Tag Archives: August

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31 August 2016 · 19:57

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Filed under Britain, Gàidhlig

“Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders” by Neil Gaiman

Fragile ThingsAuthorNeil Gaiman
ASIN: B005GL95T0

Why did I read it? Well, I had listened to two other books by Neil Gaiman: one being a collaboration with Terry Pratchett, “Good Omens“; and the other being the 10th anniversary edition of “American Gods“, which I truly enjoyed. Given this was a selection of short stories, and prose, I thought it would be entertaining for my commute. And, so it was!

What’s it about? Bizarre tales, short stories, the odd poem, and, finally, a little epilogue to “American Gods“. A rather odd collection, though nicely set out, which I imagine can be dipped in an out of at random (if you have the hard copy, and aren’t listening to Neil Gaiman narrate them himself). Tales of mythical creatures, legends, and some snatched from fragments of folklore. Included are stories from Neil Gaiman‘s early writings revised, edited and included here; one is a birthday gift to his daughter; and each is a wonder tale.

What did I like? Every, single story, and poem. Really, I did! This collection kept me engaged, wanting to listen to every word, and not miss a moment. Neil Gaiman is a writer of the odd, the unusual, the supernatural, the other worlds and so his tales have twists not found in other stories, but once found in the myths of old.

There is a sense of humour to be found in the works, as well. Sometimes authors forget to include this in darker tales, but life, or indeed fantasy, is not just one dimensional – or shouldn’t be. Neil Gaiman incorporates the whole of life, death, and everything in between in these tales.

Neil Gaiman is also rather good at narrating his own work. This author knows how to bring a story to life, and doesn’t seem to falter in his delivery. It’s kind of refreshing to hear an author read his own words, even if you will never hear him do so live.

The audio version, provided by Audible, was clear, and without fault.

What didn’t I like? Nope. Can’t think of anything.

Would I recommend it? Oh yes! To anyone who has read Neil Gaiman‘s other works, or even those of Terry Pratchett. If you want to read something a little different, this is it. I’ll definitely be listening again.

Rating: ★★★★★

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“Thin Air” by Anne Cleeves

Thin Air

AuthorAnne Cleeves
NarratorKenny Blyth
Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Why did I read it? I had listened to Anne Cleeves‘ other books in the Shetland series, as read by Kenny Blyth, and enjoyed them. So, when this came up I was determined to listen.

What’s it about? Six Londoners arrive on Unst for a hameferin (marriage celebration) of two of their number, the groom being a native of Unst. Eleanor and Polly both claim to have sighted Peerie Lizzie, the legendary ghost of a child who is meant to foretell a birth, even though the child herself drowned. Late one night after the celebration, when they have gone to bed, Eleanor disappears – seemingly into thin air. Jimmy Perez and Willow Reeves arrive in Unst to investigate the disappearance, but it seems these latest sightings of Peerie Lizzie are a precursor to murder. The frequent mists, and fogs on Unst add to the confusion of the case.

What did I like? The use of the weather, landscape, and folklore to add to the confusion of the characters. Here, Jimmy Perez is recovering from the loss of Fran, and is endeavouring to get back on track, but he continually makes connections to his own life, showing he is not quite focussed, and the fogs and mists swirling around Unst reflect that. They way this book is assembled feels disjointed – seemingly random snippets here and there that don’t seem to be shared among the other detectives investigating – but this enhances the feel of the story. The use of folklore to blur the edges of reality, and disguise the truth is also pleasing. The undercurrents normally detected within crime novels are harder to view. I must admit to having little sympathy for other than the detectives in this book, even though the characters were quite filled-out. There was a distance seemingly placed between the suspects and the reader.

Kenny Blyth‘s narration was pleasing, with accents applied accordingly, but not so heavy as to not be able to understand what was being said. The pace of the narration was just right, too, allowing tension to build towards the end without running breathlessly towards it.

What didn’t I like? At times, I lost concentration, and had to rewind the audio to recapture the lost information. I am not sure why this is, but it was a little frustrating. I also dislike reading books out of order. Although I have read the Shetland series in the order they are published, but jumping back and forth in the time of the main character, Jimmy Perez.

Would I recommend it? Yes. I would. Each book in the Shetland series can be read alone, so newcomers would be enjoy it, as would those familiar with the series, or indeed the author.

Rating: 4/5

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Filed under Books, Britain, Reviews, Scotland

“Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped
Author
:  Robert Louis Stevenson
Narrator: Keiron Elliott
ISBN:  9781490655758

Why did I read it?  Scotland has long held my interest, and I thought that since I had not read many of its authors, I ought to dive in, and, having listened to the BBC Radio Scotland, Scotland Outdoors podcast where they followed the route David Balfour takes in the book, I was keen to start with this, once of Scotland’s most famous novels.

What’s it about?  Upon the death of his father, David Balfour is given a letter of introduction to Ebenezer Balfour, of Shaws House in Cramond.  The welcome he receives from that man runs hot, and cold in turns.  Mr Balfour proposes a visit to a lawyer, having been foiled in an attempt to cause David’s death by sending him up a tower without light.  The next day a young cabin boy arrives, Ransome, and he guides them to a ship, where David is coaxed on board, before being knocked out, and so the adventures begin.

What did I like?  This is a “boy’s own adventure” style story, and it did keep me wondering at how it would be resolved.  I liked the mixture of fact with fiction, and the characters were very well drawn. There is a romantic taint to the tale, which refrained from being overly sentimental however.

Mr Kieron Elliott gave an excellent performance as narrator with his Scottish accent.  I chose this edition over other audio formats, based on samples of voices, and I’m glad I chose this version.  It was a lively narration, clear, even with the Scottish dialect.  In fact, the audio production was good overall, with only one or two changes in tone, voice, and quality to mar the presentation.

What didn’t I like? It was a slow start. I struggled to hold on through those first few chapters, but I’m glad I did.  The language, being a little old fashioned, took some getting used to – and I am used to the language of Jane Austen.  Eventually I was able to follow the rhythm, if not the Latin.

Would I recommend it?  Yes.  Absolutely. I think pre-teen boy readers might enjoy the tale far more than I.  That said, I am going to delve into the sequel, Catriona, if I can find a narrator such as Kieron Elliott.  This edition of Kidnapped was purchased from Audible, and was published by Recorded Books.

Rating:  4½/5

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Tapadh leibh, Iain Mac Fionnlaigh

If it had not been for my fellow SMO student emailing me this week, I would never have noticed that the deadline for enrolment on my particular course was this week, and I would have missed out.   It seems the college had, in fact, overlooked my correspondence to them in July, and August.

Enrolment FormI now have the enrolment forms, signed, along with the payment forms tucked up in an envelope, on which is stuck a first class stamp, and shall post them tomorrow, having already emailed both back to the college.   Fortunately, they have extended the enrolment deadline until Monday (just?) for me.

Iain, mo charaid: iomadh taing.

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Filed under Gàidhlig

Slightly Panicky

I had an email today from one of my fellow students on An Cùrsa Inntrigidh, who mentioned the deadline for applications to the various units was looming large.    I have just checked the timetable and the deadline for my unit is tomorrow.   I am a little panicky, because I submitted an enquiry form earlier in the month, and I contacted the college directly over the summer when I made my decision to re-enrol in the last unit I studied, and yet I have had absolutely no contact from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.   I will have to telephone them tomorrow, as now I am more than a little concerned; I just can’t afford to keep pushing back my studies, time wise.

I do hope I haven’t been overlooked.  I would hate to have to wait yet another six months to continue with the Gaelic.

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Filed under Gàidhlig