I tend to read non-fiction: history, archaeology, folklore, Gaelic polytheism, and witchcraft. I listen to fiction: Scandi-Nordic crime, magical realism, and Scottish authors.
Why did I read it? When first published, several people recommended this book to me, and it was recommended more than once by some. I imagine those recommendations came because of my like of the natural world, and of language. I have no idea why, but I put it on my 'wish list' and then my 'to be read</i>' pile, but never actually started it; these decisions I now regret.
What's it about? With the Oxford Children's Dictionary removing words relating to nature, e.g. acorn, in favour of technological terms, Robert Macfarlane explores the United Kingdom in search of those words to describe, and connect us to the natural world. Connection. That is the key to this book. In a time, and place which seems to breed disconnection, this book seeks to reunite us with a deep love for landscape, and language.
What did I like? Every single word, and most especially the glossaries. Rich in words and landscape, there is so much to enjoy, and explore in this book. I listened to the audio book, which is rather nicely done. I did query a few of the Gaelic pronunciations - being a learner of the language, not a native speaker, I may not completely comprehend the dialectal nuances. I am very pleased I opted to purchase the Kindle edition, too, so I can explore those glossaries at my leisure.
Oh, the joy I found in this book: learning new words for phenomenon I had no idea might even exist; remembering 'childish' the way children use language to describe their surroundings; and discovering new Gaelic words I wanted to include in my (ever-expanding) vocabulary.
The narrator, Roy McMillan|, did a splendid job. I'm afraid I have no idea of the name of other gentleman whose voice was used to read out various words, but his voice gave luscious contrast to Mr McMillan's smooth tones.
What didn't I like? I could find no fault with this book. I find fault with myself for not reading it sooner.
Would I recommend it? Yes! Yes! Yes! Not necessarily the audio version though - not because it is not well read, but because once you've read the book, I'm pretty sure you'll want to keep it to hand to pore over the word glossaries, and then add to your own.
Why did I read it? Because I had enjoyed the author's Lewis trilogy, and I had hoped for something similar.
What's it about? Niamh and Ruairidh MacFarlane are two islanders who build up a textile business, Ranish Tweed, and while on a visit to Paris, a car bomb goes off. As the investigation gets under way, Niamh struggles to come to terms with a life without Ruaridh.
What did I like? There were parts set on the island, and, as always its character shone through. Both narrators were good, and it was interesting to have one for the present, and one for the past. The downloaded audio file was clear.
What didn't I like? It is unfortunate that this book failed to hold my attention. I kept leaving it, coming back, then leaving it again. This was not helped when, in the back of my mind, I held an idea about the direction of the book from the time of the car bomb. I ploughed on, despite not being gripped by the story line, or the characters, and with clues seemingly corroborating my thoughts on an outcome. When, finally, the end came, it was merely a confirmation.
The characters could just not hold my interest, and the hints about events in the past of some characters were frustrating, especially when the author would elaborate later in a flashback chapter - the waiting seemed so unnecessary. Niamh was the most developed character, but I had no sympathy for her, or indeed with any of the characters, no empathy, or any kind of connection really. Each seemed predictable, and flat.
Having that feeling about the story line's conclusions put me off, and I felt really let down by this book. I wanted to like it so much. I wanted it to grip me and hold me down to it until the bitter end as the Lewis trilogy had, but it just whimpered quietly, and I was frequently able to leave it alone.
I guess my disappointment is showing, but it's really how I felt at the end.
Would I recommend it? Please don't let this be your introduction to Peter May's work; he has written better. Overall, I cannot recommend "I'll Keep You Safe".
Why did I read it? I had read The Wind in the Willows when I was a child, and only recently discovered that Kenneth Grahame had authored other books, about which I was unaware. This story sounded interesting.
What's it about? Two children are following footprints in the snow, when a neighbour calls them in for warming tea, and begins to tell them the story of the friendship between a boy, and a dragon living in a cave up on the Downs.
What did I like about it? It's a very nice, old fashioned story for children. Very English.
The audio was clear, without any errors.
What didn't I like? I think I may have chosen an awful audio version to which to listen. It was a full cast production, but with American actors, and, honestly, it spoilt all the fun of the story. I think if it had been a cast with English accents, it might have been better.
Would I recommend it? Oh yes, but not this particular edition. A great bedtime story I imagine.
Why did I read it? One of the members of the Read Scotland 2017 group read, and reviewed it. After reading the synopsis, and the reviews, including the negative ones, and noting it was available in audio format, I decided to listen to it.
What's it about? A young boy goes missing in a Scottish Highlands town on his way home from school. The next morning he is found in a canal, and his two young companions claim he was snatched by a 'hoodie crow', a creature from folklore. No-one takes the girls story seriously, and blame is foisted on a foreigner who has jumped ship to escape the troubles in the Poland of the 1950s. The accusations begin to affect another Polish settler that first helped the fugitive, and his Italian fiancé’s family, who are still viewed at outsiders. Slowly, the staff of the Highland Gazette start to see through the 'hoodie crow' guise, and piece together the last hours of the tragic, young Jamie's life.
What did I like? This is not your typical crime novel. It's very slow paced, exploring the minutiae of life in a small town, in the Highlands of Scotland, in the 1950s. An exploration of the psychology of the town's inhabitants, as well as the culture. The behaviour of the (small) townsfolk is exposed: secretly knowing and even acknowledging the problems of others, but scared of being ostracised if they dare speak openly, or interfere; the lack of charity, or forgiveness of the Presbyterian inhabitants, and the suffering endured because of this attitude. Doing what is seen to be right, rather than what is right. The investigation into the assault, and murder of the young boy serving as a means to expose what lies beneath the surface of the town’s respectability.
The characters, though many, are whole, flawed, and well developed. Each with their own storyline, it was clear that the author intended more than one book about these characters, and the town.
I liked the descriptive phrases, the time taken to set a scene. I liked spending time with the various characters, and their private worlds, and inner thoughts. I also like that for all that description, the author refrains from going into details of various crimes found in the book. The reactions of the characters to what they see, and hear is enough to get the gist.
The audio recording was clear, and without issue.
What didn't I like? The author did have a tendency to go roaming, and take a very long time to return to the [a?] central plot. This did become a bit tedious at times.
I first encountered the narrator, John Keating, in the Irish Country Doctor series. While he did his best to provide appropriate accents for some characters, there was the odd issue of pronunciation that stood out. Sometimes his voice characterization worked; other times it just didn’t.
Now, the ending: It was particularly disappointing. I am still not sure if ended the way it did, in one very short, chapter, because the author wanted the reader to empathise with the disappointment of one of the main characters; or it was laziness and a quick way to wrap the whole thing up. Either way, I found it dis-satisfactory.
Would I recommend it? If you're a crime reader, and you like the sole focus to be on the investigation, and only the characters directly involved with said crime, then this isn't for you. If you like fast paced stories, that race you to the end perched on the edge of your seat, then this book isn't for you. If you like to just glimpse a character, or place as it is relevant to a storyline, then this also may not be the book for you.
If you like to take your time exploring a place, its people, and its culture, revelling in the everyday, the ordinary lives, then this could be a book for you. It is primarily a crime novel, but it is also the story about a particular time, and place.
Why did I read it? I have enjoyed the Shetland series by Anne Cleeves thus far, and, as it is summer and I have time spare until next semester, I thought I'd pick up where I'd left off.
What's it about? While attending a funeral, a landslide occurs ripping through the cemetery and destroying "Tain", a nearby croft house, thought to be uninhabited. While checking on the damage, Jimmy Perez finds the body of a woman. Initially thought to be a victim of the landslide, upon discovering the woman was dead beforehand, Jimmy asks Willow Reeves to head up the murder investigation.
What did I like? The narration was clear, and without fault. The narrator, Kenny Blyth was decent, and good with accents.
I loved re-visiting Jimmy, Willow and Sandy, and mainland Shetland. As always, the descriptions of people and places were illuminating, and I felt right there with the characters. Anne Cleeves is very good at evoking an atmosphere.
What didn't I like? As the narrator, Kenny Blyth was a little disengaging; I found myself drifting away from the audio book, and had to rewind and re-listen a few times.
I'm not sure what it was - the narration, the plot - but the whole story seemed to just drag on, and on, though, oddly, the murder is solved in a few days. I generally like this series, but I wasn't gripped at all.
I'm afraid, too, I guessed the culprit almost from the first meeting. This has not always been the case with the Shetland series, so I was disappointed.
Would I recommend it? Oh yes, to fans of the Shetland series, and those who like crime fiction, but start at the beginning of the series as this is not a stand-alone book, given prior knowledge of some of the characters is required in order to understand certain situations.
Why did I read it? I enjoy Anne Cleeves' Shetland series, and I also like the television serialisation of her Vera novels, so a collection of short stories to dip into during short breaks sounded good.
What's it about? A collection of short, crime fiction tales featuring some of the characters from Anne Cleeves' books, Willow Reeves, Jimmy Perez, and Vera Stanhope.
What did I like? The stories were short, complete and were well written, holding my attention the whole way through; some even managing a twist in the tale.
What didn't I like? There were too few stories? Sorry, but that's about all I could find to dislike.
Would I recommend it? If you are a fan of Anne Cleeves, then, yes, I would recommend them, though they are only available in ebook form. If you enjoy crime fiction, but don't have the time to read an entire novel, then this may be for you, too.
Why did I read it? I'm learning (Scottish) Gaelic, and I've seen so many queries for Gaelic translations for tattoos to which the responses were read this book.
What's it about? Basically, it is a short history of the Gaelic language, and how to go obtain a good translation before having it permanently inked on your body.
What did I like? The short history lesson was sound. What I truly liked were the examples of translation requests illustrating how differently an English phrase can be interpreted in Gaelic, i.e. why there are so many differing answers to a request. It gave an insight into why there is no such thing as a 'straight' translation from English to Gaelic (or any language for that matter), which served as a warning against asking for 'free' translations from random folk on Facebook, Tumbler, etc., etc. I also enjoyed seeing the mistakes people have made with their tattoos, how these might have occurred, and how to avoid them in future.
I was in absolute agreement with the author's suggestion to her readers that they should interact with Gaelic language as part of a living, breathing culture, rather than just embedding a small piece of it in their skin. That to truly honour the Gaelic language, or any speaker of it would be to truly get to know the language, and the people who have it.
What didn't I like? I would have preferred a few more examples of mistakes, but I do see photos regularly appear on the internet, and I have a good laugh. Besides, if there were too many examples, along with the grammatical reasons the phrases are erroneous, it might have put off those readers solely interested in their own translated tattoo.
Would I recommend it? Yes. I can also see now whey so many people are just referring to this book in response to any request made for Gaelic translation of an English phrase to be tattooed