Amelia S. - Reviews

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1984
1984
Author: George Orwell
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1639
Review Date: 10/17/2005


I found this book difficult to read because I knew that at any moment a crushing blow was going to fall on the main character (I hesitate to say hero). Otherwise, Orwell writes well and he kept my attention. I found the Afterword by Erich Fromm, which places 1984 in the context of other dystopian books, an interesting read as well.


Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make It Right
Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make It Right
Author: Jim Dwyer, Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 6


This is a 350-page book before the appendices. It ends with "A Short List of Reforms to Protect the Innocent," "DNA Exonerations at a Glance," long lists of sources and acknowledgments, and an index. In other words, this is not your typical true-crime book; rather, the authors--two lawyers and a journalist--examine the DNA exonerations of dozens of men who spent time in prison for crimes they did not commit. Their stories and the authors comments on their cases lead to some disturbing conclusions about our criminal justice system. Every supporter of the death penalty should read this book.


The Alienist
The Alienist
Author: Caleb Carr
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 543
Review Date: 10/17/2005


I couldn't pick up another book or turn on the television or nap until I finished this book. Not because the mystery itself was so exciting, but because the characters working to solve the mystery were fascinating. (Think about it. Would CSI or Without a Trace be as compelling to watch if we didn't care not only about the mystery of the week, but also about the investigators and detectives solving the mystery?) The narrator, a police reporter telling the story after twenty-five years have passed, and the psychologist with the hidden past, and his secret love, and Sara, determined to be accepted as a woman detective when women were hardly allowed to set foot in police headquarterswhat a group. I'm eager to read the sequel (The Angel of Darkness).


All Creatures Great and Small (All Creatures Great and Small, Bk 1)
All Creatures Great and Small (All Creatures Great and Small, Bk 1)
Author: James Herriot
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 70
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 2


This is not a book that cant be put down and returned to later. That does not mean it is not better-written and funnier than some novels Ive read straight through. And every time the authors boss goes overboard and I feel righteously angry on behalf of the author, I realize that he had his revenge by recording his bosss nutty behavior in his books. First in a series; sequels include All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All, and Every Living Thing.


Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross, Bk 1)
Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross, Bk 1)
Author: James Patterson
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1050
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 1


What a long, dark, dreary novel. It was less of a page-turner than well-written true crime, not as well-written as either of the last two books I've finished, and I never felt as if I got to know Alex Cross, despite the first-person narration. I won't continue with this series, though the back-of-the-book excerpt from Patterson's 1st to Die was intriguing.


The Anatomy of Motive : The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals
Review Date: 10/16/2005
Helpful Score: 2


Douglas must have been a riveting instructor at Quantico. He can explain the differences among serial and spree killers and mass murderers, among arsonists and bombers, among the many criminals we ignore until they do too much damage too close to home, in language the layperson can understand. He peppers his "lectures" with enough real cases to keep our attentionreal cases, after all, are the reason a reader chooses a book by John Douglas instead of a novel. Douglas's supposed arrogance aside, he tells a darn good story.


Animal Farm
Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 1185
Review Date: 10/16/2005
Helpful Score: 1


An easier read than 1984, but just as disturbing at the end. Either way, Big Brother is out to get us!


Autobiography of a Face
Autobiography of a Face
Author: Lucy Grealy
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 20
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 3


Grealy's memoir reminded me of Dawn Prince-Hughes's memoir, Songs of the Gorilla Nation. Both women have lived such different lives from mine, and both can let the reader inside their lives while not failing to emphasize their different ways of experiencing the world. As I read Grealy's memoir, at times I felt as if she were writing in a different language from mine. Prince-Hughes writes in the same way. I did wonder if Grealy's experience would have been different today from when she grew up, because today there are some resources for children and teenagers with facial disfigurements such as Treacher-Collins syndrome, the disorder displayed by the older sister of a child at the childcare center where I work.


The Bean Trees
The Bean Trees
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 509
Review Date: 10/16/2005
Helpful Score: 5


I think I own this book, but I had to request a copy from the library in order to re-read it for a group discussion. I'm glad I did. Taylor and her friends and family are the sort of people I wish I knew in real life, human and flawed but really trying to do the right thing. Now I'm eager to re-read the sequel, Pigs in Heaven.


Bel Canto
Bel Canto
Author: Ann Patchett
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 38
Review Date: 10/17/2005


As I read this book, especially nearing the end, I could hear the soundtrack to a tragedy playing in my mind. This book contained adequate difficulty and heartbreak, but no happy ending; in fact, I was quite disappointed and a bit confused by the pair who married in the epilogue. But I will say that I sat down and read this book straight through without a break, and it was worth it.


BESTIAL: THE SAVAGE TRAIL OF A TRUE AMERICAN MONSTER
BESTIAL: THE SAVAGE TRAIL OF A TRUE AMERICAN MONSTER
Author: Harold Schechter
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 16
Review Date: 11/30/2006
Helpful Score: 1


Surprisingly well-written, despite the trashy title. Schechter is an engaging writer, and Nelson was a suitably insane subject. Highly recommended for fans of true crime or of historical mysteries.


Blue Diary
Blue Diary
Author: Alice Hoffman
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 79
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 2


I found this book both boring and unreal. We never learn who Ethan really is, which is understandable--but neither do we learn much about Jorie or Collie. (What awful names!) Kat is the only interesting character. I wish she had narrated the entire book.


Blue Skies
Blue Skies
Author: Robyn Carr
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 70
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 4


I really enjoyed this book. It made me grin and giggle and wiggle around in my seat with excitement. Nikki is a down-to-earth heroine who deserves every break she gets. So is Dixie. So is Carlisle--though he's a hero, not a heroine--well, sort of! :) Carr's comfort with the lives, loves, and speech patterns of real human beings makes for easy reading--I was never "tripped up" by artificial-sounding dialogue or unrealistic plot twists.


The Boy Next Door (Boy, Bk 1)
The Boy Next Door (Boy, Bk 1)
Author: Meg Cabot
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 276
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 1


I never read books in a series out of order, and since this time I did, I feel as if I ought to re-read Boy Meets Girl, even though I have 150+ other books on my to-be-read list. At any rate, this book was entertaining, but it lacked two enjoyable features of the other book: dessert recipes, and an evil boss. And since I read the second book three months ago, I am not entirely sure how many characters appeared in both books, which gave me an annoyingly vague sense of deja vu: I couldn't remember which characters I had met before, or what happened to them in the second book.


The Calling of Emily Evans (Women of the West, Bk 1)
The Calling of Emily Evans (Women of the West, Bk 1)
Author: Janette Oke
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 72
Review Date: 10/17/2005


I am of two minds about this book. On the one hand, it is a sweet, simple story with a happy ending. These are not bad traits in a comfort read. On the other hand, it seemed almost too simple and sweet this time around. It lacked the struggle for a relationship with God that I enjoyed in Jane Orcutt's The Living Stone. It lacked the nitty-gritty details of pioneer life that I appreciate in Lauraine Snelling's books. I can understand why I liked this book in my early teens, but ten years later, I feel as if I've outgrown it.


The Cases That Haunt Us
The Cases That Haunt Us
Author: John Douglas, Mark Olshaker
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 81
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 1


The authors--Douglas worked for the FBI for 25 years--tackle famous cases including Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, the Zodiac killer, and JonBenet Ramsey's murder. This is not sleazy or sensationalistic crime writing; the book is down-to-earth and very convincing of various parties' guilt or innocence. Highly recommended. Now I'd like to see Douglas tackle Scott Peterson and Darlie Routier.


The Color Purple
The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 175
Review Date: 10/16/2005
Helpful Score: 1


I avoided reading this book until now because I thought it would be difficult and depressing. It was depressing at times, but it wasn't nearly as difficult as I had expected. (I still haven't figured out if "her sister doctor" means "her sister's doctor" or "her sister the doctor," but the former makes more sense in context.) The only aspect of the book I'm still trying to puzzle out is the characters' changing relationships. Like musical chairs players, every character kept running off with every other character's spouse, and I wasn't expecting that.


The Courage to Dream (Love Inspired, No 205)
The Courage to Dream (Love Inspired, No 205)
Author: Margaret Daley
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 53
Review Date: 10/16/2005


Yet another disappointing Christian novel. Thank goodness I checked out two of these Love Inspired romances at once (this and The Harvest), because if this were my only "first try" for the series, I wouldn't try any others. The plot was predictable and not at all charming, and the characters' prayers sounded more like demands made towards God than thanks for His blessings.


David and Lisa / Jordi / Little Ralphie and the Creature
David and Lisa / Jordi / Little Ralphie and the Creature
Author: Theodore Issac Rubin
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 10/17/2005


This was a three-novellas-in-one I found at a used bookstore on Friday and finished the same day. It wasnt bad, but it wasnt memorable, either. If you want to read about children with emotional disturbances, read anything by Torey Hayden. Shes a more exciting writer, and her books are thicker.


Dead Men Do Tell Tales
Dead Men Do Tell Tales
Author: William R. Maples, Michael Browning
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 32
Review Date: 10/17/2005
Helpful Score: 2


This book reminded me of The Cases That Haunt Us by Douglas and Olshaker; in this book, Maples applies his science, forensic anthropology, to historically significant cases such as the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his family and of Zachary Taylor, once President of the United States. In The Cases That Haunt Us, Douglas applied his science, criminal profiling, to historically significant cases such as Jack the Ripper and Lizzie Borden. In both books, the stories told were fascinating.


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