Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: SLEEPY HOLLOW by Dax Varley

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

You've heard the story of The Headless Horseman and Sleepy Hollow.  Now experience it through the eyes of  Katrina Van Tassel.  Haunted by her own encounter with the Headless Horseman, Katrina does her best to save those she loves (including the handsome new school teacher Ichabod Crane) from becoming the Horseman's next victim.  Told in 1st person point of view,  SLEEPY HOLLOW  is a lively retelling of Washington Irving's Legend Of Sleepy Hollow.


 From the first page,  SLEEPY HOLLOW by Dax Varley drew me in.   The writing style is fresh, fun, and moves along at a good pace.  I agree with the reviewers who say Katrina comes across as too 'modern' for a 1700s girl.   It reminded me strongly of the tone the TV show 'Reign' takes to historical drama and history.  It's very loosely based on the source material but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.   Judge it by its entertainment value instead of historical accuracy.   SLEEPY HOLLOW is very much YA read with clever, strong willed heroine,  handsome hero (Ichabod) and evil that needs containing (the Horseman).  The pacing is perfect for the genre.  It kept me turning pages and wanting to find out more.

There are a few things I didn't like as much.  (1) We're dumped into the middle of the story where the relationships between Katrina and her friends are very established but the reader doesn't really get a glimpse of how things used to be to help us believe that the friends have any real sense of loyalty to each other....or why they're even friends to begin with.  (2) Katrina loves fritters a bit too much.  The word fritter is practically every other word in the scene at the church get together.  (3) She also wants to poke her eyes out or stab things in her eyes a lot when anything or anyone annoys her.  That sentiment might be okay once or twice but, to me, it came across as too heavy handed.  Was it really too hard to come up with another way to show annoyance? (4) The lack of chapters.  I'm the sort of reader that likes to read to the end of the chapter.  With no chapter breaks, it became "okay, which scene should I stop reading after?"  This is more of a personal preference versus an actual fault but I've never seen a book with zero chapter breaks.

All in all,  I did enjoy the book.  I'm curious enough to pick up the second book in the series, though I may wait for a sale first.


Product Review: Crown Coast Heavy Duty Umbrella

My kids love umbrellas.  Sometimes they even pick out an umbrella over a toy if we're shopping and I ask what they want for a treat.  They giggle when the umbrella pops open and twirl it while making up a song about rain.  Hey, at least they're being creative.  I can get behind that.   Knowing they'd be excited to open that amazon package and find an umbrella inside was one of the reasons I agreed to review Crown Coast Heavy Duty Umbrella at a deeply discounted price.

Crown Coast Umbrellas come in a variety of colors.   You can choose from Blue, Dark Green (looks black in the pictures), Pink, Red, Turquoise, White, and Yellow.   I decided on yellow.  I thought it might be a bright school bus yellow in the can't-miss-me-walking-down-the-street-in-the-rain variety. I was pleasantly surprised when the package came and it was a muted, butter yellow color.   True to form,  my kids descended on it and insisted on opening, closing, twirling, and singing about umbrellas.

Unfortunately,  my Crown Coast Umbrella couldn't withstand the onslaught.   The great news is, when I contacted customer support about the umbrella breaking so quickly,  they replaced it free of charge.  It's advertised that the product has been durability tested to open/close over 6,000 times.  I was very pleased that my defective umbrella was replaced so quickly with no questions asked.

Other features of the Crown Coast Umbrella include:


  • quick release auto open and close - auto open I'm used to, but auto closed?  Once I got used to pushing the button to not only open but close the umbrella,  operation was smoother and easier.
  • included storage sleeve -  this is the same color as the umbrella and keeps in neat and tidy in your purse or wherever you choose to keep it in case of rain.
  • wind tunnel tested to 60 mph + winds - this is essentially equivalent to a class 2 hurricane.  Not that I or anyone else should plan to go out in the middle of a hurricane but, if you did, the crown coast umbrella would have your back.
Overall,  I'm happy with the quality of the product and I am even happier with the Crown Coast customer support.   I recommend this product if you're looking for a good, inexpensive umbrella to keep in your bag, car, office, or wherever you may need one.  With all the color choices,  I plan to order more than one.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: UNBREAKABLE by Yaffa Golan

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I first was asked to review UNBREAKABLE,  I checked out the cover.  I'm the type of reader that really does judge a book by the cover.  If the cover doesn't interest me,  I won't check out the blurb.  If the cover does interest me,  I read the blurb,  followed by the look inside and -- finally! -- click buy.


My first thought when seeing the above cover was "oh what a sweet looking lady.  I bet she has some interesting stories to tell."   Yaffa Golan's stories about her life weren't just interesting...they were amazing.

Yaffa grew up in poverty.  It was a tough beginning to overcome but she did -- becoming a bank manager and, later, a successful business woman.  Her story takes even more twists and turns when she uncovers bank fraud and irregularities in how a non profit meant to help Holocaust survivors was reporting funds.   Through death threats and legal battles,  Yaffa never lost sight of her faith, hope and truth.  

The writing style is very personal and chatty.  I felt like I was sitting across from Yaffa as she told the stories of how she beat the odds and became the strong, determined, successful woman she is today.   Another nice thing is the book is relatively short.  My kindle said it would only take 3 1/2 hours to finish it.  I was so engrossed in reading,  that I finished it in one sitting!  I recommend UNBREAKABLE if you're looking for an empowering true life story.   You'll be happy you 'met' Jaffa.  I know I am.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Product Review: Detox Colon Total Body Cleanse

I've done a lot of research on all the various diet products that pop up as 'must have'...and I mean a lot of research.  Trying a Colon Cleanse Detox has always been on my radar but I wasn't sure if I wanted to try it or not.  Even though most weight loss plans recommend a 7 day full body detox to flush the toxins out of your system and essentially reboot,  I still hesitated.  Maybe I felt guilty after one too many fast food lunches.   Whatever the reason,  I decided to put my reservations aside when I was offered the opportunity to review the Detox Colon Total Body Cleanse.


Besides the weight loss benefit of flushing excess waste and toxins out of your body,  the Detox also helps maintain digestive health and keep  you regular.  It is created from a host of natural ingredients including:

Fennel Seed, Cascara Sagrada, Ginger, Goldenseal, Pumpkin Seed, Buckthorn Root, Licorice Root, Rhubarb, Citrus Pectin, Acidophilus, Acai, Cape Aloe, Bentonite Clay, Aloe Vera, Cayenne Pepper, Senna, Oat Bran, Prune Juice and Flax Seed Oil. The recommended dose is 2 capsules a day. You can either take them both at once with a glass of water or 1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. Since I had never tried a Detox Cleanse before, I started out on the safe side with only 1. The results were in line with other reviews say. In other words, be prepared to spend a lot of time in the bathroom...especially on Day 1.

Within an hour of taking the supplement, I felt an urgent need to use the bathroom. That was the usual pattern for the morning. It tapered off by the afternoon. I could have taken a second pill, but I decided not to on Day 1. Day 2, I took a supplement in the morning. It didn't feel like it was as effective as Day 1 so I took a 2nd before noon. The absolute highest daily dose is 3 pills. I stuck with 2. Days 3-7 were similar. I needed to take 2 pills instead of 1 to feel like it was cleansing/detoxing. I do feel like, by the end of the week, I had more energy and a clearer mind. I recommend using the cleanse when you're feeling run down and in need of a reboot. It's a good jump start to diet plans too.

Product Review: Pure Garcinia/Cleanse Advanced Fast Weight Loss Kit

I received this product at a deep discount in exchange for my honest review.

If you're struggling to lose weight,  there seems to be a new  'must try' diet supplement every other minute.  After 3 kids and a slowing metabolism, I was looking for something that would give me that  boost I needed to reach my weight loss goal.  I heard of Garcinia and Green Coffee Bean (what the Cleanse side of this combo pack is).  I even tried them separately without a huge amount of success.  When I was given the opportunity to test the Advanced Fast Weight Loss Kit,  I hoped it would get me over the plateau I've found myself on.   Usually you see dramatic, exaggerated claims on the packaging.   I've found that if you go in modest expectations,  you won't be disappointed when you don't lose that 20 lbs in a month that the advertising claims.  Can people really lose 20 lbs in a month?  Maybe.  Will you?  Probably not.



For Garcinia and Green Coffee Bean to be truly effective, you need to take them 30 minutes before meals.  It curbs your hunger, appetite, and speeds up your metabolism naturally.  If you take it before meals,  you will feel full faster which lowers the danger of over-eating.  I started out taking the 2 pill combo before breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   I soon discovered that taking it on a completely empty stomach before breakfast made me nausea.  If you feel you will over eat at breakfast,  take the pills with a couple saltines to make sure it doesn't upset your stomach.   I dropped the breakfast dose and took the combo before lunch and dinner.   It definitely made it so I didn't feel hungry -- maybe a little too well.  I could go 6-8 hours during the day without eating.   I would completely forget to eat because I never felt hungry.  This may sound good if you are trying to cut calories, but I, again, felt sick from lack of food.   I became less and less consistent with taking the supplement.  That's not the fault of the product, but mine.   If you're consistent,  you will have better overall results.   One thing I did notice is that my tummy looks tighter since I started taking Garcinia/Green Coffee Bean.  I consider my stomach my problem area so seeing such noticeable results was worth it for me -- even if the pounds didn't melt off.    Next time, I think I'll add a 7 day colon cleanse before starting the Garcinia/Cleanse Weight Loss Kit.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Product Review: Angel Baby Stroller Organizer

I received this product at a deeply discounted rate in exchange for my honest review

When I was invited to test and review the Angel Baby Stroller Organizer,  I knew it would be useful in my situation.  I'm a stay at home mom to three girls -- ages 9, 7, and 2.   While my "big girls" are in school,  my toddler and I love to take long walks in the umbrella stroller.  I used to just hang my purse over the stroller handles but, eventually,  the strain was too much and my purse straps broke.  I've been hunting for an acceptable solution since then.   Currently,  I have a purse size diaper bag that most people don't even know IS a diaper bag.  Unfortunately,  when I hang it on the stroller handles, it slips down and annoys my daughter.  I carry my diaper bag over my shoulder but I much prefer being able to attach it to the stroller.

Enter Angel  Baby Stroller Organizer.


Angel Baby comes in a stylish black design.  There are 3 inner pockets -- 2 that look like drink/cup holders and one in the middle that's probably good to pack a snack or perhaps a small ice pack to keep the drinks cold.  There's a small mesh pocket in back as well as a small-ish zippered pocket. The front offers an easy-to-access open-front pocket for a travel size pack of wipes.  It does not come with wipes.  I added my own.  


I like that Angel Baby attaches to the handles of an umbrella stroller with very strong velco.   It's not going anywhere unless you take it off!  There's also a handy carrying strap you can attach if you decide to use it as your every day diaper bag.

Angel Baby Stroller Organizer does not quite have enough space for it to replace my current diaper bag, but I will use it whenever we take a walk with the umbrella stroller.  I recommend it if you're looking for style and versatility.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review: LOVE AND WAR IN BRITISH PALESTINE by Gad Shimron

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

LOVE AND WAR IN BRITISH PALESTINE starts out with two nurses -- Tamar and Alisa -- talking in a cafe in 1942.  Alisa is brash, loud and loves to talk.  Tamar is quieter by comparison.  She gets lost in her own thoughts a lot and compares her old life in Vienna with her new life in Jerusalem.  The reader finds out right away that Tamar is Jewish.  This plays very heavily into the story as a whole.  I'm not sure if Alisa is Jewish or Christian, but, either way,  she comes across as a strong contrast to her best friend.   When I started reading,  I felt Alisa over shadowed Tamar with her powerful personality.  I learned to admire Tamar for her quiet reserve and -- more intriguing to the overall plot -- deep secrets.

The main story is a tale of forbidden love set between 1938-1942.  There is also a modern frame set up when Tamar's grandson Johnathon discovers long hidden family photos while going through her things after her funeral.  His curiosity is raised when Alisa makes an off hand comment during Tamar's funeral that he looks like his grandfather.   Johnathon is skeptical.  He doesn't look a think like his grandfather....but he does look like the mysterious Wolfgang from Grandma Tamar's pictures.  Could Wolfgang be his real grandfather?



While I did enjoy the main plot of  forbidden love and family secrets in LOVE AND WAR IN BRITISH PALESTINE,  the writing style really annoyed me.  It wasn't that it was bad -- just very overblown and flowery, like the writer was trying too hard and overused adjectives.  It's possible he thought it would set the scene better but, to me, it hurt the overall narrative.  The story and characters got lost in all the round about, serpentine description of people and places.  I lost the main thread/idea of the paragraphs more than once as I went through the book.  At times, I found myself having to re-read sections to understand who was talking or thinking.  Eventually,  I started editing it in my head as I read to make it clearer all around.  I think a "less is more" approach or a stronger edit would have helped this book tremendously.   I did notice that it is translated from Hebrew.  I don't know if this is a translation issue or just the writer's style.

Overall,  I liked the book.  The setting is unique and the themes of family secrets and forbidden love are engaging.  I just wish the editing and writing lived up to my expectations.


Product Review: Darkiron 852 On-ear Portable Headphones

I received this product at a deeply discounted rate in exchange for my honest review

When it comes to headphones,  I've probably tried all the varieties out there.  My ears are tiny, plus I have a conductive hearing loss in my right ear so finding the right product can be a challenge.  Ear buds never stay in and are usually very uncomfortable.  Most on-ear headphones are very bulky and lack the portability factor that is a must to pair with my tablet and smart phone.  I have one pair of foldable headphones.  They're cute, girly, and pink...Unfortunately, they're also old and falling apart.  I needed a replacement...but which brand should I pick?

That is one of the reasons I was so excited to test and review Darkiron 852 On-ear Portable Headphones.  I had been searching and searching for the 'right' product for me.  I found it in Darkiron Headphones!    Regularly priced between $17.99 and $18.99 depending on color choice,  you can choose yellow,  pink, orange, pink, or white.  Each color option is paired with a contrasting light gray upper with the splash of bright, cheerful color underneath.   The black option is black on black and the white option is white on white.  The band is fully adjustable to fit a wide range of customers.




I loved all the bright color options.  I finally decided on pink.  It was just the right mix of  fun and understated when paired with the gray.  You'll get noticed while wearing the Darkiron 852 headphones, but not for the wrong reasons.


 The comfort level is amazing.  The headband and earphone are both lushly padded.  It feels like a pillow is wrapped around your ears and head.  The materials and construction are very high quality. The packaging is sturdy and shipping time quick.  If you're looking for fun, comfortable on-ear headphones,  I highly recommend Darkiron 852 headphones.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review: RIDING by Cassia Cassitas

*I received a free copy of this e-book in exchange for my honest review*

The first thing that drew me to RIDING by Cassia Cassitas was the cover.   The subdued water color-eske look shows the front and handle bars of a bicycle as it/the rider gets ready to take off on a journey.   The 'walls' around it at first look like they're covered in graffiti but, the closer I looked, the more I saw.  Instead of just random graffiti, there are planes, bikes, books, buildings, people -- everything you need to get places and achieve your dreams in life.   Those images tie heavily into the message of RIDING, which I appreciated.  It's almost like sharing a secret with anyone who knows the truth of what's inside the pages of the books and -- more importantly -- what's inside the hearts of the athletes that keep 'riding' no matter what stands in their way.  That's the beauty of a book like RIDING.  The message is weaved so seamlessly into the narrative that you never feel like it is being preachy or trying to make you feel or think one way or the other.  There's no agenda here.  It's a tale of inspiration, following your dreams, and succeeding no matter what stands in your way.  You naturally feel and think as you take this journey with the characters.


RIDING opens with a chapter in 1st person point of view.  This initially confused me because the rest of the book isn't in 1st person.  I couldn't decide if the "I" narrator was the author or one of the characters.   The writing style also reminded me of a book I helped edit in college that was translated from Greek to English.  The sentence structure and word choice reminded me so strongly of this particular book that was itself modeled after Vigil and Dante, that I looked up to see where the author was from.  She appears to be from Brazil and not Greece.  It still reads very much like a translated book instead of native English.   Not that that's a bad thing, it's just different.  

Another thing in the 'different' category is the events of the novel are told in a series of vignettes that don't follow in sequence.   The time jumps initially confused me.  I swiped to the previous page in the e-book to make sure I didn't miss anything.  Once I got used to the story telling technique,  it was easier to follow but, if you're a fan of books told in linear fashion, RIDING may not be for you.  

Overall,  I recommend RIDING for its heart felt message of  never give up on your dreams -- no matter how far out of reach they seem.  It's something we all should keep in mind, no matter what the circumstances.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Product Review: Midori Spring Ceremonial Green Tea

I was really excited to get the chance to review  Midori Spring Ceremonial Green Tea.   Raised in the South,  I'm used to ice tea with lots of sweetener.  Hot tea always seemed fairly foreign to me.  When I moved to a climate that actually had seasons,  I started experimenting with drinking hot tea.  I still preferred iced black tea...until I discovered green tea.

My first run in with green tea vs black tea was reading an article on how green tea was supposed to help you lose weight.  It was especially helpful if it contained citrus or pomegranate.  I was struggling to lose weight after the birth of my third child.  I jumped on pretty much any band wagon that came my way.   Green tea was one I liked the best.  Hydration and appetite control?  Sign me up.

Convenience and ease of use is also a big selling point for me.  I'm used to seeping a tea bag in a cup of hot water or grabbing a bottle of pre-made tea from the grocery store.  Midori Spring Ceremonial Green Tea was my first experience with powdered tea.  I'm sure everything is powdered inside the tea bag, but I never saw it out in the open before.


Above is how the Midori Springs Matcha Ceremonial Tea comes in the mail.  It's a cute, silver tin with a twist off top.  Inside you find powdered green tea:

There is a pop top that you must open before getting to the powdered tea.  My tin might have gotten shaken up in the mail because I got a big puff of green tea particles in the air and on my counter when I opened it.  After cleaning up, I read the directions on the back of the tin:

1/2 tsp - 3/4 tsp Matcha Powder.
60 ml - 80 ml water

Since I've never drank straight green tea without any flavoring, I decided for the smaller  1/2 tsp amount.  I scooped it in a cup, added 80 ml of water, and heated it up.  The final direction is "whisk till froth appears and enjoy!"

 Voila!  One of the recipes on  the Midori Springs website says to add honey.  I did to sweeten up the natural earthy flavor the green tea.  That's the first word that came to mind from the time I opened the tin to when I had a cup of tea -- "earthy."    Overall,  the tea was a lot stronger than I'm used to drinking so I'll experiment with the amount of tea powder vs water and additional add ins.   I'm looking forward to trying the great recipes on the Midori Springs website.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review Coming Soon!!

My first book review will be RIDING by Cassia Cassitas.   Until I can get the full review up,  check out the amazon page.  It's a great, inspiring story of overcoming obstacles to achieve your dreams.

RIDING by Cassia Cassitas


Monday, November 2, 2015

Product Review: BVS Solitaire Collection





Cards games have been popular for hundreds of years.  Some (well most) require at least two people to play.

What if you want to just relax and unwind without needing to round up friends to get a card game going?  That’s
 the beauty of solitaire.  It’s just you and the cards.  With computers, tablets, and iphones you don’t even need a
real deck.  You can play anywhere, any time, as long as you have your computer or mobile device.


The game of Solitaire became popular in the mid 1700s.   It goes by many names in many countries.  Patience,  solitaire, success, Kabala (Polish for ‘secret knowledge’).   No matter what you call it,  it’s still a great game.  That’s why I was really excited to be able to try the full version of BVS Solitaire Collection in exchange for my

honest product review.  


I’ve been a fan of computer and mobile device solitaire since I got my first computer.  Back then,  there wasn’t

much you could customize besides the playing surface and card back color.  BVS Solitaire Collection takes
customization to the next level.  They have 23+ card face variations from Shakespeare,  Van Gogh, Empire, and
 many more.   The art work is beautiful.  Sometimes I found myself studying the intricacy of the art work instead of making the next move.  You can even create your own card face and back with any jpg or gif image.  Want to
 create a deck featuring your baby, pet, or favorite tv or book character?  BVS Solitaire Collection has you
covered.  The amount of game options is staggering.  The PC version boasts 476 Solitaire game options.  The ios
 version contains 260 games.   While most of the game names weren’t familiar to me,  I liked that it told me the
 difficulty level and what my chances were of winning.  When you’re learning a new solitaire variation,  the last
thing you want to do is get frustrated by playing a difficult to master game!  Starting out,  I picked games that
 were labeled “easy” with a “very high” win rate.  Maybe I’m not a great player, but I didn’t win any of them even though my chances were supposed to be high.  I did enjoy learning versions beyond the standard Klondike.  The
 cards are dealt in a very complex way that I doubt I would be able to do with a real deck of cards.  BVS Solitaire Collection takes the guess work and ‘did I deal that right?’ out of the process.  


Another aspect I really enjoy about BVS Solitaire Collection is that it’s multi-platform.  You can download the  Windows and Mac version of the game direct from the website for $19.95.

There’s a free 30 day demo version to try out.  After the trial,  you just pay the $19.95 to keep the game.   If you prefer iOS, you can find it in the Apple app store for $5.99.  There’s only 260 games versus the 476 in the PC
 version but the portability may be worth it.  I plan to get the mobile version and the PC version so I can play at
 home or on the go.  


If you like a lot of variety in your Solitaire games without being stuck playing the same variation over and over,