Cover Image: From the Corner of the Oval

From the Corner of the Oval

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The candy colored cover drops a little hint about the tone of this memoir. The little tidbits about rubbing elbows with players of the Obama administration fill the book and give this privileged twenty-something tell-all some clout. The meat of the book, however, takes the reader on an amusement park ride of her relationships in her mid -twenties that can best be described as cringe-worthy. . . . But. . . . But. Like passing an accident on the side of the road, I just couldn't stop reading. Nor could I stop rooting for her (ok, and maybe yelling at the book for her to just drop that guy . . . and that guy). And, for this reason, I recommend this memoir as a juicy summer read.

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I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley and publishers Spiegel & Grau in exchange for an honest review. This book releases July 10, 2018.

Beck Dorey-Stein accepts the position as President Obama’s stenographer just as the campaign for his second term starts to heat up. She leaves the position shortly after President Trump moves into the White House. In between those two bookends of history, she attends President Obama’s speeches, addresses, campaign stumps and travels on Air Force One with the presidential team. She was self-aware enough to realize that this was a dream job and the things that she was seeing were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and situations.
The book is extremely readable and Beck is a very good writer in that it reads as an entertaining book of fiction rather than nonfiction. She kept copious amounts of notes during her time in this position so that she would have a record of everything that she saw and experienced and she cherished the times she actually got to spend with President Obama and the friends that she made at work.

While I was reading this book, it was impossible not to get that “good feeling” of what it used to be like when President Obama was in charge – that inclusivity, dignity and hope that he managed to convey whenever he spoke and it is hard to imagine what those incredible times must have felt like by the people working for him. Beck does a tremendous job conveying that excitement and honour.

Now, to the part of the book that I thought diminished her story and the part she played in the Obama administration. When Beck accepted the position, she was dating Sam, however, it wasn’t very long after she started working at the White House that she began an affair with a staffer, Jason. Jason also had a girlfriend who lived in California. Not only did Jason have a girlfriend and Beck on the side, he was also on the prowl continually for other conquests. It is not my job to judge their actions but I am going to judge how much of the book was devoted to this affair that was on-again/off-again at Jason’s whim.

At one point in the book, Beck states “Lying in my bed that night, I look at the stacks of notebooks I’ve kept since starting this job and realize that my own life is in the margins, Sam and Jason take up most of the lines”. She certainly got that right as so much of this book was her describing all the drama that comes with affairs and broken hearts.

I felt like all the drama of the affair overpowered the point of the book which I thought was to be an inside view of what it was like to be on President Obama’s team. Instead, a good portion of this book was Beck crying over Jason; Beck crying over Sam; Beck drunk because Jason was ignoring her; Beck drunk because she was happy that Jason was paying attention to her that night; Beck sobbing when Jason dumped her etc., etc., etc……..
I am disappointed that I cannot give this book more than three stars because when Beck is busy describing her work and experiences that came with her job, it reads like a five star book. I just wish she had seriously downplayed all the young adult angst.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book for review.

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I very much enjoyed this inside look at the Obama White House (due in large part, I believe, to how much he is missed as a leader in this country!) I thought that viewing things from the perspective of someone at the level of a stenographer provided the perfect way of seeing things; it felt like it was the same perspective that we "regular folks" would have.

There were times when I thought some of Beck's choices were questionable (as I'm sure she did!) and that got a little frustrating, but I tried not to focus on that and concentrate more on the behind-the-scenes stories. The section about Charleston had me in tears, as did the last section when they were leaving the White House. I have to say that when I turned the page and saw the title of the Epilogue, I laughed out loud -- well done, Beck!

Looking forward to meeting this author at the Random House Open House on July 19 and hearing her talk more about her experiences!

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This book was amazing. Beck's live-action account of some of the most unforgettable moments of 44's presidency are not to be missed. Juxtaposed against a young woman's quest to find her place in this world, this book is a must read.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this inside glimpse into the White House during President Obama's term in office. It really gives a glimpse into the life of someone that works at the White House & the crazy schedule the president keeps while in office. It's written very eloquently & is so descriptive, you feel like you're a part of the hustle & bustle of a political D.C. life. All of the people that are written about in this novel are interesting, & the author makes you want to be a part of her world, especially during this president's term. I highly recommend reading this book.

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This was a very interesting read. It was cool to get a behind the scenes look into the trips and events that Beck covered for Obama. Her personal life would lend itself well to a rom-com and was fun to read about. I really enjoyed her transition into being more self-assured and knowing what she wanted.

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Fun book! Interesting details given regarding what it is like to work in a lower level WH position. Apparently it has already been optioned for a movie.

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To be transported back to the Obama administration was amazing. To remember his way with words. His gentleness. His humanity. I loved getting to read a little about Obama behind the scenes, off camera. I just wish there would have been more!

Dorsey-Stein is a great writer, but she got sidetracked from telling the story of her experience in the White House. Instead, this book was basically her lamenting her moral behavior as she recounts over and over again just how hopelessly in love she was with a emotionally unavailable and manipulative man, who continuously convinced her to cheat on her boyfriend. As if that’s not enough, we also have to read through seemingly nightly binge drinking. I was often wondering how these staff members, who I assumed were responsible for Obama’s safety, had so much time and ability to go to bars and drink until the early morning hours while on trips. It seemed as if these people were really on vacation and not working responsibly.

The title of the book certainly led me to believe I was getting more behind-the-scenes details instead of a coming-of-age story set in Washington, D.C. amongst some major power players. I loved the parts that included Obama; I could have done without the rest.

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As I began “From the Corner of the Oval” I really wanted to like it. Here was an insider’s perspective on the Obama administration and what it’s like to work as a political stenographer. It was the perfect mix of personal and political. The first pages grabbed me right away as I cannot help but love a novel that begins with grammatical rules (which, for the topic of the novel, makes total sense). And as I continued reading about Beck’s first days at the White House and as she illustrated the difficulties of learning the ropes and learning your place, I really liked the book. It felt like Beck and I were at a bar discussing her political career over a pair of White Russians. Beck Dorey-Stein is likable and a narrator (as a millennial) I can truly relate to. We were all sold this dream to go to college, get a degree, and you’ll be fine! But we’re not fine, we’re struggling. The novel is just one example of that struggle.

I loved reading about Beck’s run-ins with Obama in the gym and around the White House. I loved seeing a president that I admired depicted in such a friendly, carefree way. I loved seeing Obama as a human and not as POTUS.

SPOILERS SPOILERS: With all that said, what I disliked about this novel was the amount of space that Beck’s personal, romantic affairs took up. When we first meet Jason, I was excited. I am a huge fan of YA at heart, so I thought that being able to see a little bit of that genre peek it’s head into an autobiography might be fun. Maybe this could be both a novel about falling in love and politics…but soon, this fun fling went south and being inside Beck’s head as she lost respect for herself and fell into Jason’s arms over and over again – allowing him to make her feel as though their sex life was her fault – rang too true to my own life that I couldn’t stand it. We all know a Jason, we all probably have a Jason in our life, and to see one illustrated in “From the Corner of the Oval” just made me want to skip past all of Beck’s glorious writing to the next happy part.

Aside from that, I fell in love with the nerdy side of Beck who made constant references to Frodo and his ring, Darcy versus Wickham, and swarms of Death Eaters (when she states that Jason not knowing who Voldemort was should have been a huge sign to run made me literally laugh out loud). I fell for the Beck who was on a path to self discovery as she navigated the White House waters and made amazing, numerous friends and found mentors. At the end of the day, one of the novels resounding themes was; What do I want my life to be? How do I live my best life? And I think that, at the end of the novel, Beck was well on her way to figuring out what that would be for her in a post-Obama world.

Would recommend.

Favorite Quotes (I did read an ARC, so quotes are subject to change):
Steve Jobs: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
(Connecting the Dots)

“That’s the incredible thing about parents. They’ll love you even after you’ve told them flat out that you’re a terrible human being.”

“…POTUS grabs my attention when he says the narrative of history is long, and ‘We just try to get our paragraph right.’ Life is short and this world is big. Get your paragraph right.”
(We Just Try To Get Our Paragraph Right)

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Funny , entertaining, and also sad, "From the Corner of the Oval" gives us a look into the authors life as stenographer for the Obama Presidency and what it was like in his inner circle. This was a quick and good read. I enjoyed it. I would recommend it to others.

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion of it.

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I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of Barack Obama and the work he did as President. When I started this book and determined this book would be about his world, I almost stopped reading. I'm glad I didn't. Beck does a fantastic job of telling the story, mostly unbiased. She lets you know how she felt about some policy, but mostly just got us into the crazy world of being in the Presidents circle. She made it interesting, deep, and hilarious. It sounds more like living in a high school 24/7 with these young adults figuring out the world they live in. But I feel like most of us adults feel more like high schoolers still figuring out the world, then adults who have it all together. I recommend giving this book a chance.

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I enjoyed the writing in this book. The stories were funny and entertaining. What I wasn’t expecting was the heartbreak in this book. The end was so depressing. The book just made me long for better days.

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COMPULSIVELY readable, this was the perfect blend (for me) of politics and interesting personal memoir with relationships (romantic and platonic). highly recommended to everyone interested in the obama presidency but who also likes just a really really good read.

my one complaint is that i thoroughly disapprove of her not hooking up with one of the (platonic) men (dude, he was obviously the BEST) and i really question what she's like personally based on a few TINY snippets where i feel we got to see some of the obsessive and not-so-endearing personality traits not glossed over and presented as hilarious, smart protagonist writing her own story and presenting it how she likes.

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From the Corner of the Oval is not what I expected. Beck Dorsey-Stein worked as a stenographer in the Obama administration. This means that she was one of a handful of people who’s job it was to record and transcribe every public meeting, interview or statement made by Obama. This also means that she spent an awful lot of time in close proximity to Obama and his entourage, including traveling through the US and around the world on Air Force One. I expected Dorsey-Stein’s book to be about the inner workings of the Obama White House as seen by a close observer. There is some of that, but much of the book is taken up with the author’s youthful and turbulent love life. Throughout much of the book, she is lovesick and hungover as she hankers for the attention of the wrong man, who is one of her coworkers and a senior member of the administration. But, oddly, I still quite liked it.

My favourite parts were definitely Dorsey-Beck’s unadulterated admiration for Obama. When Obama does make an appearance, the author does a great job giving tidbits of insight into his solid character, seriousness and sense of humour. At this stage in my life, I cannot relate to the chaos of the author’s personal life — and it’s hard to understand what would motivate her to write a book primarily focused on her messy love life — but at some level, I still found her endearing and found myself whipping through her story. It’s a bit of an odd book, and I’m not sure who I would recommend it to, but my 4 star rating is an honest assessment of how readable this one was despite its flaws.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

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Beck Dorey-Stein writes with humor and wit as she discusses adjusting to the political way of life in Obamaworld. She has an engaging writing style that really flows well. In this book she highlights her job as a stenographer in Obama's administration, discussing press conferences, domestic and international trips, and her personal life as well.
Think of this book as a cross between The West Wing and Sex and the City, with more of an emphasis on the latter.

Beck talks about forging lifelong friendships and experiencing failed romances. She tries to balance a chaotic, stressful work life with a personal life that is less than ideal. She exposes her naivete and numerous bad decisions for all the world to see.

On the subject of her job, Beck delivers candid peeks of Obama serving the country and on the campaign trail, relationships with the white house staff, and behind the scenes glimpses of working in the administration.

This book is not just about President Obama, so don't let that decide whether you read it or not. Beck gives an insider's look from her corner of the Oval, the part she played in the administration, and the way here life was shaped because of it. I believe she delivers a good message that anyone interested in politics will appreciate.

I received this as a free ARC from Spiegel & Grau, Random House Publishing Group on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ARC/Early Reader's Copy
My favorite White House memoir is Alyssa Mastromonaco's Who Thought this Was A Good Idea. This book didn't really hit the same stride for me. The behind the scenes look was very interesting but the heavy focus on the author's romantic relationships was just not all that interesting. I think the writer was best when focusing on the actual day to day workings of a lower level employee at one of the most famous workplaces in the world.

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This book was SO much fun to read! It wasn’t political and heartfelt but also felt like a season of Sex and the City set in D.C. I want to know more!

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I really enjoyed reading this book. The book follows the author through her late 20's an into the beginning of her 30's, and I could really relate to her evolving. At first, I was convinced this chick was a hot mess, and I wish she would have come to her senses quicker, but I'm sure that she wishes that as well. Additionally, I loved getting an inside peek into what it's like to work inside the White House. While there's no hot gossip about POTUS, and the names are changed, it was still very eye-opening and compelling. My only complaint would maybe be the ending - I would have liked to know exactly how her career at the White House came to a close.

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beck Dorey-Stein's upfront and in-your-face memoir of life as a stenographer in the Obama administration. Beck joined the team through a Craig's List ad and found herself off and running around the world recording every speech and presentation the president made. With battered luggage in tow she learned the ropes of the job making friends, mistakes and memories along the way.

It was a pleasure to read about Beck's view of life inside the Obama White House. She was usually able to put a positive spin on situations. However there were also some very trying times for our nation and Beck did not shrink from eloquently writing about those.. She seems to have captured the sense of purpose and teamwork that was the driving force of that much missed administration.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for allowing me to read this advanced copy and provide a review.

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I loved this book! While I admit I’m nostalgic for the Obama White House, this book was way more than that for me. It reads more like a great novel than it does a memoir. It tackles life, healthy and unhealthy relationships, staying true to yourself, and truly discovering who you are. I haven’t stayed up late reading a book in a while but I had to force myself to stop reading this one so I could get some sleep.

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