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John Braine

London, United kingdom
  • 17
  • reviews
  • 24
  • helpful votes
  • 54
  • ratings
  • Golden Boy

  • By: Abigail Tarttelin
  • Narrated by: Toby Longworth, Penelope Rawlins, Antonia Beamish, and others
  • Length: 13 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 5
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5

Max Walker is the golden boy. He's attractive, intelligent, athletic. He's even nice to his little brother. Max is going to pass his exams with flying colours; he’s going to make his parents proud.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Compelling

  • By Jackie on 06-30-14

Terrible child narration ruined it

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

Reviewed: 08-21-15

What disappointed you about Golden Boy?

Max is a teenager who, on the surface is the golden boy at school, but lurking behind his Y-fronts is a secret to all but his immediate family: Max is intersex, an hermaphrodite.

I don’t know where I heard this book being highly praised but I had many problems with it and can't believe all the plaudits and five stars.

- There’s a rape in the opening pages of this book. But the author refuses to mention the word rape once throughout the whole book. This seemed like a major cop out to me. I got the impression she was afraid to get into the “blurred lines” and call a rape a rape.

- There’s a 10-year-old boy in this book. And the author clearly knows no ten year olds and didn’t bother to check any out. The ten year old acts like a five year old throughout the book. There’s even a line where he’s whinging about "story time" in school. Story time! Ten year olds do not have story time. They read full novels on their own. This was so sloppy that it made me lose all confidence in the author. And then later on this 10 year old, who acts like a 5 year old, has these small bursts of intelligence that are way above his station. Wildly inconsistent.

And I have to say the whingey/whiney/childish narration of the 10 year old really sealed the deal for this character to ruin the book.

- There’s a part where a doctor suggests to Max that when he talks to himself in his head, it might actually be a unborn twin talking to him. I repeat, this was said by a doctor, a specialist. This is the kind of badly researched nonsense that popped up now and then.

- This really came across to me as a YA book. I’m constantly annoyed at hearing of a book getting really high praise, without mentioning the context of YA. In my experience YA books often lack depth, maturity, authenticity, and intelligence.

- I couldn’t help comparing this book to Middlesex. Which is such a better book in every way. Golden Boy is Middlesex-Lite. If you’re curious about the subject matter, do yourself a favour and read Middlesex instead.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Frustration

Any additional comments?

Having said all that, even though I was often very frustrated, and driven demented by the 5-year-old 10-year-old, I was never bored, and at times I even found it to be a bit of a page turner. But this definitely doesn’t deserve the 5 stars everyone else is giving it. Abigail Tarttelin definitely has potential but she will be cringing at this book when she has a bit more experience under her belt.

  • Under the Skin

  • By: Michel Faber
  • Narrated by: Fiona Hardingham
  • Length: 9 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 735
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 668
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 665

A “fascinating psychological thriller” ( Baltimore Sun), this entrancing novel introduces Isserley, a female driver who scouts the Scottish Highlands for male hitchhikers with big muscles. She herself is tiny—like a kid peering up over the steering wheel. Scarred and awkward, yet strangely erotic and threatening, Isserley listens to her passengers as they open up to her, revealing clues about who might miss them should they disappear—and then she strikes. What happens to her victims next is only part of a terrifying reality.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Something Different!

  • By Brenda J. Duge on 07-13-14

almost as good as the movie

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

Reviewed: 10-23-14

If you could sum up Under the Skin in three words, what would they be?

Under the skin!

Any additional comments?

I never read a book if I’ve already seen the movie but I didn’t even know the book existed beforehand, and I was so intrigued by the movie that I wanted to know more, even though I loved the ambiguity of the movie.

It turns out that the book is very different in detail and plot and stands on its own completely. They are almost different episodes of the same basic premise. And the book really struck me as an allegory for the carnivore/vegetarian debate. Considering it is in effect about meat, the title, perfectly works on many levels.

And while the movie has some of the most visually striking images I’ve seen in years, the audiobook contains some of the most haunting sounds I’ve heard in an audiobook.

Highly recommended

17 of 24 people found this review helpful

Silas Marner audiobook cover art
  • Silas Marner

  • By: George Eliot
  • Narrated by: John Peakes
  • Length: 7 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 43
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 32
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38

Embittered by a false accusation, disappointed in friendship and love, the weaver Silas Marner retreats into a long twilight life alone with his loom and his gold. Silas hoards a treasure that destroys his spirit until fate steals it from him and replaces it with a golden-haired child. Where she came from, who her parents were, and who really stole the gold are the secrets that fill this moving tale of guilt and innocence.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Lonely man discovers what's important in Life.

  • By Kristi R. on 06-06-13

Ugly dialogue, sorry!

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

Reviewed: 07-29-14

Any additional comments?

I don't have a good track record with ye old classics. I've found a lot of them quite dated, regardless of how ahead of their time they once were, and others just a bit too... stiff & stuffy for my liking. I just I connect with contemporary books more easily. Hot off the press. That's how I like it. But I thought I'd test the waters again and I ended up with Silas Marner as my test subject.

I found my enjoyment of it, and lack of, a bit of a roller coaster. I quite enjoyed the opening chapters and could really appreciate the fine writing. But then I hit a massive bump all of a sudden: there was a scene with a bar of old codgers talking a godawful load of codswallop, and I couldn't wait for it to end. I found it really unpleasant to listen to. I thought I might have to abandon the book completely. I wasn't quite sure if it was the actual dialog, or the narrator, but I switched from audio to Kindle and it was definitely less unpleasant reading it myself. And there probably wasn't such another big chunk of dense dialogue again. I don't think I've had such an experience with an audiobook before.

Then I found there were definite peaks and troughs in the actual story. Not much different than a lot of books but overall it really added to my rollercoaster experience of this book. It went up and down through the range of star ratings from 1 to 4. I settled on an overall 3.

A worthwhile exercise, and not a terrible experience overall. But I'm definitely happier with more contemporary work (though not necessarily a contemporary setting) and I don't see any reason to break from that comfort zone again any time soon. There are amazing new books out all the time and I'll mostly be sticking to them thanks very much. Some people don't read sci-fi or other genres. I don't read old classics. So that's that.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Burial Rites

  • A Novel
  • By: Hannah Kent
  • Narrated by: Morven Christie
  • Length: 11 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,003
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 935
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 935

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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Cannot stop thinking about this book

  • By Sam - Audible on 11-04-15

Great writing but ultimately a bit boring

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

Reviewed: 05-07-14

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.

  • The Goldfinch

  • By: Donna Tartt
  • Narrated by: David Pittu
  • Length: 32 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25,375
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 23,044
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 23,068

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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Stellar narration but depressing story

  • By DQmaine on 02-02-17

Wonderful

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

Reviewed: 05-07-14

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • To Say Nothing of the Dog

  • Or How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last
  • By: Connie Willis
  • Narrated by: Steven Crossley
  • Length: 20 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,367
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,464
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,467

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.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A fun read

  • By Sara on 07-23-08

Not enjoyable

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

Reviewed: 05-07-14

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

  • By: Meg Wolitzer
  • Narrated by: Jen Tullock
  • Length: 15 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,231
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,966
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,980

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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Top Listen for 2013 - A+++

  • By Beth Anne on 05-24-13

Way overhyped

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

Reviewed: 05-07-14

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The View on the Way Down

  • By: Rebecca Wait
  • Narrated by: Mandy Weston, Carl Prekopp
  • Length: 7 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 44
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 38
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 36

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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautiful Debut Novel - I LOVED THIS BOOK

  • By Tango on 04-13-13

Pitch perfect for the subject matter

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

Reviewed: 05-07-14

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.

  • Eleanor & Park

  • By: Rainbow Rowell
  • Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra
  • Length: 8 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,335
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,825
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,846

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.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • E + P 4-ever!

  • By FanB14 on 04-27-14

boy meets girl

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

Reviewed: 05-07-14

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.

  • Beautiful Ruins

  • By: Jess Walter
  • Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
  • Length: 12 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 10,883
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9,596
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 9,590

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.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • My mind wandered

  • By Ella on 11-25-12

Contrast is the greatest character

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

Reviewed: 05-07-14

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.