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Karen D. (Kraduate) - Reviews

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1st to Die (Women's Murder Club, Bk 1)
1st to Die (Women's Murder Club, Bk 1)
Author: James Patterson
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 450
Review Date: 8/4/2008


1st to Die is the first James Patterson novel I've read. I had been dragging my feet for the last few years, never venturing beyond the first few paragraphs of any of his books but I finally made myself give him a chance. I'm not really sure why this guy is a bestselling novelist, his writing style is atrocious and his characters are insipid. I'll give him this; he's a marketing genius, short chapters (in some case less than 2 pages each) and simplicity. It's a shame, really, because the story itself had a lot of promise and to say I didn't enjoy it at all would be a lie. However, I couldn't get past the fact that I felt like Patterson wrote an outline first and then went through and wrote a few sentences per heading topic.
I really wanted to like the four women who make up the Women's Murder Club but the writing was so flat and the dialog was at times painful. Let's start with the fact that they would have chosen a way cooler title for their club. âWomen's Murder Clubâ, how uncreative can you get?
A homicide detective, medical examiner, newspaper reporter and an assistant district attorney working together and therefore, jeopardizing their careers. The friendship between the ladies was not realistic; they didn't know each other long enough to form such a close bond. And the bond that ties them all together is that they are professional women who are struggling to make it in male dominated careers. But the whole I am Woman, hear me roar thing just doesn't work here.
The concept of the serial killer was the coolest part of the book, killing off newly married Brides and Grooms. But the final twist was straight up blah.


The Adventuress
The Adventuress
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.3/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 1/25/2008
Helpful Score: 3


Interesting. I think this is one of those things that you either "get" or you don't. I appreciate the art but this picture book is just not my thing.

A woman gives birth to a cat fathered by Napoleon Bonaparte. Now that is kinda cool.


All the Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right
All the Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right
Author: Ellen Fein, Sherrie Schneider
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 2.9/5 Stars.
 14
Review Date: 12/22/2008
Helpful Score: 1


Didn't look like my kind of book from the get-go but it's been sitting on my desk as a TBR for at least a year so I figured I should at least flip through it.
So I randomly open up to a random page and this is the first thing I read:

"Don't get sloppy about your looks. Continue to exercise. Men don't leave women who put on twenty pounds after the wedding or the first baby, but if you want your fiance or husband to keep drooling over you, keep fit."

Excuse me!?! Am I reading an issue of Cosmo from 1955? Do women really take these "time-tested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr. Right" seriously? Wow.

But I can't 1-star a book based on just that. So I've opened up to more random pages.

"Even men who are in love with you and want to marry you will occaisonally say things to irk you or make you nervous, such as, 'I'll take you there if we're still seeing each other next year...you know how relationships go.' Don't get paranoid, just ignore him. Most girls would make a big fuss about it and get mad. Rules girls stay calm when men tease them."

Shut. the. hell. up. I can't take much more of this.

Now that you know what not to do, what should you do to attract your man on campus?
.
Eat sensibly.Remember overweight is not The Rules..
Wear makeup. Read Glamour and other popular fashion magazines..
Dont sit in your room alone on Friday and Saturday nights reading Jean-Paul Sartre. Friday and Saturday nights are for mingling. You can read Sartre on Monday..

WTF. This is now making me sick to my stomach. Are you seriously telling me if I read Glamour and other fashion magazines, Ill get a man? Are you KIDDING me!?! Wait. Perhaps they are kidding me. Is this a Satire? Is this book tagged humor?
Sorry to say, no it isnt. It says right here on the books spine Advice/Relationships. *sigh*

What I find most offensive about the above excerpt is the implication that The Rules dont even apply to plus sized ladies. God forbid a fat woman needs advice on how to find a man. She better wear extra makeup and carry around a Chick-Lit book in her back pocket. Cause you know, reading Sartre would kill her chances even more. *rolls eyes*

OK. One more quote and then this book goes in the freebie pile at work.

Act confident even if you dont feel it. Notice what kinds of clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry, and hairstyles the most popular kids in high school are wearing. Dont try to be too different of frugal in this area. Youll feel lousy, so its not worth it. To see whats hot and not, subscribe to Seventeen and Glamour. Dont let your mind tell you that this is superficial and beneath you. (Save your mind for final exams and the SATs.) Dont you like boys who wear Polo shirts and cowboy boots when thats in fashion? Well, they like girls who wear whats on MTV and in Seventeen.

Oh. No. It. Didnt. Go. There. Yes, girls, dont think! Your only concern is to be just like everyone else! Wear makeup! Spend all your money on clothes! Read garbage! Focus all your energy on finding a man!

Heres my advice, for what its worth: Act like yourself. Make your own decisions about who you are and what kind of man you want. And if he doesnt like you because you arent a superficial sheep, that is his problem.
In my experience, the second I stopped trying so hard to find someone is when I finally found Mr. Right. Who loves me for the woman I am. And I followed only my own rules. And so should you, sister!


Babe & Me (Baseball Card Adventures, Bk 3)
Babe & Me (Baseball Card Adventures, Bk 3)
Author: Dan Gutman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 1/2/2009


I don't like baseball. I don't have a young child at home who likes baseball. It's the time travel scenario that had me interested in reading this book. Also, Babe Ruth is a baseball player that I do know a little bit about. I am from Boston--- and he was The Bambino who placed a curse on my hometown team which has since, of course, been broken. But this is a book about his days as a member of the Yankees, specifically during the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs.


Joe Stoshack is a kid with an amazingly cool ability. He can go back in time while holding old baseball cards. He's always been interested in whether or not Babe Ruth really called his shot in game 3 of the 1932 World Series. So when his dad asks for an old Babe Ruth card back so he can cash it in during a time of financial crisis, Joe comes up with a better idea. He goes back in time with his dad, his dad more interested in scheming to make a fortune off the past, Joe just wanting to see Babe call the shot. The result is some touching father/son bonding over their shared 1932 experiences.

Most surprising to me was the wealth of historical knowledge in this book for kids. Not only do you learn all about the many layers of Babe Ruth as a person (the events are all factual, with a few pictures included) but there is also information about the Depression and the hard times of many people during this time period. There is other historical information about things like the upcoming presidential election, race relations, the rise of Hitler and the soon to come Holocaust.

A very well-written piece of historical fiction for children ages 8-12. So well-written that this 30-something non-sports fan wants to read the rest of the series.


Brides Behaving Badly: Wild Wedding Photos You Were Never Meant to See
Review Date: 4/12/2008
Helpful Score: 5


There a few mildly amusing Bridezilla photos like the one that graces the cover, several drunk Brides, and even a couple of Brides on the toilet. Then there are the obviously posed photos of Brides and their bridesmaids being silly with kinda cute captions. But the majority of the pictures are of non-traditional weddings where the Bride is not even remotely behaving badly--these seem to be included for the purpose of ridiculing. Star Trek, Star Wars, and Elvis themed weddings pics aren't what I would consider "wild wedding photos". Many of the "witty" captions are mean spirited, especially in the case of redneck weddings or when the Bride is simply dressed differently than a traditional Bride. A wedding party dressed in plaid isn't funny, it's just different.
Most of the pictures have no business in a book titled "Brides Behaving Badly". For example, there is a picture of a pretty Bride with pink hair, the caption reads "Yes, but do the drapes match the carpet?" Not terribly funny, and it certainly doesn't match the theme of the book. It is like the authors just printed up some pictures off the internet; in fact, I know I have seen some of these before with way funnier comments.


Brutal : The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger's Irish Mob
Review Date: 9/8/2009


Kevin Weeks's account of his years spent as Jimmy âWhiteyâ Bulger's right-hand man is the most fascinating kind of True Crime. It makes sense that these guys eluded the law for so long. His story rings of truth and although you know you can't trust a criminal 100% you eagerly gulp every inch of crap he shovels. The writing is sprinkled with colloquialisms; this is a dude from Southie just shootin' the sh--. There's also a disturbing detachment and blatant unapologetic tone. This is a guy who at a book signing said he would have gone back to being a criminal once he was out of prison, if it weren't for the book. ''Now I can't. Everybody knows my face." Yeah, he's not sorry and it amazes me how little time he actually spent in jail. Makes me wonder who the real brain is; one is doing life, the other is on the lam (honestly, I think he's dead but that's just meâ¦). Kevin is free and living in Massachusetts.

Kevin was basically Bulger's muscle. His main job was to intimidate and beat the crap out of people. He freely admits to crimes such as extortion but places himself as merely a witness in multiple murders. He was in the other room, he dug a hole, he got the body bag. He never admits to doing the deed. Yet there is one part where he describes enthusiastically volunteering to kill someone, on his own too, but that murder ended up not taking place. It's moments like this when I was questioning just how true of an account I was reading. So, he volunteered for a murder that never happened, but with all the ones that did occur, he was simply a witness? Hmmmâ¦

I'm not fully buying Kevin's claim that he was shocked that Whitey and Flemmi were FBI informants. Did he really think that an FBI agent was freely passing on information and not getting anything in return? Plus with all the time Whitey and Flemmi spent without Kevin, vacationing together and such, wouldn't it be safe to assume they had something to hide? I can't imagine that with his self-proclaimed genius IQ, Kevin really had no idea they were rats. Overall, a fascinating tale of Kevin's life from his childhood up until his decision to cooperate with the authorities against Jimmy Bulger and Stevie Flemmi. (Hey, you can't rat on a rat, right?)


Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede
Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede
Author: Bradley Denton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 8/20/2010


Since his conception, Oliver Vale has had a connection to Buddy Holly, even thinking of him as a sort of substitute father figure. Rock-and-roll is Oliver and his mothers religion and you learn a lot of rock-and-roll history as you follow Olivers story from February 3, 1959 through the 80s. One day the world turns on their TVs to find Buddy Holly on every single channel playing tunes and repeating Oliver Vales name and address over and over. Without TV, people become irate and Oliver has no choice but to run. This madcap sci fi adventure is unique, funny, and entertaining as well as a relevant social commentary.


Chewing Gum in Holy Water: A Childhood in the Heart of Italy
Review Date: 4/12/2008


Chewing Gum in Holy water is a fascinating coming-of-age story that is laced with humorous, heart-warming life lessons of an adventurous boy growing up Catholic in post WWII Italy. His struggling mother sends four year old Mario to live with his uncle, a traveling priest, and his spinster aunt. The book covers Mario's life from 4 years old until his teen years. Each chapter is a scene from his life; the tales center around Mario's experiences with religion and his wild times with friends. From switching toys during Epiphany to hiding cigarettes and gum behind church statues and touching a bull for love; Mario's childhood was certainly unique. Every few years he moved to a new village and had to make new friends. Along the way his life was shaped by an elderly painter, the bickering Friar and Jesuit, the priest-eating Communist, two very different girls, equally adventurous friends and his beloved uncle. I would love it if a movie was made based on this book, it's a really sweet story.


Children First: A Celebration of Children
Review Date: 3/11/2008


For anyone who loves great photography and great music, or cares about children and the homeless. Over 80 photographs of children.
Includes CD with music by Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and others.


Crayon Shinchan: Volume 1 (Crayon Shinchan (CMX))
Crayon Shinchan: Volume 1 (Crayon Shinchan (CMX))
Author: Yoshito Usui
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 4/12/2008


An insufferable 5 year old brat who acts in inappropriate ways. He has an NC-17 vocabulary and a scary interest in sex for a 5 year old. He's always making rude comments to women, wiggling his ding-dong around, obsessing over bodily functions, and generally embarrassing his mother. His parents have no control over him and he's constantly wandering around on his own. Then they wonder where he learned such nasty behavior from. His mother is always hitting him. He's an inappropriate 5 year old with deplorable behavior. But his parents are just as inappropriate and indirectly encourage him by giving him the reaction he craves.
The humor gets old real quick and although some moments were amusing, I found myself thinking "how dumb" more often than not.


A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro, Bk 1)
A Drink Before the War (Kenzie & Gennaro, Bk 1)
Author: Dennis Lehane
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 57
Review Date: 5/8/2008


This is both Dennis Lehane's first novel as well as the first in the Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro PI series. It's written in true noir style with gritty characters in the even grittier setting of Boston's rough neighborhoods. Lehane's writing is littered with impassioned political rhetoric and heavy-handed examinations of the racial tensions that plague my native Boston. I found myself wondering if the views are all Patrick Kenzie's or if Dennis Lehane is using his characters to express his own frustrations. In the end it doesn't matter, Lehane captures Boston perfectly.
Kenzie and Gennaro are hired by a Senator to find some âdocumentsâ allegedly stolen by the cleaning woman. The case isn't as simple as it initially sounds and Patrick and Angie are soon caught in a web of lies that connect the State House to two rival gangs. They struggle with doing right by their clients or doing the right thing, and their lives are in constant danger. They are bound to each other and the case by their experiences with domestic abuse and racial divide.
By mid-novel the characters were as comfortable for me as a pair of old sneakers, albeit with a few stuck pebbles and untied laces.


The Drowning People
The Drowning People
Author: Richard Mason
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 3/30/2008
Helpful Score: 1


Opening with a murder confession, the narrator goes back 50 years to begin the tale of events that lead to his wife's death. The love story of James and Ella is, like most first love, intense. It's full of joyful exuberance and horrifying deceit and manipulation.
There's one 'prove your love' pact between the young lovers that I found particularly painful. And I couldn't quite figure why James loved Ella so much. But young love often makes no sense.
I was surprised by the ending but in retrospect I should have seen it coming as it was foreshadowed heavily.
My first from this author.


The Drowning People
The Drowning People
Author: Richard Mason
Book Type: Audio Cassette
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 3/30/2008
Helpful Score: 1


Opening with a murder confession, the narrator goes back 50 years to begin the tale of events that lead to his wife's death. The love story of James and Ella is, like most first love, intense. It's full of joyful exuberance and horrifying deceit and manipulation.
There's one 'prove your love' pact between the young lovers that I found particularly painful. And I couldn't quite figure why James loved Ella so much. But young love often makes no sense.
I was surprised by the ending but in retrospect I should have seen it coming as it was foreshadowed heavily.
My first from this author.


Florida Straits (Key West, Bk 1)
Florida Straits (Key West, Bk 1)
Author: Laurence Shames
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 29
Review Date: 1/25/2008


I decided to read Laurence Shames after discovering that he is the ghost writer of the LOST tie-in novel Bad Twin, and boy am I glad I did! I enjoyed this book so much I immediately wanted to re-read it, unusual for me as I literally have hundreds of unread books to plow through.

Laurence Shames writes such vivid characters, so believable even if unlikeable, so real I can hear their voices as if they were in the next room. As for the dialog, it's spot on.

Joey Goldman,the illegitimate son of a New York mafioso, decides to escape the shadow of his older brother Gino and moves to Key West with his girlfriend Sandra. His attempts at entering the Key West crime market are hilarious.
It's only after the laid back Key West lifestyle enters his soul that he really figures out who he is and what he wants out of life.

He befriends an ex-mafioso in retirement called Bert the Shirt who is one of my favorite characters of all time. Bert and his shaking Chihuahua Don Giovanni; phenomenally fleshed out characters..


Gossip Girl (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Gossip Girl (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Author: Cecily von Ziegesar, Christina Ricci (Narrator)
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 2/22/2008
Helpful Score: 2


Please note this is an Audio CD, not cassette.


The Great Time Machine Hoax
The Great Time Machine Hoax
Author: Keith Laumer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 9/25/2009


Is not is not not is



This book took me a ridiculous amount of time to read; at 176 pages a novel that should have taken me a few days to finish took about a year. Oddly enough, I'm thinking about re-reading it. The premise is a great one: Chester W. Chester IV owes a million credits in back taxes; he decides selling his circus is his best bet in paying most of the money back. His eccentric great-grandfather passes away, leaving Chester as his sole heir. He inherits a run-down old mansion and an antiquated computer. He is less than thrilled with his inheritance until he discovers this computer holds the whole of the world's history and can recreate in a life-like fashion any time period. Chester and his friend Case devise a scheme to make money by bringing dinosaurs and other blasts from the past back to life. Basically, the plan is to fake a time machine.

All doesn't go as planned as the computer simulations are a little too life-like. Chester, Case, and the computer made companion Genie become stuck in various eras. And speaking of stuck, this is one of my biggest complaints about this novel. It has a very 1960s feel to it despite it taking place in the future. I know to a certain extent that can't be helped as it was indeed written in the 60s, but it really distracted me. Everything about the characters- their dialogue, their attitudes- just seemed too limited to me. Another complaint: Boring, unlikeable characters. I didn't care about the exploits of the main character Chester. The humor didn't work for me even though the cover promised this book is âHilarious and swingingâ.

Chester's experience stuck in time is full of thought-provoking philosophical concepts regarding achieving a higher state through conditioning oneself by testing one's mental and physical limitations. Also, some groovy words worth pondering, such as the above mentioned âIs not is not not isâ.

Unfortunately, this journey through time (or not, it's never 100% clear that they've actually time traveled) has more drawn out boring parts than swinging moments. I somewhat dug the first half, but then it became a bit of a drag.


Gut Feelings
Gut Feelings
Author: Carnie Wilson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 3/26/2010


Many people will read Gut Feelings hoping to gain some insight into weight loss surgery and they will receive exactly that, but they should be aware this is an autobiography more than an informative tome on gastric bypass. This is the story of Carnie Wilsons journey: from fat acceptance advocate to the poster child for weight loss surgery; from daughter of a famous person to becoming famous for her own talents; from an insecure, troubled childhood to a more well-adjusted but still insecure adulthood.

As a woman who has been at the same weight as Carnie at her heaviest, I can certainly relate to a lot of what she has to say. But her life experience is as different as can be from my own. I cannot imagine being in the spotlight and having my weight on public display. Its bad enough being discriminated against for your weight and I cant imagine the added burden of constant public ridicule and I admire Carnies strength in getting through it. Where she stood up to people like Howard Stern, I would have broken down in tears. I hear Carnies bitterness, though, seeping through the pages. She seems to be a kind, loving soul but the repetitive language and constant complaining speaks volumes. Not that I blame her, mind you, but its obvious she carries a lot of pain.

Reading about Carnies life was fascinating and I like her honest and informal way of writing. I learned a lot about weight loss surgery and Carnie did lose a lot of weight (although, years after the book was written, she did gain a potion of it back) and looks so happy in all the pictures. Im not convinced, however, that weight loss surgery is the way to go. In the end, you still have to maintain your weight like everyone else, through diet and exercise.


.hack // Legend of the Twilight, Vol 1
.hack // Legend of the Twilight, Vol 1
Author: Tatsuya Hamazaki
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 42
Review Date: 4/12/2008
Helpful Score: 4


I haven't read much manga so I'm not sure how this compares. However, I must say I LOVED this book! It helps that I'm a fan of MMORPGs and enjoy lighthearted jabs at fellow gaming geeks. As an online gamer who has spent many an hour playing FFXI and WoW, the humor in Legend of the Twilight really hit home. The world of "The World" is all too real to me.


Hearts Past Reason (Days Of Our Lives, # 2)
Hearts Past Reason (Days Of Our Lives, # 2)
Author: Gilian Gorham
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/15/2008
Helpful Score: 1


I've been a Days of Our Lives fan for over 20 years now. Interested in the history of my favorite Salem families I have managed to track down some old early 80s episodes online. But I've been eager to find even earlier episodes from back in the day. Unfortunately, they seem impossible to find. So imagine my pleasure when I found this book-- chronicling the very beginning of Days, back in the 60s.

We have good ol' Tom and Alice Horton, Mickey, a teenaged Julie and some characters I'm not familiar with like Marie and even a mention of Addie (Hope's mother!).

The main storyline is the romance of Julie and David Martin. It's a typical soap opera romance complete with a love triangle and a tragic climax.

There is a side story involving the young lawyer Mickey going head to head with his well-respected father Dr. Tom Horton in a case involving contaminated water.

Overall, I enjoyed the stories and loved learning about the beginnings of Days. However, the numerous typos drove me crazy. I just couldn't get over New Your instead of New York, that's an inexcusable typo!
Also, after finishing the book I searched online to see if there were parts to the story that perhaps were left out. Ugh. Not only were parts left out but major events were totally altered. So this book gets 2 stars instead of 3 from me. I want the unaltered Salem history! (<


I Am America (And So Can You!)
I Am America (And So Can You!)
Author: Stephen Colbert
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 239
Review Date: 4/12/2008
Helpful Score: 1


I don't watch much tv, so I wasn't too familiar with The Colbert Report before reading this book. After reading this book I realize how little I truly know! Thanks to Mr. Colbert, I now have a better understanding of the world.
Honestly, I think Stephen Colbert is a comic genius and highly intelligent to boot. I am now a fan. Although, I have both the hardcover and the audio book and I have to say, the humor translates a lot better in the audio version. I highly recommend hearing the author's words in his own words.


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