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AntiochAndy "antiochandy" RSS Feed (Antioch, CA USA)

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Shake Your Money Maker
Shake Your Money Maker
Offered by vsource
Price: $10.39
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Rarity, December 26, 2007
This review is from: Shake Your Money Maker (Audio CD)
SHAKE YOUR MONEY MAKER by the Black Crowes is a true rarity -- a really good album of "classic" rock music recorded after the 1970's. There aren't many of these out there, folks, so this is something to savor. The robust late-60's to early-70's rock era slid into a near-comatose state in the 1980's. The release of this set in 1990 was a welcome breath of fresh air.

The first two songs of the set are the killers, but SYMM is solid from beginning to end. Bluesy, guitar-based rockers are mixed with several slower ballads in a satisfying collection of gritty songs that are all very listenable. Whereas many slow rock songs just roll over and play dead, leaving you waiting for the next catchy, up-tempo rocker, those included here (i.e. "She Talks To Angels") work well. That these guys can record enjoyable rock ballads is an accomplishment and marks the Crowes as a rock band to be reckoned with. Chris Robinson's vocals are raspy and emotive. The guitar riffs are infective. This is rock worthy of the "classic" rock era.

Don't get me wrong -- SYMM isn't another SGT PEPPER, WHO'S NEXT, or LET IT BLEED, but by post-1980 standards, this is great stuff. You can listen to all the songs without hitting any that make you wonder what somebody was thinking when they left it in. I often do. If, like me, you loved the music of the classic rock period and wonder why everybody seems to have forgotten how to write and play it, you gotta have this one.

Infinity Beach
Infinity Beach
by Jack McDevitt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
129 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Be Careful What You Wish For, December 25, 2007
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INFINITY BEACH finds humanity spread out across nine inhabited worlds, but otherwise apparently alone in the universe. Efforts to find other sentient beings have come up empty, but a few people are still looking. Some odd things happened after the last SETI expedition, including the disappearance of Kim Brandywine's clone-sister. When Kim begins to investigate, more odd things come to light.

I liked this book -- my first by Jack McDevitt. First contact stories are not a new idea in the sci fi genre, but this one has some intriguing twists to it. Along the lines of: be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. The story, as other reviewers have noted, is by turns a mystery, sci fi, gothic horror/ghost type of tale. The characters aren't special, but I found them likable. The plot is the book's strength, though. The storyline was quite engaging, and kept me turning the pages from start to finish. INFINITY BEACH was, in short, not necessarily deep, but entertaining. I had fun reading it, and will read more books by McDevitt in the future.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 26, 2007 5:03 PM PST

Personal Injuries
Personal Injuries
by Scott Turow
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
398 used & new from $0.01

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Characters in a Slow Story, November 24, 2007
Robbie Feaver is a successful personal injury lawyer in Turow's Kindle County, and he plays the part to the hilt. He's a flashy dresser, plays women, drives an expensive car, the whole nine yards. Underneath the slick exterior, however, lurk some surprises. One of the surprises is that he has been bribing judges. It's not that he's a bad guy, it's just that he's a victim of the system. Now he's been discovered and must wear a wire to expose the corrupt judges.

PERSONAL INJURIES is, in many ways, a pretty good book. The characters are well-drawn, complex, and believable. The plot has some surprises in store for the reader, and the legal manuvering is interesting and clear. What's missing is a sense of urgency. The story meanders along and, while the problems confronted have some intensity, they aren't really compelling. This isn't one of those books where you just want to keep turning the page to see what will happen next.

Promotional blurbs on the back cover describe PERSONAL INJURIES as "smashing...absorbing" and describe a legal "thriller". Unfortunately, it falls a little short of theose adjectives. Well-written and possessing great chacterization it is, but there's not much action and it lacks the pace of a first-rate thriller.

The Green Hills of Earth
The Green Hills of Earth
by Robert Heinlein
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sci Fi Circa 1950, October 20, 2007
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I got this book thinking it was a novel. It isn't. It is, instead, a collection of loosely connected Heinlein short stories from the 1940's.

This collection is comprised of mildly amusing little tales from Heinlein's early days. Amusing and pleasant, but not really compelling. There wasn't anything here that I just couldn't put down. The characters are thin, the plots pretty linear and predictable. From both a sociological and a technological standpoint, they're also rather dated. The stories have a certain charm, however, and are good in that they are simple, personal tales that avoid coming across as apocalyptic -- a practice that should be followed more often by contemporary writers. For readers interested in the sci fi genre, THE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH is a solid example of classic sci fi short stories.

The African Quest (Archaeological Mysteries, No. 5)
The African Quest (Archaeological Mysteries, No. 5)
by Lyn Hamilton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good McClintoch Episode, August 21, 2007
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THE AFRICAN QUEST finds Lara McClintoch leading a tour group to North Africa. It seems like a good way to earn extra money and promote the antique store while hunting for antifacts. At least, it seems like a good idea until members of the group start having fatal "accidents".

This is the fifth book in Lyn Hamilton's Lara McClintoch series. Of the five, I've enjoyed THE MOCHE WARRIOR and THE AFRICAN QUEST the most. In THE AFRICAN QUEST, the whodunit is intriguing and well-plotted, with a clearly delineated sequence of events and related clues, and without blind leaps of insight on Lara's part (see THE CELTIC RIDDLE for examples of contrived leaps of insight). In addition, the characters are quirky and interesting, and the Tunisian setting is nicely visualized by Ms. Hamilton.

One of the pleasures of a series is the on-going development of the life of the main character. In this series, readers must take the good outings with the not-so-good to stay current with what's new in Lara McClintoch's life. THE AFRICAN QUEST is one of the good outings. If you're into the series, enjoy this one. If not, this is still a good read. It's a solid four stars in my book.

The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo
DVD ~ Jim Caviezel
Price: $9.98
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Count On A Good Film, August 21, 2007
This review is from: The Count of Monte Cristo (DVD)
This is a nice remake of the Dumas novel of the same name. The story is a literary classic of betrayal and revenge set in early 19th century France. I've read the book and seen the movie and recommend both. The story is a excellent one.

As with any adaptation of book to movie, much detail is lost in the translation. It's simply not possible to cram all the rich detail of a book into a two-hour movie. Other comments on this site aside, however, I am impressed by how faithful this film is to the original story. I've seen plenty of movies based on books where any connection between the two was almost unrecognizable. That is definitely not the case here. Further, this movie is visually rich and the acting is very good. There's enough passion, villainy, action and adventure here to please almost any viewer.

This remake will never show up among AFI's greatest films, but it's quite good and I think most folks will find it a very satisfying and entertaining effort in all respects It's well worth the ten bucks amazon is currently selling it for. I've already got a copy on my shelf. I recommend it to you.

A Walk Through the Fire
A Walk Through the Fire
by Marcia Muller
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
108 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe A Bit Under-Rated, July 28, 2007
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This installment in Muller's Sharon McCone series takes our heroine to Hawaii. Office neighbor Glenna Stanleigh is attempting to film a documentary on Kauai, but filming has been plagued by a series of "accidents" that may not have been very accidental. Overall, the plot of this story is pretty good. There are some pretty transparent aspects to it, and not too many big surprises, but it kept me turning pages right up to the end.

As I write this, the average rating among reviewers here for A WALK THROUGH THE FIRE is below average for the books in the series. While I agree that this isn't one of the best McCone mysteries I've read, I also don't think it's as much of a letdown as others have indicated. I have just two criticisms. First, the attempt to inject additional melodrama into the story through the invocation of the mystical "spell" of the islands and through the romantic entanglement with the helicopter pilot really didn't work for me. Second, Ms. Muller took up flying some years back and since flying has become a significant element in every McCone mystery. Ms. Muller apparently likes flying. Great, but give it a rest in the stories. Sometimes is OK, but it's gotten overworked. Once in a while it would be nice to get a story that stays on the ground. I always thought that her use of San Francisco as her setting was part of the charm of the McCone mysteries. A return to that sometimes would be welcome.

A WALK THROUGH THE FIRE isn't the best McCone mystery I've encountered, but it kept me turning the pages to the end. My routine rating for books in the series is four stars and that's what this one is getting, as well.
Casual readers may not be greatly impressed, but most fans will find this another enjoyable episode in the on-going saga.

Building Harlequin's Moon
Building Harlequin's Moon
by Larry Niven
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.02
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars C'mon Larry, You've Done Much Better Than This, July 19, 2007
Once upon a time, there was a good young scifi writer named Larry Niven. He wrote some highly imaginative and interesting stories that were set in a creation called "Known Space". This universe had fascinating places in it like Mt. Lookithat, the Draco Tavern and the Ringworld; it included creatures like bandersnatchi, puppeteers and Kzinti; there were engaging characters like Gil Hamilton and Louis Wu. His stories were popular, fun to read, and won awards. Readers were amused. Readers were entertained.

Then, Mr. Niven's gas tank seemed to run low. He became inconsistent. He abandoned known space and took to collaborating with other writers. He still had some clever ideas, but many of the stories he was involved with landed with a clunk for various reasons. Somewhere along the line, he seems to have lost that light touch, the sense of playfulness and fun that informed his earlier work. Now, he seems intent on being a "serious" writer. We would all benefit if Niven could recapture the fun element that's gone missing.

BUILDING HARLEQUIN'S MOON is one of the latter efforts. There are some good ideas in here, but the whole thing just doesn't work very well. It takes itself too seriously, for one thing. There's nothing wacky or amusing, here. There's also not much action until the last part of the book and, by then, I didn't care that much what happened to the characters involved. It seems as though none of them has a good idea of what needs to be done. When they finally arrive at a solution to the problem of how to produce fuel for the starship, it's a solution that a bunch of smart people could have, and should have, arrived at in the first place.

Along the way, I found myself wondering what kind of people would create an environment and populate it with their own offspring, knowingly planning to treat said offspring like slaves and then leave them all behind on a doomed world. Especially when there were far better ways to deal with the problem. For example, if you have 60,000 years and the power to engineer a habitable moon, why not engineer it better so that it is stable. Or, why not have a smaller population of "moon born" offspring and take them with you. The starship was equipped with a large environment and with enough "cold sleep" chambers to accommodate all of the original colonists and crew, yet everyone could remain virtually immortal with only occasional one-year stints in cold sleep. It should have been simple to keep part of the population "warm" at any given time and rotate everybody through cold sleep periodically. Or, why spend so much time and effort creating something that you don't really need. The premise of the story has possibilities (stranded starship needs to find a way to refuel and move on), but the way it is realized doesn't work very well.

BUILDING HARLEQUIN'S MOON is another disappointing Niven collaboration. The ending is flat and too obvious, and somebody should have thought of it in the beginning. Further, there's not enough action and the main characters are only mildly engaging. They were often more frustrating than sympathetic. The story never got to the point where I was anxious to see what was going to happen next.

It's hard to know exactly how much input Niven has into these collaborative efforts, but the results have been a decidedly mixed bag. This one was just an OK read, and that's being a bit generous. This is a soft three stars.

Endless Wire [CD/DVD Combo] [Limited Edition]
Endless Wire [CD/DVD Combo] [Limited Edition]
Offered by RYU'SHOP
Price: $14.88
93 used & new from $1.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Goes On, July 13, 2007
You weren't really expecting the second coming of WHO'S NEXT, were you? That would be a bit unrealistic. With more than thirty-five years and two bandmates having passed, it would be a miracle if Townsend and Daltry had another set in them that was THAT good. Does that mean ENDLESS WIRE is disappointing? No way! After all these years, it's great to hear them still sound so good and so vital.

This incarnation of The Who is at once more mature, more vulnerable, and more thoughtful, but they can still rock. While Daltry's voice often sounds a little frayed (especially in live performances), he gets by adequately in the studio, and renders Townsend's songs with poignancy, power, and even a touch of sadness for things lost. Pete can still play a great guitar and his vocals are as good as ever. For me, as someone who is aging right along with them, it's heartening to find these guys still performing at such a high level.

Besides still being able to play and sing, Townsend also still writes great songs. My favorite is "We Got A Hit", an exuberant rocker that harks back to the band's top-twenty days. Other favorites include "Two Thousand Years", "God Speaks Of Marty Robbins", "Endless Wire" and "Tea And Theatre". Along the way, Pete rails against organized religion, waxes philosophical about music and the human condition, and mourns fallen comrades and the passage of time. He always has something meaningful to say and, here or there, he may even touch you personally. As someone with a few years behind me, I can't help but be moved by "Tea & Theatre". The Who hasn't been called "the thinking man's rock band" for no reason.

As one of the professional reviewers here wrote, ENDLESS WIRE isn't one of The Who's greatest albums. I agree, it isn't WHO'S NEXT, TOMMY, or LIVE AT LEEDS. It's pretty darn good, though, and well worth having. If you've enjoyed any of the music this band has recorded in the past, you gotta have this. For now, it is The Who's next. Let's hope there are more. It sounds like they still have some music left in them.

Maybe, had ENDLESS WIRE been released in the late '60's/early '70's, when there was a plethora of great groups putting out a steady stream of excellent new music (from the Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, CCR, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, CSN and sometimes Y, and Fleetwood Mac to the Byrds, Jethro Tull, Steppenwolf, Deep Purple, Allman Bros, Bad Company, Three Dog Night, the Mamas and the Papas, et al), it would be a four-star effort. Rock music was the coin of the realm in those days, and we were all rich. Such is no longer the case, however. Life goes on and times change. Based on the current rock landscape, ENDLESS WIRE is a rare blessing. It's worth six stars today. Unfortunately, five is all I have to give.

The Broker
The Broker
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.87
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Step Up, But A Small Step, July 1, 2007
This review is from: The Broker (Paperback)
It's been several years since I last read a book by John Grisham. I liked THE FIRM very much. It was fast-paced and well-plotted. A fun ride. I also liked THE CLIENT. I thought the ten-year-old kid would have been more believable as a twelve- or thirteen-year-old, but overall it was pretty good. As I read more of Grisham's books, however, I became increasingly disenchanted. THE TESTAMENT was the last straw. Recently, though, I had an opportunity to pick up a used copy of THE BROKER gratis, so I decided to give it a try.

The book begins with a lame-duck president granting a full pardon to former Washington power-broker Joel Backman at the urging of the head of the CIA. Backman has served six years of a twenty year sentence in federal prison for his involvement in trying to sell access to a secret satellite network. The CIA chief `s plan is to give Backman a new identity, then leak the information and wait to see who kills him.

This little tale has a few tense moments, but unfortunately they are too few and not sufficiently tense. Much of the book passes with Backman wandering the streets of Italian cities, especially Bologna, ostensibly trying to learn to be believable as an Italian, but really waiting for the right moment to bolt. It's mildly engaging and I was somewhat entertained, but it certainly wasn't the intense page-turner I was expecting it to be.

THE BROKER was, for me, a step up from my last book by this author, but it still left a lot to be desired. I'll probably read more of his stuff in the future, but probably not real soon and I'll be pretty careful about what I pick based on my experience to date. His writing can be very good, but not reliably so. I can't give this one an enthusiastic recommendation.

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