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Monday, 16 April 2018

Are you listening to me? (The rise and rise of audiobooks)


Are you a fan of audiobooks?  Do you listen to them while you're on the train or at the gym? If so, it seems you've bought into  the fastest growing market in the book trade.

Sales of audiobooks have doubled in the past five years, according to Nielsen Bookscan figures revealed at the London Book Fair this week. Surprisingly, commuters and men aged twenty-five to fourty-four account for most of that increase.

And now I'm joining them! Advised by my optician to reduce the amount of time I spend online, and with an everlasting penchant for e-books and paperbacks, I don't want my reading to suffer. So what better way of relaxing than let someone else do the talking?

It's easy to see why the trend is so popular. You can listen on your smartphone, kindle, iPad or tablet and even on your computer. And consider the benefits to people with impaired vision, or those just too tired to read after a long day at work.

I am not a fan of audiobooks for children as I prefer bedtime stories read by mum, dad, aunties, friends and babysitters, though they might come in handy on a long car journey.

As for the narrators, many of them are experienced actors and actresses, but some authors read their own novels and that's something I would love to do.

If you have a favourite audiobook, please let me know in the comments section. If you are an author, please send a link and I'll do my best to  include it in my next blog post.
Happy listening!

Bluetooth Earphones, TaoTronics Bluetooth 4.1 Headphones Stereo Magnetic Earbuds, Secure Fit for Sport, Gym with Built-in Mic


For the 20 best audiobooks of all time, click here
For some of the latest releases click here

Saturday, 31 March 2018

The Day a Computer wrote a novel

Would you read a novel that began like this? 'I squirmed with joy, which I experienced for the first time, and continued writing excitedly.'

Before you leave this blog ( squirming)  I deny all responsibility for the above sentence. It  was composed by... a computer!

Let me explain. Eleven works of robot-assisted fiction were amongst the 1,450 entrants for a Japanese fiction competition recently. The Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award, named after one of Japan's most famous fiction writers, invited 'artificial intelligence programs' to submit their works.

The judges did not know which authors were human and which were robots, but were given a strong hint by the one quoted above entitled 'The Day a Computer wrote a Novel.'

According to the Times newspaper, another entry entitled 'My Job' had a character asking  'Are jobs being cut, as cheap, clever, humanoid robots are replacing humans?'

One of the entrants, using  'sentences from inputs by its human masters,' actually made it through the first round of the competition. Instructed to include the elements of time, weather and what the character was doing, it came up with the following:

'The clouds hung low that day in an overcast sky. Inside, though, the temperature and humidity were perfectly controlled.  Yoko was sitting lazily on the couch, passing the time playing pointless games.'

The judges commended the story, though found its efforts were 'a bit thin on characterisation.'

Phew - that's a relief!

Happy Easter everyone.



First published March 2016

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Who says we're angry? We ALL wanted to be extras!



Headline from the Mail on Sunday


A movie set in the  German Occupation of Guernsey is  coming to our screens in April, leaving many  islanders angry that it was  filmed in Devon, according to  some of this weekend's newspapers.

The film version of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows, an international best-selling book when published in 2008, has been long awaited by readers and residents, starring Downtown Abbey actress Lily James.

Hitler's Occupation of Saunton Sands  said the Mail on Sunday headline adding: Islanders' anger as Lily James wartime drama moves Guernsey to Devon.

A street in Bideford became a Nazi-occupied area and a sequence featuring an American Dakota on a beach was shot on nearby Saunton Sands, as well as other Devon locations such as Hartland Abbey.

So, are the islanders really angry? As a Guernsey-born author  now living in England, I decided to ask.

I think angry is probably not the right word,' one told me. Many people are disappointed that the film wasn't shot here as it would have been great publicity.'

And this same feeling was voiced by many others. 'We're glad that the Occupation is getting so much attention,' said another 'but it's a shame no-one will get to see what it's really like here.'


Here is a selection of the replies.

'Some disappointment as we all wanted to be extras!'

'Guernsey is unique.  'This really is a missed opportunity.'

'Film buffs will visit the locations where it was filmed rather than visit Guernsey.'

'They could at least have used old footage as well as modern footage at the end of the film. Maybe they will. Fingers crossed.'



From The Times Newspaper



Of more than 30 islanders who responded  some made negative comments such as 'Won't watch it now - would have done if it was filmed in Guernsey' and 'I think they have missed a golden opportunity. I'm sure it would have boosted the tourist industry which I believe is struggling at the moment.'

The official reason for not filming on the island is that too much has changed there since the Second World War.  But  help is at hand.

 I hear that Guernsey Tourist Board are staging a Movie Walk round the island between April 6 and April 20 showing the locations mentioned in the book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Movie Walk

Guernsey Information Centre
6 Apr 2018 / 13 Apr 2018 / 20 Apr 2018 / 27 Apr 2018



Read the latest on this story here in the Guernsey Press

Sunday, 11 February 2018

SILENCE IS GOLDEN





As a young reporter I was once asked to interview three couples who were celebrating their golden wedding anniversaries. What had lead them to a lifetime of love?

One lady blushed at the question, despite her 70-something years. 'The first time he took me out, my hand brushed against his,' she said. ' I remember it felt like electricity running through my veins.'  Her husband merely smiled and took her hand in his.

The second couple swore it was their regular spats that kept the spark alive. 'We enjoy a good argument,' they said in unison. 'But we enjoy making up, too.'

'Did he ever send you a Valentine's card?' I asked.

He gave me a card  on our first date,' his wife smiled.  'And, apart from during the war, he's sent me one every year since.'

The final couple sat in silence: the husband merely nodded and smiled when I asked him a question. 'He's been deaf since the day we met,' his wife explained. 'He reckons that's why we're still married.'

Who was it said Silence is Golden?




Photos courtesy of Hope House Museum, Alstonefield, Nr Ashbourne, Derbyshire 

Sunday, 28 January 2018

POETRY IN MOTION



Image result for rupert brooke
War poet Rupert Brooke 1887 - 1915


A book may be compared to your neighbour: if it be good it cannot last too long; if bad, you can't get rid of it too early.

If you've ever had a problem with your neighbours or, like me, you  just love reading books, you'll appreciate this quote from my favourite war poet Rupert Brooke, an exceptionally talented (and good looking) man who died in 1915 aged just twenty eight.

So how would it feel to buy a house where the celebrated poet once lived? This week's Bricks and Mortar supplement in The Times newspaper tells us of his former home, Orchard House in the village of Grantchester, about three miles from Cambridge.

Orchard House, which has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, is being auctioned in March with a guide price of £950,000. Rupert Brooke did not own his home but lodged at the house from 1909 to 1911 after graduating from Kings College, Cambridge.  He later moved to the Old Vicarage in Grantchester, which gave its name to the title of his well-know poem.

Brooke's parties at Orchard House were attended by other literary heavyweights, including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes and  EM Forster, as well as philosophers Bertrand Russell and and Ludwig Wittgenstein. They became known as the Grantchester Group.

'Grantchester is one of the most desirable villages in Cambridgeshire,' says Richard Freshwater, a director of Cheffins, the estate agency running the auction. It is surrounded by the beautiful Grantchester Meadows, with the famous Byron's Pool.' (where Lord  Byron once swam.)

If you appreciate properties with historical significance and are a lover of poetry, (oh, and have a million pounds to spare,) what are you waiting for?



Wednesday, 10 January 2018

TOO CUTE TO BE CRIMINAL!




Actress Madge Meredith



'She's too cute to be criminal!' said Humphrey Bogart  of forties star Madge Meredith whose life story was more  dramatic than any of the films in which she  appeared.

Madge, who died at the end of 2016, was convicted of  kidnapping her manager and given a three year jail sentence in 1946. Astonishingly she returned to films when her sentence was complete.This unlikely story was revealed in an obituary in The Times newspaper this week, of the actress  born Marjorie May Massow in Iowa in 1921.

As a young child she suffered from a stammer but this did not deter her from going on the stage.
She studied acting in New York before making her way to Hollywood. She took a waitressing job with 20th Century Fox and waited to be discovered.

Along came Oscar-winning star Jennifer Jones who agreed that the waitress had potential and recommended her for a screen test. Soon 20th Century Fox had signed her up and cast her in supporting roles in several films including Otto Preminger's In the Meantime Darling released in 1944.   When they eventually let her go, Madge got her own manager, a Greek called Nicholas Gianaclis.

All went well until Gianaclis lent Madge some money towards the purchase of a house in the Hollywood Hills. This led to arguments over ownership which ended up in court. The judge ruled in the actress's favour. Fighting back, her manager  went to the police and alleged that Madge had tricked him into following her car to a quiet place in the hills, where she had arranged for him and his companion to be kidnapped at gunpoint. They were beaten up and taken to a different location from where they escaped.

After a four-week trial Madge and three men were convicted of various offences, but there were doubts over the conviction. When the conduct of the trial was questioned the California /State governor ordered her release saying: 'This is a bizarre case, perhaps more fantastic than any moving picture in which the defendant acted.'

She was released on her 30th birthday when, as the Los Angeles Times reported, 'She ran from the main entrance and refused to look back as the big chain-link gates, topped with barbed wire, clanged shut on the past.'

Between her arrest an release she had spent just over three years in prison. Madge resumed her acting career but effectively had to start over again.  When she finished filming she worked in television into the 1960s, then married and worked as an estate agent in Hawaii.

At the time of her conviction Madge said: 'I know in my heart I am innocent of any crime. Some day, someone will believe the truth about what I say.'

Among her supporters was Humphrey Bogart who was known for his outspoken views on social issues...

NB If Humphrey said she was too cute to be criminal, who are we to argue? ;)

Saturday, 23 December 2017

THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS TED








I'd like to introduce you to Christmas Ted. Ted came into our lives on Christmas Day 1991 in a busy hospital ward near where we live.
Our daughter was in the children's ward recovering from a serious illness, but not well enough to come home. 'I'm getting too old for Santa,' she said, slipping into the day room as Father Christmas did his rounds. But when she returned to the ward, there was Santa Ted, sitting on her bed, a generous gift from the hospital volunteers who did their best to make Christmas for the children (many of whom were very young) extra special. Ted's been a part of our family ever since.
For most of the year he sits out of sight in the guest room and never makes his 'presents' felt. But around December he magically starts to move around and there's no telling where he might turn up next...
I found him yesterday upstairs, wrapping all the presents to take to children everywhere. I'd just returned from visiting a very dear friend of mine who, after two major operations, is too ill to go home for Christmas.
So if you know a child of any age, from one to 101, who'll be in hospital this Christmas, why not visit them over the next few days. Thank the doctors and nurses for giving up the festive celebrations with their families, not to mention the volunteers. And send them lots of love from Christmas Ted.

SEASONS GREETINGS TO YOU ALL
Thanks for all your support in the past year and wishing you all the best in 2018




Thursday, 30 November 2017

A new kind of royalty - or a would-be princess?


Front page exclusive in the Daily Mail yesterday

 Princess-to-be Meghan Markle strode into the history books  this week with a mix of confidence and compassion, challenging the ancient traditions that  have long defined the British royal family.

With eyes for Prince Harry only, many believe Ms Markle  is just what the country needs  if the monarchy is to survive into the next century.

Inevitably labelled the 'spare' to future king William, Harry might well have become just another playboy prince had he not inherited  his mother's desire to make the world a better place. Meghan, with her humanitarian work, stunning looks and spirited nature  has changed all that.

Strong American women have a habit of changing British history. Last night's Channel Five drama/documentary The Queen That Never Was.  showcased Wallis Simpson who was blamed by many for the abdication of King  Edward VIII  in 1936, an event that changed the course of history.

Fascinated by the story of Wallis since I was a child, I have read many opinions of her down the years, most of them harsh, some assumed without any knowledge of the woman herself.

For the first time last night, in what appeared to be uncanny timing, we saw a different side to the woman who helped seal her own fate with a mixture of naivety and ambition.  Morally, it seems, the world was shocked by her actions.  Why didn't she slip away quietly leaving the king to carry on with his life? Why were the couple so open about their relationship - cruising together in the Mediterranean when she was still a married woman - when such things were frowned upon  in far more lowly circles.

If we are to believe this  drama documentary, supported by Mrs Simpson's own diary entries, she was traumatised by the hate people felt for her; she did not want to be queen. She begged the king to let her go but  he threatened suicide if she did not go along with his wishes.

Years later when the Duchess of Windsor, as she was known after her marriage, stepped back on to British soil, clad in black coat and veil, for her husband's funeral in 1972, she cut a very lonely figure. In all those years the British royal family had pretended she no longer existed.

My generation grew up with the words be careful what you wish for ringing in our ears and though we believe we invented feminism, strong women have always made sure their voices are heard.

The tragedy of Edward and Mrs Simpson, as they were known, will never be fully understood, but for once I prefer to look forward than to ponder what might have been. Meghan Markle's childhood friend Ninaki Priddy, who provided the 1996 photograph (above) told the Daily Mail 'She's been planning this all her life.'  Let's hope this story has a happy ending.



'The Queen That Never Was' stars Georgina Rich as Wallis and Alex Avery as Edward.