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K. Sullivan "No accounting for taste..." RSS Feed (Virginia - United States)
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The Year of Dan Palace
The Year of Dan Palace
by Chris Jane
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.90
13 used & new from $12.90

2.0 out of 5 stars Why?, February 25, 2015
This review is from: The Year of Dan Palace (Paperback)
Dan Palace is leaving his wife, Nina. He loves her, but not enough, or perhaps not in “that” way. Despite being with her for eight years, he’s convinced that his first wife, April, is the “One”. It’s unclear why they’re no longer together (and remains so throughout the novel despite a couple of leads), but their relationship couldn’t survive some trauma. He’s inspired to take this rather drastic step because he’s convinced that an asteroid is going to collide with the earth. It could happen on New Year’s Day, on the eve of which he informs Nina he’s leaving her, or as much as six months away. Whatever the specific timeframe, though, the end is nigh and he owes it to himself to live on his terms. “The Year of Dan Palace” follows the protagonist as he leaves his wife, quits his job, and pursues his ex-wife in earnest – meeting some like-minded individuals along the way.

I was drawn to the novel primarily due to the premise. A man approaching middle age, Dan is in his upper 30’s, has a crisis of conscience because his life may soon be over and it’s not shaping up in the way he expected. Asteroids aside, this “mid-life crisis” is common to the human condition. How the protagonist overcomes the struggle could prove instructive or inspiring for the reader.

Additionally, after reading the first few pages of the novel, I was impressed with the emotional awareness of the protagonist and/or the author. As Dan is wrecking not only his life, but that of his wife, he seemed to have a real empathy for her. He was very deliberate in what he said and did or didn’t say and do to try to prevent any misunderstandings or any greater harm. While the act itself might be tragically reprehensible (and in fairness, the reader doesn’t really know this yet – should he be with Nina or April or someone else entirely? Or perhaps no one…), at least he exhibits some compassion. This suggested that the novel might play out as some adult morality tale.

Finally, the writing was good. It’s no literary masterpiece, and there are occasional editing issues, but the writing is generally competent.

Unfortunately, by the novel’s end, only one of the ideas above endured. Chris Jane’s writing is the primary bright spot. The story itself, however, was a disappointment. There isn’t anything remotely instructive or inspiring about the tale. Sorely needed context is conspicuously absent. Any set up for the idea that the world is ending is missing completely, so the reader can’t relate to the protagonist on that level. No effort went into providing depth to either of Dan’s marriages. The reader isn’t provided any motivation to care for Nina or April or why Dan should end up with either of them. Despite hints of emotional depth and maturity in the book’s opening pages, the protagonist ends up being a real jerk. Some of his actions are absolutely beyond the pale – complete head-scratchers. To this reader, the characters weren’t believable or likable. If one isn’t made to care about the characters or their plight, what else is there? Absent any lesson or inspiration, the book had to rely on its entertainment value. I fail to see what anyone would find entertaining about this story. While the book’s conclusion might offer some sort of redemption to the main character and bring him full circle as such stories often do, there’s no grounding or sensible reason why the reader should be satisfied with it. The ending may be tidy but it lacks any emotional resonance.

What’s the point? Why was this story told? As presented, I honestly don’t know.


Fluxx 5.0 Card Game
Fluxx 5.0 Card Game
Price: $13.07
20 used & new from $12.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Clever card game that continuously evolves, February 7, 2015
This review is from: Fluxx 5.0 Card Game (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Gameplay of Fluxx 5.0 starts out simple enough. Each player is dealt three cards. The basic rules then require the player to draw one card from the deck and play one card from his or her hand. The catch is that the rules aren’t likely to remain basic for long. New rules can be introduced impacting not only the number of cards drawn and played each turn but much more. The rules can change multiple times within a single turn. As for winning the game, the goal is equally inconstant. The requirements for victory might also change numerous times within the same turn. If this sounds complicated, it really isn’t. The shifting gameplay and conditions for winning requires players to stay on their toes. Victory can be sudden and unexpected.

There are four basic types of cards in Fluxx 5.0. “New Rule” cards change the gameplay and there can be more than a handful in play at any one time. They are substituted and removed regularly. And yet several rounds in, the basic rules (draw one, play one) might be back in effect. “Action” cards require the player to take some particular action (like stealing a card from someone else, eliminating rules, or drawing and playing cards). “Goal” cards establish the condition(s) for victory. The majority require that a player have two particular “Keeper” cards (more on them in a moment) in play. But other goals include reaching a certain number of cards in your hand or “Keeper” cards in play. “Keeper” cards, the final type of card, feature objects (e.g., a rocket or the moon). “Keeper” cards are played by being placed face up in front of the player. Most “Goal” cards require collecting two particular “Keeper” cards as the condition of victory. For instance, the goal might be “Hearts and Minds” requiring a player to have the “Love” and “Brain” keeper cards in play to win. A single turn might have a player introduce a new rule, take an action, change the goal, play a keeper or multiple instances of each. That actually leads to the one frustration in gameplay: a player’s turn can go on for quite some time. This raises the possibility of two negatives. First, those waiting to go can become bored if they need constant stimulation. Second, some people may be overwhelmed by the pressure of playing through such an in depth turn. Players must be pretty flexible and mentally disciplined to succeed.

Fluxx 5.0 is deceptively simple and its design is quite clever, relying on a nice mix of strategy and luck. The game isn’t for everyone. People who like comfortable, established gameplay should steer clear. But for those who enjoy a good curveball, step up to the plate.


Will Starling: A Novel
Will Starling: A Novel
by Ian Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.07
70 used & new from $7.44

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawless, January 13, 2015
This review is from: Will Starling: A Novel (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It’s 1816 in London. William Starling’s an undersized 19-year-old orphan who has returned from The Napoleonic War. There he served as an assistant to surgeon Alec Comrie. Will’s still haunted by the horrors he witnessed on the continent. They’ve returned to the slums of London to establish a medical practice. Surgeons aren’t properly physicians and their reputations are sullied in no small part due to the perception that they’re responsible for the grave-robbing trade. Yet it’s a time of scientific experimentation and discovery. One surgeon in particular, Dionysus Atherton, an old friend of Comrie’s, is making quite a name for himself. Between his dramatic lessons given at the hospital and the potentially groundbreaking research performed at his estate, his star is on the rise. Never mind the whispers about the insidious nature of his experiments. For his own reasons, Atherton is obsessed with conquering death. As his experiments grow bolder, Will becomes entangled in the events that unfold. Perhaps this is inevitable given the secret past they share.

“Will Starling” is cut from the same cloth as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. It too examines the uneasy coexistence between scientific advancement and religious prerogative. Here the battle is played out in the slums of Dickensian London rather than German universities and wealthy Swiss estates (to say nothing of the North Pole). Will Starling is the novel’s narrator (ubiquitously referring to himself as “Your Wery Umble”). He immerses the reader in London’s dark underbelly. The language used is authentic to the time period (eyes may be “glims” or “twinklers”, face is “phizog”, clothes are “togs”, etc.). The meaning is generally found in the context, but there are sentences and expressions that are practically incomprehensible. Instead of being frustrating, it contributed to the immersive experience. The narrator’s voice perfectly captures the time and place. And Will Starling is an endearing chap. He’s the perfect guide for the story that unfolds. This isn’t because he is so genuine and likable alone, but because the story is more than scientific experiments. Ultimately, it’s about shrouded pasts and uncertain futures. Much of the genius in this novel is the way secrets are slowly revealed. There’s the immediate tension of what monsters might be lurking in the night, but there’s a much more mundane but tragic story unfolding as well.

I am in awe of Ian Weir’s writing and storytelling. “Will Starling” is honestly one of the best novels I’ve ever read. This isn’t hyperbole. Reviewers have complained that the novel is “slow”. This is true and readers who are looking for constant action will be disappointed. But for readers who enjoy inhabiting another time and space, particularly Victorian London, simply being transported to that era will be a joy. And Weir transports the reader there completely. Tension develops slowly and organically. The story ventures off in unexpected directions. The protagonist and various other characters are utterly captivating. The dark narrative is sprinkled with wit. The ending is simply perfect. “Will Starling” is a stunning achievement.


Nautilus T614 Treadmill
Nautilus T614 Treadmill
Price: $848.97
2 used & new from $848.97

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent treadmill, January 10, 2015
This review is from: Nautilus T614 Treadmill (Sports)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Nautilus T614 is a sturdy functional treadmill with nice features. Assembly is required. Essentially the handlebars and console must be attached. The base or deck comes completely assembled. Although two sets of hands would be helpful (particularly to position components while connecting wiring), one person can complete the setup alone with reasonable strength and dexterity. The machine is very heavy - more than 200 pounds according to the box - so moving the box around is a chore. Once assembled, the treadmill sits on rollers and the deck folds up vertically for relatively easy relocation. Instructions are provided for belt alignment and tightening as necessary (simple bolt adjustments), but my unit's belt was properly positioned out of the box.

For standard workout consideration, the treadmill goes up to 12 miles per hour and electronically inclines up to 12%. The MPH can be adjusted by tenths, the incline by whole percentage points. Adjustments can also be made quickly to preset settings with the push of just two buttons (e.g., one could go from 4 mph to 12 mph just by pushing "12" and then "enter", no need to push the up arrow 80 times!). The belt dimensions (20" x 55") are more than adequate. The console tracks distance, calories burned, time, and heart rate. While in operation, the machine is relatively quiet.

The Nautilus T614 has some excellent features. It includes numerous workout programs. The "StrikeZone Cushioning" essentially means that the deck gives on impact. This results in less stress on the body with each step. It's no simple gimmick. The difference between exercising on the treadmill or on a standard hard surface is noticeable. The fold-up deck design is nice for economizing space or for relocating the machine. When releasing the deck to its horizontal position, its movement is controlled so it gently glides into position ("SoftDrop Folding"). At the time of this writing, the Amazon product page says the treadmill allows two user profiles but the T614 actually accommodates four unique user profiles. This is useful to track progress over time either directly in the console or by utilizing the USB connection to upload data from the console to a website. The LCD display is large and backlit for easy viewing. The unit's console also features speakers and a "media shelf" in between. The shelf is a nice touch for holding a tablet, music player, Kindle, or other reading material. A cord is provided to connect a MP3 player or iPod to the console.

Not all the features are homeruns in my opinion. The speakers do produce pretty good sound but it tends to be a little "tinny". A 3-speed fan is included on the console. While it's a nice touch, it's a little loud and, as probably expected, doesn't move a tremendous amount of air. The console also features grips for heart rate monitoring but, based on my experience, the readings are a little high.

All-in-all, the Nautilus T614 is an excellent treadmill. The consumer may wish to compare it to the T616. That unit features Bluetooth connectivity, a more powerful motor (by 0.25 CHP), expanded "Strikezone Cushioning" (six instead of four), more workout programs (by four), higher incline potential (by 3 percentage points) and a longer (by five inches) and more robust belt. To some users, those additional features will be worth the larger price tag. Comparisons aside, the Nautilus T614 is highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 20, 2015 4:29 PM PST


Gravwell
Gravwell
Offered by CoolStuffIncgames
Price: $29.48
7 used & new from $27.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ingeniously designed game of strategy, January 1, 2015
This review is from: Gravwell (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
“Gravwell’s” premise is simple. The player’s spaceship has been sucked into a black hole (1-4 people can play). To escape, the player must travel the 54 spaces from the singularity to the warp gate. Although it sounds easy enough, movement is a bit tricky. Consistent with the space theme, movement is determined by numbered “fuel” cards and gravity. The player’s proximity to other ships and the type of fuel card played determine the direction of his movement – toward or away from safety. Part of the challenge is that there's a gap between the time the player selects what fuel card to play and when he actually gets to move his spaceship. The position of the other ships may change in between meaning the player may find himself hurtling in the opposite direction of what he intended. The premise is intriguing and gameplay is surprisingly easy to learn. Ultimately, success at “Gravwell” depends upon a blend of strategy and chance.

A few elements of the game design are particularly clever. First, player turns are deceptively simple (always as basic as selecting a card or moving a game piece) and player strategy occurs simultaneously. This not only results in quick game play, but there’s never a time when players feel uninvolved. Second, the game tends toward equilibrium. Anytime a player gets away from the pack, either ahead or behind, the game has a way of pulling the group back together. A player that trails need not lose hope and a player that leads best not get cocky. Third, the game features a round limit (each player plays six cards per round for a maximum of six rounds). Even if no one seems to be able to get over the hump and break out into the warp gate, the end is still in sight. Gameplay routinely takes less than 30 minutes.

Setup/cleanup is a breeze. There’s one game board, seven game pieces or tokens (four player ships, two derelict or abandoned ships, and one round marker), and 30 cards (26 fuel or movement cards and an emergency stop card for each possible player). The aesthetics are laudable. The game pieces are actual plastic spaceships (instead of cardboard cutouts or other facsimile) and the color and design of the game board and cards are appealing.

One need not be a sci-fi fan, hardcore or otherwise, in order to appreciate “Gravwell”. Although the mechanics of gameplay are certainly derivative of the space theme, anyone should be able to appreciate them. Due to its simplicity and uniqueness, it’s a game that will be enjoyed over and over again well into the future.


There Will Be Lies
There Will Be Lies
by Nick Lake
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.40
88 used & new from $0.03

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An appealing heroine squandered in a disappointing story, January 1, 2015
This review is from: There Will Be Lies (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Seventeen-year-old Shelby Cooper has led a very sheltered life. To say that her mother is overprotective doesn’t even scratch the surface. But following an accident, their routine life together is thrown into chaos. The reader uncovers secrets about Shelby as Shelby uncovers secrets about her own past. If events in the real world aren’t confusing and unsettled enough, Shelby unwittingly crosses into another realm, “the Dreaming”, with a coyote as her guide. That world shares elements with the real world, but she can’t be sure she isn’t imagining the whole thing. Will she be able to cut through all the lies to find the truth?

The greatest strength of “There Will Be Lies” is its heroine. Shelby serves as the story’s narrator, frequently employing a conversational tone, even directly addressing the reader. Shelby shares her thoughts and interpretations as events unfold, and they’re often sassy and sarcastic generally without being rude or mean-spirited. She’s down-to-earth, relatable, and has a pretty charming if snarky sense of humor. The author delivers an authentic teenage female’s voice. Probably the worst that can be said about Shelby is that her shtick can get stale. She would be a great complement to a strong story, but “There Will Be Lies” fails to deliver enough apart from the character and narrative voice.

It’s a quality of good storytelling to carry the reader along, cultivating the depth necessary to supply an immersive experience. Internal logic and consistency are imperative. But author Nick Lake asks too much of the reader. The Dreaming has no credible foundation. Its relation to the real world and its own rules appear utterly arbitrary. As a result, there’s no real drama or tension (that isn’t wholly supplied by the reader, anyway). The setting for approximately half of the story relies more on the reader’s willingness just to go along with it and imbue it with meaning than on the author’s storytelling craft. Even in the parts of the story set in the real world, actions and behaviors strain credibility thus alienating the reader.

Those enticed by references to Native American mythology should be wary. Other than borrowing the familiar Coyote character, the mythology hardly plays a role. To the author’s credit, there are a few passages in which he attempts to include some inspirational messages. Unfortunately the delivery is a little heavy-handed and awkward (illustrated nicely by the eagle’s cameo). Ultimately, Shelby’s predicament may be too far-fetched for the reader to relate. She’s a winsome character wasted in a frenetic and underdeveloped story.


The Room: A Novel
The Room: A Novel
by Jonas Karlsson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.22
68 used & new from $5.97

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Little more than an intriguing character study, November 28, 2014
This review is from: The Room: A Novel (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Although the underlying circumstances are a bit muddled, Björn has recently changed jobs. Despite some evidence to the contrary, he views it as a step up in the “Authority” (a bureaucratic government agency in Stockholm, Sweden). His mundane duties are unclear but he keeps himself on a rigid schedule. He doesn’t have the best impression of his colleagues and he doesn’t get along with them very well. In the hallway one day, he stumbles upon a door he hasn’t noticed before. It opens into a small, apparently unused office. In “The Room”, Björn enumerates the instances he enters the room and traces the corresponding evolution of his status at work. The time he spends inside is viewed very differently by his coworkers. The room becomes a source of tension and possible intrigue between them.

The publishers unconvincingly suggest the novel is a statement on corporate culture and alienation. Others make misguided comparisons to Kafka. But “The Room” is less surreal than psychoanalytic. And any overarching statement has more to do with mental and social norms than business. The difficulty with the central character, Björn, is all too real. The author, Jonas Karlsson, has authentically presented the social and emotional difficulties typically associated with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome (despite never diagnosing his character in such a way). Björn is dominated by a cold intellect that’s often illogical due to limited perspective. Devoid of sympathy and the ability to inhabit another’s viewpoint, he’s awkward and unaware, absent social graces. It’s difficult for him to process his own feelings and emotions. His rigid routine is more the result of obsessive compulsive tendencies than efficiency. Unlike most people, he isn’t equipped with a filter between his thoughts and speech. These characteristics predictably strain his relationships with his peers who view him as “weird”. Tension over the new room is the proverbial icing on the cake and his manager requires him to see a psychologist. His psychological evaluation goes poorly, but Bjorn decides to make concessions so that he can fit in better at work. Over time, it could be that his unique characteristics actually make him especially well-suited for the tasks to be done.

At less than 200 pages, small pages at that, “The Room” is an extremely quick read. The enigmatic nature of the room provides an air of mystery and the reader may well wonder if there will be some climactic reveal of its true purpose or meaning. Of course, it’s possible the room’s explanation is much more mundane and rational. This ambiguity combines with the intriguing portrait of the main character to speed the reading experience along. And yet, I asked myself some way into the novel how the author would make everything pay off. Disappointingly, he didn’t. An intriguing character study is about all this novel offers despite promises of more.


In Some Other World, Maybe: A Novel
In Some Other World, Maybe: A Novel
by Shari Goldhagen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.70
89 used & new from $3.95

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Choices and outcomes, November 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In 1992, “Eons & Empires”, a popular science fiction comic book series, is released as a movie. The teenage characters of “In Some Other World, Maybe” attend a showing of the movie in three different American cities. One’s a diehard fan, the others are motivated less by the film than by the company they will keep. The novel then follows these teens through their 20’s and into their 30’s as their lives intersect and branch apart based on the choices they make. The comic book turned movie yet to turn television series is illustrative of the novel’s title. It’s an action packed story about a hero waging inter-dimensional battles against his nemesis on alternate earths in an effort to save his home earth. The rather obvious premise is that, not unlike science fiction treatments of alternate realities, these characters (and, more pointedly, you and I) are constantly facing choices that will determine the course of the future.

The author’s own experiences clearly shape the novel. Its timeline and her characters’ ages likely reflect her own (a character also shares her hometown of Cincinnati). Although there aren’t too many specific allusions to the past, there are enough political (e.g., Bush versus Gore and the Florida recount), pop culture (e.g., colorful swatch watches) and historic (e.g., 9/11 and the Hudson River aircraft landing) references that they felt somewhat intrusive. Without any true bearing on the plot, they just felt superfluous. Additionally, the author’s background in tabloid journalism probably accounts for the inclusion of aspiring actors, seedy celebrity worship, and gossip magazines. Unfortunately, the Hollywood trappings made the characters less relatable (and possibly less likable). She does a commendable job of creating three dimensional and self-aware characters, but their appeal is ultimately tarnished by the Tinseltown culture. Because the novel’s appeal is so dependent on the reader’s interest and investment in the characters, this could be problematic.

Another difficulty is that, several chapters into the novel, the author makes an odd stylistic choice. She introduces the use of second person narrative (“you”) and identifies the reader as one of the characters. The inclusion of this device is jarring and seems utterly arbitrary. It’s possible the author’s intent was thematic – in some other world, maybe you would be character “x” – but it doesn’t add anything to the story.

Separated from the Hollywood and science fiction trappings, the novel is primarily a character study exploring relationships (family, friends, romance). It’s an investigation of the choices we make and their ramifications. It offers hope that we can exercise some control in creating the world we want. Unfortunately, I never cared enough about the characters to actually get invested in their experiences. They were okay. The story was okay. And yet nothing about it, in plot or theme, was truly gripping.


Epson WorkForce WF-2630 Wireless Business AIO Color Inkjet, Print, Copy, Scan, Fax, Mobile Printing, AirPrint, Compact Size
Epson WorkForce WF-2630 Wireless Business AIO Color Inkjet, Print, Copy, Scan, Fax, Mobile Printing, AirPrint, Compact Size
Offered by DropAir
Price: Click here to see our price
18 used & new from $58.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice features and standard performance for economy all-in-one, October 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Epson WF-2630 performs comparably to other economy all-in-ones. It’s a solid printer/scanner/copier (and presumably fax machine but I have not tested that functionality and therefore cannot comment) as long as the buyer has realistic expectations about the machine.

Setup was relatively quick and easy. Simply remove the machine from the box, remove tape, attach and plug in power cord, then power the unit on. The display screen (not a touchscreen if that matters) guides the user through the setup process (choosing language, setting date and time, installing four ink cartridges, selecting paper size, and ultimately WIFI connectivity). In just a few minutes, the printer will be wirelessly connected and ready to copy. A disc is provided with the relevant drivers and utilities for PC or MAC so that the unit will be linked to your computer and ready to print in just a few minutes more. The unit does not come with a USB cable (which is NOT required for wireless use even during setup) or phone cord for fax use.

The print quality is average for such units. I haven’t encountered any of the blurring or other quality issues some other reviewers have remarked upon. The print results have been completely satisfactory for me. The speed varies dependent upon the nature of the printout. As expected, full color pictures take considerably longer than text documents. The wireless connectivity and speed are good. Again, performance is average. The machine doesn’t automatically facilitate two-sided printing. If desired, that must be accomplished manually. This seems consistent for similar machines at this price point. The noise is also average. It’s not a quiet machine, nor is it overly loud. It does feature a document feeder for copying and scanning which is convenient. The product’s relatively small footprint is also appreciated.

The wireless feature is probably this unit’s primary selling point (in conjunction with its low cost). Not only can you link your home PC’s to the unit, but you can also print from mobile phones and tablets. Through the Epson Connect feature, an email address (which is ultimately customizable) is assigned to the printer so that you can email documents to the printer for immediate printing no matter where you are (as long as you have a wireless connection).

Those in the market for a bargain AIO ink jet printer should be aware of the fact that the real expense will be in the ongoing need for replacement ink. Whatever the brand, ink jet printers will inevitably be cheaper than the consumables necessary over the life of the printer. An $80-100 printer will use hundreds of dollars in ink cartridges over time (assuming the machine lasts long enough). If that’s not an acceptable proposition, the buyer should probably seek other options.

The Epson WF-2630 is a good option for those with light personal, school, or business needs. Those with heavier needs are best encouraged to look elsewhere.


Beautiful Things and How to Ignore Them
Beautiful Things and How to Ignore Them
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars When execution fails to equal aspiration, August 30, 2014
"Beautiful Things and How to Ignore Them" is marketed as a cross between Lemony Snicket ("A Series of Unfortunate Events") and Edward Gorey ("Amphigorey"). Sam Kuban has definitely patterned his work after those (well-established and successful) writers, but, disappointingly, the results aren't nearly as grand.

Channeling Snicket in the prologue, Kuban paints a picture of a small town that's cartoonish in its quaintness only to have the self-aware narrator correct the reader's expectation. The book's setting doesn't feature warm, furry woodland creatures, all happiness and innocence. No, the reality is much bleaker. This is no fairy tale, it's a nightmare. Unfortunately, the prologue is overly long and, as it progresses, the internal consistency and logic is strained. The author supplies descriptors of the town like "blissful", "purity", "peacefulness", and "heartwarming" only to react as though these ideas are the reader's own. In the end, the narrator is correcting his own misinformation. At best, this is poor man's Snicket. The ideas (like "peaceful hatred") become garbled. This overshadows the delightfully vivid (if disturbing) imagery Kuban creates.

The introductory prologue then gives way to thirteen brief poems, each named for a luckless citizen of the small town. The names (like "Ms. Brickworm" and "Mr. Rathook") are scrawled in barely legible print. A picture of each character is also provided. The drawings are certainly distinctive, but they make one yearn for the more accomplished artwork of Edward Gorey. While the freakish and scratchy characteristics of Kuban's drawings certainly suit the tone of the story and reveal a certain artistic talent, there's something inherently unpalatable about them. The poetry also presents its challenges. As to content, it's frequently nonsensical (strictly speaking, the act of peeing might prove one is "not quite a master of urine retention", but that's a strained expression if ever there was one). The word choice is often forced (can a cause be leery or clothing bereft?) and comprehension frequently requires solving an unintended riddle. As to structure, the rhythm is regularly labored (another reviewer charitably refers to Kuban's "mind-bending meter") as are the rhymes ("operandi" with "brandy") so the poems don't flow particularly well. And yet, Kuban deserves considerable credit for the occasions he does deliver. Unfortunately, he just didn't do so consistently.

"Beautiful Things and How to Ignore Them" then concludes with a "Snickety" epilogue that brings the narrative together (although still jumbled at times - can someone who's lost knowingly select an alternate route to avoid potholes?). Probably the highlight of the book is the way the poems are interconnected. The characters' grisly endings frequently tie together resulting in a certain macabre charm. The explanation for the book's origin is also a nice touch. The ideas underlying the book are interesting. The problem lies in the execution, which is uneven at best. While the premise is worthy of Snicket and Gorey, the resultant material isn't quite there.


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