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DII 100% Cotton, Machine Washable, Perfect Shower, Baby or Birthday Gift for Toddler 32x32" Hooded Towel for Infant to Toddler - Owl
DII 100% Cotton, Machine Washable, Perfect Shower, Baby or Birthday Gift for Toddler 32x32" Hooded Towel for Infant to Toddler - Owl
Price: $18.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Thin, somewhat rough cotton, March 3, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Although 100% cotton, it is very thin and the cotton loops small - making for a somewhat rough surface. By all means not terrible, but it is clear this is a disposable type of item, meant to be used a year or so and then thrown away. The design is cute, made of felt, and stands up to toddler wear well. On the plus side, since the cotton is so thin, this doesn't take up much room when packed up.

The quality reminds me of those cheap hand towels you get at the dollar store.


Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf (Forgotten Realms: Companions Codex)
Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf (Forgotten Realms: Companions Codex)
Price: $15.37

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For Longtime Fans, It May Feel Like this Is Coasting, March 3, 2015
The 'culmination' of the latest trilogy follows the same worn path as we had with the original Obould war, with more characters and our rebooted heroes. Having read all these at various times I have to admit having a hard time remembering which events took place in this trilogy and which in the previous. The antics of the drow become less and less interesting and sadly illogical, taking away from the clever and devious race of the past. The orcs, goblins and giants are just fodder and the side of good contains few interesting characters - we have so many of them that each is given only a small part to play.

The story is simple and completes the war that began in book two. The various subplots that have been going around for a while are either largely ignored or are still left open which is extremely disappointing. It is becoming hard to care about some of them as they seem to drag on forever in a manner that is starting to feel like a daytime soap.

The writing is still the same style as always, in both good and bad. The script flows smoothly but I do get the feeling that perhaps Mr. Salvatore could do with a new editor, one that would be able to tell him when to cut - I am beginning to glaze over the descriptions of battle. At moments the view of the war tactics reads well and you get a feel of the overall situation with troop movements and supply lines. But this is unfortunately brief and feels pointless when in the end good wins by what can only be described as deus ex machina.

Admittedly, this third book is a disappointment, especially after the high hopes I had from what I thought would be a fresh start in book 1. I hate to say this, but it feels that Salvatore is in the air on skis and there is a shark beneath him. Reviewed from an advance reviewer copy.


Vision in Silver: A Novel of the Others
Vision in Silver: A Novel of the Others
by Anne Bishop
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.50
29 used & new from $14.05

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too Good!, March 3, 2015
Vision in Silver continues right where the previous two books left; only a few months have passed since we were first introduced to Meg. The focus shifts a bit from Chewy Squeaky Toy Meg to concentrate more on the humans (especially the policemen). But all the action and pathos are again well represented on this third book in the series.

Story: The Humans First League have escalated their war on the Others. This is puzzling the members of the Lakeside Courtyard; just what does the HFL hope to accomplish when the only outcome they could possibly expect is annihilation by the Terra Indigine? When Detective Montgomery’s young daughter suddenly shows up alone on the train from another city, without his former wife in tow, he knows something has gone very wrong and that it is going to greatly affect the residents of the Courtyard. For his wife was dating the head of the Human First League.

I imagine most readers enjoy watching the Meg-Simon relationship unfold as well as seeing glimpses of the interesting and somewhat mysterious Terra Indigine. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed that the focus of this book is mostly with the humans living at the courtyard or interacting with the Others. The humans tend to be pure good or evil – they lack the nuances that make the Others far more interesting. And there is a lot of evil here; the beginning was so dark and full of trigger scenes that I had to take a step back from reading for a bit. It does lighten up later but it was a steep climb.

I love this series so much, it is always going to be a 5-star for me. But there were some odd choices with characterizations in Vision in Silver. Behaviors very unexpected or antithetical to what we’ve come to expect (seemed like everyone was overreacting or freaking out). It threw me off quite a bit and felt like someone else had written those parts instead of Anne Bishop. But there were some great moments, too (Tess and Nyx working together was wonderful!). But the incongruous scenes combined with Bishop’s tendency to state the same line several times were a bit distracting.

As with the previous books, this volume completes a story arc but not the series. I don’t know how many books this series will have but I am hoping it continues for quite awhile. I eagerly await each volume and once started, have a hard time putting it down even to eat. Other than the nitpicks above, this was yet another enjoyable entrant into a great and original series.

Reviewed from an ARC provided by the publisher.


Teaching Kids to Think: Raising Confident, Independent, and Thoughtful Children in an Age of Instant Gratification
Teaching Kids to Think: Raising Confident, Independent, and Thoughtful Children in an Age of Instant Gratification
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book!, March 3, 2015
Teaching Kids to Think is an intelligently written answer to the problem of the IGG - Instant Gratification Generation of children. The authors have clearly thought out not only the advice they will give but also the presentation of it; it makes the book easy to use but also reference again as kids age. Most interesting is a quick questionnaire in the beginning; I think many parents will identify with the mistakes they are making as evidenced by the answers.

The book breaks down as follows: Chapter 1: Parent traps; Chapter 2: Missed opportunities when parents rescue their children; Chapter 3: Make no mistake about it: everyone makes mistakes; Chapter 4: Understanding developmental stages; Chapter 5: Take advantage of critical periods of brain development; Chapter 6: Ivy league or bust: are we providing children what they really need to succeed?; Chapter 7: The phones might be smart but what about us?; Chapter 8: The trouble with technology: video games, social networking, and television; Chapter 9: Athletics provides more than just fun; Chapter 10: Why drugs and alcohol are so appealing; Chapter 11: Will you child be ready to launch?; Chapter 12: Parents have grown accustomed to instant gratification, too; Chapter 13: Lessons learned.

As can be seen from the list above, quite a few topics are covered. The tone is conversational and the information presented very accessible and easy to digest. Each chapter contains an introduction to an issue and usually includes real life examples from the authors' practices. They then discuss the problems in depth. At the end of each chapter, the points are summarized at the end with a section called "Putting It All Together." That section breaks down by The Issue, The Trap, and The Alternative

The authors identify five traps that affect parents today: The rescue trap (parents rescue their children from their problems); The hurried trap (parents meet their children's needs quickly, not requiring them to be patient and wait); The pressure trap (parents push children forward too fast); The giving trap (parents give children something without them earning it); and The guilt trap (parents react impulsively because they feel guilty or unsure). These are discussed throughout the book and the consequences of falling into these traps provide the basis for many of the chapters.

What I like about the book is that it doesn't talk down to parents or try to use logic to trump the emotional reasons why helicopter parenting is so prevalent. Rather, the authors are quick to point out why parents do the things they do but also gently lead them toward a firmer solution to parenting. More than simply presenting tips and lambasting poor parenting, there is the knowledge of why parents are failing and that is used to show a better way.

There is very good information in here and I especially appreciate the time and care that has gone into the book. It is an easy read but also an important one. There's no lecturing of parents but the authors are appropriately stern on the importance of not helicoptering our kids into helplessness. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


Seraph of the End, Vol. 4: Vampire Reign
Seraph of the End, Vol. 4: Vampire Reign
Price: $5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Getting Into the Action, March 3, 2015
This fourth volume concludes the first story arc of Seraph of the End. Up to this point, we were given background information and a study of the characters. But with this book, the darker side of the story comes to bear and the ambiguity of just who really is the evil of the story - the vampires or the humans - emerges.

Story: The Japanese Imperial Army is making a stand at Shinjuku - hoping to hold off the vampires and not lose territory. But as Guren and then the others go down, all hope appears to be lost. But Guren has a bigger plan - and what appears to be a loss might actually be a huge set back for the vampires. For Yuichiro is more than just a cursed blade wielder; he is the ultimate experiment known as the seraph of the end.

Differing greatly from the light novels, which featured a lot more of the apocalyptic earlier history side of the story, the manga continues the action but with a focus on the characters. Before setting off a chain of events that will take the story to a very dark place, we've had a 'breather' period to get to know Yuichiro's friends and why he wants to protect them. As well, Mika's side and that he hasn't been turned into a mindless evil bloodsucker; rather, he's caught in the middle of the vampire/human war, burdened by the knowledge of the evil happening on both sides. Where Yuichiro is the muscle, Mika is the heart. And it looks like it will take the talents of both in order to make the world right again.

Several very-needed nuances were added to the story this volume. Going into the book, I was getting a bit bored - endless battles with a fairly superficial and obvious plot. But that ended midway when Mika finally encountered Yichiro. Suddenly, we have special-sauce pills, experimentation, and a romance (with Shinoa). As well, we are given many hints, both by Mika and by the other vampires, that the real evil might actually be the desperation (read: greed) of the humans and not the vampires themselves. It will be interesting to see where the author takes it from here.

The art remains somewhat simplistic and is perhaps the thing I like least about the story. Everyone looks around 10 years old, including the demons. But this is a minor quibble as the story intensifies.

Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars
Heir to the Jedi: Star Wars
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $11.84

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs More, March 3, 2015
A part of the new canon of Star Wars, this novel takes place a bit after A New Hope and gives us a Luke Skywalker at a time when he was still more unsophisticated farm boy than Jedi knight. The premise is simple - Luke is given a mission to rescue an analyst intending to defect from Empire to the Alliance. Along for the ride we get a new female protagonist, Nakari. Familiar characters (other than R2-D2) only appear in cameo roles.

The book reads like a Sunday morning cartoon with a very simple, linear plot. Our crew travels to new planets which all appear interesting; I thought each time that planet would be where we finally got into the plot of the book. That never happened and the story kept hopping from place to place, giving each only a brief experience of the world before moving on. After awhile, I realized a professional editor could have cut out whole sections of the book without really affecting the plot. There is a feeling that the author had several great ideas for locations and wanted to cram them all into this one book. We get a special ops section, an alien section, some bounty hunter action, a math species and some space combat thrown as well.

The description of Luke feels real enough, even if his youth is a bit forced at times. Our new protagonist Nakari is, unfortunately, flat and doesn't really garner interest which takes away from the (a surprise to none) ending.

In the end this is not a bad book, but ultimately forgettable. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


Careers
Careers
by DK Publishing
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.46
26 used & new from $8.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Well Done!, March 3, 2015
This review is from: Careers (Paperback)
DK Published has managed a nearly impossible feat here: they've created a book that is packed full of information but also inviting and friendly. A perfect synthesis of hard and soft presentation to create a very useful and incredible usable guidebook suitable for teens and tweens.

The book is color coded by job type and includes many disciplines: health and medicine; sports, leisure, and tourism; security and emergency services; construction; transportation; arts, crafts, design; performing arts, media, and journalism; sales, marketing, and advertising; administration and business management; finance, law, politics; information technology and computing; science and research; animals, farming, and the environment; engineering and manufacturing.

Each of the above disciplines give information on several job types. E.g., Animals, Farming, and the Environment has job descriptions for: veterinarian, animal care worker, zookeeper, farm manager, horticultural worker, landscape architect, ecologist. This allows the child to see the different aspects of working in that field and gravitate toward one that appeal most are for which they are best suited.

Each job has a career path journey graphically laid out with important aspects including personality needs, parent or role model influence, type of eduction received, internship, grades, after school jobs, future financial goals, where the tween lives, etc. It's a good reminder that no career is gifted - it takes work and dedication as well as many other factors to secure a desired job.

There is also an 'understanding yourself' checklist to help readers find careers of interest. This includes call out boxes on personal qualities, circumstances, skills, interests, subjects, motivators, etc. It's great for tweens/teens who haven't gravitated to a career goal yet.

There is also a section on taking action while in school to find out more about careers of interest. This includes setting goals, seeking advice, research, volunteering, and more. What it entails when actually going out and getting the job is also presented - again very graphically and intelligently.

Each section of careers/job disciplines are color coded for easy reference. There is a description, salary caps, industry profile, related careers, checklist call out box to see if it would be suitable for the reader, career paths, and skills guide. All beautifully laid out and easy to follow.

This could easily have been pretty to look at but not very useful. But in checking out the section on my particular career area (professional photographer), I was highly impressed with the relevance and accuracy of the job descriptions, salary expectations, and career paths. There were many places the editors could have got it very wrong if they had not looked into the careers in depth. But they got it all right - from the need for self promotion and management skills to the usefulness of internships. It was all right on the money for my husband's career as well.

This is the type of book that is so well presented, it really should be at every junior high school in America. But it is also very useful and practical as a place to begin discussions of career choices in middle and high school. It's a book presented for the reader but without pandering or oversimplification. The graphics do more than pretty up the text - they categorize, order, and clarify the information presented.

This is one book I highly recommend - one of the most intelligently presented, relevant, and accurate non fiction children's books I've read in a long time. Reviewed from an advance readers copy supplied by the publisher.


Death Marked (Death Sworn)
Death Marked (Death Sworn)
by Leah Cypess
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.21
45 used & new from $9.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Not An Expected Ending - Which Is A Good Thing!, March 3, 2015
I had greatly enjoyed Death Sworn last year; finally we had a YA protagonist in a dangerous situation and she was thinking about survival intelligently rather than swoony handsome assassin boys who protect her. In this second and final book in the series, Magic-less Ileni will see the other side of the story: the real Empire she has been raised to fear and revile all her years. Where the first book was about coming to terms with her loss of magic and surviving the Assassin enclave, Dearth Marked is very much about the Imperial sorcerers: Ilena will grow quite a bit and realize she still has a lot to learn about the true nature of life.

Story: Ileni had left the Assassin enclave - freed by Sorin after she killed the Master. But Karyn wasn't through with her and kidnaps her outside the caves; Ileni wakes up in the Imperial Sorcerer school. Karyn wants vital information about the Assassins and Ileni want to survive - together they will dance around each other as they are both caught up in very real betrayals, infiltration, and politics. As she learns more about the sorcerers, she discovers she really didn't know both sides of the war at all - and it is starting to look very much like both were very wrong. Caught in a tug of ware between both sides, who can she trust if even her own faith is shaken?

Many people will likely be frustrated by the lack of clear ending; but really, it was never about Ileni changing the course of a world or overturning governments. Cypess' books are very much about a journey of change and self discovery - it's a meditation on the voyage and not the destination. Because of this, she neatly sidesteps so many tired YA fantasy/dystopian tropes. The book isn't about a romance, isn't about a unique snowflake, and it isn't about moustache twirling evil monsters that she must kill. Nor, fortunately, is it about romance or the love story. For while there is a light romance in the story, the ending makes it clear that Ileni is defined by so much more than the men with whom she becomes involved.

Several new characters are introduced, some old ones return, and together they form the impetus of the story. Each was distinct and none were cardboard characters. I think the only weakness in the book was Karyn - she was a bit too eager to stick her hand in the flame in order to win Ileni over to the Imperial side. Fortunately, because both the Assassins and the Imperials (and even the Renegai - her tribe) were heavily flawed, the ending definitely made a lot of sense. And by keeping the series to two books, Cypess has the luxury of focusing on the journey but without boring or tiring out the reader.

Those that did not fully enjoy the first book would likely not enjoy Death Marked. It is slow in the middle since it is all about giving the time needed for Ileni to recognize and then be forced to reconsider her perception of the Imperials. That said, this is the perfect two sides of the same coin - the view from the Assassins and the view from the Imperials as seen from a neutral third party. I appreciated the intelligent writing and heroine who actually thinks rather than reacts or overacts. Both Death books were an antidote to the silliness of the typical YA novel. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


Chaos Station
Chaos Station
Price: $2.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decently Written, March 2, 2015
This review is from: Chaos Station (Kindle Edition)
Chaos Station is a decently written sci fi mostly focusing on the romance between main characters Zander and Felix. Interesting side characters and a focus on story over romance make this one of the better reads in the M/M genre.

Story: A team of elite soldiers fought a terrifying alien enemy. One was captured and killed, two were put into an experimental super soldier program and went deep undercover, and the others eventually drifted their own way. Now that the war is over Zander, one of the experimental, hopes to save his friend and former teammate (and also experimented upon), Emma. He hires a merc ship to take him to a station and her last known whereabouts and on that ship he finds Flick - The teammate he thought killed when captured, the man he loved above all others. But what Zander can't tell Flick is that he is not the same man as the past - the experimentation altered him to fight the alien menace but ruined him in the process. And as for Flick - life as a prisoner of an alien species wrought its own personal hell upon him as well. As they race to save Emma, it may be themselves that are most in need of redemption.

The authors have done a great job of giving us a well fleshed out story with a clear arc. As well, this is more than two 'hot guys getting in on' all the time. The focus is much more on the romance aspect than on the sex (which I always appreciate). There is a suitable amount of angst but the crux of the story is finding Emma.

I really enjoyed the side characters; for once the female characters weren't annoying but really added to the story. Add in an alien pilot (could have used more of her in the story) and a sympathetic captain, and the plot was very well rounded.

What kept this from being a higher rating were the names - Zed, Flick, Fixer, Zander, etc. They were annoying enough to keep drawing me out of the moment.

I look forward to reading more in this universe and heartily recommend this for M/M romance fans. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


Help Your Child to Thrive: Making the Best of a Struggling Public Education System
Help Your Child to Thrive: Making the Best of a Struggling Public Education System
by Liane Brouillette
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.51
11 used & new from $9.43

3.0 out of 5 stars VERY Theoretical and Academic, February 28, 2015
Help Your Child To Thrive is a treatise exploring the issues of the public school system in the United States and how it affects children. Problems such as belonging, bullying, and other soft issues are discussed through other writing and pop culture. But a rambling narrative and over reliance on other sources make the book feel more like a college dissertation than a practical ideas book. Author Brouillette pulls all punches and rarely makes a strong statement or impact. This passivity of writing render too many of the points impotent.

Typically, I would list a table of contents here - but the book rambles so incoherently as to make me throw up my hands in frustration and give that up. From a parents' standpoint, it meanders around movies and tv shows as metaphors without focusing on any age group (to me, one of the most important ways this book should have been classified). As such, I didn't find a lot for parents in here. Conversely, since so many points are regurgitated studies or summarizations from other authors, I don't know how useful this is to educators. I kept looking for Brouillette's point or voice and never found anything definitive said by her.

Most frustrating was the constant referencing of movies and how their popularity is explained by kids' frustrations with public schools. E.g., Harry Potter was popular because Harry is a modern day cinderella who has to fight class systems just like in middle school. Star Wars was popular because Annakin had to decide whether to use the Force for good or evil - just like kids have the choice to use facebook and other social media for good or evil. To get to those points, we have to slog through 3-5 pages of plot summarization and then what honestly feel like simplistic deconstructions forced into an illogical mold simply to further a point (i.e., pounding a square peg into a round hole). 15 pages into the Star Wars discussion and I was thinking of chewing off my own hand so my Kindle would drop and go away.

Honestly, it became difficult to take the book seriously; though written by a professional, I too often felt this was an academic discussion suitable for junior college students or a student end of semester paper using movies to demonstrate issues in public schools. Nothing ever became concrete, useful, or anything I felt I could take serious outside of theoretical classroom material. It was all so disconnected from reality and academic. I have to wonder if perhaps I was the wrong audience and this is meant for students. Reviewed from an advance reader copy.


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