Posts Tagged ‘audiobooks’

Up to Speed

Monday, 2 May 2011

With this year’s book numbers surpassing last year’s total already, I really should finish discussing the last book on that list.

Cover of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Ar...

Cover via Amazon

67. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

Not sure when, if ever, I’d have got to reading this myself, but Heather did this as a Craftlit book last year and DH and I both greatly enjoyed it.

I previously mentioned this while listening to it.

Twain is often bitingly cynical in this novel, and his characters aren’t always all that likeable either. Heather’s commentary certainly helped to bring out the themes, however. As someone who’d never read it, but thought she knew the basic premise, the ending was rather a dark shock, and has overshadowed my memories of the earlier humour. Neither Twain nor The Boss (our narrator) pull many punches at all, and we have many an attack on 19th century values, as caricatured in a pretend early medieval England. Our eponymous protagonist is rather an anti-hero in many ways, and likes to make fun of basically everyone with whom he comes into contact, often somewhat cruelly.

It doesn’t sound like I enjoyed the book, does it? I actually did enjoy a lot of it, and certainly felt the rest was worthwhile. The reading was very good, and I’d recommend the Craftlit commentary (as always) too.

Water works

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

I haven’t been listening to the current book on Forgotten Classics, but I did enjoy the previous one.

Original cover of The Riddle of the Sands

Original cover of The Riddle of the Sands

41. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

I had certainly heard of Childers before Julie read this book, but hadn’t read anything of his; I hadn’t realised he pioneered the spy novel like this. Since I don’t think she’d mentioned it I’d forgotten that he ended up an Irish nationalist, and hadn’t realised until I just read the Wikipedia article linked above just how complicated his allegiences to Britain and Ireland were. I might have to look for a decent biography of the man.

What Julie did explain in some detail was the political relevance and then impact the novel had on British Naval and other military preparations for the (then potential) upcoming conflicts with Germany, which really wasn’t very far away by sea. (RofS was first published in 1903.) While there’s certainly a clear message coming across about the value and importance of covert knowledge of what’s going on in other nations (especially enemies or possible ones) at a time when spying was seen as underhand and not something for gentlemen to take part in, the story is not lacking, and most of the characters come across well.

As someone who’s done a fair bit of sailing (all but one voyage in dinghies, however, although that voyage was aboard the Asgard II, the Irish sail training vessel actually named after Erskine’s own Asgard) I quite enjoyed and appreciated the technical details, although apparently some just saw that as a bit of a necessary evil. I do have to wonder how much of the same geographical and sailing knowledge Childers displays in this book is what he used when gun-running in Asgard

In memory of Asgard II.

Gentle Fun

Friday, 4 February 2011
Cover of "Firebirds Rising: An Anthology ...

Cover via Amazon

I just heard about this tonight and read it in one sitting (at 43 pages, free and online, it’s somewhere between a short story and a novella, in my opinion). I haven’t yet listened to the audio version on PodCastle (my DH got us downloading  EscapePod, which I nearly always enjoy, its SF sister awhile back, but I hadn’t ventured into the fantasy version yet), but I will.

16. In the House of the Seven Librarians by Ellen Klages

This is a great story, especially for the librarians among us. It plays upon all the library stereotypes and brings out all the magic libraries have to offer. I’m quite surprised I hadn’t come across it before, to be honest. This is the tale of seven librarians in a closed library and the little girl left on their doorstep. It’s absolutely worth the read (or listen) if you like books at all. (And why you’d be reading this blog if you didn’t I have no idea.)

This has been published in Klages‘ book, Portable Childhoods, as well as in Firebirds Rising, an anthology of works by different authors.

Ongoing

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011Like Clover, its immediate predecessor in the What Katy Did series (although Katy is barely present in this volume at all), which I discussed a few days ago, this was well read for LibriVox by Elli. I’ve heard this reader on other things as well, and she’s generally very good indeed, with expression and obvious care and understanding for what she’s reading. My two (very minor) quibbles with her reading are that she can be a bit quiet and that a few words are pronounced a little unusually. I’m quite happy to listen to more of her narration, however.

12. In the High Valley by Susan Coolidge

So,  we’re a few years after the close of Clover; the eponymous heroine of that book now having been Mrs Geoff Templestowe a few years, with the third sister, Elsie, having in the meantime married their cousin Clarence, Geoff’s partner in the High Valley ranch. At the start of this book Imogen and Lionel Young are on their way to join those living there. In England they are neighbours to the Templestowe family, and have met Geoff and Clover on a visit the couple made ‘home’. Lionel is back in England temporarily, to bring his sister to the High Valley where he is to become a third partner, with his sister to keep house for him. Unfortunately, she doesn’t rave about America, Americans, or Clover in particular the way those around her do, and she doesn’t quite have the social graces to hide the fact, either. She does her best, but perhaps isn’t quite cut out for rural Colorado

Free Books!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Eight Hamodia books

Eight Hamodia books

We just got our prize from a Chanuka raffle, and it’s a nice one. Expect reviews of at least some of these in the next few months.

As for free books for the rest of you, I just learned of new ways to access the cornucopia of material available on Project Gutenberg, Librivox and elsewhere. (I’ve recommended both of those sites here many times before.)

E.C. recently recommended a freely downloadable Kindle application for the PC, which you may find useful for paid products or free ones.

Somehow I missed it three months ago when it apparently started, but ChapterMe.com is now offering random rateable chapters of Librivox books to listen to. Each chapter has a link to the work’s info and download page so that ifwhen you find something you like you can listen to the whole thing. This seems like a great way to find new audiobooks (the RSS feed of what’s newly published is another), which I believe is the intention, but I also enjoyed just listening to what came up, hitting “Next” if I wasn’t interested in what came up. For me, poetry and chapters of old favourites were best for this, but some new random chapters were good to, even without knowing what came before. (This works better with non-fiction than novels, in my opinion.)

Old Friends

Friday, 21 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011It’s nearly a year since I said I wanted to listen to this, but it finally became available on Librivox, and I decided not to relisten to the three What Katy Did books first, since I do know those quite well.

10. Clover by Susan Coolidge

The story didn’t really come back to me from the one previous time I’d read it, but the ending was reasonably predictable (the invalid recovering and an engagement). What was fun, beside learning more of the lives of characters I’d known all my life, was the less predictable middle, with new characters like the irrepressible Mrs Watson. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more depth and detail on the adult topics, but that’s partly because we’re now discussing adults (the youngest character we see more than once is Phil, now well into his teens), whereas this is the continuation of a series for children.

I’m listening to In the High Valley still, so will talk more about this with that one, since I’m low on time right now.

Persuaded by a book

Saturday, 28 August 2010

NaBloPoMo August logo26. Persuasion by Jane Austen

So, finally here to discuss Persuasion. I have certainly read the beginning of the book a few times (I had actually just begun to do so again when Heather said she was going to do it next on Craftlit), but I amn’t sure I had previously finished it. Not that it’s a bad book, by any means, but somehow it hasn’t generally grabbed me so much as some of the others. Thankfully, listening along with Craftlit worked out very well. Some of the characters are still annoying (but then, I do get annoyed by characters, as my regular book-post readers will know), and the attitudes are worse, but that is a lot of the point of Jane Austen’s novels: she aims to show up the snobbery and other vices of the class-based society she describes, and to have (eventually, with many many false steps along the way) virtue win out. Usually.

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Image via Wikipedia

Anyway, Heather’s commentary was helpful and fascinating, as always, although we didn’t manage to convert my DH. (He has disliked JA’s writing since school, and isn’t compelled by Austen’s portrayal of the social nuance and patronising behaviour described in her books.) Thankfully he’s enjoying the current Craftlit book (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) much more, as he expected to. I’m finding that quite interesting, as I’m not at all familiar with it, which Heather’s obviously expecting everyone to be (it is an American classic, after all). I’d heard of it, of course, but don’t know the story at all, so being told repeatedly that it’s not what we’ll be expecting doesn’t mean very much to me.

Now, as to Persuasion itself; well, as above it’s not my favourite Austen novel. Part of my problem with it is that so much of the story, and especially the character development, happens before the start of the novel. The former wouldn’t bother me half so much as the latter. In short, Anne Elliott many years ago allowed herself to be persuaded not to marry a penniless young naval officer, and has since learned to regret it, particularly now that he’s turned up in her circle again, as a very successful and far-from-penniless (as her family has become, in the meantime) career officer. Of course, having rejected him before she can’t throw herself at him now (pride good and bad showing itself as one of Austen’s recurring themes) and has to watch while younger friends do just that. I suppose what I do like about JA’s work, is that while the ending  generally is happy and predictable, the path to get there really isn’t so much, and that’s what it’s worth reading for.

To continue…

Sunday, 8 August 2010

NaBloPoMo August logo21. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This is the second of the abridged audiobooks we were given last year and listened to at the beginning of this summer. As with the other, we would like to read the full book at some point, although from speaking to my mother, who just has read the book, it’s not just because of the abridgement that the title is unclear! Wolf Hall (the place) is referred to several times, and even visited once or twice, but it is not a major setting, and the power of those who live there is still for the future by the end of the novel. We all (me, DH and my mother) wonder if there’s a sequel to come.

Even so, I think DH and I were more satisfied with Wolf Hall than with Her Fearful Symmetry. (This was the prize-winner of the two…) We do like well-researched historical novels, and neither of us knew as much about Thomas Cromwell as we felt we should have, once decently into the story. So when money’s not an object and/or we find them second-hand we’ll probably be looking for a decent biography of the man, as well as a copy of this book.

Anyway, the novel takes us through from Cromwell’s youth to his middle-age, from ‘humble beginnings’ through to being Chief Minister to the King (Henry VIII) and aristocratic rank. We see his relatively short but apparently happy marriage, and his ongoing interactions with many many famous names of history. Definitely an influential man!

Abridged

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

NaBloPoMo August logoThis’ll likely be another short post, I’m afraid, as I need to go out in about an hour, and amn’t ready yet.

20. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

This is one of two audiobooks we were given on or around our wedding (the other comes next on the list, although I probably don’t have time to talk about it now), both of which were somewhat abridged. It’s hard to know how much of the dissatisfaction we felt with each to put down to the abridgements, as in each case it felt like there were essentials missing (although the readings were very good in both cases). Both books have proven authors (here both my DH and I like The Time Traveler’s Wife) but I think we’re both just turned off by abridgements, although still very grateful to the person who gave us the audiobooks, as providing us with new good books, and giving us something good to listen to when we were offline (again!) this Spring, and so weren’t getting the podcasts and Librivox audiobooks.

With all that said, as TTW was Niffenegger playing with a science-fiction concept to build a well thought out character novel, here she’s looking more to paranormal ideas of unearthly twinning and ghost stories, and unfortunately it just doesn’t seem to work quite as well. There is a much larger cast of major and point of view characters, and while Niffenegger manages that, it’s sometimes hard to see where the point is. The novel appears to be about Julia and Valentina Poole, identical (and mirror-image) twins, who having grown up in the USA hardly knowing anything of their mother’s English family, are suddenly left their aunt’s (their mother’s own estranged identical twin) home and wealth next to Highgate Cemetery in north London. Really, though, the book is in many ways more about their aunt and her friends and neighbours, and how they all cope with losing her and gaining two such alien (in age and culture) creatures in her place, and in turn, how that impacts upon the two themselves.

It was a good story, but unsatisfying (especially at the end), and it didn’t grab me enough to spend the fortune new books in English cost in this country to see how much better the full book would be. Let’s just say that I’d certainly give a borrowed copy a chance, and probably a second-hand one, so we’ll see if one turns up in our regular trawls of the second-hand-bookshops around here.

A book post I dithered about

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Being March, it’s pretty much crochet all the way, in terms of blogging, but I do have a book left from 2009 to discuss. As the post title suggests, I dithered about putting it on the 2009 list at all, because it’s a play, that could be argued to have been performed (with an actor per part) rather than simply read. However, this is a Librivox recording, with the parts read, and I let in Pygmalion, which had the same issues, plus this was relevant to a 2010 book I’ve already discussed, so here it is:

75. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

The first thing to note is that I studied this play in my last two years of secondary school, so I know it reasonably well. Still, there are always new aspects to a classic (or indeed any good) work, and that was several years ago, so it was time to revisit this one.

The second is that this recording has some very good readers in it. (A few good enough that I’ve noted their names, and the fact that they’ve done a recording ups its likelihood of me choosing to listen to it, like Andy Minter, Kara Shallenberg and Karen Savage. Others were good too, but haven’t come up enough for me to have paid attention to who they are yet.)

The editing together of the individually and separately read parts has been beautifully done, so that if you didn’t know that’s how LV play readings were done, you wouldn’t guess it from much of this. Very occasionally the tone of two speakers in a conversation doesn’t match, but this only really seemed to come up where very minor characters were involved. I can’t be sure, but at a guess, the major players conferred over what tone to take for their joint scenes.

So what did I gain from this version of the play? Well, an easy way to revisit it, for one. I generally dislike reading whole plays in print, as it rather belies the point, but at the same time I don’t get to the theatre all that often, nor do I have a television to see them there.

I’d never blame my very good English teacher, but I seem to have rather glossed over the play-within-the-play in the past, and not realised quite how pointed the references (nay, insults) were. I also realised that it’s not just the characters from The Merchant of Venice that I don’t really like (no, none of them), but these, either. Shakespearean characters can be ones I am interested in, and even occasionally care about for the course of the play, without my thinking much of their principles, or liking them much as people.

Anyway, definitely worth a listen!