Julien C. (jaimelesmaths) - Reviews

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27 Short Plays (Contemporary Playwrights Series)
27 Short Plays (Contemporary Playwrights Series)
Author: Christopher Durang
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 2/24/2007
Helpful Score: 1


Mixed bag collection of one-acts from a very funny playwright. Personal favorites include "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls," "DMV Tyrant," "The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From," "Sister Mary Ignacious Explains It All For You," and "The Actor's Nightmare." If you want to direct a play, this will give you a good selection, though some will work much better than others.


The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Bk 2)
The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Bk 2)
Author: Eoin Colfer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 227
Review Date: 2/16/2007
Helpful Score: 1


Not at all as good as the first one, nor as funny. Except for the protagonist, characters seemed one dimensional. No big plot surprises either. While the first book could capture an adult audience, this one really cannot. I do not plan on continuing with the series.


The Argyle Sweater: A Cartoon Collection
The Argyle Sweater: A Cartoon Collection
Author: Scott Hilburn
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 3/11/2009
Helpful Score: 3


The next Far Side! A bit of self-referential humor (which usually I find funny but didn't work as well for me), a lot of puns (usually pretty clever), and animal behavior humor galore. A few of the comics seemed to repeat basically the same joke, which I found a bit disturbing in a book of only 128 pages (are you out of ideas already?), but, if you're looking for something to fill the shelf space next to your Far Side collection, pick up this gem.


Bait and Switch : The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
Bait and Switch : The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 42
Review Date: 2/24/2007
Helpful Score: 7


I was a big fan of "Nickel and Dimed", so I was looking forward to reading this book as well. I love Ehrenreich's writing style and found the story fascinating. However, I felt unfulfilled by the conclusion. I felt that she did not budget a reasonable amount of time for the project, and, thus, gave up too quickly. I was hoping that she would either find a job in the end, or, alternatively, take the "job" she was offered and continue her search to give a more typical account of a job search. The book wasn't bad by any means, but I don't have a desire to read it again, as I did for "Nickel and Dimed."


Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan, Bk 1)
Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan, Bk 1)
Author: Laura Lippman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 187
Review Date: 3/24/2007
Helpful Score: 7


I liked the characters; the plot was decent, but not great; but the writing felt very choppy in places. I'm from Baltimore, so I knew the places she was describing, but it still felt like there were some unwritten assumptions being made for us to fill in.


Beat the Reaper
Beat the Reaper
Author: Josh Bazell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 37
Review Date: 6/5/2009


Interesting premise, and a very quick read. The constant profanity was a distraction, and the plot was a bit thin, but it definitely kept my interest. More violent in places than I usually like, but I enjoyed the sarcastic attitude of the narrator/protagonist. Defies genre, but similar in some respects to Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. Overall 3.5/5


The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization and High-Finance Fraudsters
Review Date: 2/24/2007
Helpful Score: 3


Should be required reading for everyone in America. No matter what your political inclination or your feelings on the Iraq war, this book will provide an eye-opening perspective on the true motivations of the Bush administration.


Bit the Jackpot (Vegas Vampires, Bk 2)
Bit the Jackpot (Vegas Vampires, Bk 2)
Author: Erin McCarthy
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 89
Review Date: 11/29/2008


I was a bit disappointed by this second book. The new character introduced was interesting and well-thought out, but the plot was almost formulaic. A key scene was also missing, basically just skipped over. Additionally, several of the key plot issues magically resolved themselves. I do think the next book has the potential to go in an interesting direction, so I will continue the series, but, if it doesn't live up to that potential, I wouldn't continue further.


Blood, Sweat, and Tea: Real-Life Adventures in an Inner-City Ambulance
Review Date: 5/13/2008
Helpful Score: 1


It cannot be denied that EMTs and paramedics seem to have some of the most exciting jobs out there. Obviously, they put their lives on the line and face enormous pressure every day, and there's a natural curiosity towards the lives they lead. Blood, Sweat, and Tea: Real-Life Adventures in an Inner-City Ambulance capitalizes on this "inquiring minds want to know" factor and compiles a moderately interesting collection of true tales from a London EMT.

Unfortunately, as you continue reading the book, it turns out that EMTs' jobs are just like ours; most days are fairly routine, and it's only the exciting ones that stick out. For example, Mr. Reynolds's saga regarding a potential HIV exposure captures the reader's interest early on in the book. However, after that, the stories tend to fall into predictable patterns. "The patient was a X-year old male/female, complaint of Y (usually "fitting", where, surprise surprise, the patient is an alcoholic). I arrived in more/less than 8 minutes and surveyed the scene. It turned out to be/not be a call that required an ambulance. There was/wasn't a pulse and the patient was/wasn't breathing. I did Z. The patient lived/died, and I felt good/kinda good/bad about it."

While some of the patient stories are interesting, thought-provoking, or humorous, the posts where Mr. Reynolds talks about himself or takes the wider perspective are what really keep the book going. The book itself is a compilation of entries from Mr. Reynolds's blog "Random Reality", so it is technically available for free online. The author does a good job of selecting and editing the most interesting entries, but, aside from a desire to support this author, I don't know if the book content as a whole justifies the price tag. In fact, going onto the website (http://randomreality.blogware.com), I was quickly able to find some additional content that really should have been included. Additionally, the book could have incorporated more photos; the very few that were included felt more like afterthoughts.

My suggestion is to go check out the website, and, if you like what you see, buy the book as a donation to the author. (Or, probably better, somehow make the author a donation directly.) The writing scores high while the value scores low. Overall score: 3.5/5.


Blue Noon (Midnighters, Bk 3)
Blue Noon (Midnighters, Bk 3)
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 44
Review Date: 12/30/2008
Helpful Score: 1


With minimal character development and an almost cliche ending, this finale to the Midnighters trilogy fell far short of my expectations. It started on a high note, with the promise of exploring Rex's struggle after the events of the second book, but it never really went further than that initial confrontation. The plots and twists bordered on silly with no real action (unlike the first two books). The only character who grew was Jess's younger sister, Beth, but it wasn't quite enough to salvage the poor execution of what was a decent idea.


The Broker
The Broker
Author: John Grisham
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 997
Review Date: 2/16/2007
Helpful Score: 6


Certainly not as good as some of Grisham's earlier works, but not the worst either. Like most Grisham novels, best suited for a long trip. The plot stalls quite a bit in the middle (you get about as frustrated as the main character does with the frequent language tutoring scenes), but does pick up at the end. Good premise, mixed execution.


Catch Me If You Can
Catch Me If You Can
Author: Frank Abagnale
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 5/31/2007
Helpful Score: 2


Having greatly enjoyed the movie of the same name, I thought it would be interesting to read this autobiographical memoir of Frank Abagnale's years on the run from the law. However, while truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, the fictionalized account that Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks brought to life in the film adaptation was much more entertaining and intriguing, and certainly more deserving of the title "Catch Me If You Can".

If you've seen the movie, you'll recognize the main plot. Frank runs away from home at the tender age of 16 after his parents divorce and poses as a Pan Am pilot to earn free flights and, more importantly, make his fraudulent checks seem more believable. Additionally, the book delves more deeply into Frank's so called "addiction" to the ladies, often stewardesses. He does settle down at times, posing as a doctor, a lawyer, and a sociology professor, all through the use of faked credentials. It is interesting to see exactly how he accomplished all this (and there were a few close calls), though he does repeat himself at times.

Unfortunately, what's missing from the book is the best part of the movie, namely, the other side. The FBI is mentioned regularly, but we don't get to see what they're doing to try to catch Frank. There are no Christmas phone calls or, really, any major interactions between FBI agent O'Reilly and young Frank until the afterward. While there is still some excitement in the chase (yes, he really did escape custody through an airplane toilet), it mostly comes from close calls and self-imposed ethical conflicts on Frank's part.

The book was originally published in 1980, and, obviously, airport security is much more stringent now. Additionally, the fear of identity theft has become more mainstream in the last decade. In an "interview with the author" after the epilogue, some of these points are addressed, but the big picture is left incomplete. I am unsure if security issues prohibited Mr. Abagnale from delving into more detail in terms of check security measures he helped create, or if it was merely a case of him creating them after the original publication. Either way, the book still stands without it, but it would be much more powerful and relevant with it.

In my opinion, while not an awful book by any means, I suggest that you save your money and just rent the movie instead. Keep in mind that it's only about 80% true, but that other 20% really ties the plot together and provides at least 50% of the entertainment.


The Charlemagne Pursuit  (Cotton Malone Series, Bk 4)
The Charlemagne Pursuit (Cotton Malone Series, Bk 4)
Author: Steve Berry
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 65
Review Date: 11/29/2008
Helpful Score: 9


This is not my usual genre of book, and I haven't read any others in the series, but there was plenty of suspense, action, and twists to keep it going. Certainly an enjoyable read if you're a fan of books like The Sigma Protocol. The writing was top-notch in terms of pacing, vocabulary, and readability, and the characters motives were generally deep and well-motivated. Plots within plots within plots abound. Unlike, say, The Da Vinci Code, you're not expected to figure out the puzzles for yourself, which can cut both ways in terms of reader engagement. I would definitely consider reading another book by this author. 4/5


Charm City (Tess Monaghan, Bk 2)
Charm City (Tess Monaghan, Bk 2)
Author: Laura Lippman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 112
Review Date: 3/25/2007
Helpful Score: 2


Writing and plotting are much better in this second installment in the Tess Monaghan series of books. Characters are still just as interesting and crazy as before with some new additions and minor characters. Additionally, the mystery unfolds much better overall. If you're a cozy fan, this is a series to invest in.


A College of Magics
A College of Magics
Author: Caroline Stevermer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 74
Review Date: 4/29/2007
Helpful Score: 8


Very good fantasy read. Says it's for 10 and up, but I think it gets a PG-13 rating in places for romantic aspects. Dialogue felt a bit choppy in places, and there are definitely a few in-jokes about Bryn Mawr College, the author's alma mater. Overall, however, these problems do not detract from the general excellence of the plot and characterizations. Also, a nice twist at the end that leaves plenty of room to take the series somewhere meaningful in its sequels.


Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Author: Gregory Maguire
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 1430
Review Date: 4/11/2007
Helpful Score: 1


Another great read from Maguire! Excellent job with characters and plot and twisting the traditional tale just enough, but not so much that it breaks.


Crater County: A Legal Thriller of New Mexico
Crater County: A Legal Thriller of New Mexico
Author: Jonathan Miller
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 3/27/2007
Helpful Score: 1


If you like suspenseful legal thrillers with a splash of romance and strong female protagonists, this is certainly recommended. The story is very well plotted with surprising (and neither predictable nor out-of-the-blue) twists. I see good things ahead for this author!


Date Me, Baby, One More Time (Immortally Sexy, Bk 1)
Date Me, Baby, One More Time (Immortally Sexy, Bk 1)
Author: Stephanie Rowe
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 275
Review Date: 5/12/2007
Helpful Score: 7


Given what I usually read, I was a bit embarrassed to admit to reading this book. The writing was certainly light and quick, but the plot was very good. If you like paranormal romance/humor, you will definitely enjoy this book. Characters were hilarious and quirky, and, for the most part, not as shallow as you might expect. I may pick up the next in the series (just maybe not read it in public).


Double or Nothing: How Two Friends Risked It All to Buy One of Las Vegas' Legendary Casinos
Review Date: 5/26/2008
Helpful Score: 1


Fans of non-fiction should definitely take a chance on this well-composed and fast-paced memoir about friendship and fortunes. Set in Las Vegas, the story focuses on the business partnership of Tim Poster and Tom Breitling (the author) as they make $100 million not once, but twice. While the first third of the novel, focusing on their first venture as a hotel reservation service riding the dot-com boom of the late 90s, is necessary to establishing their relationship and characters, the memoir really comes alive with their purchase of The Golden Nugget Casino. From meeting Tony Bennett to starring in a reality TV show, the meat of the memoir is a very well-organized collection of anecdotes about the running of a casino. Though a bit skimpy on exact details and a bit excessive with the "gas pedal vs. brake pedal" metaphor used to describe Tim and Tom's business relationship, this book is a quick and fun read that will make you long for a Vegas vacation. Overall score: 4/5.


Dr. Ruth's Guide to College Life : The Savvy Student's Handbook
Dr. Ruth's Guide to College Life : The Savvy Student's Handbook
Author: Ruth Westheimer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 3/4/2007
Helpful Score: 1


Good overview of some of the difficulties new (or even experienced) college students may face. A must-have reference for any college RA.


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