Friday, July 19, 2013

a pair of audiobook reviews: My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor & Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures

narrated by Rita Moreno

The basics: Sonia Sotomayor, the newest U.S. Supreme Court justice, writes about her life until she became a judge.

My thoughts: I didn't know much about Sonia Sotomayor going into this memoir. I knew her appointment to the Supreme Court was historic because she was the first Hispanic on the Court, as well as only the third woman. Something you may not know about me: when I was younger, I wanted to be a judge. I was convinced I could tolerate a few years as a lawyer if I had to, but I was destined for being a judge. Clearly, that didn't happen, but I delighted in Sotomayor's childhood dream of becoming a judge too. She has perseverance I don't, and I appreciated her methodical approach to everything. She's unbelievably driven and inspiring.

Favorite passage:  "You cannot value dreams according to their odds of coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward."

The verdict: Sotomayor's drive is even more remarkable given the circumstances of her childhood. If I didn't know differently, I would have a hard time believing her career trajectory was true. Sotomayor is an inspiration. Her spirit, intelligence, dedication and loyalty are admirable. That I finished this memoir on the day DOMA was struck down was truly a blessed coincidence. I marveled at the impact on history this little girl from Hunt's Point is making, and she's nowhere near done yet.

Audio thoughts: Sotomayor narrates the introduction, and it was the perfect set-up to this memoir as it gave me a glimpse of the woman herself. She also explains her hesitation to share her story and her decision to end the book when she first becomes a judge, in 1992. As the audio shifted to Rita Moreno's narration for chapter one, it was initially slightly jarring, and I missed Sotomayor's voice. Soon, however, I adjusted, and I adored Moreno's narration. So much of Sotomayor's early history features Spanish, and Moreno's narration made me feel apart of it. She nails Sotomayor's introspective nature and reads with beautiful emotion at her moments of triumph, defeat, sadness, and celebration.

Rating: 5 out of 5 (book); 5 out of 5 (narration)
Length: 353 pages (12 hours and 27 minutes)
Publication date: January 15, 2013
Source: purchased at Audible

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy My Beloved World from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub

narrated by Molly Ringwald

The basics: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, Emma Straub's first novel, is the life story of Laura Lamont, born Elsa Emerson in Door County, Wisconsin. Elsa flees Wisconsin and heads to Hollywood, where she dreams of stardom.

My thoughts: I have a soft spot for Midwestern tales and Hollywood tales, so this novel is right up my alley. After thoroughly enjoying Emma Straub's short story collection, Other People We Married (which I seem to have not reviewed--for shame!), particularly "Fly Over State," which perfectly captured my feelings about moving from New York to Iowa as an academic, I was eager to see her tackle a historical novel. There's a quietness to Laura's story I enjoyed. She certainly faces her fair share of tragedy (and mercifully, some success too). This delicateness stems from the movement of time, I think. Straub doesn't dwell on those moments of sorrow, instead she moves Laura's story along.

The verdict: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures is a lovely historical novel. Straub's characters shine brightest here, and my eagerness to see where and how Elsa would become Laura continued as Laura navigated life in Hollywood.

Audio thoughts: I have mixed thoughts on Molly Ringwald's narration. At times it felt very cold. I did feel she improved as the book went on--her voice worked better for older Elsa than younger Elsa. Overall, it was an average audio performance. It didn't enhance my enjoyment of the book, but it didn't detract from it either.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (book); 3.5 out of 5 (narration)
Length: 320 pages (9 hours and 36 minutes)
Publication date: September 4, 2012 (it's in paperback now)
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Emma Straub's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. I listened to Molly Ringwald's narration of The Middlesteins, and she does have a very flat, emotionless voice. Interesting choice for a narrator...

  2. Now I really want to read My Beloved World! I've read nothing but positive things about this book.

  3. I'm dying to read Sotomayor's book -- I almost never read memoirs but hers is one that really intrigues me -- esp now after your high review!


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