Actually, I would give it 3.5 stars. Speak in the audio format feels realistic, as the reader sounds like a teenage girl whom narrates to us in the firActually, I would give it 3.5 stars. Speak in the audio format feels realistic, as the reader sounds like a teenage girl whom narrates to us in the first person. She sarcastically and moodily goes through her disrupted life with the experiences of a typical teenager, and one whom has experienced a traumatic event. Its easy to sympathize with her as she fumbles her way through her cynicism, pain, and angst which are otherwise present in most untouched young people's lives. The audio book plays identically to the movie which was good, and had unfortunately watched before I listened to the audio book. Generally, I like to read the book before I watch the movie. I'd prefer not to read a book when I know its conclusion. It's more of a commitment to spend the time reading a book rather than watching an hour long movie, but I would say that this book was worth it. ...more
This is a great healthy cookbook. The author is a nutritionist and pares down recipes that most of us are familiar with but which are high in fat andThis is a great healthy cookbook. The author is a nutritionist and pares down recipes that most of us are familiar with but which are high in fat and unhealthy. She uses realistic ingredients and the book has gorgeous pictures! I have tried a number of the recipes and they are really good. My husband even likes them....more
A well organized, easy to read (and skim) book on ways to prevent Alzheimer's. It includes advice on diet, physical fitness, memory tests, and mentalA well organized, easy to read (and skim) book on ways to prevent Alzheimer's. It includes advice on diet, physical fitness, memory tests, and mental exercises to help memory and retention. As well, there is an extensive bibliography.
Included is information on the what they do know about the disease: what are its known causes, the known statistics around one's genetic propensity for getting the disease, and statistics regarding one of the newest drug used in the treatment of Alzheimer's.
This is a book for anyone who is concerned that he/she may have the disease and distinguishes between normal memory loss in the aging process and the actual illness. There is a difference....more
This is a series review for the: Fever Series in audio.
Set in the rainy city of Dublin, Ireland, this parOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
This is a series review for the: Fever Series in audio.
Set in the rainy city of Dublin, Ireland, this paranormal romance/urban fantasy series has a complex mythology, intense sexual tension, two alien fairy factions, and loads of interesting drama and action. It’s a completely addictive series and highly recommended in its audio version for a five book escapist read.
For the entire review link to the blog post above or my review here on Goodreads.
This was a tough one to rate - I debated internally for the past several days as to a 4 or 5 star. I don't give many 5 stars and try to do so to booksThis was a tough one to rate - I debated internally for the past several days as to a 4 or 5 star. I don't give many 5 stars and try to do so to books that have some sort of social significance. It was such a great read even with and incredible story. I'm not sure if it is to be considered great literature, but I finally relented and gave it a 5. I was sad that it finally had end. Its not your standard love story but its message is important (although mushy) - that love survives beyond life as we understand it. Which is why I think that for the most part women will enjoy this tale more than men. ...more
I am still reading this great collection. Here are several blog posts around the two stories which I have completed. Each comes with additional informI am still reading this great collection. Here are several blog posts around the two stories which I have completed. Each comes with additional information and links.
An elegant and literary whodunit, set against the backdrop of China’s brutal crushing of Tibetan society aOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An elegant and literary whodunit, set against the backdrop of China’s brutal crushing of Tibetan society and beliefs.
Description: Shan used to be a police inspector in Beijing, but was imprisoned in a remote Tibetan jail after he ran afoul of a powerful figure in the Chinese Government. After being unofficially released, he has to remain in Tibet without status or official identity, unable to return home to Beijing. He now lives among outlawed Buddhist monks, who he comes to admire and love.
While doing menial work as an inspector of irrigation and sewer ditches, he comes across a horrific crime scene, two unidentified men and a Tibetan nun murdered and displayed in a strange tableau in the grounds on an old Buddhist temple. Unable to prevent himself from getting involved, he soon realizes that the Chinese police seem more intent on covering up facts rather than solving the crime.
When the evidence leads Shan to a new internment camp for Tibetan dissidents, he finds himself in grave danger. While trying to find justice for the victims, he now has to navigate between the people running the camp, a local criminal gang, various different Chinese police and army factions, and the Chinese governments’ rabid pacification teams who are trying to stamp out local Tibetan customs and belief systems.
John’s thoughts: This was a very good read, a combination of a complex and interesting whodunit and a damning indictment of China’s treatment of Tibet and its people. Set in the remote and beautiful Tibetan countryside, you also get to learn a lot about Tibet’s traditional and gentle Buddhist communities.
The book is filled with many complex and interesting characters, starting with Shan himself who is torn between his personal beliefs, seeking justice, protecting his new-found Tibetan friends and trying not to endanger his imprisoned son. Among others featured in the story are peaceful monks, one of whom mysteriously commits suicide, Chinese intellectuals who have been banished to Tibet, and a Chinese Lieutenant who starts to help Shan despite the dangers involved.
The plot twists and turns and you cannot see how things are going to develop; though if I do have one small grumble about the book, the ending is almost too neat. But I’m being a bit churlish – this is a good read and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes complex whodunits and/or anyone with an interest in Tibet and what is happening to the beleaguered country. I’d rate this book four stars. ...more
Quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eveOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought
2.5 stars actually
Quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eventual recovery.
Description: Glen Hughes joined the English rock band Deep Purple when they were at their peak. He was a highly talented singer, songwriter and bassist and had previously spent six years in the band Trapeze, but as part of Deep Purple he immediately achieved worldwide fame. After two years Deep Purple split up and Hughes then went on to make a lot of music with a string of bands and as a solo artist, in addition to being a session musician on a long list of recordings by other artists.
The book tells the story of Hughes musical career and his relationships with many people in the music industry, both famous and not so famous. It also describes in some detail the lurid lifestyles led by many successful people in the industry. But the main focus on the book is on his introduction to drugs, his subsequent addiction, his chaotic descent into a personal (and professional) hell, and his eventual return to sobriety and relative normality. He pulls no punches in describing what it is like to be a drug addict and the impact it had on himself and all those around him.
The book is liberally laced with quotes from a great range of people who have come into contact with Hughes throughout his life and career.
John’s thoughts: I loved (and still do love) a lot Deep Purple’s music, so I was a very happy camper when Shellie presented me with this book. I read with great interest the content relating to music, musicians and bands. It was interesting to read about who he interacted with and to find out more about some key people in the music scene.
What wasn’t so interesting was the drug-related content. I soon tired of reading about drug dealers, users, addicts and the impact of addiction. It is obviously important content, and telling that story is no doubt one of the big reasons why Hughes created this book, but reading about someone totally screwing up their lives and often being a jerk while doing it just isn’t a lot of fun. Plaudits to Hughes for finally getting his act together, getting clean and recreating his life, and I admire his brutal honesty in telling the tale. I just lost a bit of interest half way through the book.
It didn’t help that the autobiography wasn’t very well put together. It jumped around a lot and contained loads of snippets that just seemed to be patched together. Things didn’t really flow smoothly.
I’d recommend this book for any big fans of Deep Purple or Hughes’ other music, and it would also be a good read for anyone wanting to learn more about the perils of drug use and the travails of an addict. Unfortunately it left me a little cold. I’d rate this book 2.5 stars. ...more
John’s quick take: Continuing the story told in the classic science fiction movie and novel 2001: A SpaceOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: Continuing the story told in the classic science fiction movie and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, this chronicles what happens when an international team is sent to Jupiter to investigate the fate of the 2001 mission.
John’s description: In 2001 the crew of the spaceship Discovery found a mysterious monolith orbiting Jupiter; it’s clearly an alien artifact. The spaceship’s computer (known as HAL) had started to act oddly and caused the death of all but one of the crew. David Bowman, the lone survivor, manages to disable HAL and then continues on with the mission. When he leaves Discovery and starts to explore the monolith he disappears, with his last words sent back to Earth being “My God, it’s full of stars!” But there is now a newly created version of Bowman, unobtrusively watching over Earth and humans, unsure of what his next steps should be.
Nine years later a joint Soviet-American team travels to Jupiter on a Soviet spaceship. The objectives are to find out all they possibly can about the 2001 mission from Discovery’s records, and to further investigate the monolith. A key to unlocking some of the mysteries surrounding the 2001 mission is to resuscitate Discovery and to delve into HAL’s memory banks – so a vital member of the 2010 mission is the scientist who created HAL. There are another two Americans aboard who are deemed necessary, but the rest of the crew is Soviet. There are ongoing political tensions between the two countries and neither is happy about having to partner with the other, but there are some necessarily tight deadlines that have to be met, and only the Soviets have a ship that is ready in time. Inevitably the relationships between the crew factions are strained as the mission starts out.
As the ship gets nearer to Jupiter there are some big surprises in store; there is also the horrendously dangerous braking maneuver which entails circling Jupiter and using its gravity to help slow the ship down. Finally they rendezvous with the dead US ship, Discovery, and then start the arduous task of trying to bring it back to life. They also have to carefully bring the powerful HAL back online, unsure of what they will find and how it might react to the newcomers. Meanwhile the huge monolith seems to be inert and unperturbed by their presence. But by far the biggest shock is yet to come. And “Bowman” continues his watch and starts to flex some of his newfound powers.
John’s thoughts:2001: A Space Odyssey was such a classic movie, which was groundbreaking in all sorts of ways. The ending left some audience members scratching their heads a bit, though the resulting novel did clear things up at least somewhat (the movie was a result of collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, while Clarke followed up with the novel). In many ways it cried out for a sequel, but more than twenty years passed before Clarke released this novel.
It was a tough act to follow, but employing his usual gifts of huge imagination, technical credibility, and first-rate storytelling, Clarke did a terrific job. In common with most Clarke books, this is a really fine read. The futurism and science don’t get in the way at all, but rather add to what is a really cool story. This is an easy read – which is not to diminish the depth and complexity of the plot. And of course there are plenty of surprises to keep you turning the pages.
It is not unusual in many science fiction books to find that characters are rather thin and under-developed, taking a back seat to “gee whiz” plots and grand visions, but that is not a problem that I have found with Clarke – the characters in this novel are interesting and have some depth, as are those in most of his books. (Though I must admit that this is my first Clark read in a long time and it was in my student days when I voraciously read his books, so maybe my memory is playing little tricks with me).
All in all, this is a great read that I’d recommend to any and all science fiction fans; though of course it has been out for a long time now so perhaps most have read it already. You don’t have to have read 2001 first as the key elements are recounted in 2010 - but it will help to provide a little added background and color. I’d also say that for non-science fiction fans who want to test the water, Arthur C. Clarke is a great place to start. I’d rate this book 4 stars.
P.S. It only just occurred to me how apt it is to rate science fiction novels using a system of stars! ...more
Daddy is going away on a trip. A long trip. He will be gone a long time. It’s called deployment. A big word but a child hears it. It could mean anythiDaddy is going away on a trip. A long trip. He will be gone a long time. It’s called deployment. A big word but a child hears it. It could mean anything but the child knows it’s important. What is a parent to do to help a little person, who knows something scary is happening to the family, to understand?
This book will help. It’s simple with cute pictures and a positive message. Daddy loves you even though he’s going away. He will be back.
It has resources for the parents. Giving both mom and dad constructive ways to help a young child (and older children too) deal with this recurrent theme within the United States. An excellent example of one of these methods is the use of colored tacks on a map to show where daddy will be staying, as well as weather research for the area of deployment.
Being a teacher for a number of years, with some graduate level courses in early childhood education, and caring for young family members on a consistent basis – I have some personal and professional knowledge about small children. I highly recommend this book for use as “a teaching moment tool”. It would be wonderful to use for repeat readings helping a child understand this difficult and all too common transition....more
Shellie’s quick take: Mainstream fiction with a separate storyline that is speculative in nature. This isOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take: Mainstream fiction with a separate storyline that is speculative in nature. This is a subtle page-turner that has a heartrending story juxtaposed with a narrative about a comic-book superhero called Comrade Cosmos.
Shellie’s description: When 18 year old Jeremy Soto’s single mother is murdered by a young male tourist during a solo vacation to Mexico, his grief is understandable, but as horrible as he feels he must pick up the pieces of his life. But it’s not just Jeremy who has to get past the violent death of his mother Melinda; there are others who are reeling from her loss - Melinda’s close circle of friends, mature characters who have life complications of their own. Then there is the murderer’s mother Anna who has the heartbreaking job of dealing with her son’s suicide as well. All of this culminates when Anna invites Jeremy and Melinda’s friends to her son’s funeral.
What gives this book an interesting twist is that the subjects addressed in the main story are contrasted with those of a popular comic-book series, which are covered in alternating chapters.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is an unusual book and it has a deep message. It examines the roles of chaos and order in the world, with the author questioning the effects of trauma and hardship on characters. In so doing she attempts to answer the question: what do we do with an impossible situation, one that we cannot fix or change? With that in mind Mending the Moon pulls in issues such as loss through death, divorce, and Alzheimer's, contrasted with friendship, responsibility, love, forgiveness, and moving through grief. This leaves a lot of room for emotional content in the book and the author uses the space very well.
It is highly recommended, with its well-developed characters and rare-to-see main female characters aged 60-years plus. I think it would be a good selection for a book group since there are many issues that can be discussed. It’s also a perfect read if you’re interested in superhero comics or character-driven emotional novels that pull you in and keep you reading. I read this book in a matter of days – a rarity for me. 4.25 stars.
**A note which may be a plus or a minus to some readers: there is a Christian element running through the novel. Several of the main characters are clergy and church services play a big role in many of the scenes. However, the subjects addressed in the book are universal and, as a person who is not religious, I would say that it is done well and didn’t put me off....more
This is the best, easiest, and most effective method of discipline for children that I have found. Working as a substitute teacher for several years aThis is the best, easiest, and most effective method of discipline for children that I have found. Working as a substitute teacher for several years and as a kindergarten teacher for one year - a few years ago - it was a life saver. I had read many books on the subject because it was my understanding that a peaceful and maintained classroom are the foundations for learning. The video was also recommended by the teacher with whom I was sharing the classroom in my first and last year teaching. She had been teaching for many years and was very effective at maintaining classroom peace. Within one viewing and implementation of the method my classroom was more successfully managed. I also lent the video to several of the parents of the children in my class whom were having troubles at home. The results were amazing. They loved it. I recommend this book to any parent/teacher looking for an easy and effective method of discipline for children. I suggest watching the video and implimenting its advice and then reading the book for support, and for a more in depth understanding of the system....more
John’s quick take: An ambitious science fiction brain tease in which the protagonist “falls into an astonOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: An ambitious science fiction brain tease in which the protagonist “falls into an astonishing metaphysical shadow play”. What is real and what isn’t? What does real even mean?
John’s description: Set at some point in the future, the story revolves around Heath Ransom who is a very special kind of private investigator. He is a former police psychic and machine-enhanced “endovoyant” who is able to travel into etheric worlds in order to answer puzzles and to track down missing people.
Ransom is hired to find the consciousness of an extremely rich but comatose old woman and to try to bring it back to her body. However, while trying to track her down in the etheric world he finds a terrifying, dark vortex. Falling through the vortex he soon finds himself inhabiting the body of a young man who has just been poisoned by his girlfriend. This in turn leads him into an ever-darker investigation involving government conspiracies, mutants, corruption, torture, self-aware artificial intelligence, androids and attempted immortality.
In deadly danger himself, Ransom starts to jump back and forth between the two worlds. He then finds out that much of what he thought was real is in fact artificial and as paranoia and conspiracy abounds, he starts to doubt his own sanity.
John’s thoughts: Where to start? Well, it is a very interesting idea on which to base a novel. I like how it started and was quickly pulled into the plot. Soon, however, two things started to happen. Firstly, I started to hit some dense pieces of text that were so full of obscure words and complex ideas that I didn’t comprehend them even after a few re-reads. There weren’t loads of sections like this, but there were enough to make it a difficult read. Secondly, as the novel progressed, the underlying (and interesting) story almost disappeared into the background, seemingly having become just a vehicle to explore some complex concepts and ideas.
Nonetheless I stuck with it as Nasir did create an interesting future world and I did like many of his ideas. Sadly, for me the underlying story didn’t come to any sort of satisfactory ending; in fact I really disliked how the novel ends. Having spent so long building details and ideas, I think the ending is rushed and a bit glib.
Part way through the book I thought this was going to be a four-star read, but having lost the plot (almost literally) and not liking the conclusion, I’d only rate this three stars. Who would like it? Well the jacket references Philip K. Dick, as do some other reviews that I saw out there. If you like Dick’s ideas and world view, this book might well appeal to you. ...more
Original review with more stuff (interesting links, movie and book tie ins) at Layers of Thought.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on…..
About: ThisOriginal review with more stuff (interesting links, movie and book tie ins) at Layers of Thought.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on…..
About: This is a child’s picture book and is a retelling of Shakespeare’s play. It is about Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and his small daughter who are set adrift on the sea by the king of Naples and Prospero's evil brother. They are conspiring to acquire his land and holdings, but do not murder Prospero and Miranda since the evil doers do not want to be blamed for their deaths.
However, Prospero is a magician of great talent and he and Miranda survive the incident. They are washed up on an enchanted island inhabited by a variety of magical beings – both good and bad. Taking refuge in a cave, they try to live a peaceful and happy life. As Miranda comes of age Prospero knows she will need the companionship of others, so he conjures up a storm which blows his brother’s traveling ship onto the rocks around the island. He and the remaining crew are brought on shore, but because this includes the conspiring king as well as the king’s son, the story has just begun.
Thoughts: Ah Shakespeare, the incredible and articulate bard from days of yore. What I would not give to understand his wonderful and archaic language. Difficult as the verbiage it is for adults, it is much more so for children. With consideration to the many wonderful tie-ins around this fantastical story, it’s a shame not to have a simpler basis on which to build an understanding. That’s where a book like this can come in, as a way for adults to help children understand and to introduce them into the language of old England, and the wonders of ~ The Tempest.
With lacey and old fashioned illustrations from Gennaday Spririn, the co-author has included current language which is understandable for children (and for adults like me). Yet for authenticity she has included some brief and easy to understand quotes from Shakespeare’s actual work – like the one prefacing this review. (I have always wondered where that familiar line had originated). Helped by the illustrations, it is a way for children and adults to further understand the basis for Shakespeare’s complex story lines and language. I liked this book a lot and give it 3.5 stars.
I am actually surprised there are not more picture books as well as a graphic novel for the tale published. If there are I could not find one (hint to artists and publishers)....more
John’s quick take:An excellent, touching and hilarious coming-of-age story, set during the Troubles in NoOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take:An excellent, touching and hilarious coming-of-age story, set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Also a “must read” for any ex-paperboys out there.
John’s description: In 1975, Macaulay was a twelve year old boy living in the Shankill Road in west Belfast. This was during the Troubles and the Shankill was a particular hotspot – a predominantly loyalist working class area, it was also the home of several loyalist paramilitary groups. Bombs were going off, mobs were clashing, shops and buses were being burnt out, paramilitaries were openly causing mayhem and an ever-expanding network of “peace walls” were going up to separate protestant and catholic communities. Against this backdrop, the young Macaulay gets a job delivering the local Belfast Telegraph newspaper each evening.
The story tells of a two-year period of his young life during which he delivers the newspapers without fail, despite all of the barriers and problems. It is a funny and touching tale. He cannot for the life of him understand what the Troubles are all about and sees madness and hypocrisy on a daily basis, but he remains cheerful and focused on things that are really important to a near-teenage boy – girls, pop music, clothes and trying to fit in at school.
We are introduced to a big cast of family, friends, adversaries, teachers and customers, most of them talking in a thick Belfast accent and many of them possessing slightly odd views of life. He becomes a star paperboy but remains fearful of his boss – Oul’ Mac. “Oul’ Mac smoked and said ‘f**k’ a lot. Of course, most men smoked and said ‘f**k’ a lot, but Oul’ Mac did both, simultaneously and ceaselessly ….. I never saw him smile, but sometimes his eyes twinkled and I couldn’t work out whether he was coughing or laughing”.
Macaulay and his friends got into endless pranks and scrapes, but through it all he remains determined to deliver his newspapers, polish his reputation and remain “the only pacifist paperboy in Belfast”.
John’s thoughts: This is a funny and a delightful book. It is also a clever read – while it remains light hearted it pulls no punches in skewering some of the idiocy (and idiots) of the Troubles. When Macaulay finally meets some catholic boys he surprisingly finds them just the same as his protestant neighbors and remains slightly bewildered at what the fuss is all about.
The story also resonated with me a lot on a personal level. I too spent my pre-teen and teen years in the 1970s delivering newspapers each day, albeit in England and not Ireland, so a lot of the cultural and historical references really hit home – though I didn’t have to dodge “wee hoods” that were regularly trying to rob me and I certainly didn’t have to worry about bombs and blocked off streets.
I found the Belfast humor hilarious, though I will warn that some readers might find the accents and some of the vernacular slightly tough to penetrate. I managed ok and actually found that rather than being a barrier it added to the enjoyment of the read.
I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone, but particularly to those who were growing up in the 1970s, anyone who enjoys light-hearted coming of age stories and anyone who wants to learn more about the Troubles. And of course this should be a compulsory read for the paperboy fraternity! I’d rate this four stars. ...more
I liked the fact that it covers the entire Mediterranean including Africa and that the author includes little snippets of her expeExcellent cookbook.
I liked the fact that it covers the entire Mediterranean including Africa and that the author includes little snippets of her experiences, sharing cultural insight and regional practices around the recipes. The best part is that since the Mediterranean has a natural tendency to focus on vegetable dishes for a meal, the book does not feel like it's excluding meat. It's just featuring vegetables.
It's perfect for omnivores looking to include more vegetable based foods in their diet. But the book does includes some cheese and eggs in the recipes which the resourceful vegan can tailor to fit their diet restrictions.
For fun, there's some suggestions for light libations (like a splash of pastis with water, and wine mixed with juice)from several of the Western European countries such as France, Italy, and Spain that are rather nice and civilized....more
Are you interested in dinosaurs, time travel, space travel, religious cults and strange “alien” spOriginal review by John posted at Layers of Thought.
Are you interested in dinosaurs, time travel, space travel, religious cults and strange “alien” species? All mixed together with a good dose of impending apocalypse? Then this book is for you.
John's thoughts on what it's about: While this is the third in the “Thunder” series, it is reasonably self-contained and stands on its own.
Eighteen years ago the prehistoric past and the present day collided creating a patchwork time-quilt. Whole cities and regions were ripped away and replaced by dense primeval jungles populated by dinosaurs; while conversely, back in the Cretaceous period many millions of years ago, parts of the primeval jungles were replaced by chunks of the twentieth century.
In the present day, man has eventually learned to live with the dinosaurs, with most of the beasts now contained safely in large nature reserves. But something is going amiss - again. New dinosaurs are suddenly appearing in the present, tunnels to the past seem to be opening up at random and a mission to the moon finds a living Tyrannosaurus Rex trapped in some sort of alternative reality or timeline. Something must be done and it’s left to Nick Paulson (director of the U.S. Office of Security Science), aided and abetted by a motley crew of mostly-accidental helpers, to figure out what is triggering these potentially cataclysmic events.
Traveling back to the Cretaceous period the crew finds embattled survivors from the twentieth century who had been cast back in time eighteen years previously, and surprisingly find a whole new species of sentient beings that are very different from humans. To their dismay they also discover that a huge asteroid is rushing toward the Earth and that impact is imminent. It being the Cretaceous period there are also dinosaurs – and lots of them.
John’s afterthoughts: On the plus side there is no shortage of creative ideas and plotlines in this book, and it certainly races along at high speed making it a quick and easy read. It also mixes action and adventure with a sizeable dollop of humor, so I got quite a few chuckles out of it. All very good things for the right sort of reader.
However, it is all a bit light-weight for my preferences. In particular the two-dimensional characters have little depth and it isn’t always obvious why people are doing what they are doing. Meanwhile there is so much action and things going on that the book doesn’t have that feeling of realism and believability that I like to see in my science fiction reads. And then there is the ending. Parts of it didn’t quite make sense for me and one conclusion to a key thread was just a tad on the silly side.
But I kept going along for the ride and mostly it was a fun ride. In the end this novel was not a big favorite and so I’d rate it 2.5 stars. But if you’re in the mood for some action-packed , escapist, “end-of-the-world-is-nigh” frolics involving dinosaurs and time travel, then this one has your name on it. ...more
A page-turning posthumous noire novel, by crime fiction master James M. Cain. Told from the first person perspective of the gorgeous Joan Medford – who, the reader is left to decide, is either a victim or a murderer.
About: Joan Medford is a “knock out” - leggy, curvy and smart too; some of the characteristics of a quintessential femme-fatale. However, looks and brains have not stopped her from making mistakes, like her accidental pregnancy and subsequent marriage to a brutal drinker. Her story begins after the “accidental” death of her inebriated husband, when she winds up at a local bar as a cocktail waitress – to help her pay her bills.
Although socially unacceptable for “nice women” to work in bars (this is the 1950’s), she is more than grateful for her new job serving alcohol in the required uniform of velveteen shorts and a peasant blouse. She knows that she can now financially care for her toddler and turn on the electricity, which was cut off for non-payment. It's even better when she starts receiving unusually large tips from a very wealthy older businessman who becomes smitten with her.
But to Joan’s chagrin, she has also caught the eye of a poor, booze-loving, but handsome rake that she finds all too alluring. Still, Joan is determined to do the best for her little boy and chooses to marry the richer older man. She is relieved that the marriage will not be consummated, since her husband-to-be has a delicate heart which will not withstand the exertion of marital relations.
Events become intriguingly complicated around this warped love triangle as the men in Joan’s life die, or are murdered. As she tells her story in an uncompleted and direct way, the reader gets to decide – is Joan an unreliable narrator or a victim?
Thoughts: It’s kind of neat that this novel has been published 35 years after the author’s death. It’s interesting to think about the effort that the editors have had to put into piecing it together, attempting to imagine what the author would have done had he been alive to help the process. Interestingly, there is a 11 page afterword describing how some of this was done, by editor Charles Ardai. Regardless, I do have to say the results are wonderful.
The Cocktail Waitress is my first noire crime fiction. I have learned that noir is told from the perspective of one of the victims, suspects, or perpetrators. Which is different from a detective novel, told from the perspective of a crime fighter. I think that is one reason why I enjoyed the novel so much. It was written as if Joan was attempting to explain her story to the reader and judge. It’s written with her old fashioned voice, appropriate to the character during the time, and in my opinion creating a page-turning pleasure to read. I don’t have any other books by Cain to compare this with, but if it’s any gage of what to expect from his other books, I am going to have a blast attempting to read his entire collection.
Additionally, I enjoyed the book for other reasons. My favorite characters are strong women, and the darker the better. So Joan could be a perfect fit, depending on your opinion of her after finishing the book. I liked the ambiguity of not knowing whether Joan was an unreliable narrator. So the book is one of my favorites for 2012 at 4.5 stars. Highly recommended for crime fiction lovers, and anyone who enjoys strong female leads.
Content advisory: This book has adult themes, nudity, sexual references and scenes, violence, as well as strong language (although I do not recall any cursing) so some readers should be advised....more
I picked this book up on a whim - just for curiosity's sake from the local library while I was on an organization kick. I thought it might be helpful.I picked this book up on a whim - just for curiosity's sake from the local library while I was on an organization kick. I thought it might be helpful. It mostly wasn't, only on a very basic level (I am an organized person whom was looking for more advanced tips, I am also not overweight.) So, if you want a kick in the seat because you are very unorganized and/or overweight then its a book for you. From the title is is obvious that the author makes the assumption that people (specifically women) whom are overweight also have a problem keeping themselves organized and getting rid of "stuff". It can be a reality check that lets the unorganized and overweight reader know that, according to the author, that one does have control over stuff and fat, and that it often can be linked - or not depending on the reader....more
This guy is goofy - hes egotistical and sexist. I read this in one of my college courses on men and women and their relationships and we bashed it toThis guy is goofy - hes egotistical and sexist. I read this in one of my college courses on men and women and their relationships and we bashed it to bits. I have recently seen John Gray on a talk show and he was so full of himself I was disgusted and thought that he may have some psychological disorder....more
I have read a number of books on health and diet over the years. I am no expert but one gets a feel for which are good and those containing junk or ju I have read a number of books on health and diet over the years. I am no expert but one gets a feel for which are good and those containing junk or just fluff. The SuperStress Solution is of the good sort. It is both logical and comprehensive.
The SuperStress Solution is broad in scope, and almost exhausts the options for remedies to consider when you are under, as Dr. Lee terms it - SuperStress. It is intelligent, well written and its advice is from a medical doctor. She is also trained at Dr. Andrew Weil’s Program in Integrative Medicine in AZ. Both of these facts are very comforting in a world where medical advice and prescriptions are dispensed randomly and often casually.
The Superstress Solution has natural suggestions to support and change stressful behaviors. As well as a plan to move away from uber-busy lives into a healthier state. Dr. Lee includes subject matter such as pathways to peace, healing foods, mindfulness, and connecting with others. She also has programs specific for each individual stress profile, which is determined by a diagnostic questionnaire. This assesses an individual’s level and type of stress. By asking questions it determines what your SuperStress type is, where in your body does the stress manifest itself, and an individual’s resilience to SuperStress. It also includes a list to determine your personal level of stress in relation to current life events. All elements combine to create a personal profile so that focus can be on the areas where it is needed the most.
My only thought is that because the scope of the book is so broad there is very little room to go into depth for each recommendation. Therefore I would say that The SuperStress Solution can be seen as a beginning place for exploring personal stress levels, and for considering the options available for caring for oneself in a reasonable and holistic way....more
2nd Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. [Knocking:] Open locks, Whoever knocks! [Enter Macbeth:] Macbeth: How now, y
2nd Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. [Knocking:] Open locks, Whoever knocks! [Enter Macbeth:] Macbeth: How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is't you do? (Macbeth Act 4, scene 1, 44–49)
Summary: This classic fantasy/horror tale was originally published in 1963. It revolves around Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade whom are the best of friends and live next door to one another. They are inseparable with Will being the down to earth easy going boy and Jim as the wilder and “darker” of the two. The setting is a small town in middle America and its October. A scary storm front moves into town along with a mysterious and creepy traveling circus/carnival. As things get a bit wild and go awry the two boys become inextricably involved in the traveling carnival's evil doings. As the story progresses the nature of good and evil and how evil itself may be combated are addressed. My Thoughts: I listened to this story in audio format, which was pleasant. I liked its lyrical, slightly poetic style which is characteristic of Bradbury’s signature style. Read by Stanley Kubrik with his deep and resonant voice, where he changes his tone with each character and their moods. It is close to perfect for this story. Recommended for Halloween/Fall reading for young adults, mature older children, and adults to read to children. Most significant it has the perfect solution for being scared - laughter/humor. There is little or no violence, mild language, yet it is very suspenseful. I give this audio version of the book 3.5 stars. (I liked it a lot.) Links to GLBT: This particular book was read for a GLBT challenge and taken from a site which lists it as having these elements. The relationship is however not clear unless one is aware of such nuances – such as the community itself. Once aware it does become subtly apparent as the relationship between Will and Jim is revealed. The boys are obviously very close, and are fairly affectionate which could allude to the possibility of a budding romantic relationship. ...more
I was a bit tired of my regular blends for smoothies and checked a couple of books out from the local library. This book was better than a few of theI was a bit tired of my regular blends for smoothies and checked a couple of books out from the local library. This book was better than a few of the others I looked at which are just picture books or beginning smoothie enthusiasts. The Ultimate Smoothie Book is an informative guide that has some delicious recipes for smoothies, shakes, frozen desserts, and blender drinks. It goes beyond your common fruit and yogurt smoothie with some interesting variations including vegetables, grains, nuts, spices, as well as nutritional additives such as protein powder and vitamin C. The recipes are simple and give you a caloric and nutritional breakdown of each recipe, which I love. We particularly liked one with rhubarb - "Grandma's rhubarb smoothie". Yum! ...more
A book that goes back in time and sets the foundation for the popular “RepairmaOriginal review by John posted at Layers of Thought.
2.5 stars actually.
A book that goes back in time and sets the foundation for the popular “Repairman Jack” series of novels. He is the “urban mercenary” and fix-it man who helps victimized people that have nowhere else to turn.
About: Jack is a 21 year old college dropout who decides to sever all home and family ties and move to New York City. With absolutely no personal documentation or links to his past life, he moves “off the grid” and leads a solitary and hard-working life, being paid in cash and using only cash to live on. While initially working with a group of Latinos as a gardener, inevitably he ends up taking on some dodgy jobs – not hard-core crime but definitely not legal either.
Through a growing reputation for reliability and trustworthiness, he builds up a core of contacts who find him useful and who may be able to help him. Some might even become friends. But living life on the edge of society, he also comes across many unscrupulous and dangerous people.
In no time he encounters (or becomes embroiled with) interstate smugglers, a child slavery ring, a group of dangerous jihadists, the mob, a vengeful con-man and a pair of ruthless vigilantes – some of whom Jack aggravates. While already blessed with wits and plenty of “street smarts”, he has to learn quickly from some of his new-found friends and contacts in order to stay one step ahead of his new enemies.
John’s thoughts: This is a fun, action-oriented piece of escapism. A few bits of the plot and some of the characters aren’t very believable, but it doesn’t really matter in a story like this.
However - annoyingly, the jacket describes this as a novel and it isn’t; it is a partial novel. After reading 360 pages you find out that nothing is answered, nothing has become clear, and you have to read more books in the series in order to reach any sort of conclusion. Very frustrating. When I read a book that is clearly part of a series, I do expect there to be some loose ends or hooks that can provide a foundation for future stories, but I also expect the book to be reasonably coherent and to stand on its own. This one does not.
So I can’t tell you about how cleverly multiple plot threads are brought together or how the story builds to an exciting climax, because I don’t know. Which is a shame, because the Jack character is interesting and the story pulls you along at a good pace. I blew through the 360 pages in no time at all and was looking forward to seeing how everything turned out.
Given that I have no idea how anything ends up, I can only rate the book 2.5 stars. It’s definitely one for existing Repairman Jack aficionados, or for people who like the sound of the character and are prepared to invest their time in a lengthy series of books. ...more
This is not a self help book. That Wednesday Martin has a Ph.D in comparative literature helps the reader understand the methodology used within the w This is not a self help book. That Wednesday Martin has a Ph.D in comparative literature helps the reader understand the methodology used within the writing of Stepmonster. Where she does just that – compares literature from various sources. This provides the reader with a virtually seamless and multidisciplinary book about step mothering. It is a myth busting mélange of information to help the reader understand this complex and misunderstood relationship.
Examining fairy tales from all over the world about step mothers, including Hansel and Gretel and Snow White, Wednesday addresses some of the beliefs we hold in our cultural consciousness from the retelling of these stories – they are not the best. In addition she enlightens the reader through referencing data collected from sociobiology, anthropology, and psychology. All supporting the notion that step parenting is a challenge regardless of country or culture and in the animal kingdom as well. She reveals that there is an array of misinformation surrounding the relationship even with psychologists, and those whose job it is to help with the relationship. Where it becomes apparent that within our culture’s current child centered rearing practices it is often the stepmother whom is the least sympathized with and understood.
Warning: It is not an easy read. Several times is became esoteric due to scientific data (which also solidify the book’s concepts), as well as the fact that it addresses difficult emotional content. Ultimately, Stepmonster is enlightening. I truly believe it to be an absolute must read for every step mother, any woman considering being seriously involved with a man whom has children, and a recommended read for step children. ...more
Scattershots is a sad/yet "realistic perspective" of a man whom has grown up within a family, including himself, which all but one has a chemical braiScattershots is a sad/yet "realistic perspective" of a man whom has grown up within a family, including himself, which all but one has a chemical brain imbalance. They are also very religious, which compounds the situation in many ways. All of the afflicted Lovelaces have delusional religious experiences. Lovelace describes his descent into madness/mania in depth. This to me was a bit overdone - however it portrays the intensity of his experience from an almost poetic perspective. It gives the reader a sense of what it is like to manic and the feeling of power that it gives. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to someone who enjoys memoirs, anyone whom is interested in mental illness, anyone whom has a family member who is experiencing this disease, or someone who is interested in realistic situations which are akin to a train wreck where one cannot look away....more
Shellie’s quick take: A women’s thriller with a slight paranormal bent that includes domestic abuse and fOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take: A women’s thriller with a slight paranormal bent that includes domestic abuse and family secrets as major themes.
Shellie’s description: When Kate, a public accountant from the city, moves in with her new husband, she has dreams of marital bliss and a family. But when she arrives at his family’s Victorian farm house in the country she is surprised and upset to find that they will be living with her terse mother-in-law. However, Kate is determined to make her marriage work, even though her husband (Joe) has not been completely upfront with her in a variety of areas, including the family finances.
Alternating with Kate’s story is the story of Hannah Krausse, Joe’s great great step-grandmother who lived in the old house in the 1890’s with her husband (Joe’s great great grandfather) and their young son. Hannah’s story shows what life was like for women living in the late 1800’s, exemplifying the fact that women had little control of their lives; they were essentially owned by their fathers and then their husbands.
Predictably drama arises for Kate, her mother in law, and her husband, based on the difficulties of their living arrangements – not helped by there being a variety of family secrets from the past that are being kept. It also becomes apparent that Kate is expected to subordinate to her husband and his escalating temper. Kate must decide whether to stand up for herself or to abdicate to her husband’s demands.
Shellie’s thoughts: I really liked this novel and would say that it’s definitely a woman’s book since most of the subject matter centers around women’s issues - like the historical and social status of women in the 1800’s, domestic abuse, the family’s roles in perpetuating the abuse, and the role of a woman’s strength and confidence in being able to extricate herself from that abuse. And although it sounds like the story could be heavy going, the author handles these difficult issues well and keeps the story moving and positive.
Since I read this book in several sittings, I would say that it has a page-turning style and is easy to read. It also has well-paced thrilling events with an edge to them that are slightly paranormal. There is also a slight horror element though that is contrasted with a romantic side which creates a subtle balance making it very readable. 3.5 stars for this page-turning thriller for women. I will be reading more from this author....more
This is a coming of age memoir and tribute to the author’s father, told via a graphic novel. Allison Bechdel, the aActually 4.5 stars...
This is a coming of age memoir and tribute to the author’s father, told via a graphic novel. Allison Bechdel, the author/artist, pictures and writes about growing up in a small Midwest town bordering on the Appalachian mountains. It is set during the 1970s and 80s where her intellectual parents (father is a high school English teacher and runs a funeral home, mother is an actress and writer) have a subtly cool and conflicted relationship. As she comes into her own sexual awareness she also realizes her father’s inclinations. All the while the author blends her memories with the classic literature which has defined her life, her relationship(s), and memories of her father.
This is a wonderful, sad, and yet darkly funny period piece. She metaphorically links many aspects of her life within the book. She also layers it with fun, interesting, and sad icons from the times. A few examples that stick out in my memory for the 1970’s are Nixon’s fall from grace, Life cereal, and Road Runner cartoons. As well as a few from the 80’s - clove cigarettes, home made bongs, and Alan Parson’s Eye in the Sky album. I imagine anyone growing up during these times, like myself, will love these referenced bits in the background of her drawings. I laughed and reminisced.
Her drawings are in black and white and are realistic and balanced. Her language is complex and thoughtful, although, at times, obscure and esoteric. It does however make you think. A wonderful example of the former is where she aptly describes her observations of a male gay community as a “display of cosmetic masculinity” (pp 190) with a few subtle yet definable pictures.
The “big picture” thought about this memoir and what makes is so good is that it condenses a major realization for children coming of age – regardless of sexual orientation. It is essentially that as children, our parents are gods in our little worlds. As young adults we can see them as demons. But to become adults there is a need to see our parents as they truly are – human, with all their faults and quirky foibles. It is with this reconciliation that we pass over the border from child to adult and can become emotionally whole. As Allison examines her conflicted feelings toward her father with realism, she eventually moves toward this awareness. It is here that I cried, which I rarely do.
This is my first graphic novel. Since I am a very visually oriented person this type of literature suits me well. As well, because of the parallels with myself and the author’s life, I was immersed. I loved this book and rated it 4.5 stars. I am looking forward to reading some of her more fantastical graphic novels.
I would recommend this book for adults, due to some light sexual referencing and pictures. And specifically to those whom came of age in the 1970’s....more
I found this book in an international airport terminal's book store, and was really pleased to have done so. I have always been fascinated by men and hI found this book in an international airport terminal's book store, and was really pleased to have done so. I have always been fascinated by men and how they think, feel, and behave. I always have felt to better understand a man or men would allow me to have better relationships with them. I believe that this is true. This book allowed me to do this and gave me further insight from the male perpective, ironically from a women experiencing what it is like to be a man by living as one. (By the way the process she goes through is very interesting.) The author does an amazing job giving the reader insight into what men are really like because she is sensitive and non-judgemental about the male experience. She is obviously an "evolved feminist" whom likes men, which contradicts the myth that lesbians hate men. I do recommend this book for anyone interested in human behavior, women or men whom are interested in the "male experience", or relationships....more