Blended by Sharon Draper

I feel like I should have liked this a lot more than I actually did. Sharon Draper is a terrific author. She is also the reader for this audiobook and I have to admit I didn’t love her reading of it. This is a pretty intense story about racial identity, racial profiling, divorce. I knew all that going in, but wow things got even more shocking/serious. This is a book I listened to with my daughter, which was nice. We paused the story a lot and had lots of important conversations.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

I read this book a couple of years ago and ever since have valiantly recommended it to many students. I’m not sure many of them have taken me up on it, but now hearing the story a second time (this time audiobook) I stand by my recommendations! This is a great book, exactly the sort of thing I liked to read as a child. {Since writing that Paul told me that when he looked on amazon all the reviews were uniformly poor! That people were very critical of the writing. And while I do think that I questioned some things, such as if it were me I’d keep that key and shrink down every single weekend, overall I enjoyed it and didn’t find the writing terrible.}
When I read this book I loved reading about theses miniature rooms in a museum. Though I hadn’t seen the real Thorne Rooms, when I lived in Pittsburgh there was an exhibit of similar miniature rooms at the Carnegie. I loved looking in those rooms and marveling at the detail and imagining people who lived in them. So it was easy for me to imagine the Thorne Rooms and the thrill of shrinking and visiting them. Which brings us to planning a vacation in Chicago this summer. You’d better believe that visiting the Thorne Rooms was at the top of the list! And we brought the audiobook to listen to. We ended up listening on our drive back instead of there, but that’s ok. The real Thorne Rooms were wonderful and the audio guide at the museum even included Marianne Malone talking about her book and pointing out which rooms are specific to the story. The whole thing was very enchanting. Perhaps that skews my delight in the story, but I don’t think so. Or maybe it does, in which case who cares?

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

It’s practically a dirty little secret that I never read this before. Not only am I a children’s librarian, but this book happened to be very popular when I was a child myself!
We listened to this on a long car trip (it’s pretty short though-only 3 discs.) When it finished my husband and I remarked that you could tell it was an old book because it was so sloooooooooooow. The story was a little darker than I thought it would be. I also thought, for me at least, it wasn’t well suited for audio because of the long meandering descriptions of sunlight and frogs and atmosphere.
That said, it’s kind of quirky and weird and fascinating and I can see why people are still reading it all these years later.

Welcome to Camden Falls (Main Street #1) by Ann M. Martin

I listened to this on audiobook with my 4th grade daughter and we both agreed it was wonderful! A little bit of a sad start-two sisters are orphaned in a car crash and go to live with their grandmother in the idyllic little town of Camden Falls where Min (Grandma) owns a charming sewing store called Needle and Thread (it’s as if that part was written for me.) Ruby and Flora and Min live in a row house and the story focuses on the girls’ adjustment to a new town and life, making friends, and becoming part of the row house group of neighbors. All the neighbors have their own sorts of stories and some of them are fairly serious (dementia.) I think Martin has a pretty deft hand in middle grade fiction incorporating serious things into stories.

The audiobook reader was a new voice for me and I really thought she was great. One story/character who especially benefited from the audiobook treatment was Robbie, a boy with Down Syndrome. When the reader, Ariadne Meyers, spoke in Robbie’s voice she did indeed sound just like someone with Down Syndrome. Which at first made me sort of flinch because you instinctively think “someone is mimicking someone’s disability! That’s not nice!” But she is not making fun, just being an amazing actress and realistically bringing all the character’s to life. I will say though that then listening to the scene where some nasty children make fun of him and call him the R word and then he cries was so heartbreaking to listen to that both Tabby and I cried when we heard it. (Much like listening to The War that Saved My Life–hearing cruelty is worse than just reading the words.)

We were really captivated by this story and delighted to go to the library and find 5 more books in the series all sitting on the shelf. Since the audio version only appears to be around for book 1 we are going to read book 2 aloud together next.

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

goodbyeI have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I’m very proud of myself for listening to an entire adult audiobook-something that is rare for me. I’m just not a great listener-my mind wanders, unless it’s something very funny I find myself occasionally tuning out, and I have trouble finding the time to be able to listen by myself.  I picked this up because I’m beginning to quilt a quilt top and thought it would be the perfect listening opportunity. And, it was. Between that, doing dishes, and in the car I managed to finish this in about a week. That said, why should I be pleased with myself for listening when I didn’t really enjoy the book? It started off promising, what with a man’s dead wife returning to him, but by the end I was ready for it to be done.

I had chosen this book because I love Anne Tyler. In fact, one of my favorite books is Ladder of Years. The premise is that a man’s wife dies after a tree falls on his house, and it’s all about his trying to move on, while also telling the story of how he first became married to Dorothy. As far as it being an audiobook, one huge grating flaw for me was the narrator’s pronunciation of Dorothy. He said “DOOR-a-thy”, which I cannot stand. And her name comes up a lot. As for the book, there were basically no characters I liked. Dorothy sounded like the world’s frumpiest dud, and Aaron didn’t seem too much better.  I just couldn’t care for them and the story was not very compelling or moving.

Are These My Bazoombas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison

I hadn’t been planning on listening to any of the 10 choices from the Amazing Audiobooks list for this reading challenge, but my friend lent it to me and I had four days of Tabby at “camp”, and I decided to buckle down and listen and sew.  Because it’s British and funny I right away thought of my first very good audiobook experience-Bridget Jones’s Diary.  This is the 10th and final installment in the Georgia Nicholson series and although I haven’t read more than the first three (and many years ago, at that), I had not trouble knowing what was going on.

Part of the fun of these books is how slangy and crazily dramatic Georgia is, and that came across great on audio. I think I’d like to adopt the expression “nervy B”, as in “I think I’m going to have a nervy B if you don’t stop bothering me!”

I am definitely not a very good audiobook listener– a few times I walked out of the room, answered the phone, etc. without even thinking about the fact that the story was still going on (and I didn’t even rewind because it didn’t seem like I missed anything.) I did listen during some very late night driving on an unexpectedly long car trip, and it was quite the life saver.

The narrator was fantastic and the book very funny.