Tuesday, 22 January 2019

How to Feed Your Audiobook Habit

So you want to get into audiobooks but not sure the best way to access them? Already bitten by the bug but finding it expensive? Let me share with you everything I've tried out, as a UK listener.

One completely free way of listening to audiobooks is via your library's digital services. In the UK there's a good chance your library is either using Libby (Overdrive) or BorrowBox. Mine (Hampshire) has just moved over to BorrowBox and the selection of audiobooks has improved greatly. You won't be able to listen to everything you want to this way, but it's a good way to supplement your listening without breaking the bank.

Not a library member? A lot of libraries will now let you sign up online so you can access their digital services straight away. You can find out who your local library is here.

If you know you're going to want to listen to a lot of new releases via audiobook, bulk buying credits via an annual Audible membership offers a good deal. The 12 credits a year membership works out at £5.83 per book and the 24 credit option at £4.58 per book. You do have to pay these upfront but if you run out they will sell you extra credits at a similar rate. If you haven't tried it before, you'll get one credit free as a trial and sometimes you can get 3 or 4 months for half price.

As much as I try not to give Amazon all my money, Audible do have the best selection and their credit system can be a lot cheaper than buying audiobooks elsewhere. They also offer member only sales (don't use your credits for these) and 2 for 1 offers.

Did you know you can get a discounted Audible audiobook version of Kindle books you own if they have whispersync enabled? You don't have to join Audible to use this feature. Go to Matchmaker (whilst logged into Amazon) to see what books in your library are available. You can also check on the product page to see if it's worth buying a cheap Kindle copy to get the audiobook at a discount. I have a lot of Kindle books bought in sales over the years, so this can be a cheap way of listening to them on audio instead.

BookBeat is a European subscription service which costs £12.60 a month and you can listen to as many audiobooks as you like. They mostly have audiobooks from HarperCollins, Bonnier and Canongate, so if you have a lot of these on your listen list it's worth a few months. The standard free trial is two weeks but you can have a look around for an extended one month trial.

Scribd is a US based subscription service that looks too good to be true, and sadly I feel this is the case. Their advertising is somewhat misleading, as after listening to two audiobooks, they'll suddenly stop you accessing most titles until the next billing cycle. That's not unlimited and I don't think they'd get away with that claim here.

You will still be able to listen to a limited selection for the rest of the month, which does include a lot of Tor novellas and some older titles. Another problem I had was the sound quality, and I had to give up on a few titles because the narrators sounding like they were hissing. If you only listen to two audiobooks a month and you are not fussy about the quality, it's a cheaper option than Audible at $8.99 (about £7) a month. I liked BookBeat more, they at least felt honest.

You can also buy audiobooks via Google Play and iTunes, and sometimes they have good deals on some titles, but I begrudgingly like Audible the best. I know I can get anything I want from them. I wish they would just lower the cost of audiobooks bought without credits (is anyone actually paying £20+ for them?).

All these services offer apps for Android and iOS or can be accessed in browsers. If you have an Amazon Echo, Alexa will play Audible books for you too.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Another Week Gone (IMWAYR)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by The Book Date.

I've been doing a bit of blog housekeeping this week, including making my mobile template a little less rubbish. Google short links seem to have stopped working already, so I'm down to manual sharing on all social media now. I'm better at Twitter but if you follow me on Facebook, sorry! One day I will get round to redesigning my blog and moving to self-hosted Wordpress, I just prefer to spend my time reading.

If you're interested in what new releases are out next month, check out On My Radar. I also shared my top ten new-to-me authors.

This Week I Finished:

Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Last

Jon is attending a conference in a Swiss hotel the day the world ends. As nuclear war breaks out, a group of twenty survivors take shelter in the hotel. This is Jon's account.

It didn't seem as real as the headlines. Maybe we had all been desensitized to the imagery by too many movies. Watching a whole city vaporized like that seemed too fast, and too quiet.

Some of the survivors find a body of a girl in the water tank, I know eurgh, the water they've been drinking for weeks. I'm surprised they weren't more ill. Anyway, faced with nothing better to do Jon decides to investigate the murder. I say that, but he thinks he's maintaining a sense of right and wrong by doing so.

I liked the small scale of this. Nuclear fallout hasn't reached Switzerland and they are not completely cut off from all modern technology. Sometimes the internet works, they have enough electricity to keep the freezers going and the hotel is secure. These people rally round and form new social structures in a community thrown together.

Our history teaches us that we have built a civilization out of nothing before. So I believe we will do it again.

The bulk of the story picks up around 50 days after the nukes fell, when Jon decides to keep an account of their possible final days. Are they the last people left? Unlikely, but they feel they must try and keep going, even if not everyone does.

I'm not sure the nuclear fallout was that well researched as several times they mentioned the trees had died. There's not enough radiation to effect humans and whilst there is cloud cover, it's not complete darkness. This was less than two months in, if trees died that quickly in gloomy light conditions, northern Europe would have no trees!

I liked the optimism that social networks would still be available if the US falls, but let's face it, superservers have gone down in regular storms before. Anyway, I found the story engaging despite this and it was a good, quick read, without too much hopelessness.

Whilst the US president presumed responsible is not named, there are plenty of hints that it's Trump. Blame is laid at the feet of those who voted for him, with tensions rising between the Europeans and Americans at the hotel.

This is nothing like how I thought dying in a nuclear war would be, but I'm glad there's a free bar.

The Last is published by Penguin and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 31st January 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

On My Radar: February

What are publishers doing to us? I count a whopping 24 books coming out in February that I'd read if time travel was a reality. I've marked the ones I've actually pre-ordered with *. Dates are based on UK print editions (unless US only) but they might be available earlier in certain editions. Links go to Goodreads for more info.


The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi*
All Is Fair by Dee Garretson


Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale*
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton
Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard
The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond
The Extinction Trials: Rebel by S.M. Wilson
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey
Making Evil: The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side by Dr Julia Shaw


The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders*
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hick


Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham
The Year After You by Nina de Pass


The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty*
Enchantée by Gita Trelease
Slayer by Kiersten White*
The Burning by Laura Bates
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf


The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon*


Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Friday, 18 January 2019


Felix loses his job as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre, when his ambitious interpretation of The Tempest goes to far. Exiled from his old life, he takes a job in a prison, teaching inmates to perform theatre. When an opportunity to take revenge on those who have wronged him presents himself, he sets out to direct The Tempest once again.

It’s the words that should concern you, he thinks at them. That’s the real danger. Words don’t show up on scanners.

Hag-Seed is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, a project where contemporary writers reinterpret different Shakespearean plays. Obviously, Margaret Atwood has taken on The Tempest, using the theme of imprisonment as a spring board.

The message here is that Shakespeare can be for everyone, it's not elitist and the bard's stories were intended to entertain a wide audience. Those in charge don't believe resources should be spent letting prisoners have access to the arts, what good will it do them? But arts can be part of rehabilitation rather than only providing punishment.

Near the end, the prisoners reflect on what they think happens next. I felt that they were influenced by their own lives, and I would have loved to have more about them woven through the story, so we know how the play impacted them.

At the end of the book there's a summary of the plot of the real Tempest, which might prove useful to those not so familiar with the play. Felix is the Prospero, but who is the Caliban? Maybe each prisoner plays that role, with preconceptions and little chance of redemption given to them.

The rest of his life. How long that time had once felt to him. How quickly it has sped by. How much of it has been wasted. How soon it will be over.

There are two Mirandas, but Felix's daughter ends up playing the role of his Arial. She died when she was only three and he invents the girl she would have become in his head.

Listening Notes

I did not like the chosen narrator, he was rather monotone and the voices for the inmates weren't convincing. There are several places where one raps for the play and this narrator cannot rap. I think they were going for someone who sounded posh enough to be an artistic director rather than an adaptable voice actor.

ATY: 5. A book by Shakespeare or inspired by Shakespeare

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Book Source: Library

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Golden State

We are surrounded by lies, from little white ones to huge whoppers coming out the mouths of politicians. Lying is human nature. But what if it were the worst crime you could commit?

Lazslo Ratesic is a Speculator for the Golden State. He can sense lies and it is his duty to apprehend the liars. When he is made to take on an apprentice, they find themselves investigating a death which has anomalies. The truth is not clear, but uncovering it will lead them down a dangerous path.

Imagine if everyone did it. Imagine if each person was allowed the luxury of claiming their own truth, building a reality of their own in which they can live. Imagine the danger that would pose, how quickly those lies would metastasize, and the extraordinary threat that would pose to the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this noir-style, near-future murder mystery. It's full of observations about lying and surveillance. It feels a very topical story, mixing the surveillance state with the cried of fake news, making people not know who to trust. Fiction is presented as truth and truth is now subjective. So you can see where the idea for Golden State came about, a future where they have decided that lying was our downfall.

This is not a world without small untruths, there are caveats around flattery, humour and metaphor. Everything goes on the Record, cameras watching every moment so they can be recorded as fact. People must keep a diary, a day book, and file each days facts along with evidence. Receipts, tickets, photos, the flotsam and jetson of everyday life. It all helps uphold the truth.

Fiction does not exist in the Golden State. Novels exist but they are true statements of historical events written in narrative form. The book starts with an extract of one such "novel" and it is revisited throughout the story. That "novel" is about Laszlo's brother Charlie, who died doing his duty.

People are going to lie: they want to, they need to. Lying is born into the species. You know this is true as well as I do. There is something perfect in a lie, something seductive, addictive; telling a lie is like licking sugar off a spoon. Think of children, think of how children lie all the time. We have imaginary friends, we blame our misbehavior on our playmates or our siblings, we claim not yet to have had dessert so we can cadge a second cookie.

The marketing blurb is keen to compare this to several recently popular dystopian novels, but to me it was reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451. Right down to the enforcer of the law taking home a contraband book...

I felt the ending was a little too convenient, but otherwise I loved it.

Golden State is published by Century and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 24th January 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 18. A book about someone with a superpower

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Top Ten New to Me Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week is all about authors we read for the first time in 2018. Last year I made a concerted effort to read more backlist, so I discovered a few more authors that everyone else had known about forever!

Neal Shusterman

I read both Scythe and Thunderhead in 2018 and I can't wait for The Toll. I also intend to read The Dry this year which he co-wrote with his son.

Pat Barker

I can't say Pat Barker's books have been on my radar in the past but I loved her retelling of The Iliad from Briseis's point of view.

Marisha Pessl

I had been meaning to read Night Film for years but it was her YA debut that queue jumped to the top of my TBR last year.

Sarah Moss

Another author I'd been meaning to read for ages, I finally read and fell in love with The Tidal Zone. I also read her latest book, Ghost Wall.

Tade Thompson

Both The Murders of Molly Southbourne and Rosewater hit the spot, and I'm eagerly awaiting The Rosewater Insurrection.

Cixin Liu

I've been quite slow off the mark with my Read the World project, but I knew I would tick China off with this brain workout of science fiction. I intend to continue the trilogy in 2019.

Victor Lavalle

I loved the darkness of The Changeling and will definitely be seeking out more of his work.

Octavia Butler

Yeah, yeah, I'm extremely late to the party. I think I was a little scared of reading Kindred and not liking it, but there was nothing to fear!

S.A. Chakraborty

I adored The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper is one of most my anticipated fantasies of the year.

Justina Ireland

I'd been aware of Justina through her blogging which made me pick up Dread Nation. Hopefully the follow up will be out this year.

Which books by these authors would you recommend? Did you discover any great, new to you, authors last year?