Moreover, the narration makes the situation worse.
We're dropped "in media res" as it were, and expected to keep track of all the many names bandied about; the closest I could manage was to distinguish new ones, from those previously introduced. Core family consists of a widow and her (three) daughters, along with a some people who are "adopted" as close family friends by the kids, even though they've never met them, with stories of their doings sounding as though the family sees these (unknown) people regularly. Reading a print book one might be able to keep better track of which character is which, but the audiobook keeps rolling along so that by the end of a long bus ride to a further part of town my ears were glazing over. At first I had thought the action was set in the 1930's, but by the end it seemed much earlier; I never got an idea of the ages of the kids either, assuming roughly that the oldest was university age, the middle (through whose voice we hear the story) a high school student, and the youngest in later grade school? The father apparently died when the latter was fairly young as she has no memory of him at all. All very confusing. I'll spoil the ending by saying that if you hate endings like " ... and then she woke up" you won't be happy here.
As for the narration ... an American reader making (almost) NO attempt at anything British at all! Had they been specifically an expat American family, who'd relocated to London later, that might be barely tolerable, but they're not. Instead, it's incredibly confusing hearing an American voice blithely quoting prices in "bobs" etc. I believe the name Chisholm is pronounced "Chizzum" rather than CHIS-holm, the spectacles without ear pieces are called "PANS-nay" rather than "PINSE-nezz"; and yes, Ms. Allen butchers Leicester Square entirely. And on, and on.
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"!
I liked the book quite a lot as a travel narrative, and the author does a good job narrating her own work. My issue was that I found her a bit of a downer regarding the ecological problems of the lake, which are well known, and being addressed; still, I'd definitely recommend the book to those who feel the topic might be of interest.
I thought the first book wasn’t too bad, but this one is, to use a southern expression, rather a hot mess. Three quarters of the way through I found myself wondering when the “mystery” angle was going to kick in? It sort of did after that, but by then that didn’t really matter, more like, “Oh, it was that person.”
Let’s talk about Cherry, whom another reviewer has labeled “narcissistic”; I tend to agree. She spends her time sulking about slights quite a bit, when not outright provoking hostility from others. At one point, she engages in a nasty bit of badinage with the waitress at a dive (an establishment called “The Viper” could be anything else?), which would’ve been avoided had Cherry not deliberately escalated the situation. Later, when she makes a very nasty remark to her “arch enemy” Shawna, she gets punched in the face. When asked what happened afterwards, she admits that she make the remark, but says defensively, “I didn’t think she’d hit me!” Cherry's crack was the kind of remark that even a Philadelphia Main Line society matron would’ve been hard pressed to ignore. Score one for Shawna. At one point, the locals bristle at the idea of being called “country”; okay then … “yokels” perhaps? Almost all of them seem like something out of Jerry Springer to me. My jaw dropped when Cherry referred to someone as trash, and a moment later tells us how she “honored” her grandmother’s passing with a t shirt featuring that lady’s photo “outlined in Swarovski crystals.” Pot-kettle-black, I’d say. Finally, there’s one subplot that I found fascinating, featuring the one character who isn’t at all trashy, Max Avtaikin. I think of it as The Case of the Suspicious Speedos.
Max is an immigrant from the former Soviet bloc, who seems somehow to be involved with illegal gambling, at least in Cherry’s mind. He lives in a mansion, is single, and husky enough to have the nickname “Bear” which Cherry uses (he generally calls her “Artist” in return). In addition to a light-years-beyond-gorgeous boyfriend, Luke, Cherry has a quasi-ex-husband, Todd, from an annulled quickie Vegas marriage (see Jerry Springer above), who’s also H-O-T. We know this about them because Cherry tells us … often. Todd is employed by Max part-time as a bingo caller, when Max lets the Ladies’ Auxiliary use his property for their games. During one bout of snooping to confirm her suspicion that Max is running an illegal high stakes poker operation in his pool house (involving poor Todd in that sordid scheme, so he needs her “rescuing”), Cherry runs across Todd swimming -- in speedos! She is mortified beyond belief. When she (hysterically) demands to know WHY he is wearing speedos, Todd replies that they are not his, but that Max “loaned” them to him. She never actually questions that single, husky middle aged men routinely have speedos that fit young hunks perfectly lying around as a matter of course. One might get the impression that the games played in the poolhouse might be more of the strip poker variety perhaps? At one point, the plot has Max taking Cherry upstairs to see a painting he bought, with the line, “That is my bedroom (behind the closed door); you do not need to see it.” I suppose if she were that curious, she could just ask Todd?
I would be willing to read the next book, on the assumption the series was actually intended to be a campy parody, ‘cause in that sense, it’s a rip-roaring success!
This collection of travel essays, many from Cold War-era eastern Europe, I found "right up my street" (as our British friends would say). Narration seemed a good fit, too.
I couldn't put my finger exactly on why I didn't like the book more, deciding it was his style of ingratiating himself with Hispanics he met as "such a cool Anglo" (which he had the honesty to report actually backfired on him at least once).
The first part is rather slow going with backstory of his life, finally getting in the water at El Paso, and then canoeing down to Laredo, where the author lives. A couple of friends join him for stretches, and he meets up with others along the way. This section isn't very populated, and there's only so much description to go on about, so he "profiles" the folks I've just mentioned, which fell into a "you had to be there" mode for me.
Still, on balance, that was marginally better than the second part from Laredo to the Gulf of Mexico. Here, he spends a great deal of time charming initially-unfriendly border patrol agents, between beer runs in local towns. At one point, he marvels that he was able to stroll through a (prosperous) winter retirement community ... "because I'm white!" That was back-to-back with an encounter with a Mexican who was pleased that his countrymen had treated Bowden so kindly (he had bopped back and forth between the countries in a sort of zig-zag fashion); his delight in telling the reader of that fellow's follow up remark "and how would I be treated as a stranger in your country?" to which Bowden gives the expected answer of "not well!" had my eyes rolling. If that politics wouldn't bother you, you'll like the book more than I did.
Finally, the narration was outstanding - perfect fit!
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