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Maria Giovanni

Berkeley, CA United States | Member Since 2004

  • 3 reviews
  • 274 ratings
  • 648 titles in library
  • 22 purchased in 2014

  • A Queer and Pleasant Danger: A Memoir

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Kate Bornstein
    • Narrated By Alice Rosengard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Kate Bornstein - gender theorist, performance artist, author - is set to change lives with her compelling memoir. Wickedly funny and disarmingly honest, this is Bornstein's most intimate book yet, encompassing her early childhood and adolescence, college at Brown, a life in the theater, three marriages and fatherhood, the Scientology hierarchy, transsexual life, LGBTQ politics, and life on the road as a sought-after speaker.

    Angel says: "I Pray Jessica Reads this Book"
    "Charming, Compelling Memoir"
    Any additional comments?

    20130419 ◊ I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that Kate Bornstein never made a ping on my radar before. I vaguely remember hearing about "Gender Outlaws" many years ago, but honestly -- most books on queer/feminist/gender theory make me want to claw my eyes out. So even if I'd had prior knowledge of her performance art and life story to motivate me, I'm not convinced that I'd have dug into her earlier written work.

    No matter! Fortunately for me - and for everyone even slightly interested in her life story - Ms. Bornstein has written a charming, compelling, intelligent, heart-wrenching, brutally honest, and deeply moving memoir that I cannot recommend highly enough. Part transsexual bildungsroman, part Scientology tell-all, and part love-letter to her estranged daughter and grandchildren: this book manages to weave each of these elements into a cohesive, riveting story without deteriorating into car-crash pathos or saccharine sweetness. A few descriptions of tranny/queer sex and bdsm might be shocking to some, but Bornstein presents these topics with such lusty good-will and compassion for her less kinky readers (at one point even directing them to the first sentence of the next section past a particularly intense sadomasochistic scene) that you can't help grinning at her delightful, consensual depravity. Or at least, I couldn't. :)

    Bornstein's journey towards acceptance, integration, and self-fulfillment is both fascinating and inspiring. I can only hope that others wring as much enjoyment out of this book as I've been able to! It's been quite a while since I've felt actively grateful that a book was written, simply for my own greedy joy in the reading of it.

    Alice Rosengard's sweetly arch tone throughout the audiobook is spot-on. Brava!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Oprah's Book Club 2.0)

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Cheryl Strayed
    • Narrated By Bernadette Dunne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State - and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

    FanB14 says: "Glad I Took the Trip"
    "Dingbat: Self-Absorbed and Unprepared on the PCT"
    Any additional comments?

    20140513 ◊ As an avid backpacker, I read this book with keen interest in the story of a woman completing a solo hike of the PCT. As a meticulous trip planner and methodical researcher, I cringed through the author's descriptions of her own lack of preparation and systemic dingbattedness. The best thing I can say about this book is that Cheryl Strayed is a decent writer. The only thing I can admire about her story is the sheer tenacity she displayed by staying on the trail, even though she skipped huge chunks of the actual PCT. Narration of the audiobook by Bernadette Peters completely missed the mark; her raspy voice didn't match the story's perky protagonist.

    This book left a bad taste in my mouth. The author's story is not inspirational in the slightest; I don't understand why it's getting so much attention. A shallow, spoiled brat of a woman, Strayed was only able to complete as much of the PCT as she did by relying upon the kindness of others. I was so tired of reading about how everyone fawned over her that by the time she got kicked out of the RV park for not being able to pay the camping fee, I cheered out loud. This is not the story of a strong, capable woman; it's the story of a hapless nincompoop whose only redeeming quality was a desperation-tinged determination to "complete" the PCT. Best as a cautionary tale on how not to plan a long backpacking trip, solo or otherwise.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Helene Wecker
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

    Tango says: "Enchanting Debut Novel - Delicious!"
    "Lyrical, Mystical Urban Fairy Tale"
    Any additional comments?

    201400320 ◊ This book was simply lovely. The story features two impossible creatures, who live and meet in New York City circa 1899. The worlds they inhabit - both past and present - are lovingly and skillfully described by first-time author Helene Wecker. The plot follows the personal stories of many fascinating characters; the way their lives unfold and intertwine is well-paced, sometimes surprising, and always satisfying. I was looking for a solid, enjoyable, one-off story to read after having finished making my way through a long-slog seven-book series; The Golem and the Jinni fit the bill perfectly. I can't think of anyone to whom I wouldn't recommend this book! Skillful narration of the audiobook by George Guidall made this an easy and enjoyable listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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