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sweetmolly RSS Feed (RICHMOND, VA USA)

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by Keith R. Ablow
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
192 used & new from $0.01

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Burn Out, December 4, 2002
This review is from: Denial (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a fine debut smartly paced with all the twists and turns anyone could wish. Unusual for a debut, "Denial" is not plot heavy nor does it have a cast of thousands for us to keep track of.
Dr. Frank Clevenger is about as anti-hero as I have ever read; he is an all around addict: coke, sex, alcohol, and gambling. Plus, he plays the blame game on himself for every misstep in his life. I always feel when reading a mystery that the protagonist is my pilot, constant companion and must see us both successfully to the finish. After Dr. Clevenger, my next trip will be with someone more like McDonald's Travis McGee, who I can depend upon to not fold on me until the last villain is vanquished. With Frank, I was exhausted trying to get us both to the end without cracking up.
Frank is given a mercy job by an ambitious sheriff to sign off on whether an accused murderer's confession is admissible. The accused insists he is General William Westmoreland among other visions and ramblings. This murder sends Frank on a quest to find the guilty party who is viciously slaughtering his victims. The story is replete with abused and emotionally crippled victims, Frank included. The author's empathy and expertise are shown in representing these people. I admired the level of professionalism Dr. Ablow displayed in his understanding of state hospitals bureaucracy and the patients treated there.
"Denial" has a high level of eroticism that is in keeping with Frank's character; however, it may be too steamy for some readers. The book shows talent and promise. I will look for more works by this author.
-sweetmolly- Amazon Reviewer

The Scorpion King (Full Screen Collector's Edition)
The Scorpion King (Full Screen Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson
Price: $4.99
356 used & new from $0.01

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Charge!, December 4, 2002
I went into this movie cold. I had no idea who "The Rock" was (I'd read about him, but somehow did not connect him with this film) I did not know "The Scorpion King" was supposed to be a prequel of the Mummy movies, neither of which I had seen. So me and my popcorn had a clear, unbiased mind.
The setting is long, long ago. Gommorah is still in business and gunpowder has yet to be invented. Arkkadian Assassin Mathayus (the Rock) has been hired to kill a sorcerer whose predictions are far too dependable. Mathayus' brother is tortured to death, and he vows revenge. When he discovers the sorcerer is a gorgeous young lady in a harem costume, he "liberates" her. His steed is a camel, the odds against him are never less than 50 to 1, and he lays them out like dominoes. After 90 minutes of mayhem, the good guys win the kingdom, the castle and the babe.
Dwayne Johnson was a charmer in this potboiler. He has almost too good a sense of humor (I thought he was going to crack up a few times over his ridiculous lines. Shades of Crosby and Hope in a "Road" picture!) His face is expressive, his movements agile, and he is definitely eye candy. I wish him well in a movie career. I think he would be a fine action hero. I felt sorry for his sidekick, Philos (Bernard Hill). The script was so bad that the feeble jokes he was forced to utter wouldn't get a giggle out of a pre-schooler. With the exception of a few reprehensible villains and mighty Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan), the cast was uniformly beautiful right down to the starving children.
The action is non-stop, so time passes quickly and all in all, I had a good time. "The Scorpion King" makes a good non-think rental. Laugh along with The Rock. Reviewer

The Souvenir
The Souvenir
by Patricia Carlon
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needful Things, December 4, 2002
This review is from: The Souvenir (Hardcover)
Two Australian girls, strangers to one another, decide to join forces on a hiking vacation. One of the girls is a savvy traveler, the other a complete neophyte. The match up was not made in heaven, and soon the girls are entangled in a web of forced dependence upon each other that ends up in a shocking murder of an innocent bystander.
Ms. Carlon sets us to the task of figuring out which girl did the dastardly deed. Each of their stories is seamless, verifiable, and each accuses the other of the crime. I liked the set-up; I just wished their trip was more interesting. They never seemed to have a destination and their actual routes were a dull slog indeed. There were no scenic descriptions, only a lot of dust, heat, rain and wind. Their interactions with other people were brief and rare. Their mode of transportation was hitchhiking which seems a strange choice for two middle class girls in the '70s. The author did a good job of characterizing the girls; they both seemed believable if not very likeable. That was my problem as a reader; I didn't care much what happened to them.
The solution, while neat, was not believable and I closed the book disappointed. I might give Ms. Carlon another try as she writes a tidy plot and has strong skills in characterization. "The Souvenir" needed more color and life.
-sweetmolly- Amazon[.com] Reviewer

Every Dead Thing
Every Dead Thing
by John Connolly
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
269 used & new from $0.01

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New York to New Orleans: The Death Express, December 4, 2002
John Connolly is extraordinary. Though an Irishman residing in Dublin, "Every Dead Thing" has an entirely believable cast of American characters set on the eastern seaboard of the United States. True, some of personalities are a little frayed around the edges from over use, but whatever they are, they don't seem Irish.
The plots, subplots and minor skirmishes are so involved in this extra long thriller that I will only recount the bare bones. Charlie "Bird" Parker of the NYPD suffers the devastating loss of his wife and child in a particularly gruesome murder. Charlie is racked with guilt, as he was as usual, on his favorite bar stool when the crime was committed. After a few months in a moral tailspin, he quits the force and the hooch and resolves to find the murderer. His quest takes him from upper eastside New York, to rural Virginia, to New Orleans and bayou country in Louisiana. The danger, gore and mayhem are unrelenting.
Charlie is my least favorite type of protagonist: recovering alcoholic who primly makes a point of ordering Perrier when there is the slightest thought of an alcoholic beverage in the wings, appropriately dark and bitter, finds a lady who might make it all "worthwhile" if she lives through all the blood and thunder to which he subjects her. (It never occurs to the these types that it is perfectly ok to leave the little lady at home instead of dragging her through the tunnels, cellars and swamps where all the terrors take place.) Then there are Angelo and Louis, two hardened criminals, who are Charlie's loyal sidekicks--Robin Hood and his not-so-Merry Men.
The action and the pace are excellent. I was daunted (or just plain tired) when Charlie made a tremendous discovery halfway through the book only to find we were right back where we started. I certainly give Mr. Connolly credit for not making the rest of the book seem like an anti-climax. The final denouement was a bit rushed, but seeing as we were on page 467, I was certainly ready to forgive and forget. Though the author writes well and plots beautifully, "Every Dead Thing" is aimed at the die-hard gash and gore fan...

Murder by Numbers (Widescreen Edition)
Murder by Numbers (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Sandra Bullock
Offered by Alter Ego Media
Price: $4.95
246 used & new from $0.01

13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sandra, Michael and Ryan Came Out To Play----, December 4, 2002
---cops and felons on a sunny day.
I couldn't get immersed in any sort of reality in this film. I didn't find the boys menacing or Sandra Bullock believable as a hard-bitten cop. Their acting was good, and if the time spent on Bullock's clunky back-story had been devoted to more in-depth characterizations of the boys, the movie might have succeeded. Bullock had too much baggage to carry, and the boys didn't have enough.
The story is very loosely based on the Chicago Leopold & Loeb murders in the '20's. Two overly bright boys with too much time and money on their hands plan the "perfect" murder. Justin (Michael Pitt) is shown as enjoying the planning and theory, but procrastinates on the execution. He is a dreamy intellectual boy who is compelling with his androgynous looks. Richard (Ryan Gosling) appears to be the man of action--doesn't care about the whys and wherefores, just wants the thrill. Gosling wears Richard's #1 Popular Boy personality like a second skin. The difficulty is in imagining how these two polar opposites ever got together at all. Sandra Bullock (Cassie) is the detective in charge whose personality is supposedly so abrasive; she is called "The Hyena" behind her back. She may be sexually dismissive, intuitive, hyper-energized, but a Hyena, she is not. She backs down from confrontations right and left. Her partner, Ben Chaplin, was one big cipher to me. He had a pained demeanor throughout. He didn't act; he was acted upon.
The pace was good, and the film was entertaining. Miss Bullock put a lot of effort into her role, but I couldn't help but think how a Stockard Channing or a Sigourney Weaver would have made her role a tour de force. 3-1/2 stars.
-sweetmolly-Amazon[.com] Reviewer

Great Train Robbery
Great Train Robbery
by Michael Crichton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
225 used & new from $0.01

67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cleverest Caper of Them All!, November 25, 2002
This true story set in Victorian London in 1855 is a beauty of a read. With Michael Crichton weaving his magic over the scene and Edward Pierce, mastermind and protagonist, we have an unbeatable combination. The author does wonders describing authentic period scenes and showing us the huge divide between the English middle class and the wretched poor in Victorian times.
Edward Pierce wants 12,000 pounds sterling that will be sent by rail to fund the Crimean War. The obstacles are huge. It takes four keys to get to and unlock the safe. This was before the days of nitroglycerine, so the safe could not be blown, and it was too heavy to carry away. All four keys are held by separate persons and must be found and copied. The thieves have to get the payload unseen off of a moving train. Mr. Pierce has a hazy background, presents himself as a wealthy traveling businessman with a fine home in London, a well-dressed gentleman with an appreciation of the finer things. As we get to know him better, we learn he has nerves of steel, a quick and clever wit, and is relentless planner with infinite patience. He is blessed with a mysterious mistress, Miriam, whose acting abilities could put Meryl Streep to shame. The suspense and tension as Pierce and his accomplice, Robert Algar, work for a solid year on their plan is riveting. Naturally, when the heist takes place, even the most careful plans have to change with unforeseen circumstances. Will they get away with it? Read it and see.
The author puts us in the skins of Victorian people of the time. For instance, the police department is only 25 years old. London citizens were accustomed to being very hands-on when a crime is committed. Not like today when one's first thought is to call the police. If a criminal was observed picking a pocket, there would likely be a great hue and cry by the nearest citizens and all would chase the thief until they caught him. Only then, would they call the police. A married woman was the "property" of her husband. This of course, is abominable for her human rights, but if she is caught say counterfeiting money, her husband goes to jail, not her. After all, he is responsible for his property.
"The Great Train Robbery" was made into a movie in the late '70s with Sean Connery as Mr. Pierce. One way or another, I am going to see it. This is a great read and a well-done social history of one of the most fascinating men of the age. Highly recommended.
-sweetmolly-Amazon Reviewer
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Free Fall (Elvis Cole)
Free Fall (Elvis Cole)
by Robert Crais
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.79
219 used & new from $0.01

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Little On The Preachy Side, November 25, 2002
Elvis Cole's humor is a little strained in this one, and his devil-may-care attitudes about jail, his own invincibility, and his dewy eyed views of all veterans, marines, ingénues and underprivileged youth get a mite tiresome. Thank the Lord for Joe Pike, who remains cynical and enigmatic.
A pretty young lady radiating wholesomeness (is there any other kind?) wants to hire Elvis to see why her fiancé, an LAPD copy, has been acting so distant toward her lately. Elvis finds her a quick, not too pleasant answer and the case is closed. Right? Not quite, or the story would end on page 22. Elvis has sparked the interest of a whole squad of LAPD plus some heavy-duty gangbangers. The action picks up; the escapades are just short of unbelievable while Elvis and Joe are on everyone's Most Wanted List.
Mr. Crais does some excellent description of South Central LA, bringing the mean streets to life and shows us it isn't just one vast killing ground. The action is fast, it's highly readable, but not on a par with other works by Robert Crais.

Geisha: A Life
Geisha: A Life
by Mineko Iwasaki
Edition: Hardcover
319 used & new from $0.01

80 of 98 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No. 1 Geisha, November 25, 2002
This review is from: Geisha: A Life (Hardcover)
"Geisha, A Life" Mineko Iwaski's autobiography is not scandalous nor is it particularly revealing. Perhaps there is a cultural chasm or translational difficulty, but bluntly, Mineko does not come off as particularly truthful, likable, or appealing. The aspects she chooses to display show her great love of dressing up, dancing, and her almost frenetic energy.
The most interesting part of the book is her early childhood that was in a semi-rural part of Japan and was idyllic. The reader has to swallow that Mineko had an almost photographic memory from age three plus great insight into people's characters. She was an odd little girl who preferred to be alone, spent most of her time (by choice) in closets, and did not like to talk to people. She nursed (or tried to nurse) until she was almost 10 years old, long after she had left her mother. Maybe this is a Japanese custom. She left her family for good by the time she was six-years old to live permanently in the Iwasaki okiya (geisha house). She insists throughout the book that her father, an aristocrat in reduced circumstances, was not, as accused, a baby-seller; yet he did just that with three of his four daughters. His eldest never forgave him and ran away to get married before the debt to the geisha house was paid. Mineko heaps scorn upon this eldest sister throughout the book because she "dishonored" the family and caused her father grief.
Mineko was not typical because she was heiress-apparent of the house, and was always treated with a great deal of honor. To most American readers, it might seem this "honor" turned her into a spoiled, arrogant brat. She complains the other girls did not like her and were jealous of her attainments and superiority. It was likely they had more genuine reasons for their dislike. There is no doubt that Mineko worked hard and earned her number one status. Her schedule is almost unbelievable (she says she only slept a few hours a night). It is interesting the amount of celebrity she occasioned as the top geisha (geiko) in Kyoto. Crowds gathered round, autograph hunters were everywhere; she had commercial endorsements. To us, she had the life of a rock star. She retired at the height of her fame at age 29. Since that time, she has been successful in business (why does this not surprise me?), married and has one daughter.
"Geisha, A Life" is interesting and the author is very good at giving us small vignettes of her experiences with her peers. Her descriptions of her beautiful attire and the backbreaking work of making up, hairdressing, and donning the various garments to ready herself for public appearances are fascinating. I really wished I could have liked her more.

Amsterdam: A Novel
Amsterdam: A Novel
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.10
680 used & new from $0.01

34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amsterdam, November 19, 2002
This review is from: Amsterdam: A Novel (Paperback)
Two old friends meet at the funeral of charismatic, gorgeous Molly Lane. The fortyish Ms. Lane has died despicably of some unnamed degenerative disease that cruelly turned her vegetative. Molly, who had been mistress to both friends, was married at the time of her death to an immensely wealthy unlikable man. Vernon and Clive reminisced over their old friend Molly and comforted themselves with the thought she had never even liked husband George, unworthy that he was. But the bleak circumstances of Molly's death disturb the old friends with thoughts of their own mortality and cause them to enter into a peculiar pact.
McEwan's skill and craftsmanship make Clive and Vernon's thoughts and actions familiar to us, and the prose sparkles. Yet both men seem tinder dry, unengaged and hollow. Neither seemed more than his professional success; Clive an international composer---Vernon, a noted newspaper editor. The friends have a bitter falling out, and the crux of the novel, whether their friendship will be strong enough to overcome their differences plays out like a Greek tragedy.
On the down side, I never cared enough about either man to be more than academically interested in their rise and fall. The small book (193 pages) almost demands to be read in one sitting, as it is one continuous arc. Mr. McEwan doesn't fail in giving us a story, very well told, but I wished the vibrant Molly had not died before the tale began.
-sweetmolly-Amazon Reviewer

The Art of Deception
The Art of Deception
by Ridley Pearson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.99
366 used & new from $0.01

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seattle Underground In A Star Turn, November 19, 2002
This review is from: The Art of Deception (Hardcover)
Lou Boldt is third banana in "The Art of Deception" and psychologist Daphne Matthews takes over the lead with studly Jack LaMoia in the co-starring role. This freshens up a series that was running on fumes. Lou's troubles (wife with cancer, guilt ridden affair with Daphne, job dissatisfaction) were taking on the proportions of Job and becoming tiresome.
A troubled young woman is tossed off the Aurora Bridge. Lou is investigating the disappearance of two local women, one of whom is a personal friend and takes on a request from Mama Lu to investigate the "accidental" death of her cousin, Billy Chen. Daphne is up to her elbows in charity work at a local woman's shelter and trying to turn the life of a pregnant client around. All of these threads lead to the Seattle Underground, a city below the city, buried over more than 100 years ago.
Mr. Pearson excels on two levels: his characterizations are sharp and interesting. Via Daphne, Pearson gives us an in-depth look at suspects Lanny Neal, Ferrell Walker, and Nathan Priar. He keeps them in our face, and they are always lurking (sometimes literally) at the edges of our thoughts. Secondly, the locale. Pearson is magnificent in putting us in Seattle; you feel you should be reading holding an umbrella. And then the underground---the decay, the sickening odors and terrain, the sense of claustrophobia, the occasional dusty shop window untouched in 100 years reflecting your surprised image, the very real sense of an imminent cave in, and LaMoia's comment that graveyards are over their heads.
This is an excellent read with a smash of a finale and Pearson ties up the threads as neatly as an expert tailor. I could have done with a little less of Daphne's interior monologues. Sometimes I wondered what she was doing besides being lost in thought while all this furious action was taking place. Also feel the subplots of Margaret; Daphne's client, and Billy Chen were there strictly for plot purposes, not for their necessity to the story. However, these are minor quibbles. The gruesome level is fairly high, but manageable for all but the very faint hearted. "The Art of Deception" is an excellent addition to Ridley Pearson's fine stories.
-sweetmolly-Amazon Reviewer

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