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Lynne E. "Lynne E." RSS Feed (California, USA.)
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This House is Haunted
This House is Haunted
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good, Leisurely-Paced Ghost Story With Exciting Climax, Scary Ending, July 10, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED is a very good novel-length ghost story, written in the Dickensian style. The main character even attends one of Dickens' lecture-performances of his own ghost story, "The Signal-Man"! Author John Boyne effectively captures the feeling of the Victorian times, and his Dickensian prose never hits a false note.

The plot is simple: a young woman (Eliza) who teaches at a London girls' school loses her father, and while grieving decides impulsively to accept a governess position in Norfolk. When she arrives, her two young charges are living all by themselves in Gaudlin Hall. When Eliza asks the locals about the children's parents, the locals turn away nervously, or say "ask Mr. Raisin" (the estate's solicitor). But Mr. Raisin is also evasive and reluctant to talk.

Eliza encounters Gaudlin Hall's malevolent ghost soon enough. The ghost seems to want to harm Eliza. Is the ghost the reason why the children have had no fewer than six governesses in the past year? The full story unwinds in stages as Eliza slowly teases the truth about Gaudlin Hall from her various reluctant local sources.

The novel is leisurely paced, but has some very exciting scenes near the end as the plot reaches its climax. The ending is scary and satisfying. The story actually reminded me a little of both "The Turn of the Screw" and "The Fall of the House of Usher". If you enjoy reading classic ghost stories, you should enjoy this book.


Cool Downz Cool Down All Day (styles and color may vary)
Cool Downz Cool Down All Day (styles and color may vary)
Price: $7.19
10 used & new from $1.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, Attractive Headband Stays Hydrated for Days, July 10, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This HOT HEADZ COOL DOWNZ COOLING WRAP works pretty much as advertised. You soak the band in water for 10-15 minutes to saturate the water-retention crystals in the center portion, tie the band around your head or neck, and experience a long-lasting cooling effect. When hydrated, the crystals expand to form a thick "rope". There are no crystals at the ends of the band, because the plain ends are used to tie the band securely.

The cooling effect comes from the slow evaporation of water held in the band--just like when you soak a washcloth in water and lay it across your eyes to soothe a headache or to cool off at night in hot weather. The cooling effect is greatest immediately after the band has been soaked. After a while, the part of the band that contacts your skin warms up to your body temperature, and the band feels less cool. But you can reactivate or boost the cooling effect simply by flipping the band over (just like that washrag). Alternatively, you can re-soak the band, or you can put it in the refrigerator for a little while to get that boost. (The label states that the band should not be put in the freezer.)

Once hydrated, the band does continue cooling "for days", as advertised. The day after I hydrated mine (taking all of 10 minutes), the band was still cooling effectively (despite being hung up on a coat hanger overnight for maximum drip-drying). A big advantage of using one of these bands instead of a wet washrag is that it ties in place, and will stay in place when you're walking around or working.

There are a few label warnings worth mentioning:

*Avoid contact with salt water, gasoline or other chemicals as they may damage cooling crystals and cause skin irritation.
*Do not ingest contents of Cool Downz.
*Not for use by children under 8 years of age.
*Never leave a child or pet unaccompanied while wearing Cool Downz.
*Do not use Cool Downz on or around mouth area.

These bands seem reasonably priced (about $7 on Amazon), and I think they're both practical and attractive. Mine has a red, white, and blue flag design that I like a lot.


Francois et Mimi Stainless Steel Double Wall French Coffee Press,34oz
Francois et Mimi Stainless Steel Double Wall French Coffee Press,34oz
Offered by Luzy's Storage Place
Price: $39.95
3 used & new from $36.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Charming Potbelly Shape; One-Piece Stainless Steel Construction Eliminates Messy Cleanup, July 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm totally charmed by the potbelly shape of this FRANCOIS ET MIMI STAINLESS STEEL FRENCH COFFEE PRESS. And I'm positively delighted by the pot's one-piece, double-walled, stainless steel construction, which makes it a breeze to clean. Unlike traditional French coffee presses (which have a glass beaker held inside a metal or silicone handle/basket, e.g., Bodum French Coffee Maker), this one-piece pot has no nooks or crannies to catch coffee grounds every time it is rinsed.

The pot's insulating double walls are another good feature. Water stays hot during the five minutes needed for the coffee to brew before pouring. This pot has a sturdy stainless steel plunger and mesh screen mechanism for pushing the coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot after brewing. The plunger mechanism is also easy to clean. The mechanism comes apart easily by unscrewing a single threaded connector. The pot and all of its parts are dishwasher safe.

The French press method makes the very best coffee, in my opinion. (You put coarse-ground coffee into the beaker or pot, add very hot water, steep the coffee for a few minutes, press the plunger down slowly, and pour out the coffee.) The reason I don't always use this method, is that it is best suited to making a few cups of coffee at a time. Also, every French coffee press that I've tried before this one has been messy to clean.

This Francois et Mimi pot is the best French coffee press ever! It holds a generous 34 oz., which is enough to brew two big mugs of coffee, or eight 4-oz. cups of coffee. It's exactly the right size for brewing a few cups of coffee in the afternoon or evening, when the morning coffee is gone and you don't want to waste expensive coffee by making another full pot with your regular coffeemaker. Also, the pleasing shape and mirror-finish stainless steel exterior make it an attractive serving piece.


Philips AJH510/37 Alarm Clock (Grey)
Philips AJH510/37 Alarm Clock (Grey)
Price: $40.36
9 used & new from $33.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cosmetically-Challenged Nightlight/Clock With Awkward Setting Process, Dim Display, July 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This PHILIPS AJH510/37 ALARM CLOCK is a decent night light--with four pretty, easily-changed colors to choose from--but not a particularly good choice for a bedside clock. At the highest brightness setting, the digital time readout is dim, and it's hard to see what time it is in the daytime. The night light (at the bottom of the clock) isn't exactly dim, but it doesn't provide much ambient light for the room--it serves mainly to show the clock's location. Certainly this nightlight/clock will not keep any sleeper awake!

The clock won't win any beauty contests, either. It's a mystery to me, why the manufacturer chose a battleship grey color for the fabric covering. Perhaps to suggest metal mesh? The grey background doesn't help the visibility of the dim orange readout at all. And the grey color doesn't harmonize well with the faux wood plastic disk atop the clock. The photo on the product page is fairly accurate regarding the clock's looks.

The clock's worst feature is the time and alarm-setting process. Depending on what you're trying to do, you must press a button or a location on the faux wood disc, and then fumble around with the volume control wheel to change the hours and minutes, type of alarm (buzzer or nature sounds), display brightness, etc. For me, the task of adjusting hours and minutes up and down, while holding the clock in hand and rolling a sideways-mounted wheel, is extremely awkward. Also, I found the pictorial "quick start" instructions hard to interpret when figuring out the alarm- and feature-setting process. The downloadable manual is similarly pictorial, but is slightly clearer.

At first, I was very confused by the "8UZ" setting, which was how I read the "BUZ" (for buzzer alarm) setting on the display. As for the buzzer alarm itself, it is one of those that starts with a soft beep and increases in volume and frequency until the sleeper wakes and stops it. (I like these.) However, at the very highest volume, the buzzer is probably not loud enough to wake a very sound sleeper.

As for the preloaded nature-sounds (and three music sounds), I listened to them all, but didn't like any except the "train" (railroad boxcars rolling past)--which is only appropriate for go-to-sleep use. (Go-to-sleep is one of the clock's features.) The nature sounds were probably recorded from nature, but they sound artificial. The music sounds include an "angelic harp" that I would quickly tire of, for either wake-up or go-to-sleep purposes.

Because of the ugly-duckling appearance, awkward setting process, and dim clock display, I rate this Philips AJH510/37 Alarm Clock at 2 stars ("I don't like it" on the official Amazon scale).


Moshi Stanza Duo (2-in-1 Dual Stylus and Pen) for Touchscreen Devices, Silver
Moshi Stanza Duo (2-in-1 Dual Stylus and Pen) for Touchscreen Devices, Silver
Price: $34.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Handsome Ballpoint Pen With Squishy-Soft Stylus Tip, July 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Touchscreen styluses are not all alike. Besides color, there are subtle differences in sensitivity, length, barrel size, weight, and attachment clips or lanyards. The latest stylus trend seems to be ballpoint-pen/stylus combinations, like this MOSHI STANZA DUO (2-in-1 DUAL STYLUS AND PEN).

The ballpoint-pen/stylus barrel has a handsome brushed-silver finish. With pen retracted, the combo is 5" long; at 0.77 ounce it seems a little heavy for long tablet sessions. There is a pocket clip--twisting the barrel retracts the clip into the barrel and extends the ballpoint pen for writing (a noteworthy design feature!). The pen has a smooth-writing, medium-fine point that I like quite well. The barrel pulls apart easily for replacement of the ink cartridge. The 1-1/4" barrel is comfortable to hold, either as a pen or as a stylus.

Unfortunately, the stylus is not unusually sensitive, and it's squishy-soft. Touch a tablet screen with anything but the lightest pressure, and the silicone nib totally collapses, allowing the hard end of the stylus to contact the screen. Although the tablet screen is protected from scratches and/or breakage by the rubbery nib (at least while the nib is new), the feeling of metal stylus on touchscreen is quite unpleasant. I associate this sort of collapsing nib with ultra-cheap styluses (e.g., 10 Pcs Stylus Set), rather than with advanced-design writing instruments. The package includes an extra silicone stylus tip--to install it, you unscrew the stylus end, pull off the old nib, pull on the new nib, and screw the stylus end back on.

A pen/stylus combination that I like much better, because of the solid stylus tips, is the amPen Hybrid 3-in-1 Stylus. For a stylus without a pen, I like the AmazonBasics Stylus for Touchscreen Devices much better. Because of the soft stylus tip that completely flattens with minimal pressure, I rate this MOSHI STANZA DUO at 2 stars ("I don't like it" on the official Amazon scale).


KOHLER K-4986-0 Cachet Nightlight Q3 Round-Front Toilet Seat, White
KOHLER K-4986-0 Cachet Nightlight Q3 Round-Front Toilet Seat, White
Price: $47.97
5 used & new from $41.32

2.0 out of 5 stars Easy-to-Break Night Light Feature; Hard-to-Clean Hinge, July 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What a disappointment! I loved the idea of a night-lighted toilet seat, because my master bathroom's toilet area has no outlet available for a standard night light. But disaster struck as I was installing this KOHLER K-4986-0 CACHET NIGHTLIGHT Q3 ROUND-FRONT TOILET SEAT. During the hinge-insert adjustment (for optimal seat position without overhang at the front) the battery pack fell out and hit the floor (about a three-foot drop). The impact broke the on/off switch (or maybe the circuit board), so that the hinge light no longer works. (The installation instructions give NO warning about taking care to support the snapped-in battery pack when turning the toilet seat over.)

Before the disaster, I had already tested the light. The light is a very dim blue, at the hinge only, so the seat isn't a good night light. Another drawback is that the light turns on for only 7 hours per day. According to the instructions: "Turning on the LED light starts a seven hour lighted cycle that reoccurs daily. To reset the cycle time, turn the power off and then on again at the desired time." The setting or resetting is easy, but I want a night light that will stay on for at least 12 hours.

The toilet seat itself is made of high-impact plastic, which is good. (My household is very hard on wooden toilet seats, but no one has broken a high-impact-plastic seat yet.) However, the toilet seat hinge design is very bad, because the hinge area can collect dirt and is extremely difficult to clean. I actually replaced a similar high-impact plastic toilet seat that wasn't broken, because cleaning the hinge area required thin brushes, and thorough cleaning required removal of the toilet seat and power-washing inside the hinge.

On this lighted toilet seat, the hard-to-clean hinge makes a certain amount of sense, because the battery pack needs maximum protection from water or spray. (Aim carefully, guys!) The instructions warn: "IMPORTANT! Risk of product damage. Water can damage electronic components. Avoid spraying or soaking the hinge area with liquids. When needed, remove the battery pack."

When the batteries need replacement, the hinge light will flash red. Replacing the batteries will require complete removal of the toilet seat. And this must be done with extreme care, because you must turn the toilet seat over, and you don't want the battery pack to fall into the toilet (or onto the floor like mine did). At present, Kohler doesn't seem to offer replacement battery packs for this toilet seat model, but the replacement part would probably represent a good portion of the original purchase price.

The toilet seat hardware is simple, and it's easy to install the toilet seat using only a screwdriver (flat head or Phillips head). The toilet seat will also go on over toilet safety rails (e.g., Versaframe Rails) if you have them. However, because the night light feature is easy to break, and because the toilet seat itself has negative design features, I rate this product at 2 stars ("I don't like it" on the official Amazon scale).


Q-See QT5682-4E3-1 8 Channel Full 960H System with 4 High-Resolution 960H/700TVL Cameras and 1TB Hard Drive (Gray)
Q-See QT5682-4E3-1 8 Channel Full 960H System with 4 High-Resolution 960H/700TVL Cameras and 1TB Hard Drive (Gray)
Price: $349.99
5 used & new from $311.84

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remote Monitoring Requires Wired Connection to Router; Software Setup Is Easy, July 2, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Before you purchase this Q-SEE SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM (Model QT5682 with 4 cameras), you should know three things: (1) remote monitoring, by home network or Internet, requires a WIRED connection with your router; (2) the initial setup requires a WIRED connection to some kind of video display device (HDMI, VGA (at least 19"), or TV set); and (3) the surveillance cameras require WIRED cable connections to the video monitor/recorder. (This kit does include an Ethernet cable, an HDMI cable, and four lengthy camera-connection cables.)

The fact that the remote monitoring system doesn't work wirelessly is a major drawback for me. Of necessity, my router is located near my ISP's high-speed cable outlet--which is about 100 feet from the front door camera location. Although the 4-camera system includes two 60-foot and two 100-foot cables, I don't want to run a 100-foot cable through my living space, from back bedroom to front door. So I'm going to have to live without remote monitoring, and to rely simply on live camera displays and recorded playback as shown on an old VGA monitor.

The fact that a wired connection with a display monitor is required for the setup isn't a major problem. The system works perfectly with my old Dell flat-screen VGA monitor. I'm retaining this setup for live monitoring and video playback.

The fact that the cameras are wired and need cables that connect to the video recorder is a somewhat bigger problem for someone like me who isn't terribly handy with tools. In particular, the included instructions don't give suggestions for running cables through walls (though I'm sure there's something about it on the Internet). Happily, installing the cameras in outdoors locations isn't an issue, because the cameras in this kit are weatherproof. Once I figure out the cable situation, the only remaining problem will be to adjust the camera angles so that the cameras will properly view the areas I want to monitor.

The initial software setup is very easy, only requiring knowledge of (1) how to connect computer components, (2) how to add a device to a home network, and (3) how to download and install "web client" apps on a PC or mobile device. I was briefly confused by the male-female power connectors between the cameras and the 4-way power-splitter that connects to the video recorder. (But I shouldn't have been confused, because the connections are illustrated on the Quick Start posters).

Using only the built-in Setup Wizard and the Quick Start posters, I was able to connect everything and immediately start using the cameras (for now, aimed out a window and at a hallway in my condo). To test the remote-monitoring setup, I temporarily connected the recording unit directly to my router, and easily set it up on a desktop PC, an iPad2, and a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone.

All three remote-monitoring setups required downloading an app: a "web client" PC browser plugin (from the Internet); "Q-See QT View HD" for the iPad (from the App Store), and "Q-See QT View HD" for the smartphone (from Google Play). (Non-HD versions are available.) Installing the mobile apps required using the app to scan a bar code from the Q-See setup software. After adding the recording device's MAC address to my home network (which the Setup Wizard should do automatically for most routers), I can type the device's ID into a PC browser window, or use the mobile apps, to see exactly what the cameras are seeing, at any time that the video recorder is actually connected directly to my router.

The color cameras give very clear pictures on my Dell VGA monitor, and on my high-def mobile devices; the display is kind of splotchy on my PC. The camera photos are quite adequate for my purposes--monitoring the front door area to keep track of visitors, deliveries, and/or prowlers. The Q-See video display shows all four cameras at once in a divided screen, or individual cameras in full screen, as desired.

The QT5682 kit includes a disc with "Manuals and Software", but the disc is NOT required for the setup. The kit also includes a small remote (which I find hard to use) and a mouse. You'll need either the remote or the mouse to change your video recorder's password and to complete the setup. You'll also need one of them for playback, searching, and otherwise making full use of the features included in the Q-See software. Without reference to the manual, I was able to figure out how to use the "Search" feature to check for, and play back, various motion-triggered "Events" that are logged by the video recorder. Definitely I'll need to study the manual to learn more about the video recorder software and to learn how to use the buttons on the outside of the video recorder. The instructions say that the video recorder works just like a standard DVR.

In sum, I think this is a very nice, easy-to-use, complete, and reasonably-priced package of four weatherproof surveillance cameras and video recorder. I'm quite happy with the kit, even though I may eventually hire someone to come to my home to finish the physical installation.


Sylvania 73014 10-watt  800 Lumens A19 LED Light Bulb, Soft White
Sylvania 73014 10-watt 800 Lumens A19 LED Light Bulb, Soft White
Price: $9.99
2 used & new from $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 10-Watt LED Is Far Superior to 20-Watt CFL for Bedside Reading, June 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My home only recently became a "no incandescents" home. All the outdoor fixtures have compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs; all the indoor fixtures and reading lamps have light-emitting-diode (LED) bulbs. I'm a total convert to LED bulbs--for their bright, warm light, energy-saving, and instant-on capabilities. At present, I'm saving about 4 kwh per day by discarding my stockpiled incandescents.

This SYLVANIA 10-WATT A19 LED LIGHT BULB replaced an old 20-watt CFL (the kind with upright tubes, not one spiral tube) in a bedside table lamp, and the LED gives far better light. Reading is now easy, even though the 10-watt LED is only equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent. The soft white LED provides warm light, far to the left of the light-appearance scale at 2700 K. The LED bulb is supposed to last 22.8 years.

LEDs are available in plain, and in dimmable (slightly more expensive) models. I have some of each (though I have no dimmer circuits), and don't see any difference in the quality of light emitted from dimmable or nondimmable LEDs. LEDs are supposed to provide "directional" light (while incandescents provide 360-degree light). My LEDS do project "light circles" on ceilings, but it's easier to read under LEDs than CFLs or incandescents, because the LED light is so strong and bright.

LEDs generally should not be used in completely enclosed fixtures, or in outdoor fixtures exposed to the weather--be sure to read the packaging information. You can get LEDs with candelabra bases (for decorative fixtures) or standard medium bases (for sockets designed for standard incandescent bulbs). All LEDS claim to last for many, many years. I haven't had mine long enough to test this--and doubt that anyone has, given how new the technology is!

LEDs may interfere with nearby electronic devices, though none of mine have--and I have one LED night light located within a foot of my router.

The packaging warnings for this particular Sylvania LED bulb state:

* Suitable for damp locations--not for use where directly exposed to weather/water
* Ensure fixture can support added weight of lamp/bulb
* Only install in operating environments between -4 degrees F and +113 degrees F
* Not for use in emergency light fixtures or exit signs
* Do not install in totally enclosed recessed fixtures


The World's Best Spicy Food: where to find it & how to make it
The World's Best Spicy Food: where to find it & how to make it
by Chris Deliso
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.07
70 used & new from $11.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Coffee-Table Cookbook for People Who Enjoy Reading About Spicy Food, June 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
THE WORLD'S BEST SPICY FOOD is what I call a "coffee-table cookbook". It has recipes, but it's mainly a book for people who enjoy reading about food--in this case, spicy dishes!

The 85 dishes are arranged alphabetically, from Adana Kebab to Zahtar. For each one, there is a facts page explaining "What is it?", "Origin", "Finding it", "Tasting", and "Tips" or "Variations". Facing the facts page is a recipe page (with a photograph of the dish) that tells you how to make the dish. Following the dishes, there are fact pages and recipes for 15 spicy condiments, arranged alphabetically from Green Chili to Wasabi. (For a complete list of the included spicy dishes and condiments, see the Table of Contents page in the "Look Inside This Book" feature above.)

To be sure, some of the included foods aren't particularly exotic, or highly seasoned, or seasoned with unusual spices (e.g., Five Alarm Texas Chili, Goulash, Jambalaya, Nachos). But it's still interesting to learn about the backgrounds and origins of these "mundane" spicy dishes (for example, "Jambalaya is essentially Spanish paella with French and New World twists . . . ").

In my case, there are a lot of spicy foods included that I'd never even heard of (e.g., Ema Datse, Groundnut Soup, 'Nduja, Piri-Piri Chicken, Som Tam. That is why I really like this book.


The Contractors (A Jon Cantrell Thriller)
The Contractors (A Jon Cantrell Thriller)
by Harry Hunsicker
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.48
66 used & new from $3.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-Moving, Graphic Thriller With Comic "Keystone Kops" Moments, June 27, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
THE CONTRACTORS is a highly entertaining, fast-paced, at-times-gruesome thriller that makes some intriguing, possibly true-to-life, rather disturbing points about the wisdom of any U.S. government decision to employ private DEA contractors to save money.

As Jon Cantrell, a contract DEA operative, learns in this novel, you can't trust individual contract operatives, because contracting companies sometimes hire their mercenaries (no background checks required!) from the absolute dregs of society. And you can't trust contracting companies, because their orders may be coming from government employees in overlapping jurisdictions (ignorance of other operations is bliss!), or from crooked government employees with private agendas (recover a missing cartel witness and kill her! or recover a missing cartel witness and save her because she's your lover!). And it's bad news (likely to end in death!) for decent, honest contract operatives, government employees, and civilians alike, when the government hands over to private contractors the latest military hardware (guns and giant long-range rifles!) or cutting-edge surveillance scanning devices (read auto battery bar codes and instantly identify and track drivers!).

If it weren't for the many killings, usually described in gruesome detail, this book could almost be described as a "rollicking adventure". At times it has a comic "Keystone Kops" feeling, as competing contract companies repeatedly disrupt their competitors' operations (by intention, inadvertence, or total incompetence), and as Jon and his hard-boiled female partner (Piper) escape certain-death situations again and again due to some bizarre ricochet or convenient hidden pathway or suddenly available transport.

This novel is a creative blend of interesting characters (e.g., Jon, Piper, Sinclair the cop on the take, Eva the cartel witness on the lam, Milo the can-do crook, Kevin the drug-addled DEA operative, McNally the deal-closing Senator); of wildly outlandish plot developments; and of particularly brutal deaths for the bad guys. In the end, it all melds into a satisfying whole, with a surprising but nevertheless believable ending. I'm looking forward to reading more standalone thrillers like this one from author Harry Hunsicker!


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