A' Mire Ri Leabhraichean

A' Mire Ri Leabhraichean

I tend to read non-fiction: history, archaeology, folklore, Gaelic polytheism and witchcraft.  I listen fiction: Scandi-Nordic crime, magical realism, and Scottish authors.

Review
3.5 Stars
Too Good to Be True - Ann Cleeves, Kenny Blyth, Macmillan Digital Audio
Why did I read it? I have listened to most of the Shetland series, so, naturally, I was interested in this short, crime story featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez.
 
What's it about? Jimmy's ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to come to the borders, to Stonebridge, where the local teacher has died. Although the police think Anna committed suicide, rumours have it that Sarah's husband, the good doctor was Anna's lover and he murdered her. Jimmy just wants to get home to Shetland; instead he reluctantly agrees to look into the matter because Sarah is so distressed.
 
What did I like? Well, the audio recording was clear, and without error. Kenny Blyth did an excellent job as narrator. A very short listen, with quick character development of both the people, and the village of Stonebridge. Jimmy is very much on his own on this one, and that makes a nice change. He also seems a little sharper in this story.
 
I did like the shorter chapters, and the writing seemed tighter in this story, compared to the longer books. It was a pleasant way to pass a day's commute.
 
What didn't I like? Oh dear. One particular line gave the whole thing away, so there was no real revelation at the end. I'm wondering if this is becoming a habit with the author, as I found the same thing in the last offering Cold Earth.
It wasn't the best crime storyline, if I'm honest, as the motive/reason for the teacher's death has been employed by many a crime writer, and it felt a little tired.
 
I did wonder if perhaps this was just an exploration of Jimmy's past, with a death thrown in, to set up some future book?
 
Would I recommend it? If you a reader of the Shetland series, then, yes.
 
If you're a fan of crime fiction, have read widely in the genre, and haven't read any of Ann Cleeves's other books, then don't start with Too Good To Be True, as it's not her best.
 
If you've not read much crime fiction before, would consider yourself a bit squeamish (no graphic descriptions here), and are thinking of a quick dip into the genre, then you may enjoy Too Good To Be True, as it certainly doesn't require knowledge of the other books in the series

 

Review
4 Stars
Small Death in the Great Glen
Small Death in the Great Glen - A. D. Scott, John Keating

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.

Review
4 Stars
Cold Earth: Shetland, Book 7 - Ann Cleeves, Kenny Blyth, Isis Publishing Ltd

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.

Review
4.5 Stars
A collection of easy to read, short, crime fiction tales
Offshore: a short story collection - Ann Cleeves

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.

Review
5 Stars
Essential Reading Prior to Inking
The Scottish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook: Authentic Words and Phrases in the Celtic Language of Scotland - Emily McEwan

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

Reading progress update: I've read 20%.
Peadar A' Bruidhinn Gàidhlig: Peadar Rabaid Is A Charaidean - Mairi Sine Campbell, Niall M. Brownlie, James R. MacDonald, John MacInnes, Margaret Bennett, Beatrix Potter
Review
4.5 Stars
Coffin Road
Coffin Road - Quercus, Peter  May, Peter Forbes
Author: Peter May
ASIN: B01787LP5Q
 
Why did I read it? I had read and enjoyed Peter May's Hebrides trilogy of crime fiction, and had erroneously thought this was the fourth. I had a credit on my Audible account, so used it to pre-order this.
 
What's it about? A man with amnesia washes up on a beach, barely alive, but feeling as though he has done the most terrible thing. He attempts to discover where he is, why he's there, and just who he is without alerting anyone to his memory loss - terrified his dreadful secret will be too much to bear.
 
A teenager struggles to cope with her mother's ability to move on with life following the death of her father, and sets out to find out more about him, little knowing the dire consequences her search will have on herself, and others.
 
A body is found on a the remote Flannan Isles in the Outer Hebrides, and it is up to Detective George Gunn to find out how he was killed, and how he came to this remote rock, 20 miles west of any civilisation.
 
As the story unfolds, these three people grow ever closer to the truth.
 
It is uncannily hard hard to describe this book without destroying the mystery. There are several voices in the book, most notably Neil's, the man we meet first washed up on the beach.
 
What did I like? I loved the opening, as I was caught right from the moment Neal washes up on the beach. I was eager to know where the story would take me. And, just was I was becoming engrossed in his story, there is a switch to the teenage Karen's life, and suddenly I start making connections.
 
The story is so well paced that you don't feel like matters are being dragged out, or that you are racing towards the end. There are a few red herrings, and a twist or two, though nothing to frustrate the reader. I note other readers were critical of the change between first person, and third person narrative, but I felt it created a good separation/barrier in the stories.
 
Once again, the landscapes are described beautifully by the author, and one almost feels as though the land, and sea are characters themselves.
 
Peter Forbes did an excellent job as narrator, each word was clear and precise.
 
What didn't I like? Only one little quibble with the recording, which I had up loud as I did other tasks, was being able to hear papers turning. Still, the recording from Audible was clear!
 
Would I recommend it? Absolutely! Love crime fiction? Read, or listen to Coffin Road. Like stories set in beautiful landscapes, particularly Scotland? Read, or listen to Coffin Road.
 
Rating: 4½/5

 

Coffin Road - Reading progress update: I've read 17%.
Coffin Road - Quercus, Peter  May, Peter Forbes

So, I've only listened to the first six chapters, but I am so engrossed in the story, I will spend the weekend desperately listening every chance I get.

Reading progress update: I've read 80%.
The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children 1 - Hodder & Stoughton UK, Rowena Cooper, Jean M. Auel

I've not totally lost interest in this book, but I will be happy when it's finished.

Review
2.5 Stars
Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (Unabridged) - Cassandra Harwood, Justine Picardie
Why did I read it? I've always had a fascination with this self-made woman, and I remember reading a review of the paperback version of this book on a blog a few years back, and thinking I must read it. When I saw it was available in audio form, I took the opportunity to select it for my commute.
 
What's it about? It's a factual biography of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, better known as Coco Chanel, the orphaned girl who rose to be one of the most famous names in fashion, if not the most famous; credited for the creation of simple, elegant, comfortable designs, most notably the "little back dress" now considered an essential item in any wardrobe.
 
What did I like? It was a book focussed on revealing truth and facts. I did learn some things about Chanel I had not known before. There were attempts at avoiding speculation. The audio version downloaded from Audible was clear, and without fault.
 
What didn't I like about this book? Where to start? This audio book annoyed me immensely, and I think it may have started with the narrator, Cassandra Harwood, whose voice droned through each sentence making it hard to concentrate on the information being presented. I don't speak French, but I can only hope the times she employed that language she did better than with the English, when words were mispronounced (e.g. subsidising, instead of subsiding) and there was no attempt at emphasis, or any kind of tonal variance in her speech. Had the text been more interesting, perhaps her voice might not have grated as much, alas ...
 
The book was full of facts, but much of the book seemed to stray into the lives of those around Chanel. At one point, it seemed as those quite a few pages had been dedicated to the wife of a lover and, try as I might, I failed to grasp as to why this information had been necessary to the book, as it apparently had no bearing on Chanel's life itself. I think that was the focus of my dislike of the book: very little on the woman herself, with far too much about friends, family, business associates, and acquaintances. I felt the book really could have been a lot shorter, with the cutting of the extraneous information.
 
Would I recommend it? I wanted to enjoy this book, I really though I would, but I didn't, and I feel any reader would think their time better spent on other books.
Reading progress update: I've read 5%.
The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children 1 - Hodder & Stoughton UK, Rowena Cooper, Jean M. Auel
Review
5 Stars
"Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders" by Neil Gaiman
Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman
 
Author: Neil 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.

 

Review
3.5 Stars
"Thin Air" (Shetland #6) by Anne Cleeves
Thin Air (Unabridged) - Kenny Blyth, Ann Cleeves
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Narrator: Kenny 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.
Review
4.5 Stars
"Kidnapped" by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kidnapped - Kieron Elliott, Robert Louis Stevenson

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Reading progress update: I've listened 360 out of 547 minutes.
Kidnapped - Kieron Elliott, Robert Louis Stevenson
Reading progress update: I've listened 227 out of 547 minutes.
Kidnapped - Kieron Elliott, Robert Louis Stevenson

I found this a rather slow story to start, but it's getting quite good now.

currently reading

Progress: 130/448pages
Understanding Scots Law - Christina Ashton
Sunset Song - Canongate Books Ltd, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Eileen McCallum
Going Loco: Further Adventures of a Scottish Country Doctor - Tom Rob Smith, Tom Rob Smith, Isis Audio Books
Norse Mythology - Audible Studios, Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman