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Nature Bound Binoculars Toy
Nature Bound Binoculars Toy
Price: $11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars It's a Toy - And An Inexpensive One At That, July 29, 2015
This review is from: Nature Bound Binoculars Toy (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These are a toy - and not really intended to really study nature, I feel. More to get little ones involved. My 6 year old had quite a bit of trouble focusing with these - what he was watching had to be stock still for a set amount of time in order to give him time to find the right focus. And few birds or insects will do that. The rubber eye piece fits over eyes cleanly though perhaps a bit firm and causing annoyance with increased use.


Foreverland Boxed
Foreverland Boxed
Price: $0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Smartly Written and Consistently Good From First to Last Book., July 29, 2015
This review is from: Foreverland Boxed (Kindle Edition)
The Foreverland series is a smartly written near-future thriller/dystopian. In the first two books, we have a different set of protagonists (the boys in the first book, the girls in the second) and by the third book, it all comes together beautifully. The writing is consistent throughout the series and there are enough twists, turns, and developments to keep readers invested through each book.

Unlike so many YA dystopian, the story doesn't fall apart by the end and we aren't tortured with soppy romances. This is a lean action/thriller/sci fi with very relevant topics and one I highly recommend.


Like Candy
Like Candy
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Revenge Porn, July 28, 2015
This review is from: Like Candy (Kindle Edition)
From the blurb, I expected to read a story of a girl trained covertly by her father to stand up for herself and right wrongs. Instead, what we have is a very amoral and pathological girl with no spy/assassin training at all. She's quite normal other than greatly enjoying vicious revenge on those she has perceived to wrong her. In other words, an unrepentant bully and pretty much unpleasant person who we are supposed to inexplicably 'root for' as she does her evil deeds. I assume she's going to go through a story arc that allows her to grow above being a sociopath in future volumes - but I'm not really interested in going there after book one.

Story: The death of her mother and sketchy 'job' of her father caused her aunt to take guardianship of Candy when she was young. Now 18, Candy decides to leave her Aunt and return to her father. As payback to her cousin that didn't like her, she planted drugs so the girl would go to Juvie. Her ex boyfriend who cheated on her? She destroyed his car. Now with her father, who she knows is some kind of mercenary killer for hire, she has to deal with a new school and new people to revenge upon. And a new boy to crush on, Jonah, who inexplicably finds her viciousness cute. Unfortunately, her father's past is catching up on him and she's going to be in the line of sights.

I did have some problems with Like Candy. For one, revenge fulfillment might be the fantasy of every girl who has been wronged but there are never any consequences when Candy does it. That lack of reality set my teeth on edge as I read her path of destruction through two towns. We get scene after scene of her smug happiness over her deeds as she confronts her victims afterwards.

But even more mystifying is the attraction of Jonah - cute football guy (whose reasons for being mysterious and aloof are fairly obvious from the beginning) - to Candy. She's completely fake to everyone, often mean, yet supposedly he sees the 'real' girl underneath. I didn't buy it - he has un upstanding personality and despises the other mean girls who hit on him - so why are they any less damaged underneath or interesting to him? Makes no sense - especially when the ending comes and the (expected) surprise about him drops.

Very little of the book features any kind of action - it's all about revenge after revenge and then mooning over Jonah. I was expecting all kinds of kick butt and taking names - but none were to be found. Candy has no training as an assassin/mercenary from her father (who has tried to hide it from her). So for all intents and purposes, she really isn't kick butt. She's just mean and vicious. A toxic cloud of unhappy, poisoning all around her.

I would have liked this much better if Jonah disliked her fer the sociopath she is - and perhaps grew to like her as she grew above her anger. It would have made for a more interesting story and one I could invest in. But Jonah thinking she's cute and getting all hot and bothered over her lost whatever respect I could have in the guy. If he's that stupid, he deserves her, I guess. I don't want to read about stupid guys.

I think for me it was that the blurb promised someone who could take care of herself and that clearly wasn't the case. Candy is pretty helpless when she isn't plotting something evil. So I guess we'd have to read a lot of scenes of her being saved by Jonah in the next book. But this 'mean girls' didn't have enough of a heart at the center for me to continue. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


New Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Pure Insanity
New Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Pure Insanity
Price: $9.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Missed The Mark, July 21, 2015
I'm not quite sure what went wrong here but this title ended up being flat, inconsistent, winceworthy, and honestly quite boring. And then surprisingly offensive, too - quite a feat. Someone went on auto pilot and instead of crafting an intense or fun story, we're given painful dialogue, oddly drawn panels/figures/proportions/faces, and a fairly pointless story. It honestly felt like a hack job - and a quickie at that.

Story: Jailed super villains are compiled to do covert political missions against communists (are we still in the 1980s?). Problem is, they either fight each other instead or make huge mistakes - while getting legs blown off, etc. Somewhere along the way they accidentally let out a communist super villain who hates all the fighting and killing and so spends many endless pages sermonizing. Cue change in team members (randomly) and Black Manta finally getting annoyed.

So here's my problem - all of the villains were pretty much given lobotomies. Harley catfights with Joker's Daughter constantly (lacking her quirky fun personality), Black Manta is a preachy big brother caught in the middle ineffectually, Deadshot (whose features and physique changed throughout the book - from a Freddie Mercury look-alike to the Sergeant from the Avatar movie) disproves he's the deadliest assassin, and Deathstroke does nothing at all. What a waste.

Reading the plot, I was bored brainless. Posturing, unimaginative and overly wordy dialogue, along with a pointless set of 'missions'. Infighting among everyone got really, really, old fast - even the communists couldn't agree with each other! And eye rolling, over-the-top American jingoism (which I'm not sure was intentional or meant as a jibe) was wince worthy. E.g., placing a communist super soldier hanging up in the air like a crucified messiah, sermonizing peace and love, so the communists could shoot him out of the sky with their tanks. Subtle.....NOT.

Adding to the questionable writing, having Amanda Waller pull the race/gender card on her white boss and threatening to have him fired shows a level of misogyny and racism that was extremely offensive (with the dialogue: "There are cameras all over this room. And you try to punch a subordinate, African-American woman. How well do you that's going to go over?"). Are we still in the 1960s when someone's race has to be pointed out? Let's not get into the male pandering of the Harley/Joker's Daughter catfights, either, since those were especially vulgar (I'm surprised they weren't drawn in a mud pit, too, to really push it over the top).

The inconsistency in the illustrations became very pronounced the further I went in the story. I was reminded of anime companies who send sequences to Korea or China and they don't always come back looking like the original characters. Sometimes the villains were beefy, sometimes streamlined, sometimes squat, sometimes elongated. It was very distracting.

Obviously, not a title I will continue. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


Kale and Coffee: A Renegade's Guide to Health, Happiness, and Longevity
Kale and Coffee: A Renegade's Guide to Health, Happiness, and Longevity
Price: $11.99

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part Health Book, Part Memoir, July 21, 2015
Kale and Coffee is a very engaging personal memoir and diet book detailing the author's journey into healthier living. From vegan diets to 7 day water fasts, climbing the Andes to discover indigenous diets to studying nearly every health/diet/fitness finding in the past 10 years, Gianni is a bulldog with a very big bone to grind. He shares his mistakes and gives thoughts/recommendations based upon his experiences.

The book breaks down as follows: the first half of the book explores the meatier topics of diets, exercise, and raw/whole foods. The second part of the book tackles smaller subjects such as alcohol, stress coffee, gluten, and positive energy/thought processes. With each chapter, he starts with a personal story and then segues into the research he's found about the topic and his conclusions.

Kale and Coffee is, at heart, a book on health. But the author's winning personality and willingness to come forward about his mistakes make for an enjoyable read. Readers may be learning about all kinds of important health/living topics during the course of the book but they won't realize it since the hard science topics are bookended by amusing bon mots. I enjoyed his exuberance - he's gone out and done the things that we probably wish we could in order to discover the truths hidden beneath the food industry/health industry/holistic industry rhetoric. There is good out there but a whole lot of bad as well.

Probably the most important message of the book is that each person is unique and so finding a one-size-fits-all diet that works for you, personally, will be a lot like pinning the tail on the donkey while blindfolded. Genetics alone will ensure that no diet other than avoiding packaged foods will be universally effective for longevity or weight loss. Certainly, the author tried many diets to see the effects on his system and some were fairly damaging (vegan, probiotic, paleo, etc.).

Where the author lost me, and why this is a 4 star book despite the brutal honesty of the writing and engaging humor, is in the money, ironically. He is very curious and has his food tested (sent to a lab) frequently for metals/poisons, his brain scanned and then analyzed by a professional, blood work done every month, 1 week medically supervised water fasting, and more. Combined with the trips around the world to remote places and off hand comments about his personal assistants mailing things for him, and I soon recognized that this everyman really isn't one. This fitness quest was a very personal thing for him and I just can't see many people being able to afford any of those options - even blood testing to try different diets and determine how they work on a person is an expensive and daunting procedure. Celebrities have the connections and money to do those things - a 48 year old housewife with 4 kids in Muncie, Indiana, probably less so.

Admittedly, I also can't help but remember we're talking about a youngish fit male obsessed with health. Issues that face that 48 year old housewife such as emotional eating really isn't covered (other than under a blanket stress topic). As well, we don't get much in the way of more of the author's history; e.g., past drug use is mentioned briefly but never explained. I would have liked the book much better if we had more of an introduction to his personal story and why he is so obsessed with food/health.

Where Kale and Coffee really shines is that there are so few books that really break down what is wrong with American food today, why diets do and don't work, and why studies are so conflicting. To keep the book brief, Gianni smartly doesn't go into detail about things like sugar dependency (as Hymen does in his book), or detailed sugar detox plans (as JJ Virgin does in her book). But he does quote them/reference them so there are places to read more. He's really thought about the topic a lot - perhaps obsessively - and it makes for some startling conclusions when everything is put together.

At the end of the book, a simple diet plan is given for removing sugar, processed food, and feeling better. It's based on Gianni's own diet plan and what he's learned over the years in his obsessive quest for health. The plan has two options - easy and renegade. It's meant to get the bad stuff out of your system.

In all, this was an enjoyable read and although the author doesn't take risks or make a stand, he does suss out the various claims, hidden issues, and problems facing anyone wanting to be healthier and live longer in the modern age. I just wish I had his contacts for all the testing and personal medical attention. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


My Little Pony Equestria Girls Rarity Friendship Games Doll
My Little Pony Equestria Girls Rarity Friendship Games Doll
Price: $14.99
3 used & new from $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Basic Line of Equestria Girl Dolls, July 20, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is from the less expensive line of Equestria Girls (My Little Pony) dolls. She doesn't have much in the way of accessories and she isn't articulated or very poseable. Her top is plastic molded and removeable. Her hair is honestly kind of messy - there's not a lot of styling and it gets a mess easy. But this is really made for younger girls who are going to probably mess the hair up anyway. So while there's not a lot of quality here she is also very inexpensive - it's easy to get all the Mane 6 characters to complete the set.


My Little Pony Equestria Girls Pinkie Pie Friendship Games Doll
My Little Pony Equestria Girls Pinkie Pie Friendship Games Doll
Price: $14.99
3 used & new from $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Basic Line of My Little Pony Equestria girl Dolls, July 20, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is from the less expensive line of Equestria Girls (My Little Pony) dolls. She doesn't have much in the way of accessories and she isn't articulated or very poseable. Her top is plastic molded and removeable. Her hair is honestly kind of messy - there's not a lot of styling and it gets a mess easy. But this is really made for younger girls who are going to probably mess the hair up anyway. So while there's not a lot of quality here she is also very inexpensive - it's easy to get all the Mane 6 characters to complete the set.


Thorn
Thorn
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Wow, July 20, 2015
This review is from: Thorn (Kindle Edition)
Over the years, I've come to recognize what I look for in a book: a layered, lyrical, nuanced story with an intelligent heroine acting with quiet strength and conviction. Coupled with a similarly intelligent and flawed hero who isn't a prince charming - and a love story that isn't about how being told how beautiful she is or with her being distracted by his gleaming pecs. We've lost that in the last decade or two with the advent of the Twlight type YA fiction; with Thorn, I found a welcome return to a story that makes me feel deeply but not in the teenage hot and bothered way. Rather, here is a book that doesn't need illogical actions bordering on stupidity, over-the-top action sequences, or deus ex machina coincidences/misunderstandings/etc. to propel a story. Just solid writing and an exceptional story. Ironic, then, that this is an exquisite retelling of the Grimm fairy tale The Goose Girl.

Story: Princess Alyrra lives in a kingdom of poverty: of the spirit and the wealth. When a King of a very powerful neighboring kingdom arrives with an offer of marriage with his son, she sees no choice but to follow, if only to be rid of her abusive brother and callous mother. But the prince has an ancient enemy and Alyrra becomes embroiled in her trap: during the trip to the kingdom her identity is stolen by her companion and she is under a geis not to reveal the truth. It's a chance at freedom finally - a choice to finally live free as she is assigned to work with the geese and stables. But it could also mean that she is leaving the prince open to a horrific fate at the hands of her doppelganger if she does not reclaim her position.

The book is beautifully told, lyrical and quiet and never showy. Perhaps the only quibbles I had was that it stayed too close to the tale of the Goose Girl and could have strayed further. But at the same time, the elements of the fairy tale are so cleverly woven as to marvel that such a deep story could be made out of such a simplistic foundation.

The pathos of the writing had me enthralled since the first few pages. This is a love story but it is so subtle as to told in what wasn't said, rather than any dialogue or exposition. Every scene with Alyrra and the Prince was fraught with tension and yet so cleverly and beautifully written, always just enough said and so much left unsaid as to reach an understanding and yet still want more. For once, I didn't feel the writer manipulating the reader and instead respected that she trusted us with the intelligence to not need the plot/romance bludgeoned over our head.

The characters were all wonderful - from the main leads to all the minors. There are no good or bad guys, evil or great, no knights on white chargers or beautiful but feisty heroines who do stupid things so the hero can save them. Each character is acting on their own conscience and that makes the book really worth the reading. I wanted to follow all, to know what was going to happen to them and explore how they think and live.

The writing is very clean and easy to follow. The descriptives are enough to explain but never dip into purple prose. The plot is straightforward and yet highly nuanced. There may not be one of those happily ever afters where everything is fixed at the end; and yet it is highly satisfying where the story finishes. Author Khanani resists the temptation to pull punches but does make thoughtful statements about justice and responsibility; indeed, we would not have a fairy tale without a morale.

This is a book I highly recommend for those who enjoy a beautifully written story that isn't about a soppy romance, heavy handed plotting, or constant action sequences. I finished this in about 3 hours and it was worth every minute I invested. Reviewed from an ARC provided by the publisher.


The Intergalactic Adventures of Queen Bea
The Intergalactic Adventures of Queen Bea
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Marshmallow Sci Fi, July 19, 2015
The Intergalactic Adventures of Queen Bea reads very much like a middle grade adventure story. Most of the plot is completely illogical, kind of bubble-gum silly, and with a fluffy marshmallow at its heart. Kind of Hannah Montana the secret space princess. It's an easy read and unfortunately, that's about all I really liked about it as I had to keep from rolling my eyes often at the coincidences and logic holes. But undemanding readers or those who want something brainless can enjoy it as a little bit of harmless fun.

Story: 15 year old Beatrice finds a strange cube on her bed - she starts to listen to it but is interrupted. A lot - she never gets to hear it through. She enlists her friend Calvin's help to find out what the message is about but they get interrupted often so she never learns that she is an intergalactic princess and about to go through a huge change. Not to mention that the bad guys need to get rid of her to ensure her bloodline dies. But she has help - a guardian in the form of a captain of her royal parents' guard and the smart guy next door. Both help guide her to the planet so she can assume the Queen mantle.

I had several problems with this book that kept me from enjoying the read. The first and main issue was that 50% or more of the story is the author finding ways to keep Beatrice from listening to the cube and learning that she is in danger. Interruptions from relatives, friends, schoolmates, teachers, etc. - you name it. And when there were enough of those, Beatrice decides it is too scary so she ignores it. Seriously - nearly 65% of the book is Beatrice on Earth avoiding finding out the important message.

Then, of course, she will decide to throw herself into the arms of the bad guys out to kill her - just so she doesn't get one of her friends hurt. Is that noble? Hardly since her friends have already proven they will happily kill themselves to save her. Even more illogical, she's never killed when she does this. And other than bloodline, there wasn't a lot of reason to be that loyal to her.

I really didn't like Beatrice. It seemed she was closer to 12 than 15 - there was a lot of whining, avoiding all responsibility, and making poor decision after poor decision so someone else had to save her. And let's face it, she does nothing in the book but mess up everything. Perhaps there is going to be character growth in later volumes but for this book, she's one of the most ineffectual and silly heroines I've read in awhile.

I'm going to rate this three stars because I think for a 12 year old, this would be fun. For me, it felt overwritten (spending half the book avoiding the message cube was a bit too much) and without any real danger or urgency. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


Treasure, Darkly (Treasure Chronicles Book 1)
Treasure, Darkly (Treasure Chronicles Book 1)
Price: $4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars More Historical Romance than Steampunk Western, July 19, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The first part of Treasure Darkly was an intriguing dark steampunk Western that had me riveted until the half way mark. Then, inexplicably, the story changed into a bodice ripper Western historical with fantastical elements. I think where the book lost me was with the characters - I found that the more I read, the less I liked them. By the end I didn't believe in them or really care what happened to them.

Story: The Treasure Family rule the desert are of Hedlund - their farmstead and mines are among the richest. But in a saloon in an rusty town, young Clark has gone to find his father - the scion of the Treasure family. For Clark is illegitimate, wanted for the theft of a mysterious potion that he drank and allows him to see ghosts/revive the dead, and desperate. When he shows up on the Treasure homestead, his half brother doesn't welcome, half sister hits on him, and stepmother oddly welcomes him. But Clark's past is going to catch up to him and he is going to find himself falling hard for his half sister.

It all started so well - great steampunk elements, gritty and edgy feeling story, and a true Western feel. I was enjoying it immensely, curious to see where it would go after Clark shows up on the Treasure family's porch step. But then the fantastical elements kicked in and Clark starts a whirlwind romance with his sister-who-is-not-his-sister while finding mysterious objects thanks to hints by the ghost of his real father. And my interest waned as it morphed more and more into a Clark x Amethyst insta-luv romance.

First and foremost, the author wrote Amethyst Treasure to be unlikable so that she can have a 'growing up' moment later on. I didn't buy it and I still didn't like her. Her only purpose is to be kidnapped (twice within 30 pages) so Clark can rescue her. She never seems to feel much quibble about it though and worries more about the newspaper writing about the kidnappings or her appearance that day than in being raped/murdered by someone with a strong hate for her family.

Clark started out interesting but then apparently had a lobotomy the minute he laid eyes on his 'sister'. She's obnoxious, petulant, annoying, but pretty. So how am I to respect a guy (especially one who grew up in a brothel and should know better) who likes a girl based on looks alone - so much so that he ignores that she's spoiled rotten? Let's not get into the time it takes to realize she may not be related in blood yet still lusts after her. Ew. And really, let's also not forget no mention of a beau back in the City just waiting for her to return (while she endlessly hits on and flirts with her brother).

The bad guys are stupid. Their only point is to annoy the treasure family and kidnap Amethyst so Clark can go rushing in and easily save her. There are several bad guys and they are used rather interchangeably: Clark has guys after him (including the one who murdered his mother) and the Treasures have enemies. They move in and out, do their bit to show how much Clark and Amethyst lurve each other, then move out.

This isn't Earth - it's a fantastical place a lot like the American West (with a bit of Australian colonialism issues thrown in). There are statements that could be made about the enslavement of natives, but what is written is trite and gets blown off so Clark can ogle Amethyst and look saintly while promoting natives' rights. It just seemed a waste to include the 'noble savage' elements at all.

The ending felt rushed and is very abrupt. As well, there are scenes in there suddenly establishing an instu luv situation for Amethyst's brother that are really random and seemed to be filler. I imagine the author will expand on it further in later issues but its introduction in this novel feels very extraneous.

I would categorize this as a romance first, Western second, and then with some steampunk trappings in a random alternate universe American West. So I would recommend this for those who like historical romances in the Western vein. For me, I was looking for the reverse order: Western, Steampunk, and a *little* romance. Oh, and the cover? Absolutely nothing to do with the story. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.


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