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Fisher-Price Shakira First Steps Collection Count 'n Teethe Soft Book
Fisher-Price Shakira First Steps Collection Count 'n Teethe Soft Book
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good gift for a second or third child--see below for why, December 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Typical of these early baby toys, this has lots of color and sensory opportunity. There is a squeaker and a crinkly page for some sound effects, but there is not a lot of variety in the "feel" of the overall toy. The entire toy could be a teething toy as it is surface washable, an important point for infant equipment.

The book is quite limited for its price--really only three two-sided "pages"--but it has some things that would make this a great learning and sharing toy for a 3 or 4 or 5 year old big brother or sister: give this to the older sibling to "read' to the new baby, helping them to share the many pictures, numbers, etc., with baby sister or brother. Good for more bonding time and worth buying as much for the siblings as for the new baby.


War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race, Expanded Edition
War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race, Expanded Edition
by Edwin Black
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.21
21 used & new from $18.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't happen here? Ah, but it already did--the eugenics travesty in the US, November 29, 2014
This is a valuable account of the horrifying complicity of many staid American foundations and organizations in some misguided and tragic attempts to "purify" the population through sterilization of "morons," the "feeble-minded," and other "defectives." Rockefeller, Carnegy, and other names familiar to us in other settings are here shown to be active participants and backers of the eugenics movement in our country less than one hundred years ago. The author provides an in-depth and thoroughly researched history of this pernicious movement and traces its influence on many of those who later carried their plans and ideas into the Nazi atrocities in mid-20th century.

The biggest weakness of this account comes at the end, when Black speaks of current (albeit 2007) trends only tepidly. Is he too concerned about ruffling feathers of too many prominent people? I'm not sure, but I would have liked to have seen a more spirited discussion of what this background and the current advances in genetic science could mean if we do not remain alert to similar "purification" of the species attempts today.


Mercy & Melons: Praying the Alphabet
Mercy & Melons: Praying the Alphabet
by Lisa Nichols Hickman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.88
43 used & new from $8.94

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creativity in looking at the world, November 27, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For what it is, this book deserves four stars. It is a series of pretty much disconnected essays recording the author's thoughts on often very disparate items linked only be the initial first letter of each. These journal-like entries include many thoughtful comments that ould be great idea starters for one's own writing or just for keeping in mind throughout the day, and beyond.

It is important for potential readers to understand that this is not really a "devotional" or a text at all closely linked to passages from the Bible, nor is it a prayer book in the most traditional sense. If you are looking for any of those types of books, you will need to look elsewhere. Taken as a possible writer's inspiration or as a way to look at the world in a new and thoughtful way, Ms. Hickman's book can be a valuable resource to add to your library.


DII Home Essentials Hand Crocheted Storage Baskets for Drawers, Closets, Bathrooms, Kitchen, Organization, Food and More Set of 3, Stone Blue
DII Home Essentials Hand Crocheted Storage Baskets for Drawers, Closets, Bathrooms, Kitchen, Organization, Food and More Set of 3, Stone Blue
Price: $34.99
2 used & new from $26.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Multiple uses but a little pricey, November 14, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This set of relatively small crocheted baskets works well in my guest room, holding a few toiletries, washcloths and hand towels, and even a box of tissues. They could just as easily work for note pads and a few pencils at your desk, and because they are washable, could be used for storing onions or garlic on the counter. Yes, they are relatively soft, but they do hold their shape quite well for many things and, as shown in the pictures, turning down a cuff provides extra stability.

The stone blue of this set may be limiting for many decors, but there are other color options, and this color goes well with the gray, black, and white of many desk top areas.

Two problems: these seem rather pricey to me, although if they are truly hand-crocheted, I would not want to see the price any lower for what has to take quite a bit of time. The other issue could be related; there is absolutely no country of origin on any of the baskets (they have no labels attached at all) nor in any of the packaging. A small square card notes that they are made of 100% polypropylene and are machine washable, but nothing else. In today's market economy, I make the assumption that they are probably from China, or perhaps another country where labor is way too cheap. If you prefer to avoid items that might involve paying the artisans way too little, you may want to avoid these. Since I am only making assumptions on the origin, I have not reduced the overall rating for this, but potential buyers should be aware of the lack of adequate labeling.


Rust: The Longest War
Rust: The Longest War
by Jonathan Waldman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.86

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very uneven content but overall an interesting read, November 13, 2014
This review is from: Rust: The Longest War (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Giving a single rating to a book like Rust is very difficult. The premise, that rust is a "the pervasive menace" that needs to be understood and dealt with, is intriguing, and the author is often an engaging writer in dealing with some arcane topics. There are problems with the overall book, however, in its organization and unevenness of writing.

Another reviewer has mentioned that the content would have made a good set of magazine articles, and I agree. However, as a book, the chapters don't really hang together. The author covers topics as wide ranging as corrosion problems for the Statue of Liberty, the making of corrosion-resistant soda cans, even the ways that rust imperils major oil pipelines, and even a photographer whose total obsession in her art work is centered on a steel scrapyard. Some of these chapters are indeed fascinating; I especially liked the very eclectic coverage of soda cans that included background related to old fashioned canning jars and provided a list of the many corporations involved in manufacturing a simple "tin can"--makers of nozzles and spray machines, coatings and pigments and more. Check out pages 105 to 107 for more detail.

In fact, the level of detail provided throughout the book reflects the author's serious research into every part of his book, and this is both strength and weakness. Good if you are particularly interested in one or more of these topics but more than a little overdone at times. There is also some quirkiness in his presentation that starts out lightening the topic but ends up being tiresome and distracting. By the time I got to the chapter titled "Ten Thousand Mustachioed Men," I felt like I had read 10,000 references to mustaches; way, way too much information on a totally irrelevant factoid.

The placement of that particular chapter, dealing with the people (mostly men, apparently mostly with mustaches) who are part of the NACE--National Association of Corrosion Engineers--was also bewildering. Since these people are a critical part of this "longest war," why is it not included until chapter 8? So I return to the weakness of the book's overall organization and finally am ending up given this a 3.5 but of course, since that is not possible, I reluctantly round down on this one. Some nice pearls here and there, but the general reader is likely to find only some portions of the book worth their time.


Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioning Seat, Black
Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioning Seat, Black
Price: $19.99
5 used & new from $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent choice for larger kids, November 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This seat has earned a "seal of approval" from two above average height boys ages 8 1/2 and 11. While they don't "need" a booster seat by law, they are still using them for added safety in correctly positioning their seat belts. They have indicated that the seat was comfortable and easy to use. For the adults, this has a clear advantage when carrying it on a plane for use in a rental car: compact size that fits well into luggage.

I have given this only four stars because its length, while great for these kids at the upper edge of the suggested height range, will be a potential problem for shorter kids who might not be able to bend their knees while in the seat. Be aware of that limitation if your child is just moving into a booster seat from a regular car seat.


DeLonghi TCH8093ER Ceramic Heater
DeLonghi TCH8093ER Ceramic Heater
Price: $99.95
23 used & new from $83.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Overall good product for cool houses, October 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I keep my home thermostat set at 59 or 60 overnight and the low 60s during the day and am generally comfortable when keeping busy with household tasks. However, sitting to write or do computer work can get a little chilly, so a small heater like this one is nice to take off a bit of a chill. This little tower fits my needs very well. It is quiet, moves the heat well on its oscillating setting and can also be focused on my desk chair when I am the only point in the room needing more warmth. I have not had an opportunity to really test the amount of electricity it consumes, but I believe that having it available for spot warmth should allow me to keep the thermostat for the whole house at least a degree or two lower throughout the winter.

The set up is easy (now down to just one, "optional," screw to secure the heater to its base), and the remote works well at a comfortable distance. The instruction manual is clear and full of the typical, and warranted, warnings and hazard alerts. The cord on the unit is a good length for items of this kind. However, if your home doesn't have outlets well-placed for the heater to use without having to use a power strip or sharing with other appliances or tech devices, I would like the manual to include the information that a heavy duty appliance extension cord could be considered. These specialty cords are available in well-equipped hardware or home center stores and could keep users from inadvisably trying to load up a circuit that can't really take the power draw of a space heater.

The only real drawback to this heater is that it does not direct any heat to the floor level. If your feet feel the cold faster than other parts of the body, you might be a little disappointed in the power of the DeLonghi to get your feet toasty warm quickly. Other than that, this looks like something I'll be enjoying a lot this winter.


OXO Good Grips Perfect Cut Twine Dispenser
OXO Good Grips Perfect Cut Twine Dispenser
Price: $14.99
9 used & new from $12.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Good at what it does, but not much more, October 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a single use product that does the job it is designed to do very well. For many of us who are spatially challenged, having the detailed sketches of how to thread the twine embossed right on the dispenser is a wonderful thing. The blade makes a smooth and swift cut while providing a safety design that looks like it would be very difficult to override. The twine provided with the dispenser feeds smoothly and appears to be readily available for future refills. If you use a lot of twine, either in the kitchen or in the garden for tying up plants, etc., this could be a good addition to your gadget collection.

Since I use twine only irregularly, I had gotten this with the hope that I could use it with some of the threads I use in quilting. These thread cones appear to be of similar shape, but I have not yet found any that fit the spindle for this dispenser. If you are looking for an item that can fill many different needs, this twine dispenser is probably not going to satisfy. However, if you use a lot of twine in your cooking, the opportunity to be able to have both hands available to tie up the meat or poultry without also hassling with scissors and touching the ball of twine with messy hands will be a big plus. And who knows, now that I have the twine more readily accessible, I just might try a few more recipes that require it.


The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian: How to Look Great, Feel Fabulous, and Be a Better You
The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian: How to Look Great, Feel Fabulous, and Be a Better You
by Rachel Meltzer Warren
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.95
36 used & new from $6.32

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good resource for potential vegetarians, October 28, 2014
There is a lot of really good information here, presented in a way that the target demographic (young women in their teens and twenties) is likely to find appealing and worth reading to the end. The author has provided solid information on how to get the best nutrition when considering giving up meat. Her explanations of various levels of leaving meat behind (with or without eggs, dairy, fish) are helpful, along with her separation of the kinds of planning each of these kinds of eating will require for complete nutrition. Better still, she gives the readers the option/freedom to sometimes indulge in a food that would not fit a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, especially helpful for those still hesitant about what could be a major change in their overall lifestyle.

All this said, I have some significant concerns. First, the frequent references to specific brands, restaurants and grocery chains made this feel at times like one long commercial. I guess this should not have come as a surprise for anyone who has reviewed her blog. The entries there run far more to reviews of products and eateries than to recipes and meals that can be prepared at home.

This product placement emphasis leads to a second problem: while Warren does reference some of the budget benefits that a vegetarian diet can provide, her overall recommendations and even many recipes are anything but economical. If an adolescent wants to try out being a vegetarian in a family of meat-eaters, the kinds of options presented here could be an added obstacle if that family is also working from a tight budget.

And then a personal problem with the overall approach here: Warren emphasizes that even young teens who want to begin a vegetarian lifestyle should have that right, and with that I don't at all disagree. And while she does say that "the decision you've made is your decision alone, and you can't expect everyone to instantly change to accommodate you," she then goes on to suggest that you "carry some of the weight along with [Mom]." So how do you help Mom out? well, you share "ideas from this book, keep your eyes open for recipes and meal ideas from newspapers, blogs, and more." (pp 92-93) And yes, you can even help out a little more by offering "to make dinner for the whole family, just once, or once a week." But throughout the book, there still seems to be an attitude that a teenager should expect that others will be taking care of preparing their meals and paying for the increased costs these choices might make. If a girl is savvy enough to make these decisions, is she not also mature enough to take a much larger role in preparing the family meals and helping out as just a part of being a family? This may not be a big issue for many readers, but I did find it distracting to the overall message.


Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.47
62 used & new from $13.89

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Life Lived Sharing Mercy with Those in Need of Justice, October 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The statistics related to capital crimes and imprisonment in the US are disheartening, and little seems to have changed over the years since Bryan Stevenson started the work that became the Equal Justice Initiative, EJI. When Rosa Parks once "sweetly asked, 'Now, Bryan, tell me who you are and what you're doing," he summarized his work as follows: "we're trying to help people on death row. We're trying to stop the death penalty, actually. We're trying to do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. We want to free people who've been wrongly convicted. We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice. We're trying to help the poor and do something about indigent defense and the fact that people don't get the legal help they need. We're trying to help people who are mentally ill. We're trying to stop them from putting children in adult jails and prisons. We're trying to do something about poverty and the hopelessness that dominates poor communities....I realized that I had gone on way too long, and I stopped abruptly...Ms. Parks leaned back, smiling. 'Oooooh, honey, all that's going to make you tired, tired, tired....That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave.'"

Just Mercy is a wonderfully readable acoount of Stevenson's work with individuals and families caught in the mire of an often unjust justice system. There are successes and failures, there is pain and incredible sadness, but makes this book stand out is the strength of the author's own character. He has appeared before the US Supreme Court as well as many lower courts, sometimes gaining stays of execution, sometimes unable to get through the arcane nature of some laws and regulations. But the power of his willingness to stay the course, to continue his work is seen when after he was unable to stop the execution of an intellectually disabled client. He dried his tears and got in the car to go home, weary and worn. Then he hears a radio pastor speaking of 2 Corinthians 12:9: "So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecution and calamities." Ruminating on the pastor's words, Stevenson says, "I understood that even as we are caught in a web of hurt and brokenness, we're also in a web of healing and mercy...The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It's when mercy is least expected that it's most potent."

And so EJI continues its work, bringing mercy and working for justice. This book is incredibly important for us all to read and begin to realize that all of us need to be supporting efforts to bring real justice to all parts of our society. Thank goodness for Mr. Stevenson and others working with him as they bring a ray of hope into the lives of so many. "The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong." Pick up a copy of Just Mercy and consider how you too can become one more ray of hope.


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