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Lexmark MS312dn Monochrome Printer
Lexmark MS312dn Monochrome Printer
Price: $196.99
28 used & new from $177.08

3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive and irritating, October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am impressed with and super-irritated at this printer.

First, what I am impressed with:

-Quick printing.

-Clean, crisp copies.

-Back-to-back printing to save paper. Plus, it's almost as quick coming out back-to-back as it would be coming out with two pieces of paper.

Why I am irritated:

-Excessively long set up. It requires a CD-Rom to install and I only 1 of my 3 laptops has a CD player - the other two are Chromebooks and they have no CD drives. There is a web-based set up but you would never know it unless you are running the CD-Rom because the only place I found any reference to it (think about that for a minute). Pretty typical of the whole set-up experience, really.

-I spent about 5 hours over two days trying to set up this printer. The initial set up just to use it with a USB cord takes about 20 minutes using the step-by-step CD-Rom. I felt like I had slipped back in time to 2004. Every printer I've installed in the last several years has been plug and play (including heavy duty ones like this one that I have installed at work).

-The biggest reason why I spent 5 hours setting this thing up was mostly due to my failed attempts to get the wireless features of this computer to work. I don't know it it's the printer or my Comcast cable modem but I could not get them to talk to one another no matter what I did. There has to be a better way to do this.

-The initial instructions are those picture instructions that work in any language or for illiterate people but because Lexmark is too cheap to print actual written instructions I found them to be difficult. I would have much preferred to have had 17 different instruction booklets in different languages than the cartoon paper that they provided.

-The first 15 times I tried to print using the paper drawer on the bottom the printer kept telling me that I needed to add paper even though it had plenty of paper. Finally, I filled it so full that I literally could not add another piece of paper and then it started to print from the drawer. I don't know why, I just accepted it as a gift from above and I walked away knowing that at least I got it to print correctly when it is wired to my laptop. Wireless? Maybe another time.

Artistic 17" x 22" Krystal View Clear Antimicrobial Desk Pad Organizer with Microban, Clear
Artistic 17" x 22" Krystal View Clear Antimicrobial Desk Pad Organizer with Microban, Clear
Price: $27.49
2 used & new from $24.47

5.0 out of 5 stars Does what it promises to do., October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My only dislike of this organizer is that it is too small - I wish I had gotten a bigger size (measure before your order!).

But, besides that, it is a great way to not lose those really important papers, pictures or whatever and still be able to use your desk. It does slide around a little bit, but not too bad. If you have more papers under it it tends to slide more, but that just makes sense.

Littlest Pet Shop Pet Day Camp Style Set
Littlest Pet Shop Pet Day Camp Style Set
Offered by GNS Wholesale
Price: $43.24
12 used & new from $40.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Just not as impressed as I usually am by this LPS set., October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My family has made a pretty hefty investment in the Littlest Pet Shop franchise over the years. We have a number of little sets like this one (a pet hospital, a jet plane, two or three little houses, a roller coaster) and most have been fairly intricate with lots of heavy duty plastic and lots of stuff that swings open on hinges. We must have 50 of the little animals and my girls can play for hours with them.

My impression of this set is that it just not as impressive as the other ones we have bought in previous years and there are a lot more little pieces (Deco Bits) that are supposed to be part of the toy but, to me, look like a lot of little stuff that will end up scattered around the house or sucked up into the vacuum cleaner.

Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Immunity Support Chicken Jerky Treat for Dogs
Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Immunity Support Chicken Jerky Treat for Dogs
Price: $12.86
9 used & new from $6.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Dog loves them., October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My dog loves this stuff. I really have no idea if it does what it claims to (supports the immune system) but the dog really likes it and it's probably better for her than the cheaper stuff.

Barbie Closet and Fashion Set
Barbie Closet and Fashion Set
Price: $22.00
33 used & new from $19.14

3.0 out of 5 stars Not much here..., October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Considering how much a Barbie dress costs and that this closet includes three dresses, two pairs of shoes, a purse, a pair of sunglasses, a necklace and 6 hangers than I guess this is not too bad of a deal. But, when you get down to it, it's a fairly flimsy plastic box that that folds and unfolds so your child can put it away and sort of keep things neat.

Does my daughter love it?

Of course! Maybe that's all that matters.

Republic: A Novel of America's Future
Republic: A Novel of America's Future
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very well-written and guaranteed to make you think., October 16, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Set in America's near future, Republic is a look at the authority of the federal government run amok in the name of national security. Imagine, if you would, the government's reaction to a series of timed bombings that target the Pentagon and the first responders that come to save as many of the victims as they can (as was common in the Iraq War) but instead of a foreign attacker, the culprit is a domestic terror group. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sweeps in and starts to get very nervous about every sort of domestic disturbance.

In this environment a profitable factory closes down in a small West Virginia town that depends on this employer for its very existence. The profitable factory closes because its holding company determined that it can make an even larger profit by relocating to Indonesia. When the newly unemployed American workers trespass and occupy the factory and resume production the DHS is called because, now, even labor disputes are a risk to national security.

When the federal building in West Virginia's capital city is bombed federal agents assume that it must be Muslim terrorists and start rounding up literally all Muslim males above the age of 14 in a neighborhood known as "Little Cairo". They are not arrested, just "detained". The West Virginia National Guard is supposed to assist in locking down the neighborhood but an idealistic officer is shocked at the gestapo tactics of the federal agents, intervenes and a firefight ensues, resulting the in the death of a guardsman and an agent.

More importantly, the tactics of DHS are exposed for all to see and a constitutional crisis starts when the federal government demands that the lead officer of the Guard unit be turned over for prosecution for the death of their agent. West Virginia's governor refuses to turn her over and a grassroots secession movement adds fuel to the fire that only gets bigger as a ham-fisted DHS raid and various federal pronouncements make the situation more and more tense and everyone prepares for a second Civil War...

I picked this book up three years ago on my kindle when it was temporarily offered free of charge but I never got around to reading it. On a whim I started reading it on my phone and I found that this was an absolutely compelling read. The characters are kind of stock characters but they are clearly drawn out. They really just a means to a larger discussion about the federal government's growing reach in to so many things and the militarization of situations that really just need common sense and some level-headed discussion.

The battle scenes in this book, especially those with the tanks fighting in the mountains in the winter, are strong (they ought to be, he is a Gulf War veteran and served in a tank unit) but the real thing that is impressive is that he works in a discussion of the proper role of DHS and just how much security is too much security and when does it become just another excuse for government to curtail rights throughout the book and it does not seem artificial or forced.

The Racketeer: A Novel
The Racketeer: A Novel
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.28
337 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not great literature but it is certainly entertaining., October 15, 2014
This review is from: The Racketeer: A Novel (Paperback)
John Grisham and I have an on again, off again relationship (as reader and writer, I have not had the pleasure of meeting the gentleman in person). I grew tired of his legal thrillers and of late I have been occasionally listening to his regular novels like A Painted House or Bleachers.

This is my first legal thriller of Grisham's that I have read in more than five years, but even Grisham admits in the author's note that as a thriller it's fairly long on story and not so deep on the minutiae of the courthouse. All that is true, but it is a compelling read - a real page turner that I blasted through at a very fast pace for me (I tend to doggedly plod through books rather than blast through them).

The story starts out simply enough. A small town black lawyer named Malcolm Bannister gets caught up in a real estate scheme thought up by a Washington, D.C. insider. This is a spectacular case of fraud, bribery, prostitution and all this small time attorney did was help broker a small real estate deal. He is innocent He knew nothing of the overall plan but he is accused and convicted of the federal crime of racketeering (obtaining money illegally, such as by fraud or extortion). He loses his wife, his family and the respect of his father. He has nothing.

Bannister has serves as a jailhouse attorney while he is serving his sentence in a low security prison and he has heard lots of stories from his clients (his fellow prisoners). When a federal judge is murdered Bannister approaches the warden and tells him that he is sure that he knows who did it and will trade that information for a full pardon and a new life in the witness protection program.

However, once Bannister gets out he starts to act very strangely and this is when the story gets interesting when Bannister puts on his white Panama hat and begins to act on his own plan that he has been developing in prison for all of these years...

Like I said, this story caught me up and carried me away. It's not great literature but it is certainly entertaining.

Hard Place
Hard Place
Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars This is a solid short story with a heck of a moral quandary., October 15, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Hard Place (Kindle Edition)
Alan Parker is a professional killer who works for an employer called The Company. His wife also works for The Company but she is currently in the last stages of an unsuccessful fight with cancer.

It is not really clear if The Company is a government entity or not, but any way you slice it The Company has lots and lots of resources, including an impressive list of hired assassins. Parker (nicknamed "Boom") is one of the very best, but a series of mistakes made his last hit a failure and The Company rarely forgives failure.

So, "Boom" Parker knows that he cannot mess up his new assignment. He has been sent to kill a female scientist that is working on a bio-fuel that threatens the big oil companies.

But, this case starts out badly (it looks like someone has already killed his target or, at least, botched an attempt on her) and as he looks for her he finds out that she has been working on a side project and may have developed a cure for cancer. So, does he kill his target and doom his wife or does he save his target, save his wife and doom himself?

This is a solid short story with a heck of a moral quandary. The ending is a little too quick and a little too neat but this is worth your time. The middle of the story when "Boom" Parker is struggling with his options is quite good.

It's Superman!
It's Superman!
by Tom De Haven
Edition: Audio CD
2 used & new from $19.95

2.0 out of 5 stars How Hard Is It to Nail Down Superman's Personality? (A Review of the GraphicAudio Audiobook), October 13, 2014
This review is from: It's Superman! (Audio CD)
Published by GraphicAudio in March of 2014
Adapted from the novel It's Superman by Tom De Haven
Multicast performance
Duration; Approximately 7 hours

Let me be clear from the beginning about two things:

1) I am a Superman fan

2) I do not mind re-makes or re-interpretations so long as they are done respectfully of the source material.

However, this book does not do that, with the exception of Lex Luthor.

This re-imagined world of Superman is set in the 1930s, which I liked as a choice because that's when Superman was created. Most of the first part of the book deals with a struggling Lois Lane living with a a freelance photographer named Willi Berg in an apartment in New York City (the book dispenses with the Metropolis conceit). Lois is much more worldly than I have ever seen her, but I was fine with that.

Willi Berg witnesses Lex Luthor, a New York City politician, in the middle of a crime and discovers that Luthor is muscling out the established crime bosses and using his position in city government to provide him cover. Berg flees the city and eventually winds up in Smallville, Kansas.

Up to this point Clark Kent has definitely been the back burner story in this book. You might has well have called it, "It's Willi Berg!" Clark has been in the story a little bit, mostly to show that he and his father are not racists while the rest of Kansas is. Fair enough, 1930s Kansas was not the center of racial inclusiveness.

Jonathan Kent has, as far as I can tell, always been described as a fantastic father figure. Think of the 1977 movie version played by Glenn Ford or the Man of Steel version played by Kevin Costner. So much of what Superman is comes from being raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent. In this story, though, Jonathan is inconsistently described an indifferent man (with a hint that he is mentally ill due to a reference to his own father who cut his own abdomen open in front of a mirror) who hates churches with a passion and shows sporadic flashes of being a great father.

Clark is shown as an earnest cub reporter who hates being treated as a small town rube. He and Willi partner up and head to Hollywood after being tramps for a while, cruising America and doing odd jobs. During this middle part of the book Clark has to be encouraged to use his powers to help people or be restrained from using them to hurt people. This is not Superman's character, at all. I know it's a re-write of the basic story but this is too much of a re-write because now it is not a Superman story. Superman's character is what makes him Superman. He is the constant Boy Scout, the living embodiment of an ideal. Take, for example, this quote from the Man of Steel movie: "You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But, in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."

This version of Superman has no compass except for the external one provided by his friends. Rather than being a leader, he is a follower. How can he inspire anyone when he cannot even move himself? Superman is not nuanced. He is not filled with gray areas.


The characterization of Lex Luthor is well done and interesting. His evil nature is obvious from the start but his true nature only becomes more obvious as you go along. Funny how Lex's character remains a constant but Clark Kent/Superman does not.

I liked the way 1930s current events and people were peppered in throughout the story.

As always, the performance by the GraphicAudio team is amazing. My complaints with this audiobook have nothing to do with the way they performed it or with their adaptation of it. If you adapt a weak text you will have a weak adaptation.

A Fistful of Collars: A Chet and Bernie Mystery (Chet and Bernie Mysteries)
A Fistful of Collars: A Chet and Bernie Mystery (Chet and Bernie Mysteries)
by Spencer Quinn
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from $6.62

4.0 out of 5 stars Chet and Bernie break into the movies!, October 12, 2014
I have four mystery writers that I regularly follow: Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, C.J. Box and Spencer Quinn's Chet and Bernie series.

The premise of the series is simple. They are buddy books featuring Chet and Bernie, crime-fighting partners much like Holmes and Watson or Spenser and Hawk. Except for one important point - Chet is Bernie's dog.

The story is told from the point of view of Chet, a trained police dog that never quite graduated from the academy to a "leaping" incident that "involved blood."

Chet understands enough about human society so that the story doesn't bog down but he has that easily distractable live-in-the-moment quality that all dog lovers recognize.

In A Fistful of Collars Chet and Bernie are hired by the mayor (a politician that Bernie hates for a variety of reasons) to safeguard the city's interests while a major Hollywood film is made right there in the Valley. This Western movie stars Hollywood's current top-of-the-heap pretty boy action hero with a whole bunch of hidden problems. Chet and Bernie are supposed to keep this star out of trouble but soon enough Bernie finds that some things don't seem quite right and soon enough Chet and Bernie find a dead body and a possible connection to something else that could derail everything...

Although I was not convinced by the way that Bernie initially discovers the problems, once the mystery gets going it is pretty good. However, this may be the best book for Chet. I thought that his character was pulled off especially well. Better character writing tips the balance and makes this a 4 star book.

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