I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish, from the first paragraph to the last. It never sagged. This is a story about a couple, Ella and John Robina. They have been married over fifty years. They are both in their eighties. Both are sick: John with Alzheimer’s and Ella with cancer. So they must decide what to do with their lives. Yes, Ella was sure! They needed a vacation. What could be better than to take Route 66 again, that route that they so often traveled when they were young and the family was four, before the kids left home? While they travel they haul out their projector and slides and look again at their lives. They have cocktails, grill their food, snooze, take little naps and drive all the way to Disneyland in California. She has her little blue pills.
Does that sound sad and depressing? Yes, I supposed it might, but think, they are both in their eighties and they have had good lives. It is not hard to believe that the book could prove to be thoughtful and down-to-earth and wise. But the author goes one step further and makes it very, very funny. I laughed on every page. I did. You laugh and you smile and you shed a melancholic tear occasionally. Mostly you laugh and maybe think a teeny bit about how you want to live your own life. The message is not all that astounding. What is astounding is the humor embedded in the story. Yes, I really did laugh out loud and exclaim as the events unfolded. You see the book is more about living and enjoying life than about its end. Ella and John and the characters they meet on their travels are very ordinary people. The conversations are so classically ordinary that you cannot help but smile. There is quite a bit of irony in the humor.
I listened to the audiobook. The narration, by Judith West, was superb. Ella’s voice was of a spunky old woman, and John had a crusty, solid baritone. When the narrator spoke for them it felt like I was overhearing a true conversation between two old geezers. When I think now of Ella, I know how she sounds and that is Ella. The same is true of John. Voice says a lot about a person. The narration gets five stars.
So why only four stars for the book? Well because the situation is in fact not extraordinary. It felt so real, such a perfect description of two old geezers. Does that means it is worth five stars? To perfectly capture this old couple, their lives and their dialogs, their sorrows and happiness and fear? It is all there. It is just a personal thing, I think; I would more readily give a book filled with real facts, that is also engagingly written, five stars. My head tells me this is all wrong. Maybe it is the author that builds a story from nothing, that creates with his words an imaginary world, that seems genuinely real that is the most talented? I did enjoy every minute listening to this audiobook. Heck I will give it five. Why not? It is not amazing, but I really did love it. I didn’t just like it a lot. It was better than that.
This was an absolutely excellent book. It gave me everything I want from a biography. It chronologically relates all aspects of Theodore Roosevelt's life up to his presidency, after President McKinley's assassination in 1901. The next in the trilogy covers his years in the Presidency: Theodore Rex. I will very soon continue with that! I was worried that it might be repetitive, having years ago read (and loved)David McCullough's book Mornings on Horseback. Such a worry was unnecessary. Edmund Morris' book went much further in depth. I completely know now Theodore's personality. I know what he would do and what he would most probably say in a given situation. This author had me laughing at some of the things Theodore had the nerve to say and do! His ego was rather inflated, to say the least, but that doesn't mean I didn't also find him highly worthy of admiration.
Gosh, I have never run into someone with so much energy. Absolutely never. Please read the comments left below this review if you want more details of some of the events in this book. I should say that not a word have I mentioned about Theodore's "Rough Riders" of 1898 and his role in the Spanish-American War. You simply must read the book to find out about that! It is engaging and amazing and funny! This author made some of the events of that war hilariously amusing! Is that possible? Yes!
I honestly cannot think of anything to complain about in relation to this book OR its narration by Mark Deakins. OK, only one thing, and it is so very minor that it is pitiful. The narrator would read the date July 1, 1900, as "July one 1900" rather than "July first 1900". THAT is the only puny complaint I can think of. I compared Deakins narration to the Theodore's own speeches found on Utube. Deakins perfectly bit off and spit out his words, as Theodore learned to do in his fight against asthma.
If you are in the least interested in Theodore Roosevelt, then read this book.....even if it is very long! I will soon be reviewing the next in the trilogy to see if it too is as amusing and interesting and engaging as this one as proved to be! In fact you do not even have to be interested in reading about presidents to choose this book. He is an amazing person. I have never run across someone like this.
I have listened to about 3/4 of the book. I am thoroughly enjoying it. By that I mean sometimes I feel like clobbering Theodore and then later I want to hug him. He has qualities that are m-a-g-n-i-f-i-c-e-n-t. I like that this author has shown me both sides to such a degree that I hate him and love him. In the comments below this review I have gone into details. If you are looking for more details, please check them out there. Really good book and really good narration by Mark Deakins. Yes, this is long, over 26 hours and only the first of a trilogy, but well worth every minute.
My first impressions:
Once you get beyond the prologue, this book grabs your attention. I do understand that the purpose of the prologue is to show the outstanding characteristics of the man, but it throws in names and details that have no depth. That is impossible in a prologue; that is why you are reading the book, and this is the first of a trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt. The next, Theodore Rex, covers his two terms as president. Colonel Roosevelt concludes his life story.
What you immediately draw from the prologue is the energy of the man. In 1907 in the White House he shook hands with all those invited to say: “Happy New Year!” Quickly, at the speed of 50 per minute. (Skeptical me….is that possible?) He set a record with this, no one else for a century shook hands so quickly and with so many. But what does this says about him? Think about it. What we immediately grasp from the prologue and then the following chapters on his youth is how the hyperactive youth develops into a man of strength and vitality. From a very young age he has serious bouts of asthma. His father takes him aside and discusses his physical disability. Theodore declares that he will conquer his body! “He will make his body.” His fight for survival shaped him and it strengthened him; it made him a fighter.
From the very first chapters we see the man who came to be a conservationist. He started his “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History”, to the disgust of family and servants. Smelly! He learned taxidermy. He had is head in a book, often standing on one leg that gave him the pose of a flamingo. He scientifically observes the world around him, and what delight he discovers when he finds that with glasses he can actually see the world around him. He had no idea the world could be so sharp. He wrote in a diary. He wrote letters. Many, many remain and they reveal his personality, his inborn humor. In a letter to an Aunt when he is on tour in Egypt he remarks, “I may as well mention that the dress of the inhabitants up to ten years of age is nothing! After that they put on a shirt descended from some remote ancestor and never take it off until their death.” He did like Egypt. He now had glasses and he scientifically observes and records all that he sees of the fauna. The birds, so many birds! But he is still an ordinary boy. He learns to box, to defend himself vis-à-vis peers. He groans over his father dragging them all off for a year in Europe.
How Theodore views his own illness is reflected in this quote from a letter sent to his father when he was a young teenager, alone with two siblings in Dresden. (His father thought it important to encourage his children’s independence.) Here are the lines:
I am at present suffering from a very slight attack of asthma. However, it is but a small attack, and except for the fact that I cannot speak without blowing up like an abridged edition of a hippopotamus, it does not inconvenience me much. We are now studying hard. Excuse my writing; my asthma has made my hand tremble awfully. (chapter 2)
He views even himself with humor. The importance of books, his interest in fauna, his asthma and his staunch character are all evident in these lines.
The prologue was too stuffed, although I do understand its purpose, but then the book takes off with delightful details of Theodore’s youth, the characteristics he was born with and the events that shaped him. This book starts well. I hope it continues so. I just had to tell someone.
There are two central themes to this book; it is both a love story and an in-depth look at what it is to be black, today, in America and in Nigeria. It also looks at how it is to be young in today’s world – a world of computers and cellphones and blogs and, on a more general level, how people interrelate with each other.
Different readers will be drawn to different aspects of the novel. The love story did not draw me in. It begins with a “coming of age” attraction between two teenagers in Lagos, Nigeria. The story goes full circle and ends on the same note, back in Nigeria and back with these two, Obinze and Ifemelu. Will they find each other at the end? And if they do, at what cost to others? That this aspect of the novel did not attract me is not to say that it was poorly written, but only that my interests lay elsewhere, given my particular past experiences and age.
What did interest me is Adichie’s penetration of race, racial bigotry and inequality. Obinze and Ifemelu are separated. Ifemelu goes to the America with her aunt, but after 9/11 Obinze cannot get into America and immigrates to London. Political turmoil in Nigeria and the impossibility of getting a good education at home is what forces both abroad. Both experience how it is to be without family in a foreign country as an immigrant, Obinze an illegal immigrant. Ifemelu learns what it is to be an African Black in North America. Both flounder. The central themes remain love relationships and race.
As with all books it is the reader’s own experiences that influence how one perceives a book’s content. How do I compare my own immigrant experiences with those portrayed in the novel and why are they different? To what extent are blacks discriminated against in the US today in comparison to Europe? I look with admiration at the US and think how wonderful it is that Obama, a black could become president. That does say something, no matter how you twist or turn it. That Adichie isn’t satisfied, that she reveals to me, a non-black, the inequalities that still remain is only admirable. Through her characters you come to understand on a ground level the inequalities that remain. You understand on a personal level. One example: in all the women’s magazines there are article after article about what eye shadow works best for brown our blue or green eyes, but what if you have black eyes? There are full discussions of what to do with straight, wavy or curly hair, but where is there help for kinky hair? Yeah, there STILL isn’t total equality, total acceptance of all our differences. I like that the book made me more aware of what is to be black on a daily basis. There is also the difference of being a Black-American and the difference of being a Non-American Black. Being colored, Hispanic versus African versus Asian, are all different. A Black-American lives with the baggage of historical discrimination in the US.
Narration of the audiobook by Adjoa Andoh is excellent, albeit a bit difficult for those, like me, who are not accustomed to the many different black accents. I had to listen carefully. I am glad I had a chance to do this through this audiobook.
I believe how you will react to this book will be determined by the theme that most draws your attention. You may be enthralled by the love story or like me just interested in current racial and immigrant injustices.
I know how I felt while reading this book, but why? Why did I constantly want to do anything else but listen? Why near the conclusion did I just listen to get to the end?
This book is set in a small Chechen village in 2004, thus during the Second Chechen War. The story is told through numerous flashbacks. It is of course about the ravages of war. It is grim reading, and until the end there is little that inspires any hope. Although the author does infuse the story with humor, it is ironic humor, sad humor; humor that laughs at the stupidity of man. The humor in this book rarely made me laugh. There is a glimmer of hope at the end, but it is too late and too weak. You must know by now that I do not demand jolly books, but this one is d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g. You will nod and sigh and shake your heads with utter despair.
So do you learn much about the two Chechen Wars? Not really, other than that they were horrible.
The book is choppy in that you flip back and forth in time. It is confusing, not so much because of the different time settings but because the author never says anything directly. The language is convoluted. What is said, is implied. This is not to my taste. I prefer a more direct, simple language. I remember at one point they had to go around a dangerous spot, but what does Anthony Marra say? They circumnavigated the area. Over and over I muttered - just say it straight. I felt like I was supposed to be impressed with his clever words. I admit, the author did occasionally express himself beautifully. There were times when he blew me away in his ability to beautifully depict a situation, an event or an idea.
The narration by Colette Whitaker was not to my taste either. Much of the time she droned on in a dispassionate manner. This was not so bad when the horrors of the war were related, but it was almost numbing. Neither did I like the so very typical Eastern European accent attributed to the Chechens.
What did I get from this? After reading it, have I a more detailed, better understanding of the Chechen Wars? Scarcely! It is mostly about how the people suffered, and that I knew. Did it impart an important message that was new? No.
Most people seem to be head over heels in love with this new author. Not me.
I found "English Creek" even better than "Dancing at the Rascal Fair", which is a favorite with many, not just me. The weird thing is that "English Creek" is the first of the series but chronologically it follows "Dancing at the Rascal Fair". I think it is better to read it after "Dancing at the Rascal Fair"! "Ride With Me, Mariah Montana" is the next one I will pick up. Check out all of the "Two Medicine County" series. I love the way Ivan Doig captures the essential both in physical descriptions of the land, the dialog between people and what is essentially important in life. Some compare him to Wallace Stegner but I think he is MUCH better. There is marvelous humor in Doig's writing.
I have to be honest. Throughout most of the book I thought it was just OK, two stars, even though from the very beginning I did really like the atmosphere of the cold and snowy winter; it was perfectly depicted. It wasn't until the last chapter that I understood the importance of this book. It too is a must read! These books hold together; to get the most from them they must be read as a group. Each builds upon the other, and in a beautiful way! Ellis writes beautifully, with humor, descriptive ability and with plot content carefully planned. You effortlessly learn about a past era.
I do not agree with those who say this series need not be read in order. Maybe you do not need to, but that is how you will get the most out of them. However start with book two and read the rest in order. Throw in book one when you want to fill in lost details. The more you read, the more you will fall in love with the different monks and other influential characters. They grow; you learn who they are. Each action builds upon another.
This book, book 6, isn't wow until the end, and then you realize its importance. I am not saying it is bad, it is just not one of the best, but it must be read!
Narration by Vanessa Benjamin was in my view not as good as narration by Johanna Ward (alias Kate Reading) or Stephen Thorne.
Previously, I have listened to the abridged version at BBC and disliked it, but since I know now I like the series, I will listen instead to the unabridged audiobook. It is not abridged and not destroyed by BBC dramatization!
I really, really liked the book, but I LOVE Cadfael. Cadfael gets ten stars. These books may be classified as stand-alones,but I believe you should read them in order, starting with the second book. Why? Because it is important to know who each one of the characters really is, their souls, what makes them tick, how they think and behave. In book two I came to understand who Beringar was. Book three has now taught me, showed me, who Cadfael is. I have seen the choices he makes, and I absolutely love him. I wish I had had this knowledge before I tackled the later books. Personally I think you can skip the first, or go back and read that when you want o fill in lost details because you know you love the whole series.
Super narration by Stephen Thorne.
One more thing. I guessed who the murderer was after two or three chapters, but you do not read these books to "solve the mystery". You read them to be with people you admire and respect. You read to see how they will deal with what is thrown in their path. The books let you escape into a completely different world. Is this why I less often enjoy picking up books set in modern times?
I really enjoyed this book; I do not want to leave Shrewsbury so I will move on to "Virgin in the Ice". I have read all the books between this and that one.
I do not think I am the one to judge this book. I am not an American. I am not a Muslim. I am not religious and lack the faith spoken of in this book. Furthermore, I do not think this book adequately looks at what happened before, during and after Katrina. It studies one family’s experiences, only that. Zeitoun disobeyed the mandatory evacuation order.
Nothing wrong with the narration by Firdous Bamji.
This was exciting! I recommend this book to those who want to throw themselves into another world, albeit a world cold, wet, icy and filled with fear, exhaustion and hunger.
Ernest Shackleton set out in 1914 to cross the Antarctic from west to east. Yes, WW1 had broken out and he had Churchill’s go-ahead Why? For the glory of Britain and for his own glory too. The race for polar discovery was in full-swing. On December 14, 1911, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen led the first successful expedition to arrive at the South Pole, five weeks ahead of a British party led by Robert Falcon Scott. Robert Edwin Peary, an American explorer, is credited with having been the first to reach the geographic North Pole. There has been some debate as to whether Frederick Cook, also an American, got there a year earlier.
The audiobook narration by Simon Prebble is excellent.
When the expedition began there were twenty-nine men aboard the Endurance; there was one stowaway! All twenty-nine survived. This book lets you live the experiences of these men and shows how this amazing feat was accomplished. I have a shelf for books concerning “bad-trip” expeditions. To date, this is my favorite.
This book follows seven generations of a Black-American family AND Black-American music AND American history from slavery, the Reconstruction, WW1, the flu epidemic, the flappers, the Depression, WW2, the Vietnam war all the way through to the 21st Century. 568 pages or 26 and 1/2 hours of listening time. The book tries to do too much. Black-American music as it evolves is also reviewed: gospel, jazz, R&B, swing, bebop AND classical music. All the musical top names are sited. You cannot do all of this in depth. On top of all the names and historical events you follow a family. Is this a story about a family, where we are to care for all the characters, aunts and uncles and grandparents and generation after generation of children? What author can pull all this off? I loved Lizzie. The author really brought her personality to life for me, but this did not happen with any other character. When I was living life with Lizzie that is when I loved the book. The things she said!!!!
The book is written by two sisters. They split the book into eight sections, each writing four. I did not notice a difference in the writing! Ntozake Shange had several strokes and had to stop for five years, while her sister continued, but she liked to do thorough historical research and trips to the places where the story is set: Harlem, Chicago, Paris, and Charleston. Charleston breathed and maybe Harlem too, but certainly not Paris! Both sisters are playwrights. Reading this book is like going to the theater. You see, hear and even smell through the depiction of foods…….but you don’t get under the skin of the characters or a deep understanding of history. You get a smattering. Oh yeah, drugs are thrown in too! The picture had to be accurate.
The audiobook is narrated by Robin Miles. Many, many songs are sung and for most she does an excellent job, BUT some went wrong. Classical music is not her forte. Southern and Irish dialects she masters superbly, but p-l-e-a-s-e her French is just not up to mark. And she does not successfully imitate Edith Piaf! So there we are in France during WW2. In one chapter the Résistance is “covered”. Do you understand? There is in every way too much included in this book. Nobody can pull all this off successfully.
I still liked the book! I loved the part centered on Lizzie. There is also a theme on the importance of family, which I enjoyed, of how mothers and daughters have SUCH a hard time communicating!
What is the book trying to say about Black-American music and in fact all music in general?
“Music is just another way of keepin up with livin. Nothin wrong with that!”(chapter 4)
I am in fact amazed to what extent I enjoyed this book. How many times have I said I don't like books that focus on military strategies? This book does focus on war strategies, but I was never bored. Hopkins and Roosevelt together planned how to best win the war. Roosevelt relied on Hopkins more than any other individual. They discussed every step. Hopkins resided in the White House for more than three years; he was at Roosevelt's beck and call 24 hours of the day from 1940-1945, unless he was in the hospital. He attended almost all the important conferences except for Potsdam; Roosevelt was dead and Hopkins had resigned at that point. The discussion of when the channel crossing should be set was fascinating, along with the decision to invade Northern Africa. Hopkins was the glue that kept the Anglo-American and Soviet tripartite coalition together. How did he do this? He could read people. He was an expert negotiator.
This could all be very boring, couldn't it? All I can say is that it wasn't. It was in fact fascinating, probably because you come to recognize the idiosyncrasies of Stalin, Churchill, FDR and Hopkins too. Small amusing details are thrown in: Churchill in his dressing gown. Did I hear correctly that it was pink?! The guy was always drinking and then there was the funny moment at the a conference in Quebec when Churchill remarks to Hopkins that the water tasted funny. Hopkins replied that was simply because it lacked any trace of whiskey. Parts are exciting - when the Iowa battleship was torpedoed by friendly fire! The entire American delegation was on that boat. The book is interesting, clear, amusing and well worth your time!
It is remarkable what these two men, Hopkins and Roosevelt, achieved. Two men who were seriously ill. Roosevelt died in April 1945 and Hopkins February 1946. This is something to consider - how hard these two pushed themselves! Hopkins’ digestive system seriously malfunctioned.
So what could have been improved? What is lacking? There is only to a lesser extent information about the youth of either man. The book is instead about the war and what jobs Hopkins held before the war, thus giving him the training necessary for the job, but do you learn to read people? Isn't that an ability that you are born with? Neither is the focus on the respective men's illnesses; their medical illnesses are stated; how they conquered/ignored their disabilities is instead the main issue. Other family members are discussed, but not in depth, just enough to make the reader feel acquainted with them or to make you laugh about particular habits! Maybe I would have liked to know more of Hopkins personal reflections…..but perhaps this is quite simply not known!
The narration by Fleet Cooper was OK. I would have preferred that he less dramatized his reading, and he had a peculiar pronunciation of the word material. Every time he said that word I jumped; the emphasis on "al" was all wrong! Heck, these are not serious problems, none of them.
One other complaint: the author all too often stated that so and so "must" have thought that, and he "most probably" did that. Find out and tell me. I don't want a bunch of suppositions. In 1941 Hopkins was in England during the Blitz, and yet it is implied that he was carousing out about town; I thought he must have been sleeping. He was terribly ill, tired and worn out! Sounded like a bit of an exaggeration!
My complaints are not significant. What is important is that this book was extremely interesting and had a good mix of humor and quirky details. It keeps your attention and makes what could easily be a big bore fascinating.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.