Category Archives: Audio books

Those murdering Scots

How I love them!

It’s Monday morning, and it’s Book Week Scotland. And here at Bookwitch Towers, I am most likely to spend it reading, rather than being out and about, despite all the events on offer. I feel as if I’ve finally got into the swing of reading again, after far too much travelling, or agonising over things, and it does my mental state a lot of good.

And you really don’t want me too mental.

Scottish Book Trust have looked into what everyone else in Scotland is doing, and it appears that Scots are into crime, in a big way; ‘crime/thriller books are the single most popular type of fiction in Scotland.

In a recent Ipsos MORI Scotland survey of 1,000 adults, just over 1 in 4 Scots (27%) who read for enjoyment said that books which fictionalise crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives topped their choice of reading or listening genres. — While the crime genre was the most popular among readers of all ages, the second most popular genre among young readers (aged 16-34) was science fiction/fantasy (15%). — Eight in ten Scots (79%) read or listen to books for enjoyment and 39% do so either every day or most days. Additionally, among those —  50% read or listen to more than 10 books per year.’

Well, that’s good to know; both that people read, and that they like what I like. (If I hadn’t given up ironing, I’d be listening to more audio books as well.)

I suppose that with their fondness for a good murder, the Scots really are – almost – Nordic. It’s dark up here, although possibly more cheerful than ‘over there.’

And, on that cheery note I will dive back into my waiting book mountains, before the January books arrive. There tends to be this brief lull for a couple of weeks, or three, as one year [in the publishing world] comes to an end and the new one begins. When the publicists go off on their Christmas holidays, they might fire off the ‘first’ 2017 books. (That’s apart from the ones I’ve already received and filed away because 2017 was such a long way off…)

Board classics

Tony Ross has two new boardbooks out, which I think is slightly younger than his usual picture books. They are Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Yes, you’ve heard of them before, haven’t you? I think it’s pretty good, actually. It’s sort of the baby version of dyslexia books for older readers; introducing something that the reader isn’t able to ‘read’ in its normal form.

Tony Ross, Goldilocks and the Three Bears

They are not Tony’s stories, obviously, but are re-told simply, accompanied by Tony’s illustrations. They are even divided into little chapters, in that there are board tabs showing what’s to be found if you open the book right there. So you want an axe, you can see where to go, or if it’s Little Bear’s empty bowl you require.

For the technically capable there is a code on the back cover to scan and get a free audio fairy tale. But don’t let that stop you from reading to your parents! There’s nothing like a live voice while turning the stiff pages. They are just right!

More resolutions

Sorry. I wasn’t going to do them. But the Guardian published some author resolutions on reading, and I need to air my views.

Obviously, I don’t have resolutions. I long decided the best way to go is to avoid them like the plague.

But, I would like to read more. Meg Rosoff aims to read for four hours a day. That had better be tongue-in-cheek! Even if I could, I wouldn’t. Unless temporary circumstances forced it. It feels excessive. Two hours? I could aspire to that.

Jackie Morris has a sensible idea; half an hour at each end of the day. I like that. But then I had to go and ruin it by wondering how I’d deal with those mornings when you’re up early to go to the dentist, catch a train, or something. (OK, I’d read in the waiting room to calm myself down, and the train is perfect for reading.)

In general though, I suppose it’s worth aspiring to change. I have this long term idea of a new reading challenge I could do, while recognising I will never get round to it. It’s much easier to go on as I am.

Harking back to the toddler years – Offspring’s, not mine – I felt so much better once I got re-started on reading. On the other hand, sitting is said to be the new smoking, and I do feel the need to sit during most of my reading. I should aim to bake more bread, or do the ironing; both of which are jobs done standing up, and both are good for the mind.

Or, I could go back to audiobooks. Anthony McGowan cycles round London listening to books. I have a garage full of audio books, but nothing on which to play them. Besides, I have ‘read’ them already.

In reality I imagine I will stumble from book to book the way I have been for years. And I may need to ditch my current book. It could be that it’s not gripping me enough, rather than lack of time between eating Stollen and watching Christmas television that keeps me from picking the book up.

Journey to the River Sea

When I came upon the audiobook of Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea, as I was unpacking the children’s books a few weeks ago, I looked around, wondering where the ‘real’ book was. And then it hit me; I didn’t actually own a copy. I had borrowed it from the library to read (you can tell this was a long time ago, can’t you?), and returned it when I was done.

But I did buy the audiobook, because I thought it was such a marvellous story that Daughter might want to read it. This was when she was still a reluctant reader, while fully enjoying audio books. And Son was in full audiobook mode as well, although he did read too. We had a few years during which we as a family consumed an awful lot of cassette books, including the odd chewed-up tape. I remember this, as Eva Ibbotson’s book was one that got entangled, much to my horror. (Luckily the people who made it were happy to supply a spare cassette, meaning I didn’t have to buy it all over again.)

I remember buying a copy of the book to give away, too, so it’s not as if I was being particularly economical about it.

So there I was, filling my shelves with books, and no Journey to the River Sea. I looked at the cassettes, and I looked at the empty gap among my Eva Ibbotson books, and knew I needed to own this one.

Eva Ibbotson, Journey to the River Sea

What’s more, I felt it needed to be the original cover; the cover of the book I had read, and none of the newer looks. But now that you can buy used books online, it is at least possible to choose your edition, and for a reasonable price.

The gap has been filled.

(As a matter of interest, has anyone who knows this book come across an ‘adult version’ of it? Some time after I’d first read it, I discovered an adult novel by Eva that sounded similar, so I read that too, and realised she must have written it first, since it had practically the same plot, only a little more grown-up. I’m glad she re-wrote it, as the children’s story is far superior.)

Paul Temple was here

Be still my beating heart!

When my curtain rail next falls down (requires attention, or whatever) I want Paul Temple to come and assist me. It would be a much more refined experience than what I’m used to.

As I was getting ready for Bloody Scotland, enjoying an unexpected brief meeting with the Sister of Grandmother, who had also made it to Scotland – if not the Bloody one – for a visit, the curtains failed. Actually, they failed before I arrived, but they needed dealing with.

So that’s why the Grandmother called in her old pal Paul Temple. (Anyone who clicked on the link above will have discovered he’s an actor.) He was a little taken aback to turn round on the ladder to find two little ladies watching him, Sister of Grandmother and your own Bookwitch. Perhaps his normal curtain rescuings are audience free.

But oh, the joy of hearing his voice doing a running commentary on what might be wrong with the curtain rail! And most ‘handymen’ never exclaim ‘voilà’ or address bystanders with ‘Mesdames et Messieurs.’ And never in a voice like that.

Afterwards we had to prevent him from leaving through the airing cupboard, herding him firmly but gently towards the actual door.

Those trains

Never underestimate the early impressions you provide your child with. Twenty years ago we had a three-year-old whose vocabulary was still not as extensive as that of his peers. But he could talk about Bangalore.

The Resident IT Consultant spent a couple of months between jobs, and diligently went to the library to borrow videos to keep himself and Son entertained. I forget how many train videos made it to our house, and I hope they weren’t worn blank after having been watched over and over again.

I’m not sure if there was more than one Indian train film, but the ‘train to Bangalore’ went down a treat. Far more popular than Thomas the tank Engine, even then.

Train to Bangalore

And now Son has gone and won a pair of plane tickets, and he and Dodo flew to Amritsar (of all places!) on Monday. (I know. It’s not Bangalore. But this plane didn’t fly there.) I’ve got the itinerary here on my desk and there are going to be a few train journeys. Have you any idea how hard it is to book train tickets in India from home?

How did I end up with a Son who knows where the Indian sleeper train was built? He has bought tickets to places I had no idea existed.

I blame Kim. After the Bangalore train, it’s been Kipling’s Kim who has had a disproportionate influence over Offspring number one. I got him (us, perhaps?) the audiobook years ago. Son has listened to it so many times I’m not surprised he had to download another copy. Those tapes can only last so long.

Rudyard Kipling, Kim - read by Sam Dastor

Sam Dastor (whoever he is) reads Kim extremely well. I know, because Sam and Kim have helped me iron an awful lot of shirts in the past. But since I only listened once, I don’t know the story by heart. But I know a boy who does…

So, I suspect Son and his Dodo are on a sort of Kim and Bangalore treasure trail.

Myself, I’ve felt almost inspired by all this talk of staying with Maharajas and stuff, and I do believe I will look at a few ‘Indian’ books now. Going to see the ‘exotic marigold’ the other week didn’t help, of course.

(Anyone here with an interest in the Delhi metro service?)

Bookwitch bites #52

Could really do with an Emergency Labrador right now. Not sure what it would do for me, but feel  it’s a reassuring concept. I noticed the sign for one on the train a while ago. When I looked again, it appeared that all they had was an emergency ladder.

Fiction Express - Stewart Ross, Soterion Mission

From the train it’s not far to Fiction Express. This is interactive e-fiction where you control the plot. (Has to be better than losing the plot.) Different authors have written first chapters, which you can access free online (assuming I’ve got my facts right) and then there is a vote on what direction the story should take. Sounds like fun, unless of course you’d rather the story went somewhere different from what others have voted for.

More online writing for readers can be found at 247 Tales. This month’s author story is by Gennifer Choldenko, and it might be just a couple of hundred words, but they were quite scary words. Unlike Fiction Express, you don’t get more than 247 words, and there I was, all ready to read on. Last month’s winner is a pretty good one. Nice to see the future of writing is safe.

If you’re not sure you can write without help, I found just the thing for you: Writing a novel, six month curse, starts October. Or should that be course? If anyone wants to try it, I’m sorry but I can’t remember where I saw the ad.

Me, I’m surprisingly bad at both the writing and the remembering. As you know, I don’t set out to upset, but an ambition like that is never 100% water tight. And if I intended to insult, I wouldn’t actually send the ‘victim’ a link to the post. I had a response to just such a link recently, which I will share with you: ‘Thank you. Are all your blogs negative? It doesn’t have anything positive to say.’ Polite. If I had meant it to be bad, I’d have come up with something far juicier. Even without the help of the October curse.

Mitchell Library

To end on a much pleasanter note, I do wish I was in Glasgow this Thursday! I will be in Edinburgh on Friday, but it just isn’t the same. The lovely Bill Paterson will be doing an Aye Write! event at the Mitchell, reading from his own Tales From the Back Green. I must have one or two readers in the Glasgow area? Go! Enjoy!