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William Merrill "eclecticist" RSS Feed (San Antonio, TX United States)
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Wonderful Crazy Night
Wonderful Crazy Night
Price: $9.99
46 used & new from $9.65

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Totally forgettable, February 6, 2016
This review is from: Wonderful Crazy Night (Audio CD)
I'm sad to tell it, but there not one song on Wonderful Crazy Night that I would ever want to hear again. I had hoped that with most of the "old gang" back together again, some of the old magic might return, but it didn't, at least not for me. I think the problem is mainly with the songwriting, as the musicianship is fine. These songs just sort of lie there, never even coming close to anything that could have been a single in EJ's heyday.


A Cure for Madness
A Cure for Madness
by Jodi McIsaac
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.82
39 used & new from $8.07

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A so-so medical thriller, January 30, 2016
This review is from: A Cure for Madness (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Jodi McIsaac previously published The Thin Veil Series, but I haven't read that and now probably never will. McIssac's latest novel is *A Cure for Madness*, a medical thriller roughly along the lines of a Robin Cook book. After her parents are killed, lead character Clare must return to her Maine hometown from her current life in Seattle. She is now responsible for the care of her mentally ill adult brother, Wes, who is about to be released from the facility where he has lived and been treated. Upon her arrival, she learns that some type of plague appears to be breaking out in the town. The story moved along at a reasonably good pace, but I never found it all that exciting. Here are a few of the plusses and minuses I encountered:

(--) Several central elements of the plot seemed either too contrived and/or incompletely put together.
(-) The quasi-mysterious governmental bad guys never felt all that threatening, and were sometimes conveniently inept.
(-) A bit of a romantic relationship pops up, but it was fairly unconvincing.
(+) THE major twist near the end was cleverly executed.
(--) The last scene (the wrap-up) was sketchy, and appeared hastily assembled.


Interior Darkness: Selected Stories
Interior Darkness: Selected Stories
by Peter Straub
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stories stretching across a large passage of Mr. Straub's writing career, January 27, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Peter Straub's new short story collection, Interior Darkness, is a hefty volume. It contains selected stories from three of his previous books of short stories, plus three additional works that were previously published but not yet anthologized. Many of the items in Darkness are the length of novellas, including "The Buffalo Hunter" and "Pork Pie Hat." Those are where I saw Straub's best writing in this collection; they are where he takes us along for the strangest and most fascinating journeys. I was completely drawn in by the main character's descent into madness (or some other altered state?) in "The Buffalo Hunter."


In The Magic Hour
In The Magic Hour
Price: $7.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but it's a bit too experimental for my taste, January 22, 2016
This review is from: In The Magic Hour (MP3 Music)
(3 & 1/2 stars)

Ms. O'Donovan has one of those sweet-yet-substantial voices like Alison Krauss', the kind of singing I could just listen to forever. I loved her album Fossils ('13), and I am still happy to follow her music on those songs, even through some of its twists and turns. In the past, she toured with Punch Brothers and recorded with acclaimed jazz musicians such as Dave Douglas, so I shouldn't have been surprised at how "out there" some of her new songs on *In the Magic Hour* are. For every tune that has a more traditional structure ("Detour Sign," "Porch Light") there are others of a more exploratory nature, culminating in the album's closing number, "Jupiter." On that track, Aoife lays down a vocal that seems to have very little to do with the nebulous backing arrangement. It's as if she said to the other players, "I'm gonna sing something, and you guys just play whatever comes to you." Improvisatory songs like that are less appealing to me. I will always like her singing, but the loosely structured material on *Magic Hour* just drifts away from me, leaving little behind.


Freedom of the Mask
Freedom of the Mask
by Robert McCammon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Is Matthew Corbett in over his head this time?, January 22, 2016
This review is from: Freedom of the Mask (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
*Freedom of the Mask* is Robert McCammon’s sixth book in the Matthew Corbett series of “historical thrillers.” Corbett is a swashbuckling hero who finds himself in one harrowing situation after another in pre-Revolutionary War North America. In this new book, the setting shifts to London for a good part of the story. Also, some of the action happens with Corbett offstage, centering around Hudson Greathouse, Matthew’s friend and mentor. Just as in previous volumes in the series, McCammon does a swell job of keeping things moving, keeping the reader on the edge of his or her seat and desperate to know “what happens next?!!”

These Corbett books are designed to stand alone, something I can attest to since I read them out of order up to book five. It is useful to know the prior events in the hero’s past, but not all that necessary.


Blackstar
Blackstar
Price: $9.97
71 used & new from $6.76

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The jazzy Thin Black Duke, January 8, 2016
This review is from: Blackstar (Audio CD)
Bowie has always been about style, and both the music and packaging of Backstar are minor works of art. His voice is becoming more translucent as he ages (although he can still cry out when needed), but his sense of trend-setiing remains undiminished. The striking opening/ title track really unfolds like two songs in one, and when he gets to the 2nd portion with its "black star" choruses, he's really stretching the boundaries. I found the odd harmonies on his processed chorus vocals unsettling, leaving me on edge going into the next song. Later, though, "Girl Loves Me" struck a sweet and nostalgic chord that I loved. To support Bowie's own singing and playing on various instruments, he recruited jazz woodwind man Donny McCaslin and some associates. (Check out McCaslin's Fast Future for a Metheny-esque musical adventure!) Their work really adds spice to these Bowie tunes, as does longtime DB collaborator Tony Visconti.

The trifold CD digipak is also quite a cool design, as is the CD booklet. (Download- and stream-only fans will be missing something.) I was a bit annoyed by the print, which is all in shiny/glossy black and set against a flat black background. It can only read by holding it at the correct angle to light. All part of the concept.


Simple Steps for Fifth Grade
Simple Steps for Fifth Grade
by Thinking Kids
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.99
36 used & new from $8.92

4.0 out of 5 stars A great concept with many good ideas, examples, problems and activities for math and language arts, January 6, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This SIMPLE STEPS volume for 5th Grade follows the format of explaining a method for learning a particular math and language arts concept, followed by step-by-step examples, then followed by problems and activities supporting the topic. For me, as a tutor of 5th graders, the practice problems are the most useful parts of the book. As for the methods presented, it's my job to support and reinforce what my students' classroom teachers are telling them. These methods mostly either line up with the standard methodology (and/or what I'm already doing), or they give an alternative approach. I'm very cautious about using the latter type of method, as I don't want to contradict and/or confuse the 10- and 11-year-olds too much.


Permafrost
Permafrost
Price: $5.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Winter music, January 3, 2016
This review is from: Permafrost (MP3 Music)
Mr. Köner's aptly named PERMAFROST is an ambient work that at first appears (or sounds) as cold and barren as its subject. The frozen ambience gradually enfolds you in its soft grasp and then lulls you into a trancelike state. However, things are subtly shifting and re-forming within these pieces, never quite taking a defined shape, but tantalizing the listener with possibilities.


Prominences
Prominences
Price: $14.57

5.0 out of 5 stars An ambient jewel, with sonic variety, January 3, 2016
This review is from: Prominences (Audio CD)
A beautiful experience of drifting along through ambient space, but not always serenely. The electronic layers are interrupted by piano notes and found sounds. These are not only atmospheric pieces, as some minimalist keyboard themes on "In Time" show. Even that piece, though, ends with a mind-altering drone that sounds galactic in scale. The title track has a more tradition ambient vibe, and best of all is "Bells," which is heavenly!


Wolfgang Voigt - GAS
Wolfgang Voigt - GAS
Price: $7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelously explored electronic moods, December 27, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Wolfgang Voigt - GAS (MP3 Music)
Two other reviewers have already given superb descriptions of this GAS music, so I'll only throw in a few of my personal impressions. I learned about this album from a book store worker who turns out to be a fellow traveler in this obscure branch of music where I spend so much of my listening time these days. I have encountered very few people who like this kind of stuff outside of cyberspace, so it was a pleasure indeed, and his GAS recommendation turned out to be spot-on. I love the moods established by these Voigt pieces, of brooding or lingering menace (with the first two cuts), meditation in inner space ("Der Wald"), and even whatever is happening to me in the stark "infinity cathedral" I go to while listening to "November 89."


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