Tracy T. (charliebear) - , - Reviews

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The Age of Dreaming
The Age of Dreaming
Author: Nina Revoyr
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 10/23/2010
Helpful Score: 1


There are so many reasons to love this book it is hard to know where to begin.

Only a bilingual, bicultural writer could have pulled off a coup like this. With a story set in 1964, Revoyr artfully weaves the culturally complex past thoughts and actions of the main character into a wonderful setting and story. Her ability to slowly reveal the weaknesses of her main character keeps the reader in a near dream state, always wondering what new fact of the past or misconception of the intentions of others past and present, will reveal about this Asian male. In the end, Revoyr draws a picture that helps the reader discover the true interior voice of her main character and, if the reader is watching carefully, an honest inner dialogue that might take place in the mind of an Asian male who is constantly surrounded by strong women who both confuse, manipulate and humiliate him.

Revoyr's writing is artful. It was hard to keep in mind that one was reading fiction and not history. Although she acknowledges some "time frame" mistakes, they are too small to affect the story. Her research into the period was deep and her characters seem to fit flawlessly into the great backdrop of the "silent era."

If you like murder mysteries, but they aren't your favorite genre, you'll love the way Revoyr handles the murder mystery that hovers in the background of this story. It's like a wispy cobweb that you know hangs in the corner of the room, but there's no hurry to take it down. Like the spider still working on the greater web, Revoyr is weaving, weaving, weaving all the time to draw the reader in -- until she's ready to let you swat away the cobweb and see the corner clearly.


American Eve
American Eve
Author: Paula Uruburu
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 30
Review Date: 6/19/2011
Helpful Score: 2


While the book doesn't really live up to the hype on the dust jacket (i.e., it is not a tour de force of historical crime writing), it is a fascinating little bit of research. I ran across Evelyn Nesbit when I happened upon a copy of "The Traitor" written by her first husband Harry Thaw. It was that piece of insane rambling that made me think it was worth knowing a bit about Evelyn Nesbit, given that she was such a force in creating the prototype for people like Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and others of that ilk. This book is an interesting look at her life and worth reading if only to understand a bit about the depravity of American society at the turn of the 20th century, a time when the rich could get away with almost anything, including murder.


At Home: A Short History of Private Life
At Home: A Short History of Private Life
Author: Bill Bryson
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 32
Review Date: 12/19/2010
Helpful Score: 5


With this book Bill Bryson has gone from being an amusing writer with a gift for connecting the most abstract to the most specific, to being an unfocused cataloger of arcane information he picked up in the course of his other work.

As an avid reader of Bryson's earlier work, I was wholly disappointed by Bryson's inability in this book to tie together the stories he presents with his chapter subjects. At his most weak moments, he offers a sentence at the beginning and a sentence at the end to try to bring himself back to the subject at hand, while ignoring that he has just led readers through 30 pages of unrelated information.

After reading it halfway through, I could no longer tolerate the disconnected ramblings and began to wonder if Bryson wasn't rushed through this project (or perhaps heavily aided in it) by an over eager editor.

This is not Bryson at his best and this book is not worthy of him. What could have been another brilliant piece to add to his collected works turns out to be a shambles of notecards thrown together under a "bait and switch" title.


Cemetery Road
Cemetery Road
Author: Gar Anthony Haywood
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/10/2010


Competent writing is what carries the reader to the end of the book. Plot and character development do not rate as stellar, so don't believe the reviews on the back cover. However, if you like murder mysteries, this is better than most of the stuff on the library shelves.


The Detective and Mr. Dickens: Being an Account of the Macbeth Murders and the Strange Events Surrounding Them
Review Date: 5/28/2011


This turned out to be a much better read than originally anticipated. It does not read like "a secret Victorian journal", upon which the novel purportedly is based. Instead, it is a carefully crafted and well written novel that easily captures one's attention and holds it throughout. Except for one "out of character" revelation by one character to another about a third character, the book holds together quite well. Of course, it's not great literature and it doesn't shed light on either Wilkie Collins or Charles Dickens, but it is a fun read by an author who obviously knows a bit about the time period of which he writes.


The English American
The English American
Author: Alison Larkin
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 10/11/2008
Helpful Score: 1


The author's unique comedic voice never fails from beginning to end. Looking back, it would be easy enough to say that the book is typically structured as a romance. However, holding on to the uniqueness of such a delightfully humorous voice through the ups and downs of the main character's life, truly rates plaudits for delivering a romantic comedy of the highest order.

Although I don't think I'd ever read it again, I haven to admit I could not put it down once I had been captured by the first two sentences!


Fasting-And Eating-For Health: A Medical Doctor's Program for Conquering Disease
Review Date: 10/14/2008


This is a very general and useful introduction to many aspects of fasting (historical, biological, medical). Luckily, the good doctor doesn't get into the spiritual aspects, but sticks to what he knows and does a great job of it.

This book does not offer precise diets. The two diets offered are very simple one page suggestions geared to general situations. What the book really does is explain the ill-effects of the recommended American Heart Association's ideal diet for people with coronary disease. The doctor explains why a primarily vegetarian diet is what will put one on the road to self-healing and why, after a few months of a clearly vegetarian diet, one would be ready to go on a 7-21 day fast under medical supervision.

I've always been wary of "medical supervision needed" in books written by Western doctors. However, Fuhrman is talking about allowing the body to recover permanently from serious health issues such as type-2 diabetes (and in some cases type-1), cancers, high blood pressure, coronary diseases, and high cholesterol readings. He isn't promising cures, he's promising a program that will put you back into good health and, if you can stick to it, a vegetarian-type approach to eating that will keep you there. And, once you read this book, you'll know he has the data and experience to show why fasting works!

This is not a book for people who think a pill can cure them. This is not a book for people who are more concerned about eating what they want than getting healthy. This is not a book for people who think they can "go it alone" on a fast longer than 3 days. This is not a book for people who think "juice fasts" can accomplish the same thing as water fasts.

This is a book for severely ill people who want to get well and have the mental and physical discipline to truly try. It's also a book for healthy people who want to stay well and/or change their approach to food intake.

If you check out Dr. Fuhrman's current website, you'll see that his whole angle seems to have switched to the weight-loss market. But, that's okay because this early gem of a book tells you all you need to know to figure out where to find a fasting clinic and get started with a supervised fast.


The Giver
The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 39
Review Date: 11/27/2010


There are too many loose ends in this book to make is a satisfying read for an adult. Personally, I found it vapid and wouldn't give it to a child because it lacks the kind of depth one would want to develop in a tween. Although I've read many good reviews of this book, I'm afraid it seems like a re-run of so many other stories.


The Healing Power of Cayenne Pepper: Complete Handbook of Cayenne Home Remedies
Review Date: 11/5/2008


This book, the title of which hints comprehensive knowledge, summarizes a great deal of history and knowledge in a few paragraphs using generalities and hear-say as evidence of the healing power of certain peppers. Of the 112 pages, there are 7 pages listing product distributors, 28 pages of recipes (many of which are not "raw food" delivery tools for the peppers into the human body), 33 pages of listings summarizing what cayenne pepper supposedly can do for a variety of health conditions, 10 pages of a general condemnation of the American health care system and American eating habits, and a few pages of trivia about cayenne. If you are well-read in the area of alternative medicine or you have extensive personal experience in treating yourself using alternative methods, you can give this book a miss. The book's back cover best describes how empty this book is of any real value in understanding the healing power of cayenne pepper. It reads: "Discover the healing powers of cayenne pepper for yourself." After reading the book, that's exactly the result -- one is left with that mission to "figure it out yourself" because this book was little help in providing any understanding. On the up side: if you are a novice to alternative medicine, this cursory glance at the use of cayenne pepper may provide some useful insight.


Holy Work : Be Love. Be Blessed. Be a Blessing.
Holy Work : Be Love. Be Blessed. Be a Blessing.
Author: Marsha Sinetar
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 0.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/28/2010


Marsha Sinetar's early work will always be her best. In the early days, as a self-styled seeker of what is good, elegant (Elegant Choices, Healing Choices), and mystical (Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics), Sinetar brought to life the beauty of the process of becoming whole. She didn't choose to define it or encourage anyone toward the process, but only to describe the various roads to wholeness for those who may choose introspection as a lifestyle that might take one closer to self-actualization.

In this book, she has moved to preaching. Although in earlier works, Sinetar's Christian leanings were obvious, they were easy to pass over if the reader was not Christian. In fact, Sinetar's earlier mentions of Christian thought were so abstract they easily could be applied to any religious or even non-religious meaning. She was talking about spirituality.

Holy Work springs from the mind of a full blown, "pass on the good word," Christian who is bent on saving others. Like many very intelligent people who think deeply about spirituality, Sinetar falters when she reaches the stage of preaching. Her words become inexpressive and her thoughts devolve into rambling platitudes. It seems Sinetar has taken her own advice on "truth telling" despite the consequences and crafted a series of lessons for readers to make their ordinary lives and tribulations into "vocations" and "holy work." Only her most devoted Christian readers could put up with these ramblings that seem to go against the very grain of her previous exhortations that self-actualization, indeed, is a highly individualized process. It seems she's now sharing her own road, despite her earlier admonitions to readers not to seek a "professional" opinion to justify one's own. Unfortunately, here Sinetar is preaching to the already converted since, without a background in Christian thought, no one could follow her on this road.

The true and great sadness about this book is its preaching format and inelegant meditations, which deliver more confusion than enlightenment. Better to read Glenn Clark's "I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes" if you want a beautiful and inspiring read on how to let go of your burdens into the hands of God. You cannot avoid the Christianity in Clark either, but, as a minister who walked the walk and talked the talk of deep Christian faith by touching the lives of so many, at least you come away uplifted and with a sense of beauty, a heightened faith, a renewed spirit, and lessons in a process that works.


How To Be Lost
How To Be Lost
Author: Amanda Eyre Ward
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 11/10/2010


Besides the hum-drum nature of the author's writing, this book was impossible to read due to the slapshot editing of the various storylines. A reader has to be committed to learning from or finding out what happens to the main character from the beginning in order to go through the torture of reading disconnected storylines. In this book, from page one, the main character is a whining loser with almost no personality, a trait from which she never recovers throughout the narrative. I'd classify her as a fool on a fool's mission.

Give this one a miss.


The Lace Reader
The Lace Reader
Author: Brunonia Barry
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 220
Review Date: 5/19/2009
Helpful Score: 14


The hype by critics on the back cover of this book do it a great disservice. The writing is good, the character development solid, and the pacing okay. However, to read the back cover one would imagine the contents to be more exciting, more intense, and more hair-raising than they actually turn out to be. If you like to read slow-paced, character driven fiction and/or enjoy the "chick-flick" genre then you will like this book. However, you will not find an "astonishing end," or "a wild, dark place," or anything "creepy or fascinating" about the book (all things promised on the dust jacket). What you will find is a mix of death, psychic visions/readings, and abused women all combined in a seacoast town known for the eccentricities of its people.


The Last Laugh: A New Philosophy of Near-Death Experiences, Apparitions, and the Paranormal
Review Date: 10/9/2008
Helpful Score: 1


If you've enjoyed Raymond Moody's early works and have an appreciation for his scientific approach to NDE's or his look at the healing aspects of mirror gazing, you will not like this book.

Although I don't disagree with Moody's desire to take back his own name and his own destiny from the hands of editors who are more interested in selling the "paranormal" than providing dignity to Moody's findings, "The Last Laugh" makes it apparent that Moody is not philosopher-enough to carry out his intentions to go beyond the current paranormal paradigm. He has no vocabulary for it and fails to create one in this book.

Writers change. Their voices take left turns sometimes. I'm not sure where Moody went, but he stepped way out of his depth here.


Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine
Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine
Author: Candace B. Pert
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 2/28/2013


This book is more about Dr. Pert's personal life and involvement in the discoveries related to learning about what she calls "the molecules of emotion" than it is about the science itself. That is to say, half of the book is about the science, while the other half is about Dr. Pert's behind-the-scenes love life and struggles that went on during her years of scientific work. Personally, I could have done without the gushing, hand wringing, self-congratulation and self-righteous indignation that keeps her swinging between chapters and moods.


The Old Priory
The Old Priory
Author: Norah Lofts
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/6/2010


Well written, but the structure doesn't provide a satisfactory conclusion to the initial set-up.

This book is written from various perspectives of characters over three generations. The beginning is intriguing and makes the reader anticipate that the lives of the narrators will somehow be drawn together in a dramatic, or at least interesting, way near the end of the book. Unfortunately, although nothing is left hanging, nothing is really resolved. Lofts's treatment of the storyline is not satisfactory in that the reader feels there is no conclusion to the lives of the families who have been drawn together. Luckily, most of the characters are memorably drawn and fleshed out. However, the one you most wish to learn more about is the one who simply passes through one or two of the last chapters without much development.


The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement
Review Date: 8/21/2010


Although the back cover of this book makes certain assertions about what this book "does," don't believe the claims. The back cover states:

"Delamontagne walks readers through a series of self-analytical processes designed to identify their personality types, and offers suggestions, tailored to each type, on how to resolve adjustment problems. Instead of racing out to buy a beach house or a Porsche, readers will learn the necessary steps to successfully transition into retirement and finally live 'the good life.'"

This book is very much like the works of Marsha Sinetar, except in a much abridged form. I have to admit, I was surprised that the book's bibliography did not contain extensive references to Marsha Sinetar's works on self-actualization.

The book takes you through only the one process of filling out a series of 45 questions that will help you determine a personality type. No matter your type, the book heads in the direction of how to find spiritual roots that will allow you to move more comfortably into a mental attitude suitable to a more "present" sense of life and self.

If you aren't looking for spiritual guidance, you might be quite surprised to find that this book is full of it. If you want an abridged version of how to self-actualize or are looking for one more reason to stop and smell the roses, then you might enjoy this book. Despite the claims on the back cover, this book will not teach you to "live the good life" if your definition of such has to do with anything other than the spiritual aspect of your life.

Nevertheless, it was a fun (and quick) read. Should you be delving into Buddhism from a beginner's perspective, you will appreciate the author's experiences and his willingness to share them.


Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits
Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits
Author: Bill Porter
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 12/25/2010


For the literate person, reading Bill Porter is the equivalent of passing through the stages of hell. Porter writes with three distinct voices, all so very different and one so very annoying that it takes every ounce of energy not to throw his books into the trash.

Given that, Road to Heaven is readable only in that much of what Porter conveys is material that is translated from other sources and organized into groups of stories. These are old stories, long known and often told. As long as Porter sticks to translating and organizing the writings of others, the material he presents tends to hold together.

Unfortunately, in this book, Porter tries to glue material together into bigger chunks using his own voice, which plods along in a second-by-second narrative of what he does or sees. Mindfulness is a valuable practice and experience for the Buddhist as long as it is one of personal life. Turning the second-by-second experience of "then we turned north and took five steps, then we turned east and walked until we reached the ...." into literary narrative is akin to aggravating a reader for no purpose. Further maddening readers, Porter displays an inability to respect or understand the purpose of time and place in his writings.


Actually, Porter has very few encounters with Chinese hermits in this book. When he does, he introduces his third voice -- that of a journalist. Despite his artlessness in questioning, the hermits he interviewed do have some interesting things to say. Again, because Porter is translating what is said to him, the material is readable.

Despite all the horror of having to pass through these pages, a student of China can find some interesting tidbits herein. I read the entire book (something I couldn't even do with Porter's book ZEN) and would even acquire it as a reference as it does place many of the old stories related to the Tao, Buddhism, Zen and hermits all between two covers. However, there is no joy in reading this manuscript. It is a trial.


The Secret Scripture
The Secret Scripture
Author: Sebastian Barry
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 11/20/2010
Helpful Score: 2


Beautifully written double diary of two unforgettable characters. That said, the book could easily frustrate one who does not enjoy the elegant use of the language and the free flowing style. Like another reviewer, I was shocked I had not anticipated the ending. Instead I found myself reeling from final revelations. Definitely worth a delightfully slow read -- there's no rushing through this one!


Shanghai Girls
Shanghai Girls
Author: Lisa See
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 203
Review Date: 6/17/2014
Helpful Score: 1


The book is well written, as are all Lisa See's books. Unfortunately, this is just not one of her best. The characters and plot were predictable. One cannot say the book isn't competently composed or structured. It's just dull.


Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot
Review Date: 11/24/2009
Helpful Score: 1


The story in and of itself is a good one, but the book is poorly written and poorly edited. If the family itself is as egotistical as the author makes them seem, I can't imagine why any soul would choose the group as an ideal environment for reincarnation. Reading about them made the word "dysfunctional" come to mind. The whole story could probably have been better presented in pamphlet form. If you really want to check this book out, pick it up at the library and skim it because it isn't worth spending the hours it would take to read all the extraneous information it contains about the family. I skimmed it in about two hours and saw everything I wanted. Read first chapter for the set up, then skip to the middle of the book where Bruce goes to the Natoma reunion, skip another couple chapters, read the info where he meets Jack Larsen, skip more, wrap up. That's all that's worth bothering with. I really wish Ian Stevenson had been available to work with this case because the level of "cluelessness" going on in this book is extraordinary.


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