LISTENER

Sparkly

From Space
  • 48
  • reviews
  • 379
  • helpful votes
  • 59
  • ratings
  • Blind Ambition

  • The White House Years
  • By: John W. Dean
  • Narrated by: George Newbern
  • Length: 14 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 68
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 63
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 62

Blind Ambition is an autobiographical account of a young lawyer who accelerated to the top of the Federal power structure to become Counsel to the President at 30 years of age, only to discover that when reaching the top, he had touched the bottom. Most striking in this chronicle is its honesty. Dean spares no one, including himself. But, as Time noted, Dean survived, despite the opposition of powerful foe, because he had no false story to protect and he had an amazing ability to recall the truth.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Pitch-perfect as a lawyer's eye-view

  • By Philo on 09-25-17

Very Good, Appropriate for this Era

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-24-18

My mom was somewhat obsessed with the Watergate Scandal, and I am intrigued to learn the facts associated with these names that have rattled around my brain since childhood. This book is very detailed and satisfying. It is, of course, all from John W Dean's perspective, and therein lie both the strengths and weaknesses. On one hand, the book is coherent and emotionally rooted in the experiences of one person. On the other, of course, we see John Dean through his own lens (and our views of ourselves are rarely accurate in the empirical sense). However, I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. For a book written 40 years ago, the details and framing do not feel dated in the least. An interesting aspect of any history of Watergate is the technology, and this book has an efficient approach to descriptions of the phone, recording, and documentation tech that speak of the age but are not mysterious to the listener in the digital era. In addition, the way momentous events just tumble after one another (Pentagon Papers, Third Rate Burglary, Saturday Night Massacre, etc) make it quite the page turner. A contemporary viewer knows what happens next, but it's still suspenseful in the telling.
The narrator's performance is somewhat without affect, and I differed numerous times with his choice of sentence emphasis. But it definitely grew on me and I think it is fine; especially in view of the famously monotone delivery of John Dean's senate testimony. Ultimately, this was a great listening experience, and if you are remotely interested in political history, it will be time well spent.

  • A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel

  • Murder, Money, and an Epic Power Struggle in China
  • By: Pin Ho, Wenguang Huang
  • Narrated by: James Chen
  • Length: 12 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 15
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15

The downfall of Bo Xilai in China was more than a darkly thrilling mystery. It revealed a cataclysmic internal power struggle between Communist Party factions, one that reached all the way to China’s new president Xi Jinping. The scandalous story of the corruption of the Bo Xilai family - the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood; Bo’s secret lovers; the secret maneuverings of Bo’s supporters; the hasty trial and sentencing of Gu Kailai, Bo’s wife - was just the first rumble of a seismic power struggle that continues to rock the very foundation of China’s all-powerful Communist Party.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extremely satisfying and comprehensive

  • By Sparkly on 05-24-18

Extremely satisfying and comprehensive

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-24-18

This book was so much deeper and more detailed than I expected. What a satisfying read! I was looking for something about the Bo Xilai incident, an event which already seems outlandish on the surface. The outline of the story is well-known - English man found dead of apparent poisoning in a backwater hotel in central China in 2011; wife of rising political star Bo Xilai is implicated and eventually found guilty; rising political star sidelined. Oh, that's all? Of course I wanted to know more.

Ho and Huang's book begins with the familiar story, then separates the players into concentric circles, going into the biographies of everyone involved. For some readers, this may be offtrack and excess to the plot. But, as the title implies, the book is about the struggle for power and control in a changing China. And it does not disappoint. The authors explore the predicament of post-revolutionary China, hemmed in by generational "royalty" as the sons and daughters of Mao-era notables evolve into a new type of elite class. The details are fascinating and at times salacious, but they create a kind of family tree revealing the impact of a relatively small cast of characters in the post-Mao era. The authors indicate sources seamlessly within the narrative, which I really appreciate - as a reader, you can parse the relative credibility as you go.

Among the takeaways - Bo Xilai was taking bribes into the billions (yes, billions!) of RMB, oversaw the state execution of hundreds of the guilty and innocent alike, yet is still a folk hero to the populace in Chong Qing. Bo Xilai's fall from power ultimately made the way for Xi Jinping's ascendency. And current Party Secretary Xi Jinping lived in a cave for seven years. I know it reads like a script from Game of Thrones, but if you are interested in Chinese history or current events (or a context with which to view Xi Jinping), then you will love this book.

The narrator James Chen is fantastic - clearly a speaker of Chinese so that names are pronounced properly, how refreshing.

  • Cutting Back

  • My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto
  • By: Leslie Buck
  • Narrated by: Caroline McLaughlin
  • Length: 7 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 24

At 35, Leslie Buck made an impulsive decision to put her personal life on hold to pursue her passion. Leaving behind a full life of friends, love, and professional security, she became the first American woman to learn pruning from one of the most storied landscaping companies in Kyoto. Cutting Back recounts Buck's bold journey and the revelations she has along the way.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • This should have been an easy book for me to enjoy

  • By Dragonfly Samurai on 04-07-18

Eat Pray Prune

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-25-18

Inspiring! I enjoyed hearing the author's adventures in the art of the Japanese garden. The descriptions of the gardens, some centuries old, and the unique and wonderful Japanese tools, are fantastic. I loved every detail about the workers' routines and procedures. As a matter of fact, I wish there were more technical details. I am not a gardener, but I love a good nonfiction about a complex craft. I probably would have liked more information, and less of the diaristic drama. To be honest, the interior monologue was at times more of what you'd expect from a callow college student than a 35-year old person from a diverse metropolitan city. The low point was probably when the author is seriously competing with (and being unapologetically passive aggressive towards) a teenaged coworker. She is so busy sulking that she misses the moment when he finally gets to prune his first tree - that would have been a great anecdote if she were a bit less self-absorbed.

That said, the author does a very good job of expressing the frustration of trying to fit into a highly stratified, highly segregated culture, coming from the US. I was quite intrigued by her strategies and choices. I am not sure I would have managed without a confrontation in some of those situations. I very much recommend this book if you are interested in adventurous travel, situational humor, gardening, Japan, memoir, or just a good story. (Listen to the sample to see if you like the narrator - I didn't mind except for the brutal slaughter of Japanese pronunciation.)

  • The Great Passage

  • By: Shion Miura, Juliet Winters Carpenter - translator
  • Narrated by: Brian Nishii
  • Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 189
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 171
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 176

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it's time for him to retire and find his replacement. He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime - a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics - whom he swipes from his company's sales department.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Engaging, unusual, fun

  • By LGLH on 02-11-18

A Low Key Enjoyable Novel

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-03-18

I enjoyed this experience. There is something intriguing to me about stories set in deeply detailed, specialized environments. In this case, the world of Japanese dictionary publishing. It's not a potboiler, in terms of dramatic events, but in exchange one gets intricacies of Japanese office and social culture. As a Japanese language learner, I really enjoyed the focus on words. I could see how this might not be as interesting to folks without a prior relationship to Japanese language. But in encouragement, I will say that the translation is really good - I always felt like I got the context of a situation without over-explaining - and the narrator, Brian Nishii, is excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Tattoo Murder Case

  • By: Akimitsu Takagi, Deborah Boliver Boehm (translator)
  • Narrated by: Mark Douglas Nelson
  • Length: 11 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 41
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 36
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 35

Miss Kinue Nomura survived World War II only to be murdered in Tokyo, her severed limbs left behind. Gone is that part of her that bore one of the most beautiful full-body tattoos ever rendered by her late father. Kenzo Matsushita, a young doctor, must assist his detective brother who is in charge of the case, because he was Kinue's secret lover and the first person on the murder scene.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Old fashioned but very good.

  • By Sparkly on 02-27-18

Old fashioned but very good.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-27-18

I found this story to be satisfactory as a detective story, and much appreciated for its historical window. It's an older novel, written in immediate post-war Japan, and the author reveals interesting details regarding the events of the era. The story takes place among the tattooed subculture, and it was intriguing to read a somewhat nuanced interpretation of that milieu. (By that I mean there are good characters with tattoos and bad characters with tattoos - the tattoos are more than simply a signifier of an antisocial character.) There are some fetishistic assertions about the tattooed that are probably not true (are we colder to the touch? I don't think so!) but overall it was a fascinating peek into that time and place.

The plot is a bit farfetched but original. I think readers who like pulp detective stories, history, or Japanese culture will enjoy this book. (The narrator gets only two stars - half of the Japanese words are pronounced correctly, half quite mangled.)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

  • How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter
  • By: Margareta Magnusson
  • Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
  • Length: 2 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 370
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 337
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 339

In Sweden there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning, meaning "death" and städning meaning "cleaning." This surprising and invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner rather than later, before others have to do it for you. In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, artist Margareta Magnusson, with Scandinavian humor and wisdom, instructs listeners to embrace minimalism.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Home like story, very vivid. I found it practical

  • By Natalie on 01-05-18

Better As Memoir

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-04-18

This is an interesting memoir of a lifetime spanning mostly pleasant experiences, and Juliet Stevenson is a fantastic reader. I appreciated this book more when I put aside my expectations from the second half of the title, and just concentrated on Death Cleaning. Many of the author's suggestions simply did not apply to me. She seemed to be ridiculously organized. Perhaps too organized to credibly give advice about getting rid of clutter. Her suggestion to give your excess items to friends and family made me laugh out loud. (Here Maureen, I'm giving you my collection of outdated travel brochures from Berlin, Edinburgh, and Tokyo). There's a fair amount of awkward lamenting that kids these days don't write proper thank you notes and whatnot. And of course, her anecdote about the dog was quite offputting, in the context of downsizing.
However, as an essay by someone who has outlived a lot of people and seen loved ones into the next world, it was gracious and humorous. I cried when she described the death of a spouse, and laughed when she used the example of sex toys. I think readers might enjoy it in the context of memoir rather than how-to.

25 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • The Three-Body Problem

  • By: Cixin Liu
  • Narrated by: Luke Daniels
  • Length: 13 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,464
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,632
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,640

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • They create a computer using a 30 million man Army

  • By Josh P on 12-07-14

Layers of Good and Bad

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-14-17

I am in the minority, I realize, so please don't flame me...but I was not a fan. I finished the book, but only out of a sense of obligation. The beginning was strong, in my opinion, but long sections were stiff, boring, and illogical. There are quite a few murders and suicides, though only one death (the first one) appears to have any ramifications to the story. The characters were not compelling to me, and many seemed fairly sociopathic (see above, inconsequential murders). The characterization of the "aliens" was not credible to me. There is no reason that they would be so similar to Earth humans - that seemed very old fashioned.

On the positive side, elements of the plot (for example, the method and circumstances surrounding contact) were inventive, and the situating of characters within recent Chinese history was very rewarding. The book overall was not engaging enough for me.

The narrator was adequate for the individual voices, but I reserve special derision for folks who can't be bothered to learn how to pronounce foreign language names and places correctly. This falls under the old "you had ONE job..." category.

In sum, you may enjoy this book if science details and world building are enough for you. If you prefer more developed character and story, like I do, then it may be less exhilarating. Best of luck.

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

  • A George Smiley Novel
  • By: John le Carré
  • Narrated by: Michael Jayston
  • Length: 12 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,678
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,517
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,516

The man he knew as "Control" is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement-especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla - his Moscow Centre nemesis - and sets a trap to catch the traitor.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Le Carre remains the gold standard

  • By carl801 on 07-05-12

Can't miss this Cold War classic

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-28-17

This book has a sentimental significance to me as my dad (a WWII veteran) was an avid reader of LeCarre and all things Cold War. I put off listening for all these years, until having seen all of the televised adaptations and known the story in its general components. I'm glad I finally listened, though. The book delivers on its promise as the cornerstone of the genre. It's such an interesting combination of sharp and blunt - the meticulous details and razor-sharp storytelling, and the blanket of ambivalence and moral grey area that the story inhabits. So good. The narrator is spot on. An extremely satisfying read in my opinion.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Hoarder in You

  • How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life
  • By: Dr. Robin Zasio
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
  • Length: 7 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,073
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 966
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 958

The Hoarder in You provides practical advice for decluttering and organizing, including how to tame the emotional pull of acquiring additional things, make order out of chaos by getting a handle on clutter, and create an organizational system that reduces stress and anxiety. Dr. Zasio also shares some of the most serious cases of hoarding that she’s encountered, and explains how we can learn from these extreme examples - no matter where we are on the hoarding continuum.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I Listened While I Bagged Clothes

  • By Sparkly on 12-07-16

I Listened While I Bagged Clothes

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-07-16

I love this book, and like many I have listened several times. If you are searching for a book of this nature, then probably you or someone you know have a bit of a problem with stuff. This book worked for me because there are many versions of how and why we lose control of our living environments. Dr. Zasio will no doubt hit on something that exactly describes your situation, and she has specific suggestions of how to approach it. I had heard of those trash-filled homes you see on TV - that's totally not me. I don't buy unrealistic amounts of stuff that I can't use, either. But as it turns out, I have difficulty letting go of things. Hmmm! That can be a problem as time goes by. Dr. Zasio does not brag about instant success, nor does she propose unrealistic solutions. Her philosophy is clearly centered around the person, not the room. The anecdotes from her case-files are filled with compassion, respect, and positive change.
The narrator is perfect for this book. Her performance is appropriate to giving a dose of reality to listeners who may be struggling. If you are curious about clutter or hoarding, and have found other books to be lacking in depth or inapplicable to your situation, then you might enjoy this one.

57 of 58 people found this review helpful

  • How I Helped O. J. Get Away with Murder

  • The Shocking Inside Story
  • By: Mike Gilbert
  • Narrated by: Mel Foster
  • Length: 7 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 257
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 185
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 185

The shocking tale told in How I Helped O. J. Get Away with Murder is unlike anything you've read before. It isn't Mike Gilbert's "version" of what happened'; it's the unvarnished truth - the truth about O. J., the murders, and the infamous trial, not as Gilbert imagined or would like it to be, but how it actually was.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Wow

  • By Erin on 06-11-10

Not Pleasant, but Fascinating

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-26-16

This will conclude my binge into Simpson murders background, I hope. I found it fascinating, and perhaps you will, too. The book appealed to me because the author is not a writer or journalist. He played a small, peripheral, almost accidental part in a historical event beyond his control. As such, his wedge of experience describes a narrow, concentrated perspective rather than the overarching narrative. I think there's a place for these perspectives when considering history. Gilbert, a self described hanger-on to sports figures, gives a window into the memorabilia industry to those who, like me, are foreign to it. I find the idea of paying hundreds of dollars for a signature to be so strange and intriguing. Multiply that times the megawattage of OJ Simpson's popularity, and you have a recipe for greed, compromise, and moral equivalencies. If you are curious about this ungallant milieu, then you might like this book. For all of the author's less credible descriptions of bravado - "I told O.J., 'At least I didn't murder two people!''' - he does not spare himself when acknowledging his part in ruthless demonizing of the Goldmans and the Browns. I was also interested to hear Gilbert's interpretation of the events surrounding the murders themselves. He has a different perspective than others, and it made me appreciate the victims and their families anew. Those poor folks. The narrator is fine for the material, in my opinion.