Tag Archives: audiobook

March (*ahem* and February…) Reading Round-Up

I seem to have gone AWOL the past couple of months, with not much time for reading or writing at all sadly, which is why this is a double-edition Reading Round-Up.

In February, I managed to read a rather depressing sum total of ONE book – Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, although even that is stretching it a little as most of that was listened to in January. I got about halfway through A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry but decided to put it back on my shelves for a while as I kept picking it up for 20 minutes here or there and not really giving it the attention it deserves. I also took part in the Literary Blog Hop Giveaway and sent out my prize of Tigers in Red Weather to a lucky reader. I honestly cannot remember what else I got up to in February, aside from working a whole heap and flat hunting! Thankfully, the flat hunt is now over and March has been a quicker month reading-wise.

Capture

In March, I’ve made it through:

Alex by Pierre Lemaître
Gone are the Leaves by Anne Donovan (out at the beginning of May)
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
(proof copy – out in June 2014)
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

I also managed to attend a great event at the wonderful Looking Glass Books bookshop in Edinburgh’s Quarter Mile, the launch of the 4th edition of The Istanbul Review, a literary journal based in both Istanbul and Edinburgh. Elif Shafak did a reading from her novel The Forty Rules of Love and did an audience Q&A, speaking eloquently on all things from Turkey, free speech, spiritualism, gender equality and writing. There’s a great review of the evening over on the Writer Pictures website.

Shafak’s novel Honour is sitting on my Wish List at the moment – I will be reading it soon I hope. It was such a lovely evening, and if you’re in Edinburgh, do check out Looking Glass Books’ event calendar as there is always loads going on!

I’m currently reading Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch and listening to The Son by Philipp Meyer on audiobook and although both are quite different (The Son is pretty brutal!) I am really enjoying both of them. I haven’t got any major reading plans coming up but I do hope to get around to reading The Luminaries at some point – one of my book club buddies also has it on her bookshelf so it would be great to suggest this as our next title. I’m still half-way through my review of The People in the Photo which I will complete soon hopefully.

In April, I’m looking forward to moving house mainly! I’ve cleared out many books already and I feel that I’ve been fairly ruthless by my standards so far, although my boyfriend may not agree… I’ll also be attending London Book Fair for the first time, and no doubt reading loads in preparation. Another busy month is ahead but I’m looking forward to getting in to the spring. Hopefully the weather in Edinburgh will get in gear soon and catch up!

Happy reading in April x

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Audio Review Round-Up

Up next on my reviews is an audio round-up. It’s been a while since I listened to some of these books and I find that if I haven’t written anything down about the books then I am likely to forget things… But here goes!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
whered-you-go-bernadetteThis has been on my radar for a while, after being shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and I thought it sounded like a fun read. At first I wasn’t sure about how the format would transfer to audio as the book is made up of a series of emails, letters, articles and messages and I thought it may get a little confusing. Happily, this wasn’t the case and I did get drawn in to the story. Semple captures perfectly the annoying superior voices of ‘soccer moms’, interfering in school life and judging other mothers. I thought it was a really fun book, and different too. It worked well in audio for the most part, although anyone who’s listened to the audiobook will struggle to remove the memory of the narrator screeching Oh holy night into their ears (in my case at 8 o’clock on an August morning. Not entertaining.) I loved Bernadette and her attitude to the know-it-all nosy mums at her daughter’s school, but was infuriated by her naïveté at times. I found her daughter Bee’s voice and attitude a bit immature to be 15, but this may be partly due to the fact that I had just read Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon! This is a fun book and I have already recommended it to a few friends, and the format works really well with the story.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
LIfe After LifeI loved this book, and I am slightly disappointed that I didn’t read a physical copy as I think I may have enjoyed it even more. Ursula is born on a snowy winter’s night, and as the cord is wrapped around her neck she draws what will be the first of her last breaths. This is a story of multiple chances at life and explores that notion of ‘What if?’ which I find fascinating – how she gets 2, 3, 4 chances at getting things right, and the different consequences that seemingly inconsequential actions will have. The nature of the narrative being that it jumps back and forth meant I could sometimes miss things and find it hard to skip back to work out what had happened. Aside from that one bug-bear I did enjoy Fenella Woolgar’s narration, her voice seemed to work perfectly with the story (I loved her in the Stephen Fry adaptation of Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, Bright Young Things). I think I will be reading this book again at some point! This is nominated for the 2013 Costa Novel Award – given that it has missed out on Man Booker and Women’s Prize for fiction accolades I think it would be a very worthy winner.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Burial_Rites_HBD_FCI thought this book was wonderful as well, one of the most affecting books I’ve read this year. It’s a début from Hannah Kent, telling the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland. The narrative focuses around the family charged with keeping Agnes as their prisoner before her execution, and involves Agnes’s recollections herself and those of the young priest trying to help her achieve some kind of absolution for the murder she has been accused of. Agnes is haunted by her past and memories of her lover Natan Ketilsson, who was brutally murdered in his own home. The story is compelling, all the more so as it is based on real events and that you already know how it must end. What I enjoyed in particular about listening to this book was hearing the correct pronunciation of Icelandic names and places – if I had been reading this myself I would have had some hashed guess in my head which can’t do justice to the music of the words. It’s a beautiful and moving book, and an interesting imagining of the last days of Agnes Magnúsdóttir.

Death Comes to Pemberley
by P.D. James
death comes to pemberley bookI chose this book as I thought it would be a light-hearted, Agatha Christie-esque foray into murder mystery, set at Pemberley with all of the characters of Pride and Prejudice. I can hardly begin to tell you how disappointed I was by this book. I found the first part tedious with its summing-up of everything that had happened in Pride and Prejudice and introducing the characters. Given that this book will appeal mostly to Austen fans, it all seemed a bit unnecessary and almost a way of filling out the book and it’s weak storyline. I didn’t even manage to finish it, abandoning it about 3/4s of the way through after enduring the tedious (again!) ramblings of the doctor, and the local constabulary. It completely lacked the sparkle and wit of Austen’s novel and seems like a weak spin-off. Lizzie Bennet featured far too little for my liking and everything seemed to be left to the men to sort out. I was sorely disappointed and wouldn’t recommend this at all…as you can tell from my other reviews, I’m not usually so vehement in my negative comments but this just didn’t work at all for me!
(This Digested Read from The Guardian pretty much sums up how I feel about the book. As does the cartoon.)

I still have 5 credits left to go on my Audible gold subscription (which I won in a competition run by Granta Mag) and I want to choose wisely – I want books that will keep me entertained without being too heavy, with engaging stories. I like to have some room for my mind to wander as I mainly listen to them whilst walking to work and my brain is not always completely switched on and able to appreciate lyrical prose first thing in the morning! And so, onto the next audiobook… I am once again considering The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (of J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym fame). I enjoyed listening to a crime story (Natural Causes by James Oswald) but having just abandoned a murder mystery I might need to have a rethink! Any suggestions?

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Book Review: Natural Causes by James Oswald

natural causesNatural Causes by James Oswald was another audiobook I picked up on my Audible subscription. I was browsing through loads of different books, not sure which to pick. I was swithering over reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (which is of course a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give in to the hype just yet. It set me down a crime route and I started looking at crime fiction, trying to pick something out. I fancied something light-hearted (if you can call crime fiction that!), just something with a good, gripping story as I was needing a change from biographies. Christopher Brookmyre’s books seemed like the perfect thing to fit the bill but I had a listen to the previews and was a little put off by the narrator’s voice. That was when I remembered about James Oswald’s crime book set in Edinburgh.

James Oswald is a farmer as well as writer, and originally self-published his book, selling it (for free) through amazon as an ebook. It’s a really interesting self-publishing success story – Oswald now has a publisher behind him, with Penguin releasing his books in paperback. It was this story that brought the book to my attention so I decided to give the book a go. I recently read Laidlaw by William McIlvanney and loved how it evoked the city of Glasgow and I was hoping that Natural Causes would do the same for Edinburgh. Inspector McLean is the detective in Oswald’s Edinburgh, trying to hunt down the killer after a gruesome crime where an old man is disemboweled, and the killer of a young woman sacrificed in some kind of Pagan ritual in the 1940s, and also trying to find out what the link between the two is.

I really enjoyed the novel, I found it entertaining and gripping, and I admit that I kept listening to it as I walked around the house, listening to it while cleaning or doing the dishes to fit in some more reading time! It was familiar and easy to get into, and I found myself quickly warming to Inspector McLean and sympathising with him (and the troubled past that is eponymous in Detective Inspector’s – is there ever a fictional DI who doesn’t have a troubled past/marital issues/substance abuse problem?). There were a few things that I think could have been done better, for example, Inspector McLean is constantly having technology troubles – his phone runs out of battery about 17 times, he forgets to replace the tape in the answering machine, he is boggled at his colleagues abilities with comupters… I found it a little wearing after a time, and started playing some kind of game in my head whenever his incompetence with technology was mentioned, giving myself a mental bingo point. Yes, there was a hint of predictability to the plot, but I enjoyed the book all the same, and liked walking about in Edinburgh thinking about the characters and where they had been; of clairvoyants on Leith Walk (there actually is a lot shop where you can have tarot card readings), and tourists and performers on the Royal Mile during the festival.

Oswald has another book out in the Inspector McLean series called The Book of Souls. I am interested to see if having an editor will make Oswald’s writing style a little more polished – the story, characters and atmosphere are all there but I think a little bit of editing would have helped to make the book really stand out. I’ll certainly read the next instalment at some point as I did enjoy Natural Causes. I do have a few other books on my list that I plan on reading first though…incuding those two other McIlvanney books in the Laidlaw trilogy!

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