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Abby Arnold

Santa Monica, CA | Member Since 2005

  • 5 reviews
  • 60 ratings
  • 387 titles in library
  • 13 purchased in 2014

  • The Sisterhood

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Helen Bryan
    • Narrated By Laura Roppe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Reeling from a broken engagement, adopted 19-year-old Menina Walker flees to Spain to bury her misery by writing her overdue college thesis - and soon finds herself on an unexpected journey into the past. The subject of her study is Tristan Mendoza, an obscure 16th-century artist whose signature includes a tiny swallow - the same swallow depicted on a medal that is Menina’s only link to her birth family. Hoping her research will reveal the swallow’s significance and clue her in to her origins, Menina discovers the ancient chronicle of a Spanish convent containing the stories of five orphaned girls hidden from the Spanish Inquisition.

    Linda says: "Great way to enjoy a book!"
    "Good story; poor performance"

    There are some books that are enriched by their audio performance; this is not one of those.

    The story is interesting, tracing the history of a Catholic sisterhood that used its convent to protect non-Catholic (Jewish and Muslim) girls and women from the Church's Inquisition, eventually moving them to safety in South America. The author creates a character, a child adopted from South America by Southern Christians, who helps uncover some of the history and the secrets of Los Golondrinos, the Spanish sisterhood.

    The performance, however, does not add to the story. Most of the book is narrated in a fake Spanish accent, with some parts in a fake Southern accent. As someone who is familiar with the differences among Spanish, Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan, and Argentine accents, as well as the differences among various parts of the American South, the narrative voices were fake and annoying.

    The narrator also used a high-pitched fake Spanish accent for many of the nuns, especially the older ones. This was even more irritating to me as a listener.

    In the voice of a better narrator, or read on paper, this might be a better book.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • We Are Water: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Wally Lamb
    • Narrated By Wally Lamb, George Guidall, Maggi-Meg Reed, and others

    After 27 years of marriage and three children, Anna Oh - wife, mother, outsider artist - has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success. They plan to wed in the Oh family’s hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut. But the wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora’s Box of toxic secrets - dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.

    Suzn F says: "Lamb writes Fine Literature/What a Book!"
    "Well-written story, somewhat overtold"

    There is a lot to like in this new offering from Wally Lamb, a great contemporary novelist. Well-drawn characters, a compelling story line, and an excellent performance on Audible make it worth a listen. I am still arguing with myself about the quarrels I have with the story line and some of the components of its execution.

    One theme of We Are Water is the effects of childhood trauma on adult behavior and the development of one's own family. The two parents, Annie and Orion, each had atypical childhoods. While Annie's childhood was marked by severe trauma in the form of a flood that killed her mother and sister, her father's descent into alcoholism, her abuse at the hands of a cousin, and a long hitch in foster care, bi-racial Orion was never acknowledged by his father, and was raised by a single mother and his Italian-American grandparents. We Are Water focuses on the direct effects of Annie's upbringing, and glosses over the ways that Orion's childhood influenced his distance from his children, his willingness to overlook what was going on between Annie and the children, and the reasons why he chose a career as a therapist. There are some good linkages between Orion's therapy practice, which targets college students, and what is experienced by his own children, but in general, the story is largely about Annie.

    Another theme of We Are Water is what we mean when we say "love". Wally Lamb definitely takes me where I want to go with this one---love is unconditional, love is supportive, love is constant. Everyone gets that right in this story.

    A third theme of We Are Water is the toxicity of keeping secrets from the people you love. We learn that suppression of emotions and experience have horrible consequences. Orion, as a therapist, is in a strong position to make this connection. Although he is no longer practicing psychotherapy by the last part of the book, he is still the confessor for most of the family.

    There were several story elements that I found disappointing or distracting:
    • I kept expecting Viveca to do something bad. She seemed overly acquisitive about the Oh family's possessions, overly controlling, and narcissistic. That didn't happen, which was a good thing, but I felt like I had been taken down a road to nowhere.
    • The first-person story from Kent The Molester gave him too much credit. I felt that I was expected to sympathize with him, which I did not. Lamb did not have to prove that Kent was a person who consistently behaved badly, but he tried much too hard in We Are Water.
    • The Josephus Jones subplot failed to tie in to the story in a significant way. It seemed like a red herring when Viveca didn't become a greedy schemer to get those paintings, as I expected.
    • Orion did not need to have such a tragic outcome. I can see where Lamb (and probably his editors!) decided that something needed to happen to force the family to unite and gel. I don't think that was necessary in order to fulfill the story's thematic goals.
    • There was an odd scene in which Andrew's fiancee had a conversation with Dr. Laura Schlessinger on the radio.
    • The gay marriage subplot could have been better explored. Do Annie and Viveca have a lesbian social group? Why can't Orion be more angry about Annie leaving him for a woman, and yet guilty about having such thoughts? Why is Annie coming out now? Did her lesbianism result from the childhood abuse, or would she have been gay if her family had stayed intact? Did she ever have close friendships or attractions to women during the many years of her marriage to Orion?
    • Orion continues to hold onto a traditional concept of faith and religion, even after his life changes and he learns that he must rely on a community of love to care for him. Wally Lamb clearly knows that there are faith traditions available today that do not rely on a powerful and personal God as a higher power, but instead understand that a higher power can be defined as "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". Much of contemporary Unitarian Universalism is based on experiencing the power of community. Whether he considered it religion or not, I wish Orion had noted that love is a higher power, and that like water, love can fill all the nooks and crannies of our souls.

    A note on the performance: All the actors were good for the parts they read, and it was nice to hear the author read part of the story. Good job, Audible!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Family Fang

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Kevin Wilson
    • Narrated By Therese Plummer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist's work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents' madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents' strange world.

    B. Westman says: "Surprisingly Deep"
    "Perfect setup for a family drama"

    What happens when a pair of successful performance artists have children, what becomes of those children, and where does it take the art? The Family Fang explores these premises with insight and humor, while remaining true to the questions it poses.

    The Fangs are about as successful as performance artists can be, and when they have children (Child A and Child B) they include the children in their performance pieces. The children go along with it, as children do, but as they grow up they begin to question their participation and occasionally add their own touches, or resistance, to the pieces.

    We get to know Annie and Buster as adults who have been damaged in foreseeable ways by their odd family life, and we also get to know the Fang parents as they struggle to make sense of their art without their children's participation and support.

    There are plenty of deeply discussable topics---what can you ask of your children, how does this example of children working in their parents' business compare with children who work at their parents' retail business or gardening route, how do we handle our children leaving us, what does it mean to be damaged by our parents? My favorite among them is, of course, "WHAT IS ART?" which is a topic I could discuss forever.

    This is an engaging story, but the performance is outstanding and I imagine that the book is much better in the audio version than by eye-to-brain. It is one of those special performances that makes it worthwhile to be part of Audible. I'm led to figure out how to search Audible's library for other stellar performances. This performance is all the more impressive because it is all done by one voice actor, rather than an ensemble.

    Thanks, Audible, for introducing me to this novel.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Day for Night: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Frederick Reiken
    • Narrated By Laural Merlington, George K. Wilson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    If you look hard enough into the history of anything, you will discover things that seem to be connected but are not. So claims a character in Frederick Reiken's wonderful, surprising novel, which seems, in fact, to be determined to prove just the opposite.

    Abby Arnold says: "Good story, bad narrator"
    "Good story, bad narrator"

    This is one instance when I wish I had read the book in paper form rather than listening to it. The performance, especially the male narrator (George K. Wilson) really detracts from an interesting and compelling set of intertwined stories. Wilson reads so slowly that I checked my iPod to see if it was set on "slow" instead of "normal". Nope, it was just Mr. Wilson, who reads every syllable with plodding deliberation. I love audiobooks, and in many cases I find the story is enhanced by the performance. I'm posting this as a warning! On the other hand, it works very well as a sleep-inducing reading; just don't drive while listening!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Help

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Kathryn Stockett
    • Narrated By Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and others

    Why we think it’s a great listen: The most celebrated performance in all of Audible’s history, The Help has nearly 2,000 5-star reviews from your fellow listeners. We hear the print book’s not bad, either. In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another.

    Jan says: "What a great surprise!"
    "Great book, great performances"

    Some books just don't work in the audio format, and others are best when read aloud by talented voices. The Help is one of the best audiobooks I've discovered. The stories of the maids of Jackson Mississippi who raise the white children, cook all their meals, and hold them together unfold perfectly in the voices of Aibeleen, Minnie, and the young Skeeter. The Skeeter character could have been insipid, but she shines through as a real 1963 "coed" who questions the social rules of Jim Crow not because she learned to in college, or by reading philosophy, but because of her love for the woman who raised her. The tension of resolving mother love vs. caretaker love is explored with empathy for the children and the maids, and even for some of the 24 year old girls who find themselves married and involved in the Junior League.

    It is also a story of the power of stories, and the power of gossip, and the difference between the two. It was a surprise to find that some maids had only good stories to tell, while most others had a mix of good and bad.

    How do we resolve the relationships we have with people who are in a different culture or economic class, or both? The Help confirmed my belief in listening with kindness, respecting the humanity of each person, and speaking truth to power, and to each other.

    I listened to this entire book in three days, which meant that I stayed up too late and slacked off at work! Choose this book when you have the time to live in Jackson Mississippi over a few days. If this were a book, I would say it was one I couldn't put down. In audio format, the richness of the reading made it even harder to stop.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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