Audiobooks || Blogmas Day 9

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It’s the weekend! And today, I want to have a discussion about audiobooks.

Audiobooks aren’t something I thought I would, at the age of 24, be bowled over by and spend hours on end listening to – but they are. Before I got in to them, I honestly thought the selection was limited, I thought they were something that only blind people, or elderly people enjoyed. How wrong I was! I’ll admit I was ignorant, and I have seen the error of my ways over the last few years (in which audiobooks have become one of my favourite things!)

When I last did blogmas in 2015, audiobooks were something I was very new to and had only listened to a handful of. Two years on, however, it is a completely different story. Over half of the books I have read this year I have listened to some, if not all, of the book. I am someone who happily uses a combination of physical and audiobooks, and if anything it only enhances my reading experience. I have found that audiobooks give me a freedom that I couldn’t otherwise have – I can read and do something else. I can play stupid games on my iPad, I can colour, or more recently I have been wrapping gifts while listening. It means I can still read, I can still get that experience of ‘escaping’ that I get with a book but I can do other things alongside it and I love that.

Compared to a physical book, audiobooks can be quite pricey, but they really don’t have to be. I myself do have an audible subscription (which I love) and I get 2 credits a month to trade in against any of their ever expanding library, and I can purchase additional credits at the cost of £17 for 3 – which when you compare the cost of that to the cost of the audiobook alone is stupidly cheap in many cases. Audible nearly always have deals going too – 2 for 1, or buy 3 audiobooks with cash or credits and get a £10 gift voucher to spend are the most common which I often take advantage of! Not only that but they have an excellent returns policy – if you don’t like a book, or a narrator, or you have technical issues, it can be returned no questions. Obviously it isn’t something to take advantage of, you can’t use the service like a library!

Talking of libraries, most libraries have a selection of audiobooks available as CDs in the physical branches. However, a lesser known secret is OverDrive – a fantastic little app which you can sync your library card to and get access to their digital lending library of eBooks and, you guessed it, Audiobooks!

If you haven’t already taken advantage of the First Free Listen on Audible, I’d highly recommend it. You don’t have to continue with a subscription if you get an audiobook and it isn’t for you, but it’s a really good way to experience a first audiobook without splashing out any money.

Hints & Tips:-
First tip if you’re new to audiobooks definitely pick something that will hold your attention as a first listen. You don’t want to pick a long ass book which is dry as stale bread and sends you to sleep (I’ve picked up my fair share of those, trust me!)

02 - harry potterFor something familiar to most people, you can’t go wrong with the Harry Potter series – any of them. In the UK they’re narrated by Stephen Fry, and I believe over the pond it is Jim Dale. They’re something familiar, something you already know the entire plot of, but in a new way. Listening to the audiobooks for the first time was like reading the books anew for me and really breathed fresh life in to the characters.

Go for a book narrated by the author – this can be fiction or non-fiction but because the book is theirs they read it how it was intended. Some recommendations here would be anything by Neil Gaiman (who is an incredible narrator even if I’m not the biggest fan of his books) or find a celebrity you like and see if they’ve narrated their own autobiography!

Don’t be put off by the speed! A lot of people, when I mention I enjoy audiobooks, say “but they’re so long” – they don’t have to be. Generally speaking 1x speed is too slow for me, but most audiobook apps enable you to speed the narration up. With Audible you can go up to x3 speed meaning that a “30 hour” audiobook is suddenly going to be a much more doable, and less scary, 10 hours. And it isn’t fixed – you can speed up or slow down at any point during a book and that’s great. I started listening at 1.5x speed and now most books I do listen to on 3x speed, so don’t be put off by the ‘length’ of a book – because it’s only as long as you make it, essentially!

If you’re worried about not following it, pick a book that you’ve had on your shelf for a long time and find an audio version of it (just be careful if it’s translated, especially if it’s a classic as there is a lot more room for variation in the translation!). Settle down with a cuppa, and both an audio and physical copy of the book. Find the narration speed that works for you and follow along with the book for a little while. If you’re anything like me, you’ll soon feel you’re absorbing enough of what is being said to go do something else alongside it!

Anyway, this has been a very long post today – I am apparently very passionate about audiobooks! I’d love to hear your opinions on them because I think they are becoming less stigmatised now, and I’d love to hear if you’ve listened to any particularly fantastic books lately as I’m always game for a few recommendations! Equally, if you want a more specific recommendation I’m happy to try and assist.

Happy reading!

Review: Sealskin – Su Bristow

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Rating – 1* – DNF

It isn’t very often I fail to finish a book, give it only 1* and return it to Audible, but this is apparently my Waterloo. I was excited by this book, it’s set in Scotland and is a take on the myth of selkies. In a nutshell it sounded fantastic. That is until I started listening to it.

While the atmosphere is evocative, the writing is beautiful and it was fantastic to listen to, I’m not able to enjoy a book which has rape culture seeping through its every line. I’m not okay with that. Noone should be okay with that and I don’t understand how this book was even published. Within the first few pages our arse of a main character, Donald, sees some seals shed their skin and turn into beautiful girls and begin dancing on the shoreline. He likens them to children and yet he steals one of the pelts, and when they fled and one is left on the shore unable to go back to the sea, he thinks it’s a great idea to force himself on her. It comes out of nowhere. I’m thankful it wasn’t graphic but it was already too much. He then decides to take her home, because that’s a fantastic idea – essentially this is where the main bulk of the story starts.

When he gets home, with this young, naked, bleeding girl who isn’t capable of speech, his mother is understandably baffled. When she asks what happens, he tells her words to this effect:- “I saw this beautiful naked woman dancing there, like she was meant for me, and so I couldn’t help myself!” – bear in mind this was before the 50 page mark. So these words are spoken at the very start of the book. After that, I was just so angry I had to take a break.

If this were a story from Mhairi’s perspective, I think I could have liked it. She has no voice throughout this, she’s a plot device and a metaphor for Donald’s ‘redemption’ (bullsh*t redemption at that). The blurb of this book says it’s the story of atonement and forgiveness and I really struggle to see how when it’s nearly 300 pages of a rapist (and his mother) holding his victim, essentially, against her will. I fail to see how at any point this book could consider itself to be romantic.

I didn’t finish this book. I rarely DNF a book, I usually plod on and try persevere but with this, no. I’m not going to sit and read a book which is about a girl falling in love with her rapist when she doesn’t even get a voice.

Would I recommend, no. No I wouldn’t.

Is It Ever Too Early for Feminism? || Blogmas Day 7

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We are 7 days in to this month and on the posting of this I have succeeded in one full week of blogmas! Today is another discussion type post and it is on picking books for children and what a minefield it can be. Also I’ve included a few kids books for children in your life (and also yourself if you want something fun to read!). This one is going to be lengthy, but I think it’s an important topic and I want to hear your opinions on it!

Recently, I had the experience of buying books for a friends daughter and it was a lot tougher than I was expecting. I had no idea that in this day and age, where we live in a (supposedly) equal society that children’s fiction is still so overrun with the age old idea of boys being heroes and girls sitting at home with no ambition waiting for a prince/hero/male to come and rescue them.

I’m not a parent, I have no intention of becoming a parent, and while I only have a small part to play in the childhood of my friends children, I absolutely do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes. I always tell her how smart she is, when we play she can be whoever or whatever she wants to be. I’m not her parent, but I adore her and I don’t want her to grow up with a skewed idea of what women are in society. I see this kid once a month and she is growing in to an amazing little girl – she’s a little firecracker, and bright as a button, and I will always encourage her to be that – but sometimes I worry that society, even in this modern day, will squash her down and shoehorn her in to a box of what she is expected to be by antiquated standards.

I was adamant I wanted to buy my friends daughter books for her 4th birthday as she loves reading. Now she’s starting to sound out words and read herself, I wanted to get her some picture books aimed at the 4-5 age group and it’s a minefield – so many of them are just not something that would build her confidence as a person. Books with female main characters often focus so much on things like beauty and innocence that is it any wonder that, subliminally, children get warped ideas about what they look like from such a young age?

The view of females in children’s books is something that is so dated and antiquated that I found myself getting frustrated – not only did I not want to impart that oh-so-gentle misogyny on to my friends 4 year old, I didn’t want it to then become okay for my friends 1 year old son when he inevitably read the same books in a couple of years. I wanted him to have positive representations of females too. If there is one thing I’m certain of it’s that the books you read when you’re first starting out stick with you – the stories, the underlying messages they have a profound impact.

So, on my mission to find Good Representation of Women In Children’s Fiction I found these two gems (below) and when I read them I could have cried. I was elated, because not only are they kickass girls, there’s representation of race, gender, and they’re not just ‘girls books’ – I know my friends son will get just as much out of them as her daughter. I certainly enjoyed them when I proof read them and I’d highly recommend them for any child in your life because they’re fantastic!

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I recently read an article which said something along the lines of 50-something % of children’s books have male protagonists, only 20-something % have female protagonists. The reason being a girl will read a ‘boys’ book, whereas a boy is unlikely to read a ‘girly’ book – there shouldn’t be genders in literature at any age in my opinion, but kids books are reinforcing stereotypes of men having all the action and girls having quiet, homey stories. Even books with animals as protagonists have primarily males at the core of them. Boys need feminism as much as girls do – male characters who cook, clean, are sole parents, are scared or cry – from my memory those things rarely happen in children’s books and that needs to change.

On to the topic of the day which is “is it ever too early to introduce a child to feminism?” – my answer is no. It doesn’t have to be shoved down a child’s throat, it can be subtle, but just simple things like books with female protagonists who don’t sit around and wait for a prince can have a huge impact on a child – male or female – and the same for male characters who aren’t always the hero.

My friends children are lucky – they have incredible parents who encourage them to be whoever and whatever they want to be, even at the ages of 4 and 1. They’re going to grow up to be wonderful human beings because their parents treat them equally and will teach both of them to respect themselves and other people, regardless of gender. I’m not trying to condition my friends daughter in to a “militant” feminist, she is only 4 after all, but I want her to see that she can be the superhero in her own story if she wants to be.

Review: Winter – Ali Smith

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Rating – 5*

I love Ali Smith (I absolutely adore her actually) and I have been looking forward to this book as soon as I finished reading Autumn. Winter is the second offering in the Season quartet and is as equally as powerful as its predecessor.

Essentially, this follows the story of two sisters – Iris and Sophia – but we also follow Sophia’s son Art (Arthur) and Lux, a young woman who has come in to their lives by chance. It’s a very dysfunctional family coming together at Christmastime. It reminded me a lot of The Accidental – Lux is similar in character to Amber in that she’s an outsider who brings a family together. It’s in some ways it is also reminiscent of A Christmas Carol – very subtly but oh so slightly there and I definitely found the connection with the season a lot easier in this book than in Autumn.

As she did in Autumn, the events of the past are mirrored with current events showing that history does repeat itself (to quote Battlestar Galactica, “All of this has happened before and will happen again”) and that we don’t often learn from it. History moves in cycles of events, and in Iris we have a character that bridges a generation gap and links events of the 1970s to those of the present day – nuclear war, racial tensions, so many other factors – and enables us to have a tangible link between the two periods of history which I found a very clever technique to make the entire book feel present not as if it were leapfrogging through time.

I actually decided to listen to part of this as an audiobook and I would highly recommend it. There are not many of Ali Smith’s books available as audiobooks but if you find your main issue with her writing to be the lack of punctuation (something which took me a long time to overcome) then definitely consider the audiobook as it takes that issue out of the equation completely! The narrator for it – Melody Grove – is fantastic and captured Lux as a character perfectly.

Much like with Autumn (and pretty much every Ali Smith book) I have so much trouble finding the words to review and describe this book as I genuinely believe Ali Smith is an author whose books have to be experienced, I find her work so immersive that when I come out of the other side I do then find it hard to review it without spoiling. Therefore, I will always tell you go just go and read (or listen) to it because in my eyes, this is even better than Autumn and that was shortlisted for the Man Booker.

I know Ali Smith isn’t for everyone, but honestly I love her writing and cannot wait to read her next book.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit || Blogmas Day 5

So, today I’ve decided to do a Top Ten Tuesday. I used to really enjoy doing these on and off, and when I saw the topics for December I knew it would be a good discussion post once a week – and also something I could plan ahead!

This weeks topic is Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit. Anyone who knows me will know what number 1 is on my list (*cough* Wizarding World *cough*) but the rest have been quite difficult for me to piece together and all come an equal second for a variety of different reasons.

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Continue reading

Harry Potter Spells Tag || Blogmas Day 4

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Happy Monday readers, today is a bit of a cop out in that I’m doing a tag post – I love book tags, I love how creative so many of them are and how they make me think differently about books I have read, and also drive up a discussion about them. Today I’m doing the Harry Potter Spells Tag. I discovered this purely by accident when googling “book tags” and really liked the idea of it (I found it here – and the original tag video is no longer available). So without further ado, on to the books.

Expecto Patronum:- childhood book connected to good memories
For me this is actually quite difficult as I have so many good memories associated with books and my family reading to me. But, oddly enough the one book that stands out to me is an old, abridged anthology of books that my grandma had in her cupboard!  I don’t remember a huge amount about it, but I remember curling up with my grandma and she’d read to me from this anthology, and it was always Gulliver’s Travels that I asked for! I’ve no idea what happened to this anthology of abridged stories but I know I need to read Gulliver’s Travels in full!

Expelliarmus:- a book that took you by surprise
For this I have to go with Orlando. Before I read it, I knew I loved Virginia Woolf but this book just solidified it for me. It is one of the few books that when I finished it, I went right back to the start and underlined all the sections I loved. I had no idea how much it would impact me.

Priori Incantatem:- the last book you read
The last book I read in full was Winter by Ali Smith. I’ve since picked up (and thrown back down) Sealskin by Su Bristow (look forward to that review!)

Alohamora:- a book that introduced you to a genre you had not considered before
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – this could also have been my answer for a book that took me by surprise but I think it fits best here as it really opened my eyes to what Science Fiction could be. Since I read this book I’ve definitely branched out and actively searched out more sci-fi – I’m less scared of it now!

Ridikkulus:- a funny book you’ve read
I don’t often read funny books, it has to be said, but those I do read which make me actively laugh tend to be books by comedians. Susan Calman’s book, while quite a heavy topic, actively made me laugh because I related to it. I also loved Sarah Millican’s recent book! Fiction doesn’t tend to make me laugh much, interestingly enough.

Sonorous:- a book you think everybody should know about
I love a lesser known book – but for this one I’m actually going to go with a short story collection and that is A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan. Kirsty is a wonderful, wonderful author and I can’t wait for her new novel next year – but this collection is small but perfect and now it is more widely available (the original print run was quite limited) I’d recommend anyone pick this up for a cozy afternoon with a blanket and a hot drink!

Obliviate:- a book or spoiler you would like to forget having read
When you read my review of Sealskin you will understand why that is my answer! I wish I could take back the 30 minutes I spend listening to this book before I DNF’d it.

Imperio:- a book you had to read for school
I read several books for school – I loved reading books for school, but I was a nerd! I think I have to give a special mention to Macbeth though – mainly because when I first read an extract from it I was about 11 or 12, and my teacher was adamant I would enjoy it. I loved this teacher, and I think I owe everything I’ve achieved to what she taught me. But she was right, I loved that extract from Macbeth and to this day it remains my favourite Shakespeare play. Interestingly I actually had to read it for my drama class, not English.

Crucio:- a book that was painful to read
Oh gosh. I think this honour has to go to Stardust. I found it so difficult to read, and the plot was so flimsy and it actually enraged me at points. It was a shame because I wanted to love it so much!

Avada Kadavra:- a book that could kill
This one is a hard one, given that it is one that is to be interpreted as the blogger wishes. And for this I’m actually going to take it as a book that is so heavy it could kill someone if used as a weapon. And that is The Count of Monte Cristo. At over 1200 pages it was both an incredible book, and a beast that I absolutely could not carry around with me. There are several books of this length I have read, and enjoyed, but it’s Monte Cristo which I think would be the most apt to be used to kill a person!

So, that’s it! This was so much fun to do and, if it looks fun to you, feel free to do it yourself. Alternatively feel free to comment and discuss because I’d love to hear your thoughts on this tag.

Thanks for reading!

The Joy of Re-Reading || Blogmas Day 3

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Hello, and happy Sunday to all you lovely readers. Today I’m talking about re-reading books – inspired by a post that the wonderful Lydia did at the end of November (here).

In that post (which you should read because Lydia is lovely and her blog is amazing) she talks about how she reread Fingersmith by Sarah Waters because it was comforting – not in the sense that the plot is a happy, fluffy affair – but that she knew the ending was one that satisfied her and she knew it would make her feel comforted in that it ultimately ended on a happy note.

Re-reading is a pastime I have a very bizarre relationship with – I love it, especially in the winter months, but I often feel like re-reading is wasting time. I’ve already read the book, and I have hundreds of books on my shelves that have never had that first read, and I feel guilty for revisiting those books I love and ignoring those I’ve never had a chance to love.

However, recently I’ve been thinking that any reading is good reading. Having picked only one book up in November I’m thinking maybe revisiting old favourites is a good way to get myself back reading, and from now and into 2018 I’m going to ‘allow’ myself to reread more regularly because, honestly, I think telling myself I shouldn’t want to reread a book and I should be reading new books is so much more damaging to my overall desire to read.

Reading has become a lot more target driven and competitive, and if any of you are like me then your goodreads goal for the year becomes quite consuming. Rereading books – until recently – meant you had to remove books from one year, that you couldn’t read the same book twice in one year because it only counted for your goal once. Now, at least, I could read one book 50 times in a year and it would count each read of that book as 1 towards my annual goal. Target driven reading is a whole other kettle of fish that I will talk about another day. I also dislike rereading books I have already written a review on – which is stupid. Feelings change on second reads, you can find different things and I don’t know why I felt there were so many issues with re-reading because honestly I can’t find one legitimately good reason to not do it!

As it stands, there are a mountain of books I would love to reread – some of them I read recently, others not so much, but I’m going to reread them when I feel the urge to. I’m no longer going to be denying myself the enjoyment of a reread for statistics. On that list are some of my childhood favourites, Roald Dahl books and things like The Secret Garden, but also books like Middlemarch which I last read 2 or 3 years ago, didn’t enjoy all that much but have since fallen in love with the author. Taking inspiration from Lydia, I’d like to re-read all of Sarah Waters’ books!

Honestly, the list goes on and on and I cannot think of one good reason why I shouldn’t enjoy rereading. There shouldn’t be guilt involved with reading a book you love, however many times you’ve read it before. It doesn’t matter how many unread books are on your shelf, the important thing is enjoying what you are reading. Those unread books will still be there when you come to pick another book up.

So, do you like rereading? Do you feel guilty rereading at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Review: In A Glass Darkly – J. Sheridan Le Fanu

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Rating – 3*

Firstly I will apologise as reviewing a book read over a month ago is quite a task for someone with memory problems! This is probably going to be quite brief because of it, but I think the fact I can’t remember much of it says everything about the content – it wasn’t overly memorable.

I can’t lie, I picked this collection up purely for Carmilla (lesbian vampires people. Lesbian vampires.) as I thought for the price it was a better deal – and while the stories in this collection were interesting, I can’t say they were entirely my cup of tea. In a way, I wish I wasn’t such a bargain hunter and just read Carmilla as a standalone because it was by far the stand out of the collection.

I can understand why the stories in here were ground breaking – they predate the more well known classic ‘horror’ novels like Dracula by over 20 years, which is frankly quite impressive. And in a time before electricity I can imagine that all of the stories in this collection were pretty terrifying, now they were more humorous than scary.

What I did enjoy is that all the stories were connected in that they were all found in the papers of Dr Martin Hesselius – a character who was a sort of hybrid between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in the 19th Century – a strong belief in the occult but also in possession of a very level head and medical expertise. I found the voice quite an easy one to follow, while there were the typical, over wordy elements of 19th century literature I was able to plod along quite happily and read each story in one sitting without feeling tired (which is often the case with Victorian novels!)

On the whole though, this was a 3* read. I loved the first story – Green Tea – about a reverend and a demon monkey, and I loved Carmilla. Those two aside it was all very meh and forgettable – to the point where a month on they’re the only two stories I can remember in the collection.

If you like Gothic literature, or have an interest in lesbian vampires or demon monkeys, I’d definitely give this collection of short stories/novellas a go!

Blogmas 2017 || Blogmas Day 1

Well hello there. It’s been a while hasn’t it? After promising myself (and you) that I’d have a catch up in October, I started with good intentions and they fell by the wayside – as did my reading. But I want to change that in December – not only updating you with my reading but also generally blogging about life, the universe and everything. So, in a nutshell, I’m doing Blogmas!

Blogmas is great fun, and I really enjoyed it when I did it in 2015, so I want to do it again! I want it to help me fall back in love with blogging because I always seem to fall down towards the end of the year.

What will I be writing about? Well, I’ll probably do a few tags that have caught my eye over the last few months, discuss my favourite books of 2017, talk about my holidays (including my first solo adventure!) and my tattoos that I’ve had this year. While this is a blog for bookish goodness, I think introducing some variety in the content will encourage me to both read and write more.

So, if there’s anything you’d like to see on the blog feel free to suggest things – I need more ideas, that’s for sure!

As always, thanks for reading & we shall speak again tomorrow!