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Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson

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I am somewhat mixed on this book, I waffled back and forth with being engaged in the story and being bored and having to force myself to read on, at least in the first half. I found I really didn't care for the two main characters, they were too clichéd, unlikable and uninteresting and in the beginning when the book focused on them everything dragged. Once the mermaid and her influence became the focus the story picked up immediately and became engaging, I especially loved the explanation for her being there. I did find the ending a bit lacking, I really wanted a bit more resolution than we got. For me the true strength of the book is its art. The use of charcoal was a fascinating choice and was especially effective in making the shading subtle and layered and the blacks especially deep. I especially enjoyed the backgrounds, exteriors, images of the steam ship at night, which were haunting and the underwater scenes were just beautiful and otherworldly. I found myself ignoring the story and just studying the drawings over and over. The drawings of the people though were a mixed bag, the women were usually well done and felt like real people but I had trouble with the male characters, especially the main character Twain, his look was so simplistic and cartoony, especially his eyes it was hard to take him serious as a character. I’m am rating this as high as I am for the art, he did such an amazing job of creating a real feeling world with depth and a feel of history and being lived in and I did enjoy much of the story I just wish the author had spent more time on the myth and magic of the mermaid and less on the uninteresting lead characters, or had made them more interesting.
Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries

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This is a fascinating collection of stories that don’t always have any obvious connections to each other, other than the strangeness of life in this world. Each of these articles were previously published in The Guardian newspaper and the author Jon Ronson covers an impressively diverse series of topics from the Insane Clown Posse to unusual religious groups, a Christmas themed town to the economic disparity in this country, Stanley Kubrick's Boxes to assisted suicide. Not all of the topics are ones I would have chosen to read separately on my own and yet I was fascinated by and am glad that I read each one. I felt that each topic was covered seriously and respectfully no matter how quirky or sometimes even unpleasant it was and some of them made me uncomfortable but they all made me think or exposed me to a segment of society I was unaware of or just hadn’t previously paid attention to.He doesn’t always wrap up each story with an opinion or even a real conclusion, sometimes they just end, or at least his involvement in the story ends, which is sort of how life is. Real life doesn’t always end neatly or conveniently and sometimes there really isn’t any sense to be made from what happens, sometimes its just worthwhile to know that the story happened at all. This book made me thing and question and exposed me to people and experiences I never knew existed and for that alone it was very worth reading.
Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland

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Diana Vreeland was a larger than life personality, creative, outgoing, inspirational to many and frustrating and difficult and threatening to others and it was fascinating to read about the life and steps she took that brought her to the pinnacle of the fashion world. I may have come across her name in past readings about the fashion world but before this book I never really knew anything about her or her impact in fashion and pop culture of her time, even on the culture of today’s world. The author does a very good job bringing her past to life and creating a sympathetic but not overly romanticized biography, letting us see her weaknesses as well as her strengths to light. The thing I really had trouble with was when the author described all the clothes from photos shoots or that Diana helped influenced but did not provide photographs of these items, it really made the story drag and hard to read in those sections. All of those lists of specific pieces of clothes and styles could have been skipped easily and it would have improved the story greatly. Overall I enjoyed this book, the topic of Diana Vreeland was fascinating and the look at the changes in fashion and society as a whole through the lens of her life was very interesting and educational. I find history like this to be absorbed easier through such a lens as a single life time, it make it more direct and concrete feeling.
Dead Reflections

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This is a collection of one horror novel, five short stories and two poems. The main story, Dead Reflections did not really work for me, it started out creepy and suspenseful but the longer it went on the less and less creepy it became until it felt, well like a normal story, for lack of better words. Overall it was very unsatisfying and a struggle for me to finish. The two poems also left me cold but I have a love/hate, mostly hate relationship with poetry so those who are more into it may come away with a better feel for them. Now the short stories. Oh my the short stories! They are what I was expecting and looking for. Creepy, atmospheric and unsettling they take you to that half step out of reality where all the nightmares can exist. I love how the author would use a short description of a sense, of smell, sound, touch, the feeling of something moving in the air against your skin, something in the atmosphere, to create an off balance feeling that puts you into the right state of mind and evokes what the characters are experiencing because we’ve smelled these smelled or sensed these things but perhaps we didn’t know why they were unsettling before. The short stories alone were definitely worth getting the book for.
Stalking the Vampire

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A fun book and a good second outing for this series. The world felt more substantial and real and the characters felt more developed instead of just caricatures and tropes.It was fun to watch as John Malllory finds his footing in this new world and finds ways to it work for him and to interact with more and more of the denizens of the New York.I found myself enjoying the new characters introduced, Bats and Scaly Jim Chandler and wouldn’t mind seeing them return in future books. And as enjoyable as the greater presence of Felina was I wish we could spend more time with Winnifred Carruthers, she seems like an awesome character and it's a shame she keeps getting relegated to the side lines.The one thing that completely fell flat for me though was the use of the Grundy, his presence felt too much like a dues ex machina and a bit of a cop out. When he showed up it was jarring and unbelievable and took me out of the story, a little bit of him goes a long way.The series continues to entertain and shows signs of growth though I would suggest taking a break between reading them to keep them from seeming to similar and stale.
The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 2

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A collection of short stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres from authors from countries the Western world is not used to reading. A fascinating collection and well worth reading, even the stories that don’t quite work. The were all interesting and challenging and reengaged my interest in the genres again, it was so refreshing to get different cultural perspectives than I am used to. "The Bird Catcher" by S.P. Somtow, ThailandA modern version of the Boogeyman and the conditions that made him.This was a dark and disturbing story and I found the ambiguous ending unsettling but it was also subtle and fascinating and I was pulled into it immediately, it made some of the darker tendencies of humanity accessible if not understandable."Transcendence Express" by Jetse de Vries, NetherlandsA new form of computer and technology and how it can transform the world.At first I had a hard time getting into this story as I had a hard time deciding where it was going, and at the end I realized it was because it was a more upbeat and positive story vs. the dark and cautionary themes I’m used to in science fiction. I was more blown away by my reaction to it than to the story though it certainly made me think about my expectations from science fiction and want to search out more positive themed concepts."The Levantine Experiment" by Guy Hasson, IsraelA look at a scientific experiment into the development of self and special awareness.The very concept of the story made me very unhappy and unsettled, I don’t like dark stories involving children but I found the exploration of her mind and how she perceived the world around her fascinating. The ending was a bit to abrupt and unsatisfying, it felt a bit forced in order to make its point but the rest of it was worth it. "Ghost Jail" By Kaaron Warren, Australia/FijiThis was a mix of social activism in what I am assuming is a third worldish island dictatorship mixed with local magic. I never really got a feel for or was able to develop any sympathy for the main character/s and they mostly acted naive and stupid, which did not help. I did find the use of ghosts and magic fascinating and would have liked to read more about that. A mixed story, interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. "Wizard World" by Yang Ping, ChinaA look at what happens when a virtual world takes over and then is taken away.As a gamer whose favorite MMO had just shut down this resonated with me and hit close to home so I was the perfect audience for this book. It felt believable in how people can become so immersed in their virtual worlds that the real one fades away, the ending was a bit abrupt but still felt believable within the world created here."L'Aquilone du Estrella" ("The Kite of Stars") by Dean Francis Alfar, PhilippinesA fairy tale of a young girls life long quest to gain the attention of her love at first sight. This truly reads like an old time fairy tale, it is epic and grand in scale and for all its unbelievability it was believable. Everything fit with this, the world, the language used, the characters, a real gem and joy to read."Cinderers" by Nir Yaniv, IsraelI’m not sure if this was a story about renegade artists, a murderer or psychosis or all three. For me it was the only fail in the whole book as I did not like it and the ending left me vaguely angry, like it had wasted my time. I don’t need things spelled out for me but this was so obscure it just ended up meaning nothing."The Allah Stairs" by Jamil Nasir, PalestineAnother fable/fairy tale about a boy who can summon monkeys from Allah? I’m not really sure how that works but it was interesting if not engaging. I really couldn’t tell if anyone was a good guy in this story or if there was supposed to be a moral or anything so I ended up not caring but the visual imagery was effective and captivating so I enjoyed it for that."Biggest Baddest Bomoh" by Tunku Halim, MalaysiaThe dangers of using love magic. Another one I found hard to get into as I felt both characters were dislikable and the guy especially but I did like the not really a total surprise twist ending, I felt that was handled well."The Lost Xuyan Bride" by Aliette de Bodard, FranceA mystery/detective story set in an Alternat History Mexico.This was my favorite story in the book, she is the only author I’ve gone out of my way to track down more of her writing. I loved how full and realized the world she created felt, you don’t have to read any of the others stories in this universe to fully understand and get into this story. Very satisfying. "Excerpt from a Letter to a Social-Realist Aswang" by Kristin Mandigma, PhilippinesA letter from a Communist demon. Short, amusing, a little self indulgent but since it is so short it works. "An Evening in the City Coffee House, With Lydia on my Mind" by Alexsandar Ziljak, CroatiaA cyberpunkesque story about voyeurism, pornography and well, other things. Not a pleasant story but a fascinating one. For me it did a great job of creating the world and it’s technology and was positively reminiscent of the original cyberpunk movement. "Into the Night" by Anil Menon, IndiaAn aging Brahmin trying to adjust to a more Western and technological world than he is used to. I found it a somewhat interesting look at the culture clash between different generations but it was a bit unbelievable that he would have no familiarity with the current technology which took me out of the story completely, and it was pretty obvious how things would go for him so it was very hard to care that much as neither he nor his daughter were very likable and we were given no reason to care, they were both just their to fulfill their story bound roles. "Elegy" by Melanie Fazie, FranceA mother dealing with the unusual disappearance of her children.This is another one I had a hard time getting into, I couldn’t tell if this was something that really happened or if it was all in her mind and she had gone crazy with the grief. The writing didn’t flow for me and felt forced and with the concept not being clear to me it just left me confused and unsatisfied."Compartments" by Zoran Zivkovic, SerbiaA somewhat existential story of a mans journey on a train and the people he meets there. I have read this authors stories before so knew better than to expect anything easily understood or clear cut and this was no exception. His writing has a more lyrical and poetic feel to it vs. traditional narrative story telling and you never really find out what is going on and while that was a tad frustrating at the end, the journey itself was so magical that it still makes the story worth reading.
The Drunken Botanist

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This book looks at the various plants that go into making some of the most well known, and not so well known, alcoholic drinks. It is broken into three parts, the most common and well known plants and drinks, then to the more unusual plants, herbs, fruits and spices and finally tips on growing your own plants for use in making drinks and recipes are included throughout.The first part was the best and the easiest to read as it had the most information, not just about the plants and drinks themselves but some of their history and developments. The writing style is very engaging and you learn a lot without feeling like you've had a ton of information dumped on you. The second part dragged a bit as some of the plant entries were just lists of how they were used in drinks with no history of further information, though this is understandable as if the author had added as much information in the second part as in the first the book would have been huge. The third part about growing your own plants was short and not very detailed as gardening is so specific to your region but gave a good impression of what would be needed and what to consider when looking to grow your own. I learned a lot from this book and was inspired to look up further information, more than anything I loved reading the history behind some of the drinks and ingredients we take for granted.
Sketch Me If You Can

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For what it was I enjoyed this book, I have sort of a love hate relationship with cozy mysteries, I enjoy them but they drive me nuts with the usually stupid ways they get their fledgling investigators involved in solving the crime and the stupid decisions everyone has to make to make this premise work. This one had a very good way to get the main character involved in the crime and unusually the crime solving itself was the main focus of the book, but the author still had her doing cringe inducing things (such as not calling the cops when a detective of all people would know better) to keep the plot going but I'm hoping future books can avoid, or at least they wont feel as annoying since it would make more sense with the direction the book went.I did really enjoy the characters of Rory McCain and Marshal Ezekiel Drummond and I found their approach to his status as a ghost believable within the framework of the story and I feel I will enjoy reading more about them and watching their partnership grow. Overall it was a decent mystery, the characters were well rounded and I cared about them and I am looking forward to reading more.
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Love You When...

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“Love you when…” is a warm and uplifting book with brightly painted rocks combined with enriching text that is sweet without being saccharine.When I first skimmed through this book I felt that the painted stones were too bright and jarring against the natural stones used as background but as I continued to read and began to pay more attention to the text I warmed to the style and found it really enhanced the whole experience. The stones just made me happy to look at them. I love the font used, I love the colors used for the text pages, I loved the warm and enriching text itself and I found myself going back and rereading and rereading and smiling the whole time.I could see giving this to someone you love or even to yourself to read when you need a pick me up. This book would work as a gift from a parent to child or child to parent or to a loved one of any age really.
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