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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A Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz. A review

Is this continuation of the series up to scratch?

I’ve been meaning to review this book for a while. It’s no secret that the Millenium series are possibly my favourite books of all time, so when I found out the series was being continued I was eager to sample a new author’s take on Larsson’s intricate world.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t know if this book quite makes the grade. David Lagercrantz has enjoyed a similar career to Larsson, journalist turned novelist, and so in theory should be well-equipped to take the reins of the Millenium series. His first novel in the series left me wanting more, pining for the original style and content that made Larsson’s novels so great.

 

The story continues with the two original characters, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, picking up after the events of the third novel. We are introduced to several new characters, most notably Frans Balder, a genius computer scientist who has recently returned from the USA to reclaim custody of his autistic son. The main plot focuses on Balder’s evasion of the elusive Spider Society, a group of elite criminal hackers who are after a new computer programme Balder has designed. Lisbeth’s path crosses Balder’s during her own investigations of the Spider Society, causing her to become entangled in a web of conspiracies involving high-authority figures in the NSA. Blomkvist’s role in the plot is similar to previous books; he accidentally stumbles on a ground-breaking story involving government conspiracy, Salander and her “good-guy” Hacker Republic organisation.

 

Compared to Larsson’s novels, the plot feels fragmentary and confusing. We are introduced to several characters who, to some extent, feel like unnecessary additions to the plot. The involvement of the NSA was also an issue for me. One of my favourite things about the original trilogy is that they are undeniably Swedish, in setting, characters and action. Lagercrantz seems to be attempting to make the novels more accessible to an international audience. After all, everyone has heard of the NSA and in recent years (writing of the novel started in 2013) it has been seen as something of a cultural “hot potato”. However, I feel that this detracts away from the charm of the novels, and waters down their cultural identity. After all, the inclusion of the NSA in a hacking conspiracy thriller is VERY Dan Brown.

 

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Lagercrantz introduces us to an elusive character from the original trilogy – Salander’s twin Camilla. She is everything Lisbeth isn’t. If Lisbeth is brave and selfless, Camilla is evil and self-serving. She is able to manipulate men with her beauty, and she knows exactly what she wants from them. Considering Lagercrantz was working with an almost blank slate for Camilla, he has done a good job of building the character, and I can only hope she returns later in the series. As a writer, Lagercrantz has a solid style. The main characters are (mostly) written well, and there are some good action sequences around the plot’s climax. Hopefully this means there is some hope for the next two novels in the series.

 

Overall, I enjoyed reading Lagercrantz’s first outing into Larsson’s world, but I feel he could certainly improve on the quality of the story. Considering the original Millenium trilogy was presented as an unedited manuscript and published posthumously, there should not be such a massive difference in the quality of the writing for this new novel. Lagercrantz has had time. Time to edit, re-write, plan and change. So why are we left with a novel that feels more disjointed that an unedited manuscript? Don’t let my review put you off. If you’re a fan of the original series, please read it, but don’t hold it in the same high regards as Larsson’s work.

Have any of you read the book? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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!

Recommended Reads: Queer Fiction

Afternoon friends! I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend.

 

I’ve decided that after I review a book, I’ll post a list of recommended novels to try. Either by the same author or in the same genre. So off the back of my Mysterious Skin review, I’ve decided to recommend a list of Queer fiction.

 

Queer fiction is an interesting genre title. It is both uniting and exclusionary. By its separation in book shops it is kept away from “normal” fiction, and as a result is not explored or praised as much as it should be. Many novels that fall into the genre of Queer fiction are complex and powerful tales, and some certainly deserve more attention than they receive.

 

Anyway, I digress. Here is a list of five novels I have read, or am going to read, that are similar to Mysterious Skin. Enjoy!

GAW

The Great American Whatever – Tim Federle

 

This is award-winning author Tim Federle’s first venture into YA literature. The story focuses on Quinn, a gay teen, struggling to come to terms with his sister’s death. It follows the traditional queer Bildungsroman narrative, but in a fun and flirty way while never letting Quinn’s sexuality be the primary focus. This is a book I am very interested in, and it’s certainly placed high on my to-read list.

ColorPurple

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

 

Walker won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for this novel, and it was later adapted into a film and musical. The story focuses on a group of African-American women in 1930s south USA, and addressed themes of race, class and sexuality. The book has been widely censored since its release, due to its explicit content and scenes of violence. If you haven’t read this book before, do.

OrangesAreNotTheOnlyFruit

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

 

This novel is a coming-of-age story focusing on a young girl called Jeanette, who attempts to understand her sexuality in a heavily religious family environment. The book is semi-autobiographical in nature, based on events from Winterson’s early life. The story is at times saddening and chilling, and while I’m not the biggest fan of Winterson’s work, I have to appreciate the concise way in which she tells her tale.

City_and_the_Pillar

The City and the Pillar – Gore Vidal

 

This novel came out back in 1948 and is recognised as the first novel featuring a gay protagonist who was not killed off for their sexuality. For such a novel to be released at a time when homosexuality was still illegal is an incredible thought, and of course sparked massive public controversy. The story focuses on Jim Willard, a young man growing up in 1930s Virginia, coming to terms with his own sexuality. If there was ever a queer novel to read solely due to its historical importance, it’s this one.

gilded razor

The Gilded Razor – Sam Lansky

 

The Gilded Razor is a memoir of Lansky’s early adulthood, and addresses his descent from Ivy League hopeful into broken teen, by way of drug addiction. Lansky attempts to fill the void in his life with copious drugs and a string of affairs with older men, but manages to tell the story in a frank and sensitive way. Lansky manages to look into his own life and reveal common issues we all face. I would recommend this book to everyone, regardless of its applicability to your own life.

 

Well that’s my five recommended novels, I hope you like them. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, I’d be happy to hear. Thanks!