Sunday, 6 March 2016

Truckin' Up by Donna Carver / Dracula by Bram Stoker / The Memory Man by Helen Smith

Truckin' Up! by Donna Carver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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It seems like ages since I have listened to an audiobook so I was happy when Donna Carver got in touch via Twitter to ask if I would be interested in a copy of her memoir, Truckin' Up. She kindly gifted me a copy through Audible.com which took a little help from Customer Services to transfer to my .co.uk account.

Donna's husband is an American lorry (truck) driver and, finding herself at a loose end, she decided to accompany him on his journeys across the country. A Florida native herself, this gave her the opportunity to see far more of her country as well as learning about life on the road. Truckin Up is the resultant memoir - a collection of impressions and anecdotes. Donna expresses her amazement at some drivers' behaviours, empathises with the difficulties truck drivers face, and translates many of the odd words and phrases they use when communicating over CB radios.

Abrupt changes in sound quality were very distracting during the first chapter, but this does mostly settle down as the book progresses. I enjoyed hearing her thoughts about her nomadic life and the CB slang is quite entertaining. The memoir is pretty short though and a significant part of the time is made up with glossaries - an extensive CB slang dictionary and list of police radio codes - that may work well in print, but went on for too long in the audio version. On the whole, Truckin' Up is an interesting glimpse into a mostly unpublicised world.


Dracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
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Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Having ignored my own recent advice after reading Princess Casamassima by Henry James to 'beware verbose Victorians', I finally picked up Dracula this week. This is my third book for the 2016 TBR Pile Reading Challenge.

I've had a paperback copy of Dracula by Bram Stoker awaiting reading since we visited Whitby Abbey last year. The ruins were so creepy, even on a sunny day, and I loved remembering our visit and being able to envisage the relevant scenes as I read. I did already vaguely know the plot, but don't think I have ever read this book before, not even in a child's classics version. Thinking about it, perhaps there isn't one? For what essentially is a pretty short story, this is a long book. However, once I got into the convoluted style, I found that there was a swift enough pace to keep me interested. It is very dated in attitudes, particularly towards women who are relentlessly patronised throughout, and the characters are each of a type rather than realistic individuals, however where Stoker excels I think is in his wonderfully evocative descriptions of places and actions. I was captivated by many of the scenes and found myself wishing I had read Dracula years ago!


The Memory Man by Helen Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Buy the book from Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.co.uk

I enjoyed my previous Helen Smith short story, an Emily Castles mystery entitled Three Sisters, so was delighted to get the opportunity to download another via Smith's e-mail newsletter. The Memory Man is still free on Amazon at the time of writing.

The Memory Man is very different to Three Sisters although it does of course share Smith's fabulously descriptive turns of phrase. We find ourselves in a disused canteen with two women and a dead body. The women don't remember anything about themselves or each other and, as readers, we have no idea of their backstories either. I thought The Memory Man had a wonderfully chilling atmosphere and I am still not exactly sure I worked out what was going on. (I have a theory, but don't want to spoil the mystery for you!) I was reminded of the feel of TV series such as Psychoville and think people who appreciated that style of storytelling would also like Smith's story. I did think that the ending was left too open to be completely satisfying, but I would definitely like to read more of Smith's work.


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