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Laura Probst "dragon wench" RSS Feed (Conover, NC USA)
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Queen of the Dark Things: A Novel
Queen of the Dark Things: A Novel
by C. Robert Cargill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.79
62 used & new from $1.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Austin has always been an offbeat city... with this book, you now know why., May 16, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With Queen of the Dark Things, C. Robert Cargill returns to the dark, consequence-filled world he created in Dreams and Shadows. This time around, his modern fairytale comes wrapped in the mythology of the Australian aboriginal people, creating a more philosophical and, if possible, even darker story than his previous book as the themes of life, death, and the afterlife are explored.

I was actually rather surprised when I saw this book, as I'd read the first one with the understanding that it was a stand-alone novel. So with my surprise came the tiniest bit of dread. After all, Cargill's debut, Dreams & Shadows, was so dark and twisted and unique--would any kind of follow-up be able to match the level of creativity he'd created, let alone surpass it? Well, in my highly personal opinion, I feel I can say: Yes, yes it can.

Our story begins on a island somewhere in the Indian Sea in the year 1629, where the remnants of the shipwrecked Batavia have created a gallows for the small company of sailors, led by one Jeronimus Cornelisz, who mutinied. Handless and lifeless, these mutineers return as ghosts to seek vengeance on their fellow conspirators, the ones who survived the gallows by turning on their mates. No matter how long it takes. From there we return to the present, to Austin, TX and to Colby. It's been a few months since the showdown at the end of Dreams & Shadows and he's still mourning the loss of pretty much everything, especially his best friend, Ewan. This grief takes the form of severe self-recrimination and self-destruction. But Colby won't be allowed to spiral down: his actions have made him famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) and brought a lot of people out of the woodwork. Including some very dangerous enemies looking to settle a score. Into this dark and treacherous world is thrown Kaycee, a young girl from Australia, who is the yang to Colby's yin and has some very special abilities of her own. They're drawn together, and with the aid of the djinn Yashar, the Clever Man Mandu, Gossamer the talking golden retriever, and others--not all of them willing allies--attempt to hold back the evil threatening to spill out of the land of dreams and into our world.

From demons and djinn, to ghosts and fairies and the personification of Austin in the form of a woman, Cargill somehow manages to throw together disparate mythologies and cultures into a story that is cinematic in scope (no surprise, really, considering he's a screenwriter) yet still intimate enough to make the reader involved in the characters' lives and emotional journey. As with his previous book, Cargill also intersperses chapters from scholarly works, in this case works by a "Dr. Thaddeus Ray, Ph.D." concerning the history and significance of the Aboriginal concept of Dreamwalking and the role of the Clever Men who straddle the line between our world and the Dreamtime, along with other "references" which tie into and deepen both the chapters that follow these side excursions as well as the story as a whole. The intertwining of these "scholastic" works grounds the story and adds an element of realism, setting Cargill's work apart from most Urban Fantasy. And I say that as a lover of UF. But whereas most UF is set in our world, is meant to be our world with the same set of rules just slightly tweaked by the addition of vampires, werewolves, elves, whathaveyou, you understand that none of it could ever happen. Cargill's storytelling, however, leaves a small nugget of doubt in your mind telling you that, should you turn the wrong corner at just the right time, in the right city, you might just run into something straight out of your worst nightmare.


The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London
by Judith Flanders
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.26
68 used & new from $9.39

5.0 out of 5 stars If you've ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, read this book and you will., May 16, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With this exhaustively researched tome, Judith Flanders has managed to plop the reader down in pre-Victorian London (despite what the title says; the author explains the discrepancy in her author's note) and give them a front-row seat to all the changes that occurred to that marvelous metropolis during the period in which Charles Dickens lived and wrote. Changes Dickens witnessed firsthand as he roamed the streets, memorizing every cobblestone, every inch of macadam, every plank of wood and concrete paver in his path. The man was famous for his intimate knowledge of the roads beneath his boots: It was said you could set him down on any corner in London and he could tell you the exact location using the encyclopedia of smells, sounds, and textures he'd gathered through his daily walks. Using not just his life but excerpts of his works, Flanders presents to us the city Dickens loved and lived in as well as the city as he hoped it could be.

Much like Ancient Rome, Londoners of this period spent most of their time outside the home either from desire or necessity, doing their cooking, eating, washing, working, playing, and even dying on the variously paved streets of the city. With the two-pronged approach of showing us London through Dickens' reality and his fiction, we are exposed to the cruel dichotomy created by the cheek-by-jowl nature of businessmen walking to work on streets on which prostitutes plied their trade; indigent or immigrant children playing games on streets strewn with mounds of horse droppings, raw sewage, even the bodies of dead animals; grand, stately townhomes surrounding quiet squares lined with trees and gardens sitting at the back of overcrowded, underfunded slums and tenements where the residents lived, worked, and died crowded by the dozens into shoebox-sized rooms.

I visited London back in 1997 and didn't spend nearly enough time there--I certainly didn't see all I wished to see. Reading The Victorian City makes me wish I had the ability to travel back to London and walk the streets Dickens knew. Since that's unlikely, the vivid sights, sounds, and smells Flanders presents in her book will have to suffice. If you're a Dickens fan or a fan of British or socioeconomic history, or simply a fan of a well-written, finely composed work of non-fiction, then this is the book you need to read.


Maisie Dobbs
Maisie Dobbs
by Jacqueline Winspear
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
84 used & new from $2.48

4.0 out of 5 stars "Good Lord, Maisie Dobbs, where do you think you are going with those books?", May 14, 2015
This review is from: Maisie Dobbs (Paperback)
3.5 stars

As often happens with novels I rate at 3.5 stars, I have mixed feelings about what I've read. On the one hand, the book as a whole was an easy read. The story moved at a quick clip--I never felt a drag in what was actually being told, regardless of how it pertained to the plot--the dialogue is crisp, and the story was entertaining. Yet, despite how entertaining the book was, it felt slightly misleading.

We start with young Maisie Dobbs as she opens up a detective agency and receives her first big case. Maisie, a young lady who was trained by a Hercule Poirot-type mentor and sponsored by a bored but socially-conscious aristocrat, treks through 1929 London to figure out if her client's wife is cheating on him, and in doing so discovers an even larger mystery involving the real "Walking Dead", those soldiers who returned from the Great War disfigured in more than just body. It took a while for the "mystery" of this mystery novel to finally unfold, and when it did, it was slightly disappointing. Anyone familiar with even the basic tenets and M.O. of a cult would've seen the denouement coming from a mile away. Not only that, but shortly into Maisie's investigation of this "mystery", the novel shifts and we spend time in Maisie's past where we discover how she came to the attention of her mentor and sponsor, and how the Great War shaped and affected her. Now, contrary to some, I like a good backstory: I like seeing where a character comes from, how they came to be who they are and discover their raison d'etre. And I understand why Winspear gives us that insight into Maisie--it allows us to understand a bit better how Maisie relates to the surviving soldiers she needs to deal with. The way Winspear did it, though, seems a bit clumsy and disruptive to the main plotline; with the mystery at the heart of the novel being so weak, it seems it would've profited from a direct telling rather than the interrupted one it got.

I also got the overwhelming sense of something "Mary Sue" about the whole book, not just the protagonist; every character was just so . . . nice. There's nothing wrong with nice, don't get me wrong, but even the villain wasn't bad per se, just thoroughly destroyed mentally by the terrors he'd gone through in the first World War. The few people that Maisie didn't "rub along with" were never out-and-out mean to her; any antagonism sprang from the other person's anger/disappointment/fear of something happening in their life, not from any personal dislike of Maisie herself. And the other characters in Maisie's life were overwhelmingly supportive of her, willing to cross any social/financial boundaries in order to assist her. Which is just so wildly unrealistic. I admit, I'm the "glass half empty" type of person. (Actually, I'm the "the glass is half empty because the glass is cracked and leaking and will cut me if I pick it up" type person.) So I have a natural aversion to anything too perky or sweet. But to have a good story is to have friction and drama, which only comes when things don't go easy: when people are mean to you, maybe for no good reason, maybe for every reason; when things are hard and no help is forthcoming from those who could ease the way, making the struggle that much more of an uphill battle. A life in which things go too easy, where everyone is on your character's side and they get all the help they need or want from those around them, has the potential to be a rather boring story.

From the author's notes and mini interview at the back of the book, the main theme of Maisie Dobbs was a personal one based on Winspear's curiosity of WWI-era Britain as well as family history/stories of that time period. Considering the violence and social upheaval the first world war engendered, perhaps Winspear didn't want to add any fictional conflict from the actions of her characters. Maybe she wanted to present a more idealized image of the ordinary citizen to counteract all that violence. Who knows. It just seems to do a disservice to the reader in my opinion. After all, even in the midst of chaos, life goes on: Good people still do good deeds, evil people still do evil deeds, and most people reside somewhere in between as they work their way through life. That's where your conflict comes from. And that's where the stories come from.


Hint Premium Essence Water Variety Pack, 16 Ounce Bottles (Pack of 12)
Hint Premium Essence Water Variety Pack, 16 Ounce Bottles (Pack of 12)
Price: $22.00
14 used & new from $22.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Take a Hint . . . or, actually, buy a Hint . . . *sigh* I am so bad at titles., April 9, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I discovered Hint water one day while shopping at Food Lion. (I know, surprising, right? I know they're trying to upgrade their name and branch out by offering more gourmet and organic foods, but I never expected to see a brand like Hint, especially since the other, more upscale, grocery store in my area doesn't offer Hint at all. But I digress...) Anyway, the store only had a couple of flavors, but they were on special so I picked up a watermelon and a strawberry/kiwi. OMG! Talk about yum! So because I knew I couldn't rely on those specials to keep my pantry stocked (not to mention the store offers only about three flavors), I came to Amazon to start getting Hint on subscription. (I get the variety pack every couple of months which I supplement with a single flavor pack in between so I get a nice mix.)

Hint water is exactly like an infused water you might make at home: pure flavor without any additives, sweeteners, or artificial flavors. The only difference between Hint and homemade infused water is that Hint offers a wider range of fruit flavors. Not to mention it takes a heck of lot less effort to open a bottle of Hint than it does to make your own infused water. I don't know about you, but I've been interested in making infused water for quite a while; after all, we know it's healthy to drink water, but sometimes just plain water becomes just plain boring. However, by the time I buy all the different types of fruit, preferably organic, prep it all by slicing, coring, peeling, etc., and either rig up a way to infuse a jug of water or buy one of those nifty jugs with a built-in infuser, I'll end up spending more money and time on the project than I would've had I just bought a case of Hint water in the first place.

As to the flavors, while I haven't tried them all, I can say that with the ones I have tried, they taste EXACTLY like fresh fruit. Some of the sweeter fruits, like watermelon and honeydew, are so true to life, the water can almost taste like there's additional sweetener even though there's none. Other flavors can be more subtle or even slightly off-putting which, again, is more due to the true-to-life flavor of the fruits used. And I think that might explain some of the negative reviews I've seen here. For instance, the blackberry water can have a slightly musty taste, but blackberries themselves taste musty, even fresh off the bramble. And while I haven't had the cucumber Hint water, considering that cucumbers aren't exactly bursting with intense flavor, it makes sense that the water would be rather subtle. That said, everybody's taste is different and there's always the slim possibility of an off batch. Personally, my favorite flavors are watermelon, honeydew, and strawberry/kiwi. (And I'm really hoping Amazon will soon start offering Hint's newest flavor, pineapple--sounds yummy!)

Though it may sound obvious, if you're new to Hint, I'd suggest starting with a fruit that's a favorite of yours, to get a good idea of how true-to-life the brand is. I think once you try one bottle of Hint, you'll be hooked--it's just that good.


Paperama
Paperama
Price: $0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun way to waste some time..., January 13, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Paperama (App)
I've never run into an app quite like this one. The origami puzzles range from easy to really easy to difficult, and because there's no timer and a handy undo button (to clear the previous move) and a reset button (to clear the entire puzzle), you can work each level without feeling any pressure. Making this a great app to help you relax at the end of the day. That said, these are puzzles, so you're actually giving your brain a nice little workout, keeping it from turning it into total mush. I don't know about you, but my brain needs all the help it can get so a little bit of stimulation is very much welcomed.


Masterpiece: Death Comes to Pemberley [Blu-ray]
Masterpiece: Death Comes to Pemberley [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Matthew Rhys
Price: $17.76
29 used & new from $12.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, if slightly miscast., November 6, 2014
When it was announced that P.D. James had written a murder-mystery sequel to the classic novel Pride & Prejudice, I had mixed feelings about it. After all, I've been a pretty vocal opponent of P&P sequels as most tend to fail in capturing the original's wit, humor, and sparkle. However, I also knew that James is a very talented author, with a great respect for Austen. Sadly, procrastination took over and I still haven't managed to read the book. So I was quite excited when I saw the first ads for this Masterpiece adaptation; after all, I love Matthew Rhys on FX's The Americans and have been a fan of Anna Maxwell-Martin since I saw her in Bleak House (although I already felt a twinge of anxiety over her casting as Elizabeth--Jennifer Ehle's superlative version of the character in the 1995 miniseries [the gold standard of P&P adaptations] is pretty much the standard against which I measure all other versions, and as much as I admire Maxwell-Martin, I just couldn't picture her as Lizzie). So, this was bound to be a good adaptation, right? Eh, not so much, unfortunately.

First, to the good bits: The casting of Matthew Goode as Wickham was inspired as Matthew is quite handsome with a wicked twinkle in his eyes--it's quite easy to see him using his looks and charm to get away with murder. And while I may not particularly like her on Doctor Who, as the spoiled and frivolous Lydia, Jenna Coleman was perfection, dare I say even better than Julia Sawalha. (Sacrilege, I know, but it's true.) As Georgiana Darcy, Eleanor Tomlinson was a perfect combination of radiant innocence and budding sexual awakening. Other supporting players such as Tom Ward as Col. Fitzwilliam and Joanna Scanlan as Mrs. Reynolds made the best of minor parts. Even Stephanie Cole, who played the devilish Diana on the show Waiting for God several years back, did a passable job as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. As for the actual filming of the program, with locations such as Chatsworth House for exterior shots of Pemberley and the landscapes of West Yorkshire for Pemberley's extensive woodlands, well, you really can't complain about the quality.

Now to the not-so-good bits: The story, on the whole, felt quite lightweight, and the "mystery" not only felt less than mysterious, it also seemed to take a backseat to other story issues, even as the characters worked to solve said mystery, if that makes sense. But it was still entertaining to watch, in its own way. However, the biggest blunder of all was the casting of the two main characters. Matthew as Mr. Darcy wasn't the worst; he did manage to capture Darcy's stiffness and occasional bouts of haughty pride. That said, I didn't get the same sort of smoldering passion that bubbled beneath Darcy's rather stand-offish demeanor, something that Colin Firth pulled off so well, to the delight of thousands of female fans (and male ones, too, no doubt). And, yes, that includes me--I admit to swooning over his breech-clad thighs and the white shirt clinging to his chest in the pond swimming scene. But my initial twinge of anxiety turned out to be right on the mark when it came to Anna Maxwell-Martin, the biggest casting misstep. As much as I like her as an actress, Anna was no Lizzie. Firstly, and this is the fault of both the costume and makeup designer, Lizzie was turned into a dowd. She was frumpy and colorless, lacking the vivacity her character is famous for. Where was the pert Lizzie, the Lizzie who gleefully made fun of Darcy's snobbery, the Lizzie who stood toe-to-toe with Lady Catherine de Bourgh and came out the winner? This Lizzie was instead rather sour and a bit of a scold, not how I imagined that half of a famous romantic couple turning out. Not to be cruel, but while Anna isn't ugly, her looks aren't what I'd associate with Elizabeth, not to mention, at 36 and looking it, she's a bit too long in the tooth for Lizzie, a new mother who's actually about a decade younger. And, I'm sorry, but after seeing Jennifer Ehle's ample bosom on display in the '95 miniseries, Anna's, um, deficiency in that department was made even more obvious. Frankly, on just about all points, Anna missed the mark.

I so wanted to love this program, but while it was mildly entertaining, I can't say it's a worthy sequel. Certainly not worthy enough to sit next to my Blu-ray of the '95 miniseries.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2014 3:15 AM PST


Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden (Full)
Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden (Full)
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very engaging!, October 3, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Puzzle games are a great way to keep your brain active and this Wraiths of the Abyss game certainly does the trick! Complicated enough to give your brain a real workout but not so convoluted that it gets frustrating to play. The story and graphics are top notch, not to mention quite entertaining. My only complaint is that the game was too short--it needed to have several more chapters!


Mead Cambridge Limited QuickNotes Business Notebook  (6066)
Mead Cambridge Limited QuickNotes Business Notebook (6066)
Price: $6.48
29 used & new from $2.40

5.0 out of 5 stars A really handy notebook, great for many uses!, July 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Now, this notebook is labeled as being for 'business', and I'm sure that this notebook would work well in a business situation, especially for taking notes in meetings. However, this notebook works well for my situation as well: As a reviewer, it's really come in handy for keeping track of my thoughts on the different things I review, whether it's a book, movie, beauty product, or whatever. At the top of the page is a small box labeled Page and Date, which I use to write down the title or description of the item I'm reviewing, along with the date I started the reviewing process and even the date my review is due, if I'm writing one a deadline. I use the main body, which takes up about a third of the entire page, to write a rough draft of my review; I tend to write in snippets as random sentences or paragraphs come to me, so I'm able to jot those down so I don't forget them later on. At the bottom third of each page is a bright yellow box that's labeled Quick Notes (actually QuickNotes, but, whatever) and that's exactly what I use it for, as I'm sure others do. I use the box to jot down quotes I want to use, item descriptions, questions about the product I want to answer before writing my review, etc. Again, it's a great way to keep my thoughts organized (and, believe me, that it quite the Herculean task!), so I can write a comprehensive review. Finally, each page is perforated so I can pull the page out when I'm done or keep it as a reminder if I want to come back to a review at a later date to post an update.

As for the notebook itself, the covers are of thick plastic, so they should stand up to plenty of hard use, and the binding is a double spiral, which is more heavy-duty than the standard spiral you find on notebooks; it also won't spiral up and out of the holes like a regular spiral. Basically, what you've got here is a notebook that will come in handy for all sorts of note-taking, and with its durable construction, will stand up to lots of repeated use.


L'Occitane Immortelle Precious Cleansing Foam 5.1 fl. oz.
L'Occitane Immortelle Precious Cleansing Foam 5.1 fl. oz.
Price: $28.00
5 used & new from $28.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's fine, but not thirty bucks fine. Update: it's grown on me., June 11, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Original rating: 3 stars
Upgraded rating: 3.5 stars

I will say this, the foam appeared to clean my skin nicely, removing my mineral makeup and excess oil without drying it out (though I still need to put on a lightweight lotion afterward) and without an aggressive scent. In fact, the fragrance of this cleansing foam is the best thing about it, being a pleasant herbaceous-floral scent. (If you've ever smelled a pot marigold, the scent is very similar to that.) The cleanser isn't sticky or slimy; it rinses off clean without any sort of residue, so that's good.

However, I haven't found the benefits of this cleansing foam to be any better than other, less expensive facial cleansers. And at $28 for 5.1 fl. oz., you're basically paying for the L'Occitane name and nothing else. Personally, that's way too much for my budget. Plus, the way the product advertises itself on the bottle is faintly ridiculous, as though it's some sort of miracle product that starts at your face but extends to your whole body. "Its foam texture gives a unique moment of relaxation." Really? Um, all I really want is a facial cleanser. And one that promises it "cleanses the face and eliminates impurities to unveil all the freshness of young skin" seems to go a bit too far. After all, it's just a face cleanser, guys, not the fountain of youth. Especially not with those ingredients; helichrysum, chamomile, parsley, and raspberry extracts (among others) are all well and good, but unless you're already working with young skin, you'd need to add some serious anti-aging ingredients as well. And, in my case, this product didn't live up to its claims; despite repeated use, the foam hasn't "unveiled all the freshness of young skin." Plus, this cleansing foam claims to make the skin "soft, smooth, and supple" which, again, hasn't happened. In fact, I'd say my skin has been continually bumpy, broken out, and rough feeling since I've used this product. Has this cleansing foam caused those issues? No, they've been going on for a while (sadly; I'm well past my teen years, dagnabbit, I shouldn't have to be dealing with these facial issues still!). Has this cleansing foam made things worse? Possibly. It's hard to know for certain, but the fact that it hasn't made these problems better is damning enough for me. I don't expect miracles, but if I'm going to pay nearly thirty bucks for a product, I want some kind of beneficial action from it!

In the end, I really can't recommend this product, unless you're a die-hard L'Occitane fan and own/use everything they come out with. If that's the case, you're welcome to this cleansing foam and I hope it works better for you than it did for me.

Update 5/20/2015: I've found a new use for this foam. I recently cut my hair back into its normal pixie cut after stupidly* trying to grow it out again, and suddenly noticed the bottle of L'Occitane cleansing foam in my shower. I hadn't used it in a while and since I hate letting things go to waste, I began washing my face with it again. One night, I wondered how the foam would work on my hair and decided to try it. (I normally just use pure soap-the brand I prefer is Panier Des Sens both for its quality and luscious scents--since I figure any sort of fancy shampoo would be wasted on my short hair.) Well, I can say that the foam makes for a heckuva nice hair cleanser: It cleans my hair without leaving it feeling stripped or crispy-dry the next day, and makes my hair full and bouncy and silky-soft. I still maintain the foam isn't the greatest facial cleanser, at least for my skin, but I'd happily recommend L'Occitane Immortelle Precious Cleansing Foam as a lovely hair cleanser. And the fact that the cleansing foam is still viable nearly a year later is pretty impressive.

*Stupidly only for me. As much as I like the idea of having long hair and being able to style it in decorative and complicated ways, I don't really like the reality of it. When it's growing out, I don't have any patience with that awkward in-between stage where it's too short to do anything with but too long to really look good; when and if it ever gets long enough, I don't have the patience to work with the styling tools necessary to create all those wonderful hairdos. So when I do have long hair, I invariably wear it up in a ponytail. Plus, I always pick the wrong dang time to start growing it out--summer. I mean, how stupid am I? Especially since I am fully aware that I sweat through my head, which makes anything longer than a pixie cut look just awful.


 Five Star Flex Blue NoteBinder, 1-Inch Capacity, 11.5 x 11 Inches, Notebook and Binder All-in-One (72011)
 Five Star Flex Blue NoteBinder, 1-Inch Capacity, 11.5 x 11 Inches, Notebook and Binder All-in-One (72011)
Price: $11.84
9 used & new from $8.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the best and coolest binder ever!, June 11, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I love this binder! I love that I can stuff it full of things and still easily open the rings to add or remove items. I love that I can flip the cover all the way over and write in the binder from the side. I love that it comes with tabbed dividers that allow me to customize sections as well as hold additional papers, note cards, index cards, and whatever other slips of paper that come my way. Basically, this binder is a true hybrid, combining the best of a traditional three-ring binder with the flexibility of loose leaf paper and the convertibility of a spiral notebook.

I eventually got several of these binders. I used a couple when I was going to community college, as they allowed me to keep notes, handouts, certain implements, and index cards all in one place for each class so I wouldn't have to scramble around in my bag for what I needed. I also added a pencil bag so that I could keep whatever particular writing instruments a class required with the binder, and even with the bulkiness of that pencil bag, the Flex Hybrid binder was still easy to work with. I also use these binders for my writing. Each project has its own binder where I can easily put rough drafts, outlines, reference lists, maps, character lists, inspirational bits and pieces, and all the other detritus that comes with a writing project, moving easily from one section to another, adding and subtracting as needed. And because the binders are so brightly colored, each project has its own color, so I can look at my shelf and say, "Oh, that's my time-travel novel in the purple binder. I want the action-adventure novel in the black binder." The same was true of my school binders, allowing me to distinguish a math class binder from an Astronomy class binder.

Now some may find the rings problematic as they aren't attached to a side spine like in a traditional three-ring binder. The Flex Hybrid's rings are attached to the back cover of the binder and each one opens individual of the others. For a three-hole punched item, that can be occasionally annoying, but if you're dealing with a smaller piece of paper that has one or two holes punched in it, those individually-opening rings make it so much easier to work with those smaller items. The five included tabbed dividers are great additions and come in two designs. The two at the front are a bit more heavy-duty, with flaps on the front--a half-page flap attached to the divider at the bottom and right side, and a small triangular flap at the top right-hand corner of the divider--that have enough holding power for up to about five sheets of paper or maybe a piece of cardstock/thin cardboard, along with a pocket on the front of the half-page flap which is sized to hold index cards, labels, and other assorted odds and ends. That pocket also has a dart on the top, which folds over and into a slit on the pocket to lock it into place so those small items don't fall out. The remaining three tabbed dividers are actually top-loading envelopes, allowing for maybe eight or so sheets of paper to be inserted, with a tab at the top that's attached to the back of the envelope and can be left on the inside or brought out over the outside to "lock" the envelope and keep the contents in place no matter which way the binder is turned.

This binder probably won't fit in well with a professional environment, but that's not really what it was designed for. The Flex Hybrid binder was primarily designed with students in mind, and as a former student I can say the Mead people designed a winner. For my part, the binders have stood up to lots of use (and some abuse), lots of opening the individual binder rings and closing the rings (and the rings still hold), lots of opening and closing and stuffing full (and the fabric spine is still intact). Even in the worst case, if these binders only give me one more year, I will still have gotten more than my money's worth. If a traditional three-ring binder doesn't have enough flexibility for your needs, try the Five Star Hybrid Flex NoteBinder. I don't doubt you'll find it the most accommodating and adaptable binder you'll ever work with.


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