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Avery Durable Multi-Surface ID Labels, Handwrite, 1-1/4" x 3-1/2", White, Pack of 40 (61522)
Avery Durable Multi-Surface ID Labels, Handwrite, 1-1/4" x 3-1/2", White, Pack of 40 (61522)
Offered by Beach Audio
Price: $19.27
5 used & new from $17.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Holds tight even to slick, sometimes damp, plastics, August 19, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The toughest test I gave these labels was putting one on a plastic cooler cube--you know, the (usually blue) plastic blocks that you freeze and then carry with you in the cooler to the beach or wherever. The label adhered well to the slick plastic (I put it on when the block was cold and dry) and does not come off even when frozen or thawing and covered with condensation. The few things that I used to try to wipe off the marker (it was a permanent marker similar to the Sharpy brand) did not faze the writing either.

Overall, this is a good product when you need to mark something that is going to be facing tough use. The cost per unit is high (thus the four instead of five stars) so I would recommend the labels only for these more extreme situations.

Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel
Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel
by Dan Slater
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Tragic Realism--The Impacts of the Drug Wars on Young People Involved, August 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Dan Slater has given us an unflinching look into the way that the ongoing drug wars in both Mexico and the US are harming the lives of so many. His story is an important one, but the book meanders more than a little and did not catch my interest in many spots. Because of the way the story skips around, I found it difficult to keep track of some of the characters. This is one of those books that you really should read through in a short time; put it aside for even a few days and the lack of character detail will cause enough confusion that you may need to go back and re-read some significant portions.

That said, it is a worthwhile read; just be aware of the weakness of some of the narrative.

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady
Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady
by Susan Quinn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Another good book about the amazing Eleanor Roosevelt, August 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a well-written book that provides yet another look at that fascinating woman, Eleanor Roosevelt. It is a piece of history that focuses on a specific friendship/relationship that has been long spoken of but does not drop into some kind of sex-charged tell-all narrative. A major source of information here is the trove of letters between Mrs. Roosevelt and Lorena Hicks. The language in these clearly demonstrates the depth of their relationship, but Quinn wisely chose to focus not on their sexuality but on the rest of their lives. Given the large part they both played in important historical events (even though Hick's role was often much more behind the scenes), this definitely makes the book far more useful to anyone interested in history than some kind of romantic tale might have been.

If you are interested in US history in the mid 20th century, Eleanor and Hick can add a nice bit of narrative to your reading.

Parenting: The 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Parenting: The 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
by Paul David Tripp
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Paul David Tripp on Parenting--The Usual Great Pairing, August 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you are a Paul David Tripp fan, the format and message of Parenting will be very familiar. In fact, if you have read all of his works so far, you may find that there is not a lot of new teaching here, though it can be refreshing to read through and be reminded of some of his eariler words. (Before anyone asks, it is because of this somewhat repetitious coverage that I have given the book only four stars.)

If you have not yet been introduced to Tripp, this would be a good introduction to the kinds of encouraging advice he has for Christian parents struggling to do the "right thing" in raising their kids. It is concise and could be read alone or in a small group setting, reading each chapter separately and then pausing to consider some of the wise advice he has shared in each section.

Throughout the book, Tripp reminds us that parents need to see how the gospel is working in and shaping our own lives before we can try to shape the lives of our children. Buy the book, mark it up, and return to the dog-eared pages and underlined passages again and again.

Girl Unbroken: A Sister's Harrowing Story of Survival from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho
Girl Unbroken: A Sister's Harrowing Story of Survival from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho
by Regina Calcaterra
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Graphic, gripping, and ultimately gratifying, August 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Warning: This book includes graphic details of a childhood so horrendous it seems to have been conjured up out of a terribly twisted mind. Unfortunately, however, this memoir is true. The years of agony and despair experienced by Rosie, the failure of "the system" to adequately protect her from a clearly deranged alcoholic and vindictive mother, a life of constantly moving to avoid the authorities--one could only wish that no other children have had to endure such an existence.

However, we hear of similar treatment being inflicted on children every day. It is for this reason that there is value in reading Girl Unbroken, that and because there is hope at the end of the story. Three older sisters escape their mother's cruelty and are able, after years of effort, to remove Rosie and her brother permanently from their mother's custody.

I had not read Etched in Sand, Calcaterra's earlier book about her own ordeal, before starting Girl Unbroken, but I quickly checked that one out of the library to put the two parts of the story together. I highly recommend that these books be read together, to more fully understand the full story. There is amazing courage, fortitude, and persistence in every one of these five children, leading to an ultimately "happy" ending even if the pain and suffering never will disappear.

The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America
The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America
by Daniel Connolly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.21

5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read to Understand What Too Many High Schoolers Have to Deal with Daily, August 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Book of Isaias is a must read for anyone interested in the impact of our crazily convoluted immigration laws that are impacting the daily lives of millions of young people. Connolly spent over two years tracking students at Kingsbury High in Memphis and chose Isaias Ramos to anchor his account of how way too many students have to deal with inadequate schools, economic difficulties, and the vagaries of immigration that too often depend on the shifting winds of politics.

Connolly has given us a highly readable and share-able account that would make a good book club selection and should awaken in all readers a need to get involved in improving the lot of teens working hard just to get a foot hold on ladder to what should be the great American dream for all. He does not sugar coat the stories, and there are some "successes" but also some disappointing failures--though this is real time narration, so we can only hope that even those who had not worked their way through the mazes of missed opportunities by the end of the book may still be able to move forward.

Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country
Brazillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country
by Alex Cuadros
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.80
67 used & new from $11.12

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pertinent Reading in Today's Political and Economic Climate, August 1, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Summer Olympics and the Zika virus have given Brazil a more prominent place in our daily news than usual, so Brazillionaires is a good book to gain a little more background on a significant segment of the population.

Is Brazil even more inequitable in its wealth distribution than most countries? Probably not, but the way that these billionaires have impacted legislation, governance, and daily life for all Brazilians is a fascinating and often disturbing narrative. Cuadros takes us into the varied lives and histories of these individuals and families and the power they wield over the rest of the populace.

Are there parallels between what has happened in Brazil and the growing economic disparities in the US? While the US may be protected by its history from quite the same dire situation that faces so many in Brazil, Cuadros' balanced reporting should cause all readers to consider what giving free rein to the wealthiest, most elite insiders can lead to. Definitely a book to read and consider what lessons we can learn from the Brazilian situation to that right here in the US.

Waterpik Cordless Advanced Water Flosser, Pearly White
Waterpik Cordless Advanced Water Flosser, Pearly White

3.0 out of 5 stars Not so effective for removing food fibers from between the teeth, August 1, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I eat a generally vegetarian diet, with lots of fibrous foods that require good flossing to remove.. Perhaps, I thought, a Waterpik would be more effective than old-fashioned dental floss to accompany regular tooth brushing.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. While this water flosser may be doing a better job of removing plaque (I won't know for several months, until my next regular cleaning appointment), it definitely does not handle difficult fibrous remains such as those from corn on the cob or fresh kale and spinach salads.

Spending this much money on something that takes quite a bit of extra time (including regular recharging, refilling the water compartment at least once each time it is used, etc.) and still needs to be supplemented with string flossing is a definite negative. However, if you have difficulty with string floss and/or need extra work on reducing plaque, this would be a better option than the more bulky, less portable water flossers out there.

A Truck Full of Money
A Truck Full of Money
by Tracy Kidder
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, below the standard expected from a Tracy Kidder book, August 1, 2016
This review is from: A Truck Full of Money (Hardcover)
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I have read House. I have read Mountains Beyond Mountains and Among Schoolchildren and Old Friends, and would give any one of these at least a 5 star rating. Thus, having the opportunity to read and review a pre-publication copy of his latest book was greatly anticipated.

Unfortunately, A Truck Full of Money is deeply disappointing. Kidder's engaging writing style is often lost in some passages that go overlong into things like the color of the carpet in the proposed Blade office or the lists of start up names that protagonist Paul English brainstorms up in some of his more manic bouts of insomnia. Even more, there is something missing in his narrative that never really captures the person of Paul English, unlike the vivid depiction of that other Paul, Paul Farmer, in Mountains Beyond Mountains.

We learn that the young Mr. English was both outstanding at school and a budding drug dealing entrepreneur. He quickly took advantage of being in the right place at the right time as computers and coding and all the buzz took over, and soon enough he did make "a truck full of money." We get the history of some of the various enterprises he started, the ways that he was able to draw in a team of loyal co-workers and how he continues to build new companies.

Along with his innovative management style and creativity, however, English also develops clear signs of bipolar disorder, and Kidder gives us a bit of information both on the diagnosis and the ways that English has dealt with it over the years. However, as with much of the rest of English's personal life, Kidder fails to really ever give us a sense of the person he is documenting. There is an unnamed wife and two children, there is a divorce with no understanding of how the intensity of his hypermanic and depressive episodes may have been a part of this disruption. There is a new partner he plans to marry sometime, there is apparently a conversion to Buddhism, but the overall narrative never manages to bring Paul English to life in a way that we can feel like he is an actual person. Though I had not expected any kind of tell-all expose, the lack of personality in the people being described is unlike any of Kidder's works I have previously read. More than three quarters of the way into the book, English gives a reason for starting his newest company in Boston; "the fact that I'm on the faculty at MIT will be very useful to us." Strangely, until that point, this part of English's life has never been mentioned.

Even more disappointing is the disconnect between what the book description provides with what is actually written. The subtitle is "One Man's Quest to Recover from Great Success," and there are hints that this recovery will be done through great philanthropy. Remembering the epic life-giving story of Paul Farmer, the reader's expectation are perhaps too high, but it is really hard to see how Paul English has done anything, yet, that is remarkable for the amount of money he has made. The promotional back cover text says "when English makes a fortune as co-founder of the travel website, the first thing he thinks about is how to give it away."

If that was truly his first thought, Kidder hasn't shared it. Instead, it appears the next step in English's life was to begin planning a new start up, Blade, one that would be extravagantly housed in an office that would turn into a disco-like club in the evenings, one that would have a truck tricked out (perhaps to the tune of half a million dollars) as a mostly promotional item for Blade.

There had been a couple of hints in the book about a trip or two to Haiti that had piqued English's interest, but it is only in the very last section of the book that we get any extended discussion of what his "giving away" his windfall might mean. Even here, however, there is not a lot of detail of what specifically he has done or is planning to do. "For years Paul had been copying his hero Tom White and giving money to programs for the homeless. Lately he'd been thinking that he should give more." So in the summer of 2014, he accompanies a team from the Boston Health Care for the Homeless and realizes that "homelessness round for Paul tonight were like viewing his hometown upside down."

In response, he returns to Haiti, becomes involved with Summits Education, a group that collaborates with Paul Farmer's Partners in Health, and, according to an internet search (but without any reference in the book), now sits on its board of directors. The trip to Haiti, the plans to become more involved, any subsequent work--they are all covered in la couple of short paragraphs, less than ten pages from the end of the book. Hardly the kind of full-blown character study that we have come to expect from this author.

Bottom line: If you haven't yet read Tracy Kidder, seek out one (or many) of his earlier works but pass this one by for now. If you already are a Tracy Kidder fan, read this if you like but just know it is not going to live up at all to the quality of his other books.

Creativity For Kids Spark!Lab Smithsonian "Invent Boundless Bridges" Building Set
Creativity For Kids Spark!Lab Smithsonian "Invent Boundless Bridges" Building Set
Offered by Toys & Co.
Price: $14.99
4 used & new from $14.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The kit is good, but the guidance provided leaves much to be desired, July 18, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is one of those items that has a lot of unfulfilled potential. I liked the idea of having a box of materials that could help spark the creativity of kids more than just copying the layout instructions for a Lego space station or pirate ship, and the product description was promising. IT also sounded like this could be something that the kids could use over and over, making a bridge of one design and then taking it apart to try a different way.

The reality is quite a bit different. The main pieces are sturdy cardboard, but they are still just that, cardboard. Glue was included, one of the first hints that this was not going to be something meant to construct, take apart, and build again. And the instruction book was not as helpful as it could have been.

Yes, there are steps included in the booklet, as listed in the Amazon product description.

First, a few questions are listed to start the creative process--"What will the bridge cross over? Who will use the bridge--people, cars or both? How tall and long will it need to be?" But there are no comments to help guide the thinking being solicited. For example, that last question--is the child supposed to be thinking in terms of size of the kit bridge or of scale for what a real-life bridge of the type he or she is designing would need to be?

The product description on Amazon says of the next step: " EXPLORE IT: Make your dream bridge a reality. Search famous bridges and how they were designed. Explore bridges near you! Use the Spark!lab invention process to cerate your own unique solution. That's fine, but the guide has a single page with very small photos of three types of bridges. the description of the first type says, "An 1879 patent model of a truss bridge made by Philip Jarvis." In this day and age, it seems that there should at least be some suggestions of internet sites to do more research to answer the questions at the top of the page that remain unanswered: "What are bridges made of and why? How does a bridge stand up? What kind of bridges have you seen that might be useful to your design?"

There follow two pages with a blank grid and instructions to "Use the space provided to do a few quick sketches of what your bridge might look like." Again, the product description seems to promise a little more guidance or assistance with this language: "SKETCH IT: Use the Spark!Lab invention guide to draw out your designs. This helps inventors visualize what they are about to build. Problem solving and creativity in a fun open-ended way."

There are three more pages with single paragraph comments for the child--Create It; Try It; Tweak It, and then a page suggesting questions that children might ask themselves before trying to sell their bridge. This last step seems bizarre. "How would you sell a bridge?" "What would your sales pitch be?" Somehow, this just reminds me of that old cynical response, "If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you."

Maybe the creators of this it need to ask some similar questions of themselves: "How would you sell this bridge kit to your real target audience? What would your sales pitch be?" This could be a good basis for a science fair project, for homeschoolers (or middle school science teachers) to use in guiding kids to more extensive resources on the physics of bridge construction, of the history of bridges, etc. A parent who has a child with interest in construction, engineering, etc., might find this a good project to work together on. But as presented, the potential of the nice array of materials is lost for even the most creative kids.

Our 10 year old tester loves to build, to create, to try things out. When he was presented with the kit, he flipped through the guide and then started building a bridge that started out looking like one of those pictured on the box. He did ultimately make his own design, but would it have held up in the real world? Probably not. We still have enough materials for another one, and I have belatedly discussed a few sites where he can get more information on what "real" bridges need to have to remain solid and strong. A four year old given access to a few pieces used them to just create sculpture-like forms, which was an okay use too, but they were not at all in line with the intent of the kit.

If you are aware ahead of time of the gaps in the guidance available to children planning to use this, it will be possible to use this as a good engineering experience for the kids. Just don't expect that the kit will "inspire both analytical and creative thought to show children they can do anything they set their mind to – igniting the spark of invention" without some solid adult guidance in where to get more information.

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