The longer that I’m left without the surgery I need, the more damage to my neck occurs. As we continue to try to fundraise the money needed for the life-saving surgery and air ambulance flights (I’d be grateful for any donations: GoFundMe.com/savejenny), I have to fight harder and harder to stay alive as the situation deteriorates every day. It is relentlessly unbearable. Nobody should be left like this.
Thank you to everyone who has donated and who has helped spread my story and fundraising link on social media. We’ve still got a long way to go but I’m very grateful for the generosity and kindness of so many.
My poetry book ‘We Are The Winter People’ is raising money towards my surgery and is available to buy as a paperback, audiobook and ebook here: https://mybook.to/WinterPeople
Thank you to family and friends who gave me the audiobooks below for my birthday (though a couple of them were still left from Christmas!). Audiobooks are all that I have left and they keep me going. I love writing my opinions of them here in my Audiobook Adventures. It’s increasingly hard for my brain to function as my neck becomes more damaged without the surgery to fix it, and a lot of the time I’m unable to understand/process words and sentences. I’ve managed to gradually cobble together the reviews below in the times that I am more ‘with it’. I can only hold my phone up to my eyes (it’s too dangerous to move my neck so I can’t look downwards to see the screen of my phone so I have to lift my phone above my head at eye level to see the screen) for roughly 30 seconds at a time so it’s taken a long time to gradually write these. Writing brings me great pleasure though so I consider it worth it. I love the thought that I might bring someone else joy if they read a book that they enjoy as a result of one of my reviews.
Thankfully, with Audible, you can slow down the speed of the narration. Due to my brain being impaired, I can’t listen at the normal speed (x1); I have to listen to these audiobooks at 0.7 or 0.8 speed.
I always need more book recommendations so please leave your favourites in the comments (remember they have to be available on Audible for me to be able to access them)! What books have you been reading recently? I’d love to hear in the comments. I’m in the mood for some dystopian fiction or science fiction (ultimately with happy endings please) and memoir, if you have any recommendations for those three genres. As you’ll see below, I’ve read a lot of fantasy recently and it would be nice to have more of some other genres thrown in the mix.
‘Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow’, ‘Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow’ and ‘Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow’ by Jessica Townsend
I ended up loving this series of books and can’t wait for the next one in the series to come out. It’s often compared to Harry Potter but actually the thing that I found most similar about the two series is the feeling that you get by the end of reading them. The feeling of home and cosiness, with a world and cast of characters that become so familiar and loved that you sink into them with a contented sigh, feeling like you’re snugly wrapped up in and hugged by a thick squishy duvet.
The first book (‘Nevermoor’) was a bit slow getting started; I know that the characters and world were being established but I was impatient to get to the Wundrous Society and the trials already! A lot of unnecessary time seemed to be spent faffing about at the Hotel Deucalion and it was odd that they basically were waiting a whole year, without schooling, just to see whether they would get into the school (or ‘Wundrous Society’). But I would encourage you to wait it out; stopping reading this book before you get to the WunSoc, would be like giving up on Harry Potter before you reach Hogwarts! You do have to suspend your disbelief quite a bit more than with other fantasy, what with the wunimals and such, but if you allow yourself, it becomes a gloriously fun story. I loved the trials. The second book ‘Wundersmith’ is my favourite in the series so far; I loved all the mystery, discoveries, figuring out the Tricksy Lanes and Morrigan finding out more about her powers. The plot of ‘Hollowpox’ reminded of the film ‘Zootropolis’ (‘Zootopia’ in other countries) but that didn’t change how wonderfully enjoyable it was. Thoroughly recommend this series! So fun.
‘The Fifth Season’ by N.K. Jemisin
Given how beloved, award-winning and well-regarded this book is in the fantasy genre, I was anticipating it to be a new favourite. Unfortunately, I didn’t get on well with it at all. It felt like the slowest-paced book in existence and it was a struggle to force myself to keep going. I kept thinking that surely surely it was going to “get good” soon…but no.
As a reader (listener) I felt incredibly distanced from the characters and plot, which I don’t think was caused by the parts that were written in the second person (I actually didn’t mind the second person at all). The whole thing was strangely emotionless and detached; we were never properly let into the thoughts and feelings of the characters. As a reader (listener), you need a way in, and we just weren’t given one. For me the characters had no flair or charisma; they were dull. And oh, it was so sooo slow.
I understand the appeal; the world is unique and the concept is truly original, which is difficult to come by in any genre. I did find myself thinking about the story long after I finished the book, along with the big themes it subtly deals with, but that wasn’t enough to rescue it for me. I have no desire to continue the series at this point (unless someone tells me that it gets a lot better). I enjoyed the last eighth of the book or so but unfortunately I’d guessed ridiculously early on in the book what I assume were meant to be big reveals and surprises nearer the end, which was disappointing because I like being surprised and having ‘wow’ moments.
I don’t know if it was the actual narrator of the audiobook or just the narrative style of the book at the beginning, but I found the tone unbearably smug and annoying in the prologue especially.
The part that I enjoyed most was Damaya at the Fulcrum.
Lots of people love this book and it has won awards so don’t let my subjective opinion put you off reading it if you’re curious about it! You might love it, especially if you enjoy literary fiction. It just wasn’t for me. If you’ve read it, let me know your opinions in the comments!
‘The Atlas Six’ by Olivie Blake
This was another very slow-starting book but this time, it was actually worth wading through the first half and the twist at the end was good. I’m a sucker for any sort of competition in a storyline and six of the most talented magicians in the world are competing for five spaces in a magical secret society. The story is told from six different points of view…unfortunately none of the characters are remotely likeable. I know that it’s the trendy thing for characters to be unlikeable and “realistic” but surely it would be more realistic that at least one of them would have at least one redeeming quality. It would have made the book far more enjoyable. The ending made the experience worth it; overall I would say that the book was alright but not one that I’d be excitedly urging my friends to read to share the experience.
‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller
I wasn’t bored once in this book, which is unusual for me! It’s a flowing, well written and compelling story set in the mythology of Ancient Greece, focussing on the growing friendship of Achilles and Patroclus (I won’t say more than that because…spoilers!) and later their part in the Trojan War.
Having studied the (Ancient) Greek language at GCSE and A-Level, a lot of the joy of this book for me was recognising all sorts of characters and names from the passages of text that I used to translate (Agamemnon! Menelaus! Clytemnestra! “I know them!” my brain would shout happily as they popped up). It brought back happy school memories and also the thrill of racing to be the first one to translate a piece of text.
I usually don’t read books with sad endings but I was at least a little insulated from that because I knew roughly what was going to happen, so could prepare myself.
I’m planning on listening to ‘Circe’ by the same author too. Is it as good?
‘A Gift Upon the Shore’ by M.K. Wren
As a teen I hoovered up any book in the genre of what I call ‘nuclear fiction’ (‘Fall-out’ by Gudrun Pausewang, ‘Children of the Dust’ by Louise Lawrence and ‘Brother in the Land’ by Robert Swindells): any story involving either nuclear bombs or accidents at a nuclear power station and the immediate aftermath from them. I love that stuff. This book focuses on the friendship of two women in the U.S., the narrative alternating between the present and the past – before, during and after the nuclear bombs fall. It thus should have been more exciting than it turned out to be. I still enjoyed it but it was more of a slow, thoughtful and philosophical read (listen), though there were some exciting parts. But the nuclear aspect of it was rather anti-climactic and underwhelming.
‘Sabriel’, ‘Lirael’ and ‘Abhorsen’ by Garth Nix
I hadn’t read this fantasy trilogy since my mid teens and was eager to be able to listen to them again. They held up well, which isn’t always the case. I definitely had got a few things mixed up in my memory though! It was a joy to come back to them again. I still loved the character of Sabriel, though this time around I appreciated Lirael more too. Sabriel is sort of perfect and you always know that she’ll do what’s needed. Lirael is more relatable, struggles more and hasn’t got everything sorted; I don’t think I appreciated the value of that the first time around. I’d forgotten about the Disreputable Dog and how much I liked her; I’m glad to have got reacquainted! If you’re into fantasy, this might be an enjoyable series for you.
‘The Marvellers’ by Dhonielle Clayton
This audiobook narrator is the worst I’ve ever come across. It’s like she has never encountered words before. Her voice sounds like a screen reader – as if she’s just reading individual words with no sense of them in the context of a sentence. She pronounces some words so bizarrely that they’re unrecognisable and you have to guess what the word is from the context. And for a few words, she pronounces the exact same word in a different way each time. I’ve never encountered an audiobook with this poor a standard of narration; you would have thought a producer would go back and re-record any glaring mistakes but no.
So it’s quite something when I say that I can’t wait to read the next book in the series when it comes out! It was really fun. Just please please please get a new narrator! I nearly gave up on the story many times because of the narrator.
I love me a magic school setting though! The main character is interesting and has a really hard time of it, starting at the new school, with teachers and students being hostile and against her admittance to the school for having “bad” light as the source of her magic. The book deals with themes of prejudice and discrimination well, appropriate for the age range at which the book is aimed.
‘Morning Star’ by Pierce Brown
This is the third book in the original dystopian sci-fi ‘Red Rising’ trilogy. In my review of the first two books of the series in my last Audiobook Adventures, looking back, I think that I was overly harsh on the first book. This trilogy has made it into my top 10 series of books. Yes, it may be brutal and the author kills off more beloved characters than George R.R. Martin, but you won’t find many books out there more thrilling and exciting. It’s very hard to talk about without giving away spoilers so I’ll just say that the ending is genius. Absolutely euphoric. Definitely recommend, though with the warning that it’s brutal.
‘This Is Not A Pity Memoir’ by Abi Morgan
I really don’t know what possessed me to listen to this. Given the medical incompetence, abuse and trauma I’ve experienced, it wasn’t the wisest decision. The concept of someone waking up from a coma thinking that his wife is an imposter and not his “real” wife was just too intriguing , I guess. But just the mention of the ‘d’ word (doctor) or ‘h’ word (hospital) is too much for me these days and the flashbacks and trauma are too great. I did finish the book and I’m sure many people will find a lot of meaning in it. It just wasn’t for me at this point in my medical history. I found lots of it deeply problematic too in terms of ableism, especially as the story is being told by the loved one looking on, as opposed to the person actually going through the ordeal.
As an aside, from a throwaway sentence in this book, if any nurse tells you that a relative in hospital is “refusing to eat”, don’t take it at their word or assume that your relative doesn’t want to eat or is being difficult. Often a plate of food is just left on a table to a patient that is not able to feed themselves or doesn’t have the strength to lift cutlery or cut up food themselves. When the food is left uneaten, instead of deducing that the patient needs help with eating, nurses often tell relatives that the patient is refusing to eat. Always check. Make sure your relative is getting the help they need instead of being left to starve, being too weak to communicate their needs.
‘Letters From Brenda: Two Suitcases. 75 Lost Letters. One Mother.’ by Emma Kennedy
Out of all the books above, this was my favourite. It’s a stunningly written memoir. Living under a rock, I had never heard of Emma Kennedy before but this book is absolutely fascinating, about her life and her mother’s life, inextricably intertwined. Her mother’s issues are complex but she’s a mesmerising character. This book deftly, sensitively and also, very amusingly, brings together the complicated picture of her mother.
The audiobook is wonderful, with Juliet Stevenson reading the entertaining letters written by Brenda, Emma’s mother, with interjections and notes from Emma. It perfectly captures the different facets of her mother’s character and the backstory shows how she came to be the way she was.
I’ve already made my Mum listen to this book! I’m sure I’ll be evangelistic about it to others too. When I enjoy something, I want others to share in the pleasure! It’s an irresistible book. Only an incredible writer could have the talent to accomplish something of this scope and nuance. A great read (listen).
Links to previous reviews:
The more eagle-eyed among you will notice that my intro for Audiobook Adventures #3 is the same as my intro for this current Audiobook Adventures #4. Apologies! I’m just not up to writing a different introduction this time around as I have worsened quite significantly.
Other things to which I’ve been listening:
• the Swimming World Championships:
one of the things that makes me most happy is listening to the swimming commentators Andy Jameson and Adrian Moorhouse. When they are together, they are magic; not only are they incredible at the professional part of their job (so much so that I don’t even feel like I’m missing out by only being able to listen, not watch, the swimming, because they describe it so vividly, accurately, with such enthusiasm and with such a wealth of knowledge of the sport) but also they’ve been friends for so long that their chat is natural and I love it when their friendship overflows to us when they can be wonderfully silly between races too, making each other, and us, laugh. Unfortunately Adrian wasn’t at the World Championships so Andy had different commentating partners (though he was still brilliant) but I’m looking forward to listening to the swimming at the Commonwealth Games when Andy and Adrian will be back together: the dream team! Just the thought of the joy that I know it will bring me makes me smile. I love them! I much prefer their funny chatter instead of the repetitive waffle of the presenters in the studio, so I always try to find the BBC stream that’s dedicated solely to the swimming (which is 100% Andy and Adrian commentating), as opposed to the BBC main channel, where there are presenters on camera (whom I don’t enjoy nearly so much and they go on and on talking rubbish), with some races being missed out in favour of listening to them. Or sometimes, they’ll switch to another sport while there’s still swimming going on. Rude!