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Dienne RSS Feed (Cicero, IL)

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Timeline - Americana
Timeline - Americana
Offered by Boardgames4Us
Price: $13.31
18 used & new from $10.14

3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully made; limited use, December 27, 2014
This review is from: Timeline - Americana (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was rather surprised when I got this game. The box it comes in is quite small - not much bigger than a wallet. Inside is simply a set of very tiny cards - perhaps about a hundred. There is no game board, pieces or anything else. Like all Timeline games, each card contains an historical event. On one side of the card is the year that event took place.

You start the game by dealing out four cards to each player (or more if all players agree - more is harder) with the date side down. You then flip over the top card on the remaining pile to reveal the date. The first player takes his/her first card, looks at the event, and tries to decide if that event took place before or after the date already showing. If s/he is correct, that card stays on the board. If incorrect, it goes into a discard pile and that player draws a new card. The second player then has to decide whether his/her event happened before the earlier of the two dates showing, between the two dates, or after the later of the two dates. Each subsequent players has more time gaps to choose from and the game gets harder and harder. The winner is the first to get rid of all of his or her cards.

This particular set deals with American history, but the vast majority of the cards are from the 20th century, which makes it especially difficult. Every so often you'll get one from Indian/colonial times that's very easy to place. There are also a handful from the 18th, 19th and 21st centuries which tend to be easier. But there are an awful lot about the early years of sports, as well as movies and other entertainment. These are not typically the sorts of things taught in school, so unless you're a sports or entertainment history buff, these may leave you a bit baffled.

One problem is that once you've played through the deck once, you have an advantage over any other player who hasn't done so because you'll likely remember the events, at least roughly. While it can be fun to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of history, they'll likely catch on pretty quickly. This means that you can't really play the game repeatedly, at least not without a long pause between to forget everything. So you'll probably get about an hour or two of enjoyment out of this game.

The game is very well made - the box itself and the cards are quite artful and beautiful. And the game is not terribly expensive. But for the limited use you might get out of it, I'm not sure it's worth it. You can, of course, give yourself an added challenge by combining Timeline sets to give yourself even more dates to fill in. But that's even more money.

TombQuest Book 1: Book of the Dead
TombQuest Book 1: Book of the Dead
by Michael Northrop
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Doorway to ancient Egypt, December 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Young Alex Sennefer has what appears to be a heart condition and it looks like his days are numbered. His condition is so fragile that his mother has taken to home schooling him to keep him near her. Alex doesn’t entirely mind this, as his mother is a lead researcher for the new Egyptian exhibit at the Met, so Alex has pretty much free run of the museum, along with his best friend Ren whose father is also part of the exhibit team. If only Alex’s body would cooperate.

Despite his weak heart, Alex is drawn to the new exhibit, even though (or perhaps specifically because) his mother has warned him to stay away. There is something about that exhibit, something exciting and thrilling, but also creepy and dangerous. Perhaps it’s the Stung Man, a thief who was willing to hide in a cave full of scorpions and get stung to death rather than allow himself to be captured but live. Perhaps it’s the Lost Spells and the Book of the Dead. But anyway, his heart gives out and he collapses by the exhibit before it’s even opened.

Alex is rushed to the hospital where his life hangs by a thread. In fact, it’s not really hanging at all – for all practical purposes, Alex is dead. His mother, it turns out, knows about the Book of the Dead and the Lost Spells in a more than theoretical way. With the help of her amulet, she works a spell. Next thing Alex knows, he’s feeling great. Back from the dead, as it were. And stronger than he’s ever been before.

Unfortunately, as she knew it might, this spell has also awakened others among the dead. Museums around the world are reporting odd events and crises and, call me crazy, but does that rain look like blood? And then, as if things aren’t bad enough, Alex’s mother disappears. Alex, with his new-found strength, knows he must do whatever it takes to get his mother back, and he knows it has something to do with that new exhibit. So he, Ren and another Egyptologist, Dr. Todtman (“Deadman” in English) race through the sewers and subways of New York in pursuit of the “Deathwalkers”, the “Order” and the Stung Man. And Alex’s mom.

Of course, as we know from the beginning, this is only Book I, so of course not all of these threads get wrapped up – you’ll have to buy the rest of the books, I suppose. But allowing for that, this is a decent opening for an engaging young reader series. The characters are basically well-drawn (if a bit flat at this point), the plot holds enough excitement to keep young readers turning the pages, and the ancient Egyptian theme in a modern context is a certain intrigue for the target audience.

The book has a companion computer game which can be accessed through Scholastic’s website. I tried it out for a little bit to get a feel for it. You have to download something called “Unity”, which we’re assured is safe (and apparently allows access to other games as well). You then set up your screenname and avatar, then you’re ready to play. The game is only in the beta stage at this point until the book is released, but it looks like a decent game for the target audience. It appears it will be interactive with other players. I found it a bit confusing at first because you have to use the keyboard, but (at least so far) there are no instructions about that – I was expecting to use the mouse. But I’m sure tech-savvy youngsters will be able to figure that out better than old fogeys like me. The website also has puzzles to solve such as mazes and hieroglyphics.

All-in-all, I recommend this book and the accompanying game for the target audience. Hopefully it will generate interest in learning more about ancient Egyptian history and culture.

The Question of Miracles
The Question of Miracles
by Elana K. Arnold
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.59

4.0 out of 5 stars An Issue/Message book, December 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Our local public library has a section within the children’s department for “Topics To Talk About”. This book might be found in that section. It seems that Ms. Arnold wrote this book with a definite Message in mind to impart to young readers (most likely those struggling with loss and grief themselves) about how Life Goes On.

Iris is a sixth grader who has recently moved from sunny California to rainy Oregon and she doesn’t like it one little bit. It appears that her parents made the decision to move, at least in part, because of the death of Iris’s best friend Sarah. It seems that the whole family, but perhaps especially Iris, needed a Change; a Fresh Start.

We learn fairly little about Sarah’s death, except that Iris was present at the time when an out of control car hit both girls. Iris survived with hardly a scratch, while Sarah was killed. Iris, understandably, struggles with not only the grief of the loss of her friend, but a case of survivor guilt as well. Some have suggested that her survival was a miracle.

Sarah doesn’t really feel like making new friends – it feels too much like cheating on or abandoning Sarah. But she knows her parents want her to make new friends – it would make them feel better at least. So when the geeky “mouth breather”, know-it-all guy starts talking to her, she doesn’t reject him. At least not completely. Over time they do start to form an actual friendship, even if it is at first mostly for Iris’s benefit at her convenience. But then she learns that Boris too had a miracle – in fact, possibly a certifiable one that may elevate a long-dead pope to saint status. But with all of these miracles, the question is hard to avoid: why do some people get them and others don’t? Why Boris and not Sarah? Why Iris herself? Throughout the book, Iris seeks to answer that question, while at the same time trying to find Sarah’s miracle. Iris wants very badly for Sarah to still be there in some form, some form she can communicate with, not just the memories in her heart that all the adults in her life try to get her to focus on.

As her parents are not-so-sublty trying to get Iris to let go of Sarah, they are pushing her into a new life. Her father has become a disciple of “biosustainability” and he drags Iris into his gardening, turbine building and chicken raising pursuits. The Message that Iris (and the reader) is consistently beaten over the head with is that Life Goes On. Ultimately, over the course of her year in Oregon, Iris gradually comes to accept her new life, rain and all, as we know she will all along.

This book is a rather slow-paced book, more of an unfolding than a moving. It’s rather too tidy throughout, especially the ending. With the exception of her best friend’s death, Iris’s life is perfect – her parents are perfectly attuned to her needs, there is almost no friction between them and her, and none between her parents themselves. She doesn’t like her new school just because it’s not like her old school, but there is actually nothing wrong with her new school.. Sure, some of the kids tease Boris and sometimes her (and even the bus driver), but it’s pretty mild for middle school. Mostly everyone is very nice to her, even though she doesn’t return their outreaches (but everyone seems to excuse her because she is, after all, grieving). This certainly isn’t the most powerful book I’ve read on the issue of death and grief, but it is a quiet and sensitive, if a bit heavy-handed portrayal of the grieving process.

Stayfree Maxi Pads Super, 66 Count
Stayfree Maxi Pads Super, 66 Count
Offered by Green_City
Price: $23.45
8 used & new from $11.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maxis have come a long way, but they're still maxis, December 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Ultra thin technology became available sometime while I was in high school. I for one danced a jig and never looked back. Since then, they've also added features like extended length, contoured shape and wings, all of which I value. This product has none of that.

Granted, these pads are not the diaper-like pads I suffered through before the ultra thin days. They are thinner and softer, and they do have a trough around the outside designed to prevent overflow. They are advertised as "super" absorbent and claim to keep you dry "up to 8 hours". Well, I suppose on a light day perhaps. In fact, I don't recommend these at all for super heavy days as it can take only a short time for the flow to reach the front, back or side limits, with potentially embarrassing results.

Perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves about feminine products (albeit, not limited to this one), is the individual wrapping, specifically the colors they choose. Nothing says "discreet" like hot pinkish-purple. I mean, I don't want to return to the days when feminine products had to be wrapped in plain brown paper, but could they, perhaps, choose a more neutral, subtle color?

Anyway, sniping aside, these are not my personal choice as I still prefer the ultra-thin, but they're a decent alternative for all but the heaviest days.

TP-LINK RE200 AC750 Universal Wireless Dual Band Range Extender (Wall Plug)
TP-LINK RE200 AC750 Universal Wireless Dual Band Range Extender (Wall Plug)
Price: $64.98
36 used & new from $51.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Installation a headache but works fine now, December 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Our house is a standard Chicago-style house - about twenty-five feet wide and about a hundred feet long. Our original wi-fi is hooked up to the PC which is in the back of the house. That has always been rather problematic because our bedroom is in the front of the house. How can you play Hay Day when your wi-fi doesn't reach? Talk about serious problems! So I was rather excited to get this booster.

Installation was our biggest problem with this booster. We couldn't use the PC to install it because that's where the original wi-fi is hooked up. We also tried my smartphone, my husband's smartphone, his tablet and our daughter's tablet, but we couldn't get the website to open on any of those devices. Finally my husband tried the laptop and that worked. If we hadn't had the laptop, I'm not sure how we would have installed this. And, like most installations, this one took longer and was more tedious than we expected. But finally it was up and running. We then got it activated on all our devices (for some reason it didn't take on my phone the first time, so we had to do it again).

Now that it's all installed and running, it works quite well. Not only can I play Hay Day in my bedroom (phew!), I can sneak in a few minutes in the car if I park directly in front of the house. We've had no further problems with losing connection to the internet and we are satisfied with this product.

A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France
A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France
by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what we're led to expect, December 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve been dragging my feet to review this book in part because I don’t quite know what to say. I keep thinking of the book SHE SAID YES about Cassie Bernall who was killed during the Columbine shootings supposedly because she dared to answer “yes” when she was asked if she believed in God. It turns out, however, that it didn’t quite happen like that and Cassie wasn’t quite the hero she was portrayed as. The book was bitterly denounced from many sides as misrepresentation, among other things. But a columnist who read the book suggested that the book was no less interesting for simply being about a girl, rather than a hero.

I feel there is a somewhat similar misrepresentation in the way this book is presented vs. what the book actually contains, and the question of whether or not the book still passes muster given what it is rather than what it is portrayed as. The book is definitely sold as a Holocaust book, which it is on the surface, but it is really more about the author and her search for her grandparents. Furthermore, we seemed to be promised some sort of revelation about the Holocaust that will explain her grandparents fifty year silence with each other. To the extent this “revelation” comes, it really isn’t anything more than we could have guessed based on the author’s description of her grandfather as a stubborn, rather churlish man, combined with the fact that he was a translator during the Nuremberg trials. The author seems surprised to realize the impact that regurgitating testimony from Nazi war criminals (often not fully mentally and emotionally processed by the translator in the rush to get the words translated) could have had on her grandfather. To me, that was the first and most obvious explanation for what was “wrong” with her grandfather and, hence, what went wrong between her grandparents. But instead the author combs through endless details about their experiences during the war as if there were one crucial interaction, some dark secret, she might uncover.

Despite the lack of seemingly promised revelation/resolution, the book is an interesting, if rather obsessive, portrait of two very strong-willed, diametrically opposed individuals whose very strength in surviving 1940s France as Jews is also their fatal flaw (or flaws) in managing life and relationships. When the author is exploring her grandparents, their histories and their fraught relationship, she is at her best. But she spends quite a bit of the book focused on herself, as if she is unable to develop her own identity without first fleshing out theirs. These sections come across as quite self-absorbed and are a bit of a chore to plod through. The author has had the privileges and advantages of wealth and security, so her struggles to “make a home” out of her grandparents’ ruined house in France comes across a bit like an elite Peace Corps volunteer who both takes her rugged assignment seriously, but also has the luxury to leave the rough life and kick back with her friends.

There are a few particular interesting points that pop up, but the author seems to breeze past them as asides. For instance, the Jewish view of miracles as “ambivalent” I found rather intriguing. Of course, in a perfect world, there would be no need for miracles, so miracles are only necessary to restore a touch of the divine to a world which we humans have messed up so badly. But nonetheless, her grandparents experienced a series of “miracles” that enabled them to survive otherwise almost certain death – one really does have to wonder about divine intervention at times.

All-in-all, I can’t really say that I recommend this book, although I’m also not sorry I read it. It feels too much like the author’s pursuit of her devoutly wished for, wistful, bittersweet, tragic realization and epiphany. Then, when the realization became clear to her that there was no realization, she still had years of research and writing that she didn’t want to go to waste, so she wrapped it all up as best she could into a book. The result is a bit like reading the diary of an insightful yet self-centered young person. From time to time you will find some remarkably clear and fascinating insights as well as compelling narratives, but most of the writing is, of course, done for the writer’s own internal purposes.

AmazonBasics 50-Pair Shoe Rack, Chrome
AmazonBasics 50-Pair Shoe Rack, Chrome
Price: $39.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Organized at last!, December 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For years I have been frustrated by the shoes that pile up in or near our entry way. It doesn’t seem like we really have that many shoes, but when four people each have one or two pairs of gym shoes, good shoes, boots, sandals, etc. it all adds up. We’ve tried to pile them neatly, but that lasts a day or so before it’s back to being a heap and good luck finding a matching pair. This rack has been a godsend.

It took my husband less than half an hour to assemble the rack and you hardly have to be handy to manage it. It’s mostly a repetitive series of screwing in the bars on one side, then matching them up and screwing down the other side. The rack is assembled in two halves which then easily join together. The rack is on wheels for easy portability, but the wheels can also be locked for stability.

The rack is just under five foot tall and contains ten rows, each of which can hold four or five pairs of shoes. The levels are rather close together, so boots and some larger/bulkier men’s shoes may need to go on top. The bars are spaced about seven or so inches apart, so even most children’s shoes can be held without falling through. Children’s shoes smaller than size 10 or so, however, may be too small to fit without falling through – you may need to put a sheet of cardboard or plastic over one or two rows to hold children’s shoes. Our six-year-old-daughter wears child size 13 and her shoes fit just fine. Even with the number of shoes in our family, the rack still has plenty of space left for guests’ shoes.

The chrome finish gives this rack a nice, understated, professional look. This rack makes the perfect accessory for any entry way or closet space where shoes have a tendency to pile up. It’s quick and easy to arrange this heap into organized rows and keep them organized. You’ll never have to search for a missing mate to your favorite pair of shoes again.

After the War Is Over: A Novel
After the War Is Over: A Novel
by Jennifer Robson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helping, December 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Charlotte Brown is a most likeable young woman. Even those rare people who think that they do not like her come around, by and by, realizing that she is a sweet person. Charlotte is a Vicar’s daughter, an only child, adored by her parents and quite well educated. Not many women of that era were Oxford graduates. She is a woman well ahead of her time.

Charlotte was working for Miss Eleanor Rathbone as a constituency assistant in Liverpool, England when WW1 began. Charlotte left this work, that she loved, to take a position as a military nurse at The Special Neurological Hospital for Officers. She loved this work also because she felt that she was making a difference in the lives of the patients. The hospital position consumed five years of Charlotte’s life.

As Jennifer Robson’s book begins the war is over and Charlotte has returned to her former job at the constituency working for Miss Rathbone. Again, Charlotte feels that she is making a difference by helping those people devastated by the war. England’s population is just as crumbled and crippled as the war fields of WW1.

Charlotte decides that she will never marry but rather she will devote her life to the good deeds of helping others. Life is good for Charlotte – she has her work, her friends at the constituency office and more friends at the boarding house where she lives. Plus, she works for women’s rights in England which she finds exciting and important. When she meets Mr. John Ellis, editor of the Liverpool Herald Newspaper, he allows her to write a weekly column where she brings to light the injustices of the marginalized people in England.

As Charlotte is leading her exciting life as a liberal educated, single woman she becomes reacquainted with a wealthy, titled family from her past, a family that had employed her as a governess. The young head of the family is Edward Neville – Ashford, the Earl of Cumberland. Both Edward’s body and his estate are in a dismal state due to the war. Charlotte is drawn to Edward’s plight but she realizes that by helping him to restore his body, his estate and his future, she just may ruin all that she has strived for in her own life. Can a working class woman and an Earl find a way to go forward together? What of her pledge to never marry and her devotion to her social services work in Liverpool? Just how much has this horrible “Great War” changed England? Has it changed it enough?

In order to be completely accepted by the very people that she is trying to help, Charlotte comes to feel that she must reveal a secret about herself. However, Charlotte is afraid that revealing this secret will have drastic effects on the life that she has carefully constructed. What effect will this revealing have on her parents and their lifelong devotion to their church. Can she bring herself to hurt her loved ones?

The author has written a very good story using her knowledge about WW1, the facts of which are spot on accurate. Her account of the war, women’s suffrage, the police strikes, the ruination of the family – all accurate.

The time frame of the story becomes somewhat of a problem in the book with the various chapters changing back and forth. And as you near the end of the book the story becomes somewhat predictable. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile book to read. I recommend it to all.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Battery (S 5 SV S V) NFC Compatible, Increased Capacity, Same Size Replacement for OEM EB-BG900BBU, EB-BG900BBC, EB-BG900 by Lenmar
Samsung Galaxy S5 Battery (S 5 SV S V) NFC Compatible, Increased Capacity, Same Size Replacement for OEM EB-BG900BBU, EB-BG900BBC, EB-BG900 by Lenmar
Offered by Everything Authentic
Price: $21.87
29 used & new from $14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great back up battery, December 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I didn't really need a battery as my phone is still relatively new and the original battery is still holding up quite well. But I've discovered the advantages of having a spare battery on hand for those times when you're away from your charger longer than you planned for. This battery inserts into the phone easily and works as well or better than the original. The charging time is nearly identical, and this battery seems to hold a charge about an hour or so longer than the original. All-in-all, not a bad deal.

Ispeed Navigator Pro Goggle (Black, Clear)
Ispeed Navigator Pro Goggle (Black, Clear)
Offered by Go_Deals
Price: $15.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for adults - 4.5 stars, December 3, 2014
My eight-year-old daughter is an avid swimmer and my husband is trying to learn. They've both tried these out. My daughter couldn't get them to adjust small enough for her head, so the seal was never quite right and the water got in. My husband, on the other hand, loves them. The silicone seems to make for a perfect, comfortable, watertight seal that kept the water out for him. The lenses are crystal clear and easy to see through with no fogging up.

As noted in another review, these probably aren't the best for competitive swimming, as they are rather bulky and create just enough of a drag to impair performance. But for most average/casual swimmers, these are a great choice to keep the chlorine out of your eyes. And they look pretty darn stylish to boot.

My only criticism is that the case fits the goggles just right - a little bit extra room would make it easier to get them in without a hassle.

Despite growing up swimming all summer long, I haven't been swimming (at least, I haven't put my head under the water) in years because my uncorrected vision has gotten so bad and I've never found goggles that seal adequately to prevent my contacts from getting washed out. Maybe I'll have to try these out myself and get back into the water.

Please note, I received a complimentary pair of goggles for reviewing purposes.

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