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Erika

Santa Barbara, CA, USA

78
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 9 reviews
  • 14 ratings
  • 31 titles in library
  • 0 purchased in 2014
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  • Happiness Sold Separately

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Lolly Winston
    • Narrated By Cassandra Campbell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (66)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    Elinor Mackey has always done the right things in the right order: college, law school, career, marriage. But now everything's going wrong. After two painful years of trying, Elinor has learned that she can't have children. All the doctors can tell her is that it's probably because of her age. As she turns 40, she withdraws into an interior world of heartbreak.

    Christine says: "I really loved it"
    "Cutesy and meandering"
    Overall

    I bought this audiobook because I've read (and re-read) "Good Grief," Winston's first piercingly funny and adroit novel. I'd hoped that Winston's second effort would be as rewarding, but it simply fell short of the standard she set with "Good Grief." It unfolded slowly, went nowhere remarkable, but quietly offered a gentle trip through audioland.

    Although the characters in "HSS" are likable -- almost too likable -- and the prose creative, the plot of this book meanders so much that I found myself distracted by the many secondary characters, and wondering where the story was going.

    Since the plot revolves around infertility and the havoc it wreaks in intimate relationships, I'm certain that Winston navigated her book's emotional geography supremely well (as she did so well with mourning and loss in "Good Grief") -- I don't know, since I've never wrestled with the issues that her characters do. However, I felt myself willing the plot to become more than a "chick lit" story, wanting to cheer on the author. Ultimately, as the last "pages" of denoument were read, I found myself wondering why I'd listened to the whole book.

    The book's narrator does a terrific job -- that's the good news. Her crisp, wry reading brings alive Winston's prose, and carries the book along.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Water for Elephants

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Sara Gruen
    • Narrated By David LeDoux, John Randolph Jones
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13311)
    Performance
    (5734)
    Story
    (5808)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be heard – Water for Elephants falls into the second group, and is one of the best examples we have of how a powerful performance enhances a great story. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

    Kindle Customer says: "Great Narration!!"
    "exquisite and riveting"
    Overall

    I concur with the many 5-star reviews for this audiobook: it's sensational. The two narrators bring an already exquisite story to life. Whoever chose these two talented readers deserves a place in the Audiobook Hall of Fame.

    Although the book it's around 12 hours, it unfolded well (only rarely did I feel impatient with its pace). I found myself looking for any excuse to get in the car or to go for a walk, just to listen to another chapter of this book. I was surprised by its poignant treatment of aging, as well as the twisting plot that chugged along to the dissonant ending. Highly recommended!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Eye Contact

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Cammie McGovern
    • Narrated By Julia Fletcher
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (49)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    Two children wander off from their school playground during recess. Hours later, they are found in the woods: one murdered, the other hiding near the body. Adam, the survivor and the only witness, is a nine-year-old autistic boy who cannot describe what he saw or heard.

    Erika says: "Lovely, complex, interwoven mystery"
    "Lovely, complex, interwoven mystery"
    Overall

    I loved this book as much for the depth of the characters as for the way that their lives and histories weave in and out together. I also admire the way that McGovern has created a mystery that centers around (and teaches about) autism, bullies, and the lives of special education children. I was riveted, and I was also kept hanging until the story's end (in fact, my only gentle criticism of the book is that it felt like there were many small endings, and that it took a long time to get to the final revelation of "whodunnit"). It didn't feel like a typical mystery, but the tension of unanswered questions created suspense that lasted until the last few minutes.

    The book's dialogue, between richly developed characters, stands out. The author has a gift for allowing information and feelings to come spooling out of conversations between the book's characters. It never seemed fake. Even better, the reader of this audiobook did a phenomenal job, creating many different voices to portray the wide range of characters.

    In short, a greatly enjoyable audiobook!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Dinner with Friends

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 35 mins)
    • By Donald Margulies
    • Narrated By full cast
    Overall
    (70)
    Performance
    (23)
    Story
    (24)

    Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for drama, Dinner with Friends examines the lives of two couples and the repercussions of divorce on their friendship. With wit, compassion, and consummate skill, playwright Donald Margulies weighs the costs of breaking up...and of staying together.

    Scott says: "I thought I was on Broadway"
    "Vivid and engrossing"
    Overall

    This is the first time I've listened to a play, with a cast of four actors (and the laughter of a live audience). I greatly enjoyed this play, and found myself "rewinding" frequently just to hear certain scenes again. The actors are fantastic, and bring depth and life to an already strong script, as two couples come to grips with a dissolving marriage among them. In this short play, each permutation of characters appears -- the women together, the men together, the couple whose marriage has failed -- allowing their history and peculiarities to rise to the surface and become visible. I also appreciated that the messiness of these relationships remains, up through the play's ending.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Gilbert
    • Narrated By Elizabeth Gilbert
    Overall
    (4747)
    Performance
    (1396)
    Story
    (1407)

    Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned 30, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be. To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. She got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world, all alone. This is the absorbing chronicle of that year.

    Kerry says: "Witty and Wonderful"
    "An Inner Journey within an External One"
    Overall

    I'd already read this book in hardback before buying the audiobook (I loved it that much), and discovered that Elizabeth Gilbert's reading of her own memoir revealed new depth, humor, and poignancy.

    (Please permit this technical note: If I could have, I would've deducted half a star from my rating on the grounds that Gilbert's voice is low and husky. I listened to this book mostly in my car, and at times her husky voice dropped so low that the reading becomes muffled or inaudible -- or maybe that's just how loud my car is! It is occasionally distracting, but not overly so.)

    This "travel" book is actually a tale of Gilbert's stripping away of the obstacles and existential plaque that had suffocated her carefully, but not thoughtfully, constructed life as a wife in the 'burbs. She treats the subject of her awakening and healing with great honesty, self-effacing humor, and a tremendous degree of likability. (I found myself wishing that she lived around the block, just because it would be so much fun to share an evening and a bottle of wine with her.)

    Gilbert's description of living (and eating) in Italy for 4 months, then spending 4 months in a Yoga ashram in India, then topping it off with 4 months in Indonesia do capture her environments, and the surrounding cultures. But this is not, strictly speaking, a "travel" book. You aren't going to hear as much about how Italians work as you are about how Liz Gilbert works (but it's hardly a loss). Be prepared to follow the thread of her self-discovery through a combination of woolgathering and self-reflection; be prepared to learn about the spiritual path of her Guru, which Gilbert follows and explains at length in the book's middle section. And get ready to laugh out loud!

    In summary, this book will long remain on my list of "Five books I would take with me if I had to live on a deserted island." I hope that others find it as enlightening and inspiring as I did.

    22 of 27 people found this review helpful
  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Joan Didion
    • Narrated By Barbara Caruso
    Overall
    (1292)
    Performance
    (424)
    Story
    (426)

    "Life changes fast....You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." These were among the first words Joan Didion wrote in January 2004. Her daughter was lying unconscious in an intensive care unit, a victim of pneumonia and septic shock. Her husband, John Gregory Dunne, was dead. The night before New Year's Eve, while they were sitting down to dinner, he suffered a massive and fatal coronary. The two had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years.

    Darwin8u says: "Sharp, sometimes funny, but always clear & precise"
    "disappointing but heartfelt"
    Overall

    I wanted very much to *love* this book. It fell short of my expectation. It was my first introduction to Joan Didion, and she did a very good job of reading it herself. (Can't you just hear the "but" coming....?)

    But....
    while Didion's book works in both the raw, emotional detritus from her grief and the clinical research studies that she depended on to lead her through the grief process, the word "pretentious" kept coming to mind as I listened to this book.

    I say "pretentious" because Didion's constant references to her glamorous literatti lifestyle are very distracting. As one example, she speaks about visiting her daughter in the hospital in LA, and how worried she was about money, and then proceeds to describe the luxury hotel in which she lives for a month.

    Didion's mannerisms are also irritating. Every time she references bringing her baby daughter home from the hospital -- which is a LOT of times -- she includes the name of the hospital and the city: "Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica..." It's a bizarre affectation that grated on my ears and nearly led me to turn off the darn book.

    Despite Didion's being in a somewhat different orbit than most people I know, her delicate exploration of grief was done well. It meanders, and criss-crosses time, but I think that accurately illustrates how grief makes people reel, as if there's no reliable context for them to continue their living.

    30 of 34 people found this review helpful
  • Trans-Sister Radio

    • ABRIDGED (5 hrs)
    • By Chris Bohjalian
    • Narrated By Judith Ivey
    Overall
    (73)
    Performance
    (23)
    Story
    (22)

    Four people in a small Vermont village are about to have their lives inexorably intertwined by the uncertainties of love...and the apparent absolutes of gender. Can love transcend biologic imperatives, ingrained notions of sexual preference, and the outrage of a small community?

    Erika says: "finely textured, gracefully written"
    "finely textured, gracefully written"
    Overall

    I'm a longtime fan of Chris Bohjalian, and have relished all of his fiction. It's no surprise to me that this book received a quiet reception, since one of its central characters is trans-sexual -- a complicated and mis-understood phenomenon. Bohjalian doesn't shy away from exploring the full range of conflicts and questions that arise when Dana, a male professor, falls in love with Allison in the tiny town of Bartlett, VT -- and then announces that he's in the process of gender reassignment. The complexity of this relationship includes its effects on Allison, a school teacher, and the town's residents.

    Allison's ex-husband, Will, and their daughter, Carly, are the other 2 characters that Bohjalian lends equal voice to as the novel shifts perspective over and over.

    Judith Ivey has done a phenomenal reading: she uses slight "accents" to distiguish between the multiple characters' perspectives. She also has a knack for bringing Bohjalian's thoughtful prose to life.

    Overall, this is one of the most compelling, intriguing books I've iPodded off of Audible. The timing of the story is just right, and the details and texture of its unfolding are satisfying. I didn't want it to end!

    The one caution I would grant to possible listeners is that some people are sure to have trouble listening to a novel that so prominently features trans-sexuality. Personally, I enjoyed it because I have several trans-sexual friends and this book is a marvelous portrayal of the breadth of a TS character; it is never sensationalistic. You WILL learn a great deal through Bohjalian's characters, and so I encourage you to take the risk.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • The Myth of You and Me: A Novel

    • ABRIDGED (4 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Leah Stewart
    • Narrated By Staci Snall
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (0)
    Story
    (0)

    The Myth of You and Me, the story of Cameron and Sonia's friendship, as intense as any love affair, and its dramatic demise, captures the universal sense of loss and nostalgia that often lingers after the end of an important relationship. Searingly honest, beautiful, and full of fragile urgency, The Myth of You and Me is a celebration and portrait of a friendship that will appeal to anyone who still feels the absence of that first true friend.

    Erika says: "clear, compelling, emotionally engaging"
    "clear, compelling, emotionally engaging"
    Overall

    I loved this book. I literally called in sick to a conference so that I could finish it! There's no "chick lit" schmaltz here or superficial gloss -- just great story-telling through time, vivid characters, and a slow build-up to a spare, gorgeous ending. I was so compelled by Stewart's language and prose. I hope that, like me, you'll be drawn in by this lovely book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen

    • ABRIDGED (5 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Julie Powell
    • Narrated By Julie Powell
    Overall
    (375)
    Performance
    (88)
    Story
    (90)

    With the humor of Bridget Jones and the vitality of Augusten Burroughs, Julie Powell recounts how she conquered every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and saved her soul.

    Elizabeth says: "A good laugh"
    "More 20-Something Angst (with humor) Than Food"
    Overall

    It took me a good 30 minutes to let go of my expectations for this book and let it be what it is: a witty exploration of one woman's "help I'm turning 30 and have no life" journey, with Julia Child as savior. It's a plus to have the author read her own work -- if you can ignore the frequent "up-swing" that peppers the reading -- and her observations never get mired in self-pity or whining. Powell has a remarkable ability to be self-deprecating and fetching while she explores a year of difficulties. You learn more about her circle of friends, and her circle of reality, than you do actual cooking. And it works.

    That being said, its downside is Powell's tendency to become a bit too self-centered (IMHO), and lose perspective (I can only hope that her brief albeit breezy treatment of 9/11 and the despair of victims' families was meant to be just that, breezy, and not callous). The premise -- the "Project" and its intensity, the ways its demands took over the Powells' life -- is clever and compelling. Eventually, however, I found myself shouting (to my iPod)what it took Powell's husband 11 months to say: "It's only mayonnaise!"

    In sum, an enjoyable memoir... if you don't mind the distraction of a 20-Something's navel-gazing (oh yeah: and lots of self-conscious use of the F-word).

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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