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John S.

Seattle, WA United States | Member Since 2005

330
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 139 reviews
  • 173 ratings
  • 430 titles in library
  • 46 purchased in 2014
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22

  • Am I A Jew?: Lost Tribes, Lapsed Jews, and One Man's Search for Himself

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Theodore Ross
    • Narrated By Theodore Ross, Steve Blane
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    What makes someone Jewish? Theodore Ross was nine years old when he moved with his mother from New York City to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Once there, his mother decided, for both personal and spiritual reasons, to have her family pretend not to be Jewish. He went to an Episcopal school, where he studied the New Testament, sang in the choir, and even took Communion. Later, as an adult, he wondered: Am I still Jewish?

    John S. says: "Didn't really work for me"
    "Didn't really work for me"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First of all, I was under the mistaken impression that the author was raised a Christian, not realizing his family was Jewish until later -- not so! His mother insisted that he, she and his brother "pass" as Christians in Mississippi where he moved at age nine; he would visit relatives in New York among whom he was Jewish. Later in the book, he hounds his mom along the lines of "How could you DO that!" I did get into his travel narrative-type description of the congregations he visited, and the families he stayed with; however, he lost me when interviewing folks from Jewish organizations. Overall, I found it well-presented as (nonfiction) journalism, but didn't keep my interest.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis, and Mayhem in Moscow

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Jennifer Eremeeva
    • Narrated By Jennifer Eremeeva
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (2)

    Based on Eremeeva's two decades in Russia, Lenin Lives Next Door knits together vignettes of cross-cultural and expatriate life with sharp observation, colorful historical background, and engaging humor. Each thematic chapter is an anecdotal exploration of an aspect of life in today's Russia, told with the help of a recurring cast of eccentric Russian and expat characters. Lenin Lives Next Door introduces readers to Russians in their everyday milieu.

    John S. says: "Recommended? Maybe ..."
    "Recommended? Maybe ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When it was good, I really got into the author's depictions of Russian culture, but when it was not ... we're talking "Rich Peoples' Problems: Moscow" as a reality show, which is just the teensiest bit difficult to identify with. Your Mileage May Vary here, so AYOR as they say (At Your Own Risk).

    Author's self-narration worked fairly well here, which isn't usually the case.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Indonesia, Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Pisani
    • Narrated By Jan Cramer
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Bewitched by Indonesia for twenty-five years, Elizabeth Pisani recently traveled 26,000 miles around the archipelago in search of the links that bind this impossibly disparate nation. Fearless and funny, Pisani shares her deck space with pigs and cows, bunks down in a sulfurous volcano, and takes tea with a corpse. Along the way, she observes Big Men with child brides, debates corruption and cannibalism, and ponders "sticky" traditions that cannot be erased.

    John S. says: "Bill Bryson channels Margaret Mead"
    "Bill Bryson channels Margaret Mead"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    An excellent travel narrative of the nation, beyond the tourist zones of Jakarta and Bali. Pisani visits some fairly remote areas, running across ethnicities that even the folks in the cities aren't aware of themselves ("It's all 'tribal' out there ..."). While she does a great job in relating stories that weren't so funny at the time, but she can laugh at them now (such as going back into a quicksand-like mudhole to retrieve a sandal out of sheer determination); however, the sections of the legal system, and ecological problems, were a bit grim.

    Definitely recommended for an insight into the country from a westerner who has spent serious time there, speaking the language fluently. Audio narrator was well-matched to the material.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Roumanian Journey

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Sacheverell Sitwell
    • Narrated By Matt Addis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    >"At the first mention of going to Roumania, a great many people, as I did myself, would take down their atlas and open the map. For Roumania, there can be no question, is among the lesser known lands of Europe." So begins Sir Sacheverell Sitwell's account of his Roumanian journey, made in the 1930s, when Bucharest was still eight days overland from London.

    His four-week trip brings him into contact with longhaired gypsies at country fairs as well as the aristocracy in their medieval castles.

    John S. says: "Overall good, though ending a bit creepy"
    "Overall good, though ending a bit creepy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Most of this book is a fairly evocative description of pre-war Romania, tough to read in hindsight knowing that a decade later the places he visited were (largely) reduced to wasteland. Still, that's true of continental settings of the period. I was struck how Sitwell freely refers to poor agricultural workers as "peasants"; would he object to poor, rural Englishmen being called that? Hmmm ... I wonder ...

    During the travels, he has rather ... uncharitable things to say about the Jewish "masses" he observes, but those can be (grudgingly) chalked up as ignorant, Victorian-era generalizations, the occasional nasty, noisome belch. However, the last section focuses on what he calls the "Jewish question" - what to "do" about the millions of Hasidim in Eastern Europe? He suggests relocating these unproductive, backward folks to somewhere remote, such as Madagascar or South America. Although never coming close to a "final" solution, I was left wondering how much he regretted the one that was implemented?

    Audio narration is excellent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Asuntos Propios

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By José Morella
    • Narrated By Antonio Abenójar
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (1)

    Roberto es un hombre acostumbrado a hacer lo que le da la gana. Un hombre independiente. Se jubiló hace seis años, pero, a sus setenta y un años, sigue traduciendo. Y cada mañana se sienta delante del ordenador, y traduce durante horas. La señora Dolores, la portera, sube a limpiar el piso un par de veces por semana pero cuando sufre una embolia y ya no puede volver a trabajar, Isabel, la hija de Roberto, insiste en que su padre pida una asistenta. Un lunes, Jacinta llama a la puerta.

    John S. says: "Character driven story"
    "Character driven story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Edward Klein
    • Narrated By Lars Mikaelson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (185)
    Performance
    (160)
    Story
    (159)

    In this highly anticipated follow-up to his blockbuster New York Times bestseller The Amateur, former New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Edward Klein delves into the rocky relationship between the Obamas and the Clintons. An old-school reporter with incredible insider contacts, Klein reveals just how deep the rivalry between the Obamas and the Clintons runs, with details on closed-door meetings buttressed by hundreds of interviews.

    DS Ells says: "Fascinating!"
    "As another review once said ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Price of Politics

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Bob Woodward
    • Narrated By Boyd Gaines
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (243)
    Performance
    (199)
    Story
    (199)

    Based on 18 months of reporting, Woodward's 17th book The Price of Politics is an intimate, documented examination of how President Obama and the highest profile Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Congress attempted to restore the American economy and improve the federal government's fiscal condition over three and one half years. The Price of Politics addresses the key issue of the presidential and congressional campaigns: the condition of the American economy.

    Graham says: "Making the Sausage"
    "Hardcore wonkery!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Room at the Inn: A Jeff Resnick Mystery, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By L. L. Bartlett
    • Narrated By Jordan Murphy
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (16)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (15)

    Jeff Resnick is definitely out of his element when he and Maggie take a working vacation at a quaint Vermont inn. For most people, the chance to spend time with a beautiful woman in a romantic, isolated setting would be a plus, but the moment Jeff crosses the Sugar Maple Inn's threshold, his sixth sense warns him that someone is about to meet a violent death. His anxiety intensifies when he travels on one of the local roads and is nearly overwhelmed by feelings of impending doom.

    John S. says: "Narrator miscast"
    "Narrator miscast"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Sphinx Collection: Three Sherlock Holmes Mysteries in One Book

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 32 mins)
    • By Pennie Mae Cartawick
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Three compelling Sherlock Holmes mysteries in one book. Story one: "The Mystery of the Poisoned Tomb" Story two: "The Case of the Cracked Mirror" Story three: "The Mystery of the Faceless Bride" Set in the late 19th century, no fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes.

    John S. says: "Nothing special"
    "Nothing special"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Eccentric Painter (A Sherlock Holmes Uncovered Tale)

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 8 mins)
    • By Steven Ehrman
    • Narrated By John Patrick Conn
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (11)

    Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are called in on the murder of a wealthy English country squire. The deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes are on full display as he flushes the killer from a group of suspects with perfect alibis.

    John S. says: "Has promise, but ..."
    "Has promise, but ..."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Hairy Hikers: A Coast-to-Coast Trek Along the French Pyrenees

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By David Le Vay
    • Narrated By Rupert Farley
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Fuelled by a degree of mid-life crisis and the need to escape, albeit temporarily, the dull routine of modern life, David and Rob set out to walk from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, taking in French villages, beautiful scenery, and one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Europe. Just about perfect – if you can put aside the inevitable conflict, drama, and unexpected tedium that results from two men spending over seven solid weeks in each other’s company!

    John S. says: "Recommended with limited enthusiasm"
    "Recommended with limited enthusiasm"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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