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Profile for Laura Probst > Reviews


Laura Probst's Profile

Customer Reviews: 210
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Reviews Written by
Laura Probst "dragon wench" RSS Feed (Conover, NC USA)

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eb5 Facial Cream, 1.7 Ounce
eb5 Facial Cream, 1.7 Ounce
Price: $14.98
8 used & new from $14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful night cream for all women, although spectacular for those of *ahem* a certain age., November 28, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As someone who is dealing with the issue of *don't say it, don't say it!* getting older *ack, you said it!* my skin has changed its chemistry so that even though I still have a T-zone, the oily areas are less oily and the dry areas are much drier. Especially in the winter months as they are right now, where it feels like my face wants to stretch itself right off my skull until I look like Skeletor. The first night I used this eb5 Facial Cream after my shower, I felt an immediate change. The cream absorbed right into my skin, was thick and rich without leaving any greasy residue. Afterward my skin, especially on my cheeks where it's the driest, felt so soft and moisturized. The best part was that the cream has no offensive odor, either of flowers or chemicals; in fact, there's barely an odor at all. As far as the anti-aging claims, after three weeks I can't say I notice a huge difference in my looks, but it does seem as though small lines smooth out after I apply the cream. It could be temporary, it could be my imagination, it's hard to tell. The main thing is, my skin feels moisturized without me having to constantly apply lotions and creams and pastes, so I count that as a win.

The only ding I have against this cream is the fact that it uses mineral oil. Which is curious considering all the other, wonderful botanical products used (vitamins A, E, and B5, comfrey root and oat kernel flour). There are so many emollient nut butters and oils out there - kukui nut oil is the first that comes to mind, but also kokum butter, avocado oil, pomegranate seed oil (actually a combination of all those would be great) - that could've been used in place of the mineral oil. Add some honey or honey product as a hygroscopic agent (to draw moisture from the air) and boom! You've got a powerhouse cream without the need for any petroleum byproducts. Oh well.

Aside from that one issue, I can't complain about the quality of this facial cream. And certainly not the cost: a little goes a long way, so this 1.7 oz. tub will last for probably two months, maybe three. (I've been using it for about three weeks now and it's only gone down a little over a half inch, leaving 1 1/2" in the tub.) Considering the cream is fragrance free, dermatologist tested, allergy tested, non GMO, vegan, gluten free, and never tested on animals, well, I'd count this as a pretty good bargain.

Indian Summers
Indian Summers
DVD ~ Nikesh Patel
Price: $24.99
29 used & new from $19.98

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There's a reason this show was so gorgeously shot: It was to make up for such an ugly and utterly dull story., November 24, 2015
This review is from: Indian Summers (DVD)
Except for the fact it wasn't even shot in India! How sad it that?

There were really no sympathetic characters. All the English were racists and bigots, all the Indians were... ciphers. Yes, a lot of the English at that time were horrible, espousing the beliefs on view in this program. But there were many who were sympathetic to the plight of the Indians, yet there are only two people in this program who seem to tolerate or even like the native people they live among, Alice Whelan and Ian McCloud? Just doesn't seem realistic. And Julie Walters character? Oh, lord, what a harridan! I couldn't stand hearing her voice after the first episode, the writers had her spewing such hate and venom. I don't expect something that's all rainbows and sunshine, but the amount of hate and racism and bigotry on display in each and every episode made me nauseous. It's called striking a balance, showing all sides of a story, something that wasn't on display here.

The worst part was the storyline regarding the missionary's wife, Mrs. Raworth and the sister of the private secretary to the Viceroy, Alice Whelan. Alice has left her husband back in London, taken their child and run away to India, but to avoid scandal she tells everyone that her husband is dead. Well, because Mrs. Raworth is a nosy, desperate, social-climbing sneak, she winkles out the truth and holds it over Alice's head, blackmailing her in order to gain entre into the higher echelons of Colonial Indian society. The question is, why? Mrs. Raworth is about as threatening as a wet tissue; this is a women who would become confused at an intersection where the street signs have been swapped. All it would take is for Alice to slap Mrs. Raworth smartly on the face and say to her, “Go ahead, tell everyone I've left my husband. Yes, you might have a brief triumph over me, but it will be brief because I will make sure everyone knows you for the low, backstabbing, sneaky, pathetic blackmailing worm that you are. And once your true character is revealed, no amount of brown-nosing will ever get you the approval you so desperately crave. Which means I'll eventually regain my status, but you will never be looked upon at any kind of equal ever again.” For Alice to be continually threatened by Mrs. Raworth was just completely unbelievable. And ridiculous. And supremely irritating to watch.

The main problem is whoever wrote this thing was trying to set up a grand mystery with lots of intertwining strands of smaller mysteries that somehow tied into the whole. Instead what was created was a vague, muddied, and meandering plot that barely allowed the viewer to get a grasp on any one character before being whisked off to another scene and another “mystery.” There was no character development or depth, no understanding of the motivation behind their actions, and because of the general sloppiness, no reason was given to care about any of the characters or why they did what they did or wonder how they ended up. There are moments in the script where we're shown, “Hey, look, this character has feelings, is acting a little bit sympathetic even if you normally don't like them! That means they have depth!” Unfortunately, I don't buy into those moments because they're just more examples of lazy writing. And I think all of this is because there's no source material to back the program up as with the far superior “The Jewel in the Crown.” Which is why I will recommend that program over “Indian Summers” any day because unless you like a pretty veneer with no depth, there's little else to look at.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 27, 2015 3:05 AM PST

SoTru Fermented Medicinal Mushrooms Supplement, 240 Gram
SoTru Fermented Medicinal Mushrooms Supplement, 240 Gram
Price: $35.99
4 used & new from $35.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magic mushrooms, indeed!, October 21, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This stuff came just in time. When it arrived, a couple of family members had just come down with something, we couldn't figure out what--it wasn't a cold, it wasn't quite the flu, it was close to bronchitis or pneumonia, but not quite as serious. Whatever it was, I wanted to avoid it. Now, I make sure to take care of my gut bugs and, by association, my immune system: as a toddler, I suffered horribly from multiple inner ear infections (which only went away after my tonsils were removed) and was dosed with antibiotics until my entire immune system was shot; as a result, during most of my childhood, any bug that came my way found a nice, comfy home in my depressed system and took a firm hold. It was only in my early twenties that I began to remedy the issue by restructuring my diet and creating a regimen of herbal and mineral/vitamin supplements, which included eating fermented foods (those that I could stand, anyway, like kefir) and taking pre- and probiotics. With the addition of a chronic pain issue these past 15 years, my immune and adrenal system needs all the support I can give it.

So, back to these two sick family members: When this SoTru Fermented Medicinal Mushrooms Supplement arrived, I immediately took a dose. Now, the instructions say to mix a level scoopful into any beverage, mix well, and drink. Well, I just power-slammed (is that a word? I don't know, I feel like I just made that up, or at least, if not the word, the usage) the powder: I took that level scoopful, dumped it in my mouth, took a swig of water, shook my head to mix it all together as best possible, and swallowed. It wasn't bad. The immediate taste was a strong citrus flavor, followed by an earthy, but not unpleasant or even definitively mushroom-y, flavor, and because of the stevia in the product it's also sweet. (How sweet will depend on your sweet tooth; me, I have about a dozen sweet teeth, so it takes a lot to put me off.) As the days went on, I could feel myself wanting to get sick--a little tickle in the throat one day, a little bit stuffed up another day--but I never actually got sick, no matter how ill the rest of the family was. So I'd count that as a win. The fact that I even felt a little bit energized after taking each dose was just an extra bit of goodness.

The only ding (and it's a small one) I have against the product is the price. Now I'm sure the fermentation process isn't cheap, but as someone who's on a very (and I do mean VERY) strict budget, paying $40 for a 30-day-supply product is a budget buster. For me, anyway. That said, there are other ingredients in the mix--such as Acerola Cherry extract, Ginger extract, and Green Tea extract--which provide anti-inflammatory benefits along with the prebiotic fiber found in the supplement. So if these are all supplements that you're taking or are interested in taking, it's probably worth investing $40 a month in this all-in-one package, which is easy to take and doesn't cause any disruptive side-effects such as gas or bloating (as least none that I've experience) that some other products can/might cause.

Edit of 11/26/2015: One person found my review unhelpful. Hmm. I'm going to start doing what other reviewers have done, since the voting system here at Amazon is so skewed: I'm going to ask why. Why do you find my review unhelpful? There's a comment section, so leave a comment justifying your vote. As a courtesy to me.

Ammex GPNHD GlovePlus Heavy Duty Blue Nitrile Glove, Medical Exam, Latex Free, Disposable, Powder Free, X-Large (Box of 50)
Ammex GPNHD GlovePlus Heavy Duty Blue Nitrile Glove, Medical Exam, Latex Free, Disposable, Powder Free, X-Large (Box of 50)
Price: $11.02
11 used & new from $9.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Two by two, hands of blue..., September 25, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have a cat. Which means I have a litter box which needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. When I clean it, I wear gloves (latex or nitrile, whatever's handiest or cheapest at the time) for obvious reasons, so I need gloves that are thick, but not so thick that I lose sensation in my fingers, and that have a bit of texture on the fingertips to allow for better grip of the scoop. Plus, it's nice if the gloves are long in the wrist so that if things get... extra messy, I don't have to worry if my hands are fully covered. Well, I tell you, these gloves have it all!

The gloves have a nice thickness to them that'll allow them to stand up to a great deal of stress before tearing or puncturing, but they're not so thick that the gloves are stiff/inflexible or prevent dexterity of use. In fact, the gloves have a great deal of stretch, which means I can put them on easily over my many rings (some of which have high profiles) without worrying about the gloves catching too badly and ripping (which has happened a number of times with cheaper, thinner gloves). The gloves have a long wrist, coming down about three inches past the base of my palm, giving me full coverage--so I can get deep down in a whole lot of dirty situations without worrying about stuff oozing under the gloves. There's a nice, light texturing to the fingertips, allowing me to get a good grip on the slippery plastic kitty litter scoop without worrying about it (and its lovely contents) flying out of my hands. And, actually, I'm wearing the gloves to write this review, which might seem weird (okay, it's weird), but it just goes to show you how well you can work and get sensation to your fingers while wearing the gloves. But the biggest thing is the overall fit. I ordered the XL size because, at 6'1" tall, I have been cursed with man hands (and don't even get me started on my size 11 clown feet). So I have to wear men's sized gloves most of the time because even the largest of women's don't fit. Well, these XL gloves not only fit, they are actually BIG on me! Can you believe it? I certainly can't because I've never had this happen before. The gloves have room in the fingers and fit snugly across the palm, which means that I have no problem working in them and when I'm done, I can just pull on the loose fingers to slip the gloves right off. So, basically, a perfect fit. Wow. Seriously, I'm spazzing out over here. With the additional feature that the gloves are powderless, they're easy to put on without it and there's no residue on your hands when you're done using them (which always makes my hands feel almost as icky and with the need to wash them the same as if I hadn't worn gloves in the first place).

So, basically, for any kind of job that needs doing around the house, garage, shop, basement, etc., that requires you to touch anything potentially caustic, toxic, chemical, oily, or just plain dirty, these gloves should meet, even exceed, your needs. About the only job not suited is something that requires sterility as these are non-sterile gloves. Other than that, you're good to go!

Edit of 10/18/2015: I just realized that I should probably included some measurements of my hands to give y'all an idea of what I'm talking about when I say I have "man hands." Also, I figure numbers will allow for a better comparison between your own hands and the given measurements of the gloves, which will then (hopefully) allow for a better fit. Anyway, my hands are 3 3/4" wide (measuring from outside my index finger joint to outside my pinkie finger joint on my dominant hand), 8" long (measuring from the base of my palm to the tip of my middle finger), and have an 8 1/2" diameter (again, circling the tape from outside my index finger joint to outside my pinkie finger joint and back again). Now, obviously, I'm not a glove maker, so I don't know if there are other measurements I could take to give a better idea of my hand size/shape, but I hope these help.

Zero World
Zero World
by Jason M. Hough
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.77
78 used & new from $8.27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A clear conscience was his greatest asset, the reason for his extraordinary success.", August 12, 2015
This review is from: Zero World (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Peter Caswell wakes in a silk-sheeted bed in a luxurious flat in London with only a song refrain running through his head to tell him who and where he is. You see, Peter is an assassin, the best in the world, thanks to his ability to blend in anywhere, but he never remembers where he goes or who he kills because of the implant in his head and the timed-release chemicals it contains. And that's just the way Peter wants it. The only thing he allows himself is knowing how many kills he's made and that only by the number of Sapporo beer bottles, out of twelve, with labels turned away, a count done in the moments before he reverts.

And so begins one of the most twisty-turning, heart-pounding, thought-provoking books I've read in quite some time. It would be easy to describe this book as a spy thriller wrapped up in science fiction. Easy, but probably not quite accurate, not to mention too simplistic for such a complex tale. Having never read any of Jason Hough's other works, I don't know if Zero World is characteristic for him or a story that shows him growing as an author, but I will say that what I read left me mightily impressed. It would be quite easy, with such a complex and fast-paced story, for authors to skimp on certain things such as character development or world building, but that's not the case here. In fact, I was completely blown away by how much thought Hough put into creating the parallel Earth on which most of the story takes place. The differences between our two worlds are often quite simple, yet at the same time truly innovative. (Such as opening a door: here we turn a doorknob; on the alternate Earth, a door opens by way of a foot latch. So simple, yet I dare say no-one would've thought of it had the question been posed. I know I wouldn't have. Or expressing appreciation: here we simply say “Thanks” whereas alt. Earth uses “Gratitude.” A subtle, yet powerful difference.*) Yet, those differences are never outlandish or thoughtless or untrue to the story; they feel completely organic to the culture Hough has created. Even the names of the characters populating the alternate Earth are a degree or two away from familiarity for us, yet a natural extension of alt. Earth's evolution. But what makes this world-building so amazing was how deftly Hough managed to insert so much backstory and so many details without any of it ever becoming overbearing or an info-dump. As a writer, I'm in awe. And I also kind of hate him. Just a little bit.

The storyline is told from the perspectives of both Peter Caswell and his alt-Earth counterpart, Melni, which is another way Hough gives us a greater view of the world(s) he's created. The thing is, as developed as Peter is, Hough didn't skimp on Melni's development to achieve that. Melni is just as fierce and dedicated to her mission as Peter is to hers and as the story progresses it peels away the layers of her character allowing us to find out what drives her, what scares her, what makes her Melni. Which is awesome. It's so refreshing to find a female co-protagonist who is neither a fainting wimp nor an aggro female who probably started out as male. Yes, Melni can be vulnerable and, yes, she can be fierce, but she never loses her humanity or her femininity. Even his secondary characters have a depth to them that gives the impression that, if Hough were asked to, could step up and become the center of the story without difficulty.

Then we get to the story itself, set sometime in the future, which is . . . complicated. I mean, you start out with an enhanced super-secret spy-assassin, then progress to space travel, wormhole travel, an alternate Earth, and one heck of a conspiracy that sets everything Peter ever knew or believed in on its ear, and you've got a story that can't be easily condensed into a short summary. At least not without giving a misleading impression of what you'll be reading or giving away any number of spoilers. For all its complexity and genre-bending subject matter, not to mention its hefty appearance, Zero World is a fast and engrossing read, sucking you in from page one and only reluctantly letting you go. It's one of those books that will keep you up at night, making you want to know what happens next and then what happens after that. Not to mention you get a bonus novella, The Dire Earth, at the end, allowing you to keep the adventure going when the main novels ends.

So, really, all I can say is if you like books of a sci-fi, spy-thriller, futuristic, alternate Earth, dystopic, action-adventure, military leaning (and who doesn't?), with just a dash of romance thrown in for good measure, I'd strongly suggest you pick up Zero World right this minute. And prepare to have your mind blown.

*About the only weakness comes from the main curse word Hough created. Where we say f**king, alt. Earth uses blixxing. Now, having gone through the arduous process of creating an adequately vivid and powerful curse word myself, I can appreciate what Hough went through to create blixxing and for that I can't fault him. But whereas f**k represents a clear, Anglo-Saxon directness, it's hard to imagine the linguistic path of “blix” (or is it “blixx”? I can't remember). I'm sure I'm in the minority with this kind of struggle and I fully acknowledge I am a linguistics geek, making this a petty quibble, but considering this was the only thing out of the entire book that gave me pause . . . that's pretty blixxing good!

Quantum Mechanix Firefly Playing Cards
Quantum Mechanix Firefly Playing Cards
Price: $9.95
13 used & new from $6.07

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Attention all Browncoats!, August 8, 2015
Are you bored in between jobs? Are your hands idle and your chores piling up? Then get those idle hands on this deck of Firefly playing cards!

The deck is a standard, 52-card poker size deck with the Serenity flying over Shadow artwork (by QMx artisan Ben Mund) as its cover art. All cards have a sort-of Alliance-y looking suit symbol in the upper left-hand corners, with Chinese symbols identifying the number and suit running vertically underneath them. The number cards are fairly standard, but the face cards stand out: all four Jacks have a pair of guns on them (the black suits have Vera, the red have Mal's side-piece); the Queens represent Inara and Kaylee (the red show Inara's famous sponge bath and the black have Kaylee's rainbow-spiral Chinese parasol); the Kings show Mal in both browncoat roles (in his Battle of Serenity Valley garb, complete with helmet, and in his role as captain of Serenity). Would it have been nicer to have had four unique designs on each face card, rather than two repeated designs? Duh, of course yes. That doesn't stop it from being shiny-shiny as it is. The only set of face cards that are less-than-unique are the Aces; only the Ace of Spades and Ace of Hearts have anything to say (the Spades has a line drawing of Serenity with "Ace of the Black" underneath and the Hearts has a fun Easter egg). (There's also another Easter egg or two in the deck for a player to suss out.) In addition, there are two Joker cards printed with a very cunning hat and two reversible "Tall Cards" containing handwritten chore I.O.U.s. All the cards have a lived-in look with faux stains, oily finger prints, blotches... the kind of things that can happen to a well-loved and well-played-with deck when you ain't got nothing else to do in the Black. The cards, manufactured by Bicycle (a classic card company), are of the quality you would expect; they have a satiny, embossed finish, which makes them rather slippery to handle, but after a few rounds of shuffling and playing, they become easier to grip and work with.

So, if you're a Browncoat or are simply aiming to misbehave, grab your crew and grab this deck. Playing a hand or two of cards might not be as excitin' as running a Reaver blockade, but it sure as heck might be safer. (Though with Jayne and River around, you never know...)

Silicone Heat Resistant Grill Gloves - Aura Outdoor Products
Silicone Heat Resistant Grill Gloves - Aura Outdoor Products
Offered by Eggcellent Products
Price: $34.95
2 used & new from $16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A product review, but not in the way you think!, July 13, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Okay, straight up, I was going to use these gloves in my kitchen (since I don't grill) as potholders and compare them to my old fabric potholders. Then I pulled them out of the package and got a really good look at them. First thought that came to mind? "These would make really great cat grooming gloves!" (I own a cat, so dealing with shedding and excess hair is constantly on my mind.) So I figured, why not? And you know what, I was completely right: they make wonderful grooming tools! The silicone nubbins really catch on to the animal's body and easily remove any excess hair without pulling or tugging on the skin, so there's no pain. And my cat, who likes being brushed but on his own terms (you know, like a cat) absolutely adored the gloves--I couldn't make him stay away while I had them on! Because, basically, I was petting him while grooming him, so he wasn't startled or disgruntled. Cleaning off the hair was easy, too: I just rubbed the gloves together while still wearing them and the hair pilled up and fell off into the garbage can that I was standing over. The gloves were also easy to hose off (I splashed some bleach over them beforehand in case I did want to use them as potholders later on).

So while I still can't attest to the gloves usefulness at the grill or in the kitchen, I can say they are wonderful additions to my cat care arsenal. That said, judging by how easy the gloves are to wear and how thick the silicon is, I imagine they probably work well for what they were designed. When I actually do use the gloves for that purpose, I'll be sure to update my review. :)

Edit: As of 8/11/2015, I have used these gloves for what they're actually designed, or at least closer to. On one occasion, I used them to handle a bowl of oatmeal taken straight from the microwave. I held my hands against the hottest part of the bowl for at least a minute and only in the last 30 seconds or so did I feel any significant heat coming through the gloves; even then, the warmth was mild and certainly not enough to cause me any pain or discomfort. On another occasion I used the gloves to handle a baking pan used in my convection toaster oven; again, I held my hands in direct contact with the heated metal and while the heat filtered in quicker than it did with the oatmeal, it again never reached the point where I felt uncomfortable or that I needed to quickly drop the pan. So, basically, the gloves are fabulous! They're the best possible combination of heavy-duty protection and flexibility for ease of use. I can see how they would be quite useful working at the grill or near any source of heat. I would highly recommend these gloves to anyone working in the kitchen or out on the grill . . . or needing to groom their pet!

Queen of the Dark Things: A Novel
Queen of the Dark Things: A Novel
by C. Robert Cargill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.84
76 used & new from $0.01

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: $21.25
91 used & new from $2.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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: $12.30
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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.

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