Vicky T. (VickyJo) - - Reviews

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1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: 5th Anniversary Edition
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: 5th Anniversary Edition
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 1/17/2009
Helpful Score: 5


What a fascinating book! The introduction by general editor Steven Jay Schneider details the process, and the difficulty, in narrowing the list of great movies down to 1,001. It was an immense task, and one that was undertaken with seemingly thoughtfulness and an attempt at unbiasedness (if that's a word!)

The films are listed in chronological order, beginning with 1902 and continuing through 2007. There is a handy checklist in the front, so you can check off the films as you view them. Each movie has a brief synopsis, lists director, producer, cast, and those responsible for the photography, screenplay and music, and is given a critical review. Any award nominations or wins are also listed.

There are foreign films as well...but don't worry. These are not just "high-brow" or artsy type films! Included in this must see list is: The Terminator, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and even The Rocky Horror Picture Show!

Filled with black and white and color stills, this is the perfect gift for any movie fan. I highly recommend it!


All Mortal Flesh (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 5)
All Mortal Flesh (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 5)
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 67
Review Date: 1/31/2009
Helpful Score: 3


Lee Child is quoted on the cover as saying, "The best yet in an already amazing series" and I fully agree! Julia Spencer-Fleming has outdone herself in this fifth installment in her series of mysteries, featuring Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne.

Russ is the chief of police in Millers Kill, a small town in upstate New York. The new Episcopal priest in town, Clare, is intriguing; ex-Army helicopter pilot, she has seen and done more than one would expect from a female...especially a female priest. The attraction is strong between these two, but there's one problem: Russ is married.

The author crafts a great mystery, but also builds a believeable relationship between her two characters. The sexual tension is handled very well, making these novels more than your typical cozy mystery, and yet not quite as grim as a Cornwell. The four books before "All Mortal Flesh" lead up to this plotline very nicely.

There is suspense, tension, and twists that you won't see coming. I couldn't put it down, and I can't wait to get my hands on the next one!


Angel Kisses (Teen Angels)
Angel Kisses (Teen Angels)
Author: Cherie Bennett
Book Type: Paperback
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Review Date: 7/2/2009


Melody has been handed her first Earth assignment and it seems impossible! She's been sent down to Earth and back to high school to help change spoiled rich girl Scarlett Whitmore--the most obnoxious, self-centered, cruelest, laziest girl on the face of the planet--who wants to stay just that way. On top of that, Melody has to be away from her heavenly boyfriend Chaz!

But to succeed on her mission, Melody has to turn herself into a cheerleader, get Scarlett's attention, learn to run with the fast crowd--and try to stay romantically uninvolved. And when she looks to the heavens for some extra help, Melody gets more than she bargained for!

This is the third book in the Teen Angels series by Cherie Bennett.


Angel's Rest
Angel's Rest
Author: Charles Davis
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 7/14/2007
Helpful Score: 3


I loved this book! Davis is a wonderful storyteller; his characters are well done, 'real' people. This is a murder mystery, a coming-of-age novel, and a love story all rolled into one. This kept me reading, because I had to find out what happened! (Plus, I live in the Allegheny Mountains too...beautiful setting!)

Vicky


The Beacon at Alexandria
The Beacon at Alexandria
Author: Gillian Bradshaw
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 9/11/2008


This is the story of a young girl named Charis, who comes from a good home in Ephesus. The year is 371 and it's the last days of the Roman dominion over the eastern Mediterranean. Charis is going to be forced into marriage with a brute of a man who happens to have a great deal of power. In order to escape this fate, she runs away to Alexandria to pursue her one passion: medicine. Disguised as a eunuch (women were not allowed to study the mysteries of Galen and Hippocrates) Charis finds a mentor and protector in Philon, a wise, kind-hearted Jewish physician.

Gillian Bradshaw knows ancient Rome. She brings the past to life in this novel of the waning days of a fascinating civilization, and the dawning days of Christianity. I found the various denominations (if you will) of Christianity to be very interesting. This was a time when Christian theology was still being hammered out, and pagan religions were still observed. I also enjoyed the medical theories that were in use at this time; what they believed, what they could do, and what they were helpless to prevent, treat or understand. The author has a scholarly background in Classical studies, and it shows in her writing. If you enjoy immersing yourself in a past culture, you will enjoy "The Beacon at Alexandria."


The Blight Way
The Blight Way
Author: Patrick F. McManus
Book Type: Audio CD
  ?
Review Date: 9/19/2008


The Blight Way, read (perfectly) by Charles Liggett, is a fun, funny and engaging mystery by Patrick McManus. He introduces us to the small town of Blight (not far from Famine) and its denizens through the eyes of Bo Tully, the town's lawman. Picture 'Norther Exposure' in Idaho, if you will. We meet eccentric folk, good guys, a few bad guys (but not too bad) and get into the groove of small-town rhythms (and gossip) when...a body is found.

I loved this book, and found myself laughing out loud, driving around just a bit longer, and sitting in my garage with the car running until it was done. This is the first Bo Tully mystery; I hope McManus writes many more.


Book of the Dead (Kay Scarpetta, Bk 15)
Book of the Dead (Kay Scarpetta, Bk 15)
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 456
Review Date: 2/16/2009
Helpful Score: 3


Patricia Cornwell had a bad dream one night...in fact, it was a nightmare about Scarpetta, Marino and company. When she woke up in the morning, she wrote it all down and called it "The Book of the Dead."

This was disjointed, foggy, frustrating...all those qualities one finds in a bad dream.
The characters don't act like themselves. The mystery is briefly alluded to, and then forgotten until a frantic resolution (if you can call it that) at the end.

Do yourself a favor, and skip this one. It won't hurt a thing.


By a Woman's Hand: A Guide to Mystery Fiction by Women (2nd Edition)
Review Date: 7/2/2009


By a Woman's Hand lists female mystery writers, gives a brief synopsis of their works, any series they are writing, and other authors you may enjoy if you like the featured author's work. Swanson and James also include pseudonyms the women use. This was published in 1996, so it needs an updated edition, but if you are looking for different authors to read, this is a good guide.

Sample entry: (One of the shorter ones)

Fallon, Ann C.
Fallon has taken the traditional English mystery and given it an agreeable Irish brogue with a series of novels about young Dublin solicitor James Fleming. A bachelor with a comfortable income, an upper-middle-class background, and a passion for railways all over the world, James Fleming makes an attractive character for a series set in contemporary Ireland. Through his law practice, James encounters some odd cases that call for using his skills as a lawyer in more creative ways. In "Dead Ends" (Pocket, 1992) James goes to a beautiful country inn near Sligo to draw up a will for the inn's owner, an old friend of a colleague. A mysterious death occurs at the inn while James is there, and soon he finds himself working to solve the puzzle to save the owner of the inn from arrest. Fallon's writing style is leisurely, spinning out the thread of the narrative in the fashion of mysteries from the Golden Age. While the pace is not fast, the plot is usually neatly and fairly constructed. The series begins with "Blood is Thicker" (Pocket, 1990).
Other writers who have set their work in Ireland are Eilis Dillon and Nigel Fitzgerald. Readers who enjoy lawyers as sleuths might also try the work of Sara Woods, Frances Fyfield, M.R.D. Meek, or E.X. Giroux.

Swanson and James also put together several indexes: one by the name of the series character; one for geographic locations; and one for the type of sleuth, such as lawyer, librarian or scientist.


Comfort: A Journey Through Grief
Comfort: A Journey Through Grief
Author: Ann Hood
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 6/17/2008
Helpful Score: 2


This small book packs quite a punch. I've never lost a child, but I have gone through a grieving process with my daughter, and Ann Hood nails grief completely. This is a baring of the soul, and I admire her courage in writing this down. If you know someone who is grieving, this would be a good gift; it's always nice to know you're not the only one thinking and feeling a certain way. Ultimately a story of hope, of acceptance and of love.


Deadlock
Deadlock
Author: Iris Johansen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 119
Review Date: 8/21/2009
Helpful Score: 6


I listened to the unabridged audio version of Iris Johansen's newest book, "Deadlock." The premise sounded great: an archaeologist sent into war-torn countries to try and protect and preserve their cultural treasures.

What ruined this story for me was the horrible writing! I have no doubt that she lifted dialogue from quarreling siblings: "You have to stay here." "Don't boss me around, I'm coming with you!" "No, you can't come with me, I must protect you!" "I can protect myself, stop bossing me around!" "Alright, come on, but do exactly as I say." "Stop telling me what to do!" Every time a character says something, another character pops up to disagree with him/her. They fight about everything. Every.Single.Time.

Johansen also uses the phrase "Angel of Death" to describe Emily's impression of the hunky Garrett. Angel of Death...six, seven times.
Please. She also sets up a situation, and then magically resolves it. Garrett gets Emily a phony passport: "Here. I had this done (in the wilds of Pakistan or Siberia, while he was waiting). "This doesn't look like me; I have blonde hair and fair skin." "But if you had dark hair and dark skin, it would look just like you." "This will never work, I look nothing like this." "We'll just stop at the Theatrical Store on the way to the airport." Seriously. I know several Theatrical stores on the way to the airport. It's easy.

When they need to break into the bad guy's house...they go on the Internet, and find the layout of his house, a description of the alarm systems, where each is located and how it works. When they have to find the bad guy's car, in Russia, they get on the Internet and take over a spy satellite to pinpoint his location. Easy.

My daughter and I were stuck in the car for six hours, and this book made the time fly by. We were laughing hysterically or groaning in pain, or chanting "Angel...of...DEATH" in spooky voices. It's ten hours long, and neither one of us care to even finish the thing.

Save your credits.


Declassified: 50 Top-Secret Documents That Changed History
Declassified: 50 Top-Secret Documents That Changed History
Author: Thomas B. Allen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 6/8/2008
Helpful Score: 1


The author presents 50 documents from around the world that are no longer secret or classified information. He provides a photo of the actual document, some historical background, and its impact on history. These documents span time from Queen Elizabeth I (secret information on the Spanish Armada, and a plot to assassinate the Queen, 1586) through to President Bush's PDB--President's Daily Brief--given to him in August 2001 that outlined Bin Laden's determination to attack the U.S. I found this book fascinating; any one who has ever daydreamed about being a spy would love this!


Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods--My Mother's, My Father's, and Mine
Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods--My Mother's, My Father's, and Mine
Author: Noelle Howey
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 3/29/2008
Helpful Score: 1


Noelle Howey writes with a wry, witty voice but manages to sidestep any notion of self-pity. She is honest in her portrayals of her parents, her grandparents, and especially herself. Going through adolescence, when one's parents are horribly embarrassing, is difficult for everyone; Noelle had another layer of embarrassment added. But the fact that her father was finally opening up and reaching out to her turned her into one of his staunchest allies. The inside cover is full of family photographs; the one of Noelle at about age 2 or 3, sittin on her father's lap just haunts me. The body language there says it all. I really enjoyed this memoir, and applaud Noelle and her parents for sharing their story.


Falls the Shadow (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Falls the Shadow (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Author: William Lashner, Don Leslie (Narrator)
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 6/10/2007
Helpful Score: 2


The narrator of a book on CD can make or break the whole story. Don Leslie is a wonderful reader! This book had me laughing out loud in parts. I found myself sitting in my garage after work, hating to turn off my car! My copy does not have the outer box, just the sleeves that hold the CDs.


The Fattening Hut
The Fattening Hut
Author: Pat Lowery Collins
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/27/2008
Helpful Score: 2


What a haunting novel! Pat Lowery Collins writes the story of young Helen in a sparse, clean style. Helen is 14 and of marriageable age, so she is sent to the fattening hut. Excess weight is a sign of beauty and fertility; no man wants a bony bride. What they don't tell her is that, in addition to the fattening, she must also endure the cutting ceremony. Can she escape this traditional fate? The ending brought tears to my eyes. An excellent introduction to the horrors of FGM (female genital mutilation).


First Test (Protector of the Small, Bk 1)
First Test (Protector of the Small, Bk 1)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.6/5 Stars.
 51
Review Date: 7/22/2007
Helpful Score: 4


This is the first book in Pierce's "Protector of the Small" quartet. Kel is 10 years old, and ready to begin training to become a knight, inspired by her hero Alanna. (Alanna's story is told in the "Song of the Lioness" quartet.)

Unlike Alanna, who hid the fact that she was a girl while she went through the eight-year training cycle, Kel is the first girl to openly train for knighthood. She faces hardship, prejudice, but earns respect as she works hard to reach her goal.

I liked this quartet better than "Song of the Lioness." It seemed richer, better written, as if Ms. Pierce really hit her stride with this series. I love the fact that Kel is stubborn, determined, and modest. She is a great role model!


The Ghost Ferry (Haunting with Louisa, Bk 3)
The Ghost Ferry (Haunting with Louisa, Bk 3)
Author: Emily Cates
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/26/2008


"Summer has come to Misty Island, and Dee is looking forward to spending all her time with Louisa. But the pretty thirteen-year-old girl ghost thinks Dee should be making real friends, not sharing one adventure after another with a ghost! When Louisa disappears on purpose to make their parting easier, Dee is afraid that Misty Island's legendary ghost ferry has lured Louisa on board. But now Dee is in danger--and Louisa is her only hope. Where is Louisa now, when her best friend needs her more than ever?"--Back Cover.

This series of three books is a 4th-grade reading level, and the series was one of my daughter's favorites!


The Ghost in the Attic (Haunting with Louisa, Bk 1)
The Ghost in the Attic (Haunting with Louisa, Bk 1)
Author: Emily Cates
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/26/2008


"When her mother dies, Dee Forest is sent to live with her aunt Winnifred in an old-fashioned inn on Misty Island. Dee feels lonelier than she's felt in her entire life, until she makes a startling discovery: Her room is also occupied by a shy, pretty, thirteen-year-old girl ghost named Louisa Lockwood! It seems that Louisa, who died in a fire in the 1890s, must track down four living relatives and change their lives for the better before she can rejoin her family. As Dee and Louisa begin their search, they uncover an evil-hearted criminal in Louisa's family tree who won't let a girl--or a ghost--get in his way."--Back cover.

This series of three books is a 4th-grade reading level, and the series was one of my daughter's favorites!


The Good Thief
The Good Thief
Author: Hannah Tinti
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 83
Review Date: 12/12/2009
Helpful Score: 6


I raced through this first novel by Hannah Tinti. We meet young Ren, a boy without a left hand, living in the orphanage run by the monks of St. Anthony's. It's bleak, cold, comfortless. Ren is always passed over for adoption due to his handicap; his future looks frightening, as the army will be his only option when he comes of age.

But miracle of miracles, a stranger arrives one day, and chooses Ren. In fact, he claims to be Ren's brother. And so begins Ren's new life, with a family of sorts; Benjamin Nab, the alleged older brother, and his friend Tom, a former schoolteacher. The three are bound together by a strange combination of con artistry and companionship.

The narrative flows as we follow Ren on his journeys. The characters are finely drawn, and while not always likable, they are always fascinating. A modern Dickens tale with a feeling that a sequel might be in the works. I certainly hope so!


Greet the Season (Great Gifts)
Greet the Season (Great Gifts)
Author: Cy Decosse Inc
Book Type: Hardcover
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Review Date: 9/15/2007
Helpful Score: 1


This has beautiful projects! The gifts are elegant and would make Christmas brighter for everyone on your list. It includes decorative candles, pinecone kindler baskets, decoupage holiday plates, bottled gifts, decorative bird feeders, gifts of coffee and tea, homemade liqueurs, ornaments, potpourri and much more!


Into the Devil's Den: How an FBI Informant Got Inside the Aryan Nations and a Special Agent Got Him Out Alive
Review Date: 5/11/2008
Helpful Score: 3


I read this in practically one sitting. It reads like a suspense novel...the narrative goes back and forth between Dave Hall, the informant and Tym Burkey, the FBI agent. It's a fascinating look into the minds and hearts of white supremacists; not a pleasant place to be. I would describe this as chilling and gripping.


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