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Hefty Steelsak Drawstring Trash Bags, 30 Gallon, 15 Count
Hefty Steelsak Drawstring Trash Bags, 30 Gallon, 15 Count
Price: $8.49
7 used & new from $8.49

5.0 out of 5 stars They cost a bit more but are recommended for the toughest jobs., September 3, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Hefty Steelsak Drawstring Trash Bags, 30 Gallon, 15 Count, are guaranteed not to tear, even when you use them for heavy-duty jobs. Whether you are need them to discard garbage from your basement, garage, garden, or yard, or whether you use them for storage of heavy items, you will not have to worry that these bags will suddenly puncture or split in two. In addition, the drawstring ties are easy to grip and close. You get what you pay for when you purchase Hefty Bags--strength and reliability.


A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery
A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery
by Deanna Raybourn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.99
27 used & new from $12.84

5.0 out of 5 stars "I am quite determined to be mistress of my own fate.", September 1, 2015
Twenty-five year old naturalist Victoria Speedwell is an orphan who enjoys traveling to exotic locales. She is interested in all types of natural history, but butterflies are her passion and area of expertise. In 1887, after attending the funeral of her former guardian, Victoria looks forward to a carefree future. Unfortunately, in close succession, someone ransacks her cottage and a stranger who claims to have known her late mother warns her of impending danger. Before long, she is on her way to London, where her kindly benefactor places her under the protection of an eccentric and irritable (albeit mesmerizing) man named Stoker. He is foul-mouthed, unkempt, and impatient with Victoria's habit of speaking her mind.

Those who loved Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey will be delighted with Victoria Speedwell, an equally sassy and irreverent narrator. She is a free spirit; enjoys life's intellectual and sensual pleasures; and is curious, impetuous, sarcastic, and aggressively unconventional. When she teams up with Mr. Stoker to find a murderer and solve a puzzle that may shed light on her parentage, she throws herself into the role of amateur sleuth with gusto. Victoria and Stoker bicker constantly but gradually develop a grudging mutual respect.

"A Curious Beginning" is a breezy, diverting, and engaging romp. It is fun to observe the wheels in Victoria's brain turning. Stoker is a stereotype, but an entertaining one: He is a brilliant but troubled man with a dark past that he prefers not to discuss. Before long, he and Victoria are on the run, hoping to discover who wants to harm them and why. What they learn will shock even the usually imperturbable Speedwell. The author has a blast with a wild plot in which Victoria becomes part of a knife-throwing act in a traveling caravan. In addition the couple engages in a bit of breaking and entering to further their investigation and, unsurprisinigly, Stoker and Victoria become increasingly attracted to one another. The ending leaves a number of loose ends untied, setting us up for the forthcoming sequel.


Mycroft Holmes
Mycroft Holmes
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "There are three poisons to sound judgment--love, hate, and envy.", August 30, 2015
This review is from: Mycroft Holmes (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's "Mycroft Holmes," co-authored by Anna Waterhouse, focuses on Sherlock Holmes's older brother, twenty-three year old Mycroft. He is a graduate of Cambridge and works for Britain's Secretary of State for War. It is 1870, and Mycroft is engaged to Georgiana Sutton, "the prettiest, most intelligent, kindest woman in the world." He is taken aback, however, when his fiancée announces that she plans to set sail for Trinidad, where her parents own a sugar plantation. With permission from his employer, Mycroft decides to follow her, accompanied by his close friend, Cyrus Douglas, a black man who also has family in Trinidad. Douglas is concerned about reports from his native land that quite a few locals have vanished and that someone has been murdering young children. Cyrus and Mycroft embark on a hazardous journey that "might not be destined to end at all well."

Little do these comrades realize that they are pawns in a high-stakes conspiracy conceived by people who will do anything to keep their despicable actions from coming to light. By the time Holmes and Douglas realize what they are up against, they may be too physically and mentally wrung out to take on their ruthless antagonists. Jabbar throws a great deal into the mix: demons, economic inequality, racism, betrayal, and violence galore. People are shot at, stabbed, trampled on, poisoned, and beaten to a pulp. Sixteen-year-old Sherlock, Mycroft's younger brother, is on hand for several brief but memorable appearances. He is already developing keen powers of observation, a dislike for the companionship of his peers, and a fascination with "the gruesome and the macabre."

A complicated and unfocused plot that is heavy on histrionics weighs down the narrative. By the time this ponderous story reaches its finale, Mycroft has confronted morally bankrupt individuals who are "devoid of the common thread of human decency." A much sadder and less naÔve Holmes emerges from his painful exploits better prepared to face the future. Although this work of fiction has its share of excitement, suspense, and fascinating historical details, the stilted, long-winded, and heavy-handed writing keeps "Mycroft Holmes" from earning more than a marginal recommendation.


Dark Waters: A Raisa Jordan Thriller
Dark Waters: A Raisa Jordan Thriller
by Chris Goff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.62

4.0 out of 5 stars "What you have is a gut feeling and a boatload of conjecture.", August 30, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Dark Waters," by Chris Goff, is an espionage saga in which members of various factions square off against one another. As the book opens, an American federal judge and former Navy SEAL, Ben Taylor, and his eleven-year-old daughter, Lucy, are in Tel Aviv, waiting with a gathering crowd to see a beautiful display: a colorful fountain "flashing a variety of colors," accompanied by a "pulsing musical beat." Just before the show begins, someone in the vicinity is stabbed and an unidentified sniper shoots the assailant. Chaos ensues as the assembled spectators run for cover.

Thus begins an action-packed work of fiction in which the central figures are Russian-born Special Agent Raisa Jordan, assistant regional security officer assigned to the American Embassy; Batya Ganani of Shin Bet (Israel's equivalent of the FBI); her overbearing boss, Ilya Brodsky; and Umar Haddid, a mild-mannered Palestinian torn between loyalty to his peers and a fervent desire for peace. The story involves a conspiracy by fanatics to disrupt pending peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Goff uses her setting well and effectively conveys the tension, fear, and anger that has been tearing apart the Middle East for so many years. The story is fast-paced, with intrigue, bloody gun battles, hand-to-hand combat, and a valiant effort to foil a band of extremists. Although the plot is over-the-top and a bit too frenetic, "Dark Waters" is an involving and timely debut novel.


A Window Opens: A Novel
A Window Opens: A Novel
by Elisabeth Egan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.59
52 used & new from $9.80

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Sometimes our best isn't good enough.", August 28, 2015
Thirty-eight year old bibliophile Alice Pearse lives in suburban New Jersey with her husband, Nicholas Bauer, and their three young children. When Nicholas's income takes an unexpected hit, Alice applies for a position at Scroll, a company that plans to create "a peaceful lounge" where downloading and reading e-books is a pleasurable and user-friendly experience. Alice is thrilled to be given this exciting opportunity. However, she is disheartened when she realizes that Scroll's CEO (who launches a "Paper is Poison initiative") is more interested in profits than in creating a welcoming space for passionate book lovers. Soon Alice's woes, both at home and at work, multiply. At one point she exclaims, "I feel like my head is going to explode."

Elisabeth Egan's "A Window Opens" is a poignant story about making tough decisions and living with the consequences. Alice, who narrates, admits that she is barely holding it together, both personally and professionally, especially when she learns that her dad's cancer has recurred. Egan's themes include how adversity can derail even the most solid relationship; the importance of remaining true to one's values; and the impossibility of having it all. The author gleefully satirizes corporate types who speak in unintelligible jargon and spout such annoying statements as: "I need to know your head is in the game" and "we turn adversity on its ear." In addition, Egan condemns the behavior of insensitive executives who treat their employees like interchangeable cogs in a machine.

Anyone who has ever felt overburdened by too many expectations and responsibilities will identify with Alice and Nicholas's troubles. Adding to our heroine's unease is the fact that her best friend, Susanna, is a small bookstore owner whose business is in danger of going under, thanks to ruthless competitors like Scroll. Genevieve Andrews, Alice's volatile boss, may be friendly now and then, but she frequently criticizes Alice's performance and insists that she put in longer hours, show greater commitment, and increase her productivity. There is angst aplenty in "A Window Opens," but there is also humor and kindness. Alice and Nicholas rely on Jessie, the babysitter who devotedly cares for their kids. They also derive strength from Joan, Alice's wise, courageous, and compassionate mother. Will Nicholas and Alice be able to reorder their priorities before their marriage implodes? "A Window Opens" is occasionally contrived and has an ending that is too neat to be entirely believable. Nevertheless, it is, for the most part, an involving, eloquent, and heartwarming novel that celebrates the joys of reading and depicts a loving couple trying to find their way without losing what is most precious to them.


Armitron Sport Women's 45/7051CLR Digital Clear Jelly Strap Watch
Armitron Sport Women's 45/7051CLR Digital Clear Jelly Strap Watch
Price: $22.49

4.0 out of 5 stars This is an eye-catching and accurate timepiece., August 26, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Armitron Sport Women's Clear Jelly Strap Digital Watch is comfortable, attractive, and easy to set. It has a stainless-steel back, an acrylic case, and displays the time in a large, bold font. There are some features that could be a bit more user-friendly. Although the day and date appear on the watch face, you can access the month only by pushing a button on the side. This is not a big problem, since most of us know the month without glancing at our watches. What is strange is that the words Monday through Friday are printed in tiny letters, and the current day of the week is blacked out.

Since I do not make a habit of exposing my watch to water, I cannot comment on its water-resistance. However, I would advise being gentle with the strap, since it is made of a resin-type plastic. If you force the strap or make it too tight, the loop could conceivably break. I wear the Armitron a bit looser than necessary in order to reduce wear and tear. The price is reasonable for this sporty and extremely lightweight timepiece that is practical for everyday use.


The Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
The Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
by Louise Penny
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.76
56 used & new from $15.25

42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "It was a warning of catastrophe. Deliberate and inescapable.", August 25, 2015
In Louise Penny's "Nature of the Beast," Armand Gamache, former Chief Inspector of Homicide for the SŻreté du Québec, is enjoying a quiet retirement with his wife, Reine-Marie, in the tiny and rustic Quebec town of Three Pines. They frequently socialize with their warm, caring, and supportive neighbors, and even tolerate Ruth Zardo, an elderly poet and curmudgeon who rarely has a good word to say about anyone. Although he is no longer on the force, Gamache becomes involved when Laurent Lepage, a nine-year-old child whom he knew well, is found dead. Armand's son-in-law, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, informs Gamache that the police have ruled the death accidental. However, when Armand surveys the crime scene, he notices several anomalies that point to foul play. An additional subplot involves a theatrical production that is to be staged by Antoinette Lemaitre. However, when the cast and crew learn that the playwright is a notorious serial killer, most of them hastily back out.

The story's centerpiece is a strange discovery made in a wooded area that leaves the citizens in Three Pines in a state of shock. There is little doubt that Laurent stumbled upon this object before he was killed. The police bring in an aging professor who may be able to shed light on the finding, and two members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service turn up to keep an eye on what promises to be a sensitive investigation. The intriguing opening chapters of "The Nature of the Beast" pique our curiosity. Later, however, the book's momentum is stalled by long-winded and repetitious conversations in which Gamache, Beauvoir, Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste, and others discuss the upheaval that has destroyed the serenity of Three Pines. In spite of the fact that Gamache is no longer a member of the law enforcement community, his former colleagues welcome his advice and insights.

Like all of Louise Penny's novels, "The Nature of the Beast" is populated with idiosyncratic and complex characters. However, the novel falls short of Penny's best work. Few of the regulars whom we have come to know stand out this time around. The mystery is too convoluted and Penny's numerous red herrings soon become more irritating than diverting. Readers who have always appreciated Penny's beautiful and nuanced descriptive writing, sensitive depiction of the human psyche, and thought-provoking discussions of art, literature, history, and philosophy may be a bit disappointed by "The Nature of the Beast." It is slow-moving, marred by far-fetched plot elements (which is ironic, since it is based on real-life events), includes a clichéd race against time, and concludes with a melodramatic finale that strains credulity.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 31, 2015 1:13 PM PDT


X (A Kinsey Millhone Novel)
X (A Kinsey Millhone Novel)
by Sue Grafton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.37
65 used & new from $13.29

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Justice isn't cut and dried.", August 25, 2015
Sue Grafton's latest Kinsey Millhone novel, "X," takes place in 1989, before the advent of high-speed Internet and cell-phones. Thirty-eight year old Kinsey is a private investigator whose client list has shrunk. However, thanks to a tidy nest egg, she has the freedom to pursue inquiries that interest her. Two complex matters come along, one involving Pete Wolinsky, a private eye with whom Kinsey once worked. Pete's widow, Ruth, asks Kinsey to restore order to her late husbands chaotic files, since the IRS is threatening to conduct an audit. Kinsey agrees to do what she can, but soon discovers surprising information that sheds light on a series of troubling events from the past.

In addition, a socialite hires Kinsey to obtain contact information for a recently released ex-convict. On the home front, Kinsey and her elderly landlord, Henry, are stuck with a troublesome pair of needy new neighbors, Joseph and Edna Shallenbarger. There is something fishy about these two, but Kinsey cannot put her finger on what it is that arouses her suspicion. "X" may refer to Teddy and Ari Xanakis, a wealthy couple who have gone through a contentious divorce. Later, Kinsey will have an opportunity to speak to each of them,

Millhone lives in the fictional California town of Santa Teresa, dresses simply, lives frugally, and is proud of her miserly ways. Her passion is tracking down "life's cheaters." She is revolted by the fact that so many villains get away with their crimes. "My mission is to eradicate the lot of them, " she declares. To this end, Kinsey tails suspects, conducts surveillance, unearths old records with the help of a friendly librarian, interviews cops, and tracks down anyone else who might have vital information. At one point she visits an elderly lady who solves large and difficult jigsaw puzzles. Like her, Kinsey tries to rearrange the jumbled pieces of her cases in order to come up with a coherent picture.

"X" is a solid mystery in which Kinsey is an insightful, sassy, and street-smart narrator. She admits, "My prime talent is snooping, which sometimes includes a touch of breaking and entering." This time around, she is particularly eager to stop a sociopath from harming gullible and vulnerable girls who are unlucky enough to enter his orbit. "X" has well-drawn characters, an intricate plot, and a refreshingly realistic conclusion. As Sue Grafton approaches the finish line of this long-running series, it is a pleasure to see Kinsey Millhone back in top form, doing what she does best.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 29, 2015 5:44 PM PDT


The Comfort of Black
The Comfort of Black
by Carter Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.31
26 used & new from $15.28

5.0 out of 5 stars "Why would you do this to me?", August 23, 2015
This review is from: The Comfort of Black (Hardcover)
Hannah Parks has endured more than her share of misery. She and her younger sister, Justine, grew up in a dysfunctional household in Kansas. Eventually, the girls moved to Seattle, where Hannah attended college and married Dallin Leighton, whose successful Internet security firm has made millions. Sadly, Justine barely gets by by as a single mom with two young sons. Although Hannah is financially secure, she is a borderline alcoholic who has nightmares about her abusive and sadistic father, Billy. Furthermore, Hannah suspects that her husband, who has become increasingly distant, may be hiding something significant.

Before long, Hannah lands in serious trouble. Her only hope of escaping is to accept the help of a mysterious stranger named Black Morrow. Black promises to help Hannah flee under an assumed identity if such a move should become necessary. "The Comfort of Black," by Carter Wilson, is a tense psychological thriller whose central characters have a talent for making bad situations worse. Hannah is smart and strong but insecure, especially since her sociopathic father is now at large after spending time in prison. Hannah is anxious to know who is targeting her and why. Furthermore, can she trust Black, who appeared out of nowhere to take on the role of her knight in shining armor?

The author keeps us engrossed in his complex plot as he gradually reveals why Hannah's life has fallen apart. There are numerous scenes of violence plus emotional confrontations in which masks are abruptly torn off. If Hannah is going to survive with her sanity intact, she will need to be mentally and physically tough enough to defend herself from those who would destroy her. Although "The Comfort of Black" is melodramatic and contrived at times, it packs a wallop. Carter Wilson has written a suspenseful, fast-paced, and hard-edged thriller that focuses on the destructive power of greed, envy, hatred, and rage.


Last Words
Last Words
by Michael Koryta
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.02
55 used & new from $11.90

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Question everything; trust nothing.", August 22, 2015
This review is from: Last Words (Hardcover)
Mark Novak, an investigator for a firm of Florida-based lawyers who are dedicated to freeing wrongly accused death-row inmates, has never forgiven himself for speaking harshly to his wife, Lauren, in a moment of pique. At the time, he did not know that he would never have the chance to atone for his thoughtless "last words." More than a year later, Novak, is in danger of losing his job because of his erratic and reckless behavior.

His boss dispatches Mark to the frigid town of Garrison, Indiana, to look into the unsolved murder of Sarah Jean Martin, a seventeen-year-old girl who died in a system of caves known as the Trapdoor ten years earlier. Ridley Barnes, an expert caver, brought Sarah to the surface after she went missing, but he was not charged in her slaying. There was no hard evidence proving that he committed the crime, and he claims that he does not remember what happened. Still, Barnes's suspicious neighbors believe that he is guilty and they have treated him like a pariah ever since he recovered Sarah's dead body.

When Mark starts asking too many questions about the circumstances surrounding Sarah's death, bad things happen. He encounters hostility and lies from almost everyone he meets. After being attacked physically, one would think that he would quickly return home. Instead, Novak decides to see his mission through to the end. He hopes that by avenging Sarah's slaying, he will earn redemption for having failed his late wife.

Koryta is a skilled storyteller who uses setting effectively. The enormous cave in "Last Words" is a creepy, twisting, and dangerous place that harbor dark, mysterious, and malevolent forces. We get a feel for the danger and difficulty involved in exploring maze-like underground passages, a venture that can prove fatal for the uninitiated. The characters include a sheriff who urges Mark to leave as quickly as possible; the daughter of a wealthy landowner; a sensitive and compassionate hypnotist; the aforementioned Ridley, who believes that the Trapdoor is a living entity; and Mark's increasingly impatient superior, who is weary of bailing his employee out of trouble.

Although, at over four hundred pages, the book is too long, the descriptive writing is superior, Mark's plight is involving, and Koryta keeps us on tenterhooks for much of the narrative. Therefore, it is disappointing that the author wraps up his novel so unsatisfyingly. The arduous journey that takes place both above and below the earth ends with a lengthy explanation that is muddled and implausible. The pedestrian climax is unworthy of a tale that promised so much more.


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