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Eileen Rieback RSS Feed (Coral Springs, FL USA)
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The Flame Alphabet
The Flame Alphabet
by Ben Marcus
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.64
98 used & new from $0.32

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing, February 14, 2012
This review is from: The Flame Alphabet (Hardcover)
It's difficult for me to describe this book. Although it's clear that communication, whether verbal or written, has become lethal to everyone except children and that, as a result, society is breaking down and becoming desperate for a cure, beyond this fact lies a story full of murky details about the reason for, effects of, and attempted treatments for the language disease. The role of the bizarre fictitious Jewish sect that somehow becomes important in the struggle against the epidemic makes little sense. The extent of the disease (is it national or international?) and the battle against it is unclear. And finally, the author's point about communication and its effect on us, if he has one, is rambling and difficult to discern.

I give this book two stars rather than one only because it is obvious that author Ben Marcus has writing talent. There are moments (although too far and few between to make the story vibrant) when his descriptions of words and their devastation to society are masterful. But in general, his talent is buried under bleakness. His descriptions of semi-organic broadcast receivers and experimental alphabets are off-kilter and confusing. His characters are soulless and flat. The situation he paints is chaotic and depressing. I'm afraid those things trump any artfulness he displays in his writing.

It's obvious that the general readership, for the most part, agrees with me. I can't understand why professional reviewers and other literary authors are praising this story with such verbiage as "Ben Marcus is the rarest kind of writer: a necessary one" and "The Flame Alphabet drags the contemporary novel ... back toward the track it should be following." If this novel is supposed to represent the direction novels should be taking, then either the future of the novel is doomed or the professional reviewers are reading far more into this book than is there. I don't recommend this novel to anyone. A far more effective, entertaining, and enlightening story on the nature of language and its impacts on society can be found in China Mieville's "Embassytown."

Eileen Rieback


Micro: A Novel
Micro: A Novel
by Michael Crichton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.37
433 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Michael Crichton must be rolling in his grave, January 4, 2012
This review is from: Micro: A Novel (Hardcover)
According to the blurb on the jacket, Crichton was well into the writing of this novel when he died, and Richard Preston completed the story. But after reading it, I can't help feeling that this was one of Crichton's trunk novels (i.e. a novel written long ago but stowed away in a trunk because it wasn't any good). I think that after Crichton's death, someone dug it out of the trunk and asked Preston to complete/polish it. I say this because it is the worst novel that has ever had Crichton's name on it, and I doubt he would have approved of its publication. Richard Preston had done far better also.

As for the plot, think of a mixture of "The Incredible Shrinking Man," Fantastic Voyage," and several of the worst mutant giant insect B-movies you can think of, and you'll get the general idea. Blechhh. Crichton has written many books about the use and misuse of technology. But in this case, although the time will surely come for nanotechnology, this novel is an absurd cautionary tale that makes little sense. The scientific premises are so flimsy that they're downright ludicrous. The characterization of each research graduate students is one dimensional, and some are so silly that I wished they were all caught in a web and dispatched by a hungry spider in chapter two. The seeming incompetence and lassitude of the Hawaiian police when the first mysterious happenings come to light is surely enough to anger Hawaii's real-life finest.

Even if you're an ardent Michael Crichton fan, avoid this one. Why let his (perhaps) last effort leave a bad taste in your mouth?

Eileen Rieback


Paper House Jigsaw Shaped Puzzle 500 Pieces 16 by 17-Inch -Sunflower
Paper House Jigsaw Shaped Puzzle 500 Pieces 16 by 17-Inch -Sunflower
Price: $11.21
12 used & new from $8.65

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not buy this puzzle!, January 4, 2012
= Durability:1.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:1.0 out of 5 stars 
I do a lot of jigsaw puzzles, and the idea of a shaped puzzle with several specially shaped pieces sounded like a lot of fun. I'd never done one before. However, one thing that was missing from this puzzle is interlocking pieces, which is an essential element of any jigsaw puzzle. Look at the description of the puzzle and you'll see that interlockability is never mentioned, as it is on most quality puzzles.

Because of the "special pieces" (there are only six of them, but some are very large), there are too many pieces with straight, curved, or irregular edges that do not interlock with their neighbors. As a result, I spent half of my time straightening dislodged pieces when placing a new one. Move a section of the puzzle elsewhere? Forget about it. Unless you glue every piece together as you place it, you'll be forever redoing the sections you've already completed. I finally gave up after only completing about a third of the puzzle, not because of the difficulty, but because of the poor puzzle quality.

This puzzle is also highly overpriced for only 500 pieces. The manufacturer's age recommendation is absurd, too. They say the puzzle is for ages eight months to five years (preceded by a contradictory choking hazard warning for children under three, no less), but even an adult will be pulling their hair out over the constantly shifting pieces.

Stick with a quality interlocking puzzle instead. Lately, puzzles have become a lot flimsier and they tend to interlock poorly, but you can't go wrong with a brand like Ravensburger.

Eileen Rieback


Buried Secrets (Nick Heller)
Buried Secrets (Nick Heller)
by Joseph Finder
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.15
242 used & new from $0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nick Heller returns, June 23, 2011
Ex-Special Forces operative Nick Heller may have left Washington to move to Boston to open his own private agency, but his job is anything but routine. When Alexa,the daughter of a billionaire financier, is abducted, Nick is brought in to track her down. As the action switches back and forth between Nick's desperate attempts to find Alexa and the dangerous psychopathic kidnappers who are holding her captive,layers of carefully concealed lies and diabolical international schemes are peeled back to expose a situation that seems almost impossible to defuse. But Nick Heller is like a bloodhound. He'll do anything - absolutely anything - to get Alexa returned safely, including calling in favors from powerful associates in financial and government circles, pulling off some outrageous bluffs, and putting himself in serious danger.

As in all his other thrillers, author Joseph Finder has done some meticulous research on the technical gadgetry used for committing and solving crimes. The reader is treated to fascinating details on GPS bugs, computer tampering, Internet and cell-phone tracing, surveillance cameras, infrared detectors, trip-wires, and a host of other high-tech toys and methods that Nick must use or outwit in his search for Alexa and her abductors.

This is the second Nick Heller novel (the first was "Vanished"). I'd guess that further thrillers in this series will be forthcoming, although it will be tough for Finder to outdo the hairpin twists and turns, heart-pounding suspense, and fast-paced action that abound in "Buried Secrets." Recommended as a great summer read, but be careful. If you bring this novel to read at the beach, wear lots of sunscreen, because you won't be able to put it down.

Eileen Rieback


Vanished (Nick Heller )
Vanished (Nick Heller )
by Joseph Finder
Edition: Hardcover
214 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where's Roger?, August 18, 2009
Meet Nick Heller, a private investigator who is pulled into the search for his brother Roger, who disappeared after he and his wife were assaulted outside of a Georgetown restaurant. From the outset, something seems out of kilter with this disappearance. Was it abduction? Murder? Kidnapping? Or did Roger just run off? As Nick peels back the layers of deceit and machination, it appears that there's lots more here than meets the eye.

Although Nick's narrative begins with the old chestnut "It was a dark and stormy night," Nick's not your average PI. With the keen deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes, fighting ability gleaned from his years in the Special Forces, a favor bank that he frequently withdraws from to gain the assistance of some very talented specialists, and a dogged determination to get to the bottom of the secrets that his brother hid from the family, Nick navigates the twists and turns along which the investigation leads him.

This story is a corporate thriller as in Finder's previous novels, but more of the action takes place outside than inside the corporation. Through the author's meticulous research, the reader learns about espionage and surveillance techniques, offshore investments and banking, and computer forensics. There is enough action to keep even the most jaded reader turning pages until late into the night. The story implies that there might be further Nick Heller novels. I hope so. Readers will find him a likeable and resourceful character.

Eileen Rieback


Beauty Bureau Stick Scents Holiday 3-Count Variety Pack Reed Diffusers, 8-Ounce Package
Beauty Bureau Stick Scents Holiday 3-Count Variety Pack Reed Diffusers, 8-Ounce Package

3.0 out of 5 stars Reed diffusers or potpourri?, December 20, 2007
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The scents of the three diffusers in this set are pleasing, with a subtle mingling of aromas. I thought the Holiday Spice scent would smell mostly like cinnamon or cloves, but in reality it's more like freshly baked gingerbread. The Candy Cane scent is pleasant but not as pepperminty as I would have expected. The Winter Forest scent doesn't have a predominant scent of pine, but instead smells more herbal. It took a few days for the oil to be absorbed into the reeds and begin to scent the room, but since then, it has maintained a constant but weak aroma. The key word here is weak.

This is my first experience with a reed diffuser. The bottle looks very pretty sitting on a counter or shelf, although a bowl of potpourri does also. It lasts longer then potpourri does, although you must reverse the direction of the reeds now and then. However, I find that the scents are weaker than potpourri. I placed these diffusers in bathrooms, and even in the smallest room it didn't leave a very noticeable scent. Particularly for the Candy Cane, you have to bring your nose very close to the bottle to smell it. I can't imagine that they would work very well in a family room or bedroom. I am concerned about the fact that an open bottle of oil with a very loosely fitting cap is sitting out where it could tip and spill oil. The wooden cap has become stained with the oil that has been drawn up into the reeds, which mars its appearance somewhat. Reed diffusers are quite expensive compared to potpourri, but this three-pack does bring the cost down. It comes in very attractive packaging although the tubes were difficult to open. When all is said and done, I think potpourri is a better value and more effective at scenting a room.

Eileen Rieback


Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel
Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel
by Marie Phillips
Edition: Hardcover
113 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars The gods must be crazy, December 20, 2007
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The twelve immortal gods of ancient Greece are having a tough time of it in the twenty-first century. Sharing a dilemma faced by Peter Pan's Tinkerbell, they are losing their powers and fading away because no one believes in them any more. Strapped for cash and living crowded together in London house, it's not surprising that they get into quarrels with each other. But when Apollo and Aphrodite get into a fight, the mortals Alice and Neil get dragged into the conflict and soon find that their lives, as well as the fate of the whole world, hang in the balance.

There are many humorous scenarios in this story, particularly when the gods are faced with humdrum day jobs to survive and when classical mythology is placed in the context of modern life. Handsome Apollo turns women into trees if they don't respond to his advances. Vain Aphrodite works on a phone sex hot line. Eros, the god of love, has embraced Christianity. Wise Athena wears glasses and cannot get a point across at the endless meetings she organizes to solve family problems. Scrabble is a popular form of entertainment in the Underworld. The story line might get a bit silly and the ending is rather predictable, but this is a creative tale that will not only entertain, but will also help readers refresh their knowledge about the gods of Olympus.

Eileen Rieback


Run
Run
by Ann Patchett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.68
487 used & new from $0.01

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A day in the life of a family, October 6, 2007
This review is from: Run (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It is a snowy evening in Boston, and ex-mayor Bernard Doyle and his two adopted sons are leaving a lecture hall. An automobile accident occurs which brings two strangers into the Doyle's lives. This event sets into motion a series of revelations and reactions that will have lasting impact on the family.

There is no question that Ann Patchett is a skilled writer. Her description of everyday family dynamics had me feeling as if I were sitting at the breakfast table with the Doyles or visiting their hospitalized relatives. Her characterization was also masterful. It permitted me to peek into the mind of every character, plumbing the depths of their emotions and internal conflicts.

Why did I give the review only three stars then? Although I admired Patchett's writing style, I felt that the book let me down. The characters were well depicted yet I found none of them particularly likable or compelling. The storyline also dragged. Taking place primarily within the time span of only 24 hours, the action was bogged down in the mundane actions of everyday life, such as trudging through the heavy snow, classifying fish at a zoology museum, and deciding what winter outerwear to put on. Then after over two hundred pages of such detail, the last chapter, which was really more of an epilogue, jumped into the future. It tied up the loose ends and detailed another day with the Doyles that demonstrated how the family had changed. The time shift seemed to leave an uncharacteristically wide gap and an abrupt ending. In spite of these shortcomings, for those readers who enjoyed "Bel Canto," it's worth giving this novel a try.

Eileen Rieback


Power Play
Power Play
by Joseph Finder
Edition: Hardcover
282 used & new from $0.01

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From team-building to team terror, August 20, 2007
This review is from: Power Play (Hardcover)
When junior manager Jake Landry is informed that he is to take his boss's place at a secluded wilderness retreat for executives of Hammond Aerospace, he is uncomfortable with the idea of undergoing a team-building exercise with his company's top leadership. But that turns out to be the least of his worries. Not long after the start of the program, some backwoods hunters crash the meeting to rob the participants. And soon, the robbery evolves into something with much higher stakes... and which becomes far more deadly. Jake seems to be the only person with the skills and willingness to foil the intruders. But with no communication to the outside world or possibility of rescue, how can Jake possibly save the group?

With "Power Play," author Joseph Finder has written another fast-paced corporate thriller. But this time, instead of being placed in boardrooms and offices, it's in an offsite wilderness setting, and the adversity the protagonist must overcome is not one of office politics. There are many elements to the story that Finder has researched as meticulously as he always does. These include internal corporate investigations, the aerospace industry and its problems in aircraft manufacture, hostage negotiation, bank security, and electronic funds processing. The theme of highly competitive and seemingly omnipotent executives being helpless against a very different kind of power makes for an entertaining plot line. Another interesting touch is the resentment of the male executives against their new female president. Although Jake Landry's role is rather far-fetched, this story is an intriguing look at a scenario that might very well happen some day. There's a lot of nail-biting tension that's sure to keep you turning pages until late into the night.

Eileen Rieback
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2008 6:47 AM PDT


Lisey's Story
Lisey's Story
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
666 used & new from $0.01

194 of 224 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blend of horror and love, October 24, 2006
This review is from: Lisey's Story (Hardcover)
Lisey Landon, widow of best-selling horror author Scott Landon, is finally getting around to cleaning out her late husband's possessions. While going through his writings and memorabilia, she is assailed with a flood of memories of her love for, and life with, her tortured genius husband. At the same time, Lisey's sister has a mental breakdown and a crazed madman threatens Lisey's life if she doesn't turn all of Scott's memorabilia over to him.

King is back in top form as a horror writer. This story is about as horrific, creepy, and gruesome as they come. Scott had a nasty childhood and a special power he called upon when things got tough. However, mixed in with the horror is a reflection on the wellspring of creation that a writer draws upon and a story of a strong love that outlasts even death. The title notwithstanding, this is really Scott's story rather than Lisey's. It reminded me a bit of the book "Rebecca," because it's Scott's strong presence that prevails throughout the book rather than Lisey's, and it's often Scott's words that issue from Lisey's lips.

Although King has deftly woven together a story that balances both horror and love and includes some heart-pounding scenes, I had to knock a star off the rating because of King's continual use of invented words and pretentious phrases that were part of the Landon family language. For the first quarter of the book, I found the constant presence of such coined words as "blood-bool," SOWISA," "Boo'ya Moon," and "long boy" so confusing that I wished I had a secret decoder ring to turn them into more intelligible phrases. And Lisey's constant quoting of family phrases such as "puffickly huh-yooge" and "keep your string a-drawing" became irritating after a while. In spite of this flaw, "Lisey's Story" is a riveting book that the author has obviously poured his heart and soul into. Stephen King fans won't want to miss this journey into the darkness and back!

Eileen Rieback
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 3, 2013 6:44 AM PDT


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