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Shadowland
Shadowland
by Peter Straub
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
109 used & new from $0.01

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, it really is that good. 5 stars easily., February 27, 2006
This review is from: Shadowland (Mass Market Paperback)
What a work. I originally read it a decade ago as a kid, I recently picked it up again, and wow, it's even better this time around. Another reviewer noted that it's a shame this book doesn't get more attention among the works of Peter Straub - that reviewer is absolutely dead on. I'd still have to rank it, among Straub's books, a close second - how can you top "Ghost Story?" Well, "Shadowland" comes very, very close to doing just that.

I imagine this is the kind of book that, as a writer, after you finish it, you kind of lean back in your chair, smile, and say, "Ah, I really am that damn good." It has incredible settings. The prep school in Arizona pulls off as interesting dichotomy: it feels, for a large part, like a true-to-life coming of age story, rich in detail and characterization, that you would expect from the era it is set in. But it also has that dark, supernatural twist, and that aura of "something is terribly wrong" that makes it such a delicious read that brings to mind Graham Joyce in his element.

And Shadowland itself! Shadowland, that great estate! Shadowland equals and, dare I say, surpasses in places, masters like Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker in fashioning and sculpting a truly gripping and fantastic world. The sights, sounds, spectacles, and characters of Shadowland are fantastic.

I'm not going to outline the plot in any real depth, it's been done on here already. The book is one of the greatest of the "horror bildungsromans" in existence. It is told in a narrative form that flashes between the past and "present," which I did not find confusing at all. I think it seemed like a natural and rich way to get at the story.

The main characters are Del and the protagonist Tom. Both are marvelously fleshed out. Coleman Collins is a great character, a man who seems to be a gregarious if somewhat somewhat rough-around-the-edges and mysterious magician. Early in the book he comes off sort of as a hard-drinking, "black-sheep-uncle-of-the-family" with some sordid elements. He tells the boys (and the readers) great stories, takes them to wondrous places in their minds, and puts on grand shows and illusions in his elaborate and huge house of tricks. Later however, it appears he may be far more sinister and calculating than expected. The mysterious and lovely Rose is another fascinating character, whose introduction into the story adds a major wrinkle to the plot. Skeleton Ridpath is an effective villain whose later appearance is a surprise once it is understood, and horrifying.

I could go on and on, but the point should be clear by now - this is a great book, a work of art in my opinion. Do not be put off by other reviews that compare it to Harry Potter (Shadowland came first by more than a decade and is more complex, darker, and more intelligent) or reviews that complain about the book because it does not have a straight arrow, linear narrative style. This is a satisfying read that has a lot of treasures to offer up. I would recommend it to anyone.


Tattoo Girl
Tattoo Girl
by Brooke Stevens
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from $2.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good, strange read., February 27, 2006
This review is from: Tattoo Girl (Hardcover)
I saw this book in the library, so I picked up, thinking it looked interesting. My hunch proved correct. It's about a former circus fat lady, Lucy, who has since lost weight but not the scars from a painful and humiliating existence. She hears about another "freak," a girl with tattoos all over her body who was left at a mall. Determined to save the girl from being an outcast, or displaying a solidarity among "freaks," she demands to adopt the girl, who does not speak, in an improbable scene that testifies to her character. All is not well, however - there is a murderous band of men determined to have the girl, who Lucy names Emma, back at any cost.

Brooke Stevens creates an interesting world; we get to meet Lucy's ex-love, a dwarf, and other colorful circus characters, as well as the sinister organization headquartered in a decrepit West Virginia town. Another reviewer complained of the book not being realistic - that's unfair, it isn't meant to be. Few people dock authors like Christopher Moore or Jonathan Carroll from lack of realism, and that is also not the intention here, obviously.

The book was fairly fast-paced and enjoyable, with a great relationship between Lucy and Emma and compelling backstory of her circus days and the abuse she suffered in her childhood; however when you get on toward the ending you find it to be more strange than satisfying or compelling, and the convenient tying together of the past and present in one character in particular feels contrived.

Still, this is a good book and I recommend it to those who look for their fiction a few shades on the side of "unrealism."


After Silence
After Silence
by Jonathan Carroll
Edition: Paperback
52 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good novel, but not Carroll's best to be certain., February 26, 2006
This review is from: After Silence (Paperback)
If you're looking to start on Jonathan Carroll's works, this might be a nice place start because it's easier for the average reader to get into than a number of his better novels, which demand a more open mind and greater suspension of disbelief, but which subsequently yield greater rewards.

"After Silence" is a nice novel but one that feels a bit more dated than most of his other works. I read it 7 years ago, and while it felt somewhat more contemporary, that isn't really the problem. It lacks the strong sense of the author's impossibly dead-on sight with which he views the world and filters those sensibilities through a warped glass back to his readers, as well as more of his trademark flights of fantasy and fancy found elsewhere.

I'm rather shocked the editorial reviews give away so much of the book - that's a shame. But in case it seems like I'm taking a lot of shots at this book, I did give it 4 stars, and I did enjoy it. Ironically, if it were a book from an author I'd never heard of, I'd be heaping more praise on it.

Max Fischer is a Los Angeles cartoonist whose life is missing a little something. He finds it in love of a woman, Lily, who has an interesting and lovable son, Lincoln. She works at a homey, warm restaurant that brings a lot of joy and some interesting characters into their lives.

Max finds out a secret about Lily. He says and does nothing about it virtually.

We move ahead in time. The secret ends up having disastrous effects, but it is not clear at all that Max could've done anything to prevent what happened. That's the rub. Even if he acted on the secret and told the concerned party, the end may have been inevitable.

This book is pervaded by a strong sense of loss. How does a child so bright and wonderful, full of so much curiousity and love, turn into such a cynical, hateful *thing*? How do such relationships go wrong? We see this sense of horrifying loss and the psychological, emotional, and physical beatings life inflicts on people in an interesting scene with one of Lincoln's friends and Max, a scene of what is sometimes called "magical realism" of which Carroll makes more ample use of in other novels.

"After Silence" is a very good book, well-written, but as I said before, it is not Carroll's best. It's a decent place to start out, it's a lot more grounded in reality and straightforward than many of his novels. This one is still one of his better novels though. If I had to do some improvisational ranking, however, I did prefer "The Wooden Sea," "Land of Laughs," "From The Teeth Of Angels," "Sleeping In Flame," the collection "The Panic Hand," and "Outside the Dog Museum" to "After Silence." Just my opinion at this point and time.

Make no mistake about it though - this is a genuinely affecting novel. Recommended.


Shards: A Dark Mystery
Shards: A Dark Mystery
by Tom Piccirilli
Edition: Paperback
21 used & new from $1.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a little iffy., February 26, 2006
This review is from: Shards: A Dark Mystery (Paperback)
I debated between giving this book 3 or 4 stars, and finally settled on 4. It's not that it's bad (it's not) it's pretty good, but it's also fairly standard, routine, and pedestrian. There's a million books out there similar to this one, and I suppose my expectations may have been too high.

That may be due to the author, Tom Piccirilli. The book has his distinctive writing style, but little of the ambition he usually shows in his "horror" novels. I'm not always on board with what Piccirilli does, at times his writing style seems like a cover for a fundamental lack of ideas ("Hexes") he's been to the "murder remembered from childhood" trough a few too many times (nearly every one I've read), and his symbolism can be hackneyed (a man who bleeds from stigmata). But when he succeeds, you can forgive the missteps because the end result is an intelligent and satisfying horror read, like "A Lower Deep" or my favorite Piccirilli novel, "The Night Class."

"Shards" is indeed, as touted, a "dark mystery." It's a somewhat standard hard-boiled mystery that is saved from being completely perfunctory by Piccirilli's near-signature flourishes. Nathaniel Follows Jr. is a hard-boiled detective novel author. His father and brother were involved in some seriously unpleasant business years ago that still troubles him. He and his girlfriend break up, and he drives out to the coast to get over his sorrow. He meets a mysterious young woman who enchants him and invites him to her mansion. She is entwining him in a plot he'll be unable to extricate himself from, not realizing it until it's too late...

I don't want to give away anymore than that. If you like Piccirilli in general you should like this book. If you like mysteries you'll like this book. But don't expect to be blown away.


Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story
Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story
by Clive Barker
Edition: Hardcover
41 used & new from $1.40

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I like Clive Barker, but I don't like this book., February 16, 2006
I'm a big Clive Barker fan. Obviously, that's why I read this book. "Abarat" is a great series. "The Books of Blood" are watershed works in horror. "Dread" and "The Madonna" are two of the best horror stories I've ever read. "Imajica" should be celebrated just for its scope and ambition alone. "The Damnation Game" and "Cabal" are very good horror works as well. "Thief Of Always" and "Sacrament" are very nice and accomplished departures from the usual Clive Barker.

However, I am afraid there is little to be said about Coldheart Canyon to recommend it. It's difficult to explain what I don't like about it without giving some majors spoilers, but I'll try.

First of all, the introduction. I find it rather ironic that in a book that concerns itself heavily with "the pride goeth before the fall" or the pitfalls of ego, Barker writes a largely self-congratulatory introduction in which he speaks of what a multimedia force he's become and how awesome the contracts he gets are. Uh, that's great Mr. Barker. We all know you're a success. I wasn't really old enough to appreciate or remember the release of the movie Hellraiser when it first came out, but I knew from a young age that as far back as I could remember Barker was a seminal name in horror, along with the likes of Stephen King. An introduction where he pats himself on the pat for being such a creative guy and landing contracts that require a table of contents seems like the actions of his main character in the novel, Todd Pickett, somewhat jarring.

Barker then later paints himself as a "Hollywood insider" (people may think of themselves that way, but it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually refer to yourself as a "Hollywood insider.") At this point it's become quite clear Barker has a fantastic opinion of himself. But how is the book?

I am fully aware of when this book was published, but for a "Hollywood insider" Barker comes off like a guy who left Hollywood in 1996-7 and joined the Peace Corps, as has little knowledge of what happened since. Nearly all of his references to real Hollywood movies, actors, and events in actuality and the ones he makes "sly" allusions to are almost painfully dated. It's a little silly.

For a Hollywood insider, Barker disappoints: he gives us the same tired, bland, hackneyed "insider's view" of Hollywood that has been served up countless times, with no twists. Hollywood is a teeming rat's nest where the actors are insincere, attention-starved, and shallow (after two characters presumably drown themselves the actors act shocked for a few seconds then go back to cracking jokes - come on), the producers are angry, short little men who threaten to sue whenever they're crossed, and astonishingly people allow themselves to be goaded this way. If you were holding a party, and someone who wasn't invited broke in and attacked one of your guests, would you go along with the guest to hunt this person down because he made a lame threat to sue you? No, you wouldn't. But in Barker's world of unlikely devices necessary to move the plot along, you can be sure characters will often act in ridiculous ways through the most spurious and unbelievable motivations.

Anyway, Hollywood is full of liars, cheaters, phonies, and sycophants. Stop the presses! The characterization is so shallow, except for Tammy, that it's unbelievable. Even the ways Barker tries to "humanize" the characters (they were once good but greed and Hollywood tainted them) are cliched, trite, and perfunctory.

If you've read the description on the Amazon page, you don't need me to recap the basic plot. The problem in this book is that things happen not because they should happen, but because they need to happen, and Barker gives unconvincing reasons why they do. The Devil's Country, for example. It was built for a very definite purpose, but with this purpose in mind, there's no reason it should have the effect on people that it does. Why does it then? Because there would be no book without it. When you know why the Devil's Country was built, you realize there is no reason why it should enchant and addict people, except that you wouldn't have any story without it.

Even more galling, after the book reaches its natural conclusion, Barker tacks on an extra, and totally unnecessary 110 pages or so on to the book. Why? I have little idea. Perhaps to make it more epic. I'm afraid I must use spoilers here:

START SPOILERS - DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK

The Angel and Todd. We all know Todd should go with the Angel. Tammy and Maxine even suggest as much. Ghosts are not meant to be roaming the human world, clearly. But Todd doesn't want to go with the Angel. So the book spends a lot of useless time trying to figure out how to avoid the Angel. Then they put into action the plan to avoid the Angel. Then they get wrecked, and Todd decides to go with the Angel anyway. Brilliant. This is one of the most clear-cut examples of "book filler" that I've ever seen since the Wheel of Time series. Also, the whole ending that the national tabloids are going to be interested in Tammy (this would never happened in real life) or that Maxine is going to fall in love with Tammy is simply ludicrous.

END SPOILERS - CONTINUE READING FROM HERE

I did appreciate the character of Katya. I felt it was interesting that she got more sympathetic in the middle of the book's sequence of events, but then she took the standard character route of villains and that was something of a disappointment. The Devil's Country was interestingly described but Barker has done a much better job describing the sins of the flesh and the degredation mankind and the supernatural can inflict and the horrors they bring in the past.

In conclusion, I cannot recommend this book to general horror fans or even Clive Barker fans.


Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-To-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies)
Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-To-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies)
by James F. Balch
Edition: Paperback
342 used & new from $0.01

53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great reference book but some of the advice may be iffy - or worse. Supplement it with other research., January 31, 2006
I do like this book and follow a lot of what it has said. It has proven to be of great help to me in some cases, others, not as much. So, let it be known that I do value this book, I do appreciate the work put into collecting this data and making it available to the general public, and the idea of empowering people to make smart choices about their health. I have utilized some of the information in this book myself.

But I do have criticisms. I will focus more heavily on those than on the positives because the positives are mostly covered in others reviews, but remember, I am giving this 4 stars, not 2.

Someone pointed out that my criticisms were more geared toward the earlier edition, but I looked over the newest one and still found examples of what I was talking about.

Some of the upper limits (ULs) for supplements are highly questionable, or whether such high doses or necessary or provide any benefit at all. For example, in some conditions the book calls for 3 doses of Vitamin B-50 a day. 3 doses? I would not do that. You take 3 doses of B-50 a day and you're overdosing on B-6, you're probably overdosing on Folic Acid, and you're getting more B-3 (niacin) than I'm comfortable with. Moreover, riboflavin is reported to have no benefit at doses over 20 mg and doses over that may contribute to cataracts. Excessive riboflavin causes your urine to turn a neon green - that's wasted riboflavin passing through your urine. It's not doing you any good. Now, I'm a huge fan of pantothenic acid, B-12, and biotin, but 150 mg of the rest of the vitamins (or 1200 of Folic Acid) is too much. Every doctor I've talked to agrees. It's simply a wasted mega dose for most people. There's probably cases where it isn't, but I'll allow for that. I can't think of any case possible where you'd need 150 mg of B-6. It's kind of crazy.

The worst case of all is the author's love affair with doses of Retinol (Vitamin A) that make me cringe. I've seen him advocate some frighteningly high doses. Go talk to your doctor, and ask him if you need 10,000 IU or more of Retinol a day. He's going to say no. That much Retinol is asking for serious liver problems. It's almost scary he didn't put some kind of larger disclaimer in there, I wouldn't take that much even in this "emulsion" form he's so quick to tout. 5,000 IU of Retinol a day should be plenty. It's like if you've got 1st degree burns all over your body 5,000 IU of Retinol is going to leave you a mess and 10,000 IU won't. Some of this is oversimplified.

Some of the recommended doses of Vitamin C are preposterous. 10,000 mg of Vitamin C a day? I believe for some conditions he advocates even more. Many studies show your body can't use more than 500 mg of Vitamin C at a time. So the authors could do a better job explaining what they mean by divided doses. I could see, for some conditions, taking 500 mg of buffered Vitamin C with some food every 2 waking hours or so for maximum Vitamin C supplementation. But even that is too high for some doctors, one doctor says that anything over 2000 mg of Vitamin C a day produces a kind of toxin that attacks your system. I currently don't have the report handy that states the name of the toxin. 1500-3000 mg of Vitamin C seems to be the recommended amount for maximum Vitamin C supplementation, according to the experts and doctors. 10,000 mg (10 grams!) a day to me seems mind-boggling.

Some of the brand names he uses can be substituted, and this is not made clear. Kyolic Garlic is not the only quality garlic formula - the Imperial 6500 sold by Vitamin World and Puritan's Pride is a good value, which may be a nice alternative for people not willing to plunk down (...)for Kyolic's 30 day supply.

Lastly, some poor interactions might be better pointed out - the inadvisable situation of combining inorganic iron and Vitamin E, for example.

Some of the lists of vitamins and supplements to take are incredibly long - many doctors have expressed concern over the strain on your organs such as kidneys in processing 50 or more supplemental tablets, capsules, etc. a day.

My biggest criticism is the sometimes outrageous upper limits on vitamins, as I have stated above. DO OTHER RESEARCH. A LOT OF OTHER RESEARCH. CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR. Don't just just quaffing down 150 mg of B-6 just because the book says so. And be sure you're aware of other supplements you might be taking without knowing it, like fortified cereals or breads. This is why I stop well short of ULs.

Just be safe and know what you are doing.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2014 5:04 PM PDT


Paris by Night
Paris by Night
by Brassai
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from $26.86

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have the edition published in the 70s and see no problems with the pictures., January 31, 2006
This review is from: Paris by Night (Hardcover)
On newer editions I hear there are problems, though. Older editions should be availble for a reasonable price if you look in the right places.

As for the book itself - WOW. I've also had a very strong affinity for two subjects this book covers - the seamier, hidden side of cities, and 1920s-1930s Paris. In the text he added to the 1970s edition, Brassai lamented how, even in the 1970s, the seedy Paris he had grown up with and loved was dead. He questioned the idea of prettying up everything and cities losing character. It is more true now, 3 decades after it was written, then it was then. Brassai lamented the loss of, among other things, gas lighting, street urinals, clochards (the homeless who lived under the bridges), the Les Halles market, and many other things. Likewise, in modern times, it's hard to stroll down the almost nauseatingly hip Rue de Lappe and believe it was once the biggest streetwalker hangout in all of Europe at the time, or that the Place de Contrescarpe or Rue Mouffetard were seedy.

But they were, and it makes more fascinating reading and viewing. Brassai draws us into his secret world, and I thank him for doing so. He weaves for us an engaging and fascinating look at the Parisian world of the time as any Balzac or Proust novel, I believe that.

He brings us pictures of lovers, seamy carnivals and dance halls, sewage sanitation workers making their nightly rounds, homeless people living under a bridge with their pets, a mysterious fat woman, an opium den, cabarets, prostitutes, small-time cons and hoods, cops, urinals, and much more. It is a truly fascinating world of a time long past he brings us into. I liked all the pictures greatly, but in particular, I liked the carnival pictures, the shots from atop Notre Dame at night, the picture of the guy standing up and kissing his girlfriend on the carnival ride was a sweet moment frozen in time, the two lovers sharing a tender moment looking at each other on a street, the opium den photos, the "novice" prosititute, heck, I may as well just stick to my original sentiment - they're all great.

Everyone should read and view this book, even if the subject matter hasn't interested them up to this point. It's a look at a time and place paradoxically radically different and not so different from our own.


The Crazy Years: Paris in the Twenties
The Crazy Years: Paris in the Twenties
by William Wiser
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from $9.99

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I simply love this book. One of the best books on Paris in the 1920s., January 30, 2006
This is a fantastic book that is set up in an ingenuous way. Somehow it takes you through the Paris of the 1920s both chrononologically and thematically - not an easy task, a fact one appreciates better when one is reading the book.

The book does an amazing job of reconstructing Paris of the 1920s, in my opinion, and I am an amateur historian on the era, having read countless books on this magical time and place.

It touches base on all the major events of the era, and many of the minor, with an eye toward the crazy, the wacky, the hopelessly mad and romantic people and events of the area. It is, all at once, a treatise on the geography, politics, art, literature, music, history, and a Who's Who of Paris at the time, with properly historical context given. It begins with an insane president and the romantic, almost cliche, deaths of Modigliani and his lover. But it really happened. A lot of what you read in this book you can hardly believe happened. But it was a different time, a different era - in many ways sadder and more repressive, in other ways the books conveyes an almost impossible (in this modern world) feeling of freedom and anything being possible, at a time when a seeming majority of the world's brilliant and uninhibited minds were all gathered in one place to live the wild life of the bohemian intellectual for relatively cheaply, but where death was also sadly just around the corner in many cases.

This book covers it all - from Nancy Cunard, Kiki of Montparnasse, Man Ray, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, Hemingway, the Faulkners, Josephine Baker, Charles Lindbergh's grand triumph, Picasso, Isadora, Coco Chanel, the Crosbys, Hart Crane, e.e. cummings, Jean Cocteau, Samuel Beckett, Dos Passos, Virgil Thomson, and more, so many more, virtually anyone who was anyone at the time. The themes it covers range from the music of Paris, the wave of Russian immigrantion (most fascinating), lesbianism, the effect of rich Americans on Paris, and many others.

Even if you're not a huge fan of 1920s Paris like I am this book is a must-read, just for the sheer humanness and drama of humanity that it has to tell. The tale of Harry and Caresse Crosby is nothing short of riveting. Rock stars did not live lives so bizarre and excessive as these two did. The story of the death of Modigliani and his lover was sad and poignant; the deaths of Katherine Mansfield and Raymond Radiguet, and the horrifying death of Isadora Duncan remind us how frail life was at this time, but oh, how brilliantly it could shine. The tale of the insane French president Paul Deschanel was almost too much to be believed and oddly appropriate. The story of e.e. cummings' lost prostitute love was also an enchanting one. To have lived in such a way! The story of the artists' colony known as the Hive is one of my favorites. Read it!

This book needs to be read just for the breadth of the stories, to hear how people, extraordinary and ordinary, lived their lives in the past. The book ends appropriately with the stock market crash and an epilogue bringing us back to the time when the book was written (more than 3 decades ago as I write this), reminding us, that while much of the magic of Paris is gone (most "artists" of the day in Paris would have no experience of dirt-low rents, the sheer variety of down-and-out, wildly impossible characters that would have been priced and swept out of modern Paris, or the absent gas lights, 19th century areas left untouched, or the vacated Les Halles market) there still remains much magic left in the City of Light. Recommended to everyone reading this review.


Sahara
Sahara
by Kazuyoshi Nomachi
Edition: Hardcover
5 used & new from $14.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible job well done by Kazuyosh Nomachi., January 30, 2006
This review is from: Sahara (Hardcover)
Part of the fun of this book is indeed the fact that it is dated. This is just my personal opinion, but I don't think these classic Saharan landscapes lend themselves well to the ultra-modern high gloss photographs you find in so many pictorial works, about say, the national parks of the United States, where the pictures of Glacier National Park look more like paintings. No, the pictures found in "Sahara" look like they were taken in the 70s - there's a sense of age, imperfection, and graininess about them that seems well-suited to the Sahara.

Which is not to say that these pictures are poorly taken or technically incompetent. They are not. It's just a matter of working with what is available at the time, like Matthew Brady and the Civil War, which happens to suit my aesthetic tastes just fine.

In any event, this is probably my favorite pictorial work I've read and viewed on the Sahara. I prefer it to the fine works of Michael Palin and "The Call of the Desert" by Philippe Bourseiller, which is also very good. This book delivers up all you could want out of a pictorial book on the Sahara. I especially find its emphasis on Algeria (the country with the most stunning Sahara scenery, in my humble opinion) to be quite in line with what I was looking for. And I must say what fascinates Nomachi falls in well with what fascinates me: the Hoggar Mountains of Algeria, the Air Mountains of Niger, the Grand Ergs Oriental and Occidental (The Grand Erg Occidental is particularly wondrous).

Nomachi also does a fine job of recalling his experiences in a time when Sahara travel was in some ways more rustic and difficult, though in some ways, it has been more difficult in areas like Libya, which until recently was very difficult to travel in, and the civil war in Algeria makes personally seeing the most beautiful of the Saharan landscape more dangerous than it has any right to be at the time of this writing. So we must content ourselves with fine pictorial works like these. The photography and text on the great nomads of the Sahara was charming and guileless.

All in all, I enjoyed this work thoroughly because it seemed to cater specifically to my interests - I think your level of enjoyment will depend on what exactly interests you about the Sahara, but I think anyone who finds this amazing desert beautiful will enjoy this book.


Head in the Clouds
Head in the Clouds
DVD ~ Charlize Theron
Offered by Sparks DVD Sales
Price: $6.49
133 used & new from $0.01

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic period piece propelled by good acting that I really enjoyed., November 13, 2005
This review is from: Head in the Clouds (DVD)
It's kind of interesting. I remember when "The English Patient" came out it won a ton of awards and everyone loved it. It certainly had some of the problems that people claim this movie had - bombastic, over-the-top, melodramatic, with plenty of over-acting (Ralph Fiennes, as good as he is, is often guilty of that in spades). Yet that movie receives a lot of praise (it had a higher budget, but still) and this movie gets negative reviews.

I really liked this movie. Not because it seeks to reorder our preconceived notions of cinematic narrative, or any such lofty, ambitious, goal, but because it's a throwback to the old days of larger-than-life, chewy 1940s escapist epics.

Which is not to say it's the period piece equivalent of "Dude, Where's My Car?" The movie does have subtlety, very good acting, well-written characters, some beautiful shots and camera work (I'm not talking about outside Gilda's Paris apartment either), and some good messages. It also has all the requisites of a good epic to - a large, sweeping feel; love, loss, and death; great locations and scenery, grandoise, dramatic events in world history contrasted with changes in the lives of individuals, and so on.

It totally succeeds on its merits. It's not trying to win an Oscar, it's meant to be an entertaining World War 2 epic, and for me, it most certainly is. For me, the strength of this movie is the acting by the three leads and the sharply written characters. I really liked this characters and cared about what happened to them, and thought Townsend, Cruz, and Theron did a great job making me care about them. Cruz and her character were particularly irresistible. Townsend's acting isn't inferior, he's simply given less to work with. Theron brings more humanity and makes a somewhat stock character (the libertine socialite in these type of movies is a fixture) less irritating than usual and gives her more twists.

This movie is full of nice little touches. For example, when Cruz's character Mia is working as a nurse on the battle front in Spain, her face appears to be marked by a rash. Realistic for the time in unsanitary and exhausting conditions, and quite a contrast to the unrealistically glamorously made-up Nicole Kidman in the Civil War era movie Cold Mountain (she looks like she just stepped off a fashion runway).

In conclusion, if you like period piece epics, this is definitely one to see.


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