Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds [Books]

war of the worldsYep, another Audible Drama. Going into this, I expected something…different. I really should have read more about this version before getting it. What I wanted was, essentially, an audio version of the musical, though I suppose that would technically just be the album then, wouldn’t it?

Anyway. That aside, and putting away my disappointment at not hearing Michael Sheen singing, this is actually a fantastic audio drama. The cast is brilliant, especially Sheen as the main character. He carries us through the story, and makes the narration sound natural rather than, well, narration.

The music really does add to the drama, underscoring the action and dialogue and at times, providing further clues as to what might be happening. Most of the music here will be familiar, even if you’ve never actually listened to Jeff Wayne’s soundtrack, some of the songs have still wedged themselves in. And it works really well here.

This is a really great production. I think overall full cast audio works brilliantly in general, and it’s really used to full effect here. Even though the story is just told through dialogue and sound effects, it becomes really easy to picture the scenes of destruction around the characters, to see the crowds in London as they flee their villages, and to see the huge crater housing the alien invaders at the beginning.

War of the Worlds is a timeless classic with endless adaptations. But what struck me most about this one was how relevant it feels, especially now. True, the apocalypse, it seems, doesn’t quite happen as Wells imagined it, though there are very good parallels. There are those who refuse to believe what is actually happening, until they maybe see it with their own eyes. Those in charge try to insist on life carrying on as normal until it’s almost too late. One character is convinced his ultimate vision of the world will be what saves humanity – a hypermasculine vision where the strong survive and the ‘weak’ are discarded, only to find himself unable to even take the first steps in pursuing his dream.

Listening to this, the threat feels real, the reactions feel real, and the tension is handled wonderfully. It’s a really brilliant audio production with a really strong cast. It might not have actual singing in it, but I can always listen to the album for that.

The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 1 [Books]

twilight zoneCan you tell I am absolutely loving Audible?

I try to mix up what I get, and so far I’ve tried non-fiction, full cast, fiction single person narration, and now The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas. Having grown up in the UK, The Twilight Zone wasn’t something I had access to. Not long after we first got together, I got the first ever series on DVD for me and my boyfriend, and we’ve been very slowly making our way through them.

As such, I have never actually heard the radio series before, and was excited to dive in. All except one of these stories were completely new to me, with Long Live Walter Jameson being the one I knew, as it is in the first series of the television show.

The stories contained in this volume are Night Call, Long Live Walter Jameson, The Lateness of the Hour, The 30-Fathom Grave, The Man in the Bottle, and Night of the Meek. Just like in the TV show, the characters range from the likeable and sympathetic, to the kind you’re not sure about and are off-put by. Others fall in the middle, keeping the listener on their toes regarding the characters until, perhaps, the final revelation.

Night Call is a creepy yet ultimately sweet story, focusing on an elderly woman who receives strange calls, though the people around her try to dismiss them as accidents, she knows they are something more.  Long Live Walter Jameson is about a history teacher who talks about the past as if he actually lived it. Even though I’d seen this play out in the TV series and therefore knew the twist, it was really interesting to revisit this in audio, when the clues have to be presented more carefully without the reliance on sight.

The Lateness of the Hour doesn’t have the most hard to spot twist – none of these really do – but the story is entertaining and engaging, and it’s hard not to feel for the characters presented here. It’s a story about a young woman growing up and growing curious, and the father who wishes to keep her at his side. Similarly, The 30-Fathom Grave has an ending in some ways easy to see, but it’s the little extra bits that make it worthwhile. It’s about a naval destroyer picking up signals from a ship that sunk twenty years before, and this one is honestly creepy.

The Man in the Bottle shows just how tricky genies can be, focusing on a kindly yet impoverished pawnbroker who is sometimes perhaps a bit too generous. When he gets four wishes, he tries to ensure they are carried out exactly as he wants, but even that isn’t enough. There was a lot going on in this one, and I found myself quickly wrapped up in the story, trying to work out what the next wish would be and how exactly it would go wrong.

Finally, Night of the Meek rounds off the volume with a story about Christmas, Santa and Christmas miracles. This was a sweet, heartwarming story about a department store Santa who just doesn’t have it in him to spread Christmas cheer, until he discovers a sack of presents which seems to contain exactly what people want most for Christmas. This was a good story to end the volume, really nicely showing how the smallest of gifts can go a long way, and how important hope is.

I really enjoyed listening to these radio dramas, and it was a great way to get a different type of storytelling from The Twilight Zone, with all the elements of an audio production done really well. Without a doubt I’ll be listening to Volume Two at some point in the future.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K Rowling [Books]

tales of beedleI originally read this book many years ago, shortly after its release, when a friend leant it to me in university. I remember finishing it in one sitting, and sort of enjoying it, but not enough that I ever really sought it out to read again. When this popped up as a free read on Audible, I thought I’d dip my toe into the Wizarding World again.

I’m going to preface this now with saying – I love the Wizarding World. I love Harry Potter, and Hogwarts will always have a special place in my heart. I do not, however, support JKR. Her attitude on Twitter has made it clear the kind of person she really is, and that person is not someone I admire.

Let me start with the voice acting for this audiobook. It is fantastic. The actors are the same actors involved in the film franchise, and they are absolutely fantastic. Jude Law provides narration as Dumbledore. Warwick Davis, Evanna Lynch, Jason Isaacs and Bonnie Wright are just some of the names familiar to HP fans involved in this project. Each narrator really brings the stories to life, giving them an extra something that maybe wouldn’t be present if I was reading this book rather than listening to an audiobook.

The stories themselves are okay. They’re basically fairy tales, but as if they were told by witches and wizards, rather than just about those characters. Much is made of the fact Beedle wrote nice things about Muggles, and the characters often help each other rather than witches and wizards keeping themselves separate. It’s about helping the community, being tolerant of one another and, er, hey, maybe certain authors should go back and read their own books. Just saying.

So the stories are sort of okay. But this audiobook isn’t just the actual tales being told in here, it also contains the ‘notes’ from Professor Albus Dumbledore, read by Jude Law.

The main thing I disliked about this was in those notes. They just come across really, really smug, and not because Jude Law is reading them, or because it’s ‘Dumbledore’. They constantly feel like JKR patting herself on the back for such ‘forward thinking’, constantly admiring herself for how different these are to ‘Muggle’ fairy tales, when there’s nothing here to really make them stand out, except that they are part of the Wizarding World.

The actors involved really made this worth listening to, but unfortunately the actual content falls flat. I’m honestly glad this was available for free – would not have wanted to spend money or even my Audible credit on it.

Doctor Who – The Tenth Doctor Adventures, Volume 1 [Books]

doctor who tenth doctor adventuresI’ll preface this by saying I am absolutely loving Audible. Not only am I able to access awesome audiobooks through it, but I really enjoy the podcasts too. And I was so excited to test out some of the Doctor Who content on there. I’ve heard a lot about the Big Finish productions, and the full voice casted dramas are proving to be excellent.

Donna isn’t one of my favourite companions (admittedly, Rose and Clara are –  I think I have a thing for companions travelling with multiple doctors), but Catherine Tate is brilliant, Doctor Number 10 is my favourite Doctor, and this volume of adventures was a lot of fun to listen to.

Technophobia sees the pair travelling to a future London, going to the London Museum of Technology. But people are acting strange, and it soon becomes clear they’re scared of the everyday machinery around them.

Time Reaver sees Donna and the Doctor on a spaceport where anything goes. But there are those who are trying to install some sense of order, and they soon discover there’s an illegal weapon on the streets, one which kills its victims in a drawn-out, agonising process.

Death and the Queen sees Donna planning a literal fairytale wedding, in what looks like a fairytale kingdom. Excited by the idea of getting married, she ignores the signs that something isn’t quite right, and like a fairytale princess, gets caught up in something much larger than herself.

These three stories all have three vastly different locations, and it really made me miss the way the new doctors used to actually explore the universe, rather than everything taking place on Earth. Or…”This is a new planet! Wait…no, it’s Earth.”

(I adore the Thirteenth Doctor. I’d just like to see a bit more done with her than just having her constantly on Earth)

These audio adventures really capture what made the RTD Era of Doctor Who so great, and why the revival was such a success. The relationship between Tennant and Tate – and therefore the Doctor and Donna – works so well, and even without seeing the settings, the sounds behind the dialogue really bring these vastly different places fully to life.

This is a fantastic production, with excellent voice acting. Death and the Queen I particularly enjoyed, with its rich, vivid, fairytale setting and intriguing side-characters. Though the same can really be said for all three stories. In each one, Donna is really given some brilliant moments to shine, whether it’s trying to stop a runaway being hurt, guiding a young woman through a dangerous situation, or acting as queen to a kingdom, it reminded me why she is such a fan favourite.

Honestly, if you like Doctor Who, I really do recommend this audiobook, and I will definitely be checking out other adventures available at some point in the future.

March 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part Two [Books]

March 2020 2JanuaryFebruary / March Part 1

Here we have part 2 for my long March reading wrap up, a month in which I read 16 books. So here are the last 8 I read in that strange, strange month. I thought April would be a lot less, but checking what I’ve read so far about halfway through the month, I’m currently on 11. So maybe I’ll be hitting my 50 books 2020 goal a lot sooner than expected.

Esme’s Gift – Elizabeth Foster

esmes giftMy Review

This is proving to be an absolutely delightful series. The first book set up the world and characters, and it was a joy to dip back into it and explore it more. It’s a lot of fun to read, and puts the characters in enough danger to keep readers completely engrossed.

Black Mountains: The Recollections of a South Wales Miner – David Barnes

black mountainsMy Review

This was a really interesting book about a Welsh man’s life at the start of the Twentieth Century. Easy to follow, with some fascinating snippets of his life during that time, it’s told a very conversational tone, which made it that much more enjoyable.

Shallow Waters, Volume 3 – Edited by Joe Mynhardt

shallow waters vol 3My Review

This is a fantastic series of horror flash fiction, put out by Crystal Lake Publishing. The fifth is due for release soon, so it’s a great time to pick up the first four and check them out.

Ghost Mine – Hunter Shea

ghost mineReview coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

This was the second Hunter Shea novel I’ve read (the first being the absolutely amazing Creature) and this one didn’t disappoint. I’m not normally one for literature Westerns, but Shea really does something different with the settings and characters, and this book pushed him, for me, from ‘author I like’ to ‘one of my favourites’. I really hope I get to read Slash some point soon, as I’ve heard fantastic things about it.

DisneyWar – James B. Stewart, Narrated by Patrick Laylor

disneywarMy Review

This is a book for people interested in the world of business, not a book for Disney fans. It’s interesting in some parts, but a lot of the boardroom politics got frustrating at points. It felt like listening to a rundown of bickering children. I can see why people would be interested, and it covers turning points in one of the world’s biggest companies. The narration from Laylor also stops it being absolutely boring, but it wasn’t something I particuarly enjoyed.

Charm – Sarah Pinborough
charm

My Review

This is a series I have absolutely fallen in love with, and now I’m upset because I’ve actually finished the third book and there is no more. Charm takes the tale of Cinderella in a really interesting direction, and I love the way Pinborough tells the original story with her own personal twists. My review for the third book Beauty will hopefully come up soon.

Harrow Lake – Kat Ellis

harrow lakeReview Coming Soon

I am so excited to share this review with you. Harrow Lake is an absolutely fantastic YA Horror, and Ellis is clearly a very talented writer. Keep an eye out for it – I’m on a blog tour for this one, so don’t forget to check out my review and the other blogs who will be participating, too.

Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie (Audible Original Drama)

peter panMy Review

The last book I finished in March. I actually finished listening to this on the last day in March, so that was good. It’s a drama version of Peter Pan, and for me it just didn’t hit the mark. There are changes made to the original story, but those changes don’t really affect anything, and the female characters are badly written. The performances, however, were absolutely fantastic.

So there we have it! My March wrap up. And now I have a lot of reviews to write up for April before we get April’s wrap up sometime in May. Look out for reviews coming up on some great books, both here and on Dead Head Reviews.

Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie, Audible Original Drama [Books]

peter panI have to admit, it’s been a fairly long while since I actually read Peter Pan. When this popped up for free on Audible, I snatched it up, I’m finding I really like full cast audiobooks, and I was excited for this version of the story.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really find it that great.

Some of the changes made felt a bit odd. I can understand updating the story a touch, but not if it doesn’t actually affect anything. In this production, the Darling children still live in London, but they live in World War 2 era London, with bombs dropping and their father off to war. To calm them, their mother tells stories, and their favourite is when she got lost in Kensington Gardens and met Peter Pan. In this flashback, she introduces herself as “Mary Darling” to the tree she befriends.

Which is odd, right? Like…as listeners, we’re not hearing her tell the story, we are hearing the actual events. But she has the same surname as the man she eventually marries? It’s a really small thing but it stood out to me.

And as for updating it, I don’t know why they did. The actual characters are the same, and Neverland is very much the same place people will be familiar with from previous versions. Tinkerbell is still a mean spirited fairy, nasty to Wendy. Wendy is a total drip throughout, and over and over again it’s emphasised how ‘girls are weird’ because both Tink and Wendy become overly possessive of Peter. This is clear when we get more of the Lost Girls.

This was an update I could appreciate – understandably, some aspects of the story do need to be updated, especially when it comes to Tiger Lily. And when her and the Lost Girls were mentioned, I got excited. But they’re barely in it, and only mentioned in counterpoint to Wendy, how she is motherly and perfect, and they are not.

Honestly, I know this is aimed at kids, but it still feels like it’s sending the wrong message. For every step they take to avoid problematic content, they rope in something else that undermines the attempts. The female characters exist for the male characters. The women are jealous and nasty to one another, with their main goal being to look after the boys. Even the Lost Girls, in their brief appearance, are shown to be not as effective as the Lost Boys.

A note on the voice acting. The actual acting was really good. There are very talented people involved in this production, across the board, and it’s a shame the writing just wasn’t up to par.

I would suggest picking up the Twisted Tales Straight on Till Morning instead, a story which keeps the core of these characters, but gives them more depth than can be found in this production.

DisneyWar – James B. Stewart

disneywarAh Disney. A world of magic and wonder and pure happiness. For most people, anyway. This book, as implied by the title, isn’t about the joy of Disney, but instead the business side, boardroom dealings and back stabbings. I love Disney. A lot. To the point I had a run of Disney themed blog posts back in November, when I was off in Disneyland Paris for my 30th birthday. I was hoping for a glimpse into the inner workings of Disney itself, and yes, I was attracted by that title. But this is less a Disney cultural history that I was hoping for, and more a biography of former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner.

I listened to the audiobook for this, using my first ever Audible credit, and it took me months to actually work through it. Partly because I got distracted by the fantastic Into the Drowning Deep,and partly because I found a lot of aspects of this to be incredibly boring.

The narration was good. Patrick Laylor does manage to bring a lot of this to life, and with his inclusion I forgot sometimes I wasn’t listening to the actual author. The best moments were made even better by his narration, especially the opening, talking about the author working for a day at a Disney park. It was actually my favourite part of the book. There’s also a bit about the history of Disney, how Walt and his brother Roy formed the company, and the treatment of Roy Disney Jr when he started.

I actually kind of wished the book itself had been more focused on Roy. Instead, much of the book is about Eisner, his personal history, how he drove the company forward, his lack of give when it came to anyone. It does do a good, balanced job of presenting Eisner, but sometimes it feels a lot like the author is trying really hard to add an extra ‘good layer’ to him.

Eisner feels ruthless and sometimes, downright cruel. Over-ambitious, and focused so much on the bottom line, the actual core of Disney is missed. Prior to this, my main knowledge of Disney history came from the fantastic Waking Sleeping Beauty, which takes a look at Disney leading up to the renaissance at the end of the 80s and start of the 90s. So DisneyWar added a lot to my knowledge in some aspects, but mainly made me feel like for a long time, Disney was run by a bunch of bickering children.

The news broke recently current though exiting executive chairman Bob iger – who from DisneyWar was another person treated poorly by Eisner – and chief executive Bob Chapek, among others, are either forgoing their salaries or taking pay cuts due to the current crisis. And yes, these people get paid an incredibly, ridiculously high amount, the likes of which I will probably never see, but after listening to this audiobook, I couldn’t help but wonder, would Eisner have done the same, in this situation?

I feel like he would have, but he would have been pressed into doing so, likely wouldn’t have forgone his whole salary, and would have moaned to anyone listening about it.

Maybe it’s harsh, to judge someone I really don’t know, but Eisner tried so hard to be Walt Disney, while seeming to miss the magic of Disney itself. And the book delves pretty deep into his life, even explaining how he judged others for basically not having grown up in money (like he had) and not being educated to his highly educated standard.

He just sounded like an all round not nice guy.

Perhaps that had some impact on my ‘enjoyment’ of the book. In some ways it was good to get a look into the dirty side of Disney, and to see more of the business in that way, but for the most part I found the thing incredibly dull, with names shooting by so fast it was hard to keep track of who was who.

I think this is one more for people interested in business, in boardrooms and the like, than people interested in Disney.

And on that, if anyone does have some more Disney-focused recommendations for me, I would absolutely love to hear them.

Into the Drowning Deep – Mira Grant [Books]

into the drowning deepI’m still relatively new to audiobooks. During February, I tried to only start books written by women. I picked up Into the Drowning Deep as I was looking specifically for horror titles, and this seemed a good choice on Audible.

I was not wrong.

Into the Drowning Deep tells the story of a group of scientists, searching for mermaids. Prior to the events of this book, another ship had searched for the same, mysterious creatures, only for the ship to disappear along with everyone on board. All that remains is footage of what looks like a mermaid, attacking those involved.

Victoria Stewart’s sister was on board the ship, and she searches for some way to make sense of what happened. When she’s approached and offered a chance to join the new voyage, she takes the chance.

Christine Lakin, the narrator for this, did an absolutely fantastic job. Audiobooks are not something I’m used to, but Lakin really did well to bring every character to life in the dialogue.

The atmosphere builds up really well, and it becomes easy to imagine the main setting of the novel, the huge cruise ship full of scientists and models-dressed-as-security. The real nature of the company behind both ventures is clear, but the individual characters all have their own motives and desires, threaded throughout the story and driving them forward.

Whether it’s searching for answers, validating their life’s work, or just being part of something amazing, each character is fully realised, drawing the reader in and allowing them to understand even the most minor characters.

The book really shines in the second half. Like most good horror, after we’ve met the characters and formed a relationship with them, the fun really begins, and Grant doesn’t hold back, teasing us with her use of tension and buildup of suspense.

I’m really glad I listened to the audiobook for this one, as Lakin really adds that extra punch to the story, and was easy to get absolutely lost in the story. If you’re looking for creepy, sea-based horror – with an interesting, diverse cast of characters – this is definitely one to check out.

Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere – Jae El Foster [Audiobook Review]

tabitha sparksI don’t really listen to audiobooks, but I was approached very kindly by Kathleen Powell, the narrator for Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere, and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the audiobook. I decided I would give it a go.

Blurb

Intelligent, kind Tabitha Sparks has a wonderful life, with loving parents, a kind tutor, and an unusual connection to nature. But one day, when returning from her favourite place, she finds her parents and house completely gone, without a trace. Child Services take Tabitha to live with her last living relative, Aunt Demonia. In a cold, lifeless house, Tabitha discovers something wonderful, something which could lead her to her parents – the Door to Everywhere. But someone else is looking for the door, too, and Tabitha must stop him before it’s too late.

Book Review

Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere is a delightful children’s book, with plenty of creepy characters, mysterious happenings, and adventure to keep children and adults entertained. Tabitha is an endearing child, one it’s hard not to like almost instantly, curious and intelligent and keen to explore the immediate world around her home. She looks to adults for guidance and help, but often comes up against brick walls, with those who are supposed to help her turning out to be either useless or downright cruel. But she does find other adults, who really are looking out for her best interests, or at the least, help her in small ways.

Then there is Lapis, Tabitha’s feline friend, named after the protective stone. Lapis is a really fun character, supporting Tabitha through her trials and assisting where he can, although as he is a cat, he spends more time jumping into Tabitha’s arms than anything else!

My only real gripe with this book, and perhaps it’s because it’s audiobook I picked up on it more, was that there were a lot of adverbs. Notably, ‘curiously’ is repeated fairly often, and it got a little annoying at times.

Other than that, however, this is a really sweet story about friendship and kindness and doing the right thing, and a young girl searching for her parents. The different worlds we’re introduced to are intriguing and imaginative, and sure to entertain readers, old and young, with the different inhabitants and worlds Tabitha accesses.

Audiobook

I’ve only listened to one audiobook before, and that was Camilla, in Podcast format, so I listened to it between other podcasts, in ten and twenty-minute snippets. With Tabitha Sparks, I basically listened to it when I would usually listen to podcasts. And it was great! It felt like reading while at work, an ability to do other things while also being entertained by an audiobook. Although I understood why people listened to audiobooks before, I can definitely see the appeal more now.

There’s just something wonderful in falling into a different world through someone else’s voice, and the narrator Kathleen Powell does a fantastic job with Tabitha Sparks, hitting the right notes and affecting slightly different voices for each character. She has an absolutely charming style, one that really conveys the wonder and fear Tabitha goes through in the novel. It was a pure delight to listen to, and really made me feel like a little kid, gathering around for storytime.

Overall, I found this to be a fantastic, lovely book with a brilliant narrator really able to bring the story to life. I can only imagine the joy children would get out of reading this, or listening to the audiobook! It is definitely one worth checking out.

Audible

Goodreads

Amazon: UK   /    US

Kathleen Powell’s Website