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Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)
Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)
by R. L. LaFevers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.78
71 used & new from $8.06

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent end to an excellent series, November 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is one of the best third-in-a-trilogy books I've read. Each book focuses on a different character, which obviously keeps the series fresh in a way that others grow stale - but each book individually is excellent as well. This one focuses on Annith, yet another handmaiden of death from the convent of St. Mortain. Annith appears briefly in the first two books, and I didn't particularly care for her - but in this book her story deepens and her character unfolds and I ended up rooting for her just as much as the others. There isn't much to say about the plot without spoiling it - but this book, like the others, is very much about coming of age and finding one's place in the world (in this case, 15th-century Brittany - albeit a version where young ladies train to be assassins and the old gods still hold sway). There's plenty of action, a slew of kickass female characters (including Ismae and Sybella from the earlier books) and, of course, a dash of romance. The romantic subplots never drive the story, though, which is something I adore about this series. There's romance without the books *being* romances. They're just as much about honor and friendship and self-reliance and faith...and all the ways to kill a man with nothing but a hairpin.


Schleich Tyrannosaurus Rex
Schleich Tyrannosaurus Rex
Offered by Wigglish
Price: $23.62
39 used & new from $16.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Top-notch T-Rex, November 4, 2014
This review is from: Schleich Tyrannosaurus Rex (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This little gal (I've decided mine is female) is great! Like all the other Schleich figures I've come across, she's incredibly detailed, beautifully painted, and very well-crafted. She's also very solid (maybe a little too heavy for younger kids? I weighed her on my food scale and she comes in at 9.9 oz, so well over half a pound). As others have mentioned, the talons are fairly sharp as well (for plastic), so while the tag says Ages 3+ I'd be careful with the younger ones... My favorite detail is the hinged jaw - most Schleich figures don't have movable parts, so that was a nice surprise. Tyra, as I have named her, lives on my desk at work and guards the candy bowl. Can't wait to get her some friends (the Therizinosaurus in particular looks amazing!).


Black and Decker EHC750BD 3-Cup Ergo Chopper, Black
Black and Decker EHC750BD 3-Cup Ergo Chopper, Black
Offered by BuyDBest Inc.
Price: $24.99
5 used & new from $24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great for salsas, pesto, hummus, etc., October 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is great for small, quick jobs (I've used it to make vinaigrette, salsa, hummus, and pesto). I also have a 4-cup mini processor from Cuisinart, which I use often (or used to!), but this chopper is just so much easier to get out and use and clean. The motor is in the top piece, so you just dump your stuff into the bowl, hold the top on, and hit the button. No clicking things into place or wrestling with parts. You also can take the rubber bottom piece off and use it as a lid, if you want to store whatever's in the bowl. All in all, a great little tool (for my purposes - I do all my straight up vegetable chopping by hand, so I can't really speak to that). The only potential drawback is that the max liquid amount is about 1.25 cups (it's marked on the side of the bowl), so this isn't suitable for smoothies, large batches of salad dressing, etc.


We All Looked Up
We All Looked Up
by Tommy Wallach
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.21

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular, October 3, 2014
This review is from: We All Looked Up (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is The Breakfast Club for a new generation (but instead of detention, it's the impending apocalypse that brings everyone together). When the world finds out that an asteroid is on course to collide with Earth and annihilate all life in just a few weeks (surprise!), the lives of four very different teenagers (the Athlete, the Slut, the Slacker and the Overachiever) collide as well. The science is ridiculous (no one knew about the asteroid earlier because it was "hiding" behind Jupiter for a gazillion years), but it's also not the point. This isn't sci-fi, and it isn't about the end of the world. It's about love and friendship, dreams and expectations, struggle and triumph, hope and despair. The POV rotates between the four teens, and I thought each character was wonderfully developed. Yes, they are stereotypes to some degree, but what's remarkable is how the author unravels those stereotypes and reveals how alike the characters are, despite their obvious differences. There's a bit of mysticism/fatalism at play (lots of references to Vonnegut's "karass"), but it doesn't matter whether or not these kids were "meant" to come together. What matters is that they did, and in the face of death, they taught each other to live. Highly recommended for teens, especially anyone struggling with identity, expectations, or their place in the world.


Colgate Optic White Platinum, White and Radiant, 3.4 Ounce (Pack of 6)
Colgate Optic White Platinum, White and Radiant, 3.4 Ounce (Pack of 6)
Price: $20.94
4 used & new from $20.94

3.0 out of 5 stars No noticeable whitening, September 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been using this for several weeks now and my teeth have not been "deeply whitened more than three shades" (I know because I have that little color swatch that comes with whitestrips and I noted my shade before and after - it's the same). So this is not any more whitening than all the other whitening toothpastes I've tried in the past. I also am not a fan of the "crystal mint" flavor - it's sort of a wintermint, which is not my favorite. All in all, it's a pretty average toothpaste and I wouldn't recommend paying any extra for the whitening claims.


The Bone Clocks: A Novel
The Bone Clocks: A Novel
by David Mitchell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.00
115 used & new from $13.35

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, but still better than the rest, September 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I will read anything David Mitchell writes. He is an immensely gifted storyteller. There are passages in this book where he relays some minor character's third cousin's ancestor's backstory going back a thousand years, and every one of these passages is enthralling enough to become its own novel. It makes me want to dig through his trash for all the bits and paragraphs and pages that didn't make the cut. So if you're wondering if this is worth the read, it unequivocally is.

Like Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks is comprised of six interconnected stories - but whereas Cloud Atlas is *about* that interconnectedness, the beauty and magic of it, here the characters and stories are connected by forces of good and evil. Their interconnectedness is literally "scripted." In that sense this was a lot less enchanting than Cloud Atlas for me. Everything that happens is part of some cosmic battle between two groups of immortal bodysnatchers, and the human characters are just pawns in this war. They have no agency. Their triumphs are orchestrated, their tragedies collateral damage. It felt sadly fatalistic - not the beautiful and mysterious kismet of Cloud Atlas, but something more hopeless and resigned. I don't know if this is the way Mitchell meant to write it, but it's the way I experienced it.

I also found the book as a whole to be somewhat rambling and disorderly. A couple of the individual novellas felt sloppy and unfinished, and one of them was way too long - the one about the novelist having a midlife crisis, which Mitchell says he wrote a lot of himself into. Perhaps this was just a necessary exercise for him, or some sort of literary exorcism, but it was my least favorite section and the one I found most confusing - I never really understood what the novelist's fate had to do with the larger plot, even though it was supposed to be some huge catalyst.

Grumblings aside, David Mitchell at his worst is better than 90% of everything else I read, so I do highly recommend this!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2014 9:02 PM PST


100 Sideways Miles
100 Sideways Miles
by Andrew Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.21
67 used & new from $7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky and convincing coming of age, August 13, 2014
This review is from: 100 Sideways Miles (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Fantastic coming of age novel written in a fresh, authentic voice. The main character, Finn, struggles with all the typical teenage anxieties - school, friendship, parents, young love - but it's the quirky details that really drew me in (e.g. a horse fell from the sky and left him epileptic and now he measures time in miles). The story may be whimsical and far-fetched (which I loved about it), but the characters are very real and the author writes incredibly convincing teenage dialogue. Granted, I'm a couple decades removed from my teenage years - but I read a lot of YA and I'm hard-pressed to find a 17-year-old who doesn't sound more like 37. I especially love Finn's best friend, Cade; he's funny and foul-mouthed and vulgar and clever - a delinquent delight. Highly recommend.


Station Eleven: A novel
Station Eleven: A novel
by Emily St. John Mandel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.97
56 used & new from $13.75

170 of 181 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survival is insufficient, July 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a beautiful, haunting novel about the end of the world as we know it (thanks to something called the Georgia flu, which wipes out 99% of the world's population in mere days). The story jumps back and forth between the time before and after "the collapse," and the narration rotates through various characters' points of view. Though the premise (plague apocalypse) sounds sci-fi, Station Eleven is light on the science and heavy on the philosophy. It's definitely much more about how the apocalypse affects humanity and civilization than it is about the details of the apocalypse. If you're familiar with survivalist stories like S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, this is basically the inverse of that. The author isn't concerned with where people are getting their food and fresh water twenty years post-apocalypse. She's more into the tragic beauty of a fleet of jumbo jets that haven't flown in decades lined up neatly on a runway in the falling snow.

That brings us to one of the main themes of this tale, "survival is insufficient." Taken from a Star Trek episode, the phrase is the motto of the Traveling Symphony, a ragtag band of musicians and actors who roam what's left of the Midwest, playing classical music and performing Shakespeare. The ability to create and appreciate art, they believe, is essential to our humanity. It's what takes us beyond mere survival and makes us something more than animals. I loved this part of the book, how the little settlements of people living in Walmarts and gas stations would rush out to hear Beethoven, tears streaming down their faces. This is one of my favorite angles of post-apocalyptic fiction - once we've figured out how to survive, how do we learn to LIVE again? What exactly is it that makes us human? How do we go about redefining humanity, rebuilding civilization?

The author also touches on the enduring power of art and storytelling, and the ways in which stories connect us all. Beyond the Beethoven and the Shakespeare, there's a comic book called Station Eleven that features prominently (and also gives the novel its name). It was written, somewhat randomly, by the first wife of a very famous Hollywood actor. She wrote the comic for herself and published only two copies, which end up in the hands of two of the main characters post-apocalypse. The comics have a profound impact on both characters (so the obscure art of the obscure ex-wife endures because art is forever, while the Hollywood actor is forgotten because who cares about Hollywood after the end of the world). The stories of the two characters in possession of the comics are mostly separate, though absolutely intertwined - as are ALL of the characters' stories. One of the most amazing aspects of this novel is how all of the characters are connected, both pre- and post-collapse. I kept waiting for many of them to cross paths and realize their connection, their shared stories. Some did, and some didn't - the latter bothered me at first, until I realized that's the way the world works. We're all woven into the same giant tapestry, whether we see the individual threads or not. That, along with King Lear and Beethoven's 9th and unheard-of graphic novels about being stranded in space, is the beauty of humankind.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2014 9:30 PM PST


Rooms: A Novel
Rooms: A Novel
by Lauren Oliver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.76
99 used & new from $12.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More human story than ghost story, July 18, 2014
This review is from: Rooms: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A wealthy man dies, and his ex-wife and two estranged children come looking for their inheritance. The narration rotates between the ex-wife, the children, a grandchild, and two ghosts also "living" in the house. Though there are ghosts in the story, it's really not a "ghost story." I would call it a story about the human condition. All of the characters, with the exception of the grandchild because she's only six, are unhappy and bitter and lonely and mean and generally just the most miserable, awful, screwed-up people on the planet. If you're up for an intense character study of some incredibly unlikable people (a couple of them dead), dive on in. It's amazing. But if you're looking for a spooky supernatural tale, this isn't it. The ghosts are way more cranky than they are scary.

I am a huge Lauren Oliver fan but had no idea what to expect from her first "adult" novel. The narrators took some getting used to (both their abundance and their wretchedness), and I had a particularly hard time differentiating between the two ghosts and keeping their stories straight even though they're very different women from very different eras. At first I thought this was lack of character development, which I see some other reviewers complaining about here, but as the story unfolded I began to suspect that Oliver doesn't focus on what individuates her characters because she's more interested in what makes them (and us) the same. On the surface this is a story about a group of individuals and their individual dramas, but underneath it's about a bunch of people all playing out the SAME drama. Every character is mired in the past and needs to let go/move on. In all different ways and for all different reasons, but they have this in common. So while I get that some readers wanted a more involved or focused story with more fleshed-out characters, I don't think that's what the author set out to do. I think she had something universal to say about human nature, and I think she did it brilliantly (with ghosts and drunks and sex addicts, because why not).


The Supernatural Enhancements
The Supernatural Enhancements
by Edgar Cantero
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.71
76 used & new from $9.45

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Messy, clever and strange, June 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a clever, somewhat bizarre supernatural mystery that immediately reminded me of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves in that it's a) a mystery about a house, and b) comprised entirely of diary entries, letters, transcripts, receipts, newspaper clippings, advertisements, phone bills, and so forth.

The story starts out conventionally enough - the vaguely European narrator, A., inherits the estate of a distant American relative (who he didn't know existed) and moves there with his teenage companion, a spunky Irish girl named Niamh. All they know about Axton House is that the dead distant cousin, Ambrose Wells, jumped from the exact same window his father had thirty years before. As if that's not mystery enough to solve, there's also a missing butler, a locked basement vault, evidence of a secret society, and a ghost.

I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book - A. and Niamh discover a series of coded messages in the house, each one leading to the next, and the process of cracking the codes and deciphering the messages is quite fun. I'd give this portion of the book a solid 4 stars (plus bonus points for made-up words like "vicepresidentially" and "Japanesemonsterly"). Once they piece together the mystery, though, and everything comes to a head - things get really sloppy and random. The last bit of the story is graphically violent (suddenly, out of nowhere) and unfolds in a bit of a whirlwind, and I'm still not sure exactly what happened. The end feels very rushed, and the mystery that we had been unraveling step by delicious step sort if implodes and goes bonkers before coming to a screeching, say-whaaa? type halt. I actually really like the concept, but I think it needed a much more thorough treatment. So 3 stars for the end.

All in all, a clever concept with a so-so execution.


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