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Jessica Lux RSS Feed (Rosamond, CA)

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The Dead of Summer
The Dead of Summer
by Camilla Way
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.00
90 used & new from $0.01

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taut and intimate prose in a literary thriller, September 11, 2008
This review is from: The Dead of Summer (Hardcover)
Review originally published in the Hipster Book Club, August 2008

In Camilla Way's debut novel, a trio of teenage social misfits spends a sweltering British summer exploring the wharf area of southeast London. The Dead of Summer is narrated by thirteen-year-old Anita, a motherless child who is the sole witness and survivor to a bloody crime at the end of the summer. As the book opens, the reader is told, "By the end of that summer three of us were dead. But you already knew that. Tell me, does your pulse quicken when you see the headlines?"

Anita Naidu is the daughter of a Pakistani father and a British mother. After her mum passes away, her father turns to endless alcohol-fueled hours in front of the television, her older sisters busy themselves dressing up and going out to meet men, and her older brother aligns himself with criminal elements that bring in easy cash and flashy material possessions. Anita, bullied as a "skint Paki" at school, spends solitary hours missing her mother and suffering isolation from her extended family, who never supported the mixed marriage.

Searching for her place in the world while fighting her own psychological pain, Anita falls in step with two other loners at school: the overweight, socially awkward Denis and the skinny, violent Kyle. Kyle is the de facto group leader, but he does not actively seek a leadership role. Rather, as the most daring, reckless member of the group, he is always concocting new spur-of-the-moment adventures as his friends scramble to catch up. Kyle dreams of finding an entrance to Greenwich's abandoned salt mines and living in an alternate cave world, away from the painful existence of life in London's slums. In his more deviant moments, Kyle's adventures graduate from youthful exploration fantasies to cruel sadism.

Way's prose is taut and intimate. The brutal reality of life near the wharf is evident at every turn. Bums are tormented, bullies viciously stalk the misfits, and the children play in abandoned junk yards and polluted rivers. The world of these students is devoid of parents, money, and opportunity. Anita discovers that Kyle lost his sister under mysterious circumstances a year ago, so she spends the summer alternately trying to impress her friend with her cave-sleuthing skills and investigating his background. From the hushed discussions of adults, it is apparent that Kyle's sister was abducted, but her body was never found.

Anita is both enamored of Kyle and scared by him. She suspects there is more to the story of his sister's abduction, especially after finding mementos of the little girl's existence in her friend's possession. Both Anita and the reader are desperately curious to learn more about this sullen, volatile boy who shuns nearly all human contact. Kyle's gregarious grandfather is the only kindly adult Anita's life, yet his own grandson recoils at spending time around him. Kyle's mother is a timid ghost of a woman who ventures out to make child-like observations before returning to seclusion on upper floor of her home.

As this psychological thriller unfolds, Anita uncovers several secrets in Kyle's family history. She also reveals her own secrets which were buried when her mother died. Author Camilla Way ventures inside the mind of teenage criminals with this latest literary fiction offering. The plot develops naturally and quickly; the author does not waste words dragging out her twists and turns. The reader is told to expect a bloody, headline-grabbing crime from the novel's opening, but Camilla Way manages to evoke a truly frightening picture of the criminal psyche in her teenaged characters.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2008 8:15 AM PDT

Gardening the Mediterranean Way: How to Create a Waterwise, Drought-Tolerant Garden
Gardening the Mediterranean Way: How to Create a Waterwise, Drought-Tolerant Garden
by Heidi Gildemeister
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.60
37 used & new from $15.00

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treatise on water-wise, drought-tolerant gardening from an expert in the field, August 20, 2008
Heidi Gildemeister's garden manual was written for disciplined gardeners who want to live the Mediterranean way and work in harmony with their surroundings. The book describes the process of creating a water-wise, drought-tolerant landscape using native plants. Two introductory chapters cover plant selection, avoiding invasive species, drought survival, layout. color, scale, proportion, and atmosphere. The bulk of the text consists of examples of your personal Eden - dream gardens from which the reader can draw inspiration. Features gardens include an abandoned farm, an urban garden, terracing, a coastal garden, and fruit and vegetable gardens. Includes plant list, glossary, vendor list, bibliography, and full index.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 31, 2008 2:41 PM PDT

Dryland Gardening: Plants that Survive and Thrive in Tough Conditions
Dryland Gardening: Plants that Survive and Thrive in Tough Conditions
by Jennifer Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.95
88 used & new from $0.01

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An overview of low-water gardening. You'll need another manual if you want to overhaul your own landscaping., August 20, 2008
Jennifer Bennett's DRYLAND GARDENING is a well-structured and well-researched guide to plants that survive and thrive in tough conditions. The author describes herbs, ground covers, bulbs, vines, flowers, and shrubs that will withstand the inevitable drought she (and many scientists) believe our world will be facing in a matter of years.

DRYLAND GARDENING is best read as an overview of alternative garden theories. The reader will be introduced to dozens of species and techniques, complete with illustrations. For a major garden overhaul, however, a more detailed climate-specific manual should be purchased. If you read DRYLAND GARDENING and are inspired to modify your landscaping, I recommend picking up Ortho's All About Dry Climate Gardening or a title from the Sunset series.

If I did it : Confessions of the Killer
If I did it : Confessions of the Killer
by O. J. Simpson
Edition: Hardcover
75 used & new from $3.66

42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "hypothetical confession" recorded by a meticulous ghostwriter. Bravo to the Goldmans for releasing this., July 14, 2008
O.J. Simpson's 2007 hypothetical murder confession is worth your attention, not as a confession, but as a glimpse inside the man who is O.J. Simpson, the celebrity who flaunted getting away with murder. IF I DID IT: CONFESSIONS OF THE KILLER provides a new perspective on the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. As published, this book is truly the story of the Goldman family. The family wrote the forward, explaining their reasons for publishing the manuscript; the afterword was written by renowned crime journalist and close Goldman family friend Dominick Dunne. The eight-chapter story of the Brown-Simpson marriage and year preceding Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman's murders constitutes the bulk of this text, but that narrative is best read in the context provided by this publication.

Simpson's version of events places blame on Nicole Brown Simpson, who is portrayed herein as an emotionally unstable drug addict. He describes the two famous 911 calls during their seventeen-year marriage as isolated incidents for which both parties were responsible. He adamantly denies being an abuser; in Simpson's portrayal of the marriage, he is the stable, responsible one who reacted to Nicole's mood swings. A classic wife abuser, Simpson blames the victim, an unstable woman who drove him to extremes. The pair separated two years before the murders but had been in reconciliation discussions for the last year. By Simpson's description, Nicole was prone to violent mood swings and changed her mind about reconciliation on a daily basis.

Co-author Pablo Fenjves, a Brentwood neighbor of O.J. Simpson and witness at the murder trial, interviewed Simpson over a matter of weeks to ghostwrite the confession. The sports star was forthcoming about his marital troubles and opinions on Nicole's cocaine-using friends, but froze when it came to the material for "Chapter 6: The Night in Question." Fenjves claims that Simpson wanted to exclude that material from the book, despite the fact that Simpson's handlers had promised publisher Judith Regan that this would be a confession in every manner. When the project came to light, Simpson attempted to distance himself from the actual confession, but Fenjves is adamant that he has included only the words and sentiments of the man himself, and Simpson did sign off on the final manuscript.

O.J. Simpson's hypothetical confession to the Simpson-Goldman murders reveals details that only the killer could know. It is worthwhile to note that the hypothetical confession never contradicts any of the case evidence, and in fact, it explains several discrepancies which existed in the prosecution's theory of the murder. O.J. reveals that after leaving his ex-wife's house, he stripped and wrapped his clothes in a ball, which would explain the lack of blood evidence in the vehicle he was driving. He also discloses that his point of entry was a broken rear gate to the mansion and that he had an encounter with Goldman outside the house before confronting Nicole.

The Simpson camp conceived IF I DID IT as a retirement project, a way to profit off murder despite the civil judgment the Goldman and Brown families received in their wrongful death and battery suit against Simpson. After being found liable for the murders in his 1997 civil trial, Simpson was able to avoid paying damages to the Goldman and Brown families through the use of bankruptcy court and sham corporations set up in his children's names. For IF I DID IT, he received an advance of just under one million dollars, none of which the Goldmans or Browns saw, and he expected to receive lifelong payments in his children's names. When the project came to light, causing public outcry, HarperCollins dissolved its ReganBooks imprint, which had sponsored the project, and Simpson wound up in court over the rights to the manuscript. In bankruptcy court, the manuscript was considered an asset, and as such it needed to be liquidated (published) so that Simpson's creditors could be paid. In the foreward, the Goldman family explains how, after reading the book's contents, they decided to publish the confession themselves and control the income from the project.

With the publication of IF I DID IT, America has received one more chapter on its most infamous celebrity murder trial, and the Goldman family has finally imposed punitive damages on the man they believe is responsible for the murder of their son. The manuscript was improved by the addition of the Goldman preface, comments from writer Pablo F. Fenjves about the confession process, and Dominick Dunne's conclusion about the rights of victim's families. If I Did It is a strange piece of justice for the Goldman family and a fascinating read for the public who was gripped by the televised circus of the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2008 4:56 PM PDT

The White Darkness
The White Darkness
by Geraldine McCaughrean
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from $1.55

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An insatiable lust for the Antarctic, July 6, 2008
This review is from: The White Darkness (Hardcover)
Fourteen year-old Sym is a classic young adult protagonist - the partially deaf social outcast who loses herself in intellectual pursuits and gets the boy in the end. Sym is obsessed with the white darkness of Antarctica, which is the favorite subject of her stand-in father, the wannabe adventurer Uncle Victor. Uncle Victor and Sym share a private world of science and history which makes Sym's outward life more bearable, especially after the death of her father.

As the story opens, Uncle Victor surprises Sym with an elite tourist expedition to the South Pole. Victor reveals that he is on a quest for Symme's Hole, a secret, mythical entrance to an underground civilization at the center of the earth. The reader will quickly realize that Victor harms others in his singleminded pursuit of adventure, but our narrator is painfully blind to Uncle Victor's sociopathic behavior. She passively accompanies him without questioning why he stranded her mother at home, destroyed their cell phone, and drugged their friends on the expedition. As the novel unfolds further, Sym slowly realizes how manipulative and deceitful Uncle Victor has been her entire life, and she is faced with life-or-death survival in the company of a maniac.

THE WHITE DARKNESS is an adventure tale, a romance, and a coming-of-age story. The novel is lyrically beautiful on the subject of the South Pole, but the protagonist's extreme passivity and lack of awareness render parts of the narrative slow and frustrating to read. Still, I was hooked by the suspense, and I enjoyed the voyage through this queer, white world.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 13, 2008 10:52 AM PDT

My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro
My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Edition: Hardcover
97 used & new from $0.01

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the classics and the literary talents of the moment in this beautiful volume, June 30, 2008
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides (MIDDLESEX) edited a Valentine's Day 2008 collection of love stories entitled MY MISTRESS'S SPARROW IS DEAD (the title is derived from the work of Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus). The book's cover features an anatomical heart, indicating that this is not your standard Valentine's Day mush. The editor describes the collection as such: "A love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims -- these are lucky eventualities but they aren't love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name."

Stories by classic authors such as Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Nabokov, and William Trevor are included, but the collection also includes works by literary talents of the moment like Miranda July and and Lorrie Moore. Love topics include adultery ("How to Be an Other Woman" and "Lovers of Their Time"), forbidden love ("The Moon in Its Flight" and "Spring in Fialta"), and celebrated, ambiguous stories of love such as Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog." There are a total of 27 stories in all - plenty of material to cure any reader's broken heart or fend off thoughts of an affair.

All proceeds from of the sale of this book fund the free youth writing programs offered by 826 Chicago.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2008 11:28 AM PDT

How to Do Your Own Divorce in California: Everything You Need for an Uncontested Divorce of a Marriage or a Domestic Partnership
How to Do Your Own Divorce in California: Everything You Need for an Uncontested Divorce of a Marriage or a Domestic Partnership
by Ed Sherman
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from $0.61

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can do it all with this invaluable title, June 1, 2008
Nolo Press was founded in 1971 specifically for the purpose of publishing the first edition of this title. The Nolo principle is that not all legal transactions require retention of a lawyer, and in the state of California, for an uncontested divorce between two parties, tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees can be saved with the purchase of this $30 title (which is regularly 30% off from Amazon).

This book is a step-by-step guide to the divorce process and each of the forms necessary for filing for divorce in California. The text explains the hows and whys of the filing process and warns of potential pitfalls that can cause filings to be rejected or invalidated in the future.

My husband and I separated after a two year marriage and worked amicably through the process with the aid of this book. We knew that we would save a bundle of money by avoiding hiring lawyers to do discovery on our behalf, and we wanted to split up our property and move on as painlessly as possible. We each purchased a copy of this book and used it to file all the forms in our county courthouse. There is a helpline for telephone consultations at a reasonable rate, and we spent a few hundred dollars to get advice on the Separation Agreement we had drafted together (detailing financial and personal property separation as well as our agreement on our joint mortgage). We got big bang for our buck by having a helpline lawyer personally go over our Separation Agreement and we were confident with filing all the paperwork ourselves.

This book is intended for unconstested, fairly amicable divorces. If one party is out to "get" the other, the services of a lawyer may be required. Nolo recommends mediation before litigation if at all possible, to save money and effort. The authors remind the reader that lawyers do not have the consumer's best interest at heart--their first priority is to protect themselves from malpractice lawsuits, and so they will be as thorough (and costly) as possible to meet that need.

If you are considering leaving your spouse and do not anticipate an amicable divorce, I would recommend purchasing Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce instead of this book. That has all of the overview information of this title, with additional specifics on mediation and litigation that will help your case if it is going to be in those arenas instead of the do-it-yourself category.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 20, 2008 8:09 PM PDT

Couples Who Kill
Couples Who Kill
by Carol Anne Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.20
32 used & new from $0.01

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly researched criminal profiles, May 26, 2008
This review is from: Couples Who Kill (Paperback)
Scottish true-crime writer Carol Anne Davis (who blogs at the outstanding In Cold Blog) released this collection of profiles of deviant duos in the UK in 2005. Three years later, this chilling collection is available to U.S. readers in a paperback printing. Davis discusses the most famous UK serial murder couples -- the moors murders and the case of Fred and Rosemary West - plus over a dozen more murdering couples from around the globe. She pays special attention to her subjects' childhoods, cataloging the physical and sexual abuse that is so common in their backgrounds.

Carol Anne Davis organizes her crime profiles by type -- couples who kill together vs. couples in which one partner is exonerated vs. homosexual couples, and so on. She does the headline-grabbing cases well, and introduces the reader to a number of other lesser-known (but no less fascinating) serial murderers. Her essays are complete criminal profiles, including the detective work required to take these criminals down. Highly recommended for true crime fans.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2009 3:22 PM PST

About the House with Henri de Marne: How to maintain, repair, upgrade, and enjoy your home
About the House with Henri de Marne: How to maintain, repair, upgrade, and enjoy your home
by Henri de Marne
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.95
76 used & new from $0.51

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable reference for readers of Henri De Marne's column, May 10, 2008
Henri De Marne publishes a nationally syndicated column called "First Aid for the Ailing House," in which he answers homeowners' questions about how to maintain, repair, upgrade, and enjoy their homes. If you are a fan of the column, buy this book pronto. De Marne has over three decades of experience with home maintenance and this volume collects all his advice into nine chapters organized by section of the house (roof, exterior, plumbing, etc.). It includes an extensive index which cross-lists items under as many names as possible. If you have a question and De Marne has ever answered it, you can locate his advice in a few seconds with this book.

This reviewer purchased About the House not because she was a fan of the column, but as part of a search for a good new homeowner reference book. This has been recommended as a great gift for a new homeowner, and I disagree with that recommendation. This is a great book for an experienced homeowner or a regular reader of the column. It is not organized in a fashion that is relevant to new homeowners, who need step-by-step maintenance and care instructions and would be aided by illustrations (which this book lacks, for the most part).

Know what you are getting into, and buy this book if it meets your need. This is not a gift book for the first-time homeowner.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 15, 2008 5:19 PM PDT

People: True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America
People: True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America
by Editors of People Magazine
Edition: Hardcover
56 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book revealing human interest stories which turn celebrity as America watches the investigations, indictments, and trials, April 30, 2008
People Weekly magazine has captured the last 30 years of true crime stories in magazine-style reporting that includes multi-page feature articles as well as sidebars and photo spreads. People, originally a feature in Time Magazine, has been consistently lauded for excellence in editing and circulation, and since 2001 has maintained a 50/50 ratio of celebrity coverage to human interest coverage. In many ways, true crime reporting represents the nexus of celebrity (albeit usually unintentional celebrity) and human interest news reporting.

The 144-page book opens with murder - cold-blooded, pre-meditated homicide, from Andrew Cunanan to Scott Peterson. Other opening chapters focus on unusual criminals, crimes of passion, crimes that are stranger than fiction, serial killers, and murderous con artists. The profile of female con artist Sante Kimes, leader of a mother-son team, is chillingly captivating. Strange high-profile crimes focus on the fraudulent billing of the agency that ran Miss Cleo psychic ads and the fertility doctor who sold a method of treating an infertile husband's sperm for re-insemination that was really the doctor's own sperm! Crimes that went in and out of the headlines over a matter of decades are also described in detail, as well as the unsolved mysteries and sudden twists of national true crime.

Of course, Hollywood celebrities do take up a few chapters, from "The Many Trials of O.J." to "The Fall and Fall of Michael Jackson" to "Martha in the Big House" and the more recent Phil Spector and Robert Blake murder indictments. Several pages are devoted to the guilty pleasure of celebrity mug shots. There is even an entire section devoted to analysis and critique of the made-for-TV movies based on the true crimes of the last few decades. This is a highly-recommended coffee table book for any subscriber of People or fan of true crime from the macabre to the bizarre.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 14, 2008 8:35 PM PDT

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