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Customer Reviews: 473
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Glenn R. Howes RSS Feed (Nashua, NH)
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Camco 42809 Picnic Blanket with Carrying Strap (57" x 57", Aqua)
Camco 42809 Picnic Blanket with Carrying Strap (57" x 57", Aqua)
Price: $27.44

2.0 out of 5 stars The Strap Failed Under Minimal Stress, October 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We got this blanket out of its packaging; my daughter liked it and was twirling it around her neck. And the strap pulled right out of the seam, snapping what few threads were holding it together. On closer examination it appears to be a decent fabric, poorly sewn together. It's also on the small side, but you know that going in.

It does fold neatly back into its tidy rectangle, held closed by adequate velcro. I'd likely have given it a better rating if only it hadn't failed so easily. I'll keep it in the trunk of my car for improvisational picnics.


Contigo Cortland Water Bottle, 24-Ounce, Greyed Jade
Contigo Cortland Water Bottle, 24-Ounce, Greyed Jade
Price: $12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtfully Designed, October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Sometimes you get an obviously well designed product, one that a team of designers has gone over every aspect of how the product will be used and figured out ways to make it better.

So, I can see my potential needs and how the designers addressed those needs:

Like to put ice in my bottle / make the bottle have a wide opening
Need to wash in dishwasher / have a latch in the lid to expose parts that would be hidden by the washer
Want to put on a loop on my backpack / put a spring loaded latch that can grab a loop
One handed operation / use a trigger grip to let liquid come out, use a grippy rubberized rim on the lid
Don't want any leaks / have both a spring loaded valve and a lid that snaps over the opening

There is a lot of design in this bottle.


Mega Bloks Halo UNSC Attack Mantis
Mega Bloks Halo UNSC Attack Mantis
Offered by B.A. Toys
Price: $79.99
5 used & new from $79.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You will laugh when it starts spitting missiles, October 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This toy has many flaws. It has a hard time standing on its feet. Some pieces easily fall off. For its size there aren't many pieces, so it isn't much of an accomplishment assembling it. However, it has a cool rocket launcher, that quickly spits out miniature missiles with fun sounds. And it has a cool, noisy head rotation that gives a little flavor of being tracked by a deadly robot. So I'm forgiving of the flaws.

My 9 year old son assembled it in a bit over an hour. He did have to call for my help a couple of times when a piece didn't want to snap in place.

I'm giving this a qualified recommendation. It's fun but a bit chintzy.


Eton Blackout Buddy H20 The Always-Ready Water-Activated Emergency Light, 3-pk (ARCBBH2010W_TRP)
Eton Blackout Buddy H20 The Always-Ready Water-Activated Emergency Light, 3-pk (ARCBBH2010W_TRP)
Price: $23.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Just Throw It In a Drawer, October 14, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Every couple years we get ice storms here in New England, and we spend several days huddling in cold rooms waiting for the power to return. I've even purchased an emergency generator for the house because I really do not like being off-grid, but I can't run my generator 24x7. It'll be nice to have these in a drawer for those times.

These are kind of cool and very tiny. You spritz a little water into the bottom and they glow for a couple days. Not a lot of light, but I was able to read a chapter of a book in the dark after 24 hours. I'll throw the rest in a drawer and years from now, will be happy to pull it out.


Balance Keepers #1: The Fires of Calderon
Balance Keepers #1: The Fires of Calderon
by Lindsay Cummings
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.76
59 used & new from $4.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable for the Age Group, October 12, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My 9 year old son has nothing but good things to say about this book and has asked several times when its second volume might be released. For him, it's a engrossing tale.

As for me, I read it and it's reasonably well done, if not a classic. It's also extremely derivative and Potteresque if you know what I mean. And I'd say the rules and tactics of the Balance Keepers make no sense even if you accept the basic premise. The plot sort of implodes under the strain of coming up with a scenario where a small team of 11 year olds are expected to face deadly monsters and magically save the world when their elders couldn't.

Anyway, my son loved it and that's what matters.


U.S. Divers Malibu Silicone Free Diving Mask Snorkel Set, Clear
U.S. Divers Malibu Silicone Free Diving Mask Snorkel Set, Clear
Offered by Bay 15

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Plate Glass, October 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not an expert diver, to say the least, but I do know a quality product when I see it. The first thing you notice about this mask is the beautifully sturdy and transparent plate glass. This is not a toy. I was surprised at how easily it slipped onto my face with a tight seal; with other similar masks I've had to spend some time getting a mask to fit. The silicone is comfortable.

As for the snorkel, the mouth piece fits easily, and I was quickly able to swim comfortably face down while breathing through the tube. Pretty beginner friendly.

As it happens, we have a cheaper U.S. Divers mask, one sold at Costco, and it was recalled because people evidently didn't know you are not supposed to dive into the water face first while wearing a diving mask. Anyway, this one seems sturdier, but avoid face diving anyway.

Anyway, my non-expert opinion is this is a nice set.


Kobi Electric K8L6 6-watt (40-Watt) Straight Tip Candle LED 2700K Warm White Indoor Candelabra Light Bulb, Dimmable
Kobi Electric K8L6 6-watt (40-Watt) Straight Tip Candle LED 2700K Warm White Indoor Candelabra Light Bulb, Dimmable
Price: $13.69
4 used & new from $12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Bit on the White Side, October 9, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been replacing CFL based lights in the house with LED based, so I was happy to unscrew a dead CFL in y kitchen overhead lamp and replace it with one of these LEDs. It's a bit whiter than the other lights in my motley collection, but OK, I just wouldn't call it warm. I've noticed that LEDs are gaining more and more elaborate heat sinks around their bases in order to avoid the heat death that comes with leaving them lit in enclosed spaces, and this one has such a set of deepish grooves around the base.

I wouldn't be able to say if this is better than any competing brand, it just appears to be competently constructed and I'm happy with it. Better than junk is often a hard bar to beat, and this light appears to not be junk.


Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioning Seat, Black
Safety 1st Incognito Kid Positioning Seat, Black
Price: $19.99
7 used & new from $9.86

4.0 out of 5 stars Can Be Convenient, October 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've two children, a 7 year old girl, and a 9 year old boy. The girl didn't like this positioning seat, thinking it too uncomfortable. The boy didn't mind it and was even OK with switching out his long term seat. So, given that I'd say if your child finds it comfortable then it has a few advantages.

One problem we've always had with larger car seats is that the section of the seat belt coming out between the seats of my Civic often get pushed down and are hard to get to, especially by my daughter. This seat attaches to the seat belt itself, making it comparatively easy to snap the seatbelt together. And it positions it a bit better for comfort. Even my daughter who didn't like the seat as a whole, liked its seatbelt management.

Another problem is dealing when the case when you need the back seats for adults, and have to stow the children seats. Annoying with a normal full sized children's seat. With this seat, I can just toss it in the trunk easily.

So, it's nice to have in my car although it is dependent on the preferences of the child.


OXO Good Grips Wiper Blade Squeegee
OXO Good Grips Wiper Blade Squeegee
Price: $9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nicely Made, But Maybe Not Practical, October 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My wife hates my shower. She wanted it tiled in white; I chose earth tones. From her point of view, it will never look clean; from my point of view you can never tell if it's dirty. But, mold will grow on the grout and I will periodically have to take a grout brush and some tile and grout cleaner and beat it back. It'd be nice if I could keep it from growing at all.

So, I am trying out this squeegee, but I don't think it will be working out. One, I have fairly deep grout lines and the squeegee sort of skips over them, and again that is where the mold grows. Two, I have somewhere around 100 square feet of either tile, glass brick or door to keep clean and that will take at least a minute to squeegee off, and that is too much time out of my day to deal with. Three, even if I were to dry off the tile after every shower, the air in the shower is still moist; it will dew out onto the tile again before I'm out the door.

I tried just cleaning the glass bricks with some tile cleaner and this squeegee and that worked beautifully for a few seconds; my glass bricks became clear, clean and sparkly, but the cleaner dried out and left a residue leaving me back where I began. Perhaps with a different cleaner.

The squeegee itself is well made. I'm particularly liking the rotating hook which makes it easy to find a place to hang it. Ironically, the crack between the handle and the hook will likely be a great place for mold to grow in peace. The packaging says it uses "car technology" and the business end does indeed look like a single bladed windshield wiper. Oxo makes well designed stuff out of appropriate materials.

In summary, I just don't think this is a practical item.


Kindle, 6" Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers
Kindle, 6" Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers
Price: $79.00

120 of 142 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, Once You Start Reading, October 3, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this value-priced Kindle to solve a problem. My 9 year old son loves to read; he will tear through a Harry Potter book in a couple of days. But, he has no interest in reading on a regular tablet whether it be one of the iPads in the house, or the Kindle Fire HD. Something about the experience, basically staring at a white lamp for hours, keeps him from enjoying it like he enjoys traditional paper books. But paper books are bulky, and accumulate, and get kicked around the car, and have to be returned to the library. Many times, I'd just prefer to have the convenience of an eBook.

So, when this new generation of Kindle E Ink readers were announced, and at such a low price, I impulsively put in a pre-order. I could cheaply experiment to see if it was right for my son. This whole device costs less than the extended warranty on my iPad.

When it arrived, I made an error. I powered it on. One of my children asked to see it, I handed it over, and when it was handed back, it had been set to German and was midway through the tutorial you walk through to learn the basics of operating the Kindle. Now my German has been completely unlearned since I was in college, so I was at sea. I needed to call Kindle support to get me out of there. By the way, Kindle support answered my call within a minute, on a Thursday afternoon, and the pleasent man on the other end helped me get out of the tutorial, and find my way to the comforts of American English.

But I had missed the tutorial, and if there ever was a device that you need to absorb the lessons of the onboarding screens, it is this single button Kindle. It has one of the least discoverable interfaces you are likely to encounter in this modern era of app design. It's filled with secret taps in regions of the screens, and long presses to do something, and swipes other places. So it takes a while to get used to even if you've walked through the lengthy tutorial.

But, even given that, my children, both my 9 and 7 year old, immediately fell in love with this little reader. I signed up for a month of FreeTime, so there was a little book content--not enough, but enough to get a quick taste--and I soon heard one of my favorite sounds: my son chuckling at a book. And then later, my daughter who has just recently gotten seriously interested in reading, borrowed it, found in a book a demonstration of drawing the book's cartoon characters, and was happily copying them from the display onto paper. Soon after, she asked me if the Kindle could be hers.

So, I am favourably inclined towards this device. I've not been happy with Amazon's regular tablets, they have not stood up very well in my household when competing with iPads, but these E Ink single purpose devices are a different animal. By being better as a reader than a general purpose tablet: not being backlit, having ridiculously good battery life, being very lightweight, and being cheap enough that I don't have to worry too much about them breaking, they comfortably fill a niche in my family's technology needs. However, in no way is this is a replacement for a general purpose tablet. While it does have an "Experimental Browser," that is somewhat of a sad joke, slow, ugly and crashy, something you'd only find useful in an emergency. Nor is it a gaming machine, or even good for books where photographs take a big role or with odd layouts like books for young children. It has no sound input or output, so no audio books or text to speech. The screen doesn't even autorotate, although it can be put in landscape mode. This is a text reading machine. Period. But a useful one.

But not a perfect one. A perfect device would instantly refresh like an LCD or AMOLED tablet, this E Ink device takes time to change its display--perhaps a quarter of a second--making navigation a clunky experience. A perfect device would have paper-white white backgrounds, this one has a decidedly grey background: for whiter, you will have to pay more. The resolution is just low enough that you can see the pixels in the fonts; don't let this ruin it for you, read the words and not the pixels. A perfect device would have a more easy to access interface, maybe even a couple more hardware buttons, but a few hours of use will get you used to it and mostly forgetting the pain of learning. Whatever you do, spend your time learning from the onboarding tutorial.

My extended family has been tough on E Ink Kindles. One of my brothers has broken two of the older models; he had an unfortunate habit of sitting or sleeping on them. So treat this thing gently and never place it in a back pocket. Even this new one after a couple weeks of wear has developed a "smudge" about the size of a lower case a towards the bottom left side.

A perfect device would be on the Internet all the time, this one requires a Wi-Fi connection. A frequent traveler will likely find the Kindles with cellular service worth the extra upfront cost. Several years ago, I bought one of my brothers such a Kindle for when he was studying in Rome, and he used that feature all the time. This is a Wi-Fi only device and it quickly found a couple of hubs in my house, and I was able to enter my password and start downloading books from my account quickly. If needed, I could use my phone as a hotspot and get content on the go that way.

The screen has a distinctly grey tinge, and fonts are very dark grey, so the contrast is middling. There are a variety of font options: Baskerville, Caecilia, Caecilia Condensed, Futura, Helvetica, Palatino, and a "Publisher Font" which apparently allows publishers to embed their own preferred font or at least select it. Of these, Caecilia is the default and the best suited for the device's screen. It minimizes the slight waviness of straight lines caused by the limitations of the underlying E Ink technology. The combined effect is reminiscent of printing with a very good dot matrix printer (remember those?) onto fine recycled paper.

I've subscribed to FreeTime for my children on my Kindle Fire HD in the past, and eventually dropped it for lack of interest from them. I've re-activated it for this device, but unless they increase the number of books for their age brackets, I will likely drop it again. Still, it's worth trying it out for a month, and if you drop it, Amazon will refund you whatever portion is left in the month.

X-Ray is an interesting feature. I've started to read the original James Bond novel, Casino Royale, and it's interesting seeing a graph of how characters like Felix Leiter pop up, disaappear and reappear. Or a brief history of the Peugeot company. I've a feeling I won't be using this feature often, it seems like a distraction from the text, but perhaps for non-fiction it will end up being essential.

The ads on the lock screen have not been annoying and I barely notice their content.

There is no power adaptor in the box--part of the low price--but my house has dozens of USB charging ports, and it includes a decent micro-USB charging cord.

To summarize, a fine single purpose device. Hard to navigate, but as a reader, you will spend hours reading, which it is great at and seconds navigating, so the tradeoff is acceptable. I like its low low cost especially as I'm handing it off to children, but many will find the upsell to the whiter versions with cellular service worth the extra money.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 3, 2014 6:46 PM PDT


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