Category Archives: Audio books

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!

Bookwitch bites #51

Are you people ready for more things I’ve not done?

This week I had hoped/intended/planned to attend the launch of the anthology Panopticon, published by Pandril Press. I thought it’d do me good to get out and rub shoulders with the Manchester literati. But there was the election and the tonsillitis and all sorts of things.

Iris Feindt at the Pandril Press Anthology Launch

I met Iris Feindt at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival in the summer and she had just written a children’s book which I read soon after. The reason you haven’t heard about it is that it’s still unpublished. But what has been published is this anthology, of which Iris is one of the contributors. She’s not alone, but I have chosen to illustrate the launch with a picture of her, since she’s the only one I would have known there. Had I made it.

But it looks like a good time was had by those who were there. The venue seems interesting, so one day I will investigate. There is so much I don’t actually know. (Admitting that didn’t hurt as much as I thought.)

The Pandril Press Anthology Launch

Also did not attend the Waterstone’s teen book club, and there is a gold star (sticky paper variety, obviously) to be won by whoever can work out why they didn’t want me there. The reason for my interest was their guest Annabel Pitcher, whose debut novel is My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

No prizes for guessing I haven’t read it. There is a very good reason for that. When I found out that David Tennant had agreed to read the audio book, I knew I just had to ‘read’ it with my ears. And I am, right this very moment. Almost. I’ve been sitting down with dear David whispering directly to me. It’s lovely!

Many thanks to Orion’s super efficient Nina for supplying me with Mr Tennant. Even if it’s ‘merely’ his voice. And I’m not too jealous as it seems she didn’t get to meet him…

The paracetamol

Hang on, it’s not me who’s the DT fan! It’s Daughter. Must be contagious.

She was. Possibly. Tonsillitis in never fun, but making your own ‘calpol’ was. Although we hadn’t quite expected the explosiveness of mixing soluble paracetamol with blackcurrant squash…

That’s science for you.

And whoever knew that the Royal Institution hosts discos? In my email inbox the message read ‘tickets still available for RI chairman’s disco. The full message, however, mentioned Sir Richard Sykes giving his inaugural discourse. Oh, the difference a few letters make!

Bookwitch bites #45

Or what the husbands said.

I frequently get asked ‘is there anything worth reading?’ when the Resident IT Consultant hasn’t got a clue what to do with himself. (Another maths book, maybe?) I always – nearly always – reply that ‘no, there is absolutely nothing to read in the house’. After all, what can I say? Sometimes I take pity on him and lead him to my secret stash and let him choose a little something.

One that was published earlier this week  is Prophecy, a crime novel by S J Parris. The Resident IT Consultant has read it, and he particularly liked the fact that the detective is/was a real – if dead – person. This being a historical crime novel, you know. He kept wondering what was real and what was made up. And as always he feels it was written with the film in mind. But then that’s what he says after almost any book. And it needs a map. He says that after most books, too. This being a proof, I wouldn’t be surprised if the real book does come with a map.

Adèle Geras also has a husband. Norman Geras recently blogged about his experience with Booker winning The Sea by John Banville, which I’m now awfully relieved not to have tried. It just goes to prove what I’ve said for so long, that so-called ‘real’ literature can be like the Emperor’s new clothes. Let’s not linger awhile with the utterly utterly or the bicycle asprawl. I have other things to do with what time I have.

With my luck it will turn out to be one of the books chosen to be given away tonight. It is tonight, isn’t it? World Book Night. I’m always unsure of which night counts as the 5th of March, seeing as nights of necessity almost always have two dates. But anyway, none of the really deserving books that I had in mind will be handed out for free tonight. However, if you don’t mind paying for the postage, then Declan Burke has a few free books littering his house. He, too, is a husband and his wife might appreciate it if you could take a few copies off from wherever they keep their spare books.

But it’s better than road fill.

The Selfish Giant

I rarely respond well to offers of books through my contact page. Usually people are either offering perfectly fine books, but not what fits in here. Or the books seem anything but perfectly fine.

This one however, being a fairy tale written by Oscar Wilde himself, sounded quite promising. And no, Oscar didn’t email me. Dan Goeller did. He’s an American composer, who has put music to Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant. Chris Beatrice made the new illustrations for the story, and then they roped Martin Jarvis in to read the audio version with music.

I thought the concept sounded OK, so said yes to the offer of a book. I read it and enjoyed it, which is hard not to with a tale featuring giants and ogres and sweet little children.

What makes this new book stand out, though, is the CD and the music. It is absolutely fantastic! I’m no expert, but the music (played by members of the Nashville Symphony) sounded just right. And I would guess that this could easily become a real favourite with young children. Parents may read bedtime stories the best, but I have to say that Martin Jarvis read this one even better.

If you’re looking for fairy tale entertainment, then The Selfish Giant is a good place to start.