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True Story of Ida Johnson
True Story of Ida Johnson
by Sharon Riis
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from $580.62

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the more interesting female characters I've encountered, September 6, 2014
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A truck driver in Alberta, Canada picks up a hitch-hiker and drops him off in a small town diner. At the diner, the hitch-hiker strikes up a conversation with Ida, a waitress. He asks Ida to tell him her life story. It's the end of her shift, Ida has nothing better to do, so after he agrees to pay for her time (twenty bucks), Ida starts to talk.

This is a very short book -- all the better for re-reading, which I think was the author's intention. The hitch-hiker might not be what he seems, and maybe Ida isn't either.

Ida gives us the highlights and lowlights of her life -- an ordinary childhood in a charmless but harmless family. The only real highlight is Ida's friendship with the younger Lucy, a Native American from "the Reserve". Their personalities are very different. Ida is content to let life happen to her, almost like a dumb animal, which Lucy doesn't understand. Lucy leaves town very early, while Ida hangs around, lets herself get pregnant and marries a young man who she never bothers to get to know. Tragedy follows and Ida commences to wandering.

It's difficult to explain why I liked this book so much. Might be the honesty, might be admiration for what Riis has done in creating Ida, on the surface an ordinary, unlikable and not very interesting character. But in the end, she's almost Sphinx-like, maybe even a creation of the reader. She can be viewed in different ways, depending on the reader's own personal experience. I liked her, but I don't think I'd want her for a friend.

This was an amazing book and definitely meant for more than one reading.

Sterilite Corp. 10988004 28 Quart Ultra Wastebasket
Sterilite Corp. 10988004 28 Quart Ultra Wastebasket
Offered by BrandName Overstock
Price: $16.29
8 used & new from $10.85

3.0 out of 5 stars The catch could be tighter, September 6, 2014
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The size is functional -- short enough to fit under a sink and small enough to tuck away. The plastic is stiff and sturdy and the finish has a nice texture. Sometimes smooth plastic is difficult to keep clean.

I would have given it five stars but for the catch. It's loose enough that the average dog or a smart toddler could bump it and easily pop it open. After just a few times opening it, the doesn't hold unless I pull up on the bottom of the catch or pull down on the top.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
by Reza Aslan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.23
252 used & new from $4.45

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I don't have a dog in this fight, May 22, 2014
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I was raised as a Protestant and am as familiar with the Gospels as any other non-student of religion. What prompted me to read this book was an interest in the historical Jesus as opposed to the Biblical Jesus. I was also interested in the history of the early church and how the gospels came to be written. The only other book I've read that touches on this is Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt.

I've read some review comments criticizing Aslan for cherry-picking from the Gospels to prove an assertion, while at the same time criticizing parts of those Gospels as inaccurate. I also have a problem with this, but I don't think he has an agenda, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. It may be that the parts he relies on for truth are reinforced by other sources.

I don't think the book will convince anyone, one way or the other, about the truth of the miracles or the resurrection. Neither do I think the book will test anyone's faith. The book has value as a history of that time and place, and of early founders of the Christian religion.

It's well-written, well-organized, and engaging.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 20, 2014 12:13 PM PDT

Iowa: A Guide to the Hawkeye State (American Guide Series)
Iowa: A Guide to the Hawkeye State (American Guide Series)
by Federal Writers Project
Edition: Library Binding
3 used & new from $24.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable for the history, May 22, 2014
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I wish these books could be reprinted. The information for travelers is outdated -- bus stops, rail stops, campsites, hotels, etc. -- but the lakes and rivers don't change, nor does the flora and fauna. And for the most part, the same roads are still here, with the addition of the interstate system. The book is set up for the tourist, with descriptions of routes to take and things to see along the way.

The book also gives a history of Iowa and many of its notable citizens and major cities (you might not call them "major" but we do), as well as a look at small towns, some of which no longer exist.

Pressing On: The Roni Stoneman Story (Music in American Life)
Pressing On: The Roni Stoneman Story (Music in American Life)
by Roni Stoneman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.86
39 used & new from $2.80

5.0 out of 5 stars You don't have to be a bluegrass fan to appreciate this story, April 25, 2014
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The value of this book is best revealed in Roni's own words:

"I wrote this book to put down on paper what it was like to grow up as a poor uneducated mountain girl, to be a woman musician in a world of men, to get in a bunch of lousy marriages and have to support your kids by yourself -- but also to be a part of a hit TV show and get to know some amazing people." This is exactly what she did, and it's extremely entertaining and enlightening.

Ellen Wright put the book together from 75 hours of recorded interviews -- probably not so much "interviews" as listening to Roni tell her story. She did a marvelous job. There's no hint of leading questions or censorship or an agenda or puffery.

Roni is humble about her amazing talent and her success but it's an honest humility -- there's no "Aw shucks, ain't no big thang." Because it IS a big thing -- how she learned, the way she played, her ability to carry on, her strength, and her weaknesses.

After reading the book, do what I did. Go to YouTube and listen to her play, watch her interact with her family, and find some Hee Haw reruns. She's an American original and there aren't many of those people left.

Artim Home Textiles, Grandi Throw Rug 2'x3' - Amber
Artim Home Textiles, Grandi Throw Rug 2'x3' - Amber
Offered by Livio & Vlad
Price: $17.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The test is the first wash, April 21, 2014
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I've had woven cotton rugs before, and too often they either shrink or pucker. I've washed this rug twice, cold water, medium dryer heat. There's no shrinkage, no puckering, and maybe best of all, for a cotton rug, there was hardly any lint. And no fading -- the colors are still bright.

The other thing I like about the rug is the thickness. The rug is in front of a door, on a vinyl surface. I can open and close the door and the rug doesn't move. That's not to say it's light and flimsy, because it's not -- it's just heavy enough.

Nice little rug, at a reasonable price.

The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust
The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile addition to the history of the Holocaust, March 28, 2014
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I've read a lot of Holocaust books -- fiction and non-fiction -- so I wondered if there would be anything new in this memoir. This was new, not just because of her situation -- a Jewish woman married to a Nazi party member -- but also in her description of what it was like to be one of the thousands of slave laborers working in Germany and occupied countries. I suspect that very few slave laborers managed to survive, and those who did probably didn't want to revisit that experience.

One caveat though, about the "Nazi Officer's Wife" in the title -- it's deceptive. Edith's husband was a party member when they met but he wasn't high in the party and he wasn't even in the army until they'd been married for some time. So a reader looking for insight into what it was like to be married to an officer or a high-ranking Nazi party member won't find much in that regard.

The book is rich in detail without wallowing or sugar-coating. Her memories feel very honest, not imagined or colored. We meet Edith and her family and friends when she's in her teens and this background makes what happens later very affecting. She's strong and resilient but is often insecure and afraid, and rightfully so, of course. We follow Edith after the war, when she worked for the Communist regime. That was something new to me and while I'm glad it was included, I started to wonder if this woman was ever going to find peace and security.

It's one woman's story of survival, very well-written. It was hard to put down, and I'd love to read more about Edith's life after she left Europe.

Galveston: A Novel
Galveston: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please, may I have some more?, March 28, 2014
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After watching True Detective, I was hoping for something equally dark -- I wasn't disappointed. Just like True Detective, there are no likeable, sympathetic characters in Galveston. Pizzolatto doesn't flinch. When an action makes sense for the character, that's what the character does.

In Galveston, a low-level bag man goes on the run from his criminal boss after surviving a trap that was supposed to result in his death. But he doesn't travel alone, and his feeling of responsibility for others is what drives the plot and causes him to face his true nature. An impending hurricane adds tension to an already tense story -- I couldn't put it down.

Highly recommended, but R rated for violence.

Fennel and Rue
Fennel and Rue
by William Dean Howells
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.68

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mothers and sons, March 16, 2014
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This review is from: Fennel and Rue (Paperback)
This is a short novel, more of a psychological study really, about a young man, his ego, and his mother.

Philip Verrian is 37 years old, never married, and lives with his mother. Philip has found his first success as a writer. He's written a serial for a magazine and is getting some positive attention from readers and critics. He receives a letter from a young woman who claims to be dying and asks him to reveal the ending of the serial. (I'll bet George R. R. Martin is getting similar letters.)

Philip takes the letter to his publisher, who thinks the letter would be good publicity but he wants to make sure it isn't a hoax. He investigates and learns that it is indeed a fake. The young woman who wrote the letter apologizes, explaining that it was a youthful prank, but Philip's having none of it -- his ego is wounded. His response is scathing and unforgiving. He feels a little bit guilty about taking it so seriously, then puts it out of his mind.

Most of the rest of the novel takes place in a country house, where Philip has been invited to spend a week by a vapid but wealthy older woman who's trying to make a name for herself in society. On the train to the house, Philip encounters a young woman who intrigues him. It's not a spoiler to reveal that this is the same woman who wrote the letter -- Howells makes this obvious. The rest of the novel details what happened during that week and a brief time after.

So -- there's not much plot. What kept me reading was Howell's observations about Philip and the people he encounters. Philip thinks he knows himself, and that he knows women. He doesn't see how he's been poisoned against women by his mother. She's really quite smart, and mothers who want to keep their sons close could take lessons from her. In addition to watching her machinations, I also enjoyed Howells' digs at this egocentric writer.

The title of the book puzzled me so I looked up "fennel" and "rue". Fennel is a main ingredient in absinthe, often used in literature as a powerful mind-altering drink, and rue has been used to induce abortion. I'm not sure what to make of that, except that fennel might represent Philip's mother's sly control of her son, and rue as representing independence and freedom of women to control their bodies.

The kindle edition has some formatting issues and a few typos, but not enough to really detract. If you like psychological studies, and fiction set in the early 20th century featuring people of a certain class, I think you'd like this very much.

Boston Harbor Architect Swing Arm Desk Lamp, Black
Boston Harbor Architect Swing Arm Desk Lamp, Black
Offered by toolboxsupply
Price: $22.99
17 used & new from $20.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It has the UL sticker but . . ., March 13, 2014
This was on my wish list and I received it as a gift. I'd return it, but I don't want to hurt my daughter-in-law's feelings.

My issue with the lamp is how quickly the switch heats up. The switch is the round bulb on top of the lamp -- you twist it to turn the lamp on and off. It shouldn't get hot. I'm using a 60 watt bulb as instructed, but after 15 minutes, the switch is very warm to the touch. No other lamp I own has ever done this. You should be able to touch everything but the bulb in a good quality lamp.

I hate to toss it, because other than the switch, I like the lamp. The base is heavy and it adjusts to any angle you need.

But I don't think it's safe, so out it goes.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2014 6:57 PM PDT

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