Audiobook recommendation- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone

If you haven’t listened to it before, you should really give it a go!

I’m going to start by saying I’ve caught COVID! I know! After 2 years of the pandemic, COVID finally caught-up with me and my wife, so this week we were both down with the virus. But it wasn’t all bad, I think the worse of the pandemic had been the anxiety and not knowing. Like, “How might it be?” “How severe could it get?” “Would I be that rare case…..?”

But, catching it, and now 5 days on and the worse is behind me, I’m glad to say that things honestly look more positive now! I have a more positive outlook in life, as we’re probably going to be dealing with COVID for years to come, and this wouldn’t be the first and last time I’m going to catch it. So, at least within myself, I know I’ve beaten it once, and I’ll beat it again! So, moving forwards like the 90s skate brand so eloquently put it, ‘No Fear!’

Thus unexpectantly my wife and I found ourselves in 7 days of home isolation- thankfully we both came down with the virus at the same time, so at least we could keep each other company. Passing time and the ability to entertain ourselves in the middle of the night was the biggest struggle- due to being unable to remain asleep because of the chills, the sweats, the difficulty breathing when lying down etc. So, after the first full day of COVID, we had to find something to pass the time, as I’ve realised, that being off work and having nothing to do, sucks!

So, finding 15 minutes to burn before our Wednesday Bible study session (which had moved back on-line as half of the group had COVID), we just wanted to watch something on Youtube, like some quick 5–10-minute clip which just passes the time. And the other week my wife was watching the Harry Potter 20-year anniversary show while I was in the other room, and I heard sound bites and was curious so I asked if we could find some clips from that program. But instead, we found some hour-long documentary about the making of the first film, it was probably a 10-year anniversary type program when they were wrapping up the movie series. So, it got us thinking, ‘what if we re-live the entire Harry Potter series again, but this time on audiobook?’

I only met my wife in 2008, so we had our own separate Harry Potter experiences. For me, I only started in my mid-twenties and all I knew of the series were through the audiobooks. As by that time I was already blind. For my wife, she had started to read the books while she was in High school, and by book 4, she was reading them as soon as they were released in hardcover. While I, I only listened to my first when book 6 was released, so there was a period where I was listening to them back-to-back as I had so much catching-up to do!

So, to re-listen or to listen to the audiobooks for the very first time, it seemed like a brilliant idea to pass time while recovering from COVID, as what helps time pass faster? Then with a good book!?

And there isn’t real need for me to review the book right? But what I’m going to say is this, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, a fan since a kid, and you’ve read all the books (multiple times), and you’ve watched all the films (multiple times), but you’ve never listened to the books? I’d say you must try it!

Stephen Fry, the narrator of the books really brings the book to life! So, listening to it, is like experiencing a director’s cut version of the film! Which is now 3 times as long! So, 3 times the enjoyment! And we all can admit that the acting in the earlier films were a bit rubbish, but the performances by Harry, Ron, and Hermione right from the get-go is outstanding! Utterly first rate! Because….. They’re voiced by Stephen Fry, who has a real gift for voice acting and making you think that they’re 50 different people acting alongside him. And once you listen to the audiobook, and if you think to yourself “Hey, the voices in the book sound exactly like the voices in the movie?” Like right down to the various accents and timbre? Well, it’s because the original audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, was recorded in 1999, two years after the original release of the novel. While the first movie was filmed and released in 2001. So, it’s no far stretch of the imagination, to assume that the Producers and the Director probably had heard the audiobooks first and based their actor’s accents and speech cadences on what they had heard in the audiobooks. And this is super important! Because the last thing you want in this late stage in your Harry Potter fandom, is to hear a version of Hagrid or Dumbledore which doesn’t gel with your memories of them from your childhood and create this weird disconnect for you. You know what I mean? Right? So yeah, don’t worry about that, the audiobooks and the movies go hand in hand! Just like Dudley and his Smelting stick. Hehehe.  

So, like I said, listening to the books is just like an extended version of the movie. So, you can re-enjoy the series again, over hours and hours. And I know it doesn’t need to take illness to get you back into Harry Potter as an adult. My sister is re-living the Harry Potter audiobooks with her kids, as they’re 7 and 9 years old now and my sister has deemed them old enough to experience the books for the first time. And I’m sure my sister’s enjoying the books in a whole new way now as well, considering that she had read the Harry Potter books for the first and only time in French (her attempts to maintain her High school French). So yeah, there’s so many reasons for you, an adult to re-live the joys of Harry Potter all over again!

To start listening to the Harry Potter series on Audible, just click HERE! It’s time to return to Hogwart!      

Audiobook recommendation- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

I kept asking myself “where is this book going?” But it’s such a page turner!

For the past 4 years, I’ve been experiencing Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ vicariously through the NFL Podcaster Marc Sessler. More than just talking about football, the boys from ‘Around the NFL’ also share what popular culture they’re obsessing over, and Marc had been first obsessing over the film, and then gushed about Tarantino’s first foray into writing a novel. So, finding ourselves with too many Audible credits, I spent one of our credits on the ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ audiobook, but I never got around to listening to it until I noticed that Netflix was now streaming the 2019 film.

The interesting thing is this, I started to consume the book knowing some things, while not knowing a whole lot. For example, I knew the film starred Leonardo and Brad, and I’d heard enough True Crime podcasts over the years to be familiar with all the notable American mass murderers, so I recognised the name Charles Manson. However, I started the book not knowing how their stories might converge or how the movie might unfold either.

And at the get go, within the first 20 minutes of the book, you just know it’s a product of Tarantino’s work. As the dialogue and the mundane nature of the conversations between characters were so pointless, yet so riveting and humorous. Just think back to the Royale with Cheese scene from Pulp Fiction, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. And much, I mean much of the book is like this, mundane conversations, seemingly irrelevant backstories and flashbacks, which leave you thinking “What’s going on?” “This seems all so pointless!” But tell you what, it got me binging this thing, I was listening to it when brushing my teeth, I tore through 2 hours while cleaning the apartment, I was listening to it before bed, and I was literally carrying my phone around listening to it through the tinny phone speakers- as I wanted to get through the book so badly, wanting to know why! Why, would someone write an almost 13-hour long audiobook? What story was he trying to tell here!?

And with only 20 minutes remaining in the book, I had to admit to my wife “I still don’t know where this book is going!” And when it ended, I was just left thinking. “What just happened!?” I’d binged this 12 hrs 42 min audiobook over 4 days, and absolutely nothing happened! Like nothing happened! The book literally documented the lives of a handful of characters across a span of a day and a half in late 60s LA. What was the point and purpose?

Then I forced my wife to watch the film with me, now that I had read the book, I wanted to see for myself why Marc Sessler was so drawn to the film- that he had to re-watch the film in cinema more than once! Like whom does that these days? And throughout the film I was going to my wife, “Yep, that was in the book, and yes, so was that scene, and yes, so was that.” But when it came to the final minutes of the film, I was shocked! I was left saying “That was not in the book!” And after watching the film, now I know why the film had received so much attention at the time. As my wife put it aptly, “Now that’s a typical Tarantino scene.” Referring to the attempted massacre by the Manson Family. Which then led my wife to pull an all-nighter, reading all she could about the Tate murders, the film, and the novel. And I’m here to say, although people thought the film was pointless, and I must admit the book was seemingly pointless as well. But both the book and the film exhibited Tarantino’s brilliance. Yes, the man’s brilliance!

As what Tarantino had done to us, was that he fooled us! He fooled all of us! And he refers to this manipulative power in the actual novel when he describes how Roman Polanski achieved the same affect in his film, when he made a room full of cinema goers to all lean to their left, in a vain attempt to see around the edge of a door frame. And that my friends, is what Tarantino did to us!

That is what he did to us first in the film, the Tate Murders were well known enough in the States (although not by us), that I’d say 99% of cinema goers thought they knew exactly how the film was going to end- as the timer ticked down on 8-9 August 1969. But Tarantino flipped the seemingly ‘true story’ on its head when the Manson Family hit the neighbouring home instead. Wow! Mind blown!

And for those who had watched the film, and then proceeded to read his novel. Tarantino did it to them again! As the book followed the film 99% of the way, it just seemed like a movie book, one of those novels which re-tells a motion picture in text- along with colour pics from the film which inevitably appear in the centre pages of the paperback book. But instead of just re-telling the same movie storyline, Tarantino flips the script again! I’m sure 99% of those who reached the final 20 minutes of the audiobook, they too thought they knew how the book was going to end. End in a rapid gush of guts and gore! But nooooo! Tarantino ends the novel with a freakin happy ending. Leaving me utterly confused. And then in complete denial when watching the film for the first time, leaving me in a state of shock, going “No, no, no!” This is not how the novel ends!

So, no matter what order you consume Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, either the film first and then the novel or vice versa, he’ll leave you utterly mind blown! Bravo Quentin, bravo!

So, if you’d like to listen to the novel for yourself, which spends more time fleshing-out parts of the story which were breezed over in the film, check it out! Just click HERE to start listening to ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’!

Audiobook recommendation- Lifespan

And who said, ‘nothing in life is free?’

Honestly, who could go past the introduction of this book? Key words being Harvard Medical School, live younger – longer, aging is a disease and is curable, reverse the genetic clock, living well to 120 or more!

Now do I have your attention?

Of course, I have no intentions to live until 2103, as who knows what we as a race have done to our planet by then? But the first thought which came to mind when I read that blurb was my parents. They’re currently in their early 70s, and their starting to show signs of aging. You can hear it in their voice and when I reference tales of the past, it just takes them a little bit longer to remember the event in mention. And like everyone, I’d just like to see my parents live longer and healthier, even if it’s just for my own selfish reasons that I’d just want them to be around forever! You know?

So, before I went and recommended this book to my dad, I just wanted to first vet it, just to make sure that it was legit. And not to mention it’s a much easier gift to give, when the audio book on Audible is FREE of charge! Yes, FREE! If the content in this book could unlock untold vitality, could you possibly place a price on that insight? Obviously not, as it’s freakin’ FREE!

So, the author of the book is a Harvard Medical School Geneticist (Dr David Sinclair), and from the opening moments I was already bought in, when I learned that he’s an Aussie from Sydney who is now world renowned. Dr David has dedicated his life to study aging, to understand why we age, and to slow or reverse the aging process.

In the book he talks of the science, the discoveries, and shares his own practical steps he has taken to slow his own aging. And if I could say so, I think he’s onto something. I’m quite good at judging the age of a person by their voice alone, as when we age our vocal fold muscles weaken which changes our voice over time. And although Dr David was 50 at the time of writing his book (which he self-narrates), but by his voice alone to me he doesn’t sound like a man who has lived half a century already, but he sounded more like a 40-year-old!

The book does get a bit too deep at times, and a bit too philosophical for a non-deep thinker like me. However, at the end of each chapter, there’s a quick podcast like discussion between Dr David and his co-author Matthew Laplante, where Matt asks Dr David to explain some of those more complex concepts, which brings the simple-minded reader like me back into the book, ready for the next chapter!

And what I was really hanging out for, was a dot point list, telling me what I needed to be doing, and what I needed to stop doing! And Dr David does just that, first explaining the science behind each thing or action which could activate our vitality gene. And in the final chapter of the book, Dr David shares his own daily routine, right down to the grammage of medication he takes with his breakfast! Which unfortunately is a prescription drug which we all can’t get our soon wrinkling hands on. Boo!

But I must admit, he might just be right! As unknowingly I’d been taking one of these drugs for at least a dozen of years in my 20s to my early 30s, to off-set the side effects  of another drug which I’d been taking for my immune disorder. And the past 5 years I’ve been completely off both these drugs. And I must admit, these past 5 years I’ve gone from always looking and feeling younger than my chronological age, but these days I feel my age as a late 30 something…….

But would I recommend this book to my parents? I had mentioned it to my dad at the time when I first came across the book, as it was FREE! But I’m not sure if he ever added it to his Audible library though. And if he hasn’t, I probably wouldn’t hassle him about it. As to actively turn back the aging clock like how Dr David has described? It’s quite a big paradigm and lifestyle change, a change which I’m not sure most people would take-up, given that the concept of aging as a disease which is treatable  is still just that, a concept. But could we all eat fewer animal proteins? Yeah, for sure! In general, can we all eat a bit less? Again, for sure! Can we all do with a bit more exercise? Yes, of course! And can we drink a bit more red wine? Hell-yeah! But can we convince our GPs to prescribe us a diabetic treatment drug when we’re not diabetic? Or can we bother taking an aspirin a day? Probably not. So, we’d probably live an extra 5 or so years if we make the diet and behavioural changes, probably we’d end up looking 5 years younger than we are (doesn’t hurt that we’re Asian), but methinks we’re not going to live to 120 years-old though? And thank goodness for that! As who knows how unrecognisable the world might be, by 2103?!

So if you want to check out Lifespan ‘Why we age and why we don’t have to’, for yourself, click HERE! To access your FREE copy, you never know this book might literally change your life!

P.S. In the book, Dr David predicted that we’d might experience a global pandemic in the next 5-10 years, as the book was written in 2018 and published in 2019, I’d say that he ‘nailed’ that prediction. Nailed-it! So only time will tell which other of his predictions will be shown to be true?

Audiobook Recommendation- The Trials of Apollo

A young adult fiction series which will help you remain ‘young at heart’!

He’s done it again! Prolific Young adult writer Rick Riordan has completed another outstanding mythological fiction series. This time featuring Lester Papadopoulos, an unremarkable chubby pimple faced teen….. who by the way is the god Apollo, banished from Olympus by his father Zeus, to earth as the mortal Lester- until he can complete a series of trials to regain his immortality and return to Olympus to re-join his fellow gods! If this all sounds too fanciful for you? Then Rick Riordan’s books are probably not for you, and I permit you to skip this blog post.

However, if you are a fan of Rick’s, or you’ve always loved the Greek and Roman mythologies, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy this 5-part series which includes the books:

The Hidden Oracle (2016)

The Dark Prophecy (2017)

The Burning Maze (2018)

The Tyrant’s Tomb (2019), and

The Tower of Nero (2020)

But if you’re new to Rick Riordan’s books, reading his earlier series will greatly help you to fully immerse yourself into the Trials of Apollo series, as it leans heavily on prior knowledge and re-visits many past characters from his earlier series (Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus).

   What I liked:

Like an episode of ‘Where are they now?’

For us, a few years had passed since we last heard from Percy, Jason and the rest of the Greek and Roman demigods, so the Apollo series acted like an episode of ‘Whare are they now?’ In this series we learn that the kids are all grown up, now in senior school or about to head off to college. And it was great, some open-ended storylines from previous books were finally closed off. So, for many who grew up with Rick’s character’s, there was a sense of closure- although not all endings were happy ones…….

Surprisingly educational

What Rick is good at, is introducing the subject of ancient history in a fun and culturally relevant way to kids, who otherwise wouldn’t have found it an interesting subject if taught at school. So, suddenly ancient history is totally cool now! Not something irrelevant and out-of-date for kids of the 2020s. Which then translates to more kids wanting to do their own further reading, which is the aim! Rick’s goal of making reading fun and cool for all kids. Not to mention, it has once again piqued my curiosity in Greek mythology, I wouldn’t mind doing some additional reading of my own. 


Rick has always worked into his books a healthy amount of chuckles for his readers. As previously he mentioned, the original reason why he got writing books was for his kids- and you can picture him working in these jokes, so he could make his own kids laugh. And to date Trials of Apollo has been the funniest, if the amount of times my wife was laughing out loud is an indication. The chuckles begin right from the funny titles Rick gives to his chapters, to re-occurring supporting characters like the Karpos aka ‘Demon Baby’ Peaches, and Lester’s Shakespearean sounding companion, ‘The arrow of Dodona – each of their appearances are bound to result in chuckles.

Robbie Daymond

And for those who will listen to the book rather than read it, the narration by Robbie Daymond was truly next level! Robbie’s voice acting added to the entire experience, his voices for characters utterly surprised me at times. I honestly couldn’t believe that it was one person who was doing all the voices, they were totally convincing. And the brilliant thing was that the Publishers maintained the same narrator throughout the 5-book series spanning 5 years. Oftentimes in series like these, they change narrators between books, for one reason or another- which frankly ruins books as a different voice applied to the same character can ruin one’s mental image of characters. But the consistency of narrators, and specifically Robbie, this was truly an upside for the series and the whole experience!

What I didn’t like:


I know where Rick is going with this, he’s trying to make his books inclusive so none of his young readers would ever feel left out or feel like they don’t see themselves represented in mainstream culture. I get that. But in his attempts to be inclusive and embracing of all, was he unknowingly discriminating and derogative to a large segment of the youth population? That being those who might be unremarkable, or chubby, or pimply, or all the above? I just didn’t like Rick’s/Apollo’s constant self-deprecation and self-loathing of Lester’s outward appearance. As what does that say to his readers who happen to be as he describes Lester to be? How are they meant to feel? So, I can see why he does this, for the sake of the story to highlight how far ‘Apollo has fallen’, but if he could have toned it down just a little? As being a former chubby kid with acne, on-behalf of my 13-year-old self, I felt outrage and was getting pretty put off towards the end. Rick, in attempts to appease the minority, let’s not ostracize a good majority of our youth.

But all in all, The Trials of Apollo series has been a real enjoyment, we literally read the 5-book series back-to-back, taking us at least 6 months to complete. It has been a great quest and if you want to check out the Trial of Apollo series for yourself? Just click HERE!

Audiobook Recommendation- I Am Number Four

They walk among us!

A near extinct alien race here amongst us, in hiding hunted down by another alien race determined to kill each and every last one of them. But for a charm which protects them (the Loric), a charm determining that they could only be killed in order. But who knows this order? They themselves know, but they don’t know each other! There are 9, arriving on our planet after a battle which destroyed their own home planet. They arrived as 9 children, but now they are teenagers with developing super powers, and they are helpless no more!

Each of them have gone into hiding, with their Cepân (adult guardians), constantly moving, and constantly changing identities to keep the Mogadorians (aggressor species) off their heels.  However they caught-killed Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, Number Three in Kenya, and now Number Four is next in line for termination!

So after that little intro, are you intrigued? I randomly stumbled on ‘I Am Number Four’, I hadn’t heard of the book before (released in 2010), nor was I aware that a film of the same name had been released in 2011. But I was completely drawn into the story, only after the first 30 minutes of the audiobook.

I AM Number Four is the first book in a series called the Lorian Legacies, written by Pittacus Lore (the pseudonym for the writer duo of James Frey and Jobie Hughes). Although the first book and the series has received mixed reviews, however I’ve personally found it to be an absolute marvel, as it’s not just your typical Young adult science fiction novel like Harry Potter or Twilight, but it reads more like a Marvel superhero comic! And I think this detail is lost on most people. Yes you can criticize it, as it’s not the most well written book, and the storyline can be both predictable and hard to believe at the same time, and it’s also cheesy and cringing at times. However readers must understand that the author was attempting to describe an out-of-this-world story using words alone, encouraging you and me to use our imagination to picture these scenes. While in my own opinion, I believe that the story was better suited for a comic book strip or a major cinematic film. And thus why we haven’t seen many superhero novels before.

Personally I was very impressed in how Pittacus Lore was able to describe to us using words alone an alien race, describe the discovery of developing super powers (called legacies), and describe out-of-this-world monsters, all without the use of visual aids. I’ve read quite a few novels in my time, however I don’t seem to recall ever reading a novel like this before, where the book had superhero types in it. And once people realise how rare it is, to attempt to write a sci-fi novel like this, then you may forgive the novel for some of its failings.

I found the story to be fascinating i.e. learning about an alien race, and learning of their cultures, social structures, and powers; it was contrasting as in, here’s Number Four (John Smith) trying to fit in at a new high school with the usual teenage angst, while he’s developing super powers and learning what he is capable of; it’s fast paced, as in the story unfolds rapidly so much so that at the end of the book you’re left wondering “how did we get here?”; and it has a touch of teenage romance as well, which I like as I’m a sucker for the lovey dovey.

And just when you’ve reached the end of the book, the final paragraphs sets the scene (and often leaves you hanging in suspense) for the sequel, so the only thing you can do, is to jump straight into the next book. To date we’ve read/listened to 5 books in the Lorian Legacies series, and at the conclusion of each book we tell ourselves that we’re going to give it a break. But low-and-behold, a few days later we’re binge listening to the very next one.

In my personal opinion, the first is always the best! So I’ve got a soft spot for ‘I Am Number Four’, while the subsequent books are good as well, as we meet more and more of the Garde (the 9 Loric). And in the next books, you’ll get to experience the uniqueness of having multiple authors- as different chapters and different characters have a completely different feel to them.

So if you want to check out the Lorian Legacies series, click HERE to start off with book 1- I Am Number Four!    

Audiobook Recommendations- Berlin Noir ‘Bernie Gunther’

Looking through the other end of the spyglass.

Recently I’ve had an odd fascination with modern history, namely the period between World War I and 1950 (when my dad was born). This fascination had motivated me to watch ‘World War II in HD Colour’, documentaries about the Royal Household, and more recently I’ve finished reading the Trilogy ‘Berlin Noir- Bernie Gunther’, by Phillip Kerr.

I think it’s long enough since the end of the Second World War, that we can now show a passing interest in 1930s-1940s Germany without being labelled as a Nazi sympathiser. And it’s uncommon to find a fictional novel set in pre-WWII Germany, especially where the protagonist is an Aryan German.

Phillip Kerr’s Berlin Noir trilogy starts off with ‘March Violets’ set in 1936 Berlin, where ex-police now Private detective Bernie Gunter is making a living from seeking out information on missing persons- as more and more German Jews are going missing as the Nazi party gains more of a foothold. That is before Bernie is lured into a potentially lucrative case, to locate missing jewels belonging to a wealthy German industrialist- in the process uncovering more than he bargained for.   

     In book 2 of the series (The Pail Criminal), Bernie has been brought back into the Berlin Police force to solve a string of killings of young Aryan girls. Convinced that he’s the only one who could solve these murders, due to his pass successes with catching a similar serial killer, Bernie uncovers a plot which is way above his pay-grade. Set in the backdrop of 1938 Berlin, in the subsequent years much has changed Germany is on the brink of all-out war, and the open persecution of Jews is rampant.

In the final book in the Berlin Noir trilogy (A German Requiem- 1947-48), the war has already been fought and loss, and Berlin and much of Germany/Austria has been left in ruins. And those who have survived the war, are now left to fend for themselves in a near post-apocalypse landscape where people are reduced to their most primal needs. Meanwhile streetwise Bernie Gunther is still a Private detective and is soon hired to investigate the framing of a former acquaintance, who is awaiting execution in Vienna. Who is good? Who is telling lies? Who can Bernie trust?

I guess the ultimate reason why I found these novels so fascinating, was because I had rarely heard of life in Germany leading up to the war or had spent much time reading up about life in post-war Germany/Austria. It was fascinating to hear of the glamour of pre-war Berlin, and then having that contrasted with the desolation in post-war Berlin, where there were French, and American, British, and Russian controlled sectors. Weird!

And what made Phillip Kerr’s book so engrossing, was his ability to bring to life his characters and settings by describing everything in such detail, transporting me to 1930s-1940s Berlin. And although most detective novels are slow to develop, however Kerr had me tearing through the books, smashing through the 3 books in less than 2 weeks!

If you want to read something a bit different from your ordinary Detective mysteries, check out Phillip Kerr’s Berlin Noir trilogy, it’s not for everyone but it still might interest you.