Tag Archives: Sherlock Holmes

A Word on Audiobooks…

Greetings, Salutations and All That Jazz!

I’ve been flirting with the idea of jumping on the audiobook train. Until recently, my one and only experience with aural books occurred 12 years ago in Seattle where I stumbled across a CD version of “The Mist”, a novella from Skeleton Crew. I was mystified and somewhat suspicious of the format. Of course I couldn’t just leave it there, it was unexplored terrain – but I needed to justify the expense. What if I didn’t like it? So, in typical teenage fashion, I bought it as a gift for my mum – problem solved. I’m not sure if she’ll feel complimented by that, hehe. I recall sitting down to listen to it on our uber trendy, now antique sound system. Did I enjoy it? I wish I could remember, but I never listened to it again.

Over a decade later, my son O helped open my eyes, or more precisely, my ears to the joys of audiobooks through a set he acquired of the Disney / Pixar variety. His collection includes Cars, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and a few more. These are particularly handy for long car trips, but we also listen to them during the weekly rigmarole of shopping, daycare, play-dates, appointments, oops-forgot-that-key-ingredient-let’s-go-back-to-the-shops, etc., you know the drill.  These 15 minute audio summaries are easy to enjoy, particularly as the voices and dialogue remain consistent with the films. They’re a hoot! They’ve inspired me give audiobooks another crack, so I’ve been on the prowl, scouting out some options.

The problem I’ve encountered is that audiobooks are priced much higher than their written counterparts, so at first glance seem fairly inaccessible. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind paying for books – they are a passion of mine and I want to support the industry. But I don’t always buy brand new books, knowing that you can always find a treasure or two from op-shops, markets, and websites like Better World Books that appeal not only to the purse strings, but also to the conscience. I imagine audiobooks are priced higher due to production costs, but they’re still not in my budget at $50-$80Au a pop.

A few months ago, knowing that our trio would be spending significant portions of time in the car over the summer, I decided to bite the bullet – I needed a book I could listen to. I chose a classic and one of my favourites – “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: a wonderful collection of short stories on the crime-solving escapades of cocaine addict, Sherlock Holmes – a most intriguing bag of bones. I found a couple of versions of Sherlock on iTunes, both of which let you sample before purchase. I chose the $4.95au version that has been a delight to listen to. The narration is clear, flowing naturally and the characters are distinct. There are no distracting breaths or spaces edited out where a natural pause should be. I figure these things are important.

My rendez-vous with Sherlock encouraged me to step up to a more committed level – I signed up to an Amazon audiobook service, Audible. For a small monthly fee, I accrue credit points, which allow me to download audiobooks – much more affordable than buying them outright. My first credit point went to Bag of Bones,  a book of yours I haven’t read before, Stephen King. I’ve listened to most of the 22 hours, and so far it’s been an interesting experience! The story ticks the boxes so far – gothic and all the more freaky being read by the author himself. It’s like having someone else take the wheel for a while – not a bad thing, but uncomfortable at times. The pros are that I can now read during long walks, car trips and the odd moment of domesticity. Yes, I think I like it.

There are other, free options of course- if you’re a fan of literature greats then Librivox is probaby your flavour, boasting an extensive catalogue of classics narrated by volunteers. The website is basically the audio version of The Gutenberg Project, ensuring books that have fallen into the “public domain” are free and accessible with a click.

Of course, there is always the library too – let’s not dismiss these wonderful services. My problem with this option is that a/ the local one hasn’t had any audiobooks that have tickled my fancy, and b/ I happen to have a talent for amassing penalty fines for late returns. It’s a shame, really.

I’m sure there are more audiobook websites or deals out there, I will keep you posted as I discover them!
Your Constant Reader,

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Death of a Wasp

Greetings, Salutations and All That Jazz,

Yesterday our trio were run out of town by a pail of wasps.

It began as a pleasant morning: I, sitting with my coffee, listening to the general hubbub of life bubbling around me, when a wasp casually flew passed my nose and landed on the kitchen table. Somehow, the little bugger had managed to find a weakness in our fortified canvas home and was buzzing around like he belonged there.

Being nothing less than a lady, I offered our uninvited winged guest a spot of tea to which he politely accepted. The creature, approximately 3cm long, introduced himself as Scout, self-named after his favourite character from the famous “To Kill a Mockingbird” (wasps name themselves you see). Having read and adored the Harper Lee classic, I falsely assumed a bond had been forged between us as our literature chatter continued. We agreed on many things – the role of ‘environment’ as a character in literature, the wonderful Lewis Carroll, how “The Finkler Question” sucks, and we both found “Anna Karenina” a beautiful, disturbing piece of art. It was lovely.

The conversation took a turn when Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” was raised. I argued that just because Kate Bush thinks it a romance, doesn’t make it so. A fan of both Kate Bush’s interpretation and Wuthering Heights as a romance, Scout took offense. Things continued to deteriorate: Scout declared with a rather pompous tone, the Harry Potter series a sham- a jigsaw puzzle compiled of plots and characters of the great classics. He may have won points with husband H. but I was dismayed, and somewhat murderous at the slander of the world and characters I hold dear. Then he had the nerve to blatantly dismiss Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and labeled Virginia Woolf’s work as too “floaty” or “airy” -I would have thought that for an airborne creature, ‘floaty’ and ‘airy’ would be desirous?!! (Scout did not agree, saying I had made a sweeping generalisation about his species and should be more open minded). I am now, more than ever, convinced that I will love Virginia Woolf.

Scout was foe, not friend. He turned on me, gearing up to use his sting once I mentioned my love for the espionage-thriller genre. Fortunately for me, H. ever the faithful protector, stepped in and without remorse, whacked the parasite with an effectively lethal shoe. In his last writhing moments, Scout turned, spat a few words of contempt as I lowered my head and whispered ever so gently, ever so soothingly, that Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest and most fascinating characters ever written, and, by the way, did he realise that he named himself ‘Scout’ after a girl? My triumph secured, Scout’s eyes widened with fear and recognition of the humiliating error! The creature’s body jolted, stiffened and finally slumped, dead. Dead on our kitchen table.

My maddened (and frightening, no doubt) shrieks of victory were dampened by the ominous buzz of a hundred vengeful wasps heading our way. Our trio packed up, left Scout’s body for his comrades, and hauled ass out of our sanctuary, on to another.

So, the moral of this story, Stephen King, is this: wasps are not to be trusted, even if they are named after renowned literary characters.

Your Reader,

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Today’s Top 10

Greetings, Salutations and All That Jazz,

What are your Top 10 favourite books?

I’ve been considering what my Top 10 might be. This is harder than I imagined. For starters, what’s my definition of “favourite”? If it’s books that I can’t put down, then a significant proportion of my Top Ten would be Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, or hell – even the Stephanie Meyers books (Team Edward, FYI). But being easy to turn the page isn’t enough justification for “favourite” status in my book. So, I think a working definition of “Top 10 Favourite books” needs to incorporate not necessarily books that I enjoy, but ones I respect – writing styles that inspired me or themes that really do tug at the ol’ heartstrings. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is an example of this – I couldn’t stand the characters and just wanted to get to The End, but once finished, I loved it as a complete piece (we’ll discuss that book soon Mr StephenKing, I have so many thinks brewing in my thinker, I’m bursting to get it all out!).

So anyway, today because who knows what reading delights tomorrow will bring, my top 10 are:

  1. The Talisman, Stephen King & Peter Straub
  2. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  3. Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen
  4. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
  5. It, Stephen King
  6. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien
  7. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  8. The Stand, Stephen King
  9. Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, The Gawain Poet
  10. The Adventures Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I particularly like “The Speckled Band”

Hmm, anyone notice a particular theme?

That was harder than I anticipated. I really wanted to throw in some Australian authors such as Helen Hodgman, Helen Garner, Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, etc, but perhaps they’ll make the cut tomorrow 🙂

So.. what are yours?

Your Reader,

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