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.

 

TAKING ON THE 2019 AUDIO BOOKS CHALLENGE

This challenge was originally issued by “Hot Listens” and “Caffeinated Reviewer,” but I came across it on one of my favorite blogs, “Carla Loves to Read.” Carla has planned to read 50 audio books in 2019.  Having come fairly lately to audio books, and being a visual learner, I am not willing to commit to that many audiobooks, but I will  attempt to listen to 30 in 2019.

Here is the first review of Mitch Albom’s For One More Day.  Most of this book I listened to while in the car. I had read other books by Albom (specifically Tuesdays with Morrie, Marley and Me, and The Five People You Meet in Heaven) and was prepared to become teary-eyed, but For One More Day was a heartbreaker.  It was also heart-wrenching as family secrets were revealed to the main character, “Chick” . Albom’s recurrent theme of unsuccessfully trying to please one’s father, and in this character’s case, taking one’s mother’s love for granted made the story hard to hear. Perhaps I would have handled it better had I read it in print.

The title comes from wishing for “one more day to set things right.” Chick was granted that day with his mother.

 

Audio Book/Younger Readers: A Review

I haven’t listened to an audio book since trips to Virginia by car or since The Dark Tower by Steven King first came out as an audio attempt, which had to stop after book four because of the death of King’s reader–many years ago. I am currently finishing the Dark Tower, circling back to pick up a skipped book four, then finishing up where I am now with the conclusion, book seven.

That said, I heard of a kid’s book, Chasing Vermeer, which our local library had only on audio book.  It has been a good accompaniment  to peeling potatoes and otherwise putting meals together as well as an off-your-feet pastime during my recent foot woes.

The two middle school protagonists, Calder, a boy and Petra,  ( a female stand-in as best friend for Tommy who has recently moved away ) are likable and extremely intelligent, and are enrolled in an exceptional sixth grade class at the university lab school. Balliett, the author, and Ellen Reilly, who voices the novel, bring them to life as they strive to solve the mystery of a mid-transit theft of a painting by Vermeer, the mysterious painter of mysterious paintings. Wondering if their teacher and an old lady in the neighborhood are involved, the two kids become immersed in a fast paced, twisty-turny adventure.

The descriptions of Veneer’s paintings are accurate and well done, tantalizing the reader’s mind until she looks them up to see the paintings themselves.  I wished the CD box had had a paper portfolio of the paintings orally described. As the children are intrigued by the patterns, connections, and “coincidences” in a strange book by Foote, their sixth senses come into play as they investigate the goings on in their school and neighborhood.  Strange letters, police protection, and the kidnapping of a painting to draw attention to Vermeer all merge together to make a delightful mystery and a good read for any sixth or seventh grader.