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The Old Man and The Sea
The Old Man and The Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.78
731 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A book doesn't have to be long to be a worthy classic, September 19, 2014
He is an old man who has gone more than 80 days without making a catch. He departs alone from him small Cuban coastal village in a tiny skiff and heads far out to sea in search of a majestic fish, one that will show that is luck has changed.

In "The Old Man and the Sea," Hemmingway has produced a beautiful insight into human nature and the relationship between humanity and nature. It also reveals the inherent goodness of people and their willingness and ability to help and care for each other.

It's been a LONG time since I read this book, so long in fact that when I made inward the end of reading my paperback copy, pages started to fall out right and left. Nevertheless I shepherded them back into place and pushed on...driven to see the resolution of the old man's challenge. Would he succeed? Would be survive? Read and find out.

I highly recommend this book to readers aged 12-99.

5 solid stars.


The Kill Order (Maze Runner, Prequel) (The Maze Runner Series)
The Kill Order (Maze Runner, Prequel) (The Maze Runner Series)
by James Dashner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.49
101 used & new from $3.26

4.0 out of 5 stars An equally mystery-filled tale to "The Maze Runner" where many more questions are raised than answered, September 19, 2014
So what happened before the Glade and before the Maze and before children were sent there to try to solve a terrible riddle? People were going about their business on a day probably like today when massive solar flares swept the planet frying people where they stood, destroying infrastructure, governments, and most aspects of civilization.

This experience is viewed through the eyes of a teenaged boy who survived the disaster by happening to be in the subway in NYC at the time. In this book, Dashner tells two tales simultaneously. He tells the tale of what survivors of the devastation have to do to survive and the tale of what happened and how the boy and his associates survived, or not.

The writing doesn't get in the way of the storytelling, and some of the unknowns raised in "The Maze Runner" are explained. There are, however, many more questions that are raised that are not resolved in this book or the next installment, "The Maze Runner."

I had expected that this book would knit the events in "The Kill Order" together with those of "The Maze Runner", but I was again a bit disappointed. Even so, this is another page turner, a fun and engaging read. For that reason I'm still willing to assign 4 stars instead of 3.


The Maze Runner (Book 1)
The Maze Runner (Book 1)
by James Dashner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.49
192 used & new from $4.55

4.0 out of 5 stars Dashner is adept at writing a yarn that keeps you turning the pages but reveals close to nothing about what is really going on, September 19, 2014
I was intrigued by the trailer for the upcoming movie release of this title, so I decided to read the book before seeing the movie.

OK, this is a fast read. I polished it off in two sittings, not something I usually do. One of the reasons I pushed ahead as quickly as I did was that there were many, many questions that I looked forward to learning the answers to. I have to say that while a few answers were provided, eventually, Dashner is adept at hooking and keeping a reader on the line, turning the pages eager to see what might happen next, but reveals virtually nothing about what is going on. OK, OK, I know that this is the first book in a series, but normally I expect that some of the major story lines and unknowns will be resolved while others remain open to allow the story to continue. In this case, however, I have to say that the vast majority of the lines remained unresolved at the end. Wham! I felt like I was dropped stone cold with yet more questions and few answers.

I wondered enough about the background that I read "The Kill Order", prequel to "The Maze Runner." His pattern of raising questions and not answering appears to be a pattern. That's OK, this was a fun read even though I wish there was more resolution.

The last time I felt this high and dry when I finished a book was when I read "The Fellowship of the Ring" for the first time. Bam, it was done. But one difference was that the Lord of the Rings was written as one book and editors demanded that it be sold in three separate volumes. This book, however, was only a couple of hundred pages long and probably didn't have that same stipulation.

Will I read the rest of the series? Only time will tell.

3-4 stars, but I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt and assign 4.


OXO Good Grips Jar Spatula, White
OXO Good Grips Jar Spatula, White
Price: $6.99
11 used & new from $6.21

5.0 out of 5 stars You get what you pay for when it comes to spatulas, and lots of other things..., September 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Most of the spatulas we've had around our place lately are the ones you grab off of a rack and shell out a buck or two to take it home. Sadly those spatulas, while they do an OK job, often don't last that long or really work all that well. This is not the case for this OXO good grips wonder spatula, you pay a little more and get a lot in return.

Plusses:
1) The handle is rubberized and large enough to be quite comfortable in my hand.
2) The shape of the tip allows you to easily scrape the bottom and top edges of a jar, getting every last bit of mayo, jam, etc.
3) The inner support of the tip provides sufficient support so you can really scrape away.
4) I like to scoop with the concave side and spread with the convex side :-)

Minuses:
Seriously, I'm still looking for one. I'd happy pay $7 for another. Who knows? Christmas is coming.

All in all a great spatula.

How do I know it's really that good? It's the one that's always in the dishwasher - it's everyone at our house's top draft pick when it's time to scoop and scrape.

Easily 5 solid stars


Final Epidemic: A Beck Casey Thriller
Final Epidemic: A Beck Casey Thriller
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A completely gratuitous scene and a conclusion that wrapped things up a little quickly and nicely means 3 stars IMO, September 11, 2014
By now you probably know the premise...take a zealous religious cult, a deadly weaponized virus, a former CIA specialist on terrorism, his ex-wife, their teenaged daughter, a Russian spy, a female FBI agent, a Russian assassin, terrible deliberate outbreaks of the disease, stir well and you've got the "Final Epidemic."

If you're not exactly sure how this plays out, the first part is much like "World War Z" but without the zombies...in other words a scenario that is actually able to happen. How would major world powers react if a highly virulent, highly fatal virus was released on them? The latter part of the book seems less about the outbreak and more about spy v spy. That's OK, but personally I'd like to have heard more about the virus.

All in all the book was a solid 4 stars, maybe even 5 until near the end when, call me a prude, the author or the editor felt compelled to include (IMO) a completely gratuitous and perhaps even pornographic scene...why do they do this? Sigh. Combine that with and ending that again IMO is wrapped up a little too quickly and a little too neatly to suit the main theme of the book.

The 4-5 star possibility dropped for me to a 2-3 star offering. I'm going to round up and go with 3 stars, I did like it for the most part. I didn't really like it or love it, I just liked it.


OXO Good Grips 6-Piece Plastic Measuring Spoons with added Scraper
OXO Good Grips 6-Piece Plastic Measuring Spoons with added Scraper
Price: $4.99
2 used & new from $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars They separate like pop-beads, nifty!, September 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A nice, useful set of measuring spoons from 1/8 tsp to 1 Tsp. These spoons have a small rubberized handle that makes them easy to grip and use. They are attached to each other much like pop-beads. They can be snapped apart and then back together as desired.

When I ordered this set of measuring spoons I didn't quite know what to expect when it said that individual spoons can be easily removed. This sounded much like a plastic version of a set of metal spoons that my mother has that are joined with a wire loop and couldn't be separated. At first I couldn't see how the spoons could separate since a gentle tug had little effect. Then, however, I decided to pull like I meant it and they simply popped apart. Viola. Separation.

There is also a plastic handle with a hook that can us used to hand the spoons as desired.

All in all, this is a great set of spoons for around the kitchen.

5 stars


A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age
A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age
by William Manchester
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.00
710 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Man, how do I rate this experience?, August 27, 2014
Words that describe Manchester's view of Medieval times include dark, violent, oppressive, stagnant, ignorant, and promiscuous...always promiscuous. Was it just me or did it seem like every other page went on and on about how promiscuous the peasantry through the Vatican were. In any case, I have no basis to refute what Manchester wrote, I'm sure that the dark ages were a time of poverty, danger, fear, oppression, sickness, submission willing and otherwise to Church authority, a lack of inquisitiveness, and a time of inquisition.

I have not read much about the dark ages, but this book and Monty Python's Holy Grail match up quite nicely...not that that matters, but still, it was an interesting though not a very happy experience.

Would I recommend it? Hm, that's a toughie. I was actually given my copy by my mother-in-law.

I'm glad I read it and I'm glad to be done. Thank goodness Magellan's voyage was successful and the reality of the shape of the world started to shake things up...along with Galileo, Copernicus, Luther, Henry VIII, and a host of others.

3 stars


ViewSonic PJD6544W WXGA 1280x800 DLP Projector with LAN Control, Wired and Wireless LAN Display (Black)
ViewSonic PJD6544W WXGA 1280x800 DLP Projector with LAN Control, Wired and Wireless LAN Display (Black)
Price: $723.75
40 used & new from $529.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Versatile projector, small enough for portable use, powerful enough for a theater room., August 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This ViewSonic has a lot going for it. It is lightweight and has a relatively small footprint. It could be used easily as a portable carry along for business or sales presentations. Its 3500 lumens is powerful enough to be seen easily in even a lighted room.

I compared this projector to an Epson VS310 for the purposes of review. Here's how they stack up against each other:

Brightness - both do great in dimmed rooms, but the ViewSonic has a small edge in lit rooms.

Portability - The Epson has the edge here. It has a recessed lens with sliding plastic cover for protection and is slightly smaller than the ViewSonic. The ViewSonic has a lens that extends from the front of the housing and there is no lens cover, a negative for portability.

Input options - The ViewSonic is the clear winner here. It has jacks for composite audio and video, S-video, 2 computer ports, a monitor out port, ad HDMI port, mini-USB, Firewire port, LAN port, and it also accepts a wireless signal (though I didn't test this option since I have no plans to use it this way). The Epson on the other hand has only composite in jacks, one computer port, and a Firewire port.

Controls - The controls on the ViewSonic come across as being more intuitive than on the Epson, the same goes for the remote.

Aesthetics - my preference is for the Espon, I prefer the rounded look to the boxy ViewSonic's housing.

Heat and blower noise. The ViewSonic puts out much more heat and has a slightly louder blower than the Epson.

The ViewSonic stacks up well against the Epson, with particularly more options for inputs.

There is currently a slight price advantage that favors the Epson, but these are definitely in a similar price range, the $700s.

If you are looking for a projector for teaching or business, I think that either one could work well. The increased flexibility of input options for the ViewSonic however gives it the edge when it comes to watching movies and other personal uses.

All in all a 5-star item.


Hollywood Racks Trail Rider Hitch Rack
Hollywood Racks Trail Rider Hitch Rack
Price: $184.05
5 used & new from $179.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice alternative to racks where the bikes hang from the rack...but "lightweight!?", August 14, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been watching and waiting for a chance to check out a hitch-mounted bike rack that differs from the popular type where the two metal rods project rearward and bikes hang on them via their frames. Those frames work well on larger standard shaped frames, but not so much for small bikes or for bikes with a girl's frame.

This rack is able to accommodate pretty much any size or style of bike. You can easily adjust the tire wells to accommodate all kinds and sizes of bikes. I found though, that while hauling mountain bikes with wider handlebars that I have to have them facing different directions. For road bikes, no problem, they can face the same way.

Anyway, the weight of the bikes rest on the tire wells, but bikes are secured in place by foam rubber covered metal hooks that slide up and down as needed on a vertical post. These hooks come down on the bike frame's crossbar. There are also velcro straps that secure the tires into their wells.

The rack also anchors securely into a hitch. It is secured there by a LARGE bolt. That rack's not going anywhere when the nut is secured. It can fit in either larger and smaller standard sized hitch openings.

Those are all plusses.

I was surprised however when I saw that this rack is advertised as being "lightweight". Eh!? I've had other bike racks, all of which are lighter than this one. This one weighs in at around 40 pounds. This may be light for a hitch mounted rack, but it's WAY heavier than strap-mounted racks.

All in all this is a solid rack. It can accommodate only two bikes, but that's OK if that's all you need to haul. It's great at what it does.

Oh, it also folds up for storage. When completely folded up it is 38" long 32" tall and 9" wide. I don't know about you, but I just don't have many shelves that big in my garage. Anyway, that's the scoop there.

I am reducing my score by one star for the following reasons: 1) it's much heavier than I expected - 40 lbs doesn't qualify as "lightweight" in my book, and 2) though it folds down it's still quite large, bulky, and difficult to find someplace to store. Also 3) the mechanism securing the wheel wells in place on the horizontal bars are not as robust as I would like - they don't seem to tighten as well as I'd prefer, and 4) I would much prefer a buckle strap or a rubber strap to the velcro straps used to secure a bike's tires to the frame.

A solid performer - I like it! 4 solid stars.


Mccormick Gluten-Free, Turkey Gravy, 0.88 Ounce (Pack of 12)
Mccormick Gluten-Free, Turkey Gravy, 0.88 Ounce (Pack of 12)

5.0 out of 5 stars Gluten-free does not equal taste-free, August 14, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I think that sometimes we read the label "gluten free" and associate that with other labels like sugar free or salt free, and think, hm, gluten free...that must mean that it's also taste-free, taste-reduced, or otherwise tast-limited.

I usually eat potatoes mainly during the winter, but I wanted to try the product so I whipped up some mashed potatoes (one of my favorite foods BTW) and topped it with this gravy plus some butter. My verdict - mighty tasty!

This gravy is a 5-star offering (in that I can't tell the difference between this kind and McCormick's gravy that contains gluten).

5 stars.


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