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Carol Toscano RSS Feed (New York City)
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If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go
If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go
by Judy Chicurel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.68
94 used & new from $0.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting portrait of 1970s life in Long Beach, NY, January 29, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Set in the summer of 1972 in Long Beach, New York, Judy Chicurel's novel is told from the voice of an 18-year-old girl named Katie, a recent high school graduate. This is a rather grim representation of a formerly abundant seaside community where the youth seem to be trapped by the recessionary decay of the early 1970s with nowhere to go.

That said, a picture is painted of both time and place through Katie's young, hopeless eyes. Though she has a plan to attend community college, there is a feeling of stagnation and motionless existence in the day-to-day wasteland of the youth of the time and place. The 1970s is a character unto itself. If you lived through that era, you will understand what I mean. The visual and auditory components of the decade are palpable in the writing. The nation was in a bad way with the grandeur of the past crumbling around the little town and its inhabitants.

But with Katie's observations is a sometimes detached, sometimes sad, sometimes slow and humorless view of life. When she discusses the monumental milestones women are meant to experience with certain pre-ordained, expected responses, I was taken aback by the profoundness of her observations.

I'm not sure I'd call this a coming of age novel or even a young adult novel. It's a bleak, eye-opening representation of what I think was probably the norm for many young people who lived at that time and in those circumstances.

Some readers may find the whole narrative bleak and depressing. Nonetheless it's worth the time to read it, especially for those of us who experienced the time period.

Recommend.


How to Grow Up: A Memoir
How to Grow Up: A Memoir
by Michelle Tea
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.85
68 used & new from $7.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Real life times infinity, January 29, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My introduction to Michelle Tea was a short piece entitled Cooking Class in the anthology Women Who Eat. In that piece, if memory serves, we get some personal background on Michelle's life, but not too much since it's mostly about food.

But, this was quite the read. The first thing I need to say is that Michelle's writing is flawless and her talent is apparent from the first chapter. The basic premise of this memoir is focused around Michelle's sudden realization that she needed to get things together and to hone a life from the chaos of day-to-day struggles in San Francisco. At that stage in her then young life, Michelle was on a bad trajectory, going nowhere.

There is something familiar about the time of life when growing up is so difficult for many people, especially those exposed to drugs, alcohol and all of the unsavory accoutrements that go along with living a Bohemian lifestyle. Michelle also struggled with money, fashion trials, apartment dwelling situations, and the real need to get clean. Some of it is rather funny but some of it is horrifying and profane. Her writing ultimately saved her but only because she really had the talent and the will to accomplish this.

The memoir reads as a connected series of essays and you could absolutely reread chapters as standalones if something resonates with you. At the end of the day, I believe there will be at least one component of Michelle's struggles that will resonate with each person who reads this. Personally, I had a few "a ha" moments along the way.

I recommend this to those readers who can stomach a good dose of real life.


Dr. Blaine's RevitaDERM Psoriasis Treatment, 4 Fluid Ounce
Dr. Blaine's RevitaDERM Psoriasis Treatment, 4 Fluid Ounce
Price: $18.25
5 used & new from $11.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Helped with bad eczema too, January 26, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am not a psoriasis sufferer but a sufferer of horrific eczema on one finger of one hand that NOTHING has been able to help. I have had prescription creams, non-prescription creams, Cordran steroid tape, Bag Balm, you name it. I even tried salicylic acid at a strength meant for calluses on it. The salicylic acid did help a little but not enough. The eczema is on the middle joint of my pinky finger and when it's bad, I have a hard time bending the finger. And it hurts and cracks and gets raw in the winter months. So I selected this in a desperate attempt to eradicate the problem to a level where it doesn't impede finger function.

So I started applying this just at night so that I could gauge the effectiveness a little at a time. The product works via 2% coal tar as the active ingredient.

The first morning after use, I did notice a bit of a smoother surface - less rough - but not a decrease in the overall hardness. I continued to use it at night for a few more days and it did start feeling somewhat softer allowing my finger a bit more bendability. It also made the itchiness from the rough, scaly area on top of the affected area go away completely.

The product itself has a thick, sort of heavy cold cream consistency to it. There is a tiny bit of odor but not unless you really hold the tub up to your nose. It also feels a bit greasy when you first apply it but it does absorb over a few minutes after application.

I am going to say that this has been the best product I've had the pleasure to try out for my poor finger. I will continue to use it as a night cream until my finger gets to a better condition, which it seems to be doing. Since I'm not treating psoriasis, I'm not going to apply it as much, once a day should be fine for me. I think the coal tar has a bit of an exfoliatory effect on my problem and that over time, it will continue to repair the top layer until it unearths newer, fresher skin. There's a lot of product in this tub so it's a really good value for the price. Mine also came with a small travel sized bottle.

Recommend.


WeMo Maker - Home Automation for the Tinkerer & DIY'er, Wi-Fi Enabled and WeMo App Controlled
WeMo Maker - Home Automation for the Tinkerer & DIY'er, Wi-Fi Enabled and WeMo App Controlled
Price: $79.99
4 used & new from $70.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Great little device for people a bit more electrically saavy than I, January 26, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Belkin WeMo Maker arrived and I was VERY excited to get this up and running. I learned rather quickly that my basic lack of wiring knowledge would prevent this from happening. As a wiring novice, the instructions read to me as if they were written in Martian. I will be up front and say I had to call in a more experienced friend to do the set up for me, as embarrassing as that is. We decided on the most obvious, straightforward use for this, which was garage door opener. But even my friend, with his knowledge and wiring expertise, found the instructions to be somewhat lacking.

So the setup began with downloading the WeMo app and connecting it to the wifi network. One problem you may have is sort of a black out type of thing if your wifi is sketchy or not as strong as it could be. But barring any general wifi issues, the WeMo will be connected to the network as any other device. You will control the device via the app. For the garage door scenario, this is basically an on/off switch that I can control from the app on my smart phone so I don't need to drag my butt out of the car every time I pull up. It has worked well, thanks to the help I received in setting it up.

For me, this was a bit of a challenge to set up and I do have dreams of connecting additional appliances to this going forward (the air conditioner and perhaps a ceiling fan if possible). There is a remote access feature you can enable which I'd like to do if I can get the a/c connected to the WeMo that way I can turn on the a/c an hour before I expect to arrive home during the broiling summer days. If I make this happen, I will update my review.

This is an amazing little device with endless possible scenarios. I may not be exactly the right user of this (though I do love the garage function) but there are people out there who I know will do surprising and creative things with it. I hope I'll be able to connect more and more to this over time as I get to understand its inner workings better.

I recommend this wholeheartedly.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2015 7:02 AM PST


Benzac Complete Acne Solution Regimen Kit, 7.5 Ounce
Benzac Complete Acne Solution Regimen Kit, 7.5 Ounce
Offered by Nation Wellness

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Works for my needs, January 23, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Call it a bit vain but I find using a light salicylic acid product on my mature(ish) skin does wonders for the aging process, at least for me. I don't have acne but I do have an occasional breakout. I find that using products with salicylic acid makes the turnaround time for a blemish to go away a fraction of what it could be left untreated. The exfoliation benefits are really the best part of using a product with salicylic acid. The face wash and the blemish clearing hydrator contains 0.5% salicylic acid, while the spot treatment contains 2%, which seems to be the standard dose. I think the salicylic acid content in the cleanser could have been a bit higher but 0.5% is okay as a mild cleanser. I guess this set of three products is meant to compete with the Proactiv brand. Although the name "Benzac" seems a bit too medicinal, in my opinion, and gives the impression that this is a benzoyl peroxide product, which it is not. And I think benzoyl peroxide is a bit harsher than salicylic acid so I'm happy with the lighter/gentler exfoliatory effects.

I especially liked the foaming cleanser and one pump is more than enough to cleanse a face. The sandalwood oil fragrance is lovely - not to strong or harsh, just fresh and clean. I am surprised that the sandalwood is not mentioned on the packaging. I think that would be a definite pro to getting people interested in the product as a higher end package and not just as a medicinally functional set.

Overall, I'm happy with this, though I would like to see the option of having a bit more than 0.5% salicylic acid in the cleanser. My skin is happy after use. No redness or peeling, just a nice smooth canvas.

The price seems just a bit high for what you get but it's not outrageous.


The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell YOU
The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell YOU
by Mike Dooley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.97
75 used & new from $10.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Higher than 3 but not quite 4 stars, January 22, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell You by Mike Dooley was an interesting read. Most of the time, that is. The main problem I had in the overall presentation was the inclusion of too much filler to substantiate "The Top Ten Things."

The Top Ten Things are:
1. We're not dead!
2. There's no such thing as a devil or hell.
3. We were ready.
4. You're not ready.
5. We're sorry for any pain we caused.
6. Your dreams really can come true.
7. "Heaven" is really going to blow your mind.
8. Life is more than fair.
9. Your "old" pets are as crazy as ever.
10. Love is the way; truth is the path.

I think this is a solid 3.5 stars overall. I wanted it to be 4 stars but I couldn't get myself to see it as a 4. I'll tell you why.

While this is very uplifting at the onset (especially numbers 1, 3, and 5), I found the later chapters to change tone to become a bit more focused on materialism (the main reason why I didn't like The Secret - it was more about manifesting "things" than manifesting true happiness and meaning in life and beyond). And with that, comes a feeling of blame when anything at all goes awry, you attracted the bad thing into your life by your thoughts. I generally don't subscribe to that theory. Although, to be fair, the author's version of the law of attraction is a lot more palatable than the law of attraction we met in The Secret.

The first five chapters were a joy to read and I was especially moved by the chapter about the sincere regret the deceased have for the pain they may have caused intentionally or unintentionally. I think it resonated because while we are always initially focused on missing the recently deceased, there comes a time when the unresolved memories rear their head knowing that there is never a moment for resolve. The idea that the departed understand this and regret the emotional baggage they left behind, is soothing for sure.

In the second half of the book, I thought the chapters were more about the living than the deceased. In other words, more of an instructional by the author on how to live and manifest the life one may want to have. It was definitely presented in a preachy, on the soapbox way. The last chapter was, by far, the worst because it basically took shots at religious institutions and it seemed like it was because the author didn't believe in organized religion and so therefore, the rest of us should follow this idea. I think the proper approach is to say that regardless of one's religious/spiritual beliefs, the afterlife is a beautiful place. It shouldn't bash people's foundations but embrace them. This is cult mentality.

So, in the end, this was six of one, half dozen of the other. Worth a read and decide for yourself how you feel about it. There are a lot of 5 star reviews here so there is definitely a good audience for the material. For me, though, I'm holding at 3.5.


Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door
Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door
by Barbara Mahany
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.86
48 used & new from $7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Calming and soothing reflections on life, January 21, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The first thing is I wish this wasn't being presented in a religious/Christian category because I feel it will limit readership of a surprisingly uplifting and spiritual book. In fact, the religious references are so few, they are barely noticeable. The text is presented in journal format (/essays) discussing time in seasonal depictions (stars, sun, etc.) as well as in moments in a day, slowing down and savoring the time with all of the senses. It's about savoring each moment in the larger category of time.

I particularly loved the author's observations of Winter and stillness and the inclusion of food and how to live within the organic parameters of life, which make me appreciate those special few moments in Manhattan where the light is just about to change from afternoon to dusk, golden over the Hudson River. It's a momentary occurrence that is easily missed but that I personally cherish as a moment to stop and take a breath in order to re-center myself.

All of the things we take for granted, like the simplicity of the cool crisp air, or newly ripened fruit, the grass, cooking, everything - it's all connected. And there's a rhythm of life to slow one's pace to. It's also a meditation on life, in a way, that keeps us centered and in a constant state of renewal. That is, if we make the effort to tune in.

It's a beautiful book that merits multiple readings.


Three Story House: A Novel
Three Story House: A Novel
by Courtney Miller Santo
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.33
125 used & new from $0.54

3.0 out of 5 stars Geared toward a younger reader, January 16, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Three Story House by Courney Miller Santo is the story of three cousins - Elyse, Isobel, and Lizzie - who are corralled by circumstance at their grandmother's home in Memphis. The house, about to be demolished, becomes the catalyst for change in the three women's lives. All three seem to be in awkward places in their lives, needing to make important decisions. Lizzie is an injured athlete whose dream of Olympic glory is stunted. Isobel is a former child star who has been left in the dust and hoping for her star to shine again. And Elyse is overwhelmed by economic/business loss and personal loss in the shape of a former beau who is now marrying her sister.

The problem is, while the house's transformation (renovation) provides the backdrop for (parallels) change in each woman, the characters were somewhat shallow in their personal depictions and not at all that deep or interesting - mother issues, sister issues, "woe is me" issues and on and on. In other words, a lot of moaning and groaning and complaining, to the point of sheer annoyance, without any substantial effort to remedy or forgive.

There were a number of mysteries that lingered beyond the reading of the book including some religious inferences with respect to Lizzie's mother and "the church" she belonged to. Lizzie as you can imagine, is not at all into "the church." Also, I was confused by the underlying, low-grade disregard for the elderly. This is clearly not a good read for the AARP crowd. Perhaps a younger (much younger) crowd would appreciate the whining and ramblings of these three young, very unhappy, very immature women.

And, it's a long, long book to endure when all there seems to be is a hurricane of negativity blowing about.

Probably okay for the twenty-something set. Otherwise, not feeling it.


The Last Good Paradise: A Novel
The Last Good Paradise: A Novel
by Tatjana Soli
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.68

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent premise but ultimately tiresome, January 12, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Last Good Paradise has a genuinely interesting storyline set in a Tahitian atoll focusing on a resort run by a French expatriate named Loren. Loren is the proprietor of the resort boasting a quiet refuge far from the modern, all-consuming world, free from all the modern distractions (phone, electricity, etc.) (GASP!). So you pretty much get nothing but nature and two locals tending to your basic needs for the sum of $2,000 per night (GASP GASP!).

At the resort, named Sauvage, we meet Dex (aging, has-been type rocker) and his girlfriend Wende, his much younger (of course) girlfriend and muse, both beautiful and aptly cliché. The other guests are Richard and Ann from Los Angeles who are escaping the wrath of financial ruination back home and wielding fistfuls of cash. As you can imagine, this combination of people is a recipe for further disaster, which could have been exciting, funny, and poignant on the pages. Unfortunately, the premise becomes tiresome after a while and nothing really seems to gel. I wanted to see a few revelatory moments in the cast of characters but they were ultimately limited and stuck, at least in my mind.

The author is a good writer but the plot falters, stalls, perhaps by the slow moving unraveling of the narrative. And yes, there are some welcome moments of humor and absurdity but not enough to make it substantial.


Neutrogena Nourishing Long Wear Eye Shadow Plus Primer, Mink Brown, 0.24 Ounce
Neutrogena Nourishing Long Wear Eye Shadow Plus Primer, Mink Brown, 0.24 Ounce
Price: $8.90
3 used & new from $8.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Another winner by Neutrogena, January 12, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I received this product in three different palettes: Smoky Steel, Mink Brown, and Cocoa Mauve. Cocoa Mauve was the winner for my skin tone and coloring but the mink brown was very close. The Steel palette was good but not for everyday - more for going out, special occasions.

The product, regardless of color palette is amazing and very high quality. The shades are powder shadows but they are almost creamy, if that makes sense. Because I don't use a lot of eye makeup in general, having a palette, instead of a single liner color is nice. I've been using a creamy stick liner but I like the powder better because I feel like I have more control with application. I also like having a lighter shade that almost blends with my eyelid color just to even skin tone out a bit. And there was no creasing whatsoever so there were never any lines of demarcation on my lids. I love that. I also love having a primer in the powder because I have such dry skin. The texture of the product is perfect and it lasts for all day.

What I didn't like was the applicator which was just foam tips on a plastic stick and clearly won't last very long. I have my own makeup brushes so no problem for me. This is just an FYI for potential users. Unfortunately, you can't see the brush through the window on the lid of the product. So just be informed. Don't get me wrong, the applicator works, but I like to wash my applicators regularly and I can see immediately that this one won't last more than a couple of washes.

Very nice. Recommend.


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