I so thoroughly enjoyed the story of this man's life and times that I would sometimes forget "the source." The story of Ji's life in America and his eventual return to China and rise to high office within China's foreign ministry was fascinating. Ji Chaozhu criticized communist China just enough to make it believable, and did not skirt the issues of his own suffering, though I expect it was far greater than he described. Within the story, he deified Zhou Enlai and disparaged Mao, which would be the acceptable rhetoric for a good cadre of that time and place.
It is worth noting that he is a communist through-and-through and this is probably the most interesting aspect of the book. I believe that his devotion to China and the party were (for the most part, or at least in the beginning) sincere. He spoke as a Chinese citizen would only dare speak on the world stage--carefully and reverently about his homeland, the Party, and the leadership. Even so, the story of his life, the historical figures who cross his path, and the events from his perspective were exciting to observe. I highly recommend this book, though one must listen through the veil of communist rhetoric.
Really...That is how I felt reading this book. It was well-read and at first pleasant enough to listen to. The relationships between the characters were nice, but it didn't take long for a dark element to enter the book and never relent. It is one enormous soap opera set in the antebellum south. I am not opposed to a story that is hard, tragic, or realistic in its slant, but this story was too much. I felt as if I could not come up for air, and felt utterly hopeless through most of the story. While it had its twists and turns, it eventually became predictable, and I felt I was just waiting to see if I had figured it out correctly and wanted it to end so I could get myself out of the vortex of misery.
This was recommended to me as a book I would like because I loved The Help. That is not the case. It was an unfair comparison. While they are similar in that the relationships between slave / servant and master / employer are the basis of the stories, that is where the comparison ends.
While I am sure that I would have enjoyed this book immensely if I had read it rather than listened, I doubt that I could have matched the performance of these readers in my mind. The narration was masterfully done, and at times I felt as if I was watching a movie or experiencing the same sensations and events along with the characters. I would give more stars for the performance if I could!
The story itself is very human, very emotional, very real. Quite different from any novel I've read before in that the story is so unique, but yet I found that I could relate deeply to the characters and their experiences.
Don't miss this listen.
Boys in the Boat has become one of my favorite books. Written with tremendous respect for what the men of that era had to endure, the author delivers a touching tribute to these wonderful icons of our culture. I love the way the author weaves the stories of the lives of these men together, and then sets them in contrast to the simultaneous events occurring in Germany, then brings them all together in high drama at the 1936 Olympics. I found myself searching youtube to find the actual videos of the events and was not disappointed. This is a story that will immortalize these men and help us to remember that honor, courage, and perseverance will never be wasted. I hope to have my son read or listen to this book.
I am preparing to teach a unit on Ancient Greece and mythology to my kids and their homeschool co-op. Black Ships before Troy is the version of the Iliad that they were assigned. I found this version to be perfectly appropriate for both my daughter (8) and my son (12), though both of them have a fairly refined sense of story and have been exposed to a lot of different kinds of literature.
Black Ships is beautifully written and even uses much of the verbiage from the epic poem to retain the imagery that resonates through Homer's Iliad. What it leaves out is the many details such as the listings of the various commanders and kings and how many ships were under their authority, among other types of details that may be lost on children. The interplay between the gods and men is retained and the feelings and emotions of the characters throughout the story are beautifully portrayed. The essence of the Iliad is perfectly intact, making this a perfect introduction of a foundational story to young audiences.
For younger children, the scene in which Hector's body is dragged is hard to take--it is supposed to be, and elicited strong reactions from my children and gave us material for discussion. Why did Achilles do what he did? What kind of things can grief do to a person? What should he have done, and do you think he could have resolved this a different way? The redeeming factor is that Hector's body is preserved by the gods, so that helped a bit.
I found the reading of this retelling of the Iliad for a younger audience to be a definite enrichment to the literary lives of my children and highly recommend it. We listened over lunch every day and in the car and couldn't wait for the next chance to turn it on. Five stars all the way around.
Somehow in my youth I managed to miss the story of Pollyanna. I had never read the book or seen a movie version. When my children's literature list turned up this gem, we decided to listen to it together. We all loved it!
The story itself is precious. We described it as "Anne of Green Gables meets the Secret Garden and The Railway Children." Pollyanna's difficult situation and her positive take on practically everything actually challenged my thinking and helped me to look at the bright side of things as well.
The story was wonderful, the performance was great, and we all were uplifted by this story. I Highly recommend for kids to adults.
My son and I enjoyed this Audible version of the Call of the Wild very much. The narration was very well done. The story itself is one that captures the mind and heart, but I believe it especially speaks to young men. The progression of Buck's punishing experiences which lead him from being a pampered prince to King of the Wild, feared by men and respected by beasts, is something that appeals to the emerging man in every boy.
For the sensitive child, this story may want to be "held" until about age 10-11. The abuse of animals and some violent fighting scenes may cause some difficulty for some.
This performance of Anne of Green Gables was equal to the story! I didn't go back and look to see when it was produced, (i.e. before or after the Megan Follows movies) but the reader seemed to reflect the voices and personalities of the actors in the movies. To me, that was a good thing, because I love the movie versions of Anne and did not have to adjust my thinking to get used to a new set of voices. Matthew and Marilla were especially well-read, but all of them were, really.
The story of Anne itself is a touching tale that makes me cry at least once every time I read / listen / watch it. Even the men of my household love this book!
My kids and I listened to the entire Ramona series together. Stockard Channing is the perfect narrator for this book and the performance was consistent throughout. As Ramona grew, Channing's interpretation of the character grew appropriately. It was a delightful listen.
Beverly Cleary's beloved stories of Ramona were so entertaining I found myself laughing out loud at the characters' antics. I could identify with the children both from memories of my own childhood and as a mom, which led to me sharing stories of funny things I did as a girl and things my kids had done when they were smaller. Ramona is best shared with the kids--they should not be the only ones getting to read about her!
As soon as it ended, both kids wanted me to dowload and listen to the Henry Huggins series, which I promised we would do this summer.
My children (ages 10 and 6) and I recently listened to The Secret Garden. The narrator (Finola Hughes) was lovely. I loved her delivery of the characters' voices, especially those with Yorkshire accents. It affected my children such that they were practicing their accents and talking to each other using Yorkshire expressions in the days we were listening to the book!
The story is as rich and full of life as the secret garden itself. I longed to meet the characters personally and experience the same magic they children felt in the garden.
All three of us hated for the book to end.
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