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Luan Gaines "luansos" RSS Feed (Dana Point, CA USA)
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The Killer Next Door: A Novel
The Killer Next Door: A Novel
by Alex Marwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.97
60 used & new from $7.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars “All those years I thought I was working my way up the ladder to be People Like Them.”, October 28, 2014
In a world of misfits, a young woman fleeing from those who mean to kill her finds temporary shelter in a South London boardinghouse. Lisa Dunne, using the assumed name of Collette, is closing out the books in a London club when she witnesses a murder. The night’s take still clutched in a bag in her hand, she flees in panic from her boss and the others engaged in the crime. Later, she will find that money her only salvation on the run. Spotting one of her pursuers while hiding abroad, Collette rents a cash-only bedsit at 23 Beulah Grove, a shabby boardinghouse back in London where she is only one of other eccentric characters who prefer anonymity, some with secrets as dangerous as hers.

It is in the bizarre boardinghouse environment, the fringe-dwellers on the edge of society, that Marwood builds her engaging tale, the threat against Collette real enough, with both her ex-boss and a police detective moving closer by the day; but quite another horror exists in the midst of these six troubled souls, an assortment of tenants: big-hearted Cher, a pickpocket and runaway from a dysfunctional foster care system; the handsome Hossein, an Iranian political refugee waiting for his papers; the divorced, asocial Gerard, who rarely leaves his room and plays unbearably loud music that rattles the flimsy walls; Thomas, the odd duck who rents the attic; and Vesta, an elderly pensioner in the basement apartment who has always lived in the building. All of their troubles are exacerbated by the unctuous landlord, the voyeuristic boor, Roy Preece, who intrudes on their privacy and secretly records intimate moments. But no threat is greater than the presence of “the Lover”, a killer who resides among them.

While horror lurks from within and without, each tenant symbolic of society’s ills, unexpected friendships brew, Collette warming to the compassionate Vesta and exuberant Cher, her fear held at bay, at least temporarily before the inevitable moment of reckoning. Still, violence is in the air, debts to be paid, murders to be exposed in a collision of events that proves Marwood an apt chronicler of the human condition and the always fickle hand of fate. Luan Gaines/2014.


Philips Sonicare HX3631/06 Powerup Battery Toothbrush, Medium, Scuba Blue
Philips Sonicare HX3631/06 Powerup Battery Toothbrush, Medium, Scuba Blue
Price: $14.85
3 used & new from $11.81

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keeping the cavities away, October 11, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Philips Sonicare Battery-Operated Toothbrush (HX3631/06) is a compact, handy toothbrush for those who have grown accustomed to using any of the electronic models currently popular in maintaining dental hygiene. While this model, battery operated, is a great first brush for those who have only used manual brushes to clean their teeth, it has other uses as well, as an extra toothbrush in an upstairs cabinet, or a way to take the convenience of a rechargeable toothbrush on a trip or sleepover. Easy to use- and complete with two AA batteries in the package, this Sonicare model is the perfect extra brush and comes with a one year warranty. Although the regular toothbrush has done its work for years, advances in dental hygiene suggest the daily use of power toothbrushes to keep the teeth and gums healthy and less prone to cavities.

I have also found that little ones find this model quite enchanting, easy to hold in small hands to brighten up a smile in the morning or use before a bedtime story. I don’t have to worry about that well-worn toothbrush packed for an overnight stay when my grandchild comes to visit. It’s actually a treat to use, the big girl brush at Nana’s house- something she can do while I am brushing my teeth with my rechargeable brush at the same time. Early hygiene habits are critical for a lifetime of healthy teeth and I find this convenient toothbrush, made more portable by virtue of the batteries, an affordable way to teach and enjoy a daily ritual with my granddaughter. There is another in my suitcase for travel, saving the trouble of carrying a rechargeable along, while still giving me the hygiene I depend upon. Luan Gaines/2014.


Photography: The Definitive Visual History
Photography: The Definitive Visual History
by Tom Ang
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.33
48 used & new from $23.03

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The invention of photography was a triumph of the Industrial Revolution mission to bend nature to the human will.", October 11, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Not only is Ang’s Photography, the Definitive Visual History, a beautifully bound coffee table book, but a thoroughly researched and thoughtfully presentation of the art of photography, from its beginning and the concept of the “camera obscura” to the efforts of Louis Daguerre in 1839 to its present day form. Printed on heavy gloss quality stock, the images, whether black and white or color, are crisp, striking and placed in a pleasing design within the context of information that accompanies each chapter, visual impact married with facts.

Beginning in 1825, Ang describes the rapid spread of photography around the world, chapters covering 1825 to the present, each broken down into specific time spans, new methods and technical advances, the layout creating a real sense of the momentum of such changes, for example, “Spirit of the Time” (1940-1959); “Challenge and Change” (1980-1999); and “The Digital Age” (2000- Present). Each chapter provides profiles of influential photographers of the era, examples of their work, the cameras/techniques involved and each time frame’s technological perspective. The result is stunning, a display of creativity influenced by technology, from the hand ground lenses of the early years to current digital innovation. In addition to the information from one photographic era to the next, each set in the context of technological innovation and social changes, Ang includes, besides a glossary, a comprehensive “A to Z” of photographers, biographies of more than two-hundred and fifty of the world’s greatest photographers.

If you purchase this elegant book as a girt, you might want to consider buying another for personal use, Ang’s treasure of history and visual image promising hours of fascinating entertainment in the art and science of photographers. Luan Gaines/2014.


DII 100% Cotton, Tonal Fringe, Variegated, Machine Washable, Everyday Kitchen Basic Placemat, Set of 6, Taupe
DII 100% Cotton, Tonal Fringe, Variegated, Machine Washable, Everyday Kitchen Basic Placemat, Set of 6, Taupe
Price: $26.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome product that looks great but will have to prove itself, October 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Much as I might like to choose a bright color, the taupe seemed the best selection for everyday use, a 100% cotton product that would be subject to much wear and the challenges of everyday use. With the criteria of function and durability a primary concern, these placemats will undergo daily use and frequent washing. I also felt I could integrate these 13” x 19” placemats with other, more decorative ones if needed, the taupe likely to fit in with most color schemes. Since the tonal weave allows some color variegation, this shade will work well for me. DII also offers a number of napkin ring designs that will blend well with placemats sets of many colors and offer variety even for the daily place setting in a busy household. One of the perks of more casual dining is that placemats are a modern substitute for more formal table linens, a way to dress up daily routines of busy people.

In terms of quality, at first blush, these placemats by DII are similar to others on the market, sturdy-looking, well-made and of the advertised size. However, I have not yet washed them, so I cannot attest to their durability, even allowing for some fabric shedding through the wash cycle. The problem of shedding fibers during washing will be critical in deciding whether to buy from DII again. If the placemats don’t hold up in the wash, I will likely avoid DII products. But if they shed a reasonable amount and dry flat, as directed, I will be happy to use this brand. Because of this reservation, I cannot give this product more than a 4 star rating. Depending on the results of the wash, I will either raise my rating or speak to any problems I have found with the placemats. I appreciate other reviewers sharing these issues, because I will be more attentive to this feature when caring for the product. Crossing my fingers for a successful outcome. Luan Gaines/2014.


Black and Decker CM5000B 12-Cup Mill and Brew Coffeemaker
Black and Decker CM5000B 12-Cup Mill and Brew Coffeemaker
Price: $80.10
4 used & new from $75.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serious machine for serious coffee drinkers, October 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This hefty Black & Decker CM5000B 12-Cup Mill and Brew Coffeemaker isn’t for sissies. It’s a product built to meet the needs of coffee drinkers that take their coffee fresh ground and at the strength they prefer. The popularity of fresh ground beans instead of pre-ground hasn’t waned. In fact, a queue in a store awaiting the coffee grinder is not an uncommon sight. Black & Decker has created a solution to this problem in a machine that meets the needs of all the coffee drinkers in the family- and it features a permanent filter that eliminates the need for paper filters. Like other Black & Decker kitchen products this coffeemaker reflects the needs of modern consumers and their busy lives, from personal taste to functional design, a kitchen must-have for a family that isn’t too busy to appreciate a well-made, freshly-brewed cup of morning coffee.

The design of this combination grind and brew coffeemaker has taken many things into account: a sneak a cup feature that allows flow interruption; a see-through window to assess how much water is in the machine; a paper-free permanent filter for grounds; a freshness indicator; and Quick Touch programming for power, grinding, coffee strength selection, shut-off timer- with a hot plate that keeps coffee in the carafe warm even after the brewer is shut off. The machine takes up some counter space, weighing in at nearly 10 lbs. and 10”x13.5”x15”, but the product is worth every inch. There are many features that suggest the product was designed with customers’ needs in mind and explained in the instructions, conveniences that aren’t expected but offer options I hadn’t thought of and have grown to really appreciate. Not a fan of the K-cup, mostly for its price and the cost of buying supplies to feed that habit, I find that the Black & Decker meets my family’s needs, and then some, without breaking the food budget when we want to indulge in the most satisfying moment of the day- that first cup of perfect coffee. Luan Gaines/2014.


Mega Bloks Hello Kitty Splash N' Swim Water Park
Mega Bloks Hello Kitty Splash N' Swim Water Park
Offered by STL PRO, Inc.
Price: $44.79
7 used & new from $37.45

4.0 out of 5 stars More Hello Kitty fun for little hands, October 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With a particular appeal to little girls, Hello Kitty has remained a strong character among tiny tots and younger girls, a well-established brand name that captures the imagination of those who love to collect favorite characters. Tapping into the popularity of Lego blocks, a staple of modern toys, Hello Kitty has incorporated it’s theme in a series of sets that use a similar construct of interlocking blocks, these identifiable by the bright pink Hello Kitty coloring that adds another element to the sets.

While there are many to choose from (Hello Kitty Fun at the Fair; Cruise Ship, Vacation Resort, Grand Hotel Play Set, etc.), the Hello Kitty Splash ‘n Swim building set features a “buildable water park, complete with purple slide, a ladder to climb for a dive in the pool- that may actually be filled with water- lounge chairs and a pink umbrella for relaxing. The small figures are favorites: Hello Kitty and her friends Dear Daniel and Tammy. Among the 401 pieces included in the set: a sticker sheet and instructions for assembling the pool and its attachments.

A popular brand that has established its value, Hello Kitty appeals to little girls as they develop motor skills and imaginative play, this set featuring the small items that so fascinate tiny fingers and creative minds, the usual bright pink and purple adding visual stimulation to the experience. Kids can play for hours when a toy engages their interest. This Hello Kitty Splash ‘n Swim can be the beginning of many hours of play, either alone or with friends. Luan Gaines/2014.


You: A Novel
You: A Novel
by Caroline Kepnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.00
95 used & new from $4.69

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love in the Age of Selfies., September 30, 2014
This review is from: You: A Novel (Hardcover)
Is this a cautionary tale, a foray into the mind of a stalker? Or a reminder of the explosive nature of social media? The type of novel that becomes a guilty secret, You is compulsively readable until the great flood of voyeurism turns brackish and tainted, as irritating as a young woman’s careless neglect of her personal belongings or obliviousness to the smell of the garbage in the shoebox-sized apartment in which she lives, everything strewn with the detritus of a shamelessly narcissistic existence. This is the world of Guinevere Beck (who prefers to be called “Beck”), a college graduate living in school-sponsored housing while she pursues a writing program in New York City.

It all begins when Beck walks into an East Village bookstore managed by Joe Goldberg, an attractive autodidact who has never gone to college, but easily holds his own in a literate, bantering conversation with Beck. Joe is an unapologetic sociopath who fixates on Beck, a flirt thriving on the attention of men that can’t help but flaunt her sexuality before a willing audience. Just another encounter with an attractive man becomes the catalyst of an obsession for Joe, whose interest, at first innocent, escalates into a pattern of behavior that grows from voyeurism to the infiltration of Beck’s social media, emails, tweets, Face Book posts, every aspect of her life available to the insatiably curious would-be lover. Joe knows they belong together, that it is just a matter of time, and carefully managed synchronicity, that will turn them into a couple.

It is a sly and detailed seduction, a manipulation of people and circumstances to bring Beck and Joe together as lovers, Joe endlessly forgiving and understanding of Beck’s many flaws, the object of his passion yet to realize how perfectly suited they are for one another. Though Beck’s pursuit of an unworthy boyfriend tests the patience of her closest friends, Joe has contingency plans; when Beck’s wealthy, possessive girlfriend intrudes, Joe is prepared to wait for Beck to come to her senses. Joe can afford to be patient. He now has access to every minute detail of Beck’s life.

In point of fact, the couple may be well matched, author Kepnes balancing Joe’s pathology with Beck’s overweening narcissism, social media the vehicle of their fated, albeit unhealthy love affair. As events accelerate and Beck moves closer to the circle of Joe’s arms, there are disturbing echoes of American Psycho, unburdened by the heavy-handed misogyny that marks that novel, Joe a predator strolling through a city of women enamored of technology, the land of “selfies” and self-obsession. This landscape is peopled with the young, no place for the elderly, save the retired owner of the bookstore Joe manages. Haunting, shocking or repellant, this is a tale for the times. In the words of T.S. Eliot in “The Hollow Men: “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” Luan Gaines/2014.


Shopkins Supermarket Playset
Shopkins Supermarket Playset
Price: $24.99
105 used & new from $24.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A first shopping experience, September 29, 2014
This review is from: Shopkins Supermarket Playset (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The latest must-have for little shoppers-in-training, the Shopkins “Small Mart” has all the touches of a real supermarket experience for children 3 years and up. There’s a little shopping cart that rolls to the check stand, a check stand complete with basket storage, with moving parts and a chute to slide merchandise down before check out.

One of a series, the Small Mart is made of bright colored plastic with the appropriate signage to make the experience as authentic as that in the grown-up supermarket. These toys are made for tiny fingers to play with, enjoy and maybe save in a plastic storage box to keep all the small parts together. Given the primary colors, this set is not just for girls, but can be used for boys as well, the perfect opportunity to teach little ones the etiquette of shopping and suggest ways to assist the adult shopper while becoming acquainted with the experience. While some might think such toys are too gender specific or limiting, they are wonderfully useful in training toddlers for new experiences, teaching desirable behavior when out in public and including them in the various aspects of shopping expeditions. Luan Gaines/2014.


Black and Decker EHC750BD 3-Cup Ergo Chopper, Black
Black and Decker EHC750BD 3-Cup Ergo Chopper, Black
Offered by The Infiniti Shop
Price: $42.99
4 used & new from $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars This little guy is a Monster!, September 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am really impressed with the power of the Black & Decker 3-Cup Ergo Chopper, one of the most efficient little kitchen gadgets I have ever had the pleasure to use. Well-designed and easy to clean, the bottom of the mechanism is dishwasher safe, easy to empty- and has the added advantage of use for storage of the chopped item when some is left over. The chopper makes cooking easier and faster. It is recommended to start with the slow speed before using the faster one, to get the feel of the chopper and how quickly it reduces an item to the desired amount, whether chopped onions or fresh fruit for a smoothie. I have been waiting for just such an item to add to my kitchen, compact, handy and able to do the little jobs I need in meal preparation. I heartily recommend this Black & Decker Chopper to anyone looking for that handy kitchen helper. Luan Gaines/2014.


Hold the Dark: A Novel
Hold the Dark: A Novel
by William Giraldi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.73
57 used & new from $9.79

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars “The wilderness here is inside us.”, September 9, 2014
This review is from: Hold the Dark: A Novel (Hardcover)
In Alaska, the remote village of Keelut is suffering famine that has turned the wilderness savage, children stolen from outside their cabins to slake the hunger of wolves. The winds howl with the mourning voices of those who cannot reclaim what has been taken in nature’s cruel order: “When kids are killed, the future dies.” Authorities avoid the village, knowing they will find no answers from those who resist intruders, take care of their own. All the more surprising then, when grieving mother Medora Sloane begs author Russell Core to help her find her six-year-old son, Bailey, or at least his bones for burial. Having written a book on wolves, Core has a deep affinity for their ways, their intelligence, unsure why this woman might think he could help, yet drawn by her need and his own flirtation with a place where death might come easily to a weary traveler.

Knowing nothing of this place or these people, Core finds Medora a surprise, bright-haired and white-skinned, certainly an anomaly among the others. Sleeping on the couch in a tiny cabin where the boy’s empty boots are a reminder of his absence, Core cannot but be aware of the mother’s murmuring at night, her vigil by the window, her incantations to the moon. Medora’s husband, Vernon, is due to return any day from a tour of duty in the Middle East, his brutal reality in the shifting sands across the globe in stark contrast to the blinding snow that covers Keelut, portending a difficult, if impossible search, Russell dressed in Vernon’s hunting garb and boots.

As anticipated, the journey proves fruitless, though Core barely escapes the snarling wolves he tracks in search of the boy. Near-frozen, exhausted, he returns to the village to find Medora missing, a shocking discovery at hand, one that brings the authorities streaming into Keelut, Vernon come home to a nightmare worse than the one he has lived on foreign soil. Not yet acclimated to the ways of civilization, Sloane’s reaction initiates a violent, brutal series of events, revealing a great chasm of fury, inconsolable grief and rage. Yet amid the chaos, the death, the author’s prose is stark, often arresting and compelling, capturing the unapologetic cruelty, the relentless demands of life and death in a place where the flesh of children fills the bellies of starving animals, where compassion is trampled under the boots of men.

It is Giraldi’s ability to balance the extremes of place and emotion that imbues his novel with unexpected allegiances, from Russell’s courting of death in a land where it is easy to die to Medora’s motivation in asking for help, from Vernon’s friend Cheeon’s last stand against the breach of his fortress home to the love between Vernon and Medora and the death of their son. It is a tapestry woven tightly with ragged threads, the knotted string of impropriety and outrage, the blood red of carnage and the still-white of a snowstorm, a land that embraces the aberrant, the desperate and the brave, my own twisted hope joining the tangled mess, a hope that the guilty might escape, survive the devastation left behind. Luan Gaines/2014.


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