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The Life We Bury
The Life We Bury
by Allen Eskens
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.63
86 used & new from $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Debut .. Will Be Reading Eskens Again, April 24, 2015
This review is from: The Life We Bury (Paperback)
Allen Eskens should be proud of his debut. It is good for all the reasons stated in other reviews, but allow me to slant my review another way. When I read fiction, I am just as interested in discovering the author as I am in discovering the story. As a writer myself, I try to hide pieces of myself in the narrative, like a breadcrumb trail leading to both my lightness and darkness. I look for that in others’ writing too.

I’m usually unimpressed with romance or sex scenes in books. True sexiness is rare. Either it sounds raunchy, or dorky, or worse: self-conscious. But take a look at this:

“When Lila opened her door, I was astonished. A red sweater hugged her torso and waistline, showing off curves I didn’t know she had, and a shiny black skirt squeezed her hips, sliding down her thighs as smooth as melting chocolate. She wore makeup, which I’d never seen her do before, her cheeks, her lips, her eyes all quietly demanding my attention. It was like washing the dust off a window you didn’t realize was dirty.” (161)

Also:

“’…You see, Joe,’ she said, her lips twitching upward into a frightened smile, ‘I have issues.’
I brushed my cheek against the soft tickle of her hair, then I wrapped one arm around her waist, the other under her tucked-up knees, and lifted her off the couch. I walked her to her bedroom, laid her in bed, rolled a comforter up to her shoulders, and bent down and kissed her cheek, which creased with a slight smile.
‘I’m not afraid of issues,’ I said, letting the words settle on her before I stood up to leave…’” (173)

That’s one side of Eskens. Sensitive and sensual. Idealistic. Appreciative and respectful of femininity.
Then, there’s tough guy. Protective, aware. Sporty. A bit macho but not in that clichéd dumb way. Reckless & persistent in the pursuit of real justice.

I have some minor, hopefully constructive, criticism. I thought he was a bit too instructive in dialogue at times. The Occam’s Razor and Pascal’s Gambit are two examples of terms that were deliberately positioned in dialogue just to be explained with some more expository dialogue. I feel that hinting at what you mean rather than using specific terms outright would sound more natural in the normal conversations of everyday guys like Carl and Joe. Also, be careful how often very specific words are used. For example, the word “bicep” appeared about 6 times in this work. It may not seem like a lot in the span of 300 pages, but it is. Overuse of generic terms will go unnoticed, unlike lots of specific terms which smack of artificiality. I also thought the title’s tone and mood was not exactly reflective of the book’s content.


Lincoln and the Jews: A History
Lincoln and the Jews: A History
by Benjamin Shapell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $29.87
59 used & new from $20.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln's High Regard for Jews, April 22, 2015
The first thing I noticed was the size of the book. It is huge. The next thing I noticed, briefly thumbing through the book, was how occupied the pages were of scans/photocopies of primary sources. I did not like that; cursive writing from that time period is not easy to read and some of the documents weren't transcribed into plain text, merely referred to. I also felt like they did that to fill up pages.

Here are the chapters:
1.) The Promised Land... Whose Stones Are Iron and Out of Whose Hills Thou Mayest Dig Brass (1809-1830)
2.) And This Too Shall Pass Away - Never Fear (1830-1858)
3.) One of My Most Valued Friends (1858-1860)
4.) We Have Not Yet Appointed a Hebrew (1861-1862)
5.) I Myself Have Regard for the Hebrews (1863)
6.) About Jews (1863-1865)
7.) To See Jerusalem Before He Died (1865)

Everything about this book says that both the writers and publisher are proud of this work. There are well-sourced images (portraits, writing samples), it is well-researched, the layout is superb, the pages are glossy and hefty. In non-fiction though, chapter titles should give clear clues as to their content (they should read like chapter theses in the Table of Contents), which is not the general case in this book. Only in fiction should you try to get away with abstract chapter titles. Clear chapter titles tell me how clearly I expect the book to be written.

As for the content, I thought the actual connection between Lincoln and Jews wasn't as strong as Lincoln's REGARD for Jews and feeling a religious connection to them. As stated in the book, Lincoln was perhaps one of the most Biblically literate Presidents in history, referring to Biblical figures in his letters to other politicians, in reference to political situations. It's as if he looked for the Biblical parallel in all situations. It also states that Lincoln's family regarded the Hebrew Bible to be just as important as the Christian Testament, which is why Lincoln cared so much about and referenced the Hebrew Bible and Jewish figures so much. One might go as far as to say that Lincoln might have drawn a parallel between the American enslavement of Africans to the African enslavement of Jews in Egypt. Others might discount that and say he did it purely for political gain as the North wanted this and he wanted Northern support (that's what I was taught in college), but I am not that cynical.

For such a narrowly focused topic, I thought the authors did a pretty good job proving their thesis and making a book out of it.


The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel (P.S.)
The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel (P.S.)
by Helene Wecker
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.39
112 used & new from $3.73

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This Review Contains Spoilers, April 21, 2015
------- This review contains spoilers -------
____________________________________

People have complained about the length of the book, but what I think they are referring to is its slow pace. The story moves so slow that it is anti-climactic. The whole thing. If one were reading 500 pages of rising action, a reader would barely notice the length. Description is so drawn-out that it makes a reader cross-eyed and want to scan ahead for signs of life. Lengthy, dry content about NYC’s landmarks, roads, fountains, arches, statues, etc are irrelevant to almost everyone reading the book, and to those who are familiar with NYC, the content feels more like a nod than needed info. Why waste so much time describing a particular fountain when any fountain would do; you could get back to the story itself and move things along faster. The whole book moves like a sloth. Golem and Jinni don’t even meet until page 175. Ridiculous, honestly.

One would expect this to be a love story, full of one form of passion or another. It contains little love - not even forbidden love, or passionate longing - barely even a spark of desire. Many readers might not come to the story with expectations of a jinn character, but those that know about jinns DO have expectations. The lack of passion and jealousy is uncharacteristic of a jinn and distasteful. Perhaps Wecker found source material stating that “powerful” jinns like Jinni don’t care about attachments, but this goes against the expectation that jinns are jealous beings. Wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?

-------More Spoilers!-------
The term “sympathetic” in this review means: the writer’s ability to make the reader feel sympathy and care for the main character(s).
______________________
Golem is not a sympathetic character. She has no personality and virtually no arc beyond what she is commanded to do. She is one-note, and I couldn’t get attached to her. I groaned every time the narrative came back around to the Golem part of the storyline because I found her thoughts, her experiences to be either silly or unconvincing (think, eating food and having it come out the other end in the same form – which did make me LOL – but still didn’t endear me to her). Golem makes literally no change until page 273, and it’s abrupt. I found the sudden change unconvincing, and not a product of Golem’s curiosity and intelligence, but of simply coming to terms with “master” Jinni’s negative opinions of her, and changing herself accordingly. Rabbi Meyer and Michael Levy also weren’t very deep or enthralling, due to the brevity of their story action. Anna was the one character from Golem’s side of things that I cared about, but only because she kept being put in the crossfire, not because she was a riveting character. I don’t think Wecker did a good enough job establishing the Golem-Anna relationship to justify all action being hinged around Golem’s care for her, at least not through story action. Thoughts are not actions, and mind-reading is not a relationship. There are also some continuity issues like, Golem doesn't know x, y, & z because she was just created a month ago, but she instinctively knows to go to a jewelry store and buy a locket to hide her creator's destruction spell inside of it?

Jinni is more sympathetic than Golem, but he’s still not believable as a jinn. He does make more change than Golem does though, so he at least has more of an arc. He also has more interesting characters in his storyline, like Mahmoud Saleh, Fadwa al-Hadid & her father, and the wizard/Schaalman. I also found the main characters on his side, Arbeely and Maryam Faddoul, to be lackluster and not as important and/or devastating to Jinni as they could have been. And whatever happened to Maloof, the interesting fellow who took a fancy to Jinni’s work? There could have been more there too…

Supporting characters will only be as important to the reader as they are to the protagonist, so if we see our two protagonists with natures that make them unable to form attachments, then we as readers can’t form attachments with those characters either. Moreover, and most glaringly, I found the attachment between Golem and Jinni to be weak and unsatisfying, having scant story action together. Worse, their attachment to each other felt contrived after it is revealed that wizard/Schaalman are the same character.

I could be way off base here, but instinct tells me that the author's need for seeming like a proper, honorable lady herself - one that would only create proper, honorable characters - stifled the believability of her characters. Real life shows that respectful, honorable people keep up appearances in public, but in private - at home, in their safe zone with their safe people - they loosen up a little. I did not see that looseness, she did not allow that looseness in her characters - perhaps because she is afraid that people will see HER as loose if she unveils her characters at all.

Author intrudes a LOT with atheistic tendencies to the point of proselytization.

The prose style is predominantly expository with spare dialogue.


Creating Characters: The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction
Creating Characters: The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction
by Elizabeth Sims
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.38
50 used & new from $7.15

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WD Compilation, All-Star Authors, April 13, 2015
Table of Contents
Part I: Getting Started
Ch. 1: 25 things you should know about your character (8 pgs)
Ch. 2: Character Concepting (4 pgs)
Ch. 3: Choose a Name Wisely (5 pgs)
Ch. 4: Name-Dropping (8 pgs)
Ch. 5: Introducing your Character for the First Time (3 pgs)
Part II: Point of View
Ch. 6: Whose Emotions Are We Sharing? (12 pgs)
Ch. 7: What POV Communicates About Your Story (15 pgs)
Ch. 8: Dealing with Multiple POVs (9 pgs)
Part III: Dialogue
Ch. 9: Writing Dialogue (6 pgs)
Ch. 10: Dialogue That Propels the Story Forward (15 pgs)
Ch. 11: Using Profanity and Other Raw Talk (6 pgs)
Ch. 12: The Uhs, Ands, and Errs of Dialogue (11 pgs)
Part IV: Protagonists
Ch. 13: The Hero and the Common Man (9 pgs)
Ch. 14: From Zero to Hero (4 pgs)
Ch. 15: How to Challenge Your Protagonist (5 pgs)
Ch. 16: Relate to Readers with a Lead Character (16 pgs)
Part V: Antagonists
Ch. 17: Creating an Antihero (17 pgs)
Ch. 18: The Three-Dimensional Villain (5 pgs)
Ch. 19: Amp Up Your Antagonists (7 pgs)
Ch. 20: Sympathy for the Devil (19 pgs)
Part VI: Supporting Characters
Ch. 21: Developing Your Supporting Cast (4 pgs)
Ch. 22: The Character Hierarchy (12 pgs)
Ch. 23: Crafting Effective Supporting Characters (6 pgs)
Part VII: Conflict
Ch. 24: A Character's Emotional Thread (7 pgs)
Ch. 25: Push Your Character to the Limits (9 pgs)
Ch. 26: Character Objective and Conflict (13 pgs)
Ch. 27: Coping with Conflict (17 pgs)
Part VIII: Motivations & Relationships
Ch. 28: Motivation and Realism (9 pgs)
Ch. 29: Showing Change in Your Characters (10 pgs)
Ch. 30: Romantic Relationships (11 pgs)
Part IX: Character Arcs
Ch. 31: Creating a Character Arc (4 pgs)
Ch. 32: The Arc Within Plot (10 pgs)
Ch. 33: The Knot (7 pgs)
Ch. 34: The Moment of Truth (10 pgs)
Ch. 35: Revising for Strong Character (15 pgs)

Each chapter is written by a different author. If you are familiar with WD reference books, you'll recognize the authors (these are only a few):
Jordan Rosenfeld (Make a Scene, A Writer's Guide to Persistence)
Victoria Lynn Schmidt (45 Master Characters)
Nancy Kress (Characters, Emotion, & Viewpoint; Dynamic Characters)
James Scott Bell (Super Structure, Plot & Structure)
Donald Maass (Writing 21st Century Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel)
David Corbett (The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, & TV)
Jeff Gerke (Write Your Novel in a Month; Plot v. Character - A Balanced Approach; The First 50 Pages)
Larry Brooks (Story Engineering, Story Physics)
Jessica Page Morrell (Bullies, B*stards, & B*tches - How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction)

I never get tired of reading about POV. No matter how much I read or how much I practice, or even how successful I am, I always doubt whether a different POV would have been more appropriate or interesting in my stories. Chapter 7 by Alicia Rasley discusses the relationship between genre and POV.

Chapter 12's title is unclear and doesn't do the content justice. It is a list of dialogue devices one can use and how these relate to characterization.

My other favorite chapters were:
The Antihero chapter (Ch. 17) - Antiheroes are popular these days
The entire section on supporting cast members (Ch. 21, 22, 23)
Coping with Conflict (Ch. 27) - Lists some common defense mechanisms
The entire section on character arcs (Ch. 31-35)

Even though I'm a writer, I am an immature baby who needs constant reassurance from books like these. Some of these topics are already ingrained, but when they are discussed in a new light or by a new voice, reviewing them again is helpful. This is exactly how I got out of a rut in one of my previous projects: by simply going back and reviewing all of the basics and realizing I was "off" on something I arrogantly thought I knew already and didn't need to study.

I have one critique for the publisher: this is a writing reference book. It is not a novel which will just be held and read. Readers of reference material will want to lay the book out and take notes, highlight, etc. This book - given the tight binding, paper type/size - just flops back closed and won't stay open. It's quite a problem as a reference book. I have remedied this with large chip clips across the top of an open book (lol), but this book is too thick for that to even work. If a reference book won't stay open on a table, you need to bite the bullet and print it as a hardcover, with better quality (thinner, glossier) paper.


Judaism's Great Debates: Timeless Controversies from Abraham to Herzl
Judaism's Great Debates: Timeless Controversies from Abraham to Herzl
by Barry L. Schwartz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.36
52 used & new from $5.28

4.0 out of 5 stars Concise, clear, April 13, 2015
Ten total debates in three categories.

Biblical Judaism
1. Abraham vs. God
2. Moses vs. Korah
3. The Five Daughters [of Zelophehad] vs. the Twelve Tribes
4. David vs. Nathan
Rabbinical Judaism
5. Ben Zakkai vs. the Zealots
6. Hillel vs. Shammai
7. The Vilna Gaon vs. The Baal Shem Tov
Modern Judaism
8. Spinoza vs. the Amsterdam Rabbis
9. Geiger vs. Hirsch vs. Frankel
10. Herzl vs. Wise

Each debate is zipped up into one or two words: Zionism (10), Spirituality (7), Inclusion (3), etc. It looks good in the Table of Contents but can be misleading at times, as the content isn't exactly reflective of the chapter titles and headers. Mind you, this isn't always a bad thing. I wasn't expecting the section on Biblical Judaism to have anything new or thought-provoking to offer, but it does. Inversely, I was expecting to be riveted by the section on Modern Judaism, and found the entire section flat. Spinoza vs. the Amsterdam Rabbis may be a Jewish debate, but it is not exactly a Judaism debate. A bit of a stretch. For a book written in 2012, the section on modern Judaism could have been more up-to-date - but then again I suppose most modern debates are Jewish debates rather than Judaism debates. That leaves me to question if there are really any new debates about Judaism? Even if not, I would like to see this author write a book like this one (in all its concise glory) about nothing but modern Jewish debates, even if they aren't related to Judaism as a religion.

The section on Rabbinical Judaism was my favorite.

One may think brevity is sparsity but it's not. It takes skill and experience to pack a lot of information into a small amount of text. I like this style of writing in non-fiction and definitely recommend this book.


Cooking from Quilt Country : Hearty Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens
Cooking from Quilt Country : Hearty Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens
by Marcia Adams
Edition: Hardcover
223 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Gem, January 28, 2015
I was browsing my local library’s shelves for some fancy-shmancy French or Mediterranean cookbooks when I came across this one. All I noticed at the time was the large title “Cooking from Quilt Country” and didn’t see the subtitle indicating that it was an Amish and Mennonite cookbook (I didn’t even know what “quilt country” meant).

Modern recipes are written so succinctly -- so free of commentary -- that you wonder if you are doing things right or if your dish is supposed to look like that. Marcia Adams should be commended for her exemplary recipe-writing skills, and how at-ease she makes one feel trying something new. Example: in Collage Pie on page 174 she writes, “Pour the batter in a spiral pattern over the syrup. It will not cover, but that is all right – it will come together evenly during baking.” I don’t see any modern recipe respecting the cook like that; modern recipes just demand obedience and trust, with no explanations or reassurance whatsoever. All of her recipes are written to reassure without condescend, unlike another book I checked out which the professional chef constantly said, “No self-respecting chef would ever do this, or that, or this either.” Sigh.

I also want to note that this is so much more than a cookbook. I sometimes groan at all the memoirs, soliloquies, and rabbit trails in cookbooks, but this one is so unobnoxious and unobtrusive that I enjoyed every word and every photo. I might be biased because I love Amish culture. Even if you aren’t, but are still interested in made-from-scratch country food, you will like this book and appreciate the photos. I am from the Mid-Atlantic coast and enjoyed learning about the Midwest and its regional traditions.

As for the recipe content, they are grouped into themes which loosely follow various themes: the seasons – temperate seasons and holiday seasons, special occasions – weddings and the Quilting Bee, and mealtime – breakfast, dinner, supper.

My favorite chapter was “Pies, pies, pies.” I had no idea the Amish loved pies or had such a variety. As much as I love making easy desserts like pies, I had never heard of most of these. Oatmeal Pie reminds me of Pecan Pie a little bit, but the oats rise up above the filling to form a layer of what reminds me of an oatmeal cookie. Yum! The Amish Apple Pie tastes like the most decadent Dutch Apple Pie you’ll ever have. If you didn’t think you could make Dutch Apple Pie with the streusel on top, think again. You can.

There’s an awesome recipe in here for Six-Week Bran Muffins. It’s a large batch recipe from a restaurant, meant to be baked often over the course of six-weeks. I quarter the recipe and have enough batter to make them one more time after the first baking.

There is a lack of salt in nearly all of the savory recipes. I like that, but others in my household didn’t, and they added salt at the table every time I made a savory dish from this book. Sweet recipes are spot-on. Mrs. Adams is very precise about which pan- and casserole-size to use, assuming the reader has a cabinet full of different casserole dishes like people did in the 80s. Just adapt. Use your coated baking pans, pyrex pans, cast-iron pans/skillets, or even disposable aluminum pans that come in a million shapes and sizes from the Dollar Store if you want to get the exact sizes she mentions (11x7 for this, a 5-quart 3-inch deep casserole for that).


Captain Toad:  Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Price: $32.15
67 used & new from $26.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One-player, GamePad-only, December 29, 2014
This is a one-player game that can only be played on the GamePad. It features familiar characters and music, but the gameplay is totally different than Mario. You have to make constant use of the GamePad screen and both joysticks (one is for Toad's motion, and the other is for the camera view). You also have to blow into the GamePad mic to simulate wind that operates propellers that lift/lower things. The biggest adjustment is that Toad can't jump which is one's gaming instinct. You have to either run from enemies, fall over a wall or cliff to land on them, or carry a thingamajigy that you found elsewhere and throw it at them (which can be hard since you can't always tell which angle/level/depth Toad or your enemy is at). My kids who like playing everything in the Mario franchise consider this game to be more difficult than the rest of them. The upside is, the levels aren't timed like the Toad minigames in Mario World so they have plenty of time to figure them out. When they do figure things out, they think it's the coolest thing in the world. The levels are puzzles and mazes and it does make you and your child think - which I appreciate.


Galaxy S5 Case, S5 Wallet Flip Case, Style4U Samsung Galaxy S5 Premium PU Leather Stand Wallet Case with ID Credit Card / Cash Slots + 1 Stylus and 1 Screen Protector (for Verizon, AT&T Sprint, T-Mobile, Unlocked) [Hot Pink / Pink]
Galaxy S5 Case, S5 Wallet Flip Case, Style4U Samsung Galaxy S5 Premium PU Leather Stand Wallet Case with ID Credit Card / Cash Slots + 1 Stylus and 1 Screen Protector (for Verizon, AT&T Sprint, T-Mobile, Unlocked) [Hot Pink / Pink]
Offered by Case Paradise
Price: $7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but could be improved, December 12, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It would be better if the case itself came off the wallet. It is glued to the wallet so if you want to answer the phone you have to hold the wallet up to your ear. I suggest two things to improve it: put the cards behind the phone so they don't scratch/rub the front of the phone at all, then make the case removable, i.e. with the ability to slide down into a card slot to secure itself to the wallet case. Would be even better with the piece that slides down into the card slot able to hold your ID.


Dirt Devil SD20000RED Simpli-Stik Lightweight Corded Bagless Stick Vacuum
Dirt Devil SD20000RED Simpli-Stik Lightweight Corded Bagless Stick Vacuum
Price: $19.96
42 used & new from $16.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Works Good on Hardwood, Height Better for Kids, December 12, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a lightweight, corded handheld vacuum with two attachments - 1.) a stick that attaches to the handle, 2.) and a roller bar that attaches to the mouth. The roller bar makes it look more like a regular vacuum but is wider than it needs to be since the suction hole is only 1.5-2 inches wide and doesn't attract debris from the sides of the roller bar, only the direct center of it. It works great on hardwood and short-pile rugs, but it did not work on my plush medium-pile rugs at all. I appreciate that this model's corner attachment clips onto the stick and doesn't require me to stash it in a separate place. Overall, it is a better value than I expected for $14.99. I was surprised by the superior suction power of the corded handhelds versus the chargeable ones.

I bought this Dirt Devil model and the blue Bissell Featherweight Lightweight Stick Vac. This DD stick is short for me compared to the Bissell, requiring me to hunch over a little - and I'm only 5'6. I have rheumatoid arthritis so it is painful for me to repeatedly hunch or bend over, which is why I needed the lightweight maneuverability of a handheld, but with a stick so I wouldn't have to hunch over a lot. Anyway, it was the perfect height for my 8- and 9-year-olds. It was also easy enough for them to assemble by themselves, and easy for them to operate independently. Since the stick is too short for me, I gave it to the kids and they actually fight over who gets to do chores!


Dana Chantilly By Dana For Women. Dusting Powder 5.0-Ounces
Dana Chantilly By Dana For Women. Dusting Powder 5.0-Ounces
Offered by PerfumesWorld
Price: $22.84
10 used & new from $18.08

2.0 out of 5 stars Returned it, October 17, 2014
I liked the texture of this powder, but hated the smell. It stunk like something that reminded me of moth balls. I returned it.


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