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John Braine

J.

Dublin, Ireland | Member Since 2010

1
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 14 reviews
  • 45 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 18 purchased in 2014
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  • The View on the Way Down

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Rebecca Wait
    • Narrated By Mandy Weston, Carl Prekopp
    Overall
    (34)
    Performance
    (29)
    Story
    (27)

    The View on the Way Down captures the insidious, sometimes violent, force of depression and its ability to tip lives into chaos. Gripping, moving, and ultimately hopeful, The View on the Way Down will have you rooting for the family’s redemption. Rebecca Wait graduated from Oxford University in 2010 with a first class degree in English, having been mentored by the poet and novelist Craig Raine at New College. She’s been writing since she was a child and has won numerous prizes for short stories and plays.

    Tango says: "Beautiful Debut Novel - I LOVED THIS BOOK"
    "Pitch perfect for the subject matter"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    The View on the way down is about depression and suicide. And more than that it is the effects of depression and suicide on a family. For subject matter that some would consider taboo, it read to me as a very everyday story. Which is as it should be because depression and suicide are all around us. There is nothing sensational or melodramatic in this book. This is a regular family dealing with that “permanent solution to a temporary problem”. I think Rebecca Wait got the pitch just right. She knows her subject matter, but doesn’t showboat it. She doesn’t dwell on the details of the illness, but instead shows us the devastating results to all that surround it.

    I noticed an interesting trait that all the characters had. At various points in the book the all had to mentally force themselves to say or do something that they weren’t comfortable doing. This was written as if it is something that we all have to do every day. Which made me think this was an everyday occurrence for Rebecca Wait, and that she was no stranger to mental health. Though I think the whole book is testament to that. You just could not write a book like this through research alone.

    The plot is kept interesting by flicking between various characters perspectives; sister, brother, girlfriend, father, mother. It becomes subtly compelling to find out what will become of each of them.

    On a lighter note, whenever I saw this book cover, I wondered why on earth did they have an upside-down flying witch on the cover? It was only when I saw a bigger version that I realized it was a girl on a swing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Burial Rites: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Hannah Kent
    • Narrated By Morven Christie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (227)
    Performance
    (210)
    Story
    (208)

    A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her.

    Yvonne says: "One of the absolutely Best Books"
    "Great writing but ultimately a bit boring"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    I would have drastically shortened it.


    Any additional comments?

    Hannah Kent is a fine writer. Descriptive passages are finely crafted, and her metaphors shimmer. I found it quite similar to The Handmaid's Tale in tone and pace. But I felt the story was stretched much longer than it need to be. I have a very low boredom threshold so I got quite frustrated with it by the end, even though I enjoyed most of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7329)
    Performance
    (6717)
    Story
    (6722)

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
    "Wonderful"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Now and then, someone in work will ask me what I’m reading, and what’s it’s about. I’m often a bit stumped on how to answer that, as happened with the Goldfinch recently. I could say it’s about a guy who steals a painting after an explosion in an art gallery, and the consequences that followed. But of course the painting in The Goldfinch is a bit of a mcGuffin, and as with a lot of books like this, I found myself saying… Oh… god… what is it about… it’s about everything, love, loss, death, friendship, art, marriage, morals, parenting, growth, mental health, addiction, hedonism… LIFE.

    Tartt, Euginedes, and Franzen really excel at taking a bunch of interesting and believable characters to tell a story that itself is just a backdrop to the broad canvas of life. Their novels are always an amazing experience to read. The books that come before and after always pale in comparison. And The Goldfinch is no different. A masterpiece.

    As for the audio, I immediately recognized David Pitu's voice from The Marriage Plot and knew I was in good hands. He's very easy to listen to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog: Or How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Connie Willis
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley
    Overall
    (1825)
    Performance
    (1039)
    Story
    (1040)

    In this Hugo-winner from Connie Willis, when too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned's holiday anything but restful - to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.

    Amazon Customer says: "Sci-fi Comdey of Manners"
    "Not enjoyable"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you try another book from Connie Willis and/or Steven Crossley?

    No!


    Has To Say Nothing of the Dog turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Yes. Comedy sci-fi is such a chancey area. When it's not genuinely funny it's just painful.


    Any additional comments?

    God I'm glad that's over. I tried to enjoy this but it just wasn't entertaining or interesting enough for me. The story was just about worth persevering to the end. But I still didn't enjoy it overall. I just got more bored the longer I persevered. I really must remember not to persevere, regardless of story, if you're not enjoying the characters or the author's voice in general, when you're 1/3 way, that is not going to change regardless of the story.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Interestings

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Meg Wolitzer
    • Narrated By Jen Tullock
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (967)
    Performance
    (859)
    Story
    (862)

    The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge. The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age 15 is not always enough to propel someone through life at age 30; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence.

    Tango says: "Needs a better title, but a good read (listen)"
    "Way overhyped"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Here was my experience of The Interestings.

    1. I google "best books of 2013"

    2. I click the Barnes and Noble link, and then click on something called "The Interestings"

    3. I read "She's every bit as literary as Franzen or Eugenides" - ooh! that's me completely sold!

    4. Initial excitement wanes quickly. I'm thinking "This is as literary as Bridget Jones' Diary" and then I just get more and more annoyed with the book and the characters. It reads more to me like an average Young Adult novel featuring teenagers who are smug enough and annoying enough to call themselves "The Interestings" (even if tongue-in-cheek).

    5. Maybe a third of the way and finally start to get over the fact that Meg Wolitzer is not in the same league as Franzen or Euginedes by a long shot. I try not to let expectation be the sole destroyer of this book. I try to appreciate it on it's own terms but I'm still annoyed with a few things. Even if the way-overhyped quotes in best-of-the-year lists don't ruin it by high expectation alone, the title doesn't do it any favours either. They're not that interesting! And someone needs to tell Wolitzer about "show don't tell". She keeps *telling* us how funny Jules is yet she never made me laugh once.

    I think the cruel truth here is that Wolitzer is a lot less interesting and funny than she thinks she is, which is just another bullet this book shoots itself in the foot with.

    Despite all of the above, I didn't hate it - I enjoyed a lot of it but if it had a different title, and I stumbled across it in less magnanimous context, I might have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Eleanor & Park

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Rainbow Rowell
    • Narrated By Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (745)
    Performance
    (694)
    Story
    (700)

    Set over the course of one school year, in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love - and just how hard it pulled you under.

    FanB14 says: "E + P 4-ever!"
    "boy meets girl"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    I can’t remember where I got this one recommendation from – I seem to end up reading more than my fair share of teenage love stories sometimes. I’m not exactly the target market.

    Boy meets girl. They fall in love. There’s not a hell of a lot more to it. Ok there’s bullying, an evil stepdad, and a lot of good music references. That’s pretty much it.

    It’s pretty good for what it is. I imagine a lot of teens would love it. I thought it was fine. Enough with the teeny stuff for now though.

    Notes on the audio:
    Both actors were fine. But as often the case, when the male actor was speaking as the female character, it was awful. He made her sound whiny and unlikeable. Eleanor didn’t sound like that at all when the female actor was doing her bits.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Beautiful Ruins

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Jess Walter
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5742)
    Performance
    (4969)
    Story
    (4963)

    The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot - searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

    Ella says: "My mind wandered"
    "Contrast is the greatest character"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    I said it before and I’ll say it again: I love a good dose of contrast in books. Beautiful Ruins contrasts between the charms of a small Italian coastal village in 1962 and the cynical world of modern day Hollywood where everyone is pitching for the latest reality TV show.

    The cover and title of this book are a bit misleading – it looks like it’s going to be a romantic story set in that coastal Italian Village, but that’s only the half of it, I think I would have tired of it quickly without the contrast of flicking between the romantic past and the shallow present. It’s got a great cast of characters also:

    Pasquale Tursi an Italian Hotelier with grand notions of making a beach and a tennis court beside his small empty hotel.
    Alvis Bender, an American war veteran / failed novelist / successful drunk philosopher
    Pat Bender, a has been musician, who’s on the brink of being a full time waster
    Shane Wheeler, a wannabe playwright who manages to get a pitch with a casting agent…
    Claire Silver, Film school graduate, whose soul sinks further with every ‘reality tv’ pitch she has to listen to.
    Michael Deane: a horrible, a plastic-faced, movie exec, who puts a price tag on everything
    Richard Burton – yes Richard Burton!
    And Dee Moray – the Hollywood Starlet who links them all together through the past, present, Italy & Hollywood.
    I really liked it – and it’s quite different than the cover makes it seem.

    The audio is quite good, and won awards but thank God the Irish character is a minor role, that accent was woeful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Gargoyle

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Andrew Davidson
    • Narrated By Lincoln Hoppe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (220)
    Performance
    (119)
    Story
    (123)

    An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time. The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows.

    Rodney says: "The Gargoyle"
    "Brilliant and original, and criminally unknown"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Although a few slip through the net, it’s hard not to hear about a good movie. But I’m often amazed at the volume of amazing books that you never hear about and are so easy to miss. The premise of The Gargoyle is based around an old trope; is a character insane or has she actually {insert-impossible-fantastical-truth}. But that doesn’t take away from how great this book is. I was hooked from the start: a porn-star crashes his car while off his head and hallucinating then get’s horribly burned alive in the car, which is described in great detail, and that’s just the first page, awesome stuff!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tampa

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Alissa Nutting
    • Narrated By Kathleen McInerney
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (72)
    Performance
    (64)
    Story
    (65)

    Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. But Celeste's devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession: 14-year-old boys. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure. With crackling, rampantly unadulterated prose, Tampa is a grand, uncompromising, seriocomic examination of want and a scorching literary debut.

    Linda says: "This author is pretty gutsy"
    "Glossy mag story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Celeste Price became a teacher with the sole purpose of seducing teenage students. I usually roll my eyes when I hear people complaining that a book is controversial just for the sake of controversy, but found myself thinking something similar with this. It was just a bit too shallow and frivolous. Had it’s moments, but at times, it reminded me of a story you might come across in a bad waiting-room magazine. I still love the cover (though I made the classic mistake of judging a...). And I was amused by the ever present subtext that if this book was about a male teacher, there would probably be book burnings across the States.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Troop

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Nick Cutter
    • Narrated By Corey Brill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (315)
    Performance
    (298)
    Story
    (299)

    Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip - a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfre. The boys are a tight-knit crew. There’s Kent, one of the most popular kids in school; Ephraim and Max, also well-liked and easygoing; then there’s Newt the nerd and Shelley the odd duck. For the most part, they all get along and are happy to be there - which makes Scoutmaster Tim’s job a little easier.

    Kim Venatries says: "Seriously Messed Up Gruesome Horror"
    "Solid"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    I haven’t read a horror in years. This was a pretty good read though. Lord of the Flies meets World War Z tells you all you need to know. The narration was a tad over-baked in places though. He read every single line as if something terrifying was happening. Steady on, he’s just opening a tin of beans!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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