sevenspiders - - Reviews

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The Aeneid
The Aeneid
Author: Virgil
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 8/22/2008
Helpful Score: 2


I am a great lover of all things classical. Got my first book of Greek myths in elementary school, started taking Latin in 9th grade, loved the Odyssey, liked the Iliad, love Ovid, Aeschylus, Suetonius, Livy, all the ancient heavy hitters....except Virgil.

There were a lot of really good exciting bits in the Aeneid, but the whole thing didn't hang together for me. It seemed really disjointed, like there wasn't a thread uniting the whole thing. I know the thread is supposed to be Aeneas and the last of the Trojans' escape from Troy and wander and struggle to reach Italy and establish their destined empire. But it kept going off on tangents. It started out really well, with the sacking of Troy, and then just unraveled.

I also found Dido extremely annoying. I know she's supposed to be tragic, but to me she just came across as clingy and spineless. Maybe that's just this translation, or my inability to think in a historical mindset, but it was her choice to hook up with Aeneas even though she knew he wouldn't be sticking around, so I had little patience for her complaints when he left. She was a great queen before he turned up, why couldn't she still be a great queen?

This is one of the few classics I've had to make myself finish.


Amphigorey
Amphigorey
Author: Edward Gorey
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 23
Review Date: 10/28/2007
Helpful Score: 3


Wonderfully whimsy collection of stories and art from the uniquely brilliant Edward Gorey.


And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians)
And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians)
Author: Agatha Christie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 251
Review Date: 7/22/2008
Helpful Score: 8


Arguably Christie's masterpiece, and certainly her darkest tale, And Then There Were None takes you to Indian Island where 10 strangers have been lured to face the unspeakable crime each has committed and gotten away with....until now. As each of the 10 die one by one, the other realize the net is closing in and there's no way to discover their unknown avenger or escape his or her unerring execution of justice. Brilliantly written, you can feel the atmosphere of suspicion and dread growing with each death and a twist ending that only the most astute will see coming.


The Animal-Lover's Book of Beastly Murder
The Animal-Lover's Book of Beastly Murder
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 7/8/2008
Helpful Score: 1


Would your beloved cat avenge your murder? Are those adorable hamsters planning to annhilate you? Patricia Highsmith's ingenious collection of tales is fiendish good fun sure to delight any animal lover. The ultimate excersise in anthropomorphization "The Animal Lover's book of Beastly Murder" runs the gamut from darkly funny to tragic, touching and horrifying. Its enough to make you scratch your new kitten behind the ears, give man's best friend an extra treat and maybe take a second look at exactly what those ants are so busy doing in that ant farm.


An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
Author: Brock Clarke
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 39
Review Date: 10/27/2007
Helpful Score: 10


I found this book interesting but frustrating. The narrator was funny and "bumbling" but frankly I didn't find him all that sympathetic. And I thought there would be more about the role of literature in our lives, why books are still read a century later, what makes someone hate a book/author/anything enough to want to destroy it. It was a good premise, but the whole arson motif seemed like it was meant to grab your attention rather than to have any deeper siginificance to the book. But overall, it was a quick and interesting if ultimately unsatisfying read.


Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: The Long Halloween
Author: Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 41
Review Date: 8/6/2008
Helpful Score: 1


The Batman Universe has always had a film-noir feel, and never more so or to better advantage than in Loeb & Sale's epic urban nightmare, The Long Halloween. A new supervillain has emerged from the underbelly of Gotham, a villain who strikes on each of the major holidays. The killer's motives are as dark and complicated as the streets of Gotham, is he in league with the crime families of Gotham or against them? Is there a method in his madness? The artwork is stellar as usual, and the storyline is as strong and intricate as anything by the great mystery writers like Hammett or Chandler.


Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (Vampire, Bk 1)
Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (Vampire, Bk 1)
Author: Christopher Moore
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 141
Review Date: 1/6/2009
Helpful Score: 5


From humorist Christopher Moore comes a supernatural comedy that's as sweet and salty as fresh blood- or so I suppose. Breaking the stereotypical vampire-angst, Moore's characters tackle the more practical questions of vampirehood, such as how do I get my car out of impound or how long can I be kept in deep-freeze?

The story follows newly-turned vampire Jody, and her aspiring-writer minion C. Thomas Flood (aka Tommy, turkey bowler extraordinaire) as they adjust to their respective new lifestyles in San Francisco and try to defeat the murderous unknown vampire who changed Jody.

Populated by a remarkable cast of supporting characters, from Tommy's Magnificent Seven subordinates at the local supermarket to Jody's judgmental, Stanford alum mother, Bloodsucking Fiends is funny, exciting and touching. Moore has a brilliant talent for combining adventure, humor, horror and romance without making any one element seem forced or out of place.


Boomsday
Boomsday
Author: Christopher Buckley
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 47
Review Date: 7/8/2008
Helpful Score: 2


The greatest difficulty in writing good comedy is the successful combination of the absurd and the believable, and Buckley does so superbly. His havoc-ridden alternate present is peopled with characters that are zany but never annoying and situations that are outlandish without being unrecognizable.

Buckley's story of a disgruntled young blogger fighting (or adding to?)the madness of an America taxed to its eyeballs to keep a generation of retired babyboomers in professional golf equipment and mauseoleums that rival the Pyramids is one of the best comic novels I've ever read.


Breathers: A Zombie's Lament
Breathers: A Zombie's Lament
Author: S. G. Browne
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 34
Review Date: 4/15/2009
Helpful Score: 1


Breathers is a crazy, romantic, satirical gem. Its an absolute smorgasbord of ingenius bits of everything from Kafka to Orwell to George Romero melded together into a fun, finely stitched tale.

Breathers follows the plight of Andy Warner, who one day had it all- a loving family, a happy home, a functioning circulatory system- and the next day was reduced to an ambulatory corpse living in his parent's basement with two missing limbs, no legal rights, no friends, and nothing to look forward to but his weekly Undead Anonymous meetings with other hapless zombies.

Andy and his undead pals try to re-piece together their lives (zombies are not recognized as human and are universally despised and discriminated against by the living) and their bodies (stealing limbs has become a popular method of hazing among frat boys). They struggle with the moral dilemma of devouring the brains of the people who treat them as second-class citizens and with the more mundane worry of how not to smell like a decomposing corpse (bathing in Pine-sol works wonders). And still, Andy manages to find time for romance with zombie-babe Rita.

Breathers: a Zombie's Lament is a subversive, sweet, funny take on life, death and the American Dream.


Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny
Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny
Author: Cintra Wilson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 12/15/2008
Helpful Score: 3


This was one of those books that, once I saw the title, I just *had* to read it. Although it didn't turn out to be a surrealist alternate-future metafiction, like the Thursday Next stories, which was what I was expecting, I wasn't disappointed.

There's no plot, the only character is Caligula, and the bulk of the book is his argument for the inevitability and superiority of heaven-sanctioned totalitarian rule to democracy. This Caligula argues that he's the best choice for America, not because he will refrain from gross abuses of power, but because he admits freely that he will immediately begin to remove all freedoms. At least we'd know what we were getting.

Under the Caligula administration, he would be the only recognized god, thereby eliminating all current religous strife. He argues that it is phyisically impossible for a ruler with any amount of power to practice self-restraint, and cites a staggering number of examples, both ancient and recent.

Although at times Caligula for President reads less like tongue-in-cheek humor than a diatribe of Cintra Wilson's political views and displeasure with the Bush administration, the majority is spot-on, satirical and very funny. Forget the War on Terror, Caligula fought the ocean. Was it really madness to promote a horse to a Senatorial seat? Or was it a stroke of preemptive genius to keep would-be usurpers out? Caligula for President has some brilliant insights into modern government and economics drawn from one of history's most infamous despots. And that's either really funny or really sad.


Capyboppy
Capyboppy
Author: Bill Peet
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 7/25/2008
Helpful Score: 3


This was (and remains) one of my favorite books from childhood. Its the perfect book for anyone who's ever fantasized about having a fantastic exotic pet. The drawings and story both bring the endearing over-sized rodent, Capyboppy, to life. His sweet, adventurous nature and mischevious exploits will make you laugh out loud.


Carrie
Carrie
Author: Stephen King
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 429
Review Date: 7/22/2008
Helpful Score: 2


King's first novel is more than a coming-of-age story, it is the story of a birth in all its bloody glory. Carrie, shy, embarrassed, seemingly helpless, attempts to emerge from the hell of her childhood into a free, bright adulthood, only to be met with the same ridicule and violence from her cruel classmates and fanatical mother. But Carrie has grown up, not into an adult, but into something darker, more vengeful and infinitely more powerful that will repay them blood for blood. King's debut novel remains one of his best, creating characters that are simultaneously horrifying and pitiable.


The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (Translator)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 20
Review Date: 6/24/2008
Helpful Score: 2


This is one of the thickest books I've ever read, and it was worth every page. Don't be daunted by the size, the complete, unabridged Count of Monte Cristo is not just one of the best adventure stories ever written, but one of the best stories period. The simplicity of the story conceals everything the story has to say about life; the expectations, disappointments, despairs, hatreds, loves, joys and bittersweetness that everyone experiences. This book is timeless and unforgettable.


Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic
Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic
Author: Pamela Weintraub
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.7/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 9/7/2008


The title proclaims "Cure Unknown" in large, alarming and eye-catching type against a bleak gray cover, and Weintraub's book proves to be as sensational as the title and cover suggest. Such sensation makes science writing appealing and readable, but in this case it detracts more than it adds. Weintraub has many positive, reasonable points to make, but her immediate descent into hyperbole overshadows most of those points.

Certainly Lyme is a common disease in the rural and suburban New England; however "One cannot inhabit the northeastern suburbs without seeing the damage- children with headaches that never go away, forty year olds with limps, teenagers too fatigued to study or engage fully in the activities of life." (pg 210) is certainly an overstatement. Lyme disease, when left untreated, can be debilitating and painful. But the majority of cases are treated, even if only as a precautionary measure, and no lasting effects occur. Doctors are most definitely fallible human beings, but they are not systematically denying the existence of a disease. The tests for Lyme are not always the first test performed, but they are (to date) tricky and inconclusive, often providing both false positives and false negatives. This last is more a result of the limit of modern science, not a conscious denial of a disease by the medical establishment as a whole.

Reading the accounts of Weintraub's own experiences with Lyme and those of her interviewees is heart-wrenching; but it is not the rule, it is the exception. If her book spurs any increase in interest and support for Lyme research than it has certainly had a positive effect. Lyme is a problem. It is one that is being diligently researched and monitored by doctors and public health officials. WebMD lists at least 50 antibiotics that are used to treat Lyme disease; there is a Lyme vaccine available; none of these facts justify the exaggeration of such a title or attitude as Weintraub displays.


The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula
Review Date: 10/27/2007
Helpful Score: 2


The Dead Travel Fast offers a fresh look at the fascination of vampire lore, remarkably lacking in cliches, and an honest yet humane look at the people who obssess over it. Author Eric Nuzum cheerfully undertakes experiments that would daunt the casual vampire fan (i.e. sampling his own blood, watching every vampire movie ever made). He visits Romania on a tour of vampire history with uncomfortable conditions and limited appeal. He spends months trying to contact a real vampire. Nuzum journeys to the very outskirts of accepted culture to find source of the undead's universal appeal. He attempts to reconcile the equal strength of the mainstream's fascination and the fringe's obsession with vampires and he does so with wit, spunk and an open mind.


The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
Review Date: 7/8/2008
Helpful Score: 1


Devil in the White City creates a fascinating picture of forgotten moments of glory and depravity in American history. Larson's poetic descriptions conjure the budding strength, ingenuity and beauty of the city of Chicago and its people and the simultaneous depths of horror that emerged in the same city, in the same culture and the ways these two extremes changed the American psyche forever.


The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century
Review Date: 7/22/2008
Helpful Score: 1


The book provides and excellent description of Victorian life and the Victorian mindset, but I was unable to shake the mind-boggling Victorian habit of actually TAKING some unidentified medicine that someone you don't know sent you in the mail. Schechter explores a world of pomp and priviledge, obsessed with the surface appearance of propriety, but secretly seething with sexual scandals and murderous grudges. This trial marked the beginning of the media circus that subsequent murder trials from Lizzie Borden to OJ Simpson would become, as the outwardly respectable defendent's sordid affairs and violent, cold-blooded nature was dug up by the police and media as much to shock and titillate the public as to achieve justice.


Doctor Sleep (Shining, Bk 2)
Doctor Sleep (Shining, Bk 2)
Author: Stephen King
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 107
Review Date: 1/9/2014


Doctor Sleep was entertaining but pretty rote, predictable Stephen King fare. Which is to say it was highly enjoyable. Mostly it was the same supernatural-kid faces supernatural-baddies, powers great and terrible, good vs. evil battle royale with some well-drawn side characters. I'd say maybe I wasn't more engrossed because I never responded that much to The Shining as a book either, except that there's not very much to unite the two except for a quick detour back to the Overlook. 11/22/63 and Under the Dome were better. King seems to exceed himself these days when he sets his epic showdowns in a totally different setting than the typical small New England towns he used so well in the past.


Dracula : Asylum (Dracula (Dh Press))
Dracula : Asylum (Dracula (Dh Press))
Author: Paul Witcover
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 1/21/2009
Helpful Score: 3


This book is much better than it has any right to be. Published by Dark Horse, better known for their fantastic comic books, this sequel to Universal's Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, is surprisingly well written.

Set during World War I, twenty years after the defeat of Dracula by Van Helsing, Dracula: Asylum explores themes of madness, repression, and betrayal. Seward's sanitorium from the original has become a hospital for shell-shocked soldiers. And author Paul Witcover does a remarkable job of correlating the madness and depravity of the war with the evil of Dracula, just as the earlier masterpiece, Nosferatu linked the evil of the vampire with the plagues that ravished Europe.

Witcover introduces several new characters, including female psychiatrist Lisa Watson, her shell-shocked patient suffering from amnesia Captain Faulks and the hospital's sinister head doctor, sadistically obsessed with electroshock therapy.

Dracula: Asylum is certainly not the most brilliant or original horror story, but it holds its own as an intriguing, entertaining continuation of the movie Dracula, more than worth a glance on a stormy night.


Duma Key
Duma Key
Author: Stephen King
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 458
Review Date: 7/2/2009
Helpful Score: 8


I'm sure that with so many books under his belt King has a few clunkers, but so far I've not come across any. Duma Key is an ominous, atmospheric ghost story, reeking of Southern Gothic. The location, a semi-deserted Florida key, is as strong a character as any of the human players, and that's saying something.

Duma Key is the story of Edgar Freemantle's second life. In his first life he was a happily married Minnesota contractor. A devastating accident leaves his brain damaged, one arm amputated and his previous persona in tatters. He moves to Duma Key, begins painting with an unsuspected talent and fervor, and meets his neighbors, the key's elderly owner Miss Eastlake and her mysterious caretaker Wireman.

Duma Key and its inhabitants have their own secret hidden lives, and the ghosts surrounding them echo the newly awakened demons in Edgar's own mind. As in any good horror story, the demons and ghosts on Duma Key won't be content to stay quiet.

King delivers a creepy, character-driven ghost story that's as much about the ghosts of our former selves as about a real sea-spook. The characters are well drawn, enigmatic without being unlikable, and worth the time it takes to get to know them. Once you know them, its impossible not to follow their macabre and inescapable fate.


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