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The 14th Century

Thursday May 5th, 2011 in Audio books, History | No Comments »

Well, bits of it anyway.

I’m about half way through the 28 hour long audio book The Calamitous 14th Century, but I think I’ve actually heard about half of it. The other half I’ve missed while doing incompatible activities at the same time like having a shower, putting on the washing or reading articles about Ricky Nixon’s disgraceful hair and conduct.

I normally stop audio books if I’m doing an incompatible activity but not with this one. The great thing about the 14th century is that the same things happens over and over again. War, plague, war, plague, nice trip to the country, war, plague.

So I’m finding it quite easy to dip in and out of the narrative, missing chunks of it, but still getting the general idea.

I’m glad there won’t be a test.

The Road

Sunday April 10th, 2011 in Audio books, Young Adult | No Comments »

I’m loving The Road by Catherine Jinks. It’s not just murderously scary, it’s also supernaturally spooky – not my usual audio book scene. But it is very good. It is so tense and absorbing that even my partner – who often pretends to find story tapes annoying – has been caught listening with interest.

I’m not surprised because I am a big Catherine Jinks fan. When I was a teenager and going through my “All YA is beneath me, because I’ve read Wuthering Heights” stage I made an exception for Catherine Jinks’ Pagan series. I loved those books with an hysterical passion that saw me ending friendships and sobbing if someone else didn’t like the book.

When I was a teenager I believed that the books you liked defined your identity. And anyone who didn’t like reading wasn’t even a proper person.

It reminds me of the great video serious Talking Faiths presented by the Immigration Museum. Students pair up to talk about their faith and identity. All the participants are very respectful and keen not to judge the other’s perspective.

But in this video there is a sudden moment of discord. Two girls are cheerfully discussing Harry Potter when it is revealed that one of them is a Twilight fan and the other one isn’t. No amount of awkward giggling can disguise the fact that this budding inter-faith friendship has hit a rocky patch. The Jewish/Muslim thing was fine but the Twilight/non-Twilight divide might be a breaking point.

Fortunately later in the video they’re back on less controversial topics and chatting happily about wearing the hijab.

So my point is – if anyone doesn’t like The Road then I don’t like you. (Same goes for John Brown Rose and the Midnight Cat.)

Lessons learned

Tuesday April 5th, 2011 in Audio books, Sport | No Comments »

I’m listening to The Road by Catherine Jinks read by Kate Oliver, described as a “chilling thriller”. I borrowed it because I love Catherine Jinks.

I am highly affected by scary things (I find Midsomer Murders gritty and disturbing). The Road is becoming quite tense and that is causing problems. Yesterday before work I became over-engaged in the story and just sat on the edge of the bed for 15 minutes listening instead of putting on socks.

I should have known this would happen after the whole Murder on the Orient Express debacle. Unfortunately I am not a very good learner by experiencer.

Yesterday I also went to a session to learn about sports nutrition. It was all about a frightening one kilogram tub of protein. The fact that I found the product’s catch phrase, “train harder, more often” vastly unappealing and would have preferred “train less hard, less often” suggests I’m not really in the target market.

However, I did learn something useful about nutrition yesterday after all. Don’t eat a chicken and mayonnaise roll at 5.15 and then go for an energetic run at 6.30. Lesson learned. Although, I did previously learn a very similar lesson involving yogurt and a big piece of oat slice.


Wednesday March 23rd, 2011 in Audio books, narrators | No Comments »

I’ve just finished Death at Victoria Dock, a Phyrne Fisher mystery. In my last post I mentioned that I find Phyrne Fisher audio books extremely reliable. A bonus with this one was a recorded conversation between Kerry Greenwood (the author) and Stephanie Daniel (the narrator).

Stephanie Daniel’s voice in conversation was very different from her voice as narrator. Daniel also mentioned that she used her “real voice” as the character of the nun. I’d previously assumed that narrators only put on voices for the characters’ dialogue, not for the narration bits.

I now realise that Daniel would sound a bit weird speaking like this all the time. If I was chatting to her about an every day topic like the price of milk or Ricky Nixon’s disgraceful hair and conduct I would quickly get tired of her slow sentences and perfect diction. She’s a pro.

Easy Choices

Sunday March 20th, 2011 in Audio books | 2 Comments »

Sometimes choosing story tapes is hard but sometimes it is very easy. In that way, it’s not unlike buying fruit.

Whenever I see a Phyrne Fisher mystery by Kerry Greenwood I just borrow it. I don’t bother looking at anything else on the shelf.

Phyrne is a super attractive and smart woman who solves mysteries in 1920s Melbourne. These books work very well as audio books.

Phyrne has a lovely life and it is a delight to hear about her as I go about mine. After a very hard day of fighting crime Phyrne goes home, is greeted by her butler, has a hot bath run for her by her maid, is served chicken soup and a hot toddy by her cook and, thus bodily satisfied, with steely determination she composes her thoughts and emotions.

And it’s not just because she has help. Phyrne Fisher would be able to make herself bodily satisfied and compose her thoughts and emotions in almost any circumstances. Even if she was working in the ham hocks section of a bacon factory, at the end of the day, she would take a deep breath, have a gin and tonic, and put it all behind her.

I personally find this tricky. After a hard day of spreadsheeting, I come home, race around madly to get bodily satisfied but then – can I compose my thoughts and emotions? No. I am still fuming because someone told me Column C had the 2009-10 figures instead of 2010-11.

But I find that listening to a Phryne Fisher mystery can, at least temporarily, rest my mind.

Questions answered

Tuesday March 15th, 2011 in Audio books, narrators, Young Adult | No Comments »

I finished Joel and Cat set the Story Straight last night while making a cardamon slice. The book is about a girl and boy who frickin’ hate each other and have to write a tandem story together for English. Nick Earls writes and narrates Joel, Rebecca Sparrow writes and narrates Cat and the book alternates perspectives each chapter.

Last week I said I was intrigued by the writing process between Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow but was holding out on discovering more until I’d heard the whole thing. Well, the moment I finished the final disk I minimised the slice recipe and opened a new browser window, Googling like a mad thing.

Soon, all of my questions were answered with most of them covered by this interview.

To sum up, in real life Earls and Sparrow are not on together and they never frickin’ hated each other. So the life cunningly disguised as art ingeniously impersonating life masquerading as art hiding under a flowerpot thing is confined to the tandem story writing, not to the actual plot.

Anyway, this was probably the most enjoyable audio book I’ve listened to all year. Was funny and the authors were very good narrators.

Getting ahead of myself

Wednesday March 9th, 2011 in Audio books, narrators, Young Adult | 2 Comments »

While I was working my core on my fit ball (that is actually true!) I started listening to Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight, by Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow.

The book is dual perspective, with Joel’s story written and read by Nick Earls and Cat’s story written and read by Rebecca Sparrow. Happily, both authors do a good job as narrators.

The plot involves Joel and Cat writing a tandem story for an English assignment, with each of them taking turns to write a paragraph. This makes me extremely curious about the writing process for the book.

Did Earls and Sparrow use the tandem method to write Joel and Cat? Did they map out the plot beforehand? Did either of them make the other one change bits? Are they on together?

When I read books I am a terrible skipper-to-the-ender. I frequently go to the last page or flick through to see if a character keeps being mentioned. With story tapes you theoretically can’t do that. Except, you sort of can if you Google the book, or look at reviews on Goodreads, or look up the author on Wikipedia etc. Recently I have not been able to resist reading spoiling reviews/interviews/articles of the books I’ve been listening to.

So I am determined not to impact my experience of Joel and Cat set the Record Straight by reading about it. Dammit, I will form my own opinions of the work, and let the plot unfold at its own pace.

I am finding it hard to resist the temptation to Google. Very hard. Like my core. (That is not true, core is not hard despite aggressive once a week fit ball regime.)


Sunday March 6th, 2011 in Audio books, Young Adult | 3 Comments »

I am growing up and learning new things all the time.

I went to my first babyshower two weeks ago. A lovely afternoon, but there was more smoking than I expected.

Last night I went to my first hens night. It was a great night, but there was more talking about death than I expected.

I’ll know for next time.

Meanwhile I’m listening to Undine by Penni Russon, read by Melissa Eccelston. It’s a book about a girl discovering that she has nautically-inspired magical powers.

You can listen to a sample.

I’m enjoying listening to this story more than I expected, because I don’t get into much fantasy. Perhaps because whenever I read a book like Undine I can’t help thinking that poor Undies might be mentally ill rather than magical. This is clearly a failure of my imagination and I wish I was better at suspending disbelief.

I keep telling myself that Harry Potter really did go to Hogwarts – he’s not just a lonely boy in a basement who has lost his grip on reality.


Sunday February 13th, 2011 in Audio books, Cooking, Sport | No Comments »

Today I went on my weekend long run. I usually try to run for between 60 and 90 minutes. I meet up with a group when I can, but often I end up going by myself.

I run pretty slowly so it’s physically fairly easy, but I find it psychologically challenging. At the start it seems impossibly long and far.

I would almost certainly enjoy listening to a story tape while running, but I’ve always resisted this. It feels like cheating because facing the boredom and loneliness is part of the challenge for me.

It’s also true that I do some valuable thinking when I’m running. I’ll start the run feeling confused and stressed about something, but by the time I’m really tired at the end, I’ve generally distilled the issue down to it’s fundamental core.

For example, at the start of the run I might wonder, “Are face cloths really a good idea? Or are you just wiping germs onto your face?” But by the end of the run I’ll have got to the heart of the matter, “I really need to do a load of towels this afternoon.”

So maybe I use the running time to work out the issues in my life. And I couldn’t do that while listening to a story tape.

On the other hand, I always listen to a story tape when I’m cooking on my own. I would never make muffins in silence. Perhaps this is weakness though, and I could use that lonely sifting time to resolve my feelings towards my father. Dunno.

The Accidental Billionaires

Sunday February 6th, 2011 in Audio books, Film, narrators | 2 Comments »

It turns out that sometimes the film is better than the book.

I really enjoyed the film The Social Network, but I am not enjoying listening to the book the film was based on, The Accidental Billionaires: Sex, Monedy, Betrayal and the Founding of Facebook.


– It’s very one-sided. The author Ben Mezrich has extensively interviewed Eduardo Saverin but has not had access to the other major players, including Mark Zuckerberg.

– To get around his lack of actual knowledge Mezrich overuses phrases like, “It is easy to picture” and “we can envisage”, and words like “perhaps” and “maybe” to cover scenes where he actually has NO IDEA what happened.

– Mezrich is very mean about geeks assuming that they are all hate themselves and are desperate to be cool. I know this is not true. He also assumes that, in the normal course of events, a computer nerd will never have sex with anything more appealing than a bin-liner. This is also not true.

– The narrator Mike Chamberlain reads some parts really slowly as though they have momentous import. Chamberlain would be better off reading really fast and mumbling in the hope that no-one would notice sentences like, “He forced his pulse to return to a steady beat, like the steady bytes and bits of a processing computer hard drive.”

This review says it all.