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Classic Brands U-Shape Memory Foam Travel Pillow, Neck Pillow
Classic Brands U-Shape Memory Foam Travel Pillow, Neck Pillow
Offered by Mattress Firm Inc.
Price: $9.49
3 used & new from $9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Just as I'd hoped, ideal combination of neck and head support as well as comfort . Reduced neck pain, a success., October 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Because I have frequent bouts of neck pain, generally due to stress or sleep deprivation, I've found many travel pillows just don't work for me. If this sounds like you, the U-Shape Memory Foam pillow may be worth considering. My spouse likes it as well because of a condition which requires some nights spent sleeping in a partly reclined chair rather than in a bed. It has made a huge difference in comfort during those times.

I do want to note, however, that I like all my pillows, including the ones on my bed, to be on the firm side - and this travel pillow is no exception. It still feels very comfy and has some give but also retains its shape and doesn't get squished after repeated use.

Other features worth noting:

1. This is an easy care product. The outer cover can be spot cleaned or thrown into the washer (mild detergent, cold water) for a more thorough cleaning.

2. An elastic strap makes this easy to hang from a hook in the closet or around the handle of a rolling suitcase.

3. No pressure point and even distribution of pressure provides more support for me than my bedroom pillows. There have been many nights when I've either used this on top my usual pillow or simply as a stand alone pillow on top of the mattress (particularly when napping).

4. The foam does not encourage or harbor dust mites (and regular cleaning of the cover also helps). I have no allergies to this pillow or cover.

Finally, here's a real experience: After spending many sleepless nights sitting in a chair next to a hospitalized relative, I was desperate for a bit of sleep. The pillow arrived, had my spouse zip over to the hospital with it. When my relative was whisked off for an x-ray, I grabbed some very welcome time to sleep - and it was wonderful. At that point, quite honestly, I might have drifted off a bit anyway but I never would have had the deep and restful sleep I got from a travel pillow with such firm, yet comforting, support for my neck.

Thirty Girls
Thirty Girls
by Susan Minot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.53
110 used & new from $2.67

5.0 out of 5 stars "These things must be wonder if the world knows of such things.", October 24, 2014
This review is from: Thirty Girls (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Susan Minot's novel, Thirty Girls, is based on an actual historical event, the abductions of 139 females students in Uganda. The "thirty girls" are the ones who were forced to remain with Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army after the headmistress at the girls' boarding school failed to negotiate their release. It is their lives which form the basis for this book. For some, that might seem too grim and reason enough to turn away from it.

I urge potential readers to resist that urge. This is one of the most haunting - and well written - novels I've read this year. It deserves a wide audience.

What happened to the abducted girls is described in painful and searing detail by one particular girl, Esther Akello. She speaks for all of them when she notes that "we are all united by a thing that also divides us from others." In Esther, Minot has created a very believable portrait of a young girl facing the aftermath of violence and deep trauma, no longer in danger but still forced to "meet new challenges of the mind". She became so real to me that I read much of this novel through tears.

Esther's point of view alternates with that of journalist Jane Wood, a woman who has come to Uganda to cover the kidnappings and who is actually eager to be away from home and her continual worries. She wants to leave habit behind and the "dulling of perspective." Memories of her ex-husband torment her, even though he is dead, and she can't find a way to get beyond the past.

While Minot also created a very believable character in Jane Wood, I found myself impatient to get back to the parts of the novel which focused on Esther. It was those sections which forced me to stop and think about what happens to the mind of someone subjected to so many atrocities. Could that person recover - and how? Again, grim material, but there is also hope in this book, shining against the darkness.

On a Clear Day
On a Clear Day
by Walter Dean Myers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.21
60 used & new from $8.42

3.0 out of 5 stars I'm a fan of this author but unfortunately not this book. Here's why:, October 23, 2014
This review is from: On a Clear Day (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am a fan of Walter Dean Myers and had read a fair number of his books (he's written over 100 of them). So I was eager to read On a Clear Day. It had many strong elements but ultimately I was disappointed in both the plot and the characters. The first half of this novel, however, held promise and then it seemed to just fade and lose its flow. It was disorienting.

The basic plot: it is 2035 and a group known as C-8, made up of powerful companies is in control. That is when a group of teens decide to band together, try to reconcile their very different personalities, and change the prevailing system. At that point, I was rooting for them.

The novel is told from the point of view of Dahlio Grillo, a young woman with excellent computer skills. There's also a former rock star, a chess whiz, and more. Teens who want to change the world and fight the system. The powerful elite. A mix of personalities. These are strong elements and yet it ultimately didn't seem cohesive, lacking a sense of believability.

I would have given this 2 and 1/2 stars but bumped up my rating (with great ambivalence).

Vornado HU1-0045-65 Evaporative Humidifier, 4-Gallon
Vornado HU1-0045-65 Evaporative Humidifier, 4-Gallon
Price: $119.99

5.0 out of 5 stars It still works great and humidity is perfect - even after I accidentally dropped it! Details on set-up, usage, maintenance:, October 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm gong to start right off with...


This humidifier was very easy to set up. After conducting the recommended preliminary tests by the manufacturer for potential leaks in the water tanks (due to possible damage during shipping), I added water to the water tanks and slid them into place on the base reservoir. Very simple to do.

Next, I turned on the humidifier, put it in our family room (which is open to the entire house), and set the fan to the medium setting. I set the humidity levels at maximum setting, just so I could get a quicker reading. At this setting, we can't even hear the noise from the fan. The heating system in our house and the air from our heating vents in our house are are far noisier - and they aren't all that noisy anyway.

CONFIRMING HUMIDITY LEVELS : I have a humidity monitor, a hygrometer, so I can verify when humidity levels are within our desirable range. Our doctor recommends humidity levels stay close to 40% to 50 %. We keep it at about 40% but it would have been okay to have it at 35% or above.


Everything was going well, my spouse wasn't having nosebleeds, no more shocks from static electricity, allergy symptoms greatly reduced,, everyone breathing better, and our furniture wasn't creaking from the wood drying out. These were the immediate results. Also, we could set our thermostat to a lower temp because the humidity kept the room feeling warmer.

And then, while trying to move the humidifier from one room to another, I dropped it - on a hardwood floor. The upper part (the motor and fan) hit the floor with a thud. I had a sinking feeling. With dread, I moved the humidifier, filled the water tanks, and turned it back on. It worked perfectly. It STILL works perfectly and the humidity levels are fine.

To say I'm impressed is an understatement.

This is the BEST humidifier we have ever had and not just because it kept running - and very well - after I mishandled it. It is easy to set - up, requires no assembly, and is very user friendly.

Chicago Cutlery 1090390 Fusion 18-Piece Knife Block Set, Stainless Steel with Honey Maple Wood Block
Chicago Cutlery 1090390 Fusion 18-Piece Knife Block Set, Stainless Steel with Honey Maple Wood Block
Price: $125.62
30 used & new from $99.16

3.0 out of 5 stars I'm very happy with some parts of this set and tried to keep my expectations realistic..., October 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
First of all, I am not a professional chef. However, I do cook most of our meals and I do plenty of cutting and chopping, etc. We also didn't have a decent set of steak knives. At this price (when broken down to price per knife), I figured there might be some trade-offs.

All in all, I'm basically pleased. But ....and perhaps someone else can chime in here if I'm doing something wrong but...I have yet to find the ideal knife in this set for chopping onions. I know that seems nutty. But I've tested them all. Garlic? No problem. Tomatoes, carrots, problem. But when it comes to onions, I can still do a better job with a cheap and not very great knife I already own. And by "better" I mean "above average but not stellar".

So which knife works for onions? Or do any of them work well? If one does, I'll test it and update my review. But I've tested every knife several times already - and I DO know how to chop onions.

Now for the pros: the steak knives are superb. These steaks really don't rust. They are easily sharpened. The set looks appealing on the counter and the wooden holder is nice and sturdy. These knives have a great heft, very well balanced.

Step2  Deluxe Canyon Road Train & Track Table
Step2 Deluxe Canyon Road Train & Track Table
Price: $82.02
24 used & new from $64.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Works with Brio trains as well as 12 Pcs Wooden Engines & Train Cars Collection we have for Thomas, Brio, Chuggington trains, October 23, 2014
First of all, I was worried about whether this would work with a small battery operated Brio train Brio RC Train Engine which our 2 and 1/2 year old grandson loves. And yes....yes it does! It can pull 2-3 cars up and down the various inclines, so fun! . It also works with our other Brio style trains, including the 12 pcs Wooden Engines & Train Cars Collections, see link 12 Pcs Wooden Train Cars & Emergency Vehicles Collection Fits Thomas, Brio, Chuggington.

There is one small overpass which is a bit of snug fit for the battery-operated train but it WILL go through - and our grandson loves being the "helper" so this is actually a bonus for him, makes him feel in charge and adds some extra variety. Sometimes these unexpected benefits just...happen.

They trains fit and they don't fall off the track even though they are very different from the wooden tracks. . The battery operated train (which is about 2 inches high, a tad under that) works too but my grandson has to gently guide it through an overpass. It handles the plastic red and blue and yellow sections with ease.

This delighted a 2 and 1/2 year old who is still too young to master the complexities of putting together wooden train tracks. He can spend hours playing with trains once the track is set up. A 2 and 1/2 year old who spends hours on one activity is ..well...miraculous for us.. But then he'd inevitably start taking apart the wooden tracks...and clean-up time was a major pain.

The Deluxe Canyon Road Train and Track Table solves that problem. Everything is contained. It is a joy - for our grandson and for us. The reversible table top provides the perfect spot for coloring, building with blocks, etc. So it will do double duty, although the top isn't strong enough for a toddler to stand on. And it looks as though any spills would wipe up (haven't tested that out yet).

So this has been the perfect solution, especially with a table top which hides everything nearly underneath and can be used on its own. Double duty is a win/win for us. The decals seem like they'll be a pain to add - especially based on some of the other reviews here - but we're holding off adding those for now. He's having plenty of imaginative and creative fun right now with this table - just as it is. Highly recommended. Feel free to ask questions. Glad to answer.

Begin Again
Begin Again
Price: $12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A delight - and a must for anyone interested in songwriting, creating music, the power of lyrics and music, October 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Begin Again (Amazon Instant Video)
The basic plot outline: (without too many details, no spoilers): Mark Ruffalo plays Dan, a once successful music producer, who has hit a very rough patch. He's estranged from his wife and his relationship with his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) is tense. And there's business woes. Enter Keira Knightley.

The film opens with a flashback as Ruffalo is riveted by listening to songwriter Greta ( Keira Knightley ) as she sings one of her creations in a bar. This is the first hint that music will play a vital role in this movie. There are also plenty of similarities between Begin Again and the film Once. This is no surprise since the director of Begin Again, John Carney, also directed Once.

I could have watched this film simply for the way it made me reflect on the power of music (and the vagaries of the music business) . Then there were these themes: the art of songwriting and creating lyrics , when ( or if ) to compromise artistic expression for popular appeal, dealing with adulation. The soundtrack is like an extra character in this film.

It's clear that those involved with this movie loved the pure fun and magic of creativity in musical expression. It shows. And that joy is infectious.

But what about the plot? It won me over, although it had its bumpy moments and I had to suspend my sense of disbelief and take a leap of faith with the filmmaker, just to get through some of the trickier sections. It helped that Mark Ruffalo is an actor who's a pleasure to watch, convincing as a moody guy with dark edges, trying to come to terms with what he's lost and what he can salvage.

Keira Knightley's performance was - for the most part - very solid but there were some moments that seemed a bit contrived and where she appeared to fall back on her radiant smile to fill in the gaps. And sometimes it seemed as though the film's dynamics were going to veer in the wrong direction but somehow everything held together - and very nicely. She has an inherent sweetness here that is very appealing, a straightforward quality and an open heart.

This is one of those films where some of the parts, if analyzed too deeply, might not hold up so well. But the bottom line is that they do create a very pleasing whole. I'd gladly watch it again.

There Were Many Horses
There Were Many Horses
by Luiz Ruffato
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.99
24 used & new from $7.97

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vignettes of one day in San Paulo, with focus on the impoverished. Honest, yet challenging to read., October 22, 2014
This review is from: There Were Many Horses (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had a difficult time with this one but it may be more accessible for other readers. I had to research the author and some interviews with him to understand what he was trying to accomplish with this work. There Were Many Horses was first published in 2001 so this is a recent translation. It is essentially focused on both the decadence and poverty in the city of Sao Paulo with the balance of the content centered on the impoverished.

Will readers understand that one purpose of the book is to reveal how many people who live and work in Sao Paulo do not have the right to homes, decent education (or any education) health care, and more? I am ambivalent about that. Perhaps those individuals who can truly understand that perspective are ones who live or work in Sao Paulo and have grasped the essence of the city over time.

Another challenge was sticking with a book which jumps from one event to another but does not focus on any one character or set of characters. Instead, this is a portrait on 1 day in In Sao Paulo and is a mixture of various people's thoughts, actions, and more. The city IS the character. It is a basically grim book. And yet it won the Brazilian National Library's Machado de Assis Award and the APCA Award for best novel so I am wondering if my opinion will be in the minority in the U.S. For the sake of the author, I am hoping this is the case.

I read it through 2 times and still didn't find myself pulled into this work. Even so, I would encourage readers who are drawn to experimental fiction to give this one a try. Perhaps you'll find it far more enjoyable than I did. If so, I'd be very interesting in understanding your take and perhaps it will give me a new perspective.

I root for authors and hate to give less than a 4 star rating. It is uncommon for me.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 22, 2014 4:17 PM PDT

Mega Bloks Caterpillar Table Construction Site
Mega Bloks Caterpillar Table Construction Site
Price: $38.48
11 used & new from $38.48

4.0 out of 5 stars We're a Mega Bloks Family. This works well for very young ones, especially if you have more Mega Bloks, October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mega Bloks First Builder Toys, including this Construction Site, may look fairly minimal to parents. But we've found them to be ideal for a 2 and 1/2 year old who is just learning how to put together blocks and make up some simple stories for them. At first glance, I thought the construction site looked overly simple but - through the eyes of the 2 year old - it turned out to be just the right number of blocks without being overwhelming.

Part of the fun of this toy was opening and closing the lid (which is created from the 4 road pieces), and fitting them into place. Putting the blocks in the table, closing the lid, and getting them out again was also an attraction.

Having noted that, this particular set has its pros and cons (more about the cons in a minute) You'll get the most benefit from this toy if you have other First Builder sets. That way, you can add extra levels and use other vehicles that way. Otherwise, there is basically a truck, a driver, some blocks, a crane and a roadway which goes in a circle. Fine but not as much fun as having more Mega Bloks. The crane does come apart fairly easily and unexpectedly. On the plus side, the driver fits easily into the truck (some reviewers may have had an earlier or different set because I noticed that some wrote that the driver doesn't fit; in our truck, he does).

Even so, this managed to hold a great deal of appeal and the table kept everything just high enough to make play easier.I do wish the crane moved and the back of the dump truck actually raised and lowered. The crane CAN hold the blocks, though, and learning how to get the crane to hold them was a learning task all by itself.

If you think a bit "outside the box" you can use the storage table to transport other toys to and from grandparents' homes, friend's houses, the park, and more. It is just the right size for carrying a small selection of vehicles or even some art supplies (crayons, paper, etc). The storage table doesn't have to be limited to the Mega Bloks, although it is of course made to store them very well. And if you don't take the Mega Bloks with you, they'll need to be put in a small basket at home. But this is no big deal.

Once the top of the table (which is actually the road) is in place, a simple turn of a handle locks the lid. You do need to keep an eye on the revolving "lock" as it can be jostled and the top can open. But we didn't find this to be a major issue. It generally stayed locked.

Bottom line: Added some extra play activities to our other Mega Bloks sets. I probably wouldn't start with this set but it is definitely a nice addition - and I love that table!

Playskool Rock, Ride n Stride Hippo
Playskool Rock, Ride n Stride Hippo
Price: $34.99
10 used & new from $28.10

4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for beginning walkers and converts to a ride on toy. A major hit!, October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What I like about this:

1. It does what it is supposed to do- let beginning walkers have fun pushing a toy while practicing their walking skills. And they DO love the sounds. The variety keeps them entertained longer. There are 25 different lights and sounds - so be prepared for this. I'm not as crazy about toys with lots of sounds. But that is just my preference. If you don't mind all those various animal, musical, and the intentionally silly (funny) sounds, then you'll be fine. And your baby will be entertained. Win/win.

2. Another plus: this easy to put together and easy to convert from a walker to a ride-on toy. That makes it popular with me - not just the baby.

3. The volume adjusts with speed. That is a great cause and effect lesson and adds an extra dimension to this one.

4. It isn't easily tipped.

5. It is a sanity saver on rainy or snowy days. If you're lucky enough to have an indoor play area, your little one can burn off some steam with this. We have a tiny indoor slide as well, one that includes a play area under the slide. The two toys, the ride-on hippo and slide, do a great job at reducing fussiness.

6. The buttons are easy for little ones to push. The variety of noises keeps them engaged. Every spare minute they're entertained - or actually learning how to entertain themselves a bit more - is a huge bonus as far as I'm concerned. I'm realistic and know that toys which promise "hours of fun" doesn't mean you can push a baby or toddler's attention span beyond a certain very short range - but the ride-on hippos has surpassed my expectations.

A good half hour playing with one toy is a major win in my book - and that's what I get with this toy. I can get plenty accomplished in 30 minutes while also watching a toddler and baby - folding laundry, paying bills, maybe just taking a breath while drinking a cup of coffee.

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