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NMwritergal

Albuquerque, NM
  • 211
  • reviews
  • 1,683
  • helpful votes
  • 983
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  • The Line Becomes a River

  • Dispatches from the Border
  • By: Francisco Cantú
  • Narrated by: Francisco Cantú
  • Length: 6 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 382
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 347
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 346

For Francisco Cantú, the border is in the blood: His mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Driven to understand the hard realities of the landscape he loves, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the patrol for civilian life. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Such a powerful message

  • By Amazon Customer on 03-01-18

Interesting enough story...

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-06-19

...but as so often happens, about one minute in, the words "Oh, this person has an MFA," run though my mind. I usually wait till halfway though the book to check, and I'm rarely wrong. There's a kind of sameness in memoirs from those who have Master's degrees in creative nonfiction. The advantage to the MFA is the reader is guaranteed good writing. The same cannot be said given the proliferation of poorly written celeb memoirs, "abuse" memoirs, etc. that litter the landscape.

The story itself: interesting enough but I would have liked a little more context. Also an acknowledgement of a massive amount of reconstructed dialogue that Cantu could not possibly have remembered to that degree of detail. Maybe in the print version he acknowledges this fact, but he reads the audio version so you'd think he would consider it important enough to mention.

  • The Electric Woman

  • A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts
  • By: Tessa Fontaine
  • Narrated by: Tessa Fontaine
  • Length: 13 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 29
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28

 

Turns out, one lesson applies to living through illness, keeping the show on the road, letting go of the person you love most, and eating fire: The trick is there is no trick. You eat fire by eating fire. Two journeys - a daughter’s and a mother’s - bear witness to this lesson in The Electric Woman

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Love this book.

  • By sdenise on 06-16-18

How did she actually make a side show boring?

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-25-18

Woman runs off to join the last traveling side show in the US some years after her mother's constant and debilitating strokes. How could this be boring? It was. Not boring enough to stop reading, but I wouldn't recommend it.

This feels like two books: very well-written vignettes about her mother's strokes and a bit about family and her childhood and an adequately written story of the few months she worked in a traveling side show, which was linear. She even titles sections day 5 of 150 and such.

The problem with the side show is that it's just...that. Maybe because they aren't really allowed to associate with other carnies or people at the various fairs and carnivals they travel to, maybe because all they do is work or perform, there is absolutely no setting outside the side show. She says they're in WI, MN, etc. but not one iota of description of place. I think there's more descriptions of Walmart than any other setting. They tend to go shopping after midnight and are allowed about an hour and a half at the Mall of America during the day when they're at the MN state fair. Also not much character development, which is a little strange because she's with her fellow side show artists 24/7.

The author does an excellent job of describing the sideshow life, acts, what they do on a day-to-day basis but it just isn't all that interesting. There's no real historical context or even much context as it pertains to her life. I think she joins because of a childhood fascination and just has to get away from what's happening with her mother--and can because her stepfather is taking care of her mother. But if the author stripped out the entire story of her mother, nobody ever would have known it was there. There seems to be no connection between the two stories. I kept looking for something explicit, or a metaphor for what the sideshow has to do with the other part of the story, but never really found one. Still, without the story of her mother, this book would have been a one star read.

  • Heartland

  • A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth
  • By: Sarah Smarsh
  • Narrated by: Sarah Smarsh
  • Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 236
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 212
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 210

During Sarah Smarsh’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, the forces of cyclical poverty and the country’s changing economic policies solidified her family’s place among the working poor. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country and examine the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • My favorite memoir of 2018

  • By NMwritergal on 11-25-18

My favorite memoir of 2018

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-25-18

I've read a massive amount of nonfiction this year, including memoir, and this is my favorite memoir of 2018.

Unlike many memoirs, there is some political and cultural context here. Also, unlike many memoirs, this is not just the author's story but the story of both sides of her family (going back a couple of generations), the story of a place, a time, class, the politics of the time, farming, etc. So it doesn't suffer from the self-absorption that memoir can. In fact, she leaves so much out of her own story that there are a few lines near the end of the book that are so strange and jarring that I felt like Smarsh had probably written about that particular subject, edited it out of the story, and all that remained were these few lines as an accidental artifact. There are another few lines she tosses in that were kind of shock because it completely changed the way I thought about her and they weren't mentioned till the end. I Googled after reading the book to see if there was anything else by her on audio and--another shock--she's very pretty, but that's pretty much left out of the book and it's that would have informed the story a little more, i.e., her two biggest desires: Not be a teenage mom and to get an education. While I pretty much understood from how Smarsh wrote the story that breaking a generational pattern of teenage motherhood would be difficult, I have to imagine it was even more for a very pretty teenager.

Don't let the "you" she occasionally addresses put you off. While it is threaded through the book, it fades as the book goes on. It was a sort of interesting literary device and she claims that it's true--she really did speak to that "you" so go with it!

If you don't read a zillion books a year and are choosing between popular ones this year (like Educated), choose this one. The writing is far better and the fact that this isn't a story of a childhood that populated by violent, mentally ill religious nuts, a childhood that most people can't imagine like in Educated, but in the end is so much more interesting says a lot about Smarsh's skill as a writer.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Dopesick

  • By: Beth Macy
  • Narrated by: Beth Macy
  • Length: 10 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 895
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 815
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 813

In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America's 20-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs; from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns; it's a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched. Through unsparing, yet deeply human portraits of the families and first responders struggling to ameliorate this epidemic, each facet of the crisis comes into focus.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazingly sad scary and informative.

  • By Roberta Rose on 08-13-18

A structural nightmare

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-25-18

I mean the book, not the structure of big pharma or the US--though those are nightmares too.

This is one of those books with so many people and places that it would be hard to keep them all straight even if the author had told a more organized story. But this jumps from people, places, time, etc. And there doesn't even seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when the author decides to write about OxyContin or heroin. Add to that, there's not a lot of organization about the discussion around drug addiction, e.g., treatment, the why of addiction, court battles, etc. It feels as if the author wrote separate vignettes and then took no care whatsoever into shaping the narrative and the editor didn't bother either.

Because there are so many people discussed in this book, the author doesn't have the time (or the skill?) to make you care about any of them. There's hundreds of people--people who OD'd and died, doctors, law enforcement, parents, etc. and they're just a statistic to me because there's not time or space to flesh them out for the most part.

If you're interested in narrative nonfiction from a journalistic standpoint, read Janesville by Amy Goldstein. It's not about drugs but I'd put it in the same category of: Here's another way that America is falling apart.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Janesville

  • An American Story
  • By: Amy Goldstein
  • Narrated by: Joy Osmanski
  • Length: 10 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 320
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 272
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 273

A Washington Post reporter's intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin - Paul Ryan's hometown - and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class. This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its factory stills - but it's not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next, when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • How did I miss this one in 2017?

  • By NMwritergal on 11-25-18

How did I miss this one in 2017?

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-25-18

This is literary nonfiction/journalism at its best: great story, writing, structure, and very informative. I think this is probably my favorite nonfiction read of 2018.

I read this right after Sarah Smarsh's memoir Heartland (which I also loved) and was looking for something in a similar vein. This is written by a journalist (it's not a memoir), which I often prefer because it takes a wider view: the people, the place, the politics, the time, the history, different POVs (the people who were laid off, business people, people in government, children, teachers, etc.) Smarsh's book did that more than most memoirs, but when it's not a first-person story, and Janesville isn't, you LEARN much more.

Goldstein had just the right amount of each category and told a pretty straight-ahead story with minimal flashbacks. I appreciate that even more because the book I'm listening to now (Dopesick) is such a structural nightmare with so many people and places, I can't keep anyone or anywhere straight.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Blue Dreams

  • By: Lauren Slater
  • Narrated by: Betsy Foldes Meiman
  • Length: 13 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 199
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 177
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 178

Blue Dreams offers the explosive story of the discovery, invention, people, and science behind our licensed narcotics, as told by a riveting writer and psychologist who shares her own intimate experience with the highs and lows of psychiatry's drugs. Lauren Slater's account ranges from the earliest, Thorazine and lithium, up through Prozac and other antidepressants, as well as Ecstasy, "magic mushrooms", the most cutting-edge memory drugs, and even neural implants. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Sobering

  • By Laura J on 06-01-18

If it were fiction she'd be an unreliable narrator

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-11-18

The author has been on pysch meds for 40 years and says they've destroyed her health, yet she keeps piling them on and trying new ones. But the most disturbing part is when she's interviewing a man who's conducting one of the only legal studies on MDMA (Ecstasy) if he'd give her two pills so she and her husband can take them together to save their marriage. Wow. Bad judgment and boundaries. She's asking this man to risk his career and really? One dose is going to save their marriage? He says no because she's taking an SSRI (bet that easy out was a relief). But she goes to a therapist and tries to convince her to give her Ecstasy. The therapist won't. Yet the author won't get it from the street? Seriously? She's taking/has taken everything under the sun. She's worried about illegal Ecstasy? So she doesn't get any and remains convinced that even though she and her husband are now divorced that one day they'll take it together and hopefully get back together.

The author's writing was excellent and it seems like her research at least seemed sound, but I had a hard time trusting what she said. I'm just not sure someone who worships at the alter of any available drug is someone I can trust.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Things Left Unsaid

  • By: Courtney Walsh
  • Narrated by: Jess Nahikian
  • Length: 11 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11

Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best - and worst - memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Love

  • By Amazon Customer on 01-11-19

Christian fiction NOT contemporary fiction

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-31-18

My pet peeve is miscategorizing books. Most notably calling romance or Christian fiction "contemporary fiction," two categories I can't stand.

I think the only thing the author does well is wait a few chapters before laying on the Christian stuff. Alas, 3 pastors (one the head of a mega church with 25,000 members), a "bad boy" who goes to church and is a member of a "worship team" (no idea what that is, and it's not explained), and a THERAPIST who has "lost her faith" but used to tell her clients to read the bible and pray, qualifies as Christian fiction. It also qualifies the author as...clueless. I guess you don't need a Masters degree to be a therapist. I guess you can just impose your religious views on others. Sure, great idea.

I ended up "hate reading" (or "hate listening") this book, though after the first few hours I dozed through about half of this interminable story of people who hate themselves for their perceived wrongs. All the internal dialogue and thoughts of self-loathing were a bit much. And everyone seemed to have the mental maturity of teenagers, which added to the one-note quality of the story.

Just as bad: the audio narrator. While she had a very nice voice and performed the two 28-yr-old women's voices well, the other voices (especially the male voices) we about as atrocious as I've ever heard, and this narrator will go on my "never again" list. It could also be used as an example of what not to do as an audio performer.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Steelheart

  • The Reckoners, Book 1
  • By: Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
  • Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29,041
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26,868
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26,909

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will. Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • He got the idea from a near traffic accident

  • By Don Gilbert on 09-26-13

All action and little character development

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-20-18

Interesting premise but an annoying main character (18-yr-old BOY--very immature) who is obsessed with another female character a couple of years older to the point of silliness. They are constantly in danger of being killed and he's staring at her breasts, thinking about her hair, etc. Also It's just one action scene after another.

  • Never Stop Walking

  • A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World
  • By: Christina Rickardsson, Tara F. Chace - translator
  • Narrated by: Siiri Scott
  • Length: 9 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 111
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 101
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 100

Christiana Mara Coelho was born into extreme poverty in Brazil. After spending the first seven years of her life with her loving mother in the forest caves outside São Paulo and then on the city streets, where they begged for food, she and her younger brother were suddenly put up for adoption. When one door closed on the only life Christiana had ever known, a new one opened. As Christina Rickardsson, she’s raised by caring adoptive parents in Sweden, far from the despairing favelas of her childhood. Accomplished and outwardly “normal”, Christina is also filled with rage over what she’s lost....

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • A Vent

  • By Susan on 06-30-18

Interesting story but the writing (or translation)

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-18-18

...doesn't even rise to the level of "adequate."

I don't like to read books in translation because you never know if the translation improved the writing or made it worse. The writing in Rickardsson's book is so very basic I'm not sure how it got published. There's lots of telling (and very little showing), not an unusual sentence in sight, no interesting metaphors, similes, description, etc. The audio narrator valiantly tried to enhance the story by infusing some emotion into it but alas...

I'm not sure why I kept listening other than the fact that I lived in São Paulo for six months while the author was a child on the streets there--and it was free with KU. So I listened to most of it with half an ear.

  • Boom Town

  • The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding... its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis
  • By: Sam Anderson
  • Narrated by: Sam Anderson
  • Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 217
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 199
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 198

Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stake their claims. Since then, it has been a city torn between the wild energy that drives its outsize ambitions and the forces of order that seek sustainable progress.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • OKC’s Past & Present Weaved Together

  • By dan on 09-09-18
  • Boom Town
  • The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding... its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis
  • By: Sam Anderson
  • Narrated by: Sam Anderson

What? This is listed under Sports > Basketball??

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-23-18

If I had actually seen how this was listed, I never in a million years would have listened to it. I heard the author on NPR and it sounded interesting, so I got it. Yes, there is basketball (surprisingly interesting), but there's so much more. Anderson is not only an excellent (and very creative) writer, but his narration was equally good.

It was quite a feat to weave all of these threads from the founding of OKC to the present day. Sometimes I did find myself wanting to stay with a particular timeline or story, but nope--we were blown ever onward like the relentless Oklahoma wind. The structure mirrors the story. In the end, I felt satisfied with how each story line with each "character" wraps up.

And now I'm going to see if Anderson has anything else on audio...