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shelley de lange "avid reader" RSS Feed (fountain valley, ca USA)
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3.0 out of 5 stars I bought the CDs rather than take the whole class, July 16, 2007
Julie Smith is a very fine writer. I inhaled her Talba Wallis series of mystery novels and eagerly await more. So naturally I looked for her home page and discovered her writing class. Since I've always wanted to write fiction (I have written tons of non-fiction), I decided to buy the CDs and see what she had to say.

As an extremely well-read person who has studied writing extensively, I have to say that the first 4 CDs were pretty disappointing. Ms. Smith asserts that she has distilled what every writer needs to know into this course and it doesn't add up to much beyond the usual notes on first person versus third, quotes from books on writing by authors like Stephen King, freewriting versus step outline, and recommendations to study Strunk and White.

Now, this is all good advice, but it's advice that I've read before in books that cost no more than 20 dollars. I don't think people should have to pay hundreds of dollars just because they prefer to be auditory learners rather than visual learners. And I don't think intellectual property should cost 12 times more just because someone spoke into a microphone rather than typed it into a manuscript.

If you can get these CDs at a reduced cost, used, then go for it. The information on writing is good, solid, pertinent, and she's a fun teacher. I'd rate it higher if the price was commensurate with the information offered, but it's all stuff you can find in any Writer's Digest book on writing. Ms. Smith encourages writers to find their own unique process, create their own methods, and gives a few examples of how other writers write, but there's nothing proprietary or systematic about that! Heck, I can tell you to do that for free!

Her information isn't even all that up to date. Nowhere does she mention the Internet, for example, and how that is changing publishing. Her notes on how to format your manuscript are woefully incomplete. There's no mention of how to handle italics, em-dashes, en-dashes, or scene breaks. So no, these disks are not a one-stop shop on how to appear more professional. My recommendation is to take the entire class if you need a kickstart to your writing, otherwise leave them alone.


Always and Forever
Always and Forever
by Cathy Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: $27.99
136 used & new from $0.01

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No plot, not much emotion, no thrills no romance - don't bother, July 4, 2007
This review is from: Always and Forever (Paperback)
I read for many reasons, but mostly for the 3 E's: entertainment, escapism, education. I love a good story, a fresh voice, a fascinating setting. Unfortunately, I didn't find any of that in this book. With each page of excrutiatingly boring description of a working-mother's day, from morning to evening, a day in which nothing really happens except what happens to her every day of her life, I kept thinking something has to happen soon, like a car crash or someone getting bad news, something, but nothing did!!! The characters don't have a fatal flaw, don't charm, they don't misstep, they have no enemies, they all have but one desire that is going unfulfilled, there's no dilemna, no crucial decision, no thrills, no chills. We all want characters that we can identify with, but we don't want to read about doing the dishes! I bought this book because I liked one of the author's previous books, but she really forgets everything any writer should know about fiction in this book. There are no scenes, just details. No beginning, middle and end, no drama. NO STORY.


Venus Envy
Venus Envy
by Shannon McKelden
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.99
78 used & new from $0.01

10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor Plot, typical first-novel mistakes, February 4, 2007
This review is from: Venus Envy (Paperback)
Look, can we get real here? A 5-star book should be on the same level as "Gone with the Wind" or "Rebecca." NO WAY is this a 5-star book! It's not even a 4-star book!

On the plus side, the author has a somewhat cute premise, a knack for dialogue and a fun, frolicky voice that is perfect for chick-lit. So you think you'll be getting a good story, but no, too many things just don't add up.

The first problem is the author insists on following a certain pattern - one chapter is written from the main character's point of view, followed by a chapter from Venus' point of view, usually with no action, just her comments on the prior chapter and the main character's behavior. But not all of the prior chapters are worth commenting on and Venus' constant complaining, and Rachel's constant refusal to date, becomes tiresome, especially after 200 plus pages. I found myself wishing there'd be bad weather in the story, or a family member would become ill, just so the topic of conversation would change.

The second problem is an error almost all beginning novelists make and the editor should have spotted it - 99% of all the scenes take place between only two people. It's a constant stream of two-person scenes, and there are mainly only 3 characters with everyone else just making a single appearance. The author obviously knows nothing about plot or comedy. The closest she comes to comedy is Venus trying to ride a bike in high heels, scraping them on the street, and pratfalling. Oh joy.

Another weird plot choice is that when the story starts and Venus decides to help Rachel find love, Rachel has already met her one-and-only, so there's no "cute meet." She's known him for more than six months no less, and he's been asking her out this whole time. She's always refused him, doesn't even flirt with him, but he's convinced that "she's the one for him" and keeps on trying despite her telling him NO. Well, in any SANE world, a guy who is that persistent and doesn't hear a woman's "NO" is a STALKER.

It's really hard to root for a guy who comes off as pathetically fixated on a girl for no good reason, no matter how handsome or how "nice." Rachel hasn't done anything for Luke, hasn't made him laugh, hasn't charmed him, he was a customer and she was a bank teller, and he just decided she was the one and that was that. And does Luke do anything romantic like stand outside her window playing a cool song? Nope, he just keeps showing up at her place of business and asks her out while she's working. Not exactly a smart move.

Imagine reading 150 pages of a love story and the two lovers haven't even had a real date yet, only one bike ride around a lake that Rachel didn't even agree to, she was suckered into by Venus.

The author's naivite knows no bounds. I mean, isn't it a bit passe to have a herione who only ever wanted love and marriage, never a career, and was dumb enough to not even prepare for a career just in case Mr. Right didn't come along right away? Shouldn't any modern woman know by now that Mr. Right may not always provide enough of an income to support a full-time homemaker, so it's best to prepare for a career you enjoy? And exactly how is Rachel affording a one-bedroom apartment plus two cars without a roommate on what she earns as a bank teller? Especially in Seattle?

The author also has contempt for women. Venus is an immortal Goddess, but she has no Goddess powers because she pissed off Zeus by being too promiscuous. And even though Venus has been a "fairy godmother" (a British invention, NOT Greek or Roman) for over a century, she has no clue about how to get Rachel and Luke together. She, like the average teenage girl, has to refer to Cosmo to get her ideas!!! She's a complete idiot with nothing to show for her very long life. And the other strong female character, a doctor, actually says she "hasn't felt like a real woman" since she stopped having sex with Luke. Oh puhleaze!

Rachel has made her decision (not to date men) and is sticking with it, and that's not much of a story. The impetus for the story (Venus deciding to be her Godmother) isn't enough to create dramatic tension beyond petty bickering. (I insist you go out with Luke - no I won't - okay, let me repeat myself 100 times until you go out with him just to shut me up...)

I hope I've spared you the money and time I wasted on this non-book. Better chick-lit/fantasy authors include Rachel Keyes and Katie MacAlister.


Inkheart  (Inkheart Trilogy)
Inkheart (Inkheart Trilogy)
by Cornelia Funke
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.59
468 used & new from $0.01

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks Magic, weak plot, few thrills., February 16, 2006
The premise of this book sounds very exciting - an everyday father reads aloud from books, which he loves and restores, and finds that some of the characters shift into this world, while something from this world gets shifted into the world of the story. Sadly, he loses his wife this way and is left to raise his daughter (Meggie) alone, fleeing from the "evil" Capricorn.

The reader learns all of these facts in exposition, not live action!!! A very important distinction, because this story, while having a great idea, fails to execute it in a way that evokes magic or drama.

The author plainly loves words and stories and is masterful at sensory details, so the first chapters draw you in. But her plot is annoying at best. What you get in the first chapter is the same as the rest - a lot of thinking and talking, but very little doing. Many many many pages are devoted to the characters driving from one house to another, or escaping from a village on foot through trails and bemoaning the fact that it's cold, they're tired, and there are snakes, oh dear, but hey, snakes don't come out at night, so who cares that there are snakes? This is literally explained to us by the characters. Or they spend lots of time shut up in a room, complaining about the lack of freedom.

The problem is the author forgot about story structure. She makes Meggie and her father the protatonists when the theme of the story (displaced characters) is best portrayed by the characters who were shifted out of their world, namely, Meggie's mother and Dustfinger. Dustfinger is by far the most interesting character and the only one with any kind of character arc. I guess the author thought a childrens' book has to be told from the child's point of view, but Meggie is a very passive character. She does very little and knows nothing, having been protected all her life from the truth by her father, who is also completely passive until he's forced into action when Meggie gets into trouble.

The supposedly terrifying bad guy refuses to use his real name, much like Voldemort in Harry Potter, but is unable to think up a more dasterdly name than Capricorn, his astroligical sun sign. Capricorn is the "Inkheart" of the title, but like his chosen name he isn't all that scary. He threatens a lot, but since he always wants something from the characters and needs them alive and unharmed for them to do his bidding, all he does is shut them inside a room. No child is going to be terrified by a guy who only gives people a time out!

His main henchman had the potential of being scary, but we learn his fatal flaw very soon - he's terribly supersitious. Threaten him with a poetic curse and he shudders.

The heroes have no magic beyond juggling tricks and the gift of reading fiction and making things shift from the story into this worold and vice versa. But they have no control over this gift. The characters from other stories are just human, they have no magical gifts.

All of the story takes place in this world, most of it in a deserted village that Capricorn has taken over. It's dirty and lacking any luxury. Definitely NOT the stuff of escapism!

It's as if the author had no idea what age she was trying to appeal to. She makes the book very very long, which is more appropriate for older readers, but keeps the context friendlier than the Lemony Snicket books even though Meggie is all of twelve. There is no mystery to be solved, so no anticipation is generated. Capricorn has no grand plan to take over the world, so we don't really care if he is foiled or not. All in all, there aren't a lot of reasons to spend good money on this book. Definitely buy it used is my recommendation.


No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Arcade Car Combat, December 10, 2004
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This is one of the best Arcade style car combat games out there. Unlike Twisted Metal Black or RoadKill, it has a seriously fun feel thanks to clear, sharp graphics, pretty intuitive control setup and great sense of speed. It doesn't have the dark ambiance or gratuitous gore of the others. So many driving games out there make you feel like you're going 2 mph, this one is lightening fast when you have full boost.

Arcade style driving is not real-world simulation. The vehicles should be fast and should be able to jump, practically fly and crash and remain virtually unscathed. This the game does really well, creating environments where you have to jump up to second levels to get the better weapons or health.

The game allows you to simply play, choosing whatever unlocked arenas are available, as one of the many fantastical characters and vehicles. It's supposed to be in the future and this is all reflected in the characters and style of arena, where an audience watches and applauds your demolitions.

OR you can start a "career" with a particular character, going thru a series of combats. The first combat style is a "last man standing" with no respawns. The second is a series of one on one's, with respawns allowed. The third is a combination of the previous two. When your character finishes their career a new arena is unlocked.

The weapons are very fun. You always have a machine gun, but can pick up more powerful weapons such as a gauss canon, heat-seeking missles, mines, and a mini-nuke. The strategy is simple - learn the environment, which is nicely interactive - much of it is designed to be blown away to reveal jumps and weapons or health.

The game has a two-player mode that allows you to try and kill and each other. It's great to play against a human instead of an AI all the time! But the AI's are still there ready to blow you up or be blown away themselves.

You may eventually get tired of this game, but if you like vehicular combat at all, I guarantee at least one night of total addiction! It's a good game for keeping around "just for fun" or large parties with friends who don't play a lot of games beyond Dave and Buster types. The left analog control takes getting used to, as it is both turn left/right AND reverse, so I found myself accidentally reversing at first, but this passed quickly. I especially like the clarity of the graphics - like neon lights.


A Girl's Best Friend
A Girl's Best Friend
by Liz Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.36
142 used & new from $0.01

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the author's best..., November 22, 2004
This review is from: A Girl's Best Friend (Paperback)
I bought this book on the strength of A Promising Man and Asking for Trouble, which were good British chick-lit books, a genre I read extensively, even ordering off of amazon/UK to get the books not published here. :)

This book has the author's usual strengths of a very lively storytelling style. She's fun, sparky, and this comes across really well. BUT it's all fun and no substance. This is not a well structured story, there are no real conflicts, the love stories have no impediments - no one is star crossed or suffering, it's just a telling that goes like, first we did this, then we did that, then this happened, then that happened.

The author throws a whole group of characters at us from the get-go, and we're supposed to be interested in all the details that go into planning a murder-mystery dinner, including long descriptions of the characters each character will be playing. The main character is already in a relationship, which seems to be okay, the only real complaint is that Leo spends a lot of time with his kids, and who can fault a man for being a good daddy?

So Izzy just goes along with the tide - she's a very passive character, which does not lead to much drama or comedy either way. She's game for a good time, but since she has no real problems, no real hopes or dreams, nothing at stake or on the line, I couldn't bring myself to care about her or her friends very much.

A good author knows how to create anticipation by giving us a setup that is sure to have a big shoe dropping at some point, then either delivers the shoe we feared or a twist, something unexpected. There's nothing unexpected here, no shoes to drop. So only get this book if you don't care much about plot, and only wish for likeable characters having a good time. I think your money is better spent on the author's other books, and authors like Marian Keyes, Jilly Cooper and Jill Mansell, to name a few, who really know how to give us the whole story package.


The Metabolic Typing Diet: Customize Your Diet To:  Free Yourself from Food Cravings:  Achieve Your Ideal Weight;  Enjoy High Energy and Robust Health;  Prevent and Reverse Disease
The Metabolic Typing Diet: Customize Your Diet To: Free Yourself from Food Cravings: Achieve Your Ideal Weight; Enjoy High Energy and Robust Health; Prevent and Reverse Disease
by William L. Wolcott
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.29
289 used & new from $0.01

151 of 200 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars WARNING! WOLCOTT is NOT the originator of this diet!, December 31, 2003
The man whopo started the Metabolic Typing Diet was Dr. Kelley when he needed to cure his own pancreatic cancer, not Dr. Wolcott or any other person who infiltrated the Kelley program (sponsered by the pharmaceutical industry) Check Wolcott's credentials and you will see he does not have the knowledge or experience to improve the Kelley protocol.
In figuring out the metabolic nuances needed to treat and reverse his cancer, Kelley was able to come up with a protocol which enabled him to help many people cure their cancers too. The cancer/pharmaceutical industry caught wind of what he did and gave him a really rough ride(there's a suprise). In the end they couldn't stop him so what they did is a warning to everyone in this forum. They had several people infiltrate his organization, then start up their "new improved" systems which according to Kelley, were designed not to work. It was a way to use marketing and disinformation to cloud Kelley's successful work and results with a new improved method that WILL NOT WORK. Classic disinfo propoganda measures.
According to Kelley, William Wolcott is the main disinfo person who is now author of the best selling Metabolic Typing Diet which has lots of sexy, interesting notions in it but is designed to be off base(just enough to not be effective). Kelly wrote a letter explaining what I am saying here. I will track it down and post it along with Dr. Kelley's phone number so you can speak to him in person about it.
More on Kelley here:
[...]
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2012 1:07 AM PST


No Title Available

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sequel that's better than the original!, August 20, 2003
If you're like me, someone who enjoyed the first movie, loved the idea of Lara Croft and thought that just maybe they could have done more with it, welcome to the film that did do more with it.
Since other reviews have already gone over the plot and their favorite moments, I just wanted to reassure the fans who were hesitating over whether or not this film broke the bad sequel tradition that yes, it does, admirably! Definitely the perfect Saturday night movie with high likability, great stunts, wonderfully choreagraphed fight scenes - no obvious wires - beautiful exotic locales, fine special effects, fun techno gizmos.
It even has a bit of a love story added in for extra emotions. We know Lara is invulnerable, but what about the guy who is her perfect match? Is he a perfect match and will he be able to keep up with her until the very end? To find out, you'll have to see it. I won't spoil it for you! :)


No Title Available

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Frears does it again!, August 20, 2003
I got dragged to this movie by a friend of mine - I hadn't heard of it and was only partially compelled by the double-thumbs-up it got. Well, I bought my friend dinner afterwards as thanks, it was so good!
I love all kinds of movies, but after a summer of blockbusters with little or no characterization or originality I was ready for an intelligent film. The timing of this film - the end of summer - couldn't have been better and I hope it gets the audience it deserves.
First of all, although critics describe this as a thriller, that term really does this film a disservice. There aren't any of the typical thriller genre cliches such as the evil serial killer, girl with a fatal crush, intense soundtrack, etc. What this movie does is thoroughly and with artistic simplicity portray the plight of people seeking political asylum, a new life, in London, and trying to survive without citizenship status. They take the jobs no one else wants, network for health care from doctors outside the system and cadge temporary places to live out of empty offices.
The actors are all supurb. Audrey Tautou is unrecognizable as the prankster from "Amelie" and Chiwetel Ejiofor exudes integrity combined with puppy-dog eyes.
Also very fun are their friends, a hooker and a mortician with great senses of humor. ("Did you know she's in love with you? I've only known her for 10 minutes and even I know it. But then you know what they say - good at chess, bad at life. I stink at chess.")
This is a subculture that is rarely portrayed, and never so honestly, nakedly. The title suits because the story flips from the pragmatic baring of flesh to check for syphilis; the beautiful Tautou forced to submit to her boss; to a human heart clogging a toilet. But you can't look away.
Stephen Frears is a refreshing director who proves you don't need acrobatic cameras and MTV editing to tell a great, engrossing story. He states things without overstating or understating.
If you're not into think pieces you probably won't enjoy this film. It can probably be enjoyed just as well on a small screen if you wish to wait for video. I found it definitely worth the price of a matinee admission, and don't consider it a full-price, Saturday night date movie at all. No, this is one to see with your smarter friends and analyze afterwards over coffee and pie. Or go see it alone.


Angels & Demons
Angels & Demons
by Dan Brown
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
1896 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! What a great storyteller!, August 8, 2003
I picked up this book after reading "The Da Vinci Code," my first experience with Dan Brown, and I have to say, this book is *much better* than "The Da Vinci Code."
Both books are painstakingly researched and you learn a lot as you are entertained, but while Da Vinci Code only had one twist/reveal in its plot, "Angels and Demons" has several, making it a much more satisfying read.
Langdon is again the star of the novel, an academic specializing in religious symbology. He is hustled out of bed early one morning to fly in a special jet to CERN in Switzerland, the R&D group responsible for the Internet and now, Anti-matter.
Langdon is brought in as an expert consultant due to a bizarre brand sported by a murdered scientist. Just like in the Code, soon the murdered man's daughter and Langdon are unraveling clues and seeking justice, lives constantly in peril.
Apparently, a long-dead conspiracy/cult known as The Illuminati has risen again in order to use anti-matter (the most powerful bomb ever created) to destroy the Catholic Church by blowing up the vatican. The vatican is at its most vulnerable as all the Cardinals have arrived to elect a new Pope. The entire vatican is held hostage as 4 kidnapped Cardinals are killed by the Illuminati in order to publicise their terrorism. Langdon tries to figure out ancient clues as to where the murders will take place to save the Cardinals, aided by the Pope's elite police force, while the rest of the police force search for the bomb.
It's another fast read - can't put it down! The action takes place over a single day but you feel like you've lived an entire lifetime by the time you're done reading! The characters are all well done, action, art and the city of Rome described in wonderful sensory detail, the historical details, clues and ambigrams are fascinating.
Underlying all of the marvelous entertainment are important questions about the morality of science (just because we can clone sheep, should we?), the varying paths to God, the unifying force uniting us all. Whether you're a skeptic, atheist, or true believer, you will appreciate the fine line Brown walks in his attempt to portray all arguments and find the common ground between the varying and diametrically opposed points of view. He succeeds in giving a very balanced argument overall without ever getting preachy or dogmatic or heretical.
I especially like it when a highly-entertaining read is also a thoughtful one. It's tough to find a book that combines action, adventure, history and philosophy, and this one does it very well. The ending of the book completely satisfies - so much so that I felt emotionally exhausted by the denoument!
Be sure to begin this book when you have a lot of time to devote to reading or you'll be going to work red-eyed from staying up all night long! :)


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