I could understand if folks have a higher opinion of the book than I came away with, but I really wasn't able to identify with the author, being neither Jewish, nor a basketball fan, nor knowledgeable of the music to which he sometimes refers. The "Jewish angle" seemed little more than a marketing hook to me - he makes no dietary concession at all, presumably eating pork during his time there, though he does host a Friday "Shabbat night" for his Chinese students. Unlike in Hessler's book, we get little insight into the teaching experience itself, with the emphasis placed on the personality of his students, the basketball playing (which to be fair includes a fascinating encounter with a fortune teller), as well as his friendship with a local ethnic minority family. Overall, the book was okay - not sorry I listened to it, but by the time the eight hours were up I was quite ready to go on to something else. Narration took getting used to as George Backman sounded somewhat older than thirty years, though I can see why he got the job as his (seemingly perfect to me) Chinese accent, and Chinese-accented English voices, were a definite plus.
I found the narrator's European accent (Iberian Spanish) made the story a bit hard to follow. In a nutshell, it's an old man's quandary of reconciling a sense of obligation and desire, where he can't do both. So, not a whole lot actually "happens" in the book.
even if 50% of the information is true, there must be something there. That's kind of how I felt about this one, given the author's admitted hatred of Democratic politics. I like President Obama, though have felt frustrated by his "hands off" approach to the actual political process, until recently at least. In a sense, I can't argue that the White House team did behave amateurishly in terms of letting their opponents define them on issues.
I'm no fan of the Clintons either, though I felt Hillary managed her best to bring her people to the nominee's side for a 2008 win. I've never been a fan of Bill since he appeared on the national scene in 1992 - ugh. Here, he's bitter and obsessed over the way he and Hillary have been treated by the Obamas since 2008. Supposedly, his 2012 all-out effort on behalf of Obama was motivated by fantasies of a "third term" (his, or Hillary's, they'll have to thrash out if and when it happens), with Obama obliged to strongly support Hillary from the moment she announces (which the author absolutely asserts she will). I was left unsure whether such an agreement really existed, or is something Bill felt was implied?
The bottom line is that the un-named sources were likely present during the events, giving (relatively) accurate reports for the book, even if spun rather ... dramatically.
So, I found the book worth reading, even if the author's bias did intrude a lot. Of the four principals, Hillary came off as the most sympathetic, and Barack as the most negative, with his aloof manner, allowing himself to be duped by the modern day Rasputin, Valerie Jarrett. I had a very hard time reconciling the largely upbeat-in-interviews Michelle with the entitled prima donna she is portrayed as having become; the truth must be a little of both, but how much I couldn't say.
Most of the book consists of re-hashes of daily meetings of the president and congressional figures over the debt ceiling crisis, with balanced re-hashing from all sides' points of view.
I read this one after the others, even though it's set earlier in the series, so was a bit confused; I kept thinking Brenda was home recuperating from the stress of the most recent story. I see it was written in 2012, but I wasn't aware of the book until its release as an audio book.
Unfortunately, the audio edition drags down an otherwise so-so plot. The narration is just awful! I stuck it out from determination to see if the story might be worth it - not really; I ended up regretting I hadn't read a print copy instead. Instead of the voice of Buffalo native Jeff, we get a guy who sounds more like he spent his life in the New Jersey suburbs. Richard seems a bit of a well meaning, loyal sidekick, whose main feature is to be a handy doctor when needed, as well as being rich enough to splash money around as needed.
I didn't care who committed the murder, as I found the suspects largely a boring lot. Jeff's psychic ability, which comes into play regularly (more than I recall from the other stories) was the redeeming feature for me.
This one is definitely NOT a stand-alone at all. Read the first book to understand Jeff's background, and Richard's. This one adds nothing to the series as I don't recall these events affecting later plotlines.
Simon Prebble's narration was fine, but didn't make these stories stand out at all ... they were just sort of ... there. Final one I found a bit creepy, and hard to believe.
First of all, many listeners will find the American narrator's voice a complete deal-breaker; however, that wasn't a problem for me. I did notice at one point Holmes calling their young female client "My dear", something ACD's Holmes would never have done. The story itself was okay, though as others have mentioned, brief with a beginning and end, but no real middle section. So, I'm open to reading another, but not in any hurry at all about doing so.
I have to agree with a reviewer who said he found the author's regular "We're not a 'couple'!" protestations a bit off-putting; moreover, the audio narration came of as a bit effete to me, which didn't help in that regard.
As a travel narrative, it was okay, although there was a fair amount of emphasis on the other hikers they met as part of the story; that aspect didn't fully work for me. There's much juvenile humor, unfortunately made worse by the narration as well. I suspect the print version might be a full three stars, with 2.5 for the audio edition. I will say the writing itself is fairly good in terms of flow, so it's not a matter of needing "editing" as such.
I was concerned that the book wouldn't tell me much I didn't already know, but I had a hard time putting it down. The first section, between the 2010 mid-terms and the Republican race was a bit boring, but not mind-numbingly so. The primary coverage was fascinating, and took up over a third of the story -- I had no idea that the establishment had been working so frantically behind the scenes to get Christie into the race, to avoid being stuck with Mitt. The final part on the general was largely focused on the debates I felt, with some reference to Hurricane Sandy and other events, seeming a bit tacked-on/rushed in that regard. In the final post-mortem, it was obvious that Mitt and his team failed to acknowledge that they lost because they were out-of-step with the American people, blaming the loss (pretty much) solely on higher-than-predicted Dem turnout (by the infamous 47%).
Audio narration was very good, a few minor quibbles aside.
A good overview of how much things changed during the reign, as well as a good comparison of how much technology changed society in a lifetime, similar to modern history.
Good narration - recommended
Twenty-six entries each starting with a brief overview of a letter of the alphabet (historical background, phonetics, etc.), used as a jumping off point for a digression of a specific linguistic (for lack of a better term) aspect. Some were (at least mildly) interesting, while others (often having to do with the author's own life) weren't. Overall, the book worked to pass time when I needed to fill short periods with background noise. Rosen's reading was okay as author-narrated books go, but I might've preferred to skim the print book I think if I had to go back and decide again.
One point that irritated me more as the book went on was the incredibly U. K. centric focus. I accept that Rosen is English himself, but as most folks for whom English is their primary language are NOT British, the short shrift he gives in passing to that fact seemed a bit ... patronizing - with a "zee"!
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