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review 2017-04-08 01:19
Cabinets full of curiosities always seem to come with a blood sacrifice
The Unfinished World: And Other Stories - Amber Sparks

About a year ago, I stumbled into a cute little bookstore which specialized in mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy of both the new and used variety. I felt it was my solemn duty to have a close look and about an hour later I left with a few (or three) choice items. One of these I already reviewed and today's was actually a signed copy titled The Unfinished World: And Other Stories by Amber Sparks. As the title suggests, this is a collection of short stories that have an eerie, fantastical vibe to them. Some of them are downright disturbing (the taxidermy one in particular stands out) while others are merely just off the beaten path into strangeness. If you like dark, eerie fiction that crosses into the borders of the unknown then this book would be right up your street. If you're looking to delve into short story collections but you're not sure where to start this also might be a good fit for you. As for me, I enjoyed a few of them but overall this wasn't my favorite of the short story collections I've read. (That honor either goes to Through the Woods or The Opposite of Loneliness.) 5/10

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-01-23 02:11
Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals - Jay Kirk

The story of Carl Akeley as he improves the world of taxidermy and goes to Africa to preserve the big game animals that are being hunted out of existence.  He also developed a camera to take live action film of the animals as they move.  His was an interesting world.  The details are fascinating as Mr. Kirk tells Carl's story.  I even read the notes.  His documentation of his sources is good.  I want to read some of them, if they are still available.  I loved Micki, stubborn as she could be, but that is what gave her the strength and courage to do what she did for Carl.  I did not like his second wife as well.  Carl had a lot of stamina and perseverance as he went for the animals he wanted in his dioramas surviving a leopard and elephant attack.  He should die much earlier than he did.  He was involved with famous people from that era--Theodore Roosevelt and George Eastman of Kodak.  Interesting story.  Reads like a novel.

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review 2016-12-14 01:51
Lightning struck twice
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things - Jenny Lawson

I actually finished this book last week but as the site was down I'm taking the opportunity to post it now. :-)


I'm not entirely sure why it's taken my so long to read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. As I mentioned in the post where I reviewed Let's Pretend This Never Happened, I freaking LOVE Jenny Lawson and her writing. I actually picked this book up last year shortly after it came out but as with many things I was distracted and I only now got around to it. I adored it. Her debut novel is much like her blog where it's snippets of stories from her life (which is nothing short of eccentric and bizarre like her which is why I love her so much) mixed in with colorful anecdotes. Furiously Happy is a completely different kettle of fish. There are still tales of her life which are off-the-wall but the main focus of this book is Jenny's struggles with mental and physical illness and how she's decided to view it. Instead of seeing it as a dark cloud that obliterates all the joy from her life she has instead chosen to embrace all of the happy moments in between and LIVE THEM UP. Her joyousness and love of life is felt on every page. It's a fantastic pick me up. She takes the stigma of mental illness and throws it completely out of the window (making sure that it's wearing a funny sombrero on its way out). There's more taxidermy and of course arguments with Victor but the overarching theme is shining rays of light into the darkness of mental illness. I've already gotten one of my co-workers reading it and she said that from the first page she was hooked. That's two ringing endorsements, ya'll! This one is a 10/10 for sure and if you don't read it you'll surely regret it.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2014-09-08 07:00
Crap Taxidermy
Crap Taxidermy - Kat Su

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!


While browsing Netgalley (I know I shouldn't do that) I came across Crap Taxidermy and I was immediately sold. I'm never too fond of stuffed animals myself, but when I saw that weird fox on the cover, I just knew I had to read this.


I laughed out loud! Some of these 'creatures' (I don't have a better word for it) are really ridiculous. And some of them look like they are actually on display somewhere. (I suppose it's not on a course of How NOT to stuff animals). Some of them have stares that will haunt your dreams, while others just look a bit neglected (as in eaten by moths).


I don't think this is a book that everyone will enjoy. But if you were to put in on a table in your living room, I think you would get some interesting conversations. If you feel you could do a better job, there is a DIY guide at the end of the book. I think I'll pass on that one. I once had to dissect a mouse (and that didn't really was a success. No, I don't want to talk about it) and I think I'll leave it at that. Also check out the blog this book was based upon: http://crappytaxidermy.com/

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text 2014-08-28 00:37
Reading in Progress: A Traveler in Italy: Return of Ceiling Croc!!!
A Traveller In Italy - H.V. Morton,Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

Isn't it weird how sometimes the right book comes along at the right moment? This is not going to be an epically loved book for me or anything, but it's the kind of book I've kept thinking I'd eventually set aside and stop reading. But then I've read just a bit more. And so on. It's been interesting enough to take me out of myself when I've really needed stress relief - and been the most fun in those moments where I've found myself rereading the same paragraph over and over because in my mind I'm having an imaginary trip to Italy. I've also discovered that travel books are a wonderful way for me to waste even more time online, because there are photos of almost everything if you dig around enough. Which is especially helpful since this guidebook dates from 1964 and the photos are all in black and white. I actually have another weird history/link post to make (Italy + Alice in Wonderland + alchemy + medicine + candy + British candy folklore), but this post had to come first.


After my post on Stuffed Crocodiles Hanging From The Ceiling - which a quote from pg 338 got me launched off on - I thought that'd be it for the crocodile-related entries. (In this book anyway.) But noooooooo! I did not suspect that 212 pages later there would be a Sudden Surprise Appearance of The Ceiling Croc! Remember, back on pg 338 it was just a mention of a crocodile in a sculpture, not an actual ceiling croc, that had gotten me all wound up over the beasts. (Technically the creatures here are both "alligators," but ceiling croc just sounds better.)


And so here's the quote. Imagine me reading this with my mouth open, making a ridiculous expression, saying to myself "wait, I just burbled on and on about these things, and now they pop up in an obscure town?!!" Specifically The Hermitage and Monastery at Camaldoli, in Tuscany. (More here and here.) Pg 550-552:


"I entered the monastery and found myself in an ancient pharmacy where nothing had apparently been altered since the Middle Ages. A dusty alligator hung from the rafters and beneath it a bustling young lay brother in horn-rimmed glasses stood behind a rampart of objects on a well-stocked counter. Near the door, where in other chemists' shops there is usually a weighing machine, I noticed an upright coffin in which a skeleton was propped. I went to examine it and read an inscription: 'In this glass you see yourself, foolish mortal. Any other glass is not telling you the truth.' On a shelf near by I saw a good selection of pickled vipers and I noticed some badger skins, which I seemed vaguely to remember are infallible in cases of sorcery.


There must be a mediaeval hypochondriac hidden away in me, for this was the place I had always hoped to find: the apothecary's shop in which one could ask for half an ounce of crabs eyes, or a packet of powdered coral, or perhaps even a jar of hart's horn jelly, the wonder drugs of yesterday. And it did indeed look at first sight as though, isolated upon this Apennine, men were still searching for the Elixir of Life. Who could say what countless little drawers held in the beautiful, age-blackened walnut panelling; what, in spite of his horn rims and his modern air, might not the lay brother have under the counter? Fascinated, I stepped into another, smaller room full of mortars and pestles and retorts (and another alligator), a room which gave the impression that an alchemist had just slipped out to look up something in Galen. A stuffed armadillo gave a homely touch to one corner and upon the wall, framed perhaps for ready reference, I read a formula which contained the words grasso umano - human fat.


[The store also sells modern things like razor blades, cologne, and face cream.]


...I asked where his customers came from. He said they were living at the hospice up the road and were on holiday. Every year people came to spend a week or two in the pine-scented air of the mountains, to walk, to ride, and to fish; and the pharmacy was the village shop."


Apparently the author of this book can't always be relied upon for facts - so I've been unsure how seriously to take some of his descriptions. It's hard to know how much artistic license he's taking. It's especially hard to tell because the book is 50 years old, and there aren't any citations.


But then I found this on wikipedia under Camaldoli:

"In the monastery of Camaldoli there is a welcoming room, a great hall, and an old style pharmacy. The pharmacy was originally a laboratory where monks studied and worked with medicinal herbs. These medicines would be used in the old hospital which can still be visited today. The precious walnut decor dates back to 1543."

Couldn't find any photos. But the ceiling crocs alligators might still be there...


[Here I'll note that I could now go off on another tangent about stuffed armadillos. I even own a framed photo of a taxidermied armadillo holding a beer bottle. Because, Texas. But I'm restraining myself!]


MOMENTS LATER: I may have said "squeee!" aloud when I found this:


Camaldoli’s Antica Farmacia: charity without words


I don't see the ceiling crocs in any of those photos - but the skeleton in the coffin is there!!!!


HOURS LATER: I think I've found two Flickr photos with ceiling crocs/gators - only it looks as though these are wall walking:


Farmacia - photo by Come L'abete (on the wall to the right, possible armadillo on back wall)


Simon Luca - photo by Come L'abete (you can't really miss this one)

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