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

1 of 1 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 Toy
Playskool Rock, Ride n Stride Hippo Toy
Price: $34.99
9 used & new from $28.48

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.

240 HALLOWEEN PARTY FAVORS/Bouncy Balls SPIDERS Bat Rings, Tattoos ERASERS Goody Bags/Trick or Treat GOODIES
240 HALLOWEEN PARTY FAVORS/Bouncy Balls SPIDERS Bat Rings, Tattoos ERASERS Goody Bags/Trick or Treat GOODIES

3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what I'd hoped for - here' s some details not currently offered in the product description, October 20, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
We have a neighborhood where some homes, including mine, offer options for kids who are allergic to peanuts and other nuts (this includes candies made in "facilities where peanuts are processed"). When I saw 240 Halloween Party Favors being offered, I thought this would be a nice option for kids with allergies.

What you need to know: When I ordered this, it did not note whether the favors would be safe for children younger than 3 years of age. None are -and that includes the tattoos. I can still use the gift bags but there are only 12 of those.

I still gave this a 3 star review because I knew I was taking a chance and because the price was lower than similar Halloween favorites at the time - $14.95 plus free shipping. I couldn't find better prices at my local stores.

The bottom line: All the favors are very small and I will have to find some which are suitable for very young children - under 3 years of age. I wish there had been more favors and no treat bags. Because I am willing to take some responsibility for choosing a product with minimal description, I'm giving an average rating to this. The main reason for giving this a less than stellar rating is because the mini erasers, all 24 of them, are indeed very, very tiny and won't fit on a pencil. Giving one of these to a child instead of candy doesn't seem a fair option - but that's just my take.

These favors will fill some of my needs. Will they do the same for you? Perhaps these details will help you decide. Feel free to ask any questions and I'll try to provide additional info.

AmazonBasics Micro Ultra-Portable Bluetooth Speaker - White
AmazonBasics Micro Ultra-Portable Bluetooth Speaker - White
Price: $24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great sound and paired seamlessly with iPad 3 and Mac laptop. The details:, October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First, some general info (details about set-up is further down in this review) . There's plenty that impresses me about this very portable Micro Bluetooth speaker. What I wanted was a light, low profile speaker which would be attractive and also pair quickly and easily with my Mac Air as well as my iPad 3. This speaker meets my expectations - and actually surpasses them. The sound quality is clear, with no buzz or distortion. I also wanted the option of taking it with me while out and about.

Expectations: I am probably what would be called an "average" user . I simply wanted better sound quality, volume, and depth than I could get with either the Mac or iPad. That was all I wanted and needed. The range, about 30 feet, is all I need to listen to music or other audio (podcasts, news, etc) while I'm cooking or cleaning in the same room. It is also nice to have on our deck for gatherings with family and friends or in close range while gardening.

Set- up: All I had to do was open the box, take out the speaker (which arrived partially charged and ready to go), and test it with my Mac and iPad.

The set-up couldn't have been easier: activate the Bluetooth option in settings on the iPad or Mac. Press the center button (in between the volume controls) on the speaker. Let the devices recognize each other (which happened very quickly) . And that was it.

Appearance: I have another Bluetooth speaker which was a gift but the black color doesn't blend as well in our kitchen and it is larger. I prefer the AmazonBasics in the kitchen and family room of our house, where we have primarily lighter colors and a darker speaker stands out more. This helps maintain the streamlined and visually uncluttered look I prefer.

Bonus: My other Bluetooth speaker didn't include a carrying case. This one does. It's a nice addition which should be considered the standard for a portable speaker.

I can't think of a thing I dislike about this speaker. It would make a nifty gift as well as being super for personal use.

Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home
Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home
by Boyd Varty
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.92
75 used & new from $9.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Life isn't about staying on track; it's about constantly rediscovering the tracks..., October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have struggled to find the words to describe this book, among the best books I've read all year. I could start by labeling it a memoir written by Boyd Varty, a young man who grew up on Londolozi Game Reserve in Africa. Varty's days were spent watching wildebeests, kudus and monkeys running through the garden, driving a Land Rover instead of riding a bike, swimming in the river next to his house, and going on regular hunting expeditions with his father and uncle by the time he was 6 years old.

But calling this a "memoir" would still fall far short of the mark. So I could add that the book is also the story of Londolozi Game Reserve, a place so magical that Nelson Mandela arrived there shortly after his release from 27 years of imprisonment. He went to Londolozi to help recover and transition back to normal life again. Londolozi became the site of a massive elephant relocation project after the Varty family negotiated with ABC's Wold World of Sports producer John Wilcox.

This is also a family narrative, with amazing stories about the Varty family, their safari business (still in existence today), and their work as wildlife activists. There have been some close calls, too, including an encounter with a deadly black mamba snake, a near fatal case of malaria, and a crocodile attack. A terrifying night leaves trauma in its wake and the latter part of Cathedral of the Wild focuses on what may be at the heart of healing and survival.

There is a special richness, depth and beauty in the way Varty writes. Highly recommended.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.17
38 used & new from $15.23

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impassioned plea for increased compassion, understanding, and change in the face of injustice, October 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Although I always knew the justice system had flaws, "Just Mercy" forced me to confront extremes of injustice that still run through it. Author Bryan Stevenson was a young and inexperienced lawyer when he began representing poor clients during the 1980s, working with the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee (SPDC) . He was one among a very few attorneys there, most of them former criminal defense lawyers who were trying to help Death Row prisoners who were unable to get legal representation. As a result, they could be killed without having true legal assistance.

Stevenson's first duty was to convince convicted men of one single message: "You will not be killed in the next year." It was an experience which couldn't help but change him forever and point out that something was deeply wrong with the way many people, particularly those who were poor, were treated by the judicial system. It was a growing part of an evolving struggle he'd faced his whole life: how and why people are simply discarded, forgotten, and judged unfairly.

This book centers on Stevenson's continuing struggle to reform a system of criminal justice that "continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent." This is just one point made in this work. Stevenson also portrays the lives of the disenfranchised - particularly in the case of Walter McMillian, a man sentenced to die for a crime he never committed.

I was totally engaged and also horrified by what McMillian endured. This was not the first time this case had been covered by the media but Stevenson had a unique perspective that adds depth and a special poignancy to his writing. "Just Mercy" is also as much about his coming of age as a lawyer as it is the account of McMillian's terrible ordeal.

Ultimately - at least for me - it is a wake-up call and a reason for hope that positive change and mercy can prevail in a broken system. As Stevenson wrote near the end of the book, "Mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given."

RSVP International Onion Goggles, Black
RSVP International Onion Goggles, Black
Offered by Richmond Home Center
Price: $19.95
47 used & new from $17.15

5.0 out of 5 stars These work very well for me. Will they for you? Some details:, October 17, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
These work like a charm for me. Not a single bit of onion juice or mist gets into my eyes. The glasses fit snugly but thanks to soft foamy lining they are also comfortable. No more stinging eyes. No more tears flowing toward the onions I"m chopping. No more blurred vision.

But here's the catch - they don't seem to work for some people. A friend who is petite can't get them to work on her face.The glasses still leave some space around her eyes. Her eyes still sting.

Based on my experience, I'm one of many here who feel this product merits a 5 star review ( my friend can come on here and provide her own rating and review if she wants ).

The Onion Goggles have made chopping onions easy and pain-free. The goggles don't look especially snazzy. These aren't designer glasses. But they do the job - and they do it very, very well.

The Best American Short Stories 2014
The Best American Short Stories 2014
by Jennifer Egan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.45
69 used & new from $8.53

5.0 out of 5 stars This collection of short stories soars, October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are not certainly a wide diversity of short stories and writing styles represented in this collection. One author, Laura Van Den Berg, even has the distinction of having her haunting story, "Antarctica" published in both The Best American Short Stories of 2014 and The Best Mystery Stories of 2014. That's quite an honor.

Readers may have the misconception that writing a short story is "easier" than creating an entire novel. But it isn't hard to find well known writers who say just the opposite: it can be extremely hard to develop strong characters and story lines - and then to hold readers' attention.

And, as editor Jennifer Egan points out, "Winning, or inclusion, is a matter of managing to delight the right combinations of tastes..." From my point of view, Egan's taste was spot on.

Here's some of my favorites (in addition to the previously mentioned "Antarctica" :

"After the Flood"

I was drawn into Peter Cameron's story after the first sentence: "The Djukanovics came to live with us after the flood because they had nowhere else to go." This story led in a different direction than I expected.

"Long Tom Lookout" is Nicole Cullen's contribution and the story of a woman, a young boy, and their unlikely circumstances tore at my heart.

"Madame Bovary's Greyhound"

Karen Russell's story focuses on ( as she describes it) "Flaubert fan fiction, about a heartbroken dog". This is my favorite in the bunch, so poignant. Somehow Russell managed to make me believe in a particular dog's rich emotional life.

Choosing the "best" stories in a given year may be somewhat arbitrary but what isn't in question is how memorable these are.

Adult MyPlate Flat Plate
Adult MyPlate Flat Plate
Offered by Super Healthy Kids
Price: $9.95
2 used & new from $6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Kept my diet on track, especially over the Thanksgiving and other holidays. Helped me lose weight., October 17, 2014
This review is from: Adult MyPlate Flat Plate (Kitchen)
First of all, I don't believe in permanent dieting. I DO believe in learning portion control, mindful eating, and healthy food choices.. So that's where I'm coming from.

For awhile, I was on a calorie controlled diet (doctor's orders). I was allowed a specific amount of fruits, grains, vegetables and protein daily. Even with this plate, I bad to weigh my protein servings and measure my other food choices. But it was a HUGE help in reminding me to eat balanced meals and to control portions.

Visual cues work well for me. Each section is color coded. Red for fruits. Green for veggies. Nice and simple.

Before my diet, a single serving of protein (often fried) or rice drowning in butter or any food (except veggies) could easily have been as large as the entire plate! I needed to learn new habits. And this plate helped get me on track, along with a reasonable diet plan -no fad diets with promises of "instant" and major weight loss.

I lost an average of 4 pounds a month.

This plate helped me survive the holidays (and yes, I made some exceptions to my diet on special occasions as it is about overall balance through the year). If you need some visual cues for dieting or just a reminder to eat balanced meals, this is a helpful aid to have on hand.

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