Wednesday, August 7, 2013

mini audiobook reviews: Dreaming in Chinese, The Obituary Writer, and Someday, Someday, Maybe

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows, narrated by Catherine Byers

Fallows, a linguist, begins learning Chinese in preparation for moving to China with her husband. Dreaming in Chinese is part travel memoir and part lingual study of the language. If you already know a lot (or perhaps even a little) about the language, this book may not have even travel to keep your interest. If, however, you know little about the Chinese language, this book is fascinating. I now better understand how and why Chinese native speakers speak English. And it reaffirmed my belief that I do not have the patience or fortitude to actually learn Chinese myself. If you opt to read this one, don't listen. The narration is pretty awful: Byers is an over-anunciator, which works well in some parts, as this is a book about the nuance of language, but it's distracting at others time. Byers doesn't bring any warmth to the travel parts, nor does she bring any nuance to the epiphanies, in language and culture, Fallows shares. Most annoying, there are numerous mentions of mentioning a key visual element as though the listener is looking at it. I switched to print to finish this one, and I was glad I did.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (audio: 2 out of 5)
Source: purchased

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood, narrated by Tavia Gilbert

Tavia Gilbert masterfully distinguishes between the two narrators: Claire, a pregnant young mother who is living in the DC suburbs and is obsessed with Jackie O. on the eve of JFK's inauguration, and Vivien, the titular obituary writer, who lives in Napa Valley in 1919. The two women are seemingly unrelated, but I wasn't fazed by this, as both stories were equally compelling. The Obituary Writer is one of those great novels that grew on me more as I listened. I liked it from the beginning, but I loved it by the end.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Source: library

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham, narrated by Lauren Graham

Florinda at the The 3R's Blog convinced me to listen to this one. Set in the mid-1990's, Graham tells the story of aspiring actress Franny. The glimpse into the hard years was fascinating, but I equally loved flashing back to 1995, when checking your answering machine meant finding a payphone to call it yourself. Franny is a delightful character, if not annoyingly self-deprecating at times. Graham narrates it beautifully, and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, despite its predictability.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (audio: 4.5 out of 5)
Source: purchased

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  1. I have to read Dreaming in Chinese. I became seriously fascinated with China and the language after my former boss taught there for 2 years. Her stories were incredible, and the short "lessons" she gave us on the language were equally enthralling.

    And I'm glad you liked The Obituary Writer! I thought the writing was gorgeous.

  2. I'm sort of curious about The Obituary Writer - I've seen it around and it definitely sounds like one I should try reading.


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