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Barks Book Nonsense "All reviews are based purely on whim, fancy and my mood. They are 100% my honest and personal opinion. Hey, you get what you pay for!" (USA)

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Alien Pets
Alien Pets
by Denise Little
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative stories about the oddest pets, June 30 2004
This review is from: Alien Pets (Mass Market Paperback)
Alien Pets is a novel about, well, Alien Pets. Contained within are stories that are warm and fuzzy, hilarious and downright heartbreaking (though most are on the lighter side). As is the case with most anthologies, some of the stories just couldn't hold my interest (the more techie sci-fi based ones) but for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed these mini-romps with odd pets of all sorts and sizes.
Starting things off is Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "Objects of Desire" which tells the tale of a youngster named Kirby who wants a "skewlis" so much it hurts. Everyone she knew had one of the weasel-crossed-with-a-cat, lemon and incense smelling critters but her mom was down on her luck and short on cash. A "skewlis", the latest fad of the moment, was completely out of her reach. Kirby's surprised when her grandma gives her one as a gift. Grandma's a bargain hunter so Kirby's skewlis isn't exactly top-of-the-line but Kirby loves her anyway. Of course, the skewlis turns out to be more than it appears and Kirby learns an important lesson about "wanting" stuff.
Other favorites of mine were: "What Fluffy Knew" a creepy little tale about an alien invasion told from the point of view of a spoiled housecat named Fluffy who takes it upon herself to save her family when mini-aliens invade. "Diamonds" by Michelle West is a story of a lonely boy who was always told he "was a mistake". When he discovers a secret hidden away in his parents bedroom he finds a friend, learns the importance of freedom and eventually finds love and acceptance.
"Dog Is My Co-pilot" is one of my favorites of the bunch. It's an often humorous tale about a lonesome pilot named Frank whose company decides to engineer the perfect companion for its employees. They've altered dogs that will live longer lives and speak their minds and ease the loneliness that often overwhelms their employee's. Frank's pal is quite a character who changes his name to suit his many moods. Some days he's the dignified Charles, other days he's simply Charlie or Chuck but whatever he may be calling himself he always remains Frank's best pal. One day the two find themselves stranded without a ship and are "rescued" by a rogue dog who quickly abandons Frank and takes off with Charlie. Stranded and feeling horribly betrayed, Frank is soon taken in by a group of harmless looking aliens. All ends will for Frank and Charlie in this good humored tale.
Other notable stories for me were "In The Storm, In The Stars" which is a different spin on the legendary unicorn. It's a painful read for an animal lover like me and ends on a somewhat bittersweet note. And, "Elmer", a tale of a young boy who finds an amoeba-like creature while investigating what appears to be a crashed meteor. One fateful day he discovers it has miraculous powers. This story is a tad more gruesome than all of the others which tend to be on the tame side and it deals with some weightier subjects like death and grief.
I'd recommend this to any pet lover looking for something out of the ordinary.

The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown
Edition: Audio CD
22 used & new from CDN$ 3.96

3.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't hold my attention., June 28 2004
This review is from: The Da Vinci Code (Audio CD)
My husband and I listened to most of this unabridged reading while painting our kitchen. He was enthralled with all of the little secrets and thought it very exciting. I, on the other hand, found it tedious and repetitive and soon felt trapped in my kitchen with no escape in sight. The characters lacked personality and the voice of the protagonist's love interest (her name escapes me now) was cringe worthy and sent shudders of horror down my spine every time she "spoke". I guess your level of enjoyment of this very popular novel will depend on your interest in the Holy Grail and secret societies, all of which interest me not even a wee bit.

by John Shirley
Edition: Audio Cassette

3.0 out of 5 stars Slow going for me, June 28 2004
This review is from: Demons (Audio Cassette)
Ira, an artist, has just had his world ripped apart. Demons have invaded and are gleefully ripping humans to shreds one by one.
I listened to this as an Audible downloand and, apparently, this book is two books in one. Book 1 tells Ira's story and his battle with the Demons. This story began with a rip-roaring start but petered out somewhere mid-way when Ira, the woman he's in love with and a group of men who belong to a secret society attempt to figure out how to defeat the demons and reclaim their world. I lost interest midway as the story got bogged down in a lot of metaphysical talk and seemed to skip around too much for my liking. It also wasn't as "horrific" as I'd anticipated considering the plot. The ideas are all there (and are indeed frightening) but the telling of the story just didn't do it for me.
Unfortunately, Book 2 wasn't any better of a read for me. It takes place some nine years later and this time a group of greedy, power hungry folks foolishly thinking they're gods bring the demons back to life but not before the book goes into horrifying details about the evils these people are doing the environment. Ewww, for me it was a thoroughly unpleasant (and often boring) story. Not helping matters out any is the overblown reading by one of the male narrators who gets so worked up and gasps for breath so many times during his reading I thought he was surely going to expire from the effort.
I much preferred John Shirley's book "New Noir" over this one.

Pocket Guide to Hatha Yoga
Pocket Guide to Hatha Yoga
by Michele Picozzi
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A handy little guide, June 20 2004
This is a very good guide for those new to yoga but make sure you rent a few videos too or better yet take a class if possible. Yoga Zone videos are my favorites but I also adore Steve Ross's show "Inhale" on the Oxygen channel to get me moving. This guide details yoga's origins and outlines the different versions of Hatha yoga while explaining the poses and giving you guidelines for creating your own practice. It's a little on the crunchy side and even goes into detail about a yogi's diet which is something I will never ever be able to follow. Give up sugar, are they nuts?!

Life Support
Life Support
by Tess Gerritsen
Edition: Audio Cassette
7 used & new from CDN$ 28.73

4.0 out of 5 stars Held my attention from beginning to end, June 18 2004
This review is from: Life Support (Audio Cassette)
I am reviewing this book in its ABRIDGED format of only two tapes.
This abridged recording begins when an underage prostitute is delivered to her client. She's immediately put off by the sleazy location but plays along entering a white walled room filled only with a bright light and what appears to be a doctor's examination table. She hops up on the table as instructed but is soon sucking in noxious fumes and knocked unconscious . . .
Next we meet Dr. Toby Harper who works the graveyard shift in the emergency room. One night an old man appears in the ER with no apparent illness besides a penchant for stripping off his clothes in public and a bit of disorientation. As Toby goes about examining him his leg starts to twitch. She's called out on another call and when she returns he has disappeared and Toby is held responsible. Soon another old man arrives (who was, coincidentally, living in the same fancy retirement community as the first mystery man) with similar symptoms but this man dies. Toby is suspicious, orders an autopsy and does some snooping around on her own when she is met with unreasonable resistance to her questions. It seems that some experimentation with prolonging life has been going on at the retirement home with frightening side effects. When Toby eventually discovers a bit of what has been going on her own life becomes endangered.
This was an interesting medical thriller with an engaging protagonist but once Tape 2 begins the abridgement becomes very apparent. Events begin to happen fast and furiously and characterization is minimal. For the most part, the cuts necessary for this abridgement are smooth but I did find myself left a bit confused on more than one occasion and would've loved to have gotten to know all of the players a bit better. If I stumble across an uncut version of "Life Support" I'll definitely check it out to read all that I missed.

The Embrace: A True Vampire Story
The Embrace: A True Vampire Story
by Aphrodite Jones
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Horrible tragedy and dull, dull, dull book, June 17 2004
The back blurb of my copy of "The Embrace" claims "The Embrace will forever change the way we look at one of the fastest-growing religious movements in the country and its most vulnerable fold: our children."
Are they claiming Satanism or "vampirism" is one of the fastest growing religious movements? Since when? Or are they insinuating that modern day witchcraft = Satanism/vampirism. If that's the case someone really needs to do some homework. I sure hope the book is researched better than the back cover copy . . .
The Embrace is the author's pieced together account of a vicious true life crime perpetuated by a vicious, disturbed young man who believed he was immortal (among other wacked out theories). Rod Ferrell and his group of mindless followers are aimlessly traveling from Kentucky to Florida where Ferrell intends to add his ex-girlfriend Heather to his "coven", kill Heather's parents and steal their vehicle. The group then plans to head to New Orleans and crash with Ferrell's "vampire" friends. The sheep-like clan members don't take Ferrell's claims of murder seriously and laugh it off. Unfortunately, he wasn't kidding around and they find themselves accessories to a crime that is anything but funny.
I won't comment on how accurate this retelling of the events leading to the murder happens to be as I was completely unfamiliar with the case until now. The book reads like what I'm assuming it is: a collection of interviews pieced together by the author. The problem lies with the dull way the author presents her material. The book is extremely tedious and very repetitive and could've been trimmed by a hundred or more pages. This all makes for a very dull read for anyone not familiar with this case.

The Beginner's Guide to Wicca
The Beginner's Guide to Wicca
by Starhawk
Edition: Audio CD
Price: CDN$ 18.98
15 used & new from CDN$ 12.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Ah, if only it were a little longer!, June 16 2004
I read this in an unabridged CD format. Starhawk narrates the audiobook in a calm, clear voice starting with a brief history of Wicca and outlining its structure, belief system, holidays, the importance of the moon cycles, the God and Goddess concept, the cycles of life and nature, and then briefly describes the ritual and tools a witch uses. She then moves along to active practice leading the listener through a grounding session which incorporates slow, yogic breathing to calm the mind of busy thoughts which gently leads one into a meditative state necessary for successful ritual work. The recording ends with a step-by-step ritual.
This is a good place to start for anyone interested in learning what Wicca is all about. However there is a lot of information packed into the first section that only briefly touches on subjects that will require further reading for anyone seriously interested in practicing Wicca. That's not really a complaint as there are so many aspects of Wicca that they could never properly be detailed in one tome (well, it may be possible but the thing would weigh several tons and be impossible to lug around!). Still, I do wish this audio were longer than a little over one hour as I very much enjoyed Starhawk's narration and her informative writing skills.

All He Ever Wanted
All He Ever Wanted
by Anita Shreve
Edition: Audio CD
17 used & new from CDN$ 26.79

3.0 out of 5 stars Why spend time with someone so thoroughly unpleasant?!, June 15 2004
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted (Audio CD)
All He Ever Wanted begins with a hotel fire in the early 1900's. The narrator of the story (who is recounting his past while en route to his sister's funeral) bachelor Nicholas Van Tassel, a stuffy professor at a snotty boys' school, is inside the hotel when the blaze begins but leaves unscathed. During this tragedy where twenty people perish in a fiery death he meets the woman of his dreams, Etna Bliss.
Etna's "handsome" face, her lovely waist and her other womanly attributes haunt his every thought. Even her name, Bliss, brings lusty thoughts to his mind (and starts my skin to crawling). His infatuation is all consuming and before long he begins to pursue her with all of the gusto of a starving dog drooling over a choice bit of meat. She eventually agrees to a date where he learns, a bit to his dismay, that she has a brain as well as fine breasts and is surprisingly literate. They read stories together and seem to get along well but when he makes a move or turns the conversation towards the personal she immediately gives him the cold shoulder. I should add that Nicholas is described as the most un-athletic man on earth with a slight paunch and a balding pate. The sexual attraction seems entirely one-sided and a bit creepy. At this point I would've put the book aside unfinished as I found Nicholas Van Tassel boring beyond belief and far too pompous. However, since I was listening to this in its unabridged format and I was stuck in traffic I continued to torture myself with Nicholas Van Tassel's words (expertly read by a narrator who reads in a purposely haughty way).
Despite the fact that Etna does not return his feelings of undying love he insists that they marry and, oddly enough, she agrees! Thus begins their awkward life together. During their years of marriage they parent two children (and, thakfully, we are spared the oogey details of their sterile love making ~ thank you Mr. Van Tassel for speedily skipping by those bits and saving me a few shudders!) and seem to get along decently enough as they plod along through their days. Nicholas gives Etna a nice life and the freedom to do whatever she wishes but sadly the love Nicholas aches for is never returned by Etna. Nicholas, the poor love starved sap, is grateful just to have her for his wife and doesn't complain about her complete lack of affection towards him. But things begin to change when he discovers that Etna has been hiding things from him. This is where the book finally picked up and actually engaged my full attention.
At this point Nicholas *almost* becomes a sympathetic character if you can believe it (though he is still a thoroughly unpleasant fellow)! He is riddled with insecurities and although he has been married to a woman he cherishes for years he will never be a happy or successful man. His world begins to spiral out of control as he simultaneously discovers Etna's been keeping secrets and learns the position he's been longing to have at the University may be forever out of his reach.
Nicholas's festering jealously and over-reaction to Etna's secret (which was odd but not nearly as devastatingly earth-shattering as I'd anticipated), however, ruin any smidgen of pity I may have felt for him just a few chapters earlier. Author Shreve successfully paints an unpleasant picture of a thoroughly unpleasant man caught up in a situation of his own making. Reading Nicolas Van Tassel's vitriolic comments and actions for pages on end was a depressing experience that I won't be repeating any time soon!

Conjure Wife
Conjure Wife
by Fritz Leiber
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 32.92

3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm, started out great but couldn't hold me, June 14 2004
When Norman Saylor discovers that his wife Tansy has been dabbling in witchcraft he demands that she cease all witchy activity and then demands that she remove all of her protective spells placed upon their home.
This is a mistake Norman will soon live to regret as his comfortable life begins to unravel. See, it seems that Tansy wasn't the only one practicing witchcraft and the grasping wives of Norman's colleagues at the college have been practicing as well. Now, what with the protections ceasing to exist, the Saylor's are wide open to dangerous forces that do not wish them well!
Initially I found this book very interesting and it pleasantly reminded me of those old black and white creepy movies I used to watch during my childhood. Sadly, as I continued to read I somehow lost my way and found it difficult to maintain my enthusiasm to turn the pages. The story mainly consists of Norman's internal monologue and his attempt to find a solution to the heart-rending predicament in which he finds himself. Maybe it was my mood, maybe it was the dated feel of the story or maybe it was the format but I found the book a tad too slow moving and too easy to put down. Though it was exceptionally creepy at times it just didn't click with me.

Skipping Christmas
Skipping Christmas
by John Grisham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.76
101 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Cute but not quite what I'd consider side-splittingly funny, June 14 2004
This review is from: Skipping Christmas (Hardcover)
3 1/2 stars. I read this slight Christmas story as an unabridged audiobook in the balmy month of June. I must say that reading this in the summer did not make me all gushy and wistful for the hectic Christmas season (which, I'm guessing is the point of this silly little tale)!
Luther Krank is quite disgusted by the commercialism of Christmas and the thousands of dollars he wastes every year on the season. This year, since his daughter is out of the country, he decides to skip it altogether and spend the holiday with his wife on a Caribbean cruise. He's looking forward to the trip and counting up all of the money he's sure to save. His wife, Nora, reluctantly agrees to Luther's plan and the two embark on a diet to shed a few pounds before their trip. Unfortunately, Luther's nosy neighbors and co-workers can't seem to understand the whole "skipping Christmas" concept and nag him to reconsider.
Between the nagging neighbors, the solicitors hounding him for money and his ravenous hunger pangs, Luther is a man living on the edge. When the fire department arrives at the door peddling fruitcakes Luther is so ravenous he actually considers grabbing one of the noxious things for himself. Little episodes like these fill the book with a sense of fun despite the often irritating plot twists (and even more irritating friends and neighbors). Poor Luther just can't get a break and I plugged away hoping he'd eventually escape the madness and get to enjoy his well deserved vacation.
This is a cute story about the ridiculousness of the Christmas season and the foolishness of rushing around like mad-people. Though the ending isn't quite what I was hoping for it was written with a lot of heart. I'm a bit too grumpy to appreciate the gushing sentiment and the feelings of goodwill but I'm sure the ending will satisfy those looking for such things.

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