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Infamous: A Fame Game Novel
Infamous: A Fame Game Novel
by Lauren Conrad
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.17
83 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Sweet-But-Bland Finale To a Good Trilogy, July 5, 2013
The first two books in "The Fame Game" trilogy, Lauren Conrad's follow-up series to her popular and charming "L.A. Candy" novels were addicting, breezy reads that were always smarter than they needed to be. The magic was in the characters. Madison turned from a mustache-twirling villain into a fascinating three-dimensional heroine you fell in love with and really rooted for. Kate appeared to be a bland knock-off of the Jane character in the "L.A. Candy" books, but Conrad twisted the character into a really interesting portrait of fame gone wrong. Pluss, the conclusion to the second book, "Starstuck," served up a delicious cliffhanger that was better than anything Conrad had yet served up to readers.

In comparison to the first two installments, "Infamous" feels a bit like a first draft that somehow got published. There are many good things in it, a few great things, but you can't help but wish the drama was more underlined, the twists more surprising and some events within its pages that could actually live up to the book's title. It's all...fine...but at this point Conrad has exceeded expectations time and again with her writing, so one can't help but be let down here.

Kate is still struggling with finding her identity as a musician, and is involved in a bit of a triangle with Drew (Carmen's BFF), and then she gets a stalker. At first, the stalker subplot seems like it's going to be a wonderful melodramatic arc, especially considering how Kate sees the attention more as flattery than as something that is potentially dangerous. But then the storyline falls apart in a way that I'll get to in just a minute.

Carmen's storyline is the most wheel-spinning and tedious, with her lost in her life and looking for a direction...any direction. What's more, someone is posting (sometimes) true stories online about her and she needs to get to the bottom of it ASAP. The identity of Carmen's mole has been so obvious from its introduction in the last book that you can't help but expect Conrad to throw some sort of twist in. But she doesn't.

Luckily, we still have Madison to ground the book and engage the reader. Her evolution from a conniving witch to a driven heroine has been a joy to read and is a huge credit to Conrad's talents. When she was announced as the center of this follow-up trilogy to "L.A. Candy," I was very wary, but I should not have been. Her umbrella arc over the course of these three books has been a pleasure to read, and she earns her happy ending here (oh, like you didn't know it was coming). What's more, the twist involving Madison's sister Sophia (along with proof that she is either psychopathic or sociopathic) was a delicious treat, as was the character's comeuppance.

And yet the book remains a letdown when compared to the first two simply because Conrad avoids the big moments when she should be embracing them. The best scene in the entire trilogy is the climax to "Starstruck," where Madison and Sophia go head to head, dropping all guards they would usually have because of the cameras and just attacking one another, unafraid to draw blood. Nothing in "Infamous" comes even close to that level of emotion. Kate's stalker storyline comes to a wholly unsatisfactory conclusion with a bad joke after building for most of the book. We get the reveal of Carmen's mole in a well-written passage, but for some reason Conrad cuts away from the scene before Carmen can confront the person! Sure, there's a small scene later, but the climax to the arc has been excised for no reason and everything we learn about the mole we learn second-hand, when it would have been so much more powerful coming from the character himself/herself. And instead of having one more great scene between Madison and Sophia where the claws come out once more, Conrad shrugs it off for no ostensible reason. And the epilogue ties everything up a little too nicely for all the ladies -- I could have guessed this is where they would have all ended up and would have appreciated some sort of variation on my expectations. Ah well.

So, in all, this is a mixed bag. "The Fame Game" and "Starstruck" were both better than any of the books in Conrad's enjoyable "L.A. Candy" novels, and so you should definitely check out this last installment, since there are many enjoyable passages. But it could have been so much more. In a way, I really hope this isn't the last time Conrad tackles this world and these characters -- they deserve a better send-off than this and I know Conrad is capable of giving us one they deserve.

City Under the Moon
City Under the Moon
Price: $2.99

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous. Wonderful. Horrifying., March 24, 2012
"City Under the Moon" combines aspects of probably a dozen different genres, from action to horror to political thriller...and in doing so manages to trascend those them and become a fantastic, fascinating ride unlike anything you'll find on bookshelves today. It's always smarter than it needs to be, with characters who are brilliant twists on the expected cliches of the thriller genre...and that's before thousands of werewolves take over New York City.

Everyone knows the werewolf legend, where a bite from one infected with the curse will turn you into a werewolf. This story is often played out on empty moors with lots of smoke machines working overtime...but what would happen if someone with the infection was let loose in New York City? One infection turns into a dozen, then a hundred...then THOUSANDS. Seemingly overnight. And these aren't adorable werewolves who just want to take their shirts off and protect Kristen Stewart. These are mother-effin' terrifying werewolves that will rip your head off at the first chance.

But that's just the beginning. Writer Hugh Sterbakov presents us with a villain for the ages. He doesn't want to spread the disease like a Bond villain would, you see. He has unleashed it and then contacted the American Government in order to make them find a cure. You read that right. Find a cure. And all of a sudden everything we think we know about this type of story has changed.

The book handles the situation about as realistically as one could expect, and it's awesome. Heroes come into focus, the first is a sexy FBI agent who couldn't be further removed from the expected CBS-prodedural personality. The second is a horror fan who just happens to be the world's expert in werewolves. A stretch? I dunno, if werewolves showed up in New York City today, I'm guessing the experts wouldn't be mad scientists or action heroes; it would be guy who still lives with his parents until he is 40 and owns two copies of the "'Star Wars' Christmas Special." And I write that last sentence with the most affection for that type of person possible.

But I'm only scratching the surface as to what surprises the book has to offer. I can't even give hints because it would ruin your enjoyment. But it's safe to say that, just when you think you've figured out everything there is to figure out, Sterbakov upends your expectations in the most creative, rewarding ways possible. The writing is gripping, distinctive and the short chapters make it impossible to put it down without reading just one more. I kept telling myself that and found myself up until four in the morning.

And did I mention that the book is scary as hell? With all the action and political intrigue, it's easy to forget just how suspenseful and horrifying "City Under the Moon" often is. There are distinctive scare sequences (a standout focusing on a lone young woman protecting her mother as the anarchy of NYC surrounds her) that will floor you with their ingenuity and originality. This is first and foremost a horror novel, and the author does not forget that.

This is the most enjoyable, rewarding read I've had all year. I give it an unqualified five-star rating...I can't think of anything to say that could deter you from buying and enjoying.mIt's not just for horror fans. If you like Brad Meltzer or Michael Crichton or James Patterson or Daniel Silva or Thomas Harris, you NEED to read this book. This is Sterbakov's first novel (a fact that shocked me when I read his bio), and I genuinely hope it will not be his last.

The Kid
The Kid
by Sapphire
Edition: Hardcover
230 used & new from $0.01

144 of 161 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An Ugly, Ugly Book, July 25, 2011
This review is from: The Kid (Hardcover)
I have a great admiration for Sapphire's "Push." It's a purposefully difficult, fascinating voyage into the dire life of young woman attempting to cope with a hateful world. That book challenges you with its writing, insisting you pay full attention and asking you to draw your own conclusions about certain passages or scenes.

Not only is "The Kid" a sickening reversal of the underlying messages contained in "Push," but it basically spits in the face of those who loved the first novel. What follows contains light spoilers, but nothing you wouldn't find in your favorite newspaper or magazine review.

Okay, so are we alone now? Good. Here's the deal. So Precious dies of AIDS and her son is left to suffer much the same fate his mother does. He's repeatedly raped, beaten and treated horrendously by Catholic brothers, his great grandmother and other boys. Oh, and then he turns into a psychotic monster who ALSO rapes and beats women and children.

Let's start with what happened to Precious and how this novel negates everything that made "Push" special. Okay, I get it, not every story gets a Hollywood happy ending, and that's fine. If Precious truly had to die because the story called for it and the death "meant" something to both readers and the characters in the novel, then so be it. But here she's eliminated quickly without anything near the tribute her character deserved. And why? So her own child, the boy she fought so long and hard in "Push" to save from this life, could be abandoned to that same life. You know, I could even buy that if it was done well and the story became something close to redemption. But here the Kid of the title (Abdul) becomes a monster and becomes the kind of man that, in another world, might have been one of the agressors that abused Precious. So, in essence, EVERYTHING Precious worked for in "Push," from her writings to her child, have been for naught. Here, that book's legacy has been stomped upon. Spit upon. Trounced. It's sickening, it really is.

If she really wanted to just kill off Precious this bluntly, why didn't Sapphire do it at the end of "Push"? If that's all her life really meant, that is. Or why couldn't Sapphire have simply started fresh and had a different, new character be the mother here? Why? Perhaps because of the shock value? Because this was the only way she figured she could sell some books? Or perhaps it was the only way she could sell this book, considering how inane and disgusting the rest of the content was? I can't fathom another reason, based in emotion, for her to do it.

So we are left with Abdul to go through much of the same 'ole stuff we read about before. But, instead of watching a character learn to fight back and protect herself, we watch a young man's slide into evil...or slow embrace of evil, whichever you prefer. Abdul becomes a monster that metaphorically rapes his mother's legacy by physically raping others. There are long, long (LONG!) passages of Abdul fantasizing about sexual assault and the descriptions of what he does or thinks about doing had me queazy. There's no underlying hope here, even after Sapphire introduces dancing as a way for him to apply himself (a fourth-rate rip-off of what she did with Precious' writing in "Push), and the odd thing is that, even with all the sickness in his mind, Abdul remains a sad, one-dimensional cardboard cut-out of a character we can't even hate because he's so paper-thin. You'd think if Sapphire would have applied so much time and effort (and fully knowing she would alienate her fans) into crafting this evil man as the protagonist of her book, she would have tried to make him the least bit interesting, no?

It's not even understandable half the time. The stream-of-consciousness writing that challenged the reader in "Push" seems lazy and cloying here, as if Sapphire just wrote whatever she felt like and didn't care enough to shape it into a cohesive narrative.

So what will you get out of this experience if you purchase "The Kid"? Well, for one you'll never be able to enjoy rereading "Push" again. You won't be able to respect the author again. You'll probably put it down halfway through because of all the fantasies of rape and molestation. It's not a good book on any level, from the writing to the character to the message.

It's just...ugly.
Comment Comments (22) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 23, 2014 5:07 PM PDT

Sugar and Spice: An L.A. Candy Novel
Sugar and Spice: An L.A. Candy Novel
by Lauren Conrad
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.59
344 used & new from $0.01

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spicy, Sweet Final Chapter in Conrad's Trilogy, October 8, 2010
After a surprisingly mediocre second novel in her "L.A. Candy" trilogy, Lauren Conrad has returned to form with "Sugar and Spice." She effectively pays off all the umbrella arcs set in motion in the first two novels while still bringing in fresh, fun drama that (dare I say) firmly establishes her as a fresh, interesting voice in the teenage book market.

Before I dive in, let me warn you that I will be making note of the parallels between this novel and Conrad's now defunct television show "The Hills." If you have not seen the show, then please check Wikipedia if you get confused.

"Sugar and Spice" begins with the premier party for the second season of "L.A. Candy." Jane and Scarlett (different halves of Conrad's personality) have patched up their friendship and enter the second season with mixed emotions, both wanting to be there but also wanting to embrace other ambitions. Jane's feud with Madison (Heidi) has only deepened over the hiatus thanks to Madison continuing to lie to the press about leaking explosive personal information to the press about Jane, and Jane must struggle with the fact that her side of the argument cannot be portrayed on her reality show. Oh, and Gabby has hired a publicist ready to rocket her from the D-list to the double D-list.

Conrad introduces a juicy, soapy new character in Madison's half-sister Sophie, who basically blackmails Madison onto getting a role in "L.A. Candy" after a little nipping and cutting. Conrad has wisely realized that it would have hurt Jane's character to have her sink to Madison's level in order to take her down, and her introduction of a mini-Madison brings the book a lot of life and fun.

After "Sweet Little Lies" spread 50 pages of material to novel length, it's refreshing to see "Sugar and Spice" filled cover-to-cover with enough plot developments, twists and pay-offs to merit re-reading. My favorite development happens when Jane discovers her producer's notebook...a book that reveals a few too many secrets about how little control Jane really has over her life. But there is more, like having Madison becoming Jane's new co-worker only to realize that she really, really hates working or the curious case of how real Hannah's office romance really is.

Conrad still allows time for some darker, more real developments within the reality world, as when Jane visits her horrible (horrible!) ex-boyfriend in the hospital after he rolls his car over on the freeway during a bender. We see (humorously at first, but later seriously), just how much of a toll the Hollywood machine has taken on the once-sweet Gabby. Conrad is also very, very careful in her handling of Jane's on-again, off-again love interest Braden. The way she pays off the building romantic tension in the book's final pages is quite smart, hugely satisfying and reinforces just how much Jane has grown as a character over the course of the book series. Bravo.

Problems? Yes, a few. Jane's romance with former-flame Caleb was predictable and we never see Madison and Scarlett go head-to-head for more than a few lines, which is a missed opportunity. Though I enjoyed the quiet scene between Madison and Jane that happens late in the book, I wish that Jane had some involvement in the climax to Madison's arc. Oh, and since the series is called "L.A. Candy," I found it odd that every story culminated in either Las Vegas or New York.

Quibbles. "Sugar and Spice" is a surprisingly sweet, spicy (oh look, a pun) novel that will offer fans of the series really enjoyable pay-offs. It's a testament to Conrad's talents that, by the middle of the book, you forget the connection Speidi, MTV and "The Hills" and begin reading it simply as a good story. Here's hoping this isn't the last time we hear from Conrad the author.

The Good Wife: Season 1
The Good Wife: Season 1
DVD ~ Julianna Margulies
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $19.50
21 used & new from $15.50

10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Show of the 2009-2010 Television Season, July 6, 2010
This review is from: The Good Wife: Season 1 (DVD)
Sometimes the stars align and a cast and crew is lucky enough to produce a season of television that is pretty much flawless. The third season of "Friday Night Lights." The fifth season of "The X-Files." The second season of "Gilmore Girls." But normally these seasons of perfection come only after a show has slowly built itself into something great after making a few missteps.

From the opening moments of its pilot to the closing seconds of the twenty-third episode of its first season, "The Good Wife" was flawless.

Part of its elegance comes from the fact that it refuses to define itself, easily veering between lawyer procedural, family drama, conspiracy thriller and romantic drama throughout the year, often over the course of one episode. The shocking thing is that each of the above is just as well-handled as the others, and it is a delight to watch the ensemble juggle the storylines. More than that, each storyline is meticulously layered unlike any other drama of (dare I say) the past decade. Here the viewer feels mixed feelings with every new twist and turn. Like life, nothing on this show (except the main titles) is black and white and every happiness comes with a few notable reservations.

The large cast is diverse and obscenely talented. Part of the joy of watching "The Good Wife" is watching the worlds of the shows briefly intertwine with one another and seeing characters you know well but would never expect to share the screen together feel one another out. From Archie Panjabi's smart-but-labyrinthine investigator to Alan Cumming's oily, brilliant publicist (the show is also notable as being first time I haven't wanted to reach through the screen and strangle Cumming), there isn't a weak link in the bunch.

And then, of course, we have Julianna Margulies in the performance of her career. No other actress can say so much while speaking so little and her fantastic, multi-layered performance already has me ranking Alicia next to Lorelai Gilmore and Buffy Summers in terms of my favorite heroines of all time.

The show is a major hit for CBS, but not many of my friends are watching. Perhaps it is because, on the surface, it seems to be nothing more than another glossy procedural. What a damn shame.

The fact that "The Good Wife" can be this consistently good in its first season is unheard of. It is the best show of the 2009-2010 season and has done in one season what most shows cannot in their entire runs. And the best part? The journey has just started.

Sweet Little Lies: An L.A. Candy Novel
Sweet Little Lies: An L.A. Candy Novel
by Lauren Conrad
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.44
352 used & new from $0.01

31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sour Pathwork of a Novel, February 4, 2010
The first "L.A. Candy" novel was a surprisingly sweet (no pun intended...well, maybe a little) first novel by reality star-cum-N.Y. Times Bestselling Author Lauren Conrad. Expectations were very low, so when the book hit stands with an engaging mix of wit, humor and surprisingly tight writing, the book became a bonafide hit among teen girls. Alas, the second book in Conrad's purported trilogy of young adult novels strips the characters Conrad created/adapted/mimicked-from-reality of anything appealing and replaces it with idiot-plot contrivances and once-smart characters acting about as smart as their extensions.

First, a note of apology if you've come to this review having never heard of "The Hills" as I will talk openly of the parallels between the book and the "reality" that spawned it. Chances are if you are on this page, you know, but if by some chance you don't, please look it up on Wikipedia and then return later.

"Sweet Little Lies" picks up less than a week after the first book's cliffhanger, with reality superstar Jane Roberts (a thinly-vieled interpretation of Conrad) on a self-imposed exile with Madison (Heidi). Madison had released photographs of Jane cheating on her boyfriend Jesse (Jason) to Gossip Magazine then whisked Jane away before her best friend Scarlet (another side of Conrad's personality) could warn her. Jane had cheated on Jesse in part because of Jesse's erratic behavior and oft-drunkedness and because she was secretly in love with his best friend Braden.

As the book commenced, I was excited to see how Conrad would pay off the explosive turn of events and how it would change the dynamic between the three main female characters in the trilogy. But then, in an inexplicably mind-numbing move, Conrad fails to pay-off any of these developments for at least 240 of the book's 300-and-change pages. Instead she turns Jane, who had been up until this point a smart and sympathetic heroine, into the kind of gullible dumb girl viewers think the girls from "The Hills" really are.

Despite having her best-friend-since-childhood and ex-boyfriend-with-nothing-to-lose tell her in no uncertain terms that Madison was the one who leaked the photos, Jane decides not to believe them and, in another childish move, isolates herself from Scarlet for most of the book while growing closer to Madison, believing every one of her lies and not getting suspicious that every secret she shares with her frienemy just happens to show up in the next week's issue of "Gossip."

In addition to this, Jane re-ignites her romance with Jesse. In the first book it was not-too-subtly hinted that Jesse had drinking problems and a possible drug addiction. Oh well, Jane thinks, and immediately falls back in love with him, even as he becomes an abusive boyfriend. Their relationship sours quickly, but Jane refuses to call it quits even after Jesse takes her on a drunken joyride through Los Angeles, cheats on her repeatedly, continues to drink and do drugs around her and finally becomes emotionally and physically abusive to her.

Look, I'm a big supporter of heroes and heroines of books make mistakes and have three dimensions, but Jane's actions in "Sweet Little Lies" cross the line. This is NOT the kind of book that parents should be recommending that their teenage daughters read, and Jane is no longer a role model. Abusive relationships are a very real thing, and the fact that Conrad lets her main character not only stay in the relationship for such a long period of time but enable him time and again to continue his out-of-control actions is setting the worst possible model for teen girls. The relationship isn't even viewed realistically--it's so obvious from their reconciliation that it is a plot contrivance that will be take hundreds of pages to clear up--which makes the circumstances even sadder. Add in that she alienates her longtime best friend for a woman obviously manipulating every facet of her life and you have made Jane Roberts almost irredeemably unlikable. Since she is supposed to be the anchor of the series, this is a big problem.

There are moments and glimmers where the fun and wit of the first book return, albeit briefly. I'm thinking of a conversation between Jane and her office-mate Hannah (Whitney) in the bathroom while the producers are almost breaking down the door to stop it or when Gaby (Audrina), the dim-bulb of the show, shows surprising insight and depth, but these are fleeting. Conrad also makes attempts to humanize Madison instead of portraying her as a one-dimension villain, which is interesting in theory, but this does not pay off.

Everything about "Sweet Little Lies" screams that the book is merely a placeholder between the fun of the first book and the real pay-offs of the third. Conrad spins her wheels for most of the book's pages and, though the finale sets up an fascinating dynamic between the characters for the final chapter in the trilogy (though I can't imagine HarperCollins will allow such a lucrative franchise to die out so soon), that cannot excuse the fact that, well, nothing of note happens until the last forty pages of this book. In fact, you could slap the last few chapters of this book onto the end of "L.A. Candy" and not miss the first thirty-some chapters at all. Am I interested enough to pick up the third book, especially since it promises to explore the explosive Team Lauren v. Team Heidi seasons of "The Hills"? Probably. But that doesn't excuse that this is a significant let-down with a horrible message for teen girls and excruciating pacing.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 1, 2013 11:36 AM PDT

Dirty Sexy Money: The Complete and Final Second Season
Dirty Sexy Money: The Complete and Final Second Season
DVD ~ Peter Krause
Offered by Daytona Beach
Price: $23.91
34 used & new from $3.65

11 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars When A Series Implodes..., July 29, 2009
In its first, strike-shortened season,""Dirty Sexy Money" was a more-than-acceptable diversion that embraced its campy side and flaunted its eccentricities as much as its Darling family flaunt their excess. It was, quite simply, fun. Cut to the second season and the show somehow managed to systematically drain every drop of enjoyment from its vaults. What remained was a shell of a once-intriguing ride, with snoozer B-plots that were forgettable last year brought to the forefront only to remain just as sleep-inducing.

Take the yawn of a confusing subplot involving Karen Darling (Natalie Zea, who tries, she really does) seducing billionaire Simon Elder (Blair Underwood) because...well...apparently Elder is a threat to the Darling family, though he has never done anything that seems even remotely powerful or assertive except saying he's powerful and assertive while staring intensely. Underwood is a hugely charismatic actor, but seems utterly lost in the useless role, and drags the still-charming Zea down in every scene they share together.

Want more bad storylines? We've got plenty. The long-simmering story of who killed Nick's father,--which only took up five forgettable minutes of every episode in the first season,--was turned into some sort of umbrella arc for the season. Perhaps the writers have forgotten that viewers don't really care about a character that has never been on the show, was a scoundrel and wasn't even liked by his son, and therefore could care less about who killed him. But despite every sign of logic screaming to stop while you are ahead, "DSM"continued to devote the bulk of most of the season two episodes to the lame mystery, dulling the usually sharp Jill Clayburgh by making her the prime suspect and bringing in Lucy Liu (who deserves much, much better than this, or "Cashmere Mafia") for no particular reason to prosecute the case.

Liu is secretly bedding Jeremy Darling (Seth Gabel). While in the past Jeremy has been nothing but a cad, the viewer was always led to believe he was, at heart, a good person, but allowing him to sleep with the woman trying to send his mother to the electric chair turned him into an irredeemable piece of ****. Yes, there is a twist, and instead of vindicating Jeremy, it just further implicates another member of the family and makes him/her irredeemable as well.

Enjoyable characters that once were the hallmarks of the show's eccentricities have disappeared or been killed off, leaving the remaining Darlings and other roadkill characters wandering through large sets saying overblown dramatic dialogue. If the charming Juliet Darling or Carmelita were still around, they would chuckle and point at the things the main characters were saying. True, Carmelita returned briefly before being murdered, but apparently could barely speak when onscreen because because Donald Sutherland was too busy arguing with Steven Baldwin about something melodramatic. Juliet gave the series much of its life and kept it from becoming too full of itself (by being too full of herself), and the loss of the character has taken its toll on most of the ensemble.

Soon the urge to turn off the Darlings babbling on overdramatically and investing themselves in uninteresting subplots must have become too appealing for most viewers, because ABC cancelled the show midway through the season, airing the final (just as atrocious) episodes on Saturdays months later. It's such a shame that a show with, for all intents and purposes, one of the best ensembles on television, could fall so far so quickly.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2009 5:09 AM PST

Samurai: Heaven and Earth Volume 1 (Samurai Heaven & Earth) (vol. 1)
Samurai: Heaven and Earth Volume 1 (Samurai Heaven & Earth) (vol. 1)
by Ron Marz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.09
90 used & new from $0.75

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the first comic masterpieces of the new millenium, May 30, 2006



Fallen Angel.

Samurai: Heaven and Earth.

There have only been five books thus far in the millenium that I can safely praise as masterpieces, and this is one of them. "Samurai: Heaven and Earth" is one the most emotional, touching, amazing pieces of literature I've ever read.

You think it's a straightforward story about a man who lost his love and would go to any lengths to get her back, but it's about so much more than that. Everyone can identify with following your dreams, wanting that one thing that may always elude you, and this book understands that and cuts into the heart of that idea.

Marz's script is the best of his career by far, and that's saying something. He perfectly balances the action expectations of the book with the emotional center of it. There are twists you won't see coming, fish-out-of-water moments you'll sit in awe at, and an ending so perfectly pitched and timed you may just tear up.

The art is phenomenal. Luke Ross changed from a great comic artist into a master overnight. Who would have thought that penciled and colored comic art could look this close to paintings? You have to see it to believe its beauty, literally.

This is a must have for any serious comic collector. Heck, it's a must have for anyone who's ever loved and lost, or just loved.

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Surprise Import That Works, June 26, 2005
When NBC announced that it was revamping the British cultural phenomenon The Office for U.S. audiences the consensus was that it was one of the biggest mistakes in the past decade of television. Critics and audiences alike found the British version to be one of the defining comedic shows in the history of television. It didn't use a laugh track and none of the jokes were obvious one-liners: the show slowly built and built hilarious moments out of the characters without allowing itself to become a typical sketch show.

NBC's track record with comedy in the new millenium was spotty to say the least. The glory days of Friends, Will and Grace and Fraiser were gone now, Friends and Fraiser gone and Will and Grace losing 25% of its audience. The only critical comedy hit NBC had turned out in the past five years was Scrubs, which had never gotten close to the commercial success of the three previous series mentioned. In addition, NBC had recently retooled another classic British comedy for American audiences, Coupling, and it met with some of the harshest reviews of the year and was dead before it reached the half-season mark. Things didn't look good for The Office.

So imagine the nation's surprise when the show premiered to over 12 million viewers and critical applause. Like the British version, the show played it straight, no obvious laughs and no one-liners. A laugh track was nowhere to be found, and in the place of quirky sidekick characters with something to say there were instead long bouts of (often hilarious) silence.

Here is the concept in a nutshell. It's just another day in a paper company in PA. The tyrannical Boss (Steve Carell) lords over all, the new guy (B.J. Novak) sits there in silence taking it all in, the power-hungry clerk (Rainn Wilson) makes life a living hell for all around him by attempting to assert authority he doesn't have, and lovestruck slacker Jim (John Krasinski) lusts after eternally engaged but never married secretary Pam (Jenna Fischer).

Most surprisingly, Steve Carell managed to step into the shoes of "The Boss" perfectly, giving his own spin on the character yet holding true to the spirit of the British version.

The rest of the cast does a tremendous job fitting into their roles and all manage to avoid making themselves stereotypes. Sadly, new guy B.J. Novak never got the opportunity to take the spotlight in the series and therefore his character remained disposable for the majority of the season.

The episodes in the boxed set are as follows:

1) Pilot

2) Diversity Day

3) Health Care

4) The Alliance

5) Basketball

6) Hot Girl

While each episode is excellent, the best are "Diversity Day," where The Boss makes his entire staff suffer after he gets accused of being racist, and "Health Care," where The Boss gives Dwight the responsibility to pick the Office's new health care plan, only to have him cut all benefits from all employees because he doesn't feel he gets enough respect.

The season was a short six episodes, but they are definitely worth a gander, possibly three ganders. I highly recommend the DVD to everyone with a job, so that means you. You will sympathize with the plights of the characters and laugh until your sides hurt. Don't miss out, next to Arrested Development this is, by far, the best comedy on television.

Monk - Season Three
Monk - Season Three
DVD ~ Tony Shalhoub
Offered by newbury_comics
Price: $8.12
111 used & new from $0.01

261 of 316 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Quality Season With Many Shortcomings, June 5, 2005
This review is from: Monk - Season Three (DVD)
Ignore all the overzealous praise of the show's third season, while it is enjoyable and worth a buy for fans of the series, next to the other boxed sets of the show this one pales in comparison and will not serve as the best way to get someone hooked on Monk.

Monk's third season is most noted for the unexpected and controversial firing of Bitty Schram and the hiring of almost carbon-copy Traylor Howard for the second half of the season. Without even a goodbye Sharona was remarried and shipped across America offscreen.

But I get ahead of myself.

The season opened strongly enough with Monk, Sharona, Stottlemyer and, oddly enough, Randall all following a lead from the previous season to New York City, where, unsurprisingly, Monk had one of his trademark meltdowns.

The rest of the first half of the third season had all the hallmarks of the first and second seasons: the random celebrity casting, the unbelievable explanations and Monk's continual grappling with his condition. However, because of the show's appeal to younger viewers many of the mysteries were dumbed-down and made more childish to bring in younger and younger viewers. The most notable example of this was in Mr. Monk and the Panic Room, which featured a possible killer monkey, a nice message for the kids wrapped up with a big bow, and and Stottlemyer literally acting like a crazy person in order to get a monkey to shoot a gun.

The first nine episodes did have many high points, however. Mr. Monk and the Blackout is probably the best episode of the season, finding the perfect mix between past Monk episodes and new Monk moments. Also of note is the excellent performance of Bitty Schram in Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf, which deserves an emmy nod.

There was one moment that foreshadowed the upheval to come, Mr. Monk and the Gameshow, which featured none of the regulars save Shalhoub and was produced specifically to show cast members that they were expendable.

The first "season" of the two part season closed on USA, with everything seemingly fine in Monk-land. The episodes were becoming more adult again, and Shalhoub's chemistry with Schram never better.

Then, in a still mysterious chain of events, the episode count for the second half was cut from 9 to 7, Schram was fired and new characters were to be introduced that were almost identical to Sharona and her son.

Monk's new girl Friday was named Natalie Teeger, and was to be played by Traylor Hackford, late of Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place. Reception for the changes was harsh to say the least, and I find myself concuring that the producers should have payed Schram whatever she wanted to stay on the series, because the character of Natalie pales in comparison.

That isn't to say the character didn't show potential. Hackford's debut episode, Mr. Monk and the Red Herring, is a crackerjack romp with many character building moments and an acceptable, if not believeable, sendoff to Sharona. Hackford showcased some real chemistry with Shalhoub, and her character showcased a chance of becoming something other than a Sharona-knockoff.

But as the remainder of the season progressed it became clear that none of that potential would be acted upon. It became obvious that the scripts were written for Sharona and Natalie was just thrown into the script as a replacement without much thought. Hackford is a great actress, and you can see her trying in these later episodes, but to no avail. The character becomes annoying and grating.

The mysteries do the same. A budget increase was obvious, with big action sequences happening in almost every episode (most notably Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever and Mr. Monk Gets Caught In Traffic) and less attention paid to the mysteries, often making them eith so obvious or so outlandish they were laughable.

Shalhoub still provides the emotional drive and the center of the series, and doesn't overact or miss a beat no matter how stupid or unintentionally funny the situation.

Therefore, I recommend this box set for Monk fans. The series took a big dip in quality near the end, but the Sharona episodes are a gentle reminder of great things past, and the first Natalie episodes showcases a potential never acted upon.
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