 musical production of HG Wells’ science fiction masterpiece, War of the Worlds, and it is stellar.

British science fiction writer HG Wells first wrote War of the Worlds in 1897. It tells the story of a Martian invasion of Earth using superior technology to decimate the population and became the template for future alien-invasion stories. The novel received a revival after American actor and director Orson Welles dramatised it for radio in 1938. The broadcast presented the invasion through a series of fake news bulletins which caused outright panic across the nation as listeners tuned in late and failed to realise they were listening to The Mercury Theatre on the Air.

Welles’ infamous radio play is still celebrated and studied to this day and its popularity is arguably matched only by Jeff Wayne’s rock opera of the seventies. The distinctive dramatic music, combined with Richard Burton’s narration and David Essex’ vocals has continued to keep this recording well-loved and popular.

Now, some 40 years later, Jeff Wayne has removed the songs, revamped the music and released a full-cast dramatisation of War of the Worlds. A lot of the familiar, much-loved music is still there, although tweaked to modernise it, and it complements the fully-realised production and sound effects beautifully with tense underscoring and powerful but shorter musical bridges.

The new music added to this production is of equal quality to the most remembered tunes of the original and it all adds to the tension and thrills of the tale.

War of the Worlds has been done to death over the decades with movie adaptations, at least two television mini-series this past year alone, and countless book readings and dramatisations. Even so, Wayne has creating a fresh new version that brings back the excitement of the story and the storytelling. There’s enough of his original production to delight those already in love with the earlier version without turning this 2018 adaptation into a simple rehash.

Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds 2018 musical drama remains emotive, passionate and unstoppable listening with a top-notch cast. Don’t miss it.

Who would've though sports would inspire Star Wars

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-12-2019

British journalist Ed Hawkins turns sports psychology on its head by looking at the quirkier, darker and more esoteric beliefs of mind over matter.

The Men on Magic Carpets is an exploration through the ages of people who researched and practiced alternative ways to reach sporting success, from psychic and supernatural abilities to the mind-control experiments of Russia and the efforts of the US military to create a ‘super-soldier’ in the 1970s. Hawkins takes these historical and sometimes hysterical ideas and follows them through to modern-day practices of self-actualisation and personal development for sports men and women using yoga, meditation and mindfulness training.

Once upon a time, coaches and fellow players would bully and yell, applying peer pressure with the sole focus on winning the game. Nowadays there’s a move towards ensuring player bond as a team and discover their own potential. While the early efforts discussed in this book may seem whacked out, the modern sensibility may have much to thank those pioneers for.

Hawkins’ book is fascinating read that should appeal to a broad range of readers, from sports fans to psychology students, lovers of the paranormal, and practically anyone who enjoys learning new ideas through a highly entertaining narrative.

In these pages, Hawkins uncovers the use of neuroscience in the quest for performance enhancement, and the search for neuro-supremacy through the use of ESP, psychokenisis, ‘remote viewer’ and ‘power dreaming’. He interviews a bona fide ‘mad scientist’ from the Soviet Union, White House staff in the USA, and a number of people in between. In doing so, he finds synergies between enhancement research being done is sports and the military, and discovers it was this kind of research that inspired film-maker George Lucas to create The Force - the psychic religion of the Star Wars film franchise.

In the audiobook edition, narrator Ciaran Saward puts on voices for some of the people he quotes, and offers good characterisations as he vocalises Hawkin’s trek through the secretive and bizarre world of sports people and scientist who have been or are involved in this kind of research. It’s book is a great read and the audiobook is too. Either option will amuse, befuddle and surprise.

May the Force be with you.

A charming story told over multiple timelines

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-12-2019

Sandie Docker’s second novel is told across multiple timelines, unveiling the love, grief and dreams of multiple players, culminating in a connected finale.

The two main stories follows Nicole, a writer who takes up residence in a cottage at Rosella Cove. She’s escaping a recent trauma in her life, which we learn from an earlier timeline that slowly builds a picture of her life before things changed. In present day, her solace is short-lived as the friendly beachside community takes her under their wing, helping her start a new life.

Also in present day, we meet Charlie, an aging hermit who lives in a nearby boatshed. His viewpoint enters the picture frequently, hinting at a deeper connection to Nicole’s cottage than what first appears.

When Nicole uncovers a series of old letters, written by Ivy to her husband Tom over the span of 35 years until her death in 1976, we begin to realise that Ivy may be the connection that Charlie is hiding.

The Cottage at Rosella Cove is a sweet, sentimental tale with just enough mystery to keep it intriguing. The romance element comes primarily from Ivy’s letters which are a celebration of love even through the bad times. They’re beautifully written and offer a change of style from the rest of the novel.

Docker’s writing offers good place-setting and strong, distinguishable characters who feel fully fleshed out despite any real opportunities to see multiple facets of their personalities. The only real exception to this is Nicole’s fiancé, Mark, who progresses to being the most complex personality.

Also sweet is Kathryn Hartman’s audiobook narration, returning after narrating Docker’s first novel, The Kookaburra Creek Café. Her gentle voice and subtle characterisations make for fine, easy listening, conjuring up the feel of a seaside town and the gentle start of new beginnings.

While The Cottage at Rosella Cove isn’t a fast moving tale, it keeps its intrigue and warmth, making for a fine read.

Add it to your recommended listening library.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-07-2019

Beauty can be internal or external, true or faked, but however it comes, it alters our own perception of the world and the way people respond to us. It is the nature of beauty and how it influences us that is at the heart of Juliet Marillier’s fantasy fairy tale for adults.

Like all good fairy tales, Beautiful has a moral compass that takes us through an adventure filled with curses and trolls, good vs evil, and a quest for love and self-acceptance. The story evolves through the eyes of Hulda, a princess trapped in lonely life at the top of a mountain. As young as seven, Hulda already knows she is destined to many a prince she has never met. Her life is controlled completely by her autocratic mother, including her friendship with Rune, a kind-hearted bear that visits once every three years and teaches Hulda about the beauty hiding in front of her eyes.

When disaster strikes on her wedding day, a 16-year-old Hulda sets forth on a quest to save her groom with unexpected support from those she learns to trust and whose trust she earns. The quest leads Hulda to embrace herself and discover what truly makes someone beautiful.

Released exclusively as an audiobook through Audible Studios, Beautiful is an expanded reworking of a novella released last year. Author Juliet Marillier is a historical fantasy writer who has loosely based her fable on a Nordic fairy tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Her story provides an alternative telling of the original fable which unravelled from the viewpoint of the bear and his girlfriend.

Beautiful is read by the marvellous Gemma Dawson, whose proper British accent is fitting of the central character. Dawson brings Princess Hulda to life with all the emotions and wonder of a sheltered young girl who finds herself on an unexpected and dangerous adventure. Fuelled by Marillier’s strong characterisations, Dawson’s narration is heartfelt and engaging.

While the plot is fairly straight-forward, there is a lot of depth to be found in both the characters and their journey, making Beautiful an easy but satisfying listen for ages 14 and above.

5 people found this helpful

A stunning conclusion to a great YA fantasy series

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-03-2019

It has been a breathtaking adventure over the past four volumes as Alex and her friends delved into the wondrous world of Medora and its history, filled with superior technology, dragons and mystics. Their journey has led them to this concluding chapter where the fate of Medora and the mortal world hang in the balance under an enemy too great to conquer.

Lynette Noni has proven her worth as an imaginative writer and effective story teller, summoning up visions of incredible worlds, extraordinary cultures, and edge-of-your-seat adventures that have made every volume a page-turner.

Vardaesia achieves the seemingly impossible by outdoing everything before it, offering a stunning finale that is both horrific and wonderful. Not all the characters we’ve grown to love, like or loathe survive, with Alex and Co first having to face the prideful Tia Auran race to elicit their help in the coming fight against Aven.

The stakes are higher than ever for the heroes, but the epic battles, mind games and romance, intermingled with prophesy and plotting, are all riding on a story of family, friendship and learning to have faith in oneself.

Noni’s multi-layered narrative is filled with well-rounded characters, plot twists, and a clever intertwining of events and characters from the story’s past, tying together numerous threads and unsolved mysteries.

Carly Robins has been with the series from the beginning as the audiobook narrator, and she returns for this final showdown, conjuring up the majesty and emotion of the characters and action. She’s an articulate reader who provides distinguishable characterisations and excellent pacing. By now, she knows the characters well and understands the subtext of their words.

The Medoran Chronicles has been an exceptional young adult fantasy series and it ends with a climax that has been worth the wait. Watch out for more titles from Lynette Noni, including her other novel, Whisper. She’s a name you’ll be proud to say you’ve known from the beginning of her career.