Laurie S. (LaurieS) - Reviews

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The 100 Best Small Towns in America (100 Best Small Towns in America)
Review Date: 5/30/2008


I picked up this book thinking it would enlighten me on a future move but in all honesty I can find much better, much more current information for free on the internet by visiting sites like city-data and Best Places . The forums at city-data are also a great place to visit to get a true feel of a town from the people who actually live there. I wonder if this author even visited any of these towns.

This book is also dated so the financial, crime & growth information is not accurate which makes it almost useless for my needs. I looked up one of the recommended towns and things have changed dramatically. One local describes the town as a hellhole and says drugs are rampant in this little town, mosquitos are unbearable and unfriendly dogs just run wild. This town is described as a desert paradise so it makes me wonder about the rest of the recommendations here.

The book also tells very little about the "feel" of each town, which is very important to me and there are no pictures at all. What are the neighbors and communities like? Will the town be blown away by a hurricane or tornado? The book touts itself on interviewing actual residents of the town but I can't possibly imagine business owners and town planners saying negative things about the town and that is who the author chose to interview. I don't recall seeing any regular Joe type interviews. All in all it was rather a big waste of my time.


2005 Moon Sign Book (Llewellyn's Moon Sign Book S)
Review Date: 4/28/2008


I bought this along with Llewellyn's Herbal Almanac, wall & desk calendar & Magical Almanac and have realized much of the info. is repeated from publication to publication. This one is the least useful to me personally because I simply don't have the time right now to use it properly and prefer a book with easier to read charts. There are many information articles here for anyone interesting in timing their activities to the most favorable energy of the moon. I'll probably pick one of these up again in a few years when my life isn't quite so hectic.


365 Goddess : A Daily Guide to the Magic and Inspiration of the Goddess
Review Date: 1/30/2006
Helpful Score: 1


I enjoyed the fact that each page lists a new goddess and little easy ways you can honour the daily goddess but it wasn't as detailed and comprehensive as I was hoping when I picked up the book . . .


The Absence
The Absence
Author: Bill Hussey
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 11/3/2009


The flawed characters are explored and drawn exceptionally well which is something I find lacking in most modern horror tales and the reason I find most of them ho-hum. These teens and their dad have some major tragedy and guilt weighing them down and it is very believably written. You can feel tension in every exchange as well as the pain and raw emotion behind it.

When the three head out to the old secluded millhouse to reconnect you just know things can't possibly end well. I don't want to spoil things for future readers so I won't go into the plot just trust me it's one of those rare books that gets under your skin. Fantastic read.


The Accidental Demon Slayer (Demon Slayers, Bk 1)
The Accidental Demon Slayer (Demon Slayers, Bk 1)
Author: Angie Fox
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 294
Review Date: 7/22/2009


I read this while on vacation a week because it sounded interesting enough and I had nothing better to do. Lizzie, a young school teacher discovers she's from a line of witches and that she's the latest "demon slayer" and has a destiny she's never known about. One minutes she's teaching little kids, the next her little doggie is talking to her and she's plopped on a Harley with a grandma she's only known for minutes and is expected to slay demons with next to no training and, of course, there's a hunky paranormal guy thrown in to save the day.

This book started out cutesy enough but devolved into a crazy, unexplained mess. Grandma is dragged into the second layer of hell and Lizzie must rescue her. Why? Don't ask me, I still can't make sense of it. And when the dog starts talking we are told by way of the dog as a way of explanation something along the lines of: "Oh he's been talking all along, Lizzie just now started listening." Sorry, not buying that lame explanation. There are many other issues such as this that make the book feel like it's mid series when in actuality it's the first in a new series. Not helping matters is the problem of Lizzie ineptness and dependence on others to bail her out and the fact that she's one of the dullest characters I've come across in one of these books. It gets old fast and is frustrating.

This is not a book for those who like things to make sense but I guess it's a decent enough read if you don't think too hard on any of it. I doubt I'll go out of my way to find the later books that complete the series though.


Addicted
Addicted
Author: Charlotte Featherstone
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 42
Review Date: 3/2/2011
Helpful Score: 2


Lindsay and Anais grew up together and were the best of friends. Now grown, Lindsay desires his friend Anais and wishes to make her his but he is unsure if she shares his feelings. In the meantime, hes been spending his time in opium dens, biding his time in drug fueled dreams where he imagines Anais naked and wanting him and only him. When he finally makes his move and the two declare their love, Lindsay makes a dumbass mistake that will forever change the course of their lives. After losing the trust of his beloved, things go into a downward spiral for both of them. Without the love of Anais, Lindsay gets lost in opium and becomes a full blown addict. He is torn by his two loves and may not be strong enough to choose one over the other and now Anais harbors a secret that is too painful for her ever to reveal.

Lindsay is a sensitive, loving, beautiful, f-ing mess. He cant survive without Anais, hes needy and weak, and completely lacks self-control. His opium hazed dreams almost intoxicate the reader and glorify his drug use for much of the book. Hes a very different sort of hero. Hes also remorseful, guilt-ridden and in so much pain you cant help but hold out hope that the love of Anais will fix him. In reality, this situation is anything but romantic but here its compelling and though Lindsay and Anais are both imperfect I never felt either of them were anything but genuinely in love with each other. Thats what made their situation all the more painful.

This story is devastating its portrayal of an addictive personality and the havoc it wreaks not only on Lindsay but on those who love him most. Its a grueling, often heart-breaking read and written with a lush beauty that drew me in and kept me breathless until the end. I cant recommend it highly enough for those looking for something different, something sensual with very sharp edges.


Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, Bk 1)
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, Bk 1)
Author: M. C. Beaton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 70
Review Date: 8/30/2011


Although mysteries aren't my favorite genre this book managed to capture my attention right away. The main protagonist, Agatha Raisin, is a middle-aged business woman who has made enough cash to retire. She decides to buy a home in a little town and has some difficulty adjusting to small town life and comes to the realization that she is seriously lacking in people skills. Being a sales person she's spent years bulling and talking people into things but when it comes to small talk and making friends she hasn't a clue as to how to go about it. Needing to make herself known, she decides to enter a baking contest but because she can't cook she buys a quiche and enters it under her name. Unfortunately, the quiche is taken home by a local couple and the husband croaks after eating it. Someone, it seems, poisoned said quiche and may have it out for Agatha who then decides to become an amateur sleuth which doesn't much endear her to the locals.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be sure to pick up the sequels. I was surprised to have loved the abrasive bordering on mean Agatha so much, probably because she just couldn't seem to help herself. She truly has zero people skills when the book begins. I'm actually interested in seeing where she goes with the characters set up in this book.


Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, Bk 1)
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, Bk 1)
Author: M. C. Beaton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 100
Review Date: 11/9/2009
Helpful Score: 1


Although mysteries aren't my favorite genre this book managed to capture my attention right away. The main protagonist, Agatha Raisin, is a middle-aged business woman who has made enough cash to retire. She decides to buy a home in a little town and has some difficulty adjusting to small town life and comes to the realization that she is seriously lacking in people skills. Being a sales person she's spent years bulling and talking people into things but when it comes to small talk and making friends she hasn't a clue as to how to go about it. Needing to make herself known, she decides to enter a baking contest but because she can't cook she buys a quiche and enters it under her name. Unfortunately, the quiche is taken home by a local couple and the husband croaks after eating it. Someone, it seems, poisoned said quiche and may have it out for Agatha who then decides to become an amateur sleuth which doesn't much endear her to the locals.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be sure to pick up the sequels. I was surprised to have loved the abrasive bordering on mean Agatha so much, probably because she just couldn't seem to help herself. She truly has zero people skills when the book begins. I'm actually interested in seeing where she goes with the characters set up in this book.


Agatha Raisin: The Quiche of Death & the Vicious Vet (BBC Dramatization)
Review Date: 8/30/2011


Although mysteries aren't my favorite genre this book managed to capture my attention right away. The main protagonist, Agatha Raisin, is a middle-aged business woman who has made enough cash to retire. She decides to buy a home in a little town and has some difficulty adjusting to small town life and comes to the realization that she is seriously lacking in people skills. Being a sales person she's spent years bulling and talking people into things but when it comes to small talk and making friends she hasn't a clue as to how to go about it. Needing to make herself known, she decides to enter a baking contest but because she can't cook she buys a quiche and enters it under her name. Unfortunately, the quiche is taken home by a local couple and the husband croaks after eating it. Someone, it seems, poisoned said quiche and may have it out for Agatha who then decides to become an amateur sleuth which doesn't much endear her to the locals.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be sure to pick up the sequels. I was surprised to have loved the abrasive bordering on mean Agatha so much, probably because she just couldn't seem to help herself. She truly has zero people skills when the book begins. I'm actually interested in seeing where she goes with the characters set up in this book.


Agnes and the Hitman
Agnes and the Hitman
Author: Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 1/21/2013


Narrator: Sandra Burr
Length: 12 hours and 9 minutes
Published by Brilliance Audio, August 2007

We all know a narrator can make or break an audiobook. What I didnt know was that studio effects can do it too. Narrator Sandra Burr does a decent job with the characters here. I can tell who is who and that is always a bonus when a book contains too many zany characters. Burrs narration of Agnes is a little too upbeat at times (Agnes is supposed to be cranky) but for the most part she is pretty spot on. The light-hearted tone definitely fits in well with the story. I dont blame the narrator. I blame the person(s) who thought it might be a nifty idea to add an echo chamber effect to Agnes and Shanes inner musings. This person deserves to get stabbed a little with one of Agness meat forks. See, this echo effect makes it very difficult to hear what the characters are thinking when one is driving in a loud car. And Agnes thinks to herself quite often. Fortunately Shane doesnt think much at all. If I turned up the volume my ears nearly blew off when the echo was shut off. This was more annoying than words can express and went on until the very end of the audio. I will forever be left to wonder if I missed out on some life-changing utterance. And surely I did, right?

So on to the actual story. Cranky Agnes is a food writer baking cupcakes and raspberry sauce when a punk busts into her home and points a gun at her doggies head. She grabs the pan of hot fruit and konks him over the head with it. Well, wouldnt you? But apparently she does this sort of thing often because she has anger issues and even had to see a court appointment shrink because of it. Chaos ensues and the bad guy falls through a swinging door that leads to a basement without stairs. He presumably dies. No one really cares. Too bad for you, sucker.

This is the beginning of a series of madcap events in Agness world. Worried for Agnes, an older friend sends his nephew, a handsome hit man named Shane, to watch over Agnes and keep her out of trouble. Even though Agnes is engaged to someone else, Shane basically moves in and puts the moves on Agnes. And she likes it. Her fiancé is aloof and refuses to spend time with her and Shane is hunkier. Later on we discover the reason the fiancé is MIA. Its ridiculous but you just have to go with the flow here. Trouble continues to arrive in droves as Agnes attempts to plan a wedding for a friends daughter, more bad people get hit with frying pans and stabbed with forks, the wedding is continually sabotaged by the WWFs Vickie Guerrero in a blond wig (not really but thats who I pictured whenever the troublemaking Brenda appeared all screechy, bossy and annoying), more people die, flamingos honk and Shane and Agnes fall in lusty-love.

The premise this story is built upon, a sketchy mortgage and a hidden fortune, isnt worth picking apart. Its nutty and its supposed to be. Ive read several Jennifer Crusie novels and loved them for their witty, intelligent characters and genuinely funny dialogue. Anyone But You? Oh, how I loved that book. But this book is different. She co-authored this with Bob Mayer and it doesnt read like a typical Crusie novel. Having never read Mayer, I can only guess that his input perhaps was more on the madcap end of the spectrum? Disappointingly I didnt find the book very funny or heartwarming. Parts of it were cute but mostly it was all over the place crazy. I liked Agnes who has some nicely sarcastic dialogue. But Shane? Shane is just sort of there. Hes a big, burly man good for offing the wrong people and helping Agnes control her temper with some angry sex but other than that there isnt much to him. The two didnt even get to interact very much because they were too busy reacting to the madness around them. Its a shame because their banter, what little there was of it, was fun.

Shane: What did Taylor want?
Agnes: He brought the health inspector out to shut down the wedding
Shane : Did you kill him?
Agnes: No. So how was your day? You kill anybody? She stopped, realizing with horror that he might have.


In the end it was sadly meh and the mob and action stuff was terribly boring for me because Im not interested in that stuff. My notes are scribbled with will it never end? Somewhere around disc 5 or 6 I was ready for it be over and done but it lingered on, finally sputtering to a long overdue conclusion on disc ten. And how was I paid back for my persistence, you ask? By a final visit to the echo chamber of death on the last track, forcing me to rewind no less than four times in a fruitless attempt to hear Agness last thought. Alas, I will never know what it was because I became Cranky Reader and hit eject. If you know what she said to Shane, can you please post it somewhere and put me out of my misery?


Albert the Bear
Albert the Bear
Author: Nick Butterworth
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 2/24/2006
Helpful Score: 1


This is adorable book about a stuffed bear whose new friend's assume he's a grouch because of the frown sewn onto his face but after a hilarious mishap they all learn not to judge someone by first appearances. Cute illustrations and a fun story for little ones.


All Shall Be Well (Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James, Bk 2)
All Shall Be Well (Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James, Bk 2)
Author: Deborah Crombie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 63
Review Date: 9/2/2011


This was an entertaining mystery that mostly managed to hold my attention. It seemed a little old fashioned to me, almost as if I'd stepped back into time but sometimes that's a good thing.

When an investigator's friend dies of a morphine overdose he doesn't believe it was suicide. The book then delves into the dead woman's life to discover the culprit. I found this all pretty interesting and the eventual outcome surprised me. I'm going to check out more from this writer.


All Shall Be Well (Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James, Bk 2)
All Shall Be Well (Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James, Bk 2)
Author: Deborah Crombie
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 47
Review Date: 9/2/2011


This was an entertaining mystery that mostly managed to hold my attention. It seemed a little old fashioned to me, almost as if I'd stepped back into time but sometimes that's a good thing.

When an investigator's friend dies of a morphine overdose he doesn't believe it was suicide. The book then delves into the dead woman's life to discover the culprit. I found this all pretty interesting and the eventual outcome surprised me. I'm going to check out more from this writer.


All U Can Eat
All U Can Eat
Author: Emma Holly
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 122
Review Date: 3/6/2007
Helpful Score: 4


I read a little more than half of this book before getting bored and putting it down. The plot, what there was of it, consists of a woman who owns a diner called "All U Can Eat" (did Prince name this?) who is jilted by her lover and proceeds to soothe her ego by sleeping with a whole bunch of men. After one romp she finds a dead body in the alleyway near her diner. The chief of police arrives and, wouldn't you know it, he's always had a crush on the sexy diner owner but stomps down his lust when she turns out to be one of the suspects. Who killed this strange woman and why should I care? I'll never know because I'm not going to finish it. The reviews keep calling it "toe curling" and "delicious" but I must've missed something because I found it repetitive, forgettable and tamed down when compared to Strange Attractions. There's just no pleasing me, I guess.


The Aluria Chronicles (Yaoi)
The Aluria Chronicles (Yaoi)
Author: Calissa Leigh, Yishan Li
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 7/20/2011


This manga was pretty terrible. It was a story about a slave who is given to a monster as a sacrifice. The monster realizes right off the bat that he is an innocent and brings him to a place called "Aluria" where he falls in with a vampire. Vampire betrays him, works some hoodoo and switches bodies with the poor abused lad who then hooks up with betraying vampire's ex-lover. Confused yet? I was, had to go back and read the thing twice. They have sex, bodies are switched back and they are fall madly in love. There was very little story and less character development. Am I asking for too much here? Not a recommend. The second story fares a little better and is about two rivals who are accidentally put under a love spell. It wears off and surprise, they're madly in love. Still, I'd pass on this if I had it to do over again.


Amaranth and Ash
Amaranth and Ash
Author: Jessica Freely
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/21/2011


4 1/2 stars, just missed the 5 because of a way too long separation.

Great book with some fantastic world building and a strong love story. I only wish it had been longer though


Amethyst
Amethyst
Author: Lauren Royal
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 28
Review Date: 2/8/2011


Amethyst "Amy" Goldsmith, daughter of a jeweler, is an accomplished and talented jewelry maker who loves her craft and has a great passion for her work but her personal life is hardly as fulfilling. In just two weeks she will be wed to a man whom she does not love - a man who plans to keep her away from her work to make babies and keep his house all nice and tidy-like. Amy longs for love but will not hurt her father by backing out of the unwanted marriage. One day Colin Chase "Earl of Greystone" walks into her family store and they immediately connect but, sadly, he is far out of her league.

These first few chapters are wonderful and really hooked me. The historic details are interesting and plentiful and Amy is presented as a likable and compassionate character full of life, dreams and motivation. Then a devastating fire destroys her life and changes everything. She now has the opportunity to take charge of her life but first is rescued by Colin who takes her to his home so she can heal from her physical and emotional wounds. She quickly finds love and acceptance amongst Colin's siblings but receives only the cold shoulder from Colin who wants her gone as soon as possible. Amy decides she wants Colin, cold shoulder and all, and comes up with one excuse after another to stick around.

It was Colin's attraction to Amy that impelled him to rescue her and it is that same attraction that makes him want her out of his sight as soon as possible. Colin is betrothed to a "titled" woman and has already spent a good portion of the woman's dowry and sees no way to get out of it. And, lets be real, he doesn't want to. For the majority of the story money and titles are more important to Colin than love and it's here that the book lost the most of its appeal for me. Colin's a first class ass and I'm really not a fan.

Colin and Amy are wildly attracted to each other and obviously belong together but he stubbornly refuses to break off his betrothal. This makes him come across as extremely selfish. Amy deserved so much better. Amy, unfortunately, loses some of her charm because she is forced into the role of pining away for the stubborn Colin instead of concentrating on getting back on her feet. The jewelry crafting, which was such a huge part of her life, takes a back to seat to thoughts of Colin and this was very disappointing.

This story is a good choice if you like your books steeped in historic detail and don't mind love-stubborn heroes. The author has an obvious love for her time period and weaves in interesting tidbits whenever possible. Although Colin didn't turn out to be my idea of a hero (to put it mildly) I do look forward to the forthcoming stories about Colin's siblings who were lovable characters.


Anansi Boys
Anansi Boys
Author: Neil Gaiman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 507
Review Date: 10/8/2008


Fat Charlie was dubbed so by his dad when just a chubby child. Unfortunately, even though he shed the pounds the name stuck. Many years later Fat Charlie is living an unremarkable life, with a crappy job and a girlfriend who insists on making him "wait until marriage". When Charlie's dad dies he learns some amazingly unbelieveable things and his boring life is forever changed.

This one has a lot of wit and was just offbeat enough to hold my attention. Charlie is an every-guy sort of character who is easy to like as he bumbles his way through some very odd changes in his life. The book is populated with interesting people and takes a lot of twists and turns that aren't expected. Gaiman wrote it and it reads like a twisted fairy-tale so how can you go wrong with that?


And Sometimes Why
And Sometimes Why
Author: Mame Farrell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/20/2011


This is a somewhat bland tale of friendship between two eighth graders that I doubt I would have finished had I not been listening to it on audio. It wasnt bad, just one those meh reads. Chris and Jack have been inseparable ever since their first meeting in the first grade. Jack is from the right side of the tracks but never fit in with the snotty country club set, while Chris is a girl who lives with her dad in a cozy apartment above a hair salon. This apparently means shes from the wrong side of the tracks as she states just like an old fogie at some point in the book. Maybe its just me or the kids I know, but when I spout out some old fart saying like that, Im called out on it and they always look at me like Im some oddity so hearing these kids talk like older folks pulled me out of the book more than a time or two.

Chris and Jack are growing up and Jack is starting to have issues with Chriss legs and the fact that so many guys are now noticing them. He fears losing her friendship and is having a difficult time seeing her with other guys and reacts with emotion, causing a rift between them. Making matters worse, Jacks parents have just separated and he fears his dad is having an affair. The story follows a few months in Jacks mildly tumultuous life as he sorts through all of these changes. If you toss away the old speak, its all realistic but not earth shattering stuff to get all excited about. My own childhood at this age was much more traumatic so Im probably not being fair to this novel. If youre really bored and looking for a mild tale about friendship you may love it.


Angela's Ashes
Angela's Ashes
Author: Frank McCourt
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 778
Review Date: 7/29/2011
Helpful Score: 2


This book tells the story of author Frank McCourt's difficult childhood. Either he has an amazing memory or, more likely, he's embellished a bit of this to fill in the gaps to make it a readable memoir. I can't remember what I ate for breakfast, never mind what I ate or longed to eat for breakfast when I was wee child.

The book reads like a novel and I quickly forgot it was a first hand account of growing up in a slum with absolutely nothing but an exhausted mum, a lush of a dad who can't keep a job and a slew of younger siblings who seem to die off as soon as the next one is born. Frank grows up quickly because mom is tired, dad is lazy and he and his younger brother must take of the younger kids, scour the lane for bits of coal to keep his family warm, steal bits of food to survive and then face cruelty at school. The book is pretty grim so far as I've read but compelling enough that I want to continue reading to see how Frank makes it out alive.

I've seen criticism that this book is a one-sided view of Ireland during the depression and from what I read it looks like that is true. Many times in the book the author points out that other boys had shoes and weren't eating a pig head for Christmas dinner but the author gets away with it because he is writing from his experience and not of the experience of the boy with the full belly and hard-working father.

This was a thoroughly compelling, wryly funny, and often tragic read. It's much longer than most of the books I read but when the end came it was too soon.


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