THE EARLY DEMISE OF THE 2019 AUDIO BOOK CHALLENGE

This challenge was given in early January by “Caffeinated Reviewer” and “Hot Listens.” My blogging friend, Carla, at “Carla Loves to Read” accepted the challenge, deciding to read 50 audiobooks in the year 2019. Not to be outdone, I signed on for 30 audiobooks.

This weekend I completed book #10, and have come to the conclusion that this is a good stopping place for me. I do not know if audiobooks, in general, are just not a good “fit”, or if I lack the focus to listen and not be distracted by all the things I could be doing, but I’m calling a halt to my listening.

Here are the books I listened to:

  1.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry  This actually was a successful completion of the book after three false starts, and one I probably would never have finished if I had not listened rather than read.
  2. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King  This book was a good one to listen to, and I could do housework, etc. while listening.
  3. For One More Day by Mitch Albom  Albom’s books tend to be so short that it doesn’t matter whether one reads them or listens to the audio version.
  4. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger  My Better Half and I both listened to this one and enjoyed it immensely. I can hardly wait to read the sequel.
  5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston  This was another I had tried to read unsuccessfully, but completed thanks to the dramatic narration of the audiobook.
  6. The Music Shop  This was a delight that was as easy to listen to as it would have been to read.
  7. Cambridge by Susanna Keyson  I doubt I would have finished this novel had I been reading it, but I was able to listen to the end and was satisfied with the ending.
  8. The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks  I listened to this one after deciding to get into reading “Books about Books,” and its length probably would have prevented my sticking with the printed version; however, listening was a very pleasant experience.
  9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (pronounced Yah Jesse) This book which traced 300 years in Ghana’s history through characters from several generations was an excellent listening experience.  the “exquisite language” kept me eager to listen several times a day, often making it hard to take a break.
  10. Finders Keepers, the sequel to Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King rounded out an even ten audiobooks.

I think this is an excellent place to drop the challenge and to finish up some of the many books I have started (or at least looked at) and to clear some space on my TBR shelf.

Signing off on The 2019 Audiobooks Challenge

Rae

BOOKS FOUR AND FIVE OF THE 2019 AUDIOBOOKS CHALLENGE

Ordinary Grace by Kent Krueger, was a Third Tuesday Book Club selection. I had skimmed the book in large print and recommended it to the group.  When the book was accepted, It had been long enough that I could remember the plot, remembered vaguely that the characters developed and changed as the novel went on, but little else. Ordering the audiobook from our local library, my Better Half and I listened together. This way, I could also count Grace as part of my 2019 audiobook challenge. The story takes place in New Brenen, a real township in Minnesota. Krueger describes the “summer of the dying and the end of childhood innocence.” The first death was Bobby Cole, a schoolmate of the protagonist and narrator, Frank. Bobby, who always was “a little slow,” was hit and killed by a train as he was playing on the tracks. Frank and Jake, two years younger often had walked and followed the tracks. That fateful summer, Frank and others learned about “the awful grace of God.” Frank’s father, a minister, was a man of faith, a veteran, and a praying man. Frank’s mother, far from the typical mother of the ’60s, lived out her thwarted musical ambitions through the musical prodigy in the family, Ariel, Frank’s teenage sister. Gus, who served under Frank’s father during WWII, a family friend lived in and cleaned the church. Add in two murders, a bad cop, a judgmental town, and many prejudices, and you have a page-turning psychological thriller as well as a coming-of-age story. Krueger’s beautifully-drawn characters gain a terrible knowledge that summer and must pay for it at a terrible price.

Book Five is a classic, a novel I’ve always heard of, spoken about in reverent tones by literature professors and critics alike, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I’m so glad I decided to listen to this novel. I tried once to read it on my own in the print version, but couldn’t get past the thick dialect and dated “feel” of the novel. Hurston wrote her novel in 1937, but it was reissued and “discovered” for the classic it was in 1975. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple found Hurston’s unmarked grave, derelict and abandoned much like her novel had been. Walker wrote an article which contributed greatly to the esteem in which Hurston is held today. Dealing with “Black Folk Traditions” and African American’s Literary Heritage, Hurston spins the tale of Jane, a “Black woman who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.” After two marriages, Jane finds the love of her life, “Teacake,” who becomes a third husband and an enforcing influence on her life.  Not only is the novel an enlightening description of Black life during The Great Depression, but it is an excellent action-adventure story.  the scenes of the great hurricane Jane and Teacake go through are exciting, suspenseful, and brimming with action. This novel has earned its description of “a seminal novel in American Fiction.”

BOOK THREE of the 2019 Audio Book Challenge

The Audio Book Challenge of 2019, originated by “Hot Listens” and “Caffeinated Reviewer”, which was pointed out to me by my blogging friend, Carla at “Carla Loves to Read” was a perfect “fit” for me.  I rarely listen to audio books because I am primarily a visual reader.  However, taking on this challenge (I have agreed to listen to 30 books; Carla is aiming at 50.) has been a growth experience in many ways.

The third book I have heard since I began the challenge in January is Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. Like all of King’s books, it is wonderful and terrible at the same time. King’s main character, Bill Hodges, a “ret-det” (“retired detective” to us civilians), of the police force in a distressed American city is haunted by “the perp who got away, ” “Mr. Mercedes” (so dubbed by the media), plowed a stolen, classic Merdcedes into a pre-dawn gathering of desperate people lined up to apply for a few scarce jobs, killing eight and wounding fifteen others. Hodges blames himself for Mr. Mercedes’ escape, and his crime and case will ever remain “open” to Hodges.

Assisted by an African American computer whiz, still in high school, and a seriously neurotic relative of the woman Hodges loved, Hodges tracks down an email which pulls him out of his depression and into a full-fledged investigation of the psychotic killer.

Brady Hartsfield, the sender of the email and, indeed, the true Mr. Mercedes taunts the tormented detective and decides to kill not only Hodges, but as many people as possible in a terrorist act of violence. Will Hodges figure out who Mr. Mercedes is, and more importantly, stop his devious plan? With King, the reader can be fairly sure he will, but the fingernail-chewing route to King’s conclusion  keeps the reader on the edge of his seat! The characterization of this insane killer is one of King’s best as he returns to his frequent theme of Good vs. Evil.

 

BOOK TWO OF THE 2019 AUDIO BOOK CHALLENGE

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by French philosopher and novelist, Muriel Barbery, was the solution to a problem I’d had for quite a while. I had tried to read this book on several occasions and just “couldn’t get into it,” lost track, or just became bored. Listening to it in the audiobook format, however, kept me intrigued and compelled by the voices of the two masterful narrators.

One, Renee, a short, plump fifty-ish, purposefully dowdy concierge of “a bourgeois building in a posh neighborhood” was a persona to be reckoned with. She and her cat, Tolstoy, led a secret life.  Unknown to her tenants, Renee was knowledgable in art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture.

Paloma, her super-smart, twelve-year-old foil who lives with her family on the fifth floor,   does her very best to appear mediocre, when, in fact, like Renee, she is extraordinary. They are both in disguise! What blows their pretenses to smithereens is when Mr. Ozu, a wealthy Japanese man buys the building and moves in.

This is a “moving, witty and redemptive novel.” It deals with “quiet personal victories” that make the listener laugh, gasp, and cry at times.  The novel itself and the writing, specifically, are wonderful. This was one of the best “reading”/listening experiences I have ever had.