I have so many posts that I need to catch up on – I have seen a lot at various theatres etc, I have read a lot of books, but I have been SO tired that I haven’t been up to blogging for a while. I am determined to get over that.
Another side-effect of being so tired is that actual READING has been a little tiring. However, I have managed to get around this with a wonderful discovery that I made.
Because I have a library card with Waltham Forest, I am able to ‘take out’ free audiobooks! And I felt moved to share this with you
I am not sure which boroughs this comes under, but I am sure that you can check for your own. If you head over to OneClickDigital, you can sign in with your online library membership (I am sure that you can get yours from the library that you signed up with if you don’t have yours to hand – luckily I did!)
Even better, you can download the app onto your phone or iPod (I have an Android, and that definitely works) and then you can listen to your audiobook straight away!
Ok, so it’s not as grea as Audible where I have been getting audiobooks for a few years, but it is FREE as it’s through the library. There’s not a massive choice, and you only have limited options (eg you can’t choose the narrator speed, which I always increase), but it is FREE. And really easy to use. And I have already listened to loads of great books.
I’m dead impressed – and always looking for new books that are read by great barrators. i will post some of the latest that I have listened to soon. Promise!
Craig Taylor is a Canadian journalist and writer who has been living in London for at least a decade. He claims to love London (he has chosen to live here above Canada, after all) but I wouldn’t have guessed that he did from this book.
The book was Radio 4′s Book Of The Week last year, and has received much critical acclaim. I decided to give it a go as an audiobook – especially as I have been doing a lot of walking recently, and obviously that is almost always on the streets of London.
Around 80 people were interviewed for the book, and this is more an exercise in editing on the author’s behalf.
I was looking forward to hearing from people that keep London ticking, the unseen perhaps – the ones who see a different London to the one that I do. I felt that they would be the stories to really make the book ‘pop’. The ones where readers are forced to see the city in a different way.
The book was divided into sections (eg arriving, living, working, departing, dying etc) although these seemed a bit of a flimsy way to bunch the stories, as invariably people’s experiences tended to go beyond the boundaries of that particular aspect.
Now, as you may realise, I LOVE this ever-changing city that I live in. I defintiely choose to be here, and although I sometimes entertain the thought of leaving and moving somewhere more rural (as I did growing up), when I give it a little more thought, I realise that I am in no way ready for that. I would miss SO much about London. To be entirely honest, I don’t think I’m old enough to leave yet. There is still so much to experience!
Although I have a deep-set love for London, I am also aware of its faults. I can’t have lived here most of my life without acknowledging them, after all. I’m not blind to them, but I am accepting of them as there are so many positives.
With that in mind, I have to say I wanted to love this book so much, and I ended up hating it.
It felt so biased. There seemed to be a huge bias towards people complaining bitterly about London – in some ways that I agreed with, but often in ways that I didn’t. The times that the peopel were upbeat and positive, they were mainly just talking about their very interesting jobs (eg bus control room operators, Spitalfields market trader, stock-broker turned cabbie, funeral director, the actress who is the voice of London Underground), and they didn’t tend to offer an opinion on London itself – so the only opinions seemed to be extremely negative.
I don’t think that it helped that not very far into the book at all, a South African that lived here for a while describes London as “…a city full of Asperger’s people…” How rude! It’s funny how London is possibly one of the most multiculturally diverse places in the world, and yet people always refer to ‘Londoners’ as being a certain way.
The only people that seemed to be very positive and confess their love for London were people that lived in the East End or Essex borders. The stockbroker turned cabbie, the market trader, and the old lady whose daughter keeps wanting to get her a nice flat in Broxbourne, but who says “London gets to you. I can’t leave it. There’s too much quiet in the countryside.”
There seemed to be so much missed out from what makes London great, and different to other place in Britain. However, this in itself cemented my love for London, and made me see it through different eyes yet again. I feel that there was so much unexplored – but so much that I haven’t explored myself.
And I have to say, the disappointment in this book has inspired me, and given me an idea to do something myself. Watch this space (but don’t hold your breath!)
This shocking story is told by Skunk Cunningham (so named because her mum liked the group), who is 11 years old and in a coma.
We do not know why she is there until towards the end of the story, but she tells us of the events leading up to it, starting with the violent beating of teenage neighbour Rick Buckley by another neighbour (Bob Oswald) for something that he didn’t do.
Rick then becomes the ‘Broken’ of the title, and referred to as Broken Buckley throughout.
Bob’s life however seems to continue reasonably unchanged – father to five daughters who are just as thuggishly violent as him. Drink, drugs and sex help the days pass for the Oswald girls, and they revel in their reign of terror over everyone they know – including Skunk who is in class with one of them.
Skunk wants to enjoy just being a kid, playing too much X-Box with her older brother, forming a crush on her teacher (who also happens to be the boyfriend of their Welsh au pair – needed because their mum ran away to Spain years ago) and riding out in the sun on her bike.
But, living on this rather down-trodden square in Southampton that is lorded over by the Oswalds, Skunk is privvy to more violence, swearing, sex and criminal activity than is good for her. And yet her narration still has a naivety about it, and a poetic repetition that is somehow childlike, and lures the reader to its shocking and dramatic climax.
This isn’t like a modern day To Kill A Mockingbird, this is a contemporary realisation – evident even in the names that have been used (eg Skunk = Scout). Daniel Clay has made no secret of the fact that this was the inspiration for the story.
I listened to the audiobook, and Colin Moody’s narration was just right – a clever mixture of ‘telling’ what was coming in an ‘unaccented’ voice, and then accents used for actual speech, or when Skunk was narrating.
I usually only listen to books when I’m walking, but I found that as I came to the end of Broken, I was wandering around the flat in my headphones as I had to get to the end. I had to know what actually happened to Skunk, and whether we would ever see her come out of the coma.
An amazing, horrific, beautiful, powerful, contemporary book, I immediately thought that it would make a fantastic British film – we do gritty SO well. I looked it up and was so disappointed to see that a film HAS been made, and it should be quite good, but I had missed it being at the cinema by a matter of a couple of weeks – and so it’s not out on DVD yet either!
Gutted…but something to look forward to now!
I was approached by the lovely people at AudioGo (the home of BBC audiobooks) to review one of their Bond audiobooks that have released for the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film (you’ve noticed there’s been a bit of publicity about that around, haven’t you?)
I was very honest and explained to them that I have never watched OR read a Bond, and it’s not the kind of thing that has ever appealed to me…but being a game bird, I was happy to give it a go. They threw in an Agatha Raisin book, so I was very happy.
As a Bond virgin, I felt it only right that I start with Casino Royale, to get a proper introduction. This particular book was read by the rather dashing Dan Stevens (apparently he’s been in something called Downton Abbey), and I think his voice suited the book totally. There was something very suave about it – and I loved the interview with him at the end when he tried to explain his inspiration for the character’s voices.
However, I am ashamed to say, I did not enjoy Mr Bond. It wasn’t just the sexism and casual racism – that’s to be expected from a book written by a man in the 50s – especially about a successful spy. It was the sentence structure that started winding me up…so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the second half of the book for 2 weeks.
As it was an (unabridged) audiobook, I obviously can’t go back to the exact words, but there was a lot of repition of words or phrases within paragraphs that became very jarring. I finished listening to it yesterday, and one part that I particular remember went something like, “His body arched in agony. Then his body sagged. Persperation started to bead all over his body.”
There were some surprising parts as a Bond virgin – he seemed to spend a lot of time naked, and I was extremely surprised when he fell madly and completely in love. I am guessing that the result of that is what turned him into the womaniser that I was expecting.
I’m glad that I can now say that I have ‘read’ a Bond (it was a bit like appearing on I’ve Never Seen Star Wars), but it is not an experience I can imagine myself repeating – although now that I’ve read it, I am slightly curious about seeing Daniel Craig in the role.
I can’t fault the fabulous audiobook though from AudioGo, and will definitely check them out for more in the future – I do like a good audiobook – and if you’re into Bond, there are 12 titles in all here, read by such wonderful names as Bill Nighy, David Tennant and Martin Lewis.
I’ve just noticed that they have some of the Young Bond titles by Charlie Higson, which I have to admit to having read two that I have really enjoyed, so I could be tempted by those! *goes to browse round AudioGo*
After listening to the fantastic Dead Scared a few months ago without realising it was the second book featurning DC Lacey Flint, I thought I’d go back and listen to the first one.
In this story, we’re properly introduced to young Met Police DC Lacey Flint and her own introduction to DI Mark Joesbury.
Lacey is interviewing a potential witness to a violent crime, when a woman is stabbed so severely she dies in Lacey’s arms, and it becomes apparent that Lacey must have only missed the actual murder by seconds – almost as if it was performed for her personally.
When another kill is added to this particular murderer’s tally, certain facts come to light that make Lacey wonder if there could be a more deep-set motive that she should be spotting.
This is a fantastic thriller – a complete page turner (although I’m not sure what the equivalent of that is on audiobook!). It has pace, it has interesting characters, it has loads of Jack the Ripper stuff, it has gore, it has depth and it has a riveting climax, which I loved, even though I accidentally listened to the second book first, so knew part of the outcome!
If you like detective thrillers, definitely give this one a go – it’s only £3.93 on Amazon at the moment…and then you can follow up immediately with Dead Scared! I can’t wait for the next in the series (please let there be a next in the series!)
This time next week, it will be the first anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s tragic death.
I’m not generally a particularly soft-hearted person, and although I have felt a tinge of sadness when a celebrity has died, I am not one of those to get all weepy and claim that I loved them, and that their very existence changed my life etc etc.
I remember it was late on a Saturday afternoon and I had been having a bit of a doze before going for a night over the pub, when I first saw the messages coming through on Twitter that she had died. I remember quickly turning on the news channels and flicking from Sky to BBC and back again. It was a story that felt inevitable and yet it was still shocking. She was just 27. She was amazingly talented.
I was stunned. I was even more surprised when I realised that I was crying. I sent a text to The Man who was already over the pub, and then I put my Back To Black album. Followed by Frank. I cried some more. Such a waste.
I also remember that there were a lot of people who tried to belittle her death as the day before had seen the absolutely shocking murders of 69 people by Anders Behring Breivik. Many people were posting on various social network sites saying things like, “Get it in perspective, this is one druggie girl as against a huge number of innocents!”
I found that particularly hard to deal with. Why did one have to be weighed up against the other? Why couldn’t people be upset about both events?
Personally, I think that the reason that Amy’s death struck a chord with me that day in a different way to the Norway murders was because the murders were just too catastrophic, sickening and difficult to even comprehend. Whereas the loss of a young, talented, troubled girl was far more easy to picture, understand and believe. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t as disgusted and shocked by the murders at all, and my heart went out to every one of the victims and their families – and those poor kids who will have to live with that memory for the rest of their lives.
Anyway, this is meant to be a review.
I got this from Audible as an audiobook. The foreward and the epilogue are narrated by Mitch himself, but it is understandable that he wouldn’t be able to read the rest of the book, so that is done by Rupert Farley – and he did a commendable job…I imagine he was picked because he sounds somewhat like Mitch, and he managed to read with what sounded like so much pride and emotion that during a lot of it, I forgot that it wasn’t Mitch!
This whole book is heart-wrenchingly full of love. You can feel it with every story. From Amy’s childhood, as a precocious, funny, impossible-to-teach child where she found school a bit of a bore, and longed to perform to her well-reported rise and subsequent fall and tragic end.
There were particular moments that must have been difficult for him to write – the time that she met Blake who he quickly realised was a bad influence on her and the moment he finally realised that Amy was actually doing Class A drugs and had a habit. This wasn’t any old father-daughter relationship, they were a tight-knit unit and not a day seemed to go by that he didn’t speak to her.
From the moment he realised she had a habit, he kept diaries and documented Amy’s life – the highs of Frank and Back to Black, various live performances and her Ivor Novello awards to the soul-destroying years of trying to get her to give up the drugs and her subsequent descent into alcoholism.
Hearing Mitch’s side of the various tabloid stories, Blake’s imprisonment, Amy’s stage-fright, the fights with Blake’s family and the fact that she had been off of Class A’s for three years before her death were quite eye-opening.
On the last day that I was listening to this, I was wandering around Camden (where I have worked for 5 years) and I took a different route to usual and walked past Amy’s old house while I was listening to Mitch telling the tale of when he found it for her – and it all just felt so poignant.
Everything feels laid bare, and I doubt if anyone could read this without wanting to give Mitch Winehouse a massive hug while they shed a few tears.
I picked this up on Audible as part of their sale.
It was narrated by Lisa Coleman (remember nurse Jude from Casualty) whose voice seemed to be a perfect fit for the part. Young-sounding and slightly rough around the edges, it was just how I imagine lead character DC Lacey Flint to sound.
Soon into the book, I realised that this wasn’t the first of Lacey’s stories – this is actually a follow-up to Now You See Me that features her and her boss DI Mark Joesbury. Although there were many hints as to happenings in the first book, I didn’t feel that I needed to have read the first (although I am probably going to go back and read it anyway as I enjoyed this one so much).
We start with Joesbury and Lacey being reunited after a traumatic incident obviously at the end of the previous book. There have been rather a high number of suicides amongst students at Cambridge University and Joesbury wants Lacey to go undercover as a student to see whether she can find out if there is more to this sudden spate than just unhappy youngsters.
There is a line of thought that there could be online activities including forums that may be harboring an environment that encourages particularly vulnerable students to take their own lives. Lacey’s task is to portray herself as such a girl, and see whether anyone tries to exploit her. The only person who knows what she is really at the University for is the student psychologist who believes that there is a pattern to the suicides.
The book actually starts with the final scene – a woman about to jump from the roof of a University building and then flashes back to explain how we got there. It was a real proper thriller. And actually pretty thrilling. I loved it. There were some great descriptions and the action was fast-paced.
There was just enough new information dripped out each time to make you think “Ohhh…” and see things in a different light. Unlike many thrillers I have read, it wasn’t obvious who ‘the baddies’ were until near the end when the author was ready to reveal what was really going on.
It really one of the best thriller / detective stories I’ve read in a while, and I think the audiobook was a huge credit to it.
I picked this up as an audiobook from Audible when they were doing a 2 for 1 sale on a selection of titles, I had some credits to use and it sounded quite fun. However, I did NOT realise that it is apparently number 14 in a series of Agatha Raisin books.
It was read by the ever wonderful Penelope Keith, who apparently played Agatha in the BBC adaptations of the stories – something else that seems to have totally passed me by (and I love a good radio series, I do!)
Agatha is a self-styled sleuth, based in the sleepy Cotswolds. I am thinking Miss Marple, but somewhat updated. Alhough Agatha is early middle-aged, she doesn’t come across as completely dowdy, and can have a bit of a mouth on her.
She’s a really great character, and although the book stands alone pretty well (I didn’t lose what was going on through any of it, as each of the characters that had obviously been in previous stories were given enough of a quick back-story with context to see how they fit in) part of me wished that I had started the books from the beginning, just so that I could see her character grow. I know I can go back and read them, but I know where she ends up, so there’s some mystery taken out of it all.
Anyway, an old woman in the next village is complaining about strange goings-on in her house – she swears that it is haunted. Agatha is vaguely interested, but it is only when her new next door neighbour, the rather dashing Paul Chatterton asks her to go along and investigate that her interest is really piqued.
After their visit, Agatha and Paul think someone is obviously just messing around – either kids, or the woman herself for attention, and don’t think much more of it…until the old lady is found dead.
This is quite a lovely gentle book – part detective novel and part a commentary on English village life, and I was totally won over by it. And Penelope Keith’s narration just made it all that more appealing! My only gripe really was that there was far too much time spent on describing Agatha’s various outfits and how much make-up she did or didn’t have on. I am guessing that it was to show that even though Agatha was a bit of a hard-ass on the outside, she had the same self-doubt, image-issues and romantic inclinations as almost every woman in the world.
If you’re interested in a bit of light, well-written entertainment, give Agatha a go – the series starts with The Quiche of Death.
This had been thrown up as a recommendation from Amazon a few months ago when I was having a browse. I added it to my Wishlist and only looked at it again when I was wondering what to use one of my Audible credits on.
Unlike the last audiobook I reviewed, the narrators voice (Jilly Bond) did not grate on my nerves in the slightest, and I could listen to it at the proper speed. In fact, I think her reading added to this beautifully haunting tale.
Midas Crook is a loner amongst loners. He has lived his whole life in a small town on the snowbound archipelago of St Hauda’s Land. He is a photographer, although he feels that taking photos is more than just a hobby, it is part of his very being. When chasing some sunlight one day, he happens across Ida MacLaird sitting on a rock by the water, and is drawn to her pale face and almost monchrome features.
What he doesn’t know at first is that Ida’s toes have turned to glass. And the glass is slowly spreading through the rest of her feet. She has returned to St Hauda’s Land, the place where she was first struck by this phenomenon, to try and find the mysterious Henry Fuwa who she believes will be able to help her reverse the spread of glass.
This book is a magical, beautiful and often heart-breaking modern fairytale, full of flawed characters. They are often so blind to what’s in front of them that you want to shake them, but there are many people in life like that.
As Ida slowly becomes less of a person, Midas seems to become more of one. It is almost like they are on a seesaw, and need to balance each other out. i did actually wonder about their names – Ida and Midas…it was almost like she was a part of him – that he needed her to be his whole self. But perhaps I was reading too much into that.
Shaw’s writing is absolutely beautiful – vivid and captivating with such hauntingly poetic descriptions, but never too overdone. I never actually felt like he was trying too hard. It was just right…at least, for me! There are magical moments such as the tiny moth-winged cattle that Fuwa raises mixed together with the darker side of reality like Midas’ father’s suicide. And all is never quite as it first appears.
The book didn’t end how I thought it would, but I think that made it even better. The lack of clichés throughout could have been spoiled by a predictable ending.
I will definitely be looking out for more of his work – and I hope his next tale is just as captivating.
Tonight I achieved something that for the past three weeks I believed was going to be completely beyond my capabilities. I actually finished Fifty Shades Of Grey, and honestly, you would not believe how proud I am of myself to have battled through to the end!
No doubt like many (mostly) women that have picked up this book, it was out of idle curiosity – I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.
I also needed to use an Audible credit, and thought ‘What the hell!’. That was probably mistake number one. If you haven’t yet read the book and you haven’t got decent enough friends to warn you off reading it, then please PLEASE don’t be tempted to get the audiobook!
I have no idea who Becca Battoe is – and I am sure she’s an absolutely charming woman, but she has one of those drawly American voices that is toned at exactly the right pitch to get on my nerves. I had to listen at x1.5 speed just to make it in ay way bearable to listen to. Her accents for all of the men were absolutely awful! And to be honest, I would be really surprised if she had read the book beforehand – she seemed to be completely unaware as to how each sentence was constructed and kept putting the inflection on the wrong words. The end of sentences often sounded like a hasty addition.
But, to be fair to Ms Battoe, that could have been mainly down to the awful, clunky writing.
As I listened to this as an audiobook, I wasn’t able to mark out sentences to refer back to and quote — and that may be a good thing as I think it would have just made me really cross.
WARNING: this may (will) contain spoilers and rants!
Repetition (of words): This is just within the same sentence – no wonder Ms Battoe had so much trouble reading them out. think “The bright light was really bright in my eyes” – obviously not a direct quote, but there were many instances of this kind of word repetition within a sentence.
Repetition (of sentences etc): Honestly, the book could have been cut down to less than half its length if you took out all of the times the following were used “Holy shit!”, “Holy fuck!”, “Holy crap!”, “Holy cow!”, “Oh my!”, “He looked so hawt / it was so hawt” (I believe it’s actually hot, but I was subjected to the drawl), “My inner goddess…”, “My subconscious…”, “His long fingers…”, “His grey eyes…”, “His mouth set into a hard line”, “His eyes darkened…” and there were probably a hundred more that I am trying to banish from my memory.
His grey flannel trousers and white linen shirts: Yes, I get it. If I heard one more time that his trousers hung of his hips in ‘that’ way, I was going to throw my phone across the tube carriage.
His tousled/unruly copper hair: Yes! he has hair! A lot of men have. Does it really have to be mentioned about three times a chapter though/ (There are 25 chapters by the way!)
His ‘Christian smell’: I guess anyone called Christian would smell like Christian – and that doesn’t mean that they are all going to smell the same. There is no such thing as a Christian smell. And to be honest, people don’t smell the same ALL the time – especially not men, in my experiemce!
Rolling eyes and biting lips: Ok, it’s all a bit bosom-heavey but does anyone really bite their lip that much? And does a 21 year old recent virgin biting her lip really drive a 27 year old man with a vast, murky sexual history to distraction?
Blinking and eye-widening: Honestly, I have never known a cast of characters so lost for words. And I have never known a narrator so conscious of their own eye-movements. There were countless times that I read / heard “I blink at him”. This is actually code. Code for “The author couldn’t think of any dialogue”. The same goes for eye-widening. Everyone was at it. they never seemed to voice their surprise, they just widened their eyes. From Kate widening her eyes when Christian asks Ana for a coffee, even though she’s kept sdaying he obviously fancies her to Christian himself widening his eyes that Ana doesn’t like to be punished, in the same way he doesn’t like to be touched. Really? this is shocking news from someone who was a virgin little more than a week ago?
When does he do any work? From the moment that Ana meets him, he is stalking her, calling her, emailing her, seeing her or arranging gifts for her with no regard for the time of day. How does he make his money? When does he run his multi-million dollar business that he’s somehow made at his young age.
Ana’s total lack of understanding of human nature: she seems to do things purposefully that she knows winds him up and then can’t understand why he gets wound up. She mentions that she knows that Jose fancies her, but then when they’re both drunk and he makes a clumsy pass at her, she is absolutely horrified and can’t work out where that came from. she has really rubbish dreams which aren’t exactly steeped into mysticism but she can’t work out why she’s having them. I am in a cage and Christian is feeding me strawberries…why? Erm, because he tied you up, bound you, and keeps telling you off for not eating and trying to force you to? *sigh*
Fifty shades of grey: You could almost tell the moment that the author had decided on the name of the book – just over halfway through I’m guessing, as suddenly the term ‘fifty shades’ was used regularly throughout the rest of the book.
The contract: Oh, the contract. The boring contract that is actually completely irrelevant to the book really. And parts of which are repeated 2-3 times throughout the book.
Have I mentioned the repetition?
And finally (as I can’t bear to waste any more thought on this book), the emails: This is really just from the audiobook really. If I had been reading it myself, I would’ve skipped over the to’s and from’s but with the audiobook, the lovely Ms Battoe read out EVERY to, from, subject heading, time and signature! argh!!
This book made me constantly roll my eyes in despair – and I just wish that someone had taken me over their knee to give me the distraction I needed to stop reading it!
The writing was awful, the characters were unbelievable (yes, I know that this was written as a Twilight fan-fic, so Ana is based on Bella and the unruly copper-haired Christian was actually Pattison-vampire), and the sex, ugh! I have read many MANY erotica books, and I can honestly say that this is one of the least erotic stories I have ever read. Perhaps it was just because the writing was so awful it was putting me off.
And it doesn’t end. No, no, no, don’t be silly. It comes to a very sudden stop because guess what? There are TWO more books to subject yourself to. If you’re that way inclined, so why bother writing a proper ending to the first book to give some sense of finality, just pretend that it’s a third of the way through the story!
I wanted an ending, dammit! I deserved an ending! I made it to the end! For that kind of achievement, I should’ve got a dom/sub of my own to play with for a few hours. (I wont tell you which one I would prefer, I will let you work it out for yourself…)
Of course, if you’re still curious, give it a go, it may suck you in but I personally found it just one shade of brown. A shade I refer to as shite.