Barbara - Reviews

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1,000 Indian Recipes
1,000 Indian Recipes
Author: Neelam Batra
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 3/29/2012


Although I love the flavors of Indian food, I don't know much about making it. This book explains everything clearly, so the beginner won't get lost, yet it's also very comprehensive. With so many recipes you'll find it hard to choose which one to try first, and a more experienced cook won't be bored. Many recipes are fairly complex, and call for things I don't have on my shelves or that I can't get easily, but the author often provides ideas for getting good results from more common ingredients. So far, the few simple recipes I've tried have turned out well.


11/22/63
11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 73
Review Date: 12/7/2014


This overlong book tried to do too many things, and for me didn't do any of them especially well. King's writing was solid, as it usually is, and some of the characters were likable, but there was just too much of it, pursuing themes, subplots, story elements that didn't work together and which mostly failed to hold my interest.

There was, at the start, a fairly decent time travel story that dealt in its own way with the usual anomalies and paradoxes, which was fine. I grew up in roughly the same time period that the character journeys into, and have memories of the Kennedy assassination, so seeing so many familiar references was an intriguing blast of nostalgia.

The "save Kennedy and save the world" story part of the plot went on at great length, offering a little alternate history, a lot of second-guessing about historical events, and even more fabrication and conspiracy theory, all suitably politicized. This was the least interesting, least palatable, and least readable part of the novel for me.

Woven through much of the rest was the love story. It was extraneous, a rather uneasy fit for the rest of the book, a distraction from the events of 1963. It was also far too long-winded for such a basic boy-meets-girl thread.

This felt like a book that didn't know where it wanted to go or how it wanted to get there, and it is one of the few King books I've read that I have not enjoyed.


20th Century Ghosts
20th Century Ghosts
Author: Joe Hill
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 75
Review Date: 6/19/2008
Helpful Score: 1


This collection of stories seems to be built out of very uneven pieces, all of them written in Hill's distinctive, no-nonsense prose. Some stories were sad, or pathetic, or bittersweet, while others were just puzzling, with no real direction or resolution, or maybe they were just too subtle for me to pick up what was supposed to be going on. Only a few pieces were outstanding--either genuine horror stories that succeeded in running chills down my spine and made me want to keep reading and cover my eyes, all at the same time, or insanely creative stories like "Pop Art"--and these make the collection worth reading.


365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life
Review Date: 12/8/2010
Helpful Score: 3


Kralik's notion of sending thank you notes for the people and things we're grateful for in our lives is an admirable one. Heartfelt and unexpected notes of thanks, expressions that take time and thoughtful consideration to create, are a treasure to the recipient, and I can understand how writing them could be uplifting to the sender as well. Related in his easy to read style, the descriptions of why he wrote the notes he sent, and what he wrote, are sometimes really inspiring. Other parts of this book, however, felt overwritten--hearing voices on the trail? tripping on the sidewalk only to look up and find religion?--as if the author was trying too hard to be motivational.


41: A Portrait of My Father
41: A Portrait of My Father
Author: George W. Bush
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 5/3/2015
Helpful Score: 1


This isn't a scholarly or sophisticated biography, so in that regard I suppose it could be regarded as superficial. There is, of necessity, a good deal about politics and government, though none of it related in-depth, and there is refreshingly little partisanship or rancor.

But emotionally the book is much deeper, a very personal narrative in which Mr. Bush's regard and love for his dad is apparent on every page. And that, I think, is what the author set out to tell. There is much about the elder Bush's accomplishments and achievements, but his son remembers him most of all as a loving father, and as a man who always tried to balance family with the demands of public service. The book is sometimes heartwarming, sometimes funny, almost always interesting, and provides an unique perspective, one president to another, on the Bush family. I enjoyed reading it.


84, Charing Cross Road
84, Charing Cross Road
Author: Helene Hanff
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 92
Review Date: 7/17/2009


A nostalgic look at a very different era, and the caring friendship, fostered by letters, that grew up on both sides of the Atlantic. Very fast to read, and delightful.


The 9th Girl (Kovac / Liska, Bk 5)
The 9th Girl (Kovac / Liska, Bk 5)
Author: Tami Hoag
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 36
Review Date: 12/27/2013


I'm ambivalent about this book, my first by Hoag. The parts that deal with the crime and the investigation are pretty good, and Kovac and Liska make an interesting team. But there was so much other material, mostly about Liska's family, that the thriller, the part I thought was going to be the primary plot line, was often shoved into the background. Even the resolution brushed that thread aside to focus on the domestic story. So while it was a fast read, and competently written, it was less thriller than just contemporary fiction. Not sure if I'll try more of the series.


Abandoned (Smoky Barrett, Bk 4)
Abandoned (Smoky Barrett, Bk 4)
Author: Cody Mcfadyen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 2/22/2012


For the most part, I like McFadyen's writing, and thought this book, though not as good as his earlier ones, was not bad. However, it cried out for a sharp-eyed editor who could remind the author to stop repeating over-used phrases and descriptions, and to eliminate the overly long stretches of exposition that drag the action to a halt. That's not advancing the story or building suspense, that's padding, and it doesn't belong in a tautly written story. The characters have grown on me, and I hope they get a storyline worthy of them in the next book of the series.


The Abduction (Carnivia, Bk 2)
The Abduction (Carnivia, Bk 2)
Author: Jonathan Holt
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/21/2014


This second book in the Carnivia trilogy still didn't resolve my indecision about these books. I seem to have a constantly shifting like/dislike relationship with this author. Once again, there are parts that are interesting--the whole idea of the Carnivia website is fascinating to me--but the military and political plot elements, spiraling conspiracy theories, Church intrigue, and World War II mysteries just leave me cold. Some characters are well drawn, others are clumsy stereotypes. The Venetian setting is both beautiful and disturbing.

But the dialog and the flow of the writing seemed better this time around, and with some skimming, I did finish the book, so obviously some aspect of the story kept me going. I'll probably look for the last of the three just to see how it all ends.


The Abomination
The Abomination
Author: Jonathan Holt
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/21/2013


I have really mixed feelings about this book. Starting out, it was an enjoyable read with an unusual premise. When the author introduced the rather heavy-handed political/military story line, though, flanked by a conspiracy theory and a strongly feminist bent, I lost much of my enthusiasm. Characters were interesting but inconsistent, often doing things that didn't fit at all with what the reader had seen about them. The prose was clear, but often awkward, especially when American characters were talking--the British author obviously didn't get the nuances of American speech. But the glimpses of seedy, ethereal Venice through the eyes of Venetians were great, and despite my misgivings about the characters, there was a certain alluring chemistry. So I'm giving this a so-so rating, and will see if the second book in the "Carnivia" trilogy resolves my indecision.


Abomination (Rock Harbor, Bk 4)
Abomination (Rock Harbor, Bk 4)
Author: Colleen Coble
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 33
Review Date: 1/2/2009


I loved the author's descriptions of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but they were, unfortunately, the high point of this book. For the rest, the best word I can use is "artificial". The throwaway bits of Finnish heritage were interesting, but not sufficient to salvage the stereotypical characters (the cast included a dim & overweight small-town sheriff and two ruggedly-handsome-and-manly-yet-sensitive guys), the overly scripted dialog, or the excessively coincidental events of the plot.


Above the Waterfall
Above the Waterfall
Author: Ron Rash
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 9/22/2016


Rash's writing has been highly praised, one much-quoted description calling it "gorgeous and brutal". As I tried to get into this book, I considered that the brutality was directed against the reader. The prose and the storytelling in Above the Waterfall were murky, obscuring people and events rather than revealing them. I had to work far too hard to understand what was going on in the lives of indistinguishable characters that I didn't care about. I didn't make it very far before giving up on the book, and on Rash, for good.


The Absolution: A Novel (Carnivia Trilogy, The)
The Absolution: A Novel (Carnivia Trilogy, The)
Author: Jonathan Holt
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 3/31/2016


I think this last part of the Carnivia trilogy finally made up my mind: this isn't a series I'd recommend.  The espionage and intrigue, financial manipulation and political subterfuge that threatened to take over the preceding books finally did so here, while what initially grabbed me, the intriguing concept of Carnivia itself, was largely ignored.  This time Venice was more disturbing than ethereal.  Characters never grew into their potential, while the prose never outgrew its awkwardness.  The ending wasn't bad, but couldn't make up for my loss of interest many pages before.   The whole was an interesting idea that was not well executed.


The Accomplice (Felony & Mayhem Mysteries)
The Accomplice (Felony & Mayhem Mysteries)
Author: Elizabeth Ironside
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 2/6/2010
Helpful Score: 4


After reading and enjoying Ironside's stylish Death in the Garden, I was really looking forward to this book, only to find that I couldn't force myself to finish it. The story plodded along, tangled in details, trivia, and confusing names, and if it had a point, I'm afraid I wasn't patient enough to find it.


Adam of the Road
Adam of the Road
Author: Robert Lawson (Illustrator), Elizabeth Janet Gray
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 50
Review Date: 9/15/2006


This Newbery book, set in 13th-century England, follows 11-year-old Adam on his wanderings and adventures in search of his father.


After Her
After Her
Author: Joyce Maynard
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 17
Review Date: 6/6/2015
Helpful Score: 1


This book is less the thriller I expected and more a contemporary drama or coming-of-age story with elements of criminal mayhem mixed in. Instead of terse true-crime prose there is excessive repetition and overdone detail. The serial killer on the mountain looms large but lacks menace; Rachel, the narrator, shares her tedious adolescent musings non-stop for pages. The plot is glacially slow, sometimes silly, and the story's twists are only mildly surprising. It's a novel in dire need of a competent and ruthless editor.

With all of that, I was amazed when these two sisters involved me so deeply. The girls come to life and their story, with all its rather serious failings, was somehow one I didn't want to stop reading. There was something real and touching, something I'm not sure I can define, that made After Her a book I really enjoyed.


Aftermath (Aftermath, Bk 1)
Aftermath (Aftermath, Bk 1)
Author: Charles Sheffield
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 47
Review Date: 1/13/2011
Helpful Score: 4


Sheffield seems to have a flair for writing characters and dialog that can pull a reader into a story. Sadly, in this book the characters and their words are mostly wasted on an often silly plot. What happens in a world deprived of all its electronics could have been, should have been, fascinating reading. But this post-disaster book trots out all the cliches. There's genetic manipulation and cloning, here mixed up with a serial killer and his turtle; a wild-eyed shades-of-Waco religious zealot and her fanatic followers; sex, political intrigue, and ambition. Worse yet, the book is obviously intended as the beginning of a series, with a coy epilogue that promises more to come. No thanks.


The Age of Miracles
The Age of Miracles
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 8/25/2012
Helpful Score: 1


This was a great story idea, an exploration of the changes in the planet and its people as Earth's rotation slows down. However, I was disappointed that in Walker's hands the idea never lived up to its promise, bogging down in predictability, cursory descriptions, and stereotypical characters, and rushed to an unsatisfying ending. It's a not terribly original YA coming-of-age book dressed up in quasi-apocalyptic clothing, and it doesn't do justice to either type of story.


Agincourt
Agincourt
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 38
Review Date: 6/30/2012
Helpful Score: 1


Vivid descriptions, lots of historical details. I'm sure there were some superb characterizations here too--Cornwell generally does a good job in that regard. But I just couldn't handle the simplistic writing style and massive bloodshed long enough to find them.


The Alexandria Link (Cotton Malone, Bk 2)
The Alexandria Link (Cotton Malone, Bk 2)
Author: Steve Berry
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 280
Review Date: 11/9/2008
Helpful Score: 3


I've seldom come across a book with more twists and turns, a whole boatload of red herrings that sometimes almost overwhelm the plot. The author manages to hold all the pieces together, though, and the story is tightly written and full of interesting premises about biblical history and its implications in modern events. What I thought would be a mediocre knockoff of The DaVinci Code turned out to be a pretty good action thriller, and worth reading.


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