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The Same Sky: A Novel
The Same Sky: A Novel
by Amanda Eyre Ward
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.26
86 used & new from $11.81

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One book, two touching stories, February 21, 2015
This review is from: The Same Sky: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I started reading Amanda Eyre Ward's "The Same Sky," I was reminded of the movie "Under the Same Moon" ("La Misma Luna"). Like the young boy in the movie, 11-year-old Carla, sets up on a perilous trip to find her mother in America after her grandmother dies suddenly, and she's left alone in Honduras. Carla's resolve to be reunited with her mother, however, is strengthened by the urgency to keep her little brother away from drugs. "The Same Sky" is also about Alice Conroe, whose hopes of becoming a mother are dashed when her adoption deal falls through at the very last minute. The aftermath will test her beliefs and her marriage.

Carla and Alice take turns to tell their stories. Their stories, however, run parallel to each other and won't intersect until the very end. The Honduran girl's and the Texan woman's lives may not seem to have much in common. The former is growing up in a broken family, surrounded by poverty and violence. The latter owns a restaurant, has a loving husband and is well-liked in the community. But as their stories unfold, readers will find that in spite of their differences, neither one is a stranger to fears, uncertainty, doubts, loneliness and deep longings as well as to resilience, compassion and kindness.

Ms. Ward doesn't shy away from detailing to the readers the ugliness, dangers and the risks Central American children like Carla face during their trek to reach and cross the border, but at the same time, she captures the determination and faith that it takes to survive such desperate conditions. What I also liked about "The Same Sky" is that the author did not forget the children living within the American side of the border. As Alice tries her best to mentor teenaged Evian, a troubled student of Chavez Memorial High School, readers are reminded that at-risk American kids are dealing with poverty, gang-related violence, drugs, and broken families too.

Some readers may find "The Same Sky" perhaps a bit uneven as Alice's story doesn't seem to be of equal weight to Carla's. At first, I found myself wondering what this somewhat shallow American woman had to do in a book about the plight of illegal child immigrants, but keep reading, and you'll find that the lessons learned by Alice are as important as the ones imparted by Carla's experiences.

SK-II Essential Power Moisturizing Cream, 2.71 fl. oz.
SK-II Essential Power Moisturizing Cream, 2.71 fl. oz.
Price: $215.00

3.0 out of 5 stars No better and no worse, February 14, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My choices for anti-aging creams have been Avon, Olay, and Ponds. When I was offered the opportunity to try an SK-II cream, I took it since creams as expensive as those belonging to SK-II are rarely within my budget.

SK-II touts its Essential Power face cream as an award winning cream that "fights multiple signs of aging and reduces the appearance of fine lines." The company claims that "skin is visibly firmer and more youthful-looking in just 10 days" thanks to the combination of two anti-aging ingredients: Stem-Acanax and Pitera.

My first impression of the cream was a positive one. It comes in a big jar (2.71 fl. Oz.), the cream is light, it absorbs quickly, without leaving any greasy trace; and it is unscented (a biggie for me). Also they provide a little plastic spatula to scoop the cream onto your hands, thus avoiding contamination.

When I read the list of ingredients, I started to feel a bit disappointed because it seems to contain as many chemicals as less expensive creams have, including three members of the paraben family (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben). Although the company does not claim its products to be organic or natural, I thought that for the price they ask for their cream, they would at least avoid ingredients that have chemically dubious reputations. However, since the brands I use contain parabens too, I decided that the cream should be judged by the results its star ingredients, Pitera and Stem-Acanax, may achieve.

I used the cream for three weeks. I applied it every night and twice on the weekends. One good thing about the cream is that I didn't have to use a lot to cover my face and neck so a jar should last a couple of months. And as I said before, it really absorbs quickly. I agreed that my skin felt somewhat firmer after the trial period but not by much from the other products. As for reducing the appearance of fine lines and a more youthful look, it didn't seem to perform any better or any worse than the least expensive brands.

If you're like me who think that the more you pay for a product, the better quality or the better results you should get, then this cream may not satisfy that standard. But if paying more makes you walk taller, then perhaps paying $200 for a face cream might make your skin glow. After all, attitude contributes to beauty too.

SABRE Door Stop Alarm
SABRE Door Stop Alarm
Price: $11.97
5 used & new from $11.21

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple device to use for some peace of mind, January 31, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I got the Sabre door stop alarm with an elderly relative in mind. He has the habit of leaning a chair against his bedroom door to prevent intruders from gaining entrance to his room while he's sleeping. I'm not sure how effective the chair would be as a deterrent so I thought it would be a better idea if I could replace the chair with the door stop alarm.

The door stop alarm is a bit shy of being 6 ˝ inches long. You'll need to purchase the 9V battery as the manufacturer doesn't include one with the alarm. Also, you'll need a little screwdriver to remove the tiny screw that holds the battery compartment cover close. The compartment is on the bottom of the door stop. Once you install the battery and replace the cover, the alarm is ready for use.

What I like about the door stop alarm is that it has an on/off switch which makes it easier to arm and disarm the alarm without the need of punching in passwords or number codes. This is a plus for those elderly people or anybody who have a hard time remembering number or letter combinations. All you have to do is to turn the switch to the "On" position and place the door stop pointed edge under the door gap. The alarm is triggered when the metal plate is depressed when the door opens. The alarm is loud, but not so loud that it will rattle windows; yet it is annoyingly loud enough to wake up a person. When wedge correctly under a door, the alarm will also prevent the door from being opened easily.

I found the Sabre door stop alarm to be a simple device that may deter unwanted "visitors" from entering your room without your knowledge.

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It
Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It
by Marc Goodman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.60
45 used & new from $14.57

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding how we're helping cybercrime grow, January 18, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Did you know that in the U.S. alone, 500,000 children are victims of identity theft or that Facebook is the largest repository of biometric data on Earth? If neither fact makes you feel slightly alarmed, then you need to read Marc Goodman's "Future Crimes."

"Future Crimes" is not only a comprehensive look at how vulnerable we are to cybercrime today, but also at how we will increasingly be victimized as technology advances and we all become interconnected through not just our smartphones and computers, but through our household appliances and medical implants as well. Mr. Goodman identifies serious threats at multiples levels, from hacking into the nation's electric grid to the forging of our fingerprints. And the irony is that most of the data criminals need now and will need in the future to commit their stalking, thefts, home invasions, bullying, and terrorist attacks are not something they have to wrestle from us. Instead, we are making that data freely available because we're too willingly uploading it to social media and to the cloud or we are carrying it in our smartphones and tablets with no other protection than a password.

In his book, Mr. Goodman takes a closer look at how Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple and other companies collect, analyze, and claim ownership of our data to use, sale and resale to advertisers and data brokers, and how criminals can easily get hold of these massive databases and use them to their own advantage. One of the most interesting parts of the book is Mr. Goodman's descriptions of how Crime Inc. operates and of what they're capable to achieve since they're usually first to adopt new technology. The author also emphasizes how poorly prepared we, as individuals and as a society, are to face the explosion of technological advances and the gigantic wave of cybercrime that it will unleash.

I found "Future Crimes" to be an eye opener. Like most people, I enjoy the benefits of technology and free accounts without much understanding how my devices work or what's going on behind the fun and convenience of being connected online. In the last 25 pages or so of his book, Mr. Goodman proposes a number of steps we can begin to implement today. Education, adequate criminal laws, use of encryption, and accountability for software and social media companies for damages are a few of the things we should start looking into if we want to remain in control and safe in both the real world and the cyber world of tomorrow.

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac: A Novel
The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac: A Novel
by Sharma Shields
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.72
71 used & new from $9.54

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark and depressing, January 1, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I chose this book because its description piqued my curiosity. The story of a man whose mother abandoned him for the love of a mythical ape-like creature surely would make for an interesting reading, wouldn't it? "The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac" was indeed interesting for the first couple of chapters. Unfortunately for me, it began to lose its luster after the first 200 pages or so.

Eli Roebuck was only nine years old when his mother kissed him goodbye and walked away from him and her unhappy marriage with a tall, hairy, large-footed stranger she called Mr. Krantz. In spite of his mother's disappearance, Eli grows up to be a successful podiatrist, marries twice, and has two daughters. However, Mr. Krantz is the mystery and the dark cloud at the center of Eli's entire life, affecting his personal and professional relationships.

In "The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac," readers follow not only Eli in his search for Mr. Krantz, but also his wives and daughters as they struggle with their own doubts, insecurities and the emotional voids in their own lives. And so, we see things from their points of view as well as Eli's, his mother's, the daughters' boyfriends' and Mr. Krantz's. Author Sharma Shields infuses their stories with a generous dose of the supernatural that only adds to the characters' dysfunctions.

To me, "The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac" read as something between an episode of The Twilight Zone and an extended bad dream--not a nightmare, just a bad dream. As I said before, I found the first chapters interesting, but the more I read, the less I care for the characters. The constant gloom and doom surrounding the characters depressed me and made reading this novel a tiresome chore. This book may enchant those who like the surreal and the supernatural. Sharma Shields knows how to evoke in the readers that tingling, creeping feeling that comes over us when something unexpected may be just around the corner. "The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac" is imaginative and dark, but the story was just not for me.

The Tutor: A Novel
The Tutor: A Novel
by Andrea Chapin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.93
76 used & new from $10.15

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget the Bard. Keep an eye on Katharine, December 14, 2014
This review is from: The Tutor: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Little is known about William Shakespeare's life between the years of his twins' birth (1585) and 1592, when Robert Greene, in a review, made reference of Shakespeare as the "upstart crow." But theories about the Bard's whereabouts and employment during those years abound. Author Andrea Chapin cleverly makes use of the claims that Shakespeare might have resided with a family in Lancashire and that he might have been a schoolmaster to set up her new novel, "The Tutor."

Shakespeare is not at the heart of Andrea Chapin's book (thankfully), but 31-year-old Katharine deL'Isle is. She's a widow whose uncle, Sir Edward, has allowed her to live with his family since he took her under his protection when she, as a child, lost her parents in a fire. When we meet Katharine, it is 1590. Sir Edward exiles himself to France to avoid persecution as Catholics and their sympathizers are hunted down, thrown in jail, and executed. While the absence of the lord of the manor gives a chance for rivalries, tensions and frictions between family members to surface, Katharine's heart is set in turmoil by the presence of the children's new tutor, William Shakespeare. His dashing looks and his wit catch her attention, but it's her love for books and for poetry that are his bait. And soon, Katharine finds herself willing not only to give her heart but her knowledge to Will.

Andrea Chapin's Shakespeare is not a likable character. Chapin's Will is a calculating, strutting peacock. Through Katharine's eyes, Chapin always bring the readers' attention to Will's extravagant fashion choices. Through Katharine's words, we are informed of Will's talent as an actor. Yet, he's also emotionally cold-hearted in his relationships and ruthless in his ambition. He has no qualms in using other people's social standing, money, talent, or feelings to his own advantage. Lies and deceits are fair weapons to wield on his road to fame and success.

I found it easier to read this book if I intentionally "forgot" that the William in the novel was meant to be THE William Shakespeare. Why genius has to be paired with narcissism? Katharine, on the other hand, is a woman to admire. She's educated, talented with words. In fact, Will helps himself to her editorial skills and insight and, even borrows (or steals) a couple of her lines. Katharine is also in love, blind to what we would now refer to as "relationship red flags," but she has a mind of her own and when that mind asserted itself, I couldn't help but cheer.

Shakespeare is a scoundrel in this book, but I would recommend it for its strong female main character who must learn the difference between lust and love, between words and actions, between a bad boy and a real man.

Panasonic EH-NA65-K Smooth & Shiny Hair Dryer with Nanoe Technology
Panasonic EH-NA65-K Smooth & Shiny Hair Dryer with Nanoe Technology
Price: $129.99
10 used & new from $111.42

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nanoe does make a difference, November 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've had my hair dryer, a Conair mini, for ages--more than 10 years. The Conair has only two setting (high and low) and did not come with any accessories. So going from the Conair to the Panasonic Nanoe was like upgrading from a basic to a state-of -the-art hair dryer.

The Panasonic Nanoe comes with a quick-dry nozzle, a set nozzle and a diffuser. It boasts 3 temperatures settings--hot, warm and cool, and a choice of strong (high) or gentle (low) airflow. What makes this hair dryer special is that it produces nanoe or invisible water particles that cling to your hair as you dry it.
I have thick hair that reaches to my shoulders and when I used the Panasonic, I had the impression that strands of hair were "separated." It boosted my hair's natural volume and gave it more movement. And my hair felt softer too after I used the Panasonic with the quick-dry nozzle and the diffuser. My sister who has long fine hair also agreed that this dryer seemed to give her hair more volume too.

Since I've been handling a mini dryer for years, it took a bit of time to get used to the full-sized Panasonic. At first it felt heavy, especially when I attached the diffuser to it, and therefore was somewhat awkward to manage. However, I'm getting used to its weight and size and therefore doing a better job at styling my hair with it. The Panasonic Nanoe does emit a smell, but according to the operating instructions booklet, it is normal and harmless.

I'm glad I got this hair dryer. I like having the different temperature settings, especially the "cool" one because I want to avoid heat damage. With my old dryer, I didn't have any other choice but hot. After using an attachment with the hot setting, it may be warm to the touch so handle with care if you need to switch nozzles. This is a great hair dryer. I don't quite understand the fine details behind the Nanoe technology, but these invisible particles certainly make my hair look good.

Fiskars 18 Inch PowerGear Bypass Lopper (96256935J)
Fiskars 18 Inch PowerGear Bypass Lopper (96256935J)
Price: $27.86
38 used & new from $21.28

5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have great tool, November 22, 2014
I love this Fiskar 18-inch PowerGear Bypass lopper. Thanks to it now I look forward to pruning the trees in my backyard. It makes the job a lot easier. I've been using the lopper on hibiscus shrubs and orange trees. I no longer need to reach for my saw when I have to deal with unruly 1-inch branches. The lopper cuts them cleanly and easily and without my having to exert much effort and best of all, I don't have sore hands or blisters anymore. The handles are smooth and comfortable. I'm glad I decided on the Fiskar. It's worth every penny I spent on it.

Sony AZ1VR/W Action Camera Mini Kit with Live View Remote
Sony AZ1VR/W Action Camera Mini Kit with Live View Remote
Price: $318.00
38 used & new from $209.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice camera, inadequate operating guide, November 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was very excited when I got the Sonny Mini Action Cam HDR-AZ1VR because I've never had a mini cam before. This camera comes bundled with the Live-View Remote control, a waterproof case, and a number of mounts.

My excitement got a little dampened when it was time to set up the camera and remote control because the Operating Guide that comes with them is rather anemic and somewhat inaccurate with some instructions. For example, when the Live-View remote is turned on for the first time, it is not the date and time setting screen that shows up first as the guide says, but a screen asking for "GMT." After a few minutes it dawned on me that GMT might mean Greenwich Mean Time. Since I don't know the time difference off from the top of my head, it meant I had to go on the Internet to find that information before I could operate the remote. I do recommend using Sonny's online Help Guide though I don't think it is as user friendly as it could be. Another thing I couldn't tell just by looking at the Operating Guide was that the little black piece holding the camera in place in the box is the tripod attachment. Good thing I saved it because at the time I opened the box, I thought it was just packing.

I like the size of the camera because it makes it so unobtrusive (I would only ask Sonny to provide a pouch for it, so it doesn't get scratched when carrying it around in a purse or bag). It takes a couple of hours to charge its battery with the mini USB cable that comes with it. It is also easy to operate as all you can basically do with it is to record. The other buttons are to power on the camera and to turn on/off the Wi-Fi and the Live Stream. You can't view your movies or change the settings unless you use the remote control. And the camera and remote work together only if Wi-Fi is available. I installed the PlayMemories Mobile app in my Samsung tablet so that I'm able to control the camera with it too. I rather like to use my tablet as I can see all the menu settings of the camera at once on the screen instead of having to use the up and down buttons of the remote control to scroll to the setting I need. But I know there are circumstances when using the wrist remote control is more appropriate and practical than a tablet. I'm just glad that I have an optional way to control the camera if I ever misplace the Live-View remote.

You can not only shoot movies with the cam, but also take pictures. I'll say that if you want photos, then use a camera or your phone, unless, of course, you like the fish-eye effect which this cam will give to your photos. Image quality in the movies is, I think, very good. I like using the Vivid setting. The Steady Shot seemed to work well when I held the camera in my hand while walking and even when I Scotch taped the camera to the dashboard of the car and took it for a short ride to the supermarket. But when I mounted the camera on the wrist strap and went jogging, the resulting movie was quite jumpy. Steady Shot reduces some shaking but it doesn't work miracles.

There are two attachments you must hold on to, and those are the tripod adaptor and the attachment buckle. Without those two, you can't use the camera with the other mounts or the wrist strap. Once you're done with shooting, you may want to download two programs from Sonny. Play Memories Home organizes your movies and images while Action Cam Creator gives you some basic editing tools to trim and merge up to four videos into one. You may not want to skip Play Memories Home because if you import your movies with a different program, the GPS data may not transfer with it.

I haven't tested this camera near water yet, but I hope I'll be able to do it soon. But all in all, I like this mini cam. It's light, easy to operate, and the image quality is nice. If there's something that hampered my experience with it was the time I have to spend on the Internet looking for the instructions, and then all the clicking here and there I had to do in order to learn how to use the camera, remote, attachments and the software. I wish Sonny would make the online Help Guides available on PDF. Other than that, I'm looking forward to taking this little camera on my next trip.

Bloggers Boot Camp: Learning How to Build, Write, and Run a Successful Blog
Bloggers Boot Camp: Learning How to Build, Write, and Run a Successful Blog
by Charlie White
Edition: Paperback
Price: $28.45
44 used & new from $20.41

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, journalistic-oriented guide to blogging, November 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you're serious about blogging, "Bloggers Boot Camp" should be on your desk. Authors Charlie White and John Biggs will guide you through the realities of blogging, but don't expect them to pat you in the head and look the other way if you don't feel like writing. There is a reason the term "Boot Camp" is on the title. They require you to work hard, put in a minimum of 1,000 words daily, post thorough the day, and keep a constant watch for the latest news and trends on your chosen topic while they hold you and your content up to the standards of a professional news reporter.

"Bloggers Boot Camp" is a no-nonsense guide to every aspect of blogging. This book is targeted to those who want their blogs not only to become popular but also profitable. In other words, if you're looking to blogging as a business enterprise or as a career, heed the advice within its 11 chapters. Successful blogging starts with writing informative and entertaining posts. White and Biggs will tell you how to achieve that. They'll not only list all the skills needed to create effective posts, but also how to make them "discoverable" to thousands of readers. The authors offer advice on everything, from writing, equipment, computer skills, advertising, marketing, building traffic, using social media, job hunting to dealing with trolls and critics, PR people, and even burnout.

I found "Bloggers Boot Camp" to be a thorough book on the subject of blogging. It does, however, favor those who are or will be practicing Internet-niche journalism. The examples, metaphors, parallels, news gathering techniques, standards and values found in this book are based on professional journalism. Those who blog about their personal internal life or about their cats once a week--the authors refer to them as "diarists"--need not walk away from this guide, though. In fact, they will benefit from reading it too. When it comes to blogging, whether we do it professionally or casually, we all can use good grammar, eye-catching ledes and moral integrity. There is a wealth of tips in this book. From doing an entertaining podcast to following our blogging dreams, "Bloggers Boot Camp" has it all.

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