My Recommended Audiobooks

I love audiobooks. For me, they fill a certain niche. I listen to them when I’m walking my dog, playing video games, or partaking in any other activity that requires my eyes but not my brain. I also, unashamedly, use them to help me plough through my reading list for university (12 novels in 10 weeks is surely a challenge for anyone). I particularly enjoy using them for books I find a bit long-winded (looking at you, Jane Eyre).

 

I’m also aware that audiobooks can be considered a contentious subject in the literary world. Do they count as reading? Are they the same as absorbing the story with your own eyes and your own narration? My answer to both of these questions would be a resounding yes. But then I’m a millennial, and everyone knows we’re all about short attention spans and quick fixes.

 

So, on the back of my declaration of love for the audiobook, here is a list of my favourites. This list is based not just on the book itself, but the performance given by the narrator(s). When it comes to allowing someone else to read a book for you, this is surely one of the most important factors. My list is based off books available on Audible, just in case you were thinking of checking any of them out. I hope you enjoy!

 

NOS4R2 – Joe Hill. Narrated by Kate Mulgrew.

This is a brilliant book, and a valuable addition to the world of modern horror (I’ll inevitably do a review of this soon). The story focuses on Vic McQueen, a young woman who can travel through space using her bike and a mysterious bridge. She ends up using this ability to rescue her son from Charles Manx, a convicted child molester. Manx kidnaps children in his Rolls Royce Wraith and takes them to a special place called Christmasland, where he turns them into vampires and feeds of their life-force. I consider this book to be more thrilling than scary, but it is certainly brought alive by the oddly cheery voice of Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway/Star Trek, Red/OITNB).

 

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection – Arthur Conan Doyle. Narrated by Stephen Fry.

Everyone (I assume) knows the stories of Sherlock Holmes in some form or another. Whether it’s from the original source material, the (frankly awful) Guy Ritchie films, or the modern TV adaptation. I’ve read the books several times before, but had to download the audiobook purely because it is read by Stephen Fry. The Audible version is a commitment, it’s over 70 hours of listening, and was around £69 last time I checked. But, with an Audible subscription, it can be yours for the low, low price of £8! How could you say no? I would recommend this for old and new fans alike, as Stephen Fry certainly knows how to bring a world alive.

 

Dracula – Bram Stoker. Narrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley.

As far as classic literature goes, Dracula is up there with the best in my opinion. Stoker’s choice to tell the story as a series of letters, transcripts, telegrams and newspaper clippings (an epistolary novel for you literary buffs) is a perfect choice for a story about a mysterious creature of the night as it highlights the questionable validity of the written word. Audible commissioned a production by some pretty big stars to bring the world to life again for a newer audience. The use of the original manuscript and different narrators certainly adds to the tension of the novel, and really works with its format. This was one of many I downloaded for university and it definitely made me appreciate the quality of the novel more than I already did.

 

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood. Narrated by John Chancer.

It was necessary for me to include a Margaret Atwood novel on this list. Oryx and Crake is the first in her “MadAddam” trilogy; a series of speculative fiction novels set after the world is ravaged by a pill that makes people infertile. The first book focuses on Snowman the Jimmy, a man who bumbled his way through pre-apocalypse life and is now searching for his lost friends. The books are unusual to say the least, but show off Atwood’s power of imagination. Chancer’s performance is not the most noteworthy on this list, but there’s something about his reserved charm that made me enjoy the performance much more than reading the book.

 

Moonraker – Ian Fleming. Narrated by Bill Nighy.

Let’s be real here. If you’re a fan of the James Bond series, we can agree that Moonraker is not the best story. But Bill Nighy has an amazing voice. It’s like chocolate. He manages to bring the post-imperial, casually racist world of Bond alive with his dulcet tones. The series on Audible are all narrated by big names (David Tennant, Rory Kinnear, Damian Lewis), which gives listeners even more reason to visit this series again. I’ve read the Bond series countless times, and these audiobooks certainly breathe new life into them.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and one that I’ll definitely be updating as I make my way through Audible’s catalogue. Are there any particular gems you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Recommended Reads: Roald Dahl’s short stories.

Roald Dahl is one of my favourite authors of all time. As a child I grew up reading his children’s fiction, then began to explore his adult works in the last few years. His short stories are possibly some of his best work, and at times are just pure genius.

 

So to celebrate Roald Dahl I have written a list of my five favourite short stories. Enjoy!

 

Lamb to the Slaughter

This is a fun little tale about devoted housewife Mary Maloney reacting to her husband giving her some bad news. The news is never said explicitly, but it’s safe to assume he plans on leaving her to raise their baby alone. Mrs Maloney proceeds to murder her husband, and manages to hide the murder weapon right under the noses of the investigating officers. This story is genius, pure and simple, and is one of my favourite works of fiction ever.

 

Skin

This is a story about a destitute ex-tattoo artist named Drioli reminiscing about a young painter supported before the outbreak of World War 1. During the flashback, both artists get very drunk and the painter is convinced to tattoo his work on Drioli’s back. Flash forward to the present, and Drioli finds himself at one of the painter’s exhibitions trying to convince patrons the work on his back is by the same artist. Several patrons then attempt to buy the work straight off his back, with Drioli finally accepting the offer of a seemingly kind man. The ending of this story is rather macabre, but possibly left open to some interpretation.

 

The Great Automatic Grammatizator

This story focuses on inventor Adolph Knipe looking for purpose after inventing a new mathematical computer. Knipe reasons that the rules of English grammar are governed by almost mathematical principles, and uses this theory to build a massive machine that is capable of writing award-winning novels in a very short amount of time. Knipe and his old boss go into business and attempt to buy out all of England’s successful writers. It turns out the story is written by a writer whom Knipe is attempting to buy out, and serves as a warning for any future recipients of the offer.

 

Poison

Set during the British rule of India, this story is set almost exclusively in the bedroom of protagonist Harry Pope. Harry believes a poisonous snake has crawled under his bedsheets and is lying on his stomach. Harry then sends his friend Timber Woods to fetch the local doctor, Ganderbai. As tension builds, Ganderbai works to try and remove the snake from Harry’s bed, only to find there was no snake there. The story then ends with Ganderbai attempting to lighten the mood by suggesting there was no snake, only to be met with Harry shouting many racial slurs. Timber attempts to diffuse the situation, but Ganderbai’s only reply is that Harry is in need of a long vacation.

 

Dip in the Pool

This story is set on a cruise ship that has its own betting pool, based on how many miles the ship will travel in a day. The protagonist, William Botibol, bets his entire savings on a “low pool” bid, hoping bad weather will slow the ship down. When he wakes up the next morning to find the weather is fair, William decides to cheat to slow the ship down. He decides to jump over the side of the ship so it is forced to turn around and save him. Before doing so, he makes conversation with an elderly woman whom he believes will raise the alarm. Little does he realise she is evidently suffering from dementia, and after he jumps overboard, she is not believed that a man is in the water. This is another very macabre tale from Dahl, but told with his usual dark humour.

 

 

These are my five favourite short stories by Roald Dahl, but there are so many more that are worth a read. I would recommend getting hold of several of his collected works, as there’s bound to be something in there for everyone. Thanks for reading!

Mysterious Skin – Scott Heim. A review.

Mysterious Skin is certainly not a novel that is approached lightly.

 

Scott Heim’s coming-of-age story centres around two young boys who are connected through a life-changing event, and it explores the very different ways they are affected. Heim certainly doesn’t hold back in this novel, and chooses to explore some very dark themes in the protagonists’ journey to realise who they are.

 

The story begins with a young Brian Lackey being found bleeding in the crawl-space beneath his house, seeming to have lost five hours of his life. After years of strange dreams, he eventually he becomes convinced he is the victim of an alien abduction, and devotes his life to discovering the truth. The second protagonist, Neil McCormick, is fully aware of the events that led to this moment, and realises he is the only one who can help Brian deal with his missing time.

 

Neil is certainly the anti-hero of the novel. His life is centred around the events of his childhood, and the love he believes he has found in his baseball coach. Fast-forward ten years, and Neil, having come to terms with his sexuality, works as a teenage hustler with dreams of something more. He moves to New York with his soul-mate Wendy but eventually falls back into his old ways, landing himself in more trouble than ever. Some of the events that take place with the New York “johns” are genuinely some the most harrowing the book, and that’s saying something. Neil is a very complex character with an incredibly strong sense of agency, he knows exactly what he wants and is willing to manipulate anyone to get it. He also has a soft side however, taking his friend Eric and Brian under his wing to guide them through their own troubles. Neil is wise beyond his years, and loyal to a fault, and for me was the break-out character of the novel.

 

Brian however is a sweet kid. He deals with his experience by becoming introverted, and after his dad walks out on the family becomes rooted to his home town. His inability to move on from his supposed alien abduction forces him to become obsessed, eventually befriending another abductee; Avalyn Friesen. With her help Brian is able to uncover more details in his dreams, leading him to Neil. The closing scenes between the two characters are some of the most emotive I have ever read, and it is incredibly satisfying for Brian to finally find closure. Brian’s quiet obsession perfectly balances out Neil’s explosive voice, and their narratives are linked in complex and interesting ways. They are yin and yang, light and dark.

 

A special mention should be given to the supporting cast too; Wendy, Eric, the moms. It is with their help that Neil and Brian are brought together, and are able to move on from their traumatic childhood. Something from which they can all benefit.

 

I think this book can only really be summed up with my opening statement; do not approach it lightly. But I don’t say that as a warning, simply guidance. The novel deals with its themes in a mature and sensitive way, and is certainly thought-provoking literature. So if you haven’t read it, please do. And if you have read it, read it again.

Thanks for reading!

My Top 5 Books (or Series)

A small taste of my favourite books

Hello all!

Hope the weather is good where you are, it certainly is here.

I’ve decided to write a list of my favourite books. Granted, this list could probably be 10 times longer than it is, but I wanted to keep it short and sweet. The five books I’ve chosen are ones that I can read again and again, and have inspired me to become a writer. I’ll probably expand on this list at some point, but for now, enjoy!

Thegirlwiththedragontattoo

Millenium Trilogy – Stieg Larsson

Genre: Thriller

 

I’ve lost track of the amount of times I have read this series. Focusing on disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and expert hacker Lisbeth Salander, Larsson seamlessly blends his own journalistic knowledge of Swedish crime with a truly dark imagination that few possess on such a level (looking at you, Mr King). The original Swedish title of Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) is certainly more appropriate, as Larsson takes a very harrowing look at the issues surrounding female abuse. Larsson sadly passed away in 2004 before the series was published, and didn’t get to see its success.

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The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Genre: High Fantasy/ Mythopoeia

 

This series was a childhood favourite of mine. The depth of the world Tolkien has created is truly awe-inspiring, having written a vast collection of works throughout his lifetime set in the universe of Ea. Tolkien and I share a love of all things Old English, and its influence on his work is evident in almost every grain of detail. The term “Middle-Earth” actually comes from the Old English term middangeard, the Germanic name for the world of Men. For anyone that’s interested he also did a brilliant translation of Beowulf, edited and published by his son, Christopher Tolkein.

american psycho

American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis

Genre: Psychological Thriller/Satire

 

Well, what can you say about this book? It’s dark. Really, really dark. And that Ellis is a genius. His satirical take on postmodern consumerism shows what happens when a man thinks everything is a commodity, including human life. Patrick Bateman is the stereotype of yuppie culture, and Ellis’ attention to detail around this is perfect. The narrative is funny, bleak, and at times downright chilling, but you still care for Patrick. It’s not his fault. Society made him this way. I genuinely don’t think I will ever get tired of coming back to this book, each time I read it I take away something new.

roald dahl

My Uncle Oswald – Roald Dahl

Genre: Speculative Fiction

 

My family’s copy of this book got read so many times both covers fell off, and eventually we lost some pages too. I don’t think it ever got replaced. Roald Dahl was a very versatile writer, being a bestseller in both adult and children’s fiction. This novel offers a few hours light reading, and focuses on Oswald Cornelius and his partner Yasmin Howcomely attempting to set up the world’s first sperm bank. The themes of the novel could be considered somewhat outdated, but if taken lightly can be amusing in a drunk-grandma-telling-dirty-jokes kind of way.

Shiningnovel

The Shining – Stephen King

Genre: Psychological Thriller/Horror

 

I imagine this book appears on a lot of people’s lists, and it would hardly be a surprise. Everything about this novel works. Jack Torrance’s descent into madness is a harrowing tale, taking on a very Gothic tone at times. There is a certain nuance to the book that Stanley Kubrick failed to capture in the film, and this is definitely helped by King’s mastery of the word. King manages to get inside Jack’s head while still keeping the reader at a distance. After all, how can one care for a character hell-bent (literally) on murdering his family for a place at the table?

 

So there you have it. My top 5. I’ll review some of these books in more detail at a later date.

Thanks for stopping by!