I recently bought this book to begin learning Russian. I am a languages teacher by profession. I teach Spanish, Italian, French, Greek and Portuguese and I have studied many other languages. The conversations and grammar explanations in this book are good and the grammar is explained clearly. However, I would like to point out a couple of bad points about this book:
1. The book does not explain the pronunciation rules well. After working through the pronunciation chapter and upon listening to the conversations in the following chapters, you soon realise that certain letters are simply not being pronounced according to what was explained in the pronunciation chapter. You are taught that "oh" is pronounced as the "o" in the English word bore. However in conversations, it if often pronounced as "a" as in "car". There seems to be no explanation for this whatsoever in the book and it seems impossible to predict when an "o" is pronounced like and "o" and when it should be pronounced like an "a". This is just once case. There are many other letters that are pronounced in a different way to what is explained in the book. Some letters (especially the vowels) completely change their sound but there is no explanation by the author, thus leaving the learner completely confused and unable to pronounce words unless listening to them on the cd. As a beginner, this is very confusing. Having studied many languages from Hindi, Japanese & Arabic to Tamil, Yoruba, Bulgarian etc... I can honestly say that Russian pronunciation needs much more of an explanation than what has been given by the author.
2. The audio cds only cover the main conversations. This means that every time new vocabulary is introduced, you will have no idea how to pronounce it correctly or where the stress should fall. Of course not knowing how to pronounce those new words correctly could make it difficult for natives to understand you.
3. Some new words are given in the conversations without a translation at all and those words are not even in the dictionary at the back of the book. So this means you keep reading the new words again and again and still have no idea what they mean.
In conclusion, the book itself is good for learning but without a Russian native sitting next to you, you are going to struggle to pronounce many of the words. In my opinion, the author should explain the pronunciation in more detail rather than just teaching the alphabet and main sounds and completely ignoring the "major" changes in pronunciation that occur depending on where letters are in words. This NEEDS to be explained to learners. New words need to be given on the audio cd so that students know how to pronounce them. Furthermore all new words introduced must have a translation so that learners are not left clueless to their meaning.
Explaining grammar and teaching vocab is one thing but if you don't know how to pronounce them, you won't be understood!