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Economics: The User's Guide
Economics: The User's Guide
by Ha-Joon Chang
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.98
48 used & new from $16.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you ever wanted to know about economics, but were afraid to ask, September 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is pretty dense, but written in very accessible language. The author seems to make a point of avoiding jargon, even jargon previously explained in detail, wherever possible, such that (if needed) you can jump into the book at just about any chapter if you want.

While the language is simple, the author steamrolls over topics in a way that is usually good but occasionally frustrating. For example, when discussing GDP, he states that the value of owned homes is approximated by imputing a value as if residents were paying themselves rent at the market rate. Ok, so i understand exactly what that means, but i have no idea WHY the GDP calculation should include any ongoing value for owned homes.

If you want a good overview of economics, comparable to a few undergraduate survey courses, but written in english and not professorese, this is definitely a good resource.

Fruit Friends Squeezable Fruit, Apple, 3.2 Ounce (Pack of 32)
Fruit Friends Squeezable Fruit, Apple, 3.2 Ounce (Pack of 32)
Price: $24.43

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ultra-smooth applesauce in a low-mess pouch - much cheaper than the organic competitors, September 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We're a big fan of fruit pouches in this house. My toddler is addicted to the Ella's color pouches. If he could live on those alone, he would. However, we force some variety into his diet, both within the pouch selection and outside of it. And the whole Pouch Revolution in baby foods has probably put a few carpet and upholstery cleaning services out of business. If you haven't already taught your toddler to self-feed with pouches, do yourself a favor. There's a huge variety of fruit purees, yogurt purees, fruit-and-yogurt purees, and if you're feeling adventuresome, a huge variety of vegetable and meat options too. We stick to just the fruit and yogurt ones for snack time, though.

Anyway, ok, so how does Fruit Friends stack up against the other fruit pouches? Pretty well, in all.

It's not organic. If you care a lot about your pouch fruits being organic, cross this one off your list. However, as is often the case, the organic pouches are HUGELY more expensive than these, so if budget is your primary consideration, you may have found your solution.

The flavor? Apples. Not sugar-sweet, not acid-tart. Just apples.

The texture? Ultra-smooth. As an adult, i actually wouldn't like to eat this apple sauce plain. It's super-smooth, and i like a bit of texture in my fruit purees. However, my toddler guzzles it just as readily as the others, so it's not an issue there.

Oxo Steel CorkPull Wine Opener/Corkscrew
Oxo Steel CorkPull Wine Opener/Corkscrew
Price: $24.99
14 used & new from $22.49

1.0 out of 5 stars Broke the first time i used it., September 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've generally had good luck with Oxo products. I have several in my kitchen, ranging from measuring spoons to pop-top containers. This is the first of their products that i haven't found surprisingly easy to use and intuitive.

It seemed promising. And the clever foil remover is going to save me some blood and bandaids, that's for sure. However, after dutifully following the quite simple instructions, i now have a CorkPull with the cork wedged into the screw and it won't come off. I suppose i could chip it out with a knife or sometime, but i'm not prepared to do that every time i open a bottle of wine.

WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacs WS0600VA General Purpose Wet Dry Shop Vacuum, 6-Gallon, 2.5-Peak HP
WORKSHOP Wet/Dry Vacs WS0600VA General Purpose Wet Dry Shop Vacuum, 6-Gallon, 2.5-Peak HP
Price: $57.21
5 used & new from $44.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a wet vac unless you buy an extra filter., September 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I can't help it. I get a little bit enraged when i see a product like this that claims to be a Wet/Dry Vac, but it's just a dry vac unless you go track down and buy the special filter needed for wet vacuuming.

I also get enraged when the manual clearly states that there's a drain for emptying the drum after sucking up liquids, yet a thorough inspection of the unit (and the diagram at the front of the manual) shows that there is, in fact, no drain.

This is a perfectly functional light-duty dry vac. It picks up sawdust and dead leaves and cheerios like a champ. But it shouldn't be labeled and sold as a wet/dry vac when all you get in the box is the dry filter, and emptying a drum full of liquid requires tipping the thing over.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 30, 2014 12:31 PM PDT

Enter the Saint (The Saint Series)
Enter the Saint (The Saint Series)
by Leslie Charteris
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.99
18 used & new from $8.14

3.0 out of 5 stars James Bond's James Bond, September 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First and foremost, i admit, i did have trouble with the language. I understand it was written in the 1920s for an English crowd, but to me (in the 2010s and the US) it really reads like something written now but pretending to be written then and there. I don't know if that speaks well of the authors currently trying to evoke that vocabulary, or if i'm just easily misled, but the fact remains: it felt forced and over-the-top.

As for the plot(s), well, it was James Bond squared. The Saint can outfight a handful of muscled thugs and can outthink the masterminds. He can operate outside of the law while the law happily cleans up his leavings. He rescues not only damsels in distress but their hapless beaus as well.

If you're overly invested in reality, you'll have much to complain about in these books. However, if you want a good pulp/brit action/crime novel, you'll find everything you want here.

NOCO XGrid XGB3 11Wh Rugged USB Battery Pack
NOCO XGrid XGB3 11Wh Rugged USB Battery Pack
Offered by Portable Solar City
Price: $29.95
7 used & new from $29.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A non-techie review - it works., September 27, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When trying out this product, i never once deployed a stopwatch or a voltmeter. What i did was plug it into the wall to charge, then plug it into my iPhone or iPad to charge.

Did it work? Yep!

Can i speak in fluent detail about the amps, volts, charging times, or whatnot? Nope.

Ok, here's what i like: it has in-line charging. That means i can plug it into the wall (using my iPhone's USB-to-wall adapter, since this product doesn't come with one), and plug my iPhone into the battery pack, and they BOTH charge. So i can basically leave this plugged in to my iPhone's charging cord, and when i'm leaving the house for more than 12 hours, i can take both of them instead of just the phone.


Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery
Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York's Most Creative Bakery
by Agatha Kulaga
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.83
40 used & new from $18.08

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unrepentantly unhealthy; delightfully delicious, September 27, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is absolutely the opposite of the current trend in stripping the fat, sugar, and salt from goodies so they can be 'everyday treats'.


Recipes often call for more than a stick of butter. Any recipe that calls for sour cream specifies 'full fat sour cream'. This book is all about making the best possible goodies, calories be damned. This is NOT a book you should be using often, unless you want to gain phenomenal amounts of weight. This is a book for making the most amazing treats possible for special occasions.

The only, absolute only, problem i have this with book is that the baking time is often wrong. Usually, things have to bake much longer than the recipe suggests. I can't throw things in the oven, walk away, and come back when the timer beeps - i have to start checking a few minutes before the estimated completion time, and sometimes keep checking well after the beep.

Sure, there are a couple recipes i don't care for (well, let me rephrase: a couple recipes i'm not even going to try because i dislike one of the primary ingredients), but everything i've tried has been revelatory. You'll never make boxed brownie mix again when you realize you can make brownies just as deliciously thick and rich as bakery brownies all by yourself.

And, though neither of these apply to me, several of the recipes are marked as being Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, or Vegan. Not a huge number, but a couple.

God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi
God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi
by John Safran
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.48

3.0 out of 5 stars Somehow, it's always about the author, September 27, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
One can think of two different styles of documentary, one exemplified by Michael Moore, the other by Ken Burns.

In the former, Moore insinuates himself into every scene, every interview, every observation. It's almost as if the documentary isn't about the ostensible subject but about Moore's experience with the subject. Burns, on the other hand, is nowhere to be seen on camera. Sure, you can recognize his style and figure out he's the one running the documentary, but the focus stays on the subject.

Safran, it seems, is of the Moore school of documentary production, even when the documentary is in book form. He's not the star of every scene, not remotely, but somehow he's almost always 'on camera', so to speak. All the content filters through him. We can't engage with the issue, the crime, the characters, their reasons and motives, we can only connect with Safran and his reactions and responses to these people and things.

I found the content interesting, the layers of meaning and reason in the crime, but i was endlessly frustrated by the author inserting himself into that experience. If he could have just stepped aside, his style and wit could have leavened a serious topic to make it more engaging. Instead, it's like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together with a kid who keeps sticking their head between you and the pieces.

The Swap
The Swap
by Megan Shull
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.74
47 used & new from $7.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun read that manages to deal, gently, with big issues like loss, bullying, and puberty, September 26, 2014
This review is from: The Swap (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I dreaded the first time genitals would come up in this book. Obviously, if you gender-swap two middle school kids, it has to come up at some point. I feared some horrible embarrassing awkward slapstick scene. Instead, it was somehow a sweet, funny, and only slightly embarrassing scene. The whole book goes like that, really. A lot of things that could be mortifying (i'm good at being embarrassed vicariously) are instead simply awkward at worst.

I can't speak for how well the author wrote an 13-year-old boy, but the girl was genuine enough that i feel like i actually understand the mother-daughter dynamic a little better than i did before. The author also did a stellar job of putting the kids in parallel situations without making it a copy/paste thing. Each kid learns something about themselves and a lot about 'the other side' in a fairly organic way. Sure, there are a few scenes that just ring false, but on the whole it doesn't stretch credulity too far.

As for sex/drugs/violence/profanity, it's pretty safe. There's no drug use at all in the book, not even pot or alcohol. There's one fistfight, and i don't recall any profanity. The sex is a harder call. The boys talk about the girls in a fairly objectifying way for most of the book, which made me uncomfortable. To be fair, though, the girls do it a bit too. (And to be realistic, sexuality is pretty nascent at that age and most middle school kids probably can't get too far beyond 'attractive' and 'not'.) There's certainly no actual sex in the novel, nothing more than a quick romantic kiss. In all, a parent needn't worry that their kids will read anything in this book that they don't see in TV commercials.

Egg and Spoon
Egg and Spoon
by Gregory Maguire
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.37
61 used & new from $9.71

2.0 out of 5 stars Ages 12 and up? Grades 7 and up? No. Any 12-year-old precocious enough to read this is not still in 7th grade., September 25, 2014
This review is from: Egg and Spoon (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a dense, meticulous, convoluted novel. The language and the story are ornate and, at times, overwrought. I can't imagine any 12-year-old making it through this book without spending more time turning dictionary pages than novel pages.

Further, the conceit is that it's being told by an old man, and so it has a slow, meandering pace with constant call-backs to the narrator.

The only middle-grade aspect of this story is Elena's age. Is it against the rules now for books written for adults to have young protagonists? That's the only reason i can think of to mistake this for a book for younger readers.

(And as an adult: i loved the dialogue, the descriptions of landscapes and buildings, the way body language created its own dialogue in some scenes. What i didn't like was the plodding pace of the story, and worse, the narrator's constant need to remind us that he's narrating. While i don't recommend this book to younger readers because it's not at their level, i don't recommend this to adults because i found it to be more effort that it was worth, too much sifting through the dirt to find the gems. However, i know that Maguire is a well-loved author, so perhaps this was simply a mismatch between his writing and my reading.)

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