Two Audiobooks: “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr & “Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris

Considering that I was wary of audiobooks in the past, it’s a wonder that I listen to them so frequently now. I recently listened to three of them that were exciting and compelling, but I’ll discuss only two in this post because these two share some similarities.

In the past, I would struggle to focus on the story when I listened to audiobooks, so I instead listened only to audiobooks of stories I’d already read. It seems doing so has trained my ear or my brain to get used to this medium because now I focus on the story and remember what I heard, though my memory of the story isn’t as detailed as it is when I read the physical book or the e-book.

It could also be the genre of the stories I read that affected me so positively. By listening to the two in this post, I realized that the best type of audiobooks to listen to are thrillers. Thrillers often draw the reader in quickly and keep her hooked throughout as it twists and turns toward an explosive end. I was so hooked as I listened to these two that I completed both in a day each. I began with The Alienist because I am familiar with the show and wanted something to listen to at work. But I completed it on the same day I downloaded it, a Friday, so I downloaded Red Dragon to listen to on the following Monday. It was done by the Saturday evening.


The Alienist by Caleb Carr, narr. by Edward Herrmann

Genre:

Historical fiction; Mystery

Series:

Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, book 1

Pubbed:

May 1994

Goodreads summary:

New York, 1896: Lower Manhattan’s underworld is ruled by a new generation of cold-blooded criminals…Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt battles widespread corruption within the department’s ranks…and a shockingly brutal murder sets off an investigation that could change crime-fighting forever.

In the middle of a wintry March night, New York Times reporter John Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a brilliant pioneer in the new and much-maligned discipline of psychology, the emerging study of society’s “alienated” mentally ill. There they view the horribly mutilated body of a young boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan’s infamous brothels. Supervised by Commissioner Roosevelt, the newsman and his “alienist” mentor embark on a revolutionary attempt to identify the killer by assembling his psychological profile — a dangerous quest that takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before…and will kill again before the hunt is over. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

So I thought this book was written in the 1890s, but it’s not. It was published in 1994. It is set in the mid-1890s, however, at a time when psychology was just being introduced in police investigation. Well, that’s the impression I got from the story. It was like an episode of Criminal Minds set in the past except the group of investigators were just beginning to apply psychology to a criminal cases. And, like Criminal Minds, the characters try to derive the murderer’s motive and dig into his past to learn how he became who he is.

Told from the perspective of New York Times reporter John Moore, The Alienist is about a criminal investigation led by noted psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a friend of Moore’s, as the pair work with a group of selected individuals who are trying to stop a serial killer whose targets are boy prostitutes. Back when I was convinced this was written in the 1890s, I thought the story was very progressive for its time due to the opinions and sensibilities expressed by some of the characters. But though I later learned that the work is contemporary but just set in the past, it didn’t lessen my appreciation that the story/author tries to avoid promoting hurtful messages through the story.

I thought the story was well done. It was thrilling and compelling and the mystery kept me wondering who the serial killer might be and what motivated him to commit the murders. The narration was okay. The narrator’s voice was almost a monotone, so it didn’t stick out to me and neither added nor detracted from my enjoyment of the story. It allowed the story, the author’s work, to stand out more and, because the story is so gripping, I sped through it to the end because I wanted to know how things would unfold.

Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½

It was a good read. It was entertaining. I haven’t watched the entire TV show, I only saw part of the first episode, but I might take a look at it if I find it on Netflix. Though I enjoyed listening to this book, I doubt I’ll continue with the series, unless of course I’m bored at work again and need something to occupy my mind. Then, I might download the sequel to listen to.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, narr. by Chris Sarandon

Genre:

Thriller

Series:

Hannibal Lecter, book 1

Pubbed:

November 1981

Goodreads summary:

A quiet summer night…a neat suburban house…and another innocent, happy family is shattered — the latest victims of a grisly series of hideous sacrificial killings that no one understands, and no one can stop. Nobody lives to tell of the unimaginable carnage. Only the blood-stained walls bear witness.

All hope rests on Special Agent Will Graham, who must peer inside the killer’s tortured soul to understand his rage, to anticipate and prevent his next vicious crime. Desperate for help, Graham finds himself locked in a deadly alliance with the brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the infamous mass murderer who Graham put in prison years ago. As the imprisoned Lecter tightens the reins of revenge, Graham’s feverish pursuit of the Red Dragon draws him inside the warped mind of a psychopath, into an unforgettable world of demonic ritual and violence, beyond the limits of human terror. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

I’m weird. I was convinced the book that was written in the 1990s was actually published in the 1890s, and when I started reading the book published in the 1980s, I thought it was published in the late 1990s. My reading experience with these two audiobooks has been odd.

I’ve wanted to read Red Dragon for some time now because I wanted to try the Hannibal Lecter books. I remember watching Silence of the Lambs when I was younger, though all I recall about the movie now is Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter standing prim and straight in his cell to welcome Clarice Sterling (Jodie Foster) with a creepy “Hello Clarice,” and being fascinated by the story. Later when I watched Hannibal Rising and then learned of the book Red Dragon, I fused the two in my mind and convinced myself that Red Dragon, since it precedes the book Silence of the Lambs, is about a younger Hannibal Lecter. It’s not. It’s about someone else — some dude obsessed with William Blake’s painting “Red Dragon.”

When this story begins, Hannibal has already been caught and is chilling in prison. The story follows the detective who caught him, Special Agent Will Graham, who decides to help a colleague catch a serial murderer who has committed several grisly murders of entire families. Like The Alienist, Graham and his colleague try to determine what motivates the killer and what might have occurred in the killer’s childhood to propel him toward such a grim, dark path.

Though Red Dragon wasn’t the story of Hannibal’s childhood that I was expecting, it nevertheless kept my interest and I quickly completed it. It was interesting to be provided with several points of view, including Hannibal’s and the serial killer’s, and I like that these perspectives were sometimes unreliable because I didn’t see the twist at the end coming until I got to it. I do like the niggling of doubt and uncertainty inserted when Hannibal told Graham that he’s good at his job because Graham is just like the murderers he tries to catch. For a moment there, I suspected Graham and thought him guilty of getting a journalist killed. (Graham didn’t like the journalist dude and he said and did things in an interview that made the journalist a target for the killer.) But by the end, I doubted that and didn’t know what to think about Graham. I just hope I’ll learn more about him in the other books, if I decide to read them.

The narration isn’t noteworthy. It wouldn’t have stood out to me if the audio quality didn’t sound weird. It was as if there was an echo…or that the narrator did the recording in a hollow-sounding place, like a cave or a bathroom.

Overall: ★★★☆☆

Another thrilling read that kept me hooked throughout. I don’t plan to continue the series, but if I need something to listen to while at work, I’ll probably download the sequel Silence of the Lambs.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass
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“To Night Owl from Dogfish” by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer

This was a sweet story and a fun read. I heard of it from Book Riot’s All the Books podcast and decided to try it because Liberty said it’s like The Parent Trap and I loved that movie (both the original with Hayley Mills and the remake with Lindsey Lohan).

Genre:

Middle-grade contemporary

Pubbed:

February 2019

Quick summary:

When Bett Devlin learns that her dad is conspiring with his new boyfriend to send her and his boyfriend’s daughter to summer camp, she reaches out to the boyfriend’s daughter, Avery Bloom, so that they can devise a plan to thwart their fathers’ intention.

The fathers are single gay dads who met at a conference and started to date. They’d like their daughters to get along, so they conspire to send them to the same summer camp; but Bett and Avery have other plans and instead vow NOT to be friends and definitely not let their dads date each other. But nothing goes as planned.

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“The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey

Sometime last year, I listened to an episode of Myths & Legends podcast (Ep. 96 – Russian Folklore: Cold as Ice) that discussed folktales about snow children. It got me wondering about Eowyn Ivey’s book The Snow Child. I wondered if Ivey’s novel was similar to the stories I heard on the podcast. I got curious and was tempted to read the novel, which I’d bought in the previous year because bloggers and booktubers were all speaking of it and saying how great the story and the prose are.

But I procrastinated on reading the book and didn’t do so until January this year thinking that winter may be the best time to read it. It was and it was pretty good.

Genre:

Historical fiction
Magical realism

Pubbed:

February 2012

Quick summary:

It’s the 1920s in America — the Jazz Age, the Roaring Twenties with great outrageous parties filled with pump and style. But we get none of that glitz and glamour of the 1920s in The Snow Child. Instead, the story sits us on a quiet homestead in Alaska where an old couple live.

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“Holidays on Ice” by David Sedaris

Whenever I write a review of a book I listened to, the review becomes a reflection of my experience listening to the story told to me rather than my thoughts on the story. I always have to start with such a reflection because listening to audiobooks is still a new experience for me, one that I’m surprised I’ve stuck with for so long and have taken a liking to.

I would never have thought of myself as an avid listener of audiobooks, but the format is growing on me, especially since I mostly listen to it at work and most of my duties there are dull and repetitive so I look for other things to engage my mind. I surprised myself that I’m able to pay attention to and remember what’s said. I’m a visual learner and I struggle sometimes to focus when only listening, but it seems that my increasingly frequent use of audiobooks is training me to learn and remember things in a different way.

Unfortunately, this new turn in my learning development is slow and happened after I read Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.

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“The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais” (illus.), transl. by Jeremy Melloul

The first picture book I read this year gives me a story about a little wolf in a red cloak travelling through the wood to visit his grandmother.

What does that remind you of?

Genre:

Children’s fantasy

Pubbed:

June 2014

Quick overview:

The Little Red Wolf is a children’s picture book that’s inspired by Charles Perrault’s fairytale Little Red Riding Hood.

It was originally published in French but was translated to English by Jeremy Melloul. The English version was published in October 2017. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I borrowed this book from the library, but I was delighted by what I read. I became aware of the book through booktube so when I saw it at the library, I grabbed it.

The Little Red Wolf gives us a Little Red Riding Hood story with a twist — it’s from the perspective of a wolf. I don’t believe that’s a spoiler since you can deduce that much from the cover. It’s a sweet, charming tale about a little wolf travelling through the forest to his grandmother’s home to bring her some food since she has lost all her teeth and can no longer hunt.

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“Behind the Canvas” by Alexander Vance

I forgot where I first heard of this book. It must have been on a booktube channel or while perusing Book Outlet for books to buy. It’s weird, but a few of the books on my Goodreads TBR were added because I saw them on Book Outlet but didn’t want to purchase them at the time. Basically, I was drawn to them because of the cover or, in this case, the title.

I love art and enjoy visiting art museums. I’ve often thought it would be cool to read a fantasy novel where the protagonist has to enter paintings and pictures; so when I saw the title of this book and read the synopsis, I got excited. It’s the type of story I’ve daydreamed about.

Genre:

Middle-grade fantasy

Pubbed:

2016

Quick overview:

Behind the Canvas is a stand-alone middle-grade fantasy novel about a girl named Claudia Miravista who loves art but has no close friends. While on a fieldtrip to a local art museum in her hometown in Illinois, she notices a boy with bright blue eyes in a painting. But when she points him out to two of her classmates, she realizes he has disappeared.

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“Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow” by Jessica Townsend

Thinking Nevermoor was probably overhyped, I avoided reading it for as long as I could. But the book is mentioned so often by bloggers and booktubers I follow that I got curious. It wasn’t until I read the Captain’s review of it that I decided to give the book a try.

I placed the book on hold at my library, which had it on order, and was glad that I was first in line to receive it. I began reading as soon as I got it and was immediately sucked in. I enjoyed visiting Nevermoor.

Genre:

Middle-grade fantasy

Series:

Nevermoor, book 1

Pubbed:

2017

Quick overview:

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is a middle-grade fantasy novel about a girl, Morrigan, who everyone believes is cursed because she was born on Eventide, an unlucky day to be born. Children born on this day are blamed for everything that goes wrong within their vicinity…or town. (Morrigan is blamed for every misfortune.) It’s also said that cursed children don’t live past age 11 because they die at midnight on their 11th birthday when the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow comes after them. (Morrigan dreads this.)

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