Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review: STORIES OF LOVE & WEIGHT LOSS by Adi Tsin Ben-Nun

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

Whatever your relationship with food -- good or bad -- the thought of eating probably brings up some sort of emotion in you.  Food can symbolize comfort, love, and the often painful struggle with self love and acceptance.  STORIES OF LOVE & WEIGHT LOSS  is a collection of short monologue like vignettes based on real cases the author experienced during her years of private practice. They are at times sad, poignant, joyous and uplifting.  You go through a gamut of emotion while reading the vignettes.  Chances are, you'll find at least one (or more!) stories that you strongly identify with.



I enjoyed the first person point of view the stories were presented in.  You feel more connected to the narrator if you can get into their head and really explore their emotional ups and downs with them. I don't think it would have worked as well in third person due to the person nature of the stories.  At first, I thought it was going to be a non fiction collection sort of like Chicken Soup For The Soul, but all about the weight loss.  The further I read, the further I enjoyed the fictionalized accounts of real cases. The story lengths vary from a paragraph or two to several pages.   It was a quick, easy read with a great message at its heart.   I personally struggle a lot with body image so I especially appreciated the message of  'you're beautiful just the way you are.'

Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: THE SORCERY CODE by Dima Zales

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

The premise of  THE SORCERY CODE by Dima Zales is fairly unique but still rooted in fantasy genre staples. Outcast sorcerer Blaise has spent over a year looking to create a way that makes it easy for everyone to use magic -- not just the elite, superior sorcerers.  His obsession loses him his fiancee Augusta who doesn't agree with his 'poor people deserve magic too' stance.  Still, Blaise sticks to his work and creates Gala -- a beautiful girl that's the human embodiment of magic.  He expected a talking mirror, and got a hot chick.   Awkward -- especially for a guy who hasn't really seen the outside of his house in over a year.  While Gala experiences all the world has to offer, Augusta is bent on stopping Blaise's goal of magic for all.




First off, the cover really drew me in. It has the just the right mix of mystery and fantasy. The color scheme is beautiful with the sunrise (set?) matching the magic in the globe/orb.  I enjoy fantasy books but haven't been an avid reader of the genre since I was a teenager.  The cover really intrigued me.  I quickly read the blurb and knew it was something I'd be happy to read and review.  The writing was fresh and well paced.  I found myself thinking "I can see why Dima Zales in a NYT Bestselling author."  There was an ease and flow that I appreciated.  There was some info dumping in the first chapter but it came in the form of dialogue between Blaise and newly formed Gala instead of just a big exposition info dump.  While I got a little restless during that scene, once all the essentials were out of the way, the pace picked up again.  The story is told in multiple points of views so you get equal time with Blaise and Augusta's sides. Each chapter is clearly marked just in case you need to be reminded who the main POV character is for that chapter.  Yeah, Augusta isn't the nicest sorcerer on the block and wants things to stay status quo, but it's nice to be able to see where she's coming from with her beliefs and actions.  Blaise spends a lot of his time obsessing over Gala's hotness.

I enjoyed THE SORCERY CODE and would definitely read the sequel.  The deft, well paced writing and flawed but still relatable characters pulled me in.  I'm invested now.  That's the sign of a good writer and good story.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: SO WE SAID GOOD BYE by Rama Marinov-Cohen

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

In SO WE SAID GOOD BYE by Rama Marinov-Cohen, high school sweethearts Aya and Yaron reconnect after thirty years apart.  It plays on the "what if" aspect that -- let's face it -- everyone with a first or lost love thinks about from time to time. No matter how happy you are or how good of a life you have, you always "what if?"  It's human nature.  This book played up the theme in an ever evolving story of past memories colliding with present lives.



At first glance, the cover really intrigued me. The woman is looking forward into the future but also tied to time/the past.  It's hard to let go -- no matter how many years pass. There's always going to be that one person that you'll think of always as your first love.  Maybe you're still together, maybe you're not, but "what if" and "what could have been" probably played in your mind at least once...it did for Aya and Yaron.

Narrated in the first person and alternating between Aya and Yaron, I liked the breathless, almost frantic style of Aya's chapters. The sentences were short, sometimes choppy, verging on stream of consciousness.  Internally, she held back nothing regarding her excitement, fear, uncertainty, and back to excitement at contacting Yaron after twenty-eight years.  Externally, it was business as usual. She went on with her daily life and responsibilities but there was a new guardedness around answering her husband's questions.  She had a secret but he wasn't in on it.  In his  chapters, Yaron was reflective, almost shocked, that it had been twenty eight years since he last saw/spoke to Aya.  He could look back with the maturity of age and time and see what went wrong (and what went right).  I felt the dual narration made SO WE SAID GOOD BYE much stronger than it would have been with just one point of view.  Aya's breathless mental zipping around may have gotten annoying if not tapered with Yaron's calm, steadiness.  I liked the contrast.  By the time I finished reading the book, I felt like I knew these people.   They jumped off the page. I identified with Aya and Yaron.  I think anyone who wonders "what if" can.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review: NETOPIA by Y.G. Levimor

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

In that not too distant future, "going out" has become as simple as tapping into the Virtual Reality social network MINDS.  You can go anywhere, be with anyone, eat anything, and more all without having to actually physically interact with another person or leave your house.  "Going out" is now all in your mind.



NETOPIA by YG Levimor falls firmly into the techno sci fi genre.  The first chapter -- even the first sentence -- drops you right into the action. You're instantly living in this not too distant future where people prefer the virtual world to the real world.   Robin Nice, one of the founders and most prolific 'author' of MINDS,  isn't a nice guy.  I couldn't decide if he was a villain because he was self centered and focused on keeping people addicted to MINDS because it made him a star, or a broken down hero looking for redemption.  I felt a definite push and pull with Robin. Sometimes I liked him and sometimes I couldn't stand him.

From a nitpicky reader perspective, I felt the chapters were way too long. Sometimes I struggled to stay focused and keep turning pages.  Instead of 8 or 9 different scenes, I would have preferred shorter chapters.  Instead of a scene break, in my opinion, a chapter break would have been more effective.

NETOPIA really makes you think about the role of technology in our lives. It was an interesting, thought provoking read.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Product Review: GNOME WORKSHOP SELFIE STICK

I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review.

When selfie sticks first came out, I didn't see the point.  Was it really that hard to hold out your arm to take a selfie? Did you need a stick to do it for you? A selfie stick is definitely not something I would willingly pay for. When I was given the opportunity to test out the Gnome Workshop Selfie Stick in exchange for my honest review, I decided to see what all the hype was about.  I'm glad I did.



Since I've never used a selfie stick before, I have nothing to compare the Gnome Workshop one to, but I felt it was very well made.  It has a sturdy stainless steel extendable arm and rubber handle that fit comfortably in my hand.   I was ready to take pictures!



One benefit I quickly discovered about the Gnome Workshop selfie stick, is that it's great for group shots.   Instead of just finding whoever has the longest arms for some 'long arm photography', you just attach your phone to the holder on the end, extend the selfie stick, and take the perfect group selfie.  I may have been a skeptic before, but I'm a self stick believer now.  Great job, Gnome Workshop!

Product Review: DR. WHITENING NANO WHITENING BRUSH

I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review.

Where to start?  When I first heard of Dr. Whitening Nano Brush, I was really excited to try it out.  It looked easy to use and not time consuming like other whitening systems. You just brushed your teeth regularly and then used the special nano brush to polish the surface stains away.  What's not to like? Unfortunately, my initial excitement was tapered by a big dose of reality once I tested the product.



The packaging is well made and compact.  I liked the solid feel and colors.  The nano brush and refills fit neatly inside.  My big issue with the packaging is the fact that someone in some position of power approved the mistake heavy directions and advertising pitch on the box.   "Use daily or every 15-20 days" and "Just add water and your on your way to a Cleaner, whiter smile" are some of the gems.   I can't really take the company or product seriously with such glaring mistakes.



Dr. Whitening claims to be easy to use, and it is.  Just wet the nano brush and scrub at your teeth.  The brush looks and feels like a Mr. Clean magic eraser.  I felt an almost tingling sensation after use.  My teeth felt and looked very clean.   I didn't get any dramatic results but the soda stains did seem to fade a little.

On the down side, it wasn't easy to change the nano brush after that initial use.  After being unsuccessful opening it with my hands,  I pried the case open with a nail file.  Once open, it was easy to remove the brush tip and replace it.  I haven't had any problems opening since the initial brush change.

Overall, I think it's a decent product with some noticeable flaws. It doesn't quite do what it says it does (whiten teeth) but it does make them feel and look clean.