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BISSELL BOLT XRT PET 2-in-1 Lightweight Cordless Vacuum, 14.4v, 1315
BISSELL BOLT XRT PET 2-in-1 Lightweight Cordless Vacuum, 14.4v, 1315
Price: $119.43
2 used & new from $109.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent tool for our needs, October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We picked up this Bissell Bolt as a supplement to our full-size vacuum. The Bolt has already proven to be a lifesaver for our vinyl kitchen floor, as our kids and pets constantly track in dirt and the autumn leaves, and our dogs' winter coats are creeping in. We also plan to get tile placed on our entire first floor, so I have a feeling it will work wonders when that happens.

We've had a few hand vacuums in the past, and we always got rid of them as the suction was weak, and the batteries didn't last. Well, so far, this one seems to be just right, and it comes with some extras too.

First and foremost, this vacuum is convenient. You snap the hand vacuum part into its upright attachment, and then slide it onto its charging base. When I need to use it, I lift it out of the base and push the power button. Then I'm all set. No need to search for an outlet or unwind cords. If I just need the hand vacuum portion, I just pop it out and leave the upright attachment in the charger. I've found I've used the hand vacuum portion more, but for the bigger messes, I use the upright attachment.

The hand vacuum has good suction - no where near as powerful as our full-size. But enough for our purposes. Our typical uses are on small debris on hard flooring, and accidental spills of cooking ingredients.

When in the upright, you have the option to use on normal suction or throw it in boost mode. You can also turn on rollers in the base. Again, its very convenient. All buttons are on the handle and easy to use. We have used it for debris on the top of carpet, but I wouldn't expect this to give a good, deep clean of carpeting. I feel the suction while in the upright attachment is a little weaker. The roller is rubber, so it should be safe for most flooring, and it does a good job at pulling hair fibers - like pet hair.

The fact that you can fold the handle for storage or for reaching tough spots is a great feature. I can even fold the handle back and push the vacuum under our couch without much bending.

And as for cleaning it out, the hand vacuum portion ejects the front end which you dump in a trash can. When the filter gets dirty, you just wash it and continue on. If you need to clean the rollers, they even made that easy. Just flip a tab and pull it out.

I will say that the hand vacuum is a little difficult to take out and put into the upright attachment. It sort of snaps in. I wish it was more fluid. I also wish it had more suction in the upright configuration. And it would be nice if it came with a brush attachment - and the little brush that you can slide out doesn't count. I'm talking an attachment that has a brush all around it - similar to the rubber nub having attachment.

I can't speak to battery life as we just use it for spot cleaning. At most, we've had it run 15 minutes, and it still had juice left. Apparently, the battery likes to take its time charging - taking up to 8 hours from dead to full. Fortunately, we don't drain it dry, and don't need to use it all day, so we've never had to wait 8 hours for it to be ready to go.

Overall, the vacuum is a great utility in our household. It saves us time cleaning up, and that's always a good thing.

The Christmas Wedding Ring (Hqn)
The Christmas Wedding Ring (Hqn)
by Susan Mallery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.72
51 used & new from $6.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Sweet and Simple Holiday Love Story, October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I read this book, all 320 pages of it, in one day. I will say right up front that there is nothing new, no strange twist or turns. This is just a nice sweet love story. What I did love about it, is that author, Susan Mallery, seemed to write about a real man, and a real woman. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for the gorgeous supermodel finding love with the stunningly handsome photographer. BUT, it's much easier to identify with (ie: root for) the woman that...well, kinda sounds like me!

Molly Anderson isn't 6 feet tall and a size four. She's your normal average woman-5'4" with a little bit of extra weight on her. She's curvy, and her average looks have created some self esteems issues. Dylan Black is a good looking guy-handsome, but doesn't sound like overly so. Successful and confident with himself. But the impression I got here is that because of Molly's love for Dylan he's more beautiful in HER eyes. And as Dylan gets to know the woman that used to have a crush on him 14 years ago (she was 14, he was a worldly 20) he starts to see her not only for who she is, but the woman he knows she can become.

And I LOVED that. I loved that what started out as a truly, lovely friendship, turned into something more as they reconnected and got to know one another as adults. And as Dylan discovered Molly's kind heart and generous spirit, he came to see just how truly beautiful she was.

There are some bumps along the way, sure. But in the end true loves wins out-and that's exactly why I read and enjoyed this book.

The Wonder of All Things
The Wonder of All Things
by Jason Mott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.60
60 used & new from $11.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted so much more. *SLIGHT SPOILERS*, October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book was beautifully written. Author, Jason Mott, has a beautiful control over the English language, and he sets up an interesting premise, unfortunately for me, that's about all I got.

Sweet, young Ava has been blessed with an extraordinary gift-or so we are led to believe-the ability to heal. During the annual air show, tragedy strikes and Ava is trapped under the rubble with her best friend Wash. Time is running out for Wash who is gravely injured, and in a moment of panic Ava places her hands over the wound and...heals? But doing so, causes Ava distress, and as the story progresses we see the damage healing inflicts on the little girl.

Mott creates a small inner circle for Ava, and yet the others looking in come off as-jerks. Not once did Ava's father lay into the people calling his little girl selfish for not sharing her gift! And they aren't for wanting to heal themselves with no thought to the consequences?

I saw what was coming about half way through the book, and rather than be sad, I wondered WHY? Why did Mott spend more time crafting lovely paragraphs than giving us real substance? Why didn't Ava just say NO?

All in all, I wanted to love this book, but just couldn't get into it, and in the end, I finished the book because I wanted to know if I had guessed correctly at the ending.

No Limits (Hqn)
No Limits (Hqn)
by Lori Foster
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $5.78
87 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun read, but a lot of missing backstory, October 14, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I liked this book, don't get me wrong, but I had one HUGE issue with it.

I felt like I was missing something. I read Bare it All in author Lori Foster's Love Undercover series, and felt the same way. Now, I read a lot of romance, and I have nothing against series, BUT it is nice to be able to pick up a book, especially if you haven't read the whole series and not feel as if you're coming into a movie halfway through it. I've read other series, and there are ways to engage a reader and make them interested in picking UP earlier books without feeling as if they don't 'get it' because they haven't already done so.

Here Foster introduces us to Cannon Colter-the ultimate man-and Yvette Sweeney-a young woman getting over a tragedy when she loses her grandfather. Like any romance we know the end game, the story leading up to that resolution is the fun part. And though I very much enjoyed the story, I felt like I was only getting half of it-ok, maybe three fourths-because we know what tragedy Yvette experienced, but we aren't given all the details. And while that's fine, it's alluded to so often it gets annoying and leaves you wondering if you need to put the book down and find out if the 'real story' is in another of Foster's books. That creates a disconnect for the reader, or rather it did for me. Making it hard for me to truly just enjoy the story-and what a story it is!

Yvette and Cannon's story stands fine on it's own, I simply wish there was less allusion to the backstory.

BUT, I'm intrigued by the fighters we are introduced to in this book, and i'll be back for another round.

The Homecoming (Thunder Point)
The Homecoming (Thunder Point)
by Robyn Carr
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $5.78
114 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars What a Lovely Ride this Was, October 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Thunder Point series by author, Robyn Carr, doesn't break any new ground. There is no one solving any grand mystery, no ghosts, time travel or vampires. Instead what she gives us is a fairly realistic portrayal of love. Love that is lost, has to be earned, love that is found.

In her most recent outing Carr gives us fallen football star Seth Sileski. An amazing athlete and all around good guy, he was in a horrible accident that left him unable to play.

High school guidance counselor, Iris McKinley never got over her love for Seth OR the hurt at his betrayal.

Like all romances, you know what's going to happen-our hero and heroine will get back together, though there will be fights and resistance, it IS a romance after all. And like all romance novels-it isn't the ending it's the journey there, and Carr gives us a lovely ride. The bumps these two encounter-getting over a past hurt-seem more realistic to me than you might find in other books like this. There are side stories, and we get to revisit (if all too briefly in this one) characters from the first 5 books-something I always enjoy.

All in all, this book read like an actual homecoming (for the most part, sure some things are glossed over, but who wants to read a 600+ page romance?) with all the bumps, bruises and twists that one could imagine a fallen star might face-even if that fall from grace was more in his own mind than anyone else's.

As I said at the beginning of my review, there is nothing new or groundbreaking here-but I got a wonderfully simple book to enjoy on a cold day of fall in Virginia. Can't wait for my next visit to Thunder Point.

Barbie Collector 2014 Holiday Doll
Barbie Collector 2014 Holiday Doll
Price: $35.00
58 used & new from $28.14

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bring Back the Glamour!, October 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When my sister and I were younger we used to wait for the JcPenney Toy catalog with bated breath. We would pour over it, circling things we wanted for Christmas, and Holiday Barbie was always on the list. I only ever got one, as my Dad never wanted to pay a premium for what he said would, "Just end up with tangled hair on my floor." But they were just beautiful! Sparkly dresses, jewelry and this beautiful updo.

Now that I'm older, I'm the proud mom of 5 boys-so no one to buy Holiday Barbie for, but we always decorate in Red and Gold for Christmas, so when I saw her I decided to go for it! Wouldn't she look beautiful on my dining room table-an angel in a red and gold dress, among my other Christmas themed decor.

And I admit, I'm disappointed! Her hair looks like any other Barbie's. Long, blond and flowing-where is that gorgeous updo?

The Jewelry is nothing special either, I've bought Barbie clothing for my little niece and seen necklaces similar to this one in the formal clothing packages, sadly this Barbie isn't wearing earrings.

The dress is pretty. A lovely red shade, with a gold lace underlay. The same lace is on the bustier and there is a little gold ribbon at her waist.

The box is nice and festive, and sadly she will probably rest in it for awhile, as I am just not that impressed with her.

Perhaps, I've grown up-though even at 40, I still love the glitz and glamour on occasion-but this Barbie doesn't live up to the Holiday Barbies of years past.

Mega Bloks SpongeBob Invisible Boatmobile Rescue
Mega Bloks SpongeBob Invisible Boatmobile Rescue
Price: $19.99
29 used & new from $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Love the Squishy Jellyfish!, October 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
WOW! The clear vehicle is cool, but it's hard to put together! Though to be clear that could have more to do with my eyesight than the actual level of difficulty.

The directions are similar to a lego set of this size. They are numbered and spell out how many of each piece you need, but what Mega Blocks did that I liked was color in the pieces on the ones already put together, so you saw exactly where each piece goes. Often in building sets like this you are guessing, maybe counting and if you mess up you have to backtrack, not so with Mega Blocks new set! And though all the small clear pieces were tough to work with for me because of my eyes, the diagrams showing exactly where to put them really helped and made putting it together that much easier.

This set came with Spongebob, Patrick, Plankton and some squishy little jellyfish. For whatever reason, my two younger boys loved the little jellyfish!. I liked that the figures actually seemed thicker and sturdier than other sets like this, making it easier for my younger son to play with them.

The vehicles themselves, once put together, are actually very sturdy and solid and my boys have been playing with this for days!

Pricing seems a bit more reasonable than other sets like this, and for $20 this is a solid investment if your children like playing and building with sets like these. There are some very small pieces so if you have smaller children choking could be an issue, but at 6 and 10 I had no qualms about letting my boys play with this set-though they left the actual building to me!

All in all, great set and addition to their building block empire.

K'nex Plants vs. Zombies Pirate Seas Plank Walk Building Set
K'nex Plants vs. Zombies Pirate Seas Plank Walk Building Set
Price: $39.99
14 used & new from $37.99

2.0 out of 5 stars What's the Point?, October 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Where to start? The Zombie figures are cool, and my boys do enjoy playing with them, but the actual 'board' (or whatever you call it) is a joke. I will admit that I was putting it together a bit halfheartedly, urging my ten and 6 year old to read the directions. Keep in mind both of these boys are proficient with Lego sets-even the huge ones with seemingly endless steps. After watching them struggle for about 45 minutes, my oldest son stepped in. Oldest is almost 21, and started playing with Lego's around 5. He built them either for himself or his younger brothers for over a decade-and even he thought building this was ridiculous.

We have had a few K'nex sets over the years, and I've always thought that their directions weren't as good as Lego's (and let's be real, Lego directions aren't that great either!) but I almost wondered if this set was missing a few pages! Even after my oldest spent awhile on it, my husband then looked at it that night and noticed a few things off.

Now, just to remind you-our entire family has built Lego and K'nex sets in the past-never an issue. Just want to put your mind at rest, that we aren't a bunch of incompetents-this set just had very poor directions.

As to the game play, I don't think there is any! If you turn on the part that requires batteries, all the set seems to do is shake, which makes the zombies move a bit closer to the edge, or I'm assuming that's what is supposed to happen-ours just fell over.

In the end, my youngest just took apart the playing board, and play with the little cannons and zombie figures. At $40, this set isn't worth the money, time or effort. Save your cash.

Whistle Activity Monitor For Dogs
Whistle Activity Monitor For Dogs
Price: $99.99
7 used & new from $92.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Give Us More, Please!, September 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'll start by admitting that this is not what I expected. I wasn't looking for a full-fledged GPS tracker with health monitoring - I know that's in the works. But I was looking for something with more social features... a little more fun, if you will.

The device comes in a nice, tidy box. It includes a charging dock and a snap-on collar clip. Note that the charging dock does not come with a power plug, just a USB cable end. It took less than an hour to charge, and we put the clip on the device, and then on our dog's collar. I do have to note that the device is a bit bulbous with the addition of the clip. Whistle recommends this for dogs over 10 pounds, but even then it is worth noting that it is a bit big. It's not too heavy, but it sticks out a bit.

Once on the collar I downloaded the app on my iPhone 5S. Based on the app download pages, the app requires iOS 7 or greater and/or Android 4.0.3 or greater. The app walks you through pairing the Whistle device to your mobile device via Bluetooth. Then you can connect it to your Wifi and set up your dog's profile. Overall, setup is pretty painless. I will say that they didn't have my dog's breed in the list, as she is a miniature. So I decided to choose the primary breed. They do offer an Other Breed, but again, I was expecting more socialization in the system, so wanted to be specific.

Once her profile was setup, we let our furry friend get accustomed to the gadget being on her collar. She scratched a bit and shook a bit, but then forgot about it.

She has had it on a for a few days now, and here is where my primary issue comes into play... There is very little social activity available. Sure, I can monitor my dog's activity, and if friends have a Whistle, they can set me as an owner so I can see their dog in the system too, but I feel there is a missed opportunity here to allow us to see nearby Whistle dogs and profiles, and maybe even see similar dogs/activities in the app. It could be a social app of its own. And I know there are those that wouldn't like that, so make it opt-in.

This is only an activity monitor, yet there is so much more that could be available in the app. It's a feed of information, and Whistle wants us to add to it, but why make us work to share it. With all that said, there is the ability to share events from Whistle to other social forums - e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.

The device monitors your dogs activity, like walks, runs, swims, and rests. You can manually add meals, treats, or other notes. You can even add pictures. But again, that seems to be a waste if no one else is going to see them - that is, unless I have friends with a Whistle dog who wants to add me as an owner, and vice versa.

Lastly, there is no GPS or distance monitoring in this device.

Overall, it's an okay device. It works. It tracks my dog's movements throughout the day in measures of minutes. The app works fine on the phone (unfortunately there is no browser-based site yet). It's waterproof. And the battery lasts for a great while. But, with sadness, I have a hard time seeing the draw.

Sure I can see the points about tracking your dog to ensure he/she gets enough exercise in the day, or maybe if you travel and want to ensure the kennel or neighbor is taking your pal out as expected, or maybe you are a trend watcher and want to see when your buddy is being more sluggish than usual. I get it, but I wanted more.

Hopefully we'll see more options soon. Until then, I will continue to use the device. (I didn't say the device is horrible.) I'll watch our little girls trends. The device does what it says it does. I just want more than a bar graph.

Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set: Two WeMo Smart Light Bulbs and WeMo Link to Control Multiple WeMo Bulbs from Anywhere, Wi-Fi Enabled (F5Z0489)
Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set: Two WeMo Smart Light Bulbs and WeMo Link to Control Multiple WeMo Bulbs from Anywhere, Wi-Fi Enabled (F5Z0489)
Price: $99.99
9 used & new from $87.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's Like Magic, September 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
We've been thinking of getting into a bit of home automation. We've been traveling and are out and about more lately, so having some ability to manage devices at home would be nice. Other than managing our network and some data remotely, these light bulbs are our first step into home automation. And let me tell you, I like it.

The bulbs come in flashy, yet simplistic packaging. There just isn't much to it. Two bulbs, the Link device, and a quick starter guide.

Following the instructions, we plugged in the Link box to an outlet in a central hallway, and then put a bulb in a floor lamp in our 2nd floor master bedroom and the other bulb in a lamp in our 1st floor family room. I turned the lamps on, and left them on (more on that in a minute).

Then it was on to setting it up. I downloaded the WeMo app on my iPhone 5S - note that this system currently requires a device that runs Android 4.0 or higher and/or iOS 6 or higher.

Set up is a bit of a pain, but not too bad. You change your mobile device's Wifi connection to the WeMo Link network. Then you open the WeMo app. At that point it walks you through the required setup - configuring your network, activating the bulbs with the Link, naming them, etc.

Once it was setup, it functioned as expected. And so cool! Turn the lights on and off with your mobile device. Adjust the brightness. Even setup a schedule. Heck, you can even use the IFTTT service to run recipes like emailing to turn the lights on and off, or getting an email when the light is turned on. (Although at the time of this writing, IFTTT would not accept the PIN that WeMo gave me, so I couldn't test it.) Overall, it's great. I can manage the lights from within the home, or even miles away. The bulbs offer a nice, bright glow. They are LED and will last years - this set has a 2 year warranty. The bases of the bulbs do get a bit hot, but the glass doesn't.

We also installed the app on another iPhone and on our iPad mini - note that there is not a dedicated iPad version of the app. These additional devices were much easier to setup. Just download and open the app. Since they were all on the same network as the Link was, it auto-configured.

Now for the bummer... Unfortunately, this set does not come with a light switch or motion sensor. So what that means is that you have to leave the lamp turned on at all times, or the remote functions will not work. The Link can't do anything with a bulb with no power. Maybe it's no big deal for some, but it would be nice if the bulb had a button on it to turn it on standby just like the app does. Or a motion sensor to allow it to go off, or allow the app to enable/disable the feature.

In the case of the bulb in the family room, this is good and bad. When we travel, we can set a schedule for the light to come on as if someone is actually home, and I can adjust the brightness of the bulb from the comfort of the couch. I could even turn the light on before coming in the house at night. But if I'm walking by the lamp and just want to turn it off, I can't do that without disabling the remote features entirely (flipping the switch) or getting out my mobile device.

In the case of the bulb in the bedroom, it's great to be able to dim the light or turn it off before bedtime (without getting up), but if I'm just running in the room to grab something, I can't just turn the lamp on and off. Instead I have to get out my handy phone and manage the light.

And sure, you can turn the lamp on and off with your usual switch. In fact, turning it off and then back on makes the bulb come on at full brightness - even if you had it set to dim or off on the phone. Sure that is great. But I found that sometimes (and only sometimes) the app or Link ended up losing sight of the bulbs, and I had to reset the entire thing when that happened - that meant uninstalling the app, resetting the Link, and starting all over. I couldn't just resync the bulbs with the Link and continue. So lesson learned - leave the lamps on.

Without a dedicated switch or button, these bulbs actually create an inconvenience - unless you have a mobile device in every room dedicated to home automation. It would be great if Belkin had switches that were specific to these bulbs. The do have some to replace standard lamps/bulbs, but I did not see any specific to this set.

In any event, when it comes to the bulbs, the Link device, and the function of this set as a whole, I am very pleased. It's a nice entry-level step into home automation. I appreciate the features. Just wish there was less inconvenience factor. But, for now, that's something that can be worked around. I suggest putting this set in lamps that are not used for those walk-by moments. A lamp that you can and are willing to manage with your mobile device primarily. Put it in a secondary lamp. One managed by your old school switch, and one by your phone/tablet/gadget.

Sure it comes at a premium price. But with the features, remote management, LED, free app, etc., I think it's fair. I just wish it included switches of some sort - then it would be perfect.

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