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Jill I. Shtulman RSS Feed (Chicago, IL USA)

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DII 100% Polyester, Machine Washable, Holiday, Dinner Solid Tablecloth 60 x 104",  Beige, Seats 8 to 10 People
DII 100% Polyester, Machine Washable, Holiday, Dinner Solid Tablecloth 60 x 104", Beige, Seats 8 to 10 People
Price: $27.68
4 used & new from $17.62

4.0 out of 5 stars Very solid value, April 27, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I own a few different tablecloths for holiday times and festive occasions. None of them, though, was a good choice to cover our cherry wood table for everyday spills (usually caused by our unruly cats jumping on the table!) This 100% polyester machine washable table cloth -- in an attractive, neutral beige shade -- is everything it's cracked up to be. It's quite good for the value -- sturdy, well-tailored, easy to wash, unobtrusive, and just right for any kind of dining occasion. As long as your expectations are reasonable (this is not a $100 tablecloth, after all), I believe this tablecloth will really satisfy. Since it is such a neutral shade, colorful place mats and dishes really stand out.

The Summer Guest: A Novel
The Summer Guest: A Novel
by Alison Anderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The immortal lure of writing, April 25, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Anton Pavlovich Chekhov we meet within Alison Anderson’s pages is more than one of the greatest writers of short fiction in history. He’s a real charmer: right at the cusp of being recognizes for his immense talent, a self-effacing, gentle and confident young man who charms three sisters at a family estate – including the blind older Zinaida.

Anton Pavlovich (as he is referred to often in this book) once famously said, “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress.” In this, he has much in common with Zinaida, a young doctor herself, who was forced to give up medicine when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Gradually, the friendship between Anton Pavlovich and Zinaida builds; her impending death frees her from verbal conventions and he finds himself drawn to her honesty and frankness.

We learn about the budding friendship through entries from Zinaida’s diary in 1888. (In real life there was, indeed, a friendship between Chekhov and Zinaida Lintvaryova). Years later, a promising Russian translator named Ana is given this diary to translate at the bequest of a small and failing publisher, Katya. The structure of the book – while mostly focused on the Anton Pavlovich/Zinaida story, contains alternating chapters from Ana and Katya’s perspectives.

Ms. Anderson beautifully lures us into Zinaida’s world. We like her; we believe in her. When the narrative springs to the present, we miss her and want to hear from her again. Our experience is not unlike Ana’s, who is also enthralled by the diary and her chance to shine as the translator of this work. Most compelling of all is that the diary alludes to a novel that Chekhov was writing and gave to Zinaida for safekeeping. Whatever happened to the diary? What would it mean to the publishing world if, after more than a century, the diary surfaced?

This novel, though, is more than the mystery of what happened to the novel – a mystery that will keep the reader intrigued to the surprising end. It is also about the power of words. Zinaida muses about Chekhov, “How does he do this? How does he see the tiny detail that restores sight and, with it an impression of being closer to my own life…” In addition to the magic of words, there is also the bestowment of immortality: “The fact of the immortality of his work of his spirit—it’s a vast, worthy conspiracy among the living, a consolation and a source of hope and joy.” The Summer Guest is a triumph, not just for recreating a vanished world and providing insight into Chekhov and his life, but also – and most importantly – as an affirmation of how words can give us all the will to persevere.

Ingenuity Trio 3-in-1 High Chair, Vesper/Grey
Ingenuity Trio 3-in-1 High Chair, Vesper/Grey

5.0 out of 5 stars What great ingenuity!, April 22, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This amazing chair truly is a 3-in-1: a full-size highchair, a booster seat (great when you’re visiting grandma or going out to a restaurant), and a toddler chair.

There are many wonderful features to recommend it. First, the construction is very intuitive. It’s easy to put it together right out of the box. On the minus side, this isn’t a chair that can easily be tucked away in a corner, but that factor doesn’t outweigh all the pluses.

Aesthetically, it’s great looking and it’s also gender neutral. The booster seat can be separated from the high chair very simply – all I did was remove the straps, place the booster seat t
o the dining chair, and strap it in. The tray also adjusts and reclines easily.

I also like how fast everything cleans up. There are no nooks and crannies for food to fall into when a child is experimenting with solid food (read: mashing up and tossing everywhere)! The seat pad is machine washable. The plastic construction lends to fast wipe-up and the tray is dishwasher-safe. About that tray: the manufacturer says that it’s adjustable with one hand, but I find that it truly does need two hands to evenly distribute the pulling.

This chair is meant for babies 6 months or older, up to 50 pounds. I think it’s well worth the value and a real winner.

Oster Oskar 2-in-1 Salad Prep & Food Processor
Oster Oskar 2-in-1 Salad Prep & Food Processor
Price: $59.62

5.0 out of 5 stars Salads, soups and stir fries in a flash!, April 21, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you chop a lot of vegetables, as I do, the Oster 2-in-1 Salad Prep and Food Processor is worth adding to your food arsenal. I'm constantly cutting up onions, lettuce, carrots, turnips, squash, and other veggies, for omelets, stir fries, soups and salads. It takes a lot of time doing it by hand, but this device does it in an instant.

The directions don't really explain very clearly how this device can be used. But it was very intuitive to set up and use. I was using this device within a couple of seconds after opening it up.

I was impressed by the reversible slice/shared disc, which actually does the work. Using one side of the disc, I shredded cabbage for coleslaw. Then I turned it over and went to work on onion slices. I can drop a vegetable into the hole and it gets cut up in an instant. When it got caught, I simply pushed it through with the "food pusher."

Since it was so easy to use, I even tried new things that I wouldn't ordinarily have done without this device. I shredded up a raw sweet potato and fried it. It tasted great.

One challenge is the cleanup. When you're done, you have clumps of food all over several parts. I had to wipe off the clumps and then rinse away the rest of the tiny bits under the sink, but it really wasn’t that hard.

I'm still looking forward toward new uses – chopping meat, slicing cheese and pureeing. It's a real time-saver.

Homegoing: A novel
Homegoing: A novel
by Yaa Gyasi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.36

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I am my own nation.", April 18, 2016
This review is from: Homegoing: A novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Yaa Gyasi has taken on an ambitious, even audacious task in Homegoing – writing a propulsive narrative of the lineage of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who were born from of the same mother in 18th-century Ghana.

There is almost a sense of a fairy tale – albeit one gone awry – in the opening chapters, as Effia is whisked away to the Cape Coast Castle, the wife of a white British slave trader. Deep within the dungeon of the Castle – unbeknownst to her – her half sister languishes, a prisoner of the Fante nation’s slave trade.

With each alternating chapter, we jump forward and meet the next generation in Effia – and Esi’s – families. Each successive character embodies the times and together, the narrative becomes an overriding story of the evil of racism. Yaa Gyasi writes, “…”evil bets evil. It grows. It transmutes so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home.”

In a mere 300 pages, so much is touched upon: the Great Migration and the fleeing of Jim Crow, Harlem and the heroin addiction, the cruelty of the harshest prison system, the difficulty of remaining together as an intact family. At the same time, there is a remembrance of a fuller family that’s just out of sight: “Sometimes in a hut in Africa, a patriarch holding a machete, sometimes outside in a forest of palm tress, a crowd watching a young woman carrying a bucket on her head, sometimes in a cramped apartment with too many kids, or s small, failing farm, around the burning tree or in a classroom.”

Yaa Gyasi seems to be saying that this is the flip side of the same story, flawed people in an often unjust world, each person striving to be his or her own nation yet feeling connected – through chains, bloodlines, and stories – to so many others who have gone beforehand. It’s a book about how the past informs the future and how the future is shaped by the past. And, like a fairy tale, there’s a moral: none of us are whole until we face the unknown part of our history, the lost connection. The fact that Yaa Gyassi has so much insight at only 26 years old is astounding. The book’s structure is that of linked short stories – each generational character claims his or her own chapter – but the whole truly is larger than the sum of its parts.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 23, 2016 6:20 PM PDT

The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian
The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian
by David Dyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.10
62 used & new from $12.41

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Midnight-till-four: a time of loneliness, demons and trances, April 14, 2016
Why, over a century later, does the sinking of the Titanic continue to enthrall? It’s more than exploring the hubris the “unsinkable ship.” For most people, it’s the widely-known larger-than-life stories: Ida Strauss choosing to stay to the death with her husband, retail mogul Isador Strauss…Benjamin Guggenheim donning his formalwear to “go down in style”…John Jacob Astor protecting his new bride…to name a few.

But some of the most heartbreaking stories are of ordinary people caught in this extraordinary event, particularly the “what ifs.” What if the wireless officer hadn’t radioed back, “Shut up, shut up! I am busy. I am working Cape Race!” when notified of nearby icebergs? More poignantly, what if the Californian—the closest ship to the RMS Titanic—had actually heeded the distress rockets and come to its aid?

David Dyer wisely knows that stories are what drives the Titanic narrative. His first-person narrator, John Steadman (surely a nod to legendary writer William Stead, who wrote a fictional account of a steamer sinking due to lack of lifeboats), pursues stories of bodies at a time when the Hearst-Pulitzer sleazy journalism war is at its height.

When The Californian comes back without any bodies, Steadman is certain there is more to the story. In alternating chapters, we meet Stanley Lord, the self-righteous, hard-edged captain and Herbert Stone, the second officer who was on the midnight watch. Stone knows what he saw – the rockets – and knows he tried to summon the captain. Since the plotline follows actual history, we know that Stone’s questions of being a loyal officer conflict with his honesty and feelings of responsibility. It doesn’t help that Stanley Lord may very well represent his own remote and cruel father.

This novel is written with a focus on the Californian; the Titanic is in peripheral vision. Yet at the end of the day, the stories – in Steadman’s mind (and hopefully, in ours) is that the most tragic are not those of the rich-and-famous, but those of the 153 children in third class who were left to die while the rich claimed the lifeboat seats (in contrast, only one child in first class died). It is those spirited victims – including the Sage family of eleven, all of whom lost their life – that Steadman (and Dyer) celebrate.

There are some other threads that didn’t quite work for me. Steadman’s daughter, a proponent of women’s voting rights, comes across as too one-dimensional. The “bring me the bodies” refrain of Steadman’s editor becomes repetitive and cloying after a bit. Yet all in all, the book really held my attention with its focus on a lesser-known aspect o the Titanic tragedy.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2016 6:22 AM PDT

Wintering: A novel
Wintering: A novel
by Peter Geye
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the Heart of Darkness, April 10, 2016
This review is from: Wintering: A novel (Hardcover)
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Four years ago, I had the pleasure of reading Peter Geye’s novel Safe from The Sea, which – at its heart – was about fathers and sons. In that book, the son procures and sold ancient maps as a career although the map he always needed – a blueprint to who is he is and where he stands as a son and husband – remain elusive.

I start with Peter Geye’s former book because similar themes abound in this one. Although it is being dubbed a “60 year saga”, the heart of the story focuses on a time in 1963, when Harry Eide and his 18-year-old son Gustav embark on an audacious, risky, and indeed, life-threatening journey to the northernmost Minnesota wilderness to spend time “wintering” and living off their own dexterity and wits. A theme from Safe from the Sea is seen here, too: Harry carries maps that are virtually useless and in important ways, both father and son are lost.

Unbeknownst to Gus, his father Harry has his own agenda. The journey will be pivotal to Gus. As another character says, “Every person, I have come to believe, has a moment of a place in life when all four points of the compass coverage from when or where their life finally takes – for better or for worse—its fated course.” Gus is about to meet that moment.

Intertwined with this story is one that is told in first person by his father’s true love Berit, now an elderly woman who has waited a lifetime for Harry. As an adult Gus tells her stories, she shares some of her own and a pattern of generations of the Eide family emerge, filled with heartache, pain, betrayal, passion and love.

I’ve seen Peter Geye’s writing style compared to Cormac McCarthy (any author who writes powerful nature scenes seems to receive that comparison), but in reality, his style is closer to David Vann’s or Rick Bass’s…with echoes of Joseph Conrad. As in these examples, Peter Geye writes exquisitely about the magnificent yet often unforgiving Minnesota terrain, which becomes a character in its own right. His sentences bristle with tension and portent – so much so that the reader cannot look away.

If there’s a fault in this book, it’s with the inevitable villain, Harry’s nemesis Charlie, who is evil incarnate. Whenever he’s on the pages, a chill goes down one’s spine, yet more nuances would have – counterintuitively – made him even more feared. Also, I questioned why Peter Geye used first-person in Berit’s chapters; her voice was not all that distinguishable from the author’s. Still, this is a book that caught me by the throat and maintained its power throughout. At irs core, it’s about the power of relationships and the power of stories. 4.5 stars.

Seville Classics Velvet Suit Hangers (40-Pack)
Seville Classics Velvet Suit Hangers (40-Pack)
Offered by Seville Classics
Price: $24.99
2 used & new from $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Space-saving wardrobe solution, April 7, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Sure, it's tempting to use those dry cleaner hangers but through trial and error, I know that those hangers are super flimsy and can cause dents and puckering in my clothes. I've splurged for wooden hangers for my blazers but -- I must admit -- I have a lot of clothes and the wooden hangers are not only expensive, they take up space.

Here's what I like about these velvet hangers: the velvet-like surface provides just the right amount of friction to prevent slippage, and the thin silhouette reduces bulk. I like the little indentations that allow me to hang clothes with thin straps. They're lightweight and at first glance, I wondered how durable they'd be. I deliberately tried to bend them and there was quite a bit of resistance, which gave me peace of mind. My closet looks a lot more tidy and they save space, which gives my clothes room to breathe. And, for the price, they seem like a very good deal.

RustOleum 291995 Gray Concrete Saver Putty Patch, 3 lb., 16 gal, Pouch (Pack of 6)
RustOleum 291995 Gray Concrete Saver Putty Patch, 3 lb., 16 gal, Pouch (Pack of 6)
Price: $95.87
2 used & new from $95.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for larger projects, April 7, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I used RustOleum Putty Patch to repair a few cracks in my concrete steps that had been bothering me for a couple of years. It was easy to mix and work into the crack with a trowel, and it dried fast. The grey color was almost a perfect match with my concrete and it was easy to use.

The directions advise you to keep the product, which is a fine dust, in the bag, then pour in water and knead it in the bag – and, voila, it’s ready to use. This is less messy than pouring the exact amount you need into a container, and then mixing it there. But the downside of this method is that you have to use all of the product at once. The bag of Putty Patch weighs three pounds, and my cracks only needed just a fraction of that. So I found myself walking around with a half-full bag, looking for more cracks to fill around the outside of my house. "Waste not, want not," you know.

One good reason for leaving this stuff in the bag is that it causes skin and eye irritation. This warning is placed prominently in the middle of the label on the front of the bag. In an illustration showing how to use the product, the hands are gloved. So I figured it was a good idea to wear gloves.

I was even more convinced about wearing gloves upon reading the directions, which are in fine print on the back. I read the warnings about keeping the product out of reach of children, and not breathing the dust, and then there was this: "This product contains a substance known to the State of California to cause cancer." Ah, but not "known to cause cancer" in my state? Are California regulators more on the ball than anywhere else, or are they just weenies out there? I put on the gloves.

The Heart: A Novel
The Heart: A Novel
by Maylis de Kerangal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.14
66 used & new from $10.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sacred Organs, April 6, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Heart: A Novel (Hardcover)
One heart, one magnificent heart. The heart in question belongs to Simon Limbres, a 19-year-old boy, not a perfect boy, a passionate surfer who has barely has had the chance to inhabit the person he will become.

In this astoundingly good novel, Malis De Kerangal introduces us to Simon briefly, when he is thrumming with life, surfing on a cold morning with two good friends. Just pages later, he is close to death, the result of a car accident. The effect is jarring: life contrasted with death, risk contrasted with the mundane.

Simon is at the core of those connected by his single beating heart, yet this book is never maudlin or manipulative. In long sentences, written with lyricism and confidence, we meet those who are just a heartbeat away – and they are portrayed in exquisitely precise detail. Marianne, his mother and Sean, his father must grapple with the worst news a parent can ever imagine hearing, with the most potent stew of emotions (anger, disbelief, numbness, all at once). When Marianne calls Sean to inform him, and hears his innocent voice, she thinks of it as “the voice of life before”.

There is Thomas Remige of the Coordinating Committee for Organ and Tissue Removal, the man intimately attuned to life, who sings Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and revels in the delicate song of his rare Algerian goldfinch. It will fall to him to walk that precarious line between honoring the family’s wishes and honoring life itself by the reuse of the organs. There is the hedonist heart surgeon Virgilio, who is as passionate fan of soccer (and France is about to play Italy) as he is the operating theater. There is Claire, the 51-year-old heart recipient, who is curiously conflicted upon knowing that now, after years of living with no conception of the future, it will open for her through another’s death. We are privy to their most intimate emotions and foibles and they come alive under this author’s exacting tutelage.

Most importantly, this narrative transcends plots and even transcends characters. Maylis De Kerangal is looking at the bigger picture: the ubiquitous symbolism of the heart. There are some strikingly beautiful images, a merging of forever time (the rise and fall of the waves Simon loved) with immediate time, and the gravity of recognizing that the “separation between the living and the dead no longer exists.” Kudos to Sam Taylor, the translator. If this isn't a 5 star book, I don't know what is.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 7, 2016 6:19 AM PDT

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