Tara R. (portabellopig) - Reviews

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Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America
Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/1/2013


I probably wouldv'e passed on this one had I seen it in the store, but Kindle had a freebie offer so I snagged it. Thank you Kindle! Hilarious tale of a "prissy" girl and her adventures in Central America. Some other reviewers have complained that the author didn't *BACKPACK* like a hard-core backpacker would have - though the author and her BFF didn't technically backpack, they didn't travel via Limo or private car either. It didn't take away from the story one way or another, as I found myself laughing/howling so loud the dog chose to stay out in the snow versus listening to me. A fun read that's blissfully free of sex or drugs - just lots of one woman adventuring outside her country and outside her comfort zone. Can't wait to snag her other books!


Biological Psychology
Biological Psychology
Author: James W. Kalat
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 12/30/2013


I used this for my Introduction to Biological Psychology class, and it was perfect. The concepts were clear and I didn't need to use Google to further understand what was required for the class.


Bridget Jones's Diary
Bridget Jones's Diary
Author: Helen Fielding
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 292
Review Date: 12/30/2013


I've never seen the movie version of this, so I was really looking forward to enjoying the book. Jones is such a chaotic, immature thirtysomething that I had a really hard time feeling sympathy or joy for her various situations, and her mother is insufferable; it felt more like reading a psychological profile than an enjoyable piece of fiction. Two stars for clear writing and a few chuckles, but overall I wouldn't recommend.


The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
Author: Elyn R. Saks
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 1/1/2013


First - I'm impressed that anyone with disease is able to write so clearly and frankly about the journey to mental stability.
Second - I hope Saks decides to write more about her time in Operation Re-Entry later on. Another reviewer pointed out the devastating effects this program had on it's subjects, and it would be very interesting to hear her perspective on it


Countdown to Christmas
Countdown to Christmas
Author: Bill Peet
Book Type: Library Binding
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/1/2013


This was one of my favorite Christmas books as a kid - full of lessons about having faith in Christmas magic and how new doesn't mean better. I love Peet's lyrical rhyming, and even though it might feel a little dated (historic even) to my kids when they're old enough to enjoy it, it never gets old!


Dalek I Loved You (Gollancz S.F.)
Dalek I Loved You (Gollancz S.F.)
Author: Nick Griffiths
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 2/3/2013


When I grabbed this book, I thought it was going to be an homage to Doctor Who. It ended up being a memoir that checks in with what the Doctor is doing when the author is ending relationships, having a baby, etc. Enjoyable enough to read all the way through (skimming parts) but not something I'd give a second go or enthusiasticly recommend to a Who fan.


The Dovekeepers
The Dovekeepers
Author: Alice Hoffman
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 56
Review Date: 12/30/2013
Helpful Score: 1


This book is compelling, historically detailed (and seemingly accurate) and engrossing. That said, it's not an easy read. There is violence against women and children, which is hard to stomach but unfortunately pretty accurate and while Hoffman brings the violence to life, none of it is gratuitous. From the beginning, you do not expect a happy ending for any of the characters.

I fell in love with some characters, waited for the deaths of others, and cheered & cried internally at certain plot twists. While this book IS pretty dense, to me it was definitely worth the investment of time and emotion.


Drood
Drood
Author: Dan Simmons
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 14
Review Date: 1/1/2013
Helpful Score: 1


I feel completely bi-polar when it comes to this book. On the one hand, there are sections that are indeed utterly engrossing and (as one other reader put it) deliciously creepy. The character of Drood starts out as this maybe-zombie, maybe-demon, maybe-man, which was enough to keep me going through the first 400 pages.

After that, however, it felt like a relationship I had with an ex; exciting and thrilling at times, but in between those thrills it was tedious, drawn out and something I knew wouldn't be staying in my heart forever. You can tell Simmons did a huge amount of research into the lives of Dickens and Collins, as well as the 'minor characters' who were parts of their lives, but after a while it definitely felt like a lot of the information was being included just because Simmons did the research and didn't want to go to waste.

While I'm glad I read the entire book, it's a lot easier to enjoy if you know a few things about the narrorator (Wilkie Collins) before reading it, namely that he was a narcissistic, ego-driven jerk (for lack of better word), just like Dickens.


The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison
The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison
Author: John Emsley
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 1/1/2013


There is a lot of interesting history that Emsley has compiled here, but this needed a second run through the editor's office. The grammar in this is so poor it makes it very hard to read and even harder to enjoy. Also, the organization is half-arsed at best. I was very, very disappointed with this - so much potential, and such a huge let-down after Elmsley's other book "The 13th Element".

Two stars in stead of one, because what I was able to flesh out before giving up was pretty entertaining.


From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent
Review Date: 1/1/2013


I'm someone who gets easily overwhelmed by large amounts of new information - imagine how exasperated I felt trying to wrap my pregnant brain around ALL the different preggo book options, and the anxiety at opening each book and finding pages and pages of waaaaaay too much information.
When my hubby brought this book home for me, I almost did a little dance. It is full of great, basic, IMPARTIAL information with references supplied if you want further information. This allowed me to read through and get a good idea of what to expect without being completely overwhelmed. It also relieved a lot of the "oh my god, there are so many things that can go wrong!!" panic by giving a break down of all the things that can indeed go wrong that included what makes the likelyhood of that happening go up (i.e. downs syndrome if you're over thirty five). All in all, a great book for nervous, overwhelmed first time mommies.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, Bk 1)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, Bk 1)
Author: Stieg Larsson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 2080
Review Date: 1/1/2013


I've read a lot of complaints that GWTDT is over the top violent and unrealistic. Sadly, what happens to Salander is all too real and her reaction while over the top, is believeable for someone with her history and social abilities.

That said, I enjoyed the book. It's fluff in hard-crime clothing, throwing in random bits of sex more for fun than story or character development and giving us characters who would flabbergast most of us if we met even one of them in real life. BUT - I highly doubt Larsson ever intended for this to be read as "reality based in fiction"... most likely "fiction based in reality".


How Did You Get This Number: Essays
How Did You Get This Number: Essays
Author: Sloane Crosley
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 20
Review Date: 2/3/2013


Crosley's first book, "I Was Told There Would Be Cake" had me on the floor I was laughing so hard, but this one misses the mark. Her writing is still beautiful and she can still paint a detailed picture with her words, but the funny is missing. The funny that IS here feels forced - like she had an editor standing behind her with a gun to her head. Smart writing, but mis-filed under comedy. It would fit better in general short stories.


I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Hippies, Pornographers, Self-Loathing Hipsters, and Other Guys I've Dated
Review Date: 1/1/2013


So yes, there are certain "Girl Power!" moments in here, but mostly it's just a fun, sometimes laugh-out-loud collection of many levity-filled moments.

Good to read if:
-You've ever been dumped
-You've ever been cheated on
-You've ever been lied to by a skeezy guy
-You've ever kept dating a guy you know is awful for you
-You've ever wanted to be able to say all those sharp, witty remarks in a timely manner, instead of when they actually pop into your head three hours later

Love it!


I, Lucifer: Finally, the Other Side of the Story
I, Lucifer: Finally, the Other Side of the Story
Author: Glen Duncan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 41
Review Date: 1/1/2013
Helpful Score: 2


I have a rule: If I read 50 pages of a book and can't get into it, I don't finish it.

I didn't finish "I, Lucifer". It's not that the content bothered me or that it is poorly written. It felt like I was trying to follow the thought pattern of an ADHD coke head, which is perfect for Lucifer. The author did a beautiful job of stepping into Satan's head, but I found it blasted impossible to read. Like trying to slog through quicksand in Hell. There are others who loved this book, and you might too, but I didn't find the story engaging enough to fight through the author's clouded prose.

"A" for effort, "B" for story, "F" for readability.


The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life
Review Date: 1/1/2013


After all the hype and friends' recommendations, I figured I would adore this book - the dry sense of humor, self depreciating jokes and slightly off-color topics sounded right up my alley. What I ended up reading was a thinly-veiled diary of a self hating, chain smoking (current? previous?) alcoholic, filled with a lot of "You Had To Be There" stories.

Notaro's most successful when reminiscing about her family, but even those you can't count on 100%. You can tell the effort was there when this was being written, the product just falls way short and reveals how hard she had to try to be funny. I'll stick with Sloane Crosley from here on out.


It's Hard Not to Hate You
It's Hard Not to Hate You
Author: Valerie Frankel
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 12/30/2013


I'm familiar with Frankel's work in magazines and the like, so I was really interested in reading this. I think she should have stuck with magazines.

This was all over the place. The tone changes from chapter to chapter, there's never any real sense of progress or cohesion, and instead of some (ANY) revelation to go along with the chapters about people she's found it hard not to hate, I got the strong feeling this book was more about airing her the grievances of her personal relationships than finding balance in life. Maybe the concept would have worked better distilled down into an article, but as a book it was so tedious and grating I gave up half way through.


Jennifer and Josephine
Jennifer and Josephine
Author: Bill Peet
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 1/1/2013


Great story about loyalty and patience! (And karma, if you follow)

Quick synopsis: Jennifer & Josephine start out in a junkyard. An inpatient, grumpy man comes and buys the car, and the cat decides to tag along. Grumpy man abandons car when she gets stuck in the mud. Cat saves car from being washed away by surging river. Farmer's son adopts car (and by proxy, cat) and they both live happily ever after.

(I know, that just doesn't do it justice.)

I read Bill Peet stories when I was a kid, and now my daughter is having them read to her.


Little Deadly Things
Little Deadly Things
Author: Harry Steinman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 12/30/2013


I got this one as a freebie, so I didn't really know much about it or have any expectations for it, but I was really quite impressed! The characters are complex and interesting, the relationships - whether between mother and child, friends, lovers, or never-loved - are intricate without being tedious, and the overall story is engrossing. Definitely worth a read whether you like science fiction or not!


The Magicians (Magician, Bk 1)
The Magicians (Magician, Bk 1)
Author: Lev Grossman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 171
Review Date: 1/1/2013
Helpful Score: 2


After all the hype, I was expecting a lot more out of this. Without giving too much away, the book spends a decent chunk of time at Brakebills but it doesn't feel like enough. The whole story feels like someone hit fast forward and you get the big main points, but not any of the character and story development that *could* be there. For lack of better comparison, it's like the first three Harry Potter books being distilled down into one story.

Quentin isn't the most likeable protagonist either. He whines and pities himself through most of the book, just like a lot of regular teens/people. Which is fine for the most part, because you know a big lesson is coming for him. Except the thing is, when the big lesson comes and he learns it, it feels anti-climactic and I just ended up mentally comparing him to an ex who was also whiney and poo-faced. Maybe I would have liked this story more had it been told from Alice, Penny, Eliot or even one of the professor's perspective. There's so much hinted at in their pasts and so little revealed; at certain points I was really hoping the story would take a multi-perspective storytelling stance so we could get into the meat of their lives, but no such luck.

Overall I liked the book and was entertained enough to finish it, but as other reviewers have stated, the whole book just feels like it exists as a set-up to the next book... which I'm not really sure I want to read.


The Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities: An Unconventional Compendium of Health Facts and Oddities, from Asthmatic Mice to Plants that Can Kill
Review Date: 5/11/2012


It's an interesting read for anyone with little knowledge of human diseases, but those with a basic understanding / education will find themselves skimming it. The author touches on a broad spectrum of topics, but never goes in depth into any one of them.


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