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John

Austin, TX, United States | Member Since 2007

66
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 18 reviews
  • 36 ratings
  • 328 titles in library
  • 17 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
5

  • Brooklyn: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Colm Tóibín
    • Narrated By Kirsten Potter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (280)
    Performance
    (94)
    Story
    (101)

    It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn to a crowded boarding house. Slowly, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life - until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness.

    A. Cohen says: "Maturing in Brooklyn"
    "Disappointing"
    Overall

    I've read a number of Colm Toibin's books and have both enjoyed and admired them. Brooklyn, which I very much wanted to like, is a disappointment. The novel gets so caught up in its effort to produce an unadorned narrative about quite ordinary people who must live through a very common experience that it loses any hold it might have had on the reader's imagination. In looking so closely at the mundane, it becomes mundane. I should add, hoever, that the reader is excellent.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Jon Meacham
    • Narrated By Edward Herrmann, Jon Meacham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (935)
    Performance
    (807)
    Story
    (795)

    In this magnificent biography, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power.

    Darwin8u says: "A Man and Biography Relevant to Our Day"
    "A Bucket of Whitewash"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I admire Jetterson as much as the next guy and I've never really cared much about the Hemmings business, but Meacham is determined that Jefferson can do no wrong. By the middle of the book, Jefferson sank in my esteem. He lacked moral courage in his persistent refusal to recognize his hypocrisy in making a slave his concubine and he lacked physical courage when he fled from Monticello when the British were coming.
    Meacham just keeps whitewashing his failures.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Charles Emerson
    • Narrated By Kevin Stillwell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (36)
    Performance
    (32)
    Story
    (32)

    Today, 1913 is inevitably viewed through the lens of 1914: as the last year before a war that would shatter the global economic order and tear Europe apart, undermining its global pre-eminence. Our perspectives narrowed by hindsight, the world of that year is reduced to its most frivolous features last summers in grand aristocratic residences or its most destructive ones: the unresolved rivalries of the great European powers, the fear of revolution, violence in the Balkans.

    GANESHi says: "Good book ruined by bad read"
    "Comprehensive and very Informative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This overview of the world on the edge of war is a wonderful narrative history. It doesn't keep playing the irony card with observations on how little people knew about what was coming. Instead, it takes a deep snapshot of a remarkably varied set of nations and gives us an honest account of what was going on with them that contributed--or not as the case may be--to the war that followed. I found the chapter on Japan in 1913 especially helpful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Habits of the House

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Fay Weldon
    • Narrated By Katherine Kellgren
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (152)
    Performance
    (136)
    Story
    (134)

    As the Season of 1899 comes to an end, the world is poised on the brink of profound, irrevocable change. The Earl of Dilberne is facing serious financial concerns. The ripple effects spread to everyone in the household: Lord Robert, who has gambled unwisely on the stock market and seeks a place in the Cabinet; his unmarried children, Arthur, who keeps a courtesan, and Rosina, who keeps a parrot in her bedroom; Lord Robert’s wife, Isobel, who orders the affairs of the household in Belgrave Square; and Grace, the lady’s maid who orders the life of her mistress.

    Cindy says: "A Downtonlike story read by my favorite narrator?"
    "Pretty Thin Soup"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you're not tired of Downton Abbey and need to catch up on the 1899 Belgravian gossip this may be the book for you. It involves a clutch of matrons and maids nattering about clothes and what to serve thePrince of Wales when (and if) he comes to dinner. All told in the worn style of supercilious irony (e.g. Women "produce" children in this novel, they just can't "have" them) that should have gone out with Wodehouse

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Philosopher's Pupil

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Iris Murdoch
    • Narrated By Gildart Jackson
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (8)

    When George McCaffrey’s car plunges into a canal with his wife still inside, nobody knows whether George is to blame. Nobody, that is, except an Anglican priest who happened to witness the whole thing. And when George’s former teacher, the charismatic philosopher Rozanov, returns to town, George’s life begins to spin wildly out of control.

    John says: "A Trip Down a philosophical Lane"
    "A Trip Down a philosophical Lane"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Murdoch is in high style in this novel with an engaging story that keeps unfolding against a subtle background of moral philosophy. As in her other books she anchors twisty philosophical issues in a cunning narrative but for anyone with a minimal sense of the subject Murdoch provides both entertainment and enlightenment. For example, it doesn't take much to see that the disheveled, mainly anti-social philosopher of the title is based on Socrates,that the action, mainly set around a second-rate spa in Britain (known as the "Institute") registers the Greek-Roman focus on the town bath as the center of social life. etc. The plot goes a bit off the rails from time to time, and the book is too long for its own good, but I enjoyed it. The reading is very fine.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Any Human Heart: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By William Boyd
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    Overall
    (114)
    Performance
    (90)
    Story
    (92)

    Best-selling author William Boyd—the novelist who has been called a “master storyteller” (Chicago Tribune) and “a gutsy writer who is good company to keep” (Time)—here gives us his most entertaining, sly, and compelling novel to date. The novel evokes the tumult, events, and iconic faces of our time as it tells the story of Logan Mountstuart—writer, lover, and man of the world—through his intimate journals. It is the “riotous and disorganized reality” of Mountstuart’s 85 years in all their extraordinary, tragic, and humorous aspects.

    connie says: "very satisfying story-telling"
    "fascinating narrative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was delighted to come across this book by William Boyd. In some ways it is a very simple narrative that follows the life of its main character, a somewhat privileged Englishman, as it unfolds through the twentieth century. But as we journey with Logan Mountstewart, we are taken ever more intimately into his gathering self-awareness while being caught up in the always treacherous historical life of his times. I found it fascinating. The book has been made into a six-part TV series, also fascinating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Thérèse Raquin

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Emile Zola
    • Narrated By Kate Winslet
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (835)
    Performance
    (762)
    Story
    (753)

    Once upon a time, a teenaged Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic, Revolutionary Road) received a gift that would leave a lasting impression: a copy of Emile Zola’s classic Thérèse Raquin. Six Academy Award nominations and one Best Actress award later, she steps behind the microphone to perform this haunting classic of passion and disaster.

    FanB14 says: "Wonderful Winslet, Satisfactory Story"
    "Too Much of aGood Thing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Zola's novel is gritty, dramatic, and highly interesting in its portrayal of the deprivations experienced by its out-of-luck characters and the emotional turmoil their situations produce. But Zola seems especially interested in exposing us to every twist and turn in the guilt and cruelty that ultimately destroys nearly every vestige of their humanity. I could have done with 20% less of this novel. However, Kate Winslett's brilliant reading made up for a lot.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Art of Fielding: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs)
    • By Chad Harbach
    • Narrated By Holter Graham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1143)
    Performance
    (956)
    Story
    (957)

    At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

    S. says: "Not Quite ~"
    "Pretentious Bore"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    In spite of the rave reviews this book, though very well written (and very well read), takes a cliched plot-line and drives it relentlessly into the ground. Underdog college team with diamond-in-the-rough shortstop prevails against all odds without much adult supervision. The characters are all one-dimensional, the only female in the novel is a mere plot convenience, rolled in and out of the story with mechanical indifference to her presumptive role. Ethically, the novel is a mess. A college president forms a homosexual relationship with a student, and except for some administrative wrist-slapping towards the end, the novel steadily keeps a blind eye on the grotesque power-relationship it is describing. (Put priest in place of president and see if you think well of the book.) Even worse, the novel tries to place itself on the same shelf as Moby Dick! I gather that the author is an admirer of Franzen's Freedom, another novel much praised in spite of its sloshing superficialities.

    I should mention that I remain a devoted baseball fan in spite of my reaction here.

    19 of 23 people found this review helpful
  • The Sense of an Ending

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Julian Barnes
    • Narrated By Richard Morant
    Overall
    (835)
    Performance
    (702)
    Story
    (697)

    Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour, and wit. Maybe Adrian was more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is retired. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.

    Melinda says: "'Something Happened'..."
    "Absorbing, well told story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Barnes is an extremely intelligent novelist who constructs intricate stories. The intricacy doesn't get in the way; it fascinates. Almost nothing happens in this novel besides some rather difficult failures of connection and communication. Yet Barnes is able to make us feel the consequences of these failures with all the action and transformative energy of a stage drama.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Flaubert's Parrot

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Julian Barnes
    • Narrated By Richard Morant
    Overall
    (40)
    Performance
    (31)
    Story
    (31)

    Which of two stuffed parrots was the inspiration for one of Flaubert’s greatest stories? Why did the master keep changing the color of Emma Bovary’s eyes? And why should it matter so much to Geoffrey Braithwaite, a retired doctor haunted by a private secret? In Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes spines out a multiple mystery of obsession and betrayal (both scholarly and romantic) and creates an exuberant inquiry into the ways in which art mirrors life and then turns around to shape it.

    Jack says: "If this is your sort of thing, you'll like it."
    "Deft and Witty"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A very unusual book that combines a critical biography (sort of) of Flaubert and an autobiography (sort of) of the narrator. Barnes manages what he's doing without ever becoming stuffy. In fact the narrative is full of lovely surprises. I quite enjoyed it though I'm still not sure I can describe it.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Reading My Father: A Memoir

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Alexandra Styron
    • Narrated By Alexandra Styron
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (39)
    Performance
    (20)
    Story
    (18)

    Alexandra Styron's parents—the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sophie’s Choice and his political activist wife, Rose—were, for half a century, leading players on the world’s cultural stage. Alexandra was raised under both the halo of her father’s brilliance and the long shadow of his troubled mind. Reading My Father portrays the epic sweep of an American artist’s life. It is also a tale of filial love, beautifully written with humor, compassion, and grace.

    Douglas says: "William Styron Ranks..."
    "A Gripping Account"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a superb biography and you don't even have to be a Styron fan (I'm not) to find it fascinating. The daughter's portrait of her very troubled and demanding father manages somehow to maintain a loving quality within its excoriating account of Styron's bad bargains with his muse. He was clearly a charismatic man, someone who had many famous friends and well-wishers, but he was also demonized by his creative gifts and often unable to connect with his devoted family. The book is beautifully written and the author, who for years trained as an actress, is a very skillful reader.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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