Thursday, September 14, 2017

Audiobooks: A Beginners Guide

Nothing to Disclose


I've always been a little bit wary of Audiobooks. I mean - why would I want to listen to someone reading a book when I could just read it myself?

Every year, my reading drops off a bit from September onwards. This is for a number of reasons - mainly due to Halloween/Christmas prep. This is my favourite time of the year, and I get a lot of crafting done, but I hate that I have to sacrifice reading in order to do it. Enter audiobooks.

What's an Audiobook?
It's a book, read aloud by a narrator. It's a file that you can send to any compatible device. You can download it and listen at any time offline.

Where do I get one?
The most well known source is probably Audible, because it's an Amazon company. Audiobooks are also available to borrow from the library for free via the Borrowbox app.

Who narrates the books?
This varies. In most cases, a professional narrator will do it. In some (mainly autobiographies), they're read by the author. Sometimes, well known celebrities will narrate books written by other people - for example, Anne Hathaway narrates The Princess Diaries; Alan Cumming narrates Macbeth: A Novel.

How long does it take to listen to one?
This also varies, depending on the length of the book. I've found that most standard psychological thrillers tend to run about 6-8 hours, while something like "IT" by Stephen King is over 44 hours long.

I'm on a limited Internet plan. Will this use up loads of my data?
The only time it uses data or wifi is when you're downloading a book. When you're playing a book, it doesn't use any data or wifi, or require any kind of internet connection. Books average a couple of hundred megabytes to download - the largest I've come across is, again, "IT", which was over 600mb (but it's also a beast of a book physically, over 1,000 pages).

What's the point?
If you want to read more books, or you enjoy reading but don't have the time, you can use listen to Audiobooks while you're doing something else. I let them play while I'm doing housework, or out walking, or at night. This means that I can get through an extra couple of books a week even if I'm busy doing something else. I know other people also listen to them on a commute, on lunch breaks, or in the car. People with certain learning difficulties may also find it easier to listen rather than read. They could be useful for people with arthritis or injuries that make it difficult to hold a book or turn pages.

What apps do I need? 
I use the free Audible app, and the free Borrowbox app to listen.

Tell me more about Audible.
- It's owned by Amazon. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial, using your Amazon account, and choose any book.
- You will need to download the free Audible app to listen.
- If you cancel your free trial, you can keep the book.
- If you decide to keep your subscription, it costs £7.99 per month.
- Every month you are given one "credit" - you can cash this in for a book of your choice.
- If you don't like it, you can return it and pick another one.
- All of the books you get using credits are yours to keep indefinitely.
- If you want more than one book a month, you'll have to pay for it on top of your membership fee.
- If you buy a book on Kindle, you'll sometimes be offered the eBook at a reduced rate.
- There are free books available, but it's quite hard to find them.
- You can listen to a 3-5 minute sample of any book before you choose to buy.

Tell me more about Borrowbox.
- It's used by all libraries in Ireland to provide eBooks and Audiobooks.
- You will need to download the free Borrowbox app and join your local library for free.
- You can borrow a number of Audiobooks at once, return as you read, then borrow more.
- If you are not finished a book before the return date, you can renew it provided no other member has reserved it.
- New releases get snapped up very quickly, so check the site regularly.
- You can reserve a book if it's already checked out by someone else.
- You can listen to a sample of any book before you choose to buy.

Which is better, Audible or Borrowbox?
There are pros and cons to both. I really love that I can borrow from the library, but I find the selection can be very limited. I love the selection on Audible, and the fact that I can keep every book I buy, but some of the books are woefully expensive (Hannah Hart's biography is over £17 and under 6 hours long?!). I would prefer something like the Kindle Unlimited scheme for Audiobooks - where you pay a flat monthly fee and are able to borrow and return as much as you wish.

I usually use my monthly credit on Audible to pick something new or popular that I'd have to wait months for at the library. Then I use the library in the meantime to catch up with books I may have missed, or even sometimes books I already own but haven't got time to physically read.

Some of my favourite listens so far have been:

Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (read by Stephen King)
Alan Cumming - Not My Father's Son (read by Alan Cumming)
Stephen King - IT (read by Stephen Weber)
Sue Perkins - Spectacles (read by Sue Perkins)
Amy Poehler - Yes, Please (read by Amy Poehler)

I'd absolutely recommend that you give Audiobooks a go - especially if you'd like to read more but find that time is an issue.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, just shout!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Books I Read in August

ARCs clearly defined in accordance with Review Policy here.
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August was a good reading month for me, I read 18 books.


I read both choices for August:


Tin Man by Sarah Winman 
This is a stunning little book about friendship, love and loss. The relationships are gentle and moving. The writing is engaging, and though it's melancholy at times, it's a beautiful story. One of my favourites of the year so far, if you liked The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne you may like this.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Room Little Darker by June Caldwell
A book of short stories with a uniquely Irish voice. June's writing is dark - and this collection is not for the faint of heart. Some of the stories went over my head a little, but my personal favourites were "SOMAT" (told from the point of view of a fetus inside a braindead woman - see? DARK) and "Natterbean" set on Dublin city streets (Natterbean as in "Natterbean down the clinic" - get it? It took me a while...). I did find elements of comedy in here too, it's a very strange but worthwhile read.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository


I started the Throne of Glass series in July, reading the first two books. I continued it in August and read the other three - they're beasts of books, over 600 pages each, but I devoured them. I'm all ready now for the sixth installment, Tower of Dawn.


Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (ToG #3)
Celaena is in Wendlyn, and is carrying a lot of guilt about events in the previous books. She meets ancient warrior Rowan Whitethorn, and agrees to train with him. I liked this book, I thought it did a good job of setting the scene for the next few books.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (ToG #4)
We're back in Rifthold for this one, and there's a LOT going on. There are some old friends to visit, and there are things that must be done to ensure the survival of the people. This one was my favourite up to this point, I liked the pacing and the character development.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (ToG #5)
My absolute favourite of the series, and it KILLS me that we have to wait a year to continue this main story arc. Tower of Dawn features a character that wasn't present in this book, and I could care less about them - but supposedly it's important because we find out new information that affects the rest of the story. There were a few very, very cringe scenes in EoS (bet you can't guess what "velvet-wrapped steel" is), but the story more than made up for it - we learned a lot of new information about how the world will be saved, and the sacrifices that must be made.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository


I've been trying to get through my Netgalley pile (I say this every month, then I get excited and greedy and request more). I managed to read six in August.


Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda (Published September 7th)
This is a thriller about a man who plans to kill his wife. It's written from his point of view, so while I didn't particularly enjoy his egotistical ramblings, it has been getting favourable reviews from people who liked You by Caroline Kepnes (I didn't). I found it a bit Scooby-Doo (zoinks!) towards the end, but it's around a Euro on Kindle at the minute so it's worth a go if it sounds like something you'd read.
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository

Sneak Peeks & Previews by Electric Monkey
Funnily enough, most of the previews included are for books that are already published, but this did give me an introduction to some authors I hadn't read before (like Michael Grant and Kevin Brooks). I've added one or two to my wishlist - I love these preview editions, I wish more publishing houses would do them.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard
I was part of the blog tour for this book (my full post is here). I enjoyed it a lot, it's about a young woman on the Autism spectrum who has to fend for herself when her mother is taken into a home after an accident. Elvira needs rules and regulations to live by, but up until now she didn't realise that she could be the one to make them. Plus, she's obsessed with biscuits and discovers a family mystery - what's not to love?
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository


Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
This is a quirky mystery/crime book about a woman who works in a bookstore. One night while locking up, she finds a regular customer who has taken his life. In his hand is something very personal to the woman - so begins a mystery that will make her face a traumatic event in her past, and bring her into contact with people she has been deliberately avoiding. I liked this one a lot.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
Where to even start with this one - I'm a sucker for anything recommended by Stephen King, so I was intrigued by this one. I think it's best to go in blind, but be aware that it's heavy, and it won't be for everyone. It's about a 14 year old girl, Julia "Turtle" Alveston, and her very, VERY dysfunctional relationship with her brute of a father. Julia is determined to survive at all costs - but what if the cost is too high? Highly recommended for those who have the stomach for it.

The Break by Marian Keyes (Published September 7th)
Marian Keyes is someone I really like as a human, and she was probably my introduction to proper "grown-up" novels that weren't horror. For whatever reason I hadn't been keeping up with her books, and half expected to be turned down when I requested this one - but I got it, and I was so happy I did. It's warm, funny, and easy to read. It's the story of how a woman copes when her husband decides he wants a "break" from their marriage to go and "find himself" on the other side of the world. Full of Keyes' trademark charm and wit, I really enjoyed it and now want to re-read all the earlier ones. This is standalone, not a Walsh family novel.


Did you know that if you have a library membership (free) that you can borrow from any library in Ireland, and return books to any library in Ireland? It's an amazing service and I think every child in the country should be given a library card when they're born. This month I've been requesting and reading like a mad thing, I read these in August:


Paper Girls Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughn
I read the first volume of this Eighties graphic novel during the Booktube-a-thon in July, so ordered the second volume from the library. It continues where the last volume left off, with our paper-delivering heroes unsure of what the hell is going on. I won't pretend to understand exactly what's going on either, but I really enjoyed it and I've ordered my own copy to keep.

The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner
This is a joy of a book, the author debunks what he calls "Nutribollocks" - detoxing, fad diets, clean eating, wellness, going gluten free when you don't have to, and the nonsense peddled to us to make us buy more things. Some of the analogies used are hilarious (seeing an Easter bunny beside a pile of eggs and assuming it laid them) It's full of very sound advice - probably not the best recommendation for a Gwyneth Paltrow fan (actually I take that back - if Goop is your bible, you need to read this). Recommended.

The Other Side of the Wall by Andrea Mara
I borrowed this from the library at the start of August and brought it on holiday with me (the sense of responsibility was outrageous, never bringing a library book on holiday ever again). It's a well written, engaging thriller about a woman who suspects strange goings-on next door - but with the stress of a mess at work, a new baby and a toddler, is her mind playing tricks on her? Or is someone in danger? Really, really liked this (fans of the Office Mum blog may recognise the author). 


This very rarely happens, but I was lucky to have it happen twice in August. 


A Fire in the Dark by Philomena Barry
I've known Phil since I was in Primary School, so to see her achieve her dream of being a published author is amazing. It's really nice to see someone you know works hard doing well - this is her first published work, I know she has written some mystery/crime novels too. This is a book of her poetry - now, I'm not a huge fan of poetry. I like mine very dark - and this fits the bill. It's not all sunshine and lollipops - it's dark, angsty, deep observances on life. Easy to read, not pretentious, a great poetry book for those who don't like poetry!
Buy: Directly from Philomena via her Facebook page (also available at the library).

One Bad Turn by Sinéad Crowley
Sinéad very kindly sent me a copy of this, her latest book, a few weeks ago. It's the third book featuring DS. Claire Boyle, but it can be read as a standalone. This one focuses on a friendship over a couple of decades and how a terrible event changes it for generations to come. Really good read, very enjoyable (as are the other two previous books).
Buy: Kindle | Book Depository


If you're a Kindle user, and you haven't yet signed up for the BookBub daily emails, I'd recommend it. Granted, most of the time it's full of obscure romance or horror, but sometimes they have really good books reduced to €1/€2 - and there are usually a few free options too. If you're into light romance, this could be great - I requested this particular book because the synopsis sounded good and it was free.

The Day We Met by Barbara Bretton
Judge not lest ye be judged - I saw that cover, I thought "ooh!" and I got it. Alas, 'twas not to be - that cover is WOEFULLY misleading. All wasn't lost, though - although this was written in the nineties and comes across quite dated at times, it's actually a pleasant enough read if you want something light and easy. I like books like this after something difficult, so I was perfectly happy to read about two people in their mid-thirties/early forties trying to deal with a new romance and the pressure of family life. I could've done without the words "mound" and "succulent", mind. 
Buy: Kindle


Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige
This is a young adult fantasy novel based on The Snow Queen. Snow has spent a large portion of her life at Whittaker Psychiatric Hospital in New York. One night, she encounters a young man who calls her 'Princess' (haven't we all) - she follows this young man and ends up in a snow-covered world, surrounded by people who seem to believe that Snow is the key to an ancient prophecy. This was lacklustre - the world building wasn't great, and while I enjoyed the part set in the hospital, the rest was a bit of a let-down for me.

So - that's it. August was the month I completed my Goodreads challenge to read 100 books in 2017, I've gone passed that now and I'm delighted, because it's almost crafting season for me and my reading will suffer (I think I read about four books between November and January last year).

Anything catching your eye this month? Or are you reading anything good that you'd like to recommend?