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The Gurkha's Daughter
The Gurkha's Daughter
by Prajwal Parajuly
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing window into Nepali life, July 13, 2014
This review is from: The Gurkha's Daughter (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Prajwal Parajuly has done for Nepalese literature what Jumpa Lahiri did for Indian writing with Interpreter of Maladies. This slim book consists of 8 short stories chronicling a slice of life in the varied experiences of Nepali characters; those still living in Nepal and those who have left and long for it.

These stories take us into the lives of shopkeepers, young adults, servants and parents trying to do their best raising the next generation of Nepali men and women. Written in crisp clear writing, each tale is smooth reading. The stories are intriguing although the threads are not always conveniently tied up at the end. Some are poignant, some uplifting but almost all are thought provoking.

In "The Cleft" we meet a young Nepali servant girl who dreams of escaping the life she leads and is considering the sweet but misleading promises of employment in India. In "An Impossible Dilemma" Prajuly shows us the racism and class differences alive and well in Kalimpong. Reading "Missed Blessing" gives the reader a view into the inherent dignity and pride within the characters which poverty does not destroy.

For me, the most revealing story in this collection was "No Land is her Land" where the author exposes the often forgotten Bhutanese government campaign aimed at forcing people of Nepalese origin to leave Bhutan. Bhutan today is famously known as the happiest place on earth but the violence and ethnic cleansing that led to the expulsion of ethnic Nepalese is something that is a blot on their history.

The final story in the collection "The Immigrants" is a gentle and well written story of a romantic relationship forming between two young people of Nepali origin living in Manhattan.

For anyone interested in the culture and history of Nepal, this book is not to be missed!

Aria Women's Sleeveless Short 37 Inch Gown, Blue Stripe, Large
Aria Women's Sleeveless Short 37 Inch Gown, Blue Stripe, Large
Price: $34.80

2.0 out of 5 stars Made of cotton knit fabric and blue stripe is much bluer than pictured, July 9, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The picture of the blue stripe gown (at the time of writing this review) is not very accurate at all. In the picture the fabric looks almost white and in reality the fabric itself is much bluer and looks like t-shirt fabric that has been stitched into a gown. If you were looking for a cotton gown that was made of woven cotton (supima, lawn, etc) this will not fit that expectation at all. Considering that it is no more than a jersey knit fabric I think it is overpriced and will be returning the one I ordered.

A Triple Knot: A Novel
A Triple Knot: A Novel
by Emma Campion
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.24
39 used & new from $7.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A passable read, July 9, 2014
This review is from: A Triple Knot: A Novel (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Emma Campion writes a good story. She manages to show the time period to the reader through the action instead of using long chunks of explanations to educate the reader. The dialogue and descriptions are well written and the plot moves along fairly well.

The story is that of Joan of Kent, rumored to be one of the most beautiful women in England, and one of the most scandalous for having contracted three marriages - one of them to the Black Prince! Joan is a ward of King Edward III who stood by and had her father executed wrongly under charges of treason. Joan is a fiery young child when we meet her. Resentful of the dowager queen who she blames for the death of her father, she is a handful to deal with. But being beautiful and, more importantly, related to royalty, meant that she was a pawn for the forging of political alliances through marriage. However Joan has her own opinions and feelings about who she will wed.

I really thought I would love this book since the time period is one that I particularly enjoy reading about. However, I did not enjoy reading this novel. The first few chapters were confusing with a variety of characters and their histories being introduced. This was made worse by the fact that many characters share the same first name and the author sometimes uses the first name and sometimes the title when referring to a character! After muddling through these initial chapters things became a bit clearer (because there were only a few players involved). The introduction of Joan to Holland - her first husband - was well done but the fact that Joan is a preteen may not sit well with modern readers. Oddly enough, the interest of and older man in her is perceived as predatory by everyone around her (including Holland) and yet it is not odd in the least for Holland to fall for her, go through a betrothal and bed her.

It is at this point that the book really slowed down for me. There is more political matchmaking, a long description of Joan's miserable second marriage (her husband, we are told, is a homosexual), and then her final strained relationship with her husband and cousin Edward, the Black Prince.

The Black Prince is a fascinating character in history and I picked this book up out of interest in him even more so than in Joan. Well he is certainly painted Black here! Even as a young child he is portrayed as a conniving, vicious, manipulative man and he grows into a lying, violent scoundrel. That really killed the book for me. Yes, the Black Prince is historically notorious for the massacre at Limoges (a supposed massacre which recent findings are calling into question) but there were many amazing victories and examples of military brilliance before then. Campion makes him out to be a deranged, rotten little boy who grows up to be a deranged, rotten man. I think she perpetuates the myth of the Black Prince as someone evil instead of trying to create a full picture of the man.

Besides that, there are many missed opportunities here. The Plague at this time was a devastating and terrifying disease and Campion does not linger in showing just what an impact it must have had on the people around her. There are often episodes where something is going to happen and then suddenly the author picks up after the event. These seem like missed opportunities to really round out a picture of the time.

I think if you are just looking for a light read, this book might work. But if you really want a picture of the history and the people of the time, you may not be satisfied with this one.

Frostborn (Thrones and Bones)
Frostborn (Thrones and Bones)
by Lou Anders
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Norse mythology, roaring adventure and intelligent characters = Wonderful!, July 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Karn is destined to follow in his father's footsteps as a Farmer in Norrongard but he would rather play his favorite board game and not deal with farming, bartering and slopping the pigs. Thianna is a half breed frost giantess who, at seven feet tall, is bullied and ridiculed for being too short and is achingly aware of being different. But there are plots being laid among Karn's family and a secret in Thianna's roots that result with these two young people, so different and yet with so much in common, in a race for their lives against Trolls, Wyverns, scheming uncles and Barrow men, ancient dragon worms and warrior women!

As they are faced with action packed challenges Karn learns to use his knowledge of game strategy to gain them an advantage. And Thianna learns that being half human gives her abilities that make her special indeed. The action is fast paced, the bogey men scary and the challenges come fast and furious. And yet even while keeping up the pace, Anders skillfully builds a clear picture of his characters and how their experiences help them to grow. Strikingly different from each other they learn to accept and respect each others' strengths and to step in and help where the friend is lacking. Friendship and loyalty are themes running through this book and both characters are utterly likeable for it.

I am usually sorely disappointed by the quality of Middle grade fiction being churned out by the publishing houses today. The majority of them invariably end in cliff hangers as if the author doesn't trust his own skill to draw the reader back for the next in the series and has to rely instead on leaving the plot incomplete! Lou Anders' Frostborn is a welcome exception. I have no doubt (and some hope!) that this is not the last in the series but this particular adventure ends! The bad guys are defeated and the book can leave you satisfied without having to wait a year for the next one to come out! Hallelujah!

Besides that, the plot it laid well but, more importantly, the quality of the writing is excellent. There are scary things in this book (walking dead men, fire breathing dragons, Trolls and barrow men) but Anders makes the scariest things the most hilarious. It is a dopey sort of hilarity - think trolls from The Hobbit - with a goofy simple humor that diffuses the horror at what exactly these characters are. Speaking of Tolkein's Hobbit, there are quite a few similarities but then Tolkein drew from Norse mythology as well so you can expect some overlap.

I am looking forward to introducing my children to this series and using it as a gateway to spark their interest in Norse mythology.

Teva Tanza Y Water Sandal (Little Kid/Big Kid),Dark Olive,7 M US Big Kid
Teva Tanza Y Water Sandal (Little Kid/Big Kid),Dark Olive,7 M US Big Kid

5.0 out of 5 stars Well built and sturdy sandal - perfect for kids on the go, July 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Teva Tanza Kids Sandal (Apparel)
My 13yo has already put on many miles on this pair of sandals and they have held up very well indeed. The Velcro is still tight and the fit is excellent. I really like that you can adjust the heel strap on these to create a good enough fit for hiking on uneven terrain. My other choice would have been a sandal with a toe guard but these allowed the feet to breathe a lot more. Very happy with the purchase!

The Immortals of Meluha: The Shiva Trilogy: Book 1
The Immortals of Meluha: The Shiva Trilogy: Book 1
by Amish Tripathi
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A revision of the Shiva story that questions the nature of evil and prejudice, July 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Amish Tripathi has done something novel and daring in the first volume of the Shiva Trilogy. Based openly on the story of the God Shiva, the book is a revisionist version of who the Devas (Indian Gods) might have been.

Definitely human, the characters of Hindu Theology are given something akin to immortality by their invention of a life extending device - the Somras. A highly advanced civilization, the Meluhans have a high moral code, high standards of cleanliness and are strict adherents to the caste system created for them by Lord Rama. However, they are convinced that their enemies are plotting against them by diverting the waters of their great rivers and they await a great hero to come to their rescue.

The structure and culture of the Meluhan society is based on archeological theories and findings from the Indus valley civilization which was one of the great ancient civilizations along with Egypt and Mesopotamia. Amish has wrapped the stories of Hindu theology with the few historical details about the civilization that are still available to us.

If you don't know much about Indian mythology, I think there is a lot you will miss in this book and would recommend highly that you do a little research either before, alongwith or after reading this text. For a basic book meant for young readers I would recommend: In Worship of Shiva or for a more detailed and thorough text : Shiva: Stories and Teachings from the Shiva Mahapurana. Suffice it to say that much of the mythology of Shiva and the Gods is redesigned to fit this novel interpretation of how things could possibly have been. It is only by knowing what the Shiva tradition teaches us that you can come to a deeper understanding of just how the author has rethought the tale. Shiva is the Neelkhant, the destroyer of evil who appears when people need him the most. In this book he is also a scrappy tribal chief who fights ruthlessly for his tribe, is battle scarred and weary of violence and who falls in love with Sati, his destined bride throughout many reincarnations.

Amish's Shiva is by no means a self assured lord confident of his destiny. He questions himself again and again and is devastated when he realizes that his judgment of what constitutes evil might be wrong. Here is a man striving to do the right thing and living with the choices he has made. He recognizes the faults in the caste system and that injustices done as part of tradition are still unjust.

I think Amish has done an amazing job in melding ancient history and the Vedic traditions in this imaginative retelling of Indian mythology. Where he falters most is in his use of modern language and narration. While the plot moves along at a rapid pace the dialogue is much too modern and, at times, adolescent. There is little poetry or imagery to the descriptions of Kashmir and the other areas where Shiva travels. Descriptions are often clinical and it is hard to form a vivid picture of the events in the book. My understanding is that the first volume was a self published novel and I have to wonder how much better it could have been in the hands of a good editor who might have given the author a little guidance on perfecting a close to excellent story. However, the book is still an amazing read and, hopefully, will make some of the marvelous Mythology and Theology of India a bit more accessible to the western world.

Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
Price: $1,299.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A chore to assemble but a dream to use!, July 3, 2014
I've had the Sole e35 for about a month now and could not be happier with the purchase. After a lot of research and a call to Sole, it looks like a lot of earlier issues have been taken care of with this years model. The Machine is very well put together and runs smoothly and is almost completely silent even at high speeds. I have had no issues with stability or performance of the unit and am so glad that I got this.

Some things to keep in mind :
Assembly : is an absolute pain in the rear. While doable, it took two of us a few hours to assemble this thing. I have to admire the ability of the people at Sole to pack all the varied parts of this machine like a nesting jigsaw puzzle into the box. The pedals and treads are preassembled, as is the flywheel, but everything else is in pieces. The instructions are well written but I do wish the diagram had been a bit larger and clearer. The pieces are identified by letter and number but there are no corresponding stickers on the pieces to help you identify them.Sso you really need to identify the piece by comparing it to the diagram provided in the instructions. This was annoying but a lot of peering and magnifying got everything assembled in the end.

The biggest pointer about assembly (something pointed out by the very nice delivery man from Sole) is not to remove the foam insert that is in the top of the flywheel until you are done with the majority of the assembly. Drop a tiny screw down there and you have to disassemble the entire flywheel and put it back together again.

Also, tighten all the joints even more than you think is the max. While the machine comes with two ellen wrenches and a screwdriver, I had to return and tighten everything with a drill to take care of all the little squeaks. The assembly manual emphasizes this as well.

Heart rate monitor and programs : I do wish the machine could automatically calculate your max and optimal heart rate based on age and weight and keep you on track. It does not do that but you can enter your desired range and it will alert you when you are out of range. The accompanying heart rate monitor does a good job but I have some chafing from one corner of it. Probably will soften with time.

The fan and speakers on the machine are adequate but, as with most exercise equipment, nowhere near perfect. The fan does angle which is nice for us short people and the speakers are not too bad. The machine will not charge your device when you plug it in to play music through the speakers, which is a bit silly but not the end of the world.

Performance : This is where the machine is wonderful. Smooth lovely stride, adjustable pedals, perfectly sized arms - I am a happy camper!

I am so very glad to have taken the plunge and bought the Sole. If I had a do over I would probably fork over the extra dough to have someone else assemble it but am still very pleased with my purchase.

Sun Joe iON 40V Cordless iON16LM 16-Inch Lawn Mower with Brushless Motor
Sun Joe iON 40V Cordless iON16LM 16-Inch Lawn Mower with Brushless Motor
Price: $387.91
8 used & new from $317.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for small yards but narrow deck makes for more work and it will not mulch!, June 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I switched over from Gas mowers to a corded electric two summers ago. Cords take some getting used to and I was pretty excited to try out a battery powered mower from Sun Joe. For clarity's sake, my current mower is the GreenWorks 25112 21-Inch 13 Amp Electric Lawn Mower 3 in 1 which may still be available here. Here are my impression of the Sun Joe:

Pros :
1. Cordless! Cords are annoying. I don't mind them terribly but not having a cord to drag behind the mower was really so much nicer. It goes without saying that not have gas fumes in your face is even better!

2. Battery pack. The Sun Joe comes with a 40V Battery and charger. The charger has indicators showing you if the battery is full, half full, over heated or if something is wrong with it.

3. Performance : The Sun Joe cuts a nice smooth path over the lawn. I have had some unevenness with the cut from my Greenworks machine and did find the cut impressive with the SunJoe. Start up is almost identical to the Greenworks except there is a silence of a second or two before the machine engages with the Sun Joe.

4. Assembly : I did need a second person to hold the handle bars when assembling the SunJoe but assembly is really not very complicated. The mower seems well built, albeit with a lot of plastic and very little metal. The manual is very detailed and very long! In this day and age of bare bones manuals this one leaves nothing to chance and explains a lot in great detail.

5. Key: The Sun Joe has an additional safety feature that my GreenWorks does not have. A key needs to be inserted for the mower to start up.

6. The bag : The bag for the clippings has a nice handle that makes it easier to set it in place and remove it. I really liked the little flap that indicates when the bag is getting too full. Since I mulch this would not be of use to me but if you bag your clippings this is a useful addition. There was tiny gap between the bag and the body of the mower when it was set in place so the fit was not perfect. I did have some clippings come up over the top of the bag even when the bag was not full so the fit is not exact.

7: Storage : The handlebars are really very well designed so that folding them down after use would be a quick adjustment without too much wrist strength needed.

Cons :
1. This machine does not mulch!! Now if you like to bag your clippings this is fine but the bag attachment is really quite small. It has a capacity of just over 9 gallons and I had to empty it twice when cutting just the front yard. If you think you can just leave the bag off and the machine will mulch the clippings, this is not going to work. I tried that and the grass collected in a big lump near the exit to the bag and big clumps fell out when I lifted the mower. This may not be a problem if you mow twice a week and only have small clippings but you will need to bag for any kind of length to the grass blades.

2. Run time : I have just over 1/8th of an acre with plenty of landscaping but by the time I finished just the front yard the Sun Joe was down to half in battery charge. It claims to have a 40 minute run time but this brings up the next issue:

3. Deck Size : At 16 inches wide I ended up doing lot more passes over the lawn with the Sun Joe vs. my 21 inch GreenWorks. This would not be an issue if not for the fact that the battery charge only lasts a max of 40 minutes. It took a lot longer to mow the front yard with a narrower deck and I really can't see how I would mow the entire front and back yard in one morning using only one battery. For anywhere near an average sized lawn you will need a second battery. On Sun Joe's website a battery runs $150.

Personally speaking, I would absolutely love this mower if it had a wider deck, included a second battery and had the ability to mulch clippings.

In sum, I think this is a fine mower if you have a small yard and mow very often or if you prefer to bag your clippings.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2014 8:48 PM PDT

InterDesign Foaming Soap Pump Caddy, Clear/Chrome
InterDesign Foaming Soap Pump Caddy, Clear/Chrome
Price: $14.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Simple, clean lines and excellent design but the foam could be more plentiful, June 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
At first glance this pump and caddy doesn't seem like much to write home about but I am very impressed by the functionality and design. Until now I had a stainless steel tray for my dishwashing sponge, had given up on my built in countertop soap pump and was using soap right out of the dishwashing soap bottle. Not too aesthetic but it worked.

This soap dispenser is a smart, well designed accessory for the kitchen sink. The bottle is stands at about 8 inches high so it is a fairly good size. It has two fill line markings on the back showing you how much soap you need and then how much water you add to make the perfect mixture. The bottle is a clear high quality plastic and I like the look of it with clear soap inside (I use Seventh generation dish soap without dyes) but can see where a colored dishwashing liquid would look more attractive.

The caddy does not have holes in it which encourages me to squeeze out the sponge before storing it. It is a generously sized caddy and the sponge I use (ocelo yellow with green scrubpad) has plenty of room for air to circulate and for it to dry out between uses.

The pump itself is plastic with a coating of chrome paint. Whether the paint will chip or the pump get clogged will be something I can only judge with continued use. At this point I've been using it for two weeks without any malfunctions. I have to say that I find the foam is a little thin in helping to get the sponge nice and soapy. I end up having to pump two or three times per large pot or pan. This does get annoying so while I still love the idea of the sponge caddy connected to the soap pump, I probably won't continue using it unless I can replace the foaming pump with a regular one to use with undiluted soap.

Lonely Planet Israel & the Palestinian Territories (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Israel & the Palestinian Territories (Travel Guide)
by Daniel Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.07
87 used & new from $11.33

3.0 out of 5 stars Brief summary of most things but not a complete guide, June 25, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I took a two week trip to Israel with this book as my go to guide and I found that it was way too thin on information to be my only resource. Luckily I had a data plan for my phone and was able to look online for information that this book was lacking. My biggest peeve was that it gives almost no background and story to the places you visit. It touches on most of the highlights but does not point out the details that better guidebooks do. While it tells you opening and closing times, costs to get there and to get in, etc it doesn't go too deep into the history of the places or give you maps and layouts to follow along. The text that it does include is shallow/
For example, for our visit to Ceasera we found the book almost useless. The text seemed to have been taken completely from the pamphlet handed to us upon entry to the site. The same was true for Masada as well. Also, the book comes with a map of Jerusalem when it would have been much more helpful to have a fold out map of the country instead.
The authors have tried very hard to write a book that can work for all religions and they try to touch on sites important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That is a lofty goal but the authors are not clear about which areas might be uncomfortable for tourists of a particular background. I found myself asking people around me whether certain areas were safe or not and was told in no uncertain terms where it would be best not to wander.
I will probably look to other guidebooks for any future trips.

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