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by Antonia Hayes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and emotional, February 12, 2016
This review is from: Relativity (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is one of the best books I've read in a very long time. I would love to discuss it with others who have read it. It would be a perfect book for a book club. It's a book that you have to let unfold one page at a time because there is a good amount mystery involved and a few twists and turns throughout the novel. Antonia Hayes did an excellent job of involving me in the lives of her characters to the point that I will probably be thinking about them for months to come. They are imperfect characters but I came to see things through each of their eyes.

It is the story of a family, a mother, Claire, who used to be a professional ballerina and her son, Ethan, who is both brilliant and different in the way his brain functions. It's evident from the first pages that Claire and Ethan are very close. Clair is divorced from Mark, Ethan's father, and hasn't seen him in over 10 years. He lives in another part of Australia, while Claire and Ethan live in Sydney. Ethan was a baby when his dad left so he doesn't remember him. As the story begins, we realize that Ethan is very loved and protected by his mom but he has problems relating to the other kids at school. He is being bullied by a group of kids which includes his former best friend. So Hayes has us questioning why these things are happening and why Ethan's father is no longer in the picture. Then she does a beautiful job of telling the story. It was difficult to put it down during most of the book, just because it was interesting, but during the last parts, it was impossible. Very few books hold my interest to the extent this one did.

This is a difficult book to review without giving too much away. Just read it. And try not to read any spoilers before you do.

Garmin vívofit 2 Activity Tracker, Navy
Garmin vívofit 2 Activity Tracker, Navy
Price: Click here to see our price
27 used & new from $79.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I love that it's water resistant to 50 meters and the battery lasts a year, February 12, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is my second fitness tracker. My first was a Fitbit Flex which I really liked and used for over 2 years. But I got tired of having to look at my iPhone or iPad every time I wanted an update on my steps beyond the little lights that designated 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100% of my goal which was made visible by tapping the little screen on the tracker. I looked first to the Fitbit line but none of the devices with displays were water resistant beyond rain and a few splashes. They are not safe to be taken into the shower or pool. Or worn when washing dishes. Or bathing the dog. (And certainly not bathing the cat!) Or cleaning a fish tank or any number of other things during the day that might involve more than a splash.

So I looked at the available trackers with displays that were more water resistant (No tracker that I could find is completely waterproof.) The Garmin Vivofit 2 caught my eye because of its "always on" display that I don't have to push a button to see unless it's really dark and I need the backlight. It's water resistant to 50 meters (about 164 feet) and it's fine in the shower or pool. I want to be able to wear my tracker 24/7 and with the Vivofit I can.

The Vivofit uses replaceable batteries that can last a year or more. The tracker takes two little lithium batteries which are included and installed. They are the CR1632 batteries and can be purchased on Amazon. This is really nice because I don't have to remember to charge it every week. (Or leave it sitting in the charger when I leave the house.)

There are several screens that you can cycle through by pressing the little button on the side of the tracker. Whatever screen you used last is where it will stay. There are screens for total steps, number of steps left in your daily goal, approximate calories burned, distance, the time (You can wear it as a watch) and the date. You can choose not to see some of these screens by unchecking them in the app. If you hold the button for a second or so, the backlight will come on for a few seconds. This is very handy at night when I'm in bed and want to see the time. The goals screen that I mentioned is set by Garmin. The Vivofit learns your current activity level and sets daily goals based on what you did the days before. The tracker and the app keep track of the number of days you've met your goals. Alternatively, you can set your own daily goals in the app. The goal number counts down so you can see throughout the day how many steps you have left to reach your goal.

There is an alert, a little chirp, that sounds when you haven't been active for an hour. You'll also see a red line across the top of the tracker's screen. After another 15 minutes there's a second chirp and the red line grows another small segment as it does each additional 15 minutes that you aren't moving. In order to get rid of the red line/lines, you have to get up and walk a couple hundred steps. The chirp sound is very faint and I usually miss it. There are so many other electronic beeps and sounds around our house with all the electronic devices, I don't even notice those kinds of sounds anymore. But I do notice when that red line appears and I know it'll only take a few minutes of walking to get rid of it, so more often than not, I do. And those steps all add up over the course of a day. For me, it's really good motivation. You can turn the sound off in the app if you don't want it going off in a meeting or something.

Before I purchased my Vivofit I read a lot of reviews here on Amazon, complaining about the Garmin Connect and Connect Mobile apps. Garmin seems to have taken notice and responded with improvements and a very nice and easy to use app. I never saw the old one since I got my Vivofit after the old one was updated. It took a little while to figure out where everything was, but now I love it. It gives me more info than the Fitbit did and it's easier to compare steps and other activities and see them all in one place. I can also customize the way it looks to some extent. The tracker has a timer for activities like swimming, cycling, weights, aerobics classes, etc. you can time them and there are places to add these to the app and compare those activities as well. I haven't used those yet because I've become so obsessed with getting in my steps and increasing them each day.

Besides being able to compare your own steps each day, you can connect with friends or join groups which you can look up within the app. The thing I'm really liking is joining a challenge. The challenges are a week long and Garmin puts you into a group of about 15 people who have similar step counts as you do. Each time you sync and then go to the Garmin Connect website, you can see others in your group and their steps increase throughout the day. It's great motivation to move up higher in the list or discover another member who was behind you is now 300 steps ahead of you. I'll walk quickly around my house at night just to get ahead! The tracker occasionally syncs on its own if you leave your Bluetooth on, or you can manually tell it to sync by pressing the button on the tracker that changes the screens. My tracker syncs right away about 95% of the time. The other times I might have to wait a few minutes and then try again. I'm guessing their servers are probably busy.

This band has a sleep tracker that does an excellent job of tracking my sleep levels based on movement during the night. It automatically seems to know when I've gone to sleep and when I wake up. There is a place in the app to enter your usual hours of going to bed and waking up. But if I fall asleep earlier or later it has gotten it right every time so far.

Changeable bands are a big thing for me. I like to be able to change the look of my Vivofit, to go with different outfits. The Garmin bands have the little locking clasp that locks with a quarter turn so there's no way it could come undone by itself, even if you pulled on it. I've ordered a few 3rd party bands on Amazon that have a regular clasp that just pushes through both sections of the band, like the ones on the original Vivofit or the Fitbit. I've only had the regular clasp come undone twice with my old Fitbit and both times was pulling sleeves with tight cuffs backwards over the bands. I ordered my Vivofit 2 with a navy blue band and then ordered a set of three of the Garmin brand in black, white and gray. I also ordered a 3rd party band that was made for the original Vivofit but works just fine with the Vivofit 2. I don't know if all of the original bands will work, but I have 3 more ordered that should be here tomorrow, so I hope they do. There are lots of choices of colors and patterns of bands so you don't ever have to be bored with the look of your tracker.

What about the accuracy of the Vivofit 2? When I first got the tracker I wore it on the same arm as my Fitbit and compared at the end of each day. I also carried my iPhone and used the step app. All three had different numbers by the end of the day. The Vivofit and iPhone recorded more steps than the Fitbit. The iPhone was in the middle. What I did was to go into the Vivofit app and do a custom setting for my stride length by measuring a distance outside and then counting my steps to determine how many steps I took in a known number of feet. I entered the distance and the number of steps and the Vivofit calculated my stride. After that the numbers were closer. I have counted hundreds of steps while I walked and it seems to be counting them exactly now. The place where I pick up extra steps is with arm movements. Typing doesn't register, but waving my arm fast will. I wear it on my left (non-dominant) arm. Brushing my hair with my left hand will register some of the movement but not all. Driving in the car won't register any. Repetitive movement up and down with my arm will count as a step with both trackers. It's just the nature of the way they work. I feel that I'm getting a good, comparative idea of the number of steps that I'm taking from one day to the next.

I will update this review after I've spent more time with this Vivofit, but right now I'm very happy with it. I'm more motivated to walk and move than I've ever been and at the end of the day I feel better for it.

Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm, Red Dhalia, 0.15 Ounce, 2 Count
Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm, Red Dhalia, 0.15 Ounce, 2 Count
Price: $9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The sheerest amount of color, February 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I tried the Red Dahlia and Pink Blossom colors in this tinted lip balm. Both contain natural ingredients such as coconut, vegetable and olive oil, among others. I think it's the beeswax that adds some staying power and keeps it on my lips for a while. It had a very mild floral scent. The color is very sheer and transparent. I've been using the Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer in the Watermelon color for years and this is different than that. The lip shimmer has more color and is less transparent than this product. The Lip Shimmers also have a peppermint flavor which is cooling and feels great on dry chapped lips. I was kind of hoping these balms would have the peppermint flavor, but they don't. But they do seem to be a bit more moisturizing and feel good on my lips. The oils in it seem to be absorbed a little more. This product has less color, in fact, rather than it looking like I've applied lip color, it looks more natural. It is a product I can wear whether or not I'm wearing makeup.

I hope they don't replace the Burt's Bee's Lip Shimmer with this product because I love that product. For me, this will be an additional product that I will use, because I like the way it moisturizes my lips, but I will still use the other as well.

The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel
The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel
by Daniel Torday
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.47
82 used & new from $4.81

5.0 out of 5 stars A book within a book. Fascinating., February 4, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Daniel Torday chose a unique way to write this novel in that it's a book within a book. "Skylock, the Memoir of a Jewish RAF Bomber" is written by the character, Leopold Weisberg nicknamed "Poxl West". His 15 year old nephew Elijah Goldstein introduces and comments on the memoir, about his uncle Poxl who isn't actually his uncle but an old family friend. If this whole thing sounds complicated, it is much less so when you're actually reading this this novel. It's more than just another story about WWII, it's a story about how a young man sees and later understands more about his uncle whom he has always looked up to and adored. Finding out about some of the darker things about his background and about the war makes one realize how complex people and personalities are. While Poxl may indeed have been a hero, he was much more complicated than what Elijah may have seen to begin with.

The stories within the novel are written years apart and handled very cleverly by Torday. While it started out seeming like it might be rather predictable, it soon unfolded into much more and kept me turning the pages. An excellent debut novel.

Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet
Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet
by Paul Asay
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.03
50 used & new from $3.11

4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining and unique point of view, February 4, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Paul Asay has an entertaining writing style and a unique way of looking at the way he thinks God may speak to man in modern times. I wanted to read his book because I've wondered too why He would only speak to man in ancient times and then seemingly expect us to only relate to old stories and prophecies. Asay surmises that the word of God exists in much of our modern pop culture, that creatures from Godzilla to Gandalf has a story to tell, perhaps more than just a moral of a story. Zombies and the book of Revelations? He thinks there is a connection. He looks at video games and choices, music's ability to sometimes find a way to our very soul. His book is often humorous and to me it was an entertaining read. I think even if a person disagrees with some or most of it, it still gives us something to think about from a philosophical viewpoint.

100% Natural Sleep Support - Extra Strength Nighttime Sleep Aid Supplement - 60 Vegetarian Non-Habit Forming Capsules With Melatonin, L-Taurine, L-Theanine & 5-HTP - Pills for Deep & Restful Sleeping
100% Natural Sleep Support - Extra Strength Nighttime Sleep Aid Supplement - 60 Vegetarian Non-Habit Forming Capsules With Melatonin, L-Taurine, L-Theanine & 5-HTP - Pills for Deep & Restful Sleeping
Offered by Zenwise Health
Price: $49.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of hit and miss, February 2, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I would say this works well about half of the time when I take it 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. I'm kind of a night owl, mostly by choice because the house is quiet at night and I have some time to myself which is often spent reading. But there are many times that I have a difficult time falling asleep or when I wake up a few hours after going to bed with too many thoughts and worries going through my head. Those are the times when I need a sleep support aid such as this one.

I like that this has natural ingredients, things I'm mostly familiar with rather than strange, chemical sounding names. Here are the ingredients listed on the bottle:

2 Capsules contain:
Magnesium 80 mg..20% RDA
L-Taurine...200 mg
L-Theanine...200 mg
Chamomile Flower Powder...150 mg
Valerian Root Powder...150 mg
5-HTP...100 mg
GABA...100 mg
Melatonin...6 mg
L-Ornithine...5 mg

So the first time I tried this product I took a single capsule. I didn't feel a thing. The next night I took the recommended dose of 2 capsules and within 45 minutes I was falling asleep and slept comfortably through the night. I woke up feeling good and refreshed. A day or two later I tried 2 capsules again, and nothing. I was up for a few more hours. It's been kind of hit and miss like that since. Perhaps it has to do with how empty or full my stomach is when I take it. It probably works better on an empty stomach. It may also have to do with worries or just too many thoughts going through my head. The melatonin probably is the most helpful of the ingredients and I have taken it in the past with good results.

If I were to use this every night, the 60 tablets would last for 30 days. I would probably be more likely to keep it on hand for occasional use if the price were more reasonable. I'm not willing to spend close to twenty dollars on a product that isn't a sure thing, even if it is natural.

Aqualia Thermal Night Spa Replenishing Anti-Fatigue Sleeping Mask with Hyaluronic Acid
Aqualia Thermal Night Spa Replenishing Anti-Fatigue Sleeping Mask with Hyaluronic Acid
Price: $28.00

4.0 out of 5 stars I use it for daytime too, February 2, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This Vichy Aqualia Thermal night Spa treatment is almost like a gel, or a cross between a gel and a cream. It feels cool when I first apply it, probably because it has a fairly high water content. That's a good thing, because it keeps my face and neck moisturized for the better part of the night or day. Even though it's a night treatment I like to put it on my face in the morning because it isn't greasy and it absorbs within a few minutes, especially if I message it into my skin. The first few times I used it, before bedtime, I think I used too much because most of it just sat on my face and didn't get absorbed and eventually ended up on the pillowcase. Using a little less seems to work better. It makes my skin feel moisturized and lessens the appearance of small wrinkles.

This product has a light, pleasant fragrance which I would describe as floral. Because it feels so cool to the touch initially, I think it will be refreshing in the summertime when the weather is hot.

JOMOQ Small Replacement Accessory Colorful with White Dots Wrist Bands with Plastic Clasps for Garmin Vivofit 1PC,Black (No tracker, Replacement Bands Only)
JOMOQ Small Replacement Accessory Colorful with White Dots Wrist Bands with Plastic Clasps for Garmin Vivofit 1PC,Black (No tracker, Replacement Bands Only)
Offered by Jomoinc
Price: $5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Classy looking and fits the Vivofit 2 just fine, February 2, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I purchased this band for the Garmin Vivofit 2 because I think it really dresses up the tracker which tends to look a little big and clunky on a small wrist. I think it makes it look more like a fashion accessory and less utilitarian. Although this band was designed for the original Vivofit, it fits the Vivofit 2 perfectly. It doesn't have the locking clasp but I may get one of those little band guards that slips over the band although the clasp feels pretty secure just as is.

The tiny button near the face of the tracker is different than the little ridge that Vivofit 2 bands have, but you know what? I think it works better for changing the screens. I'm posting a couple photos so you can see what it looks like on my arm.
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Weber Style 6434 Professional-Grade Vegetable Basket
Weber Style 6434 Professional-Grade Vegetable Basket
Price: $19.99
20 used & new from $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for grilling veggies and fruit, January 30, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This Weber grill pan is a generous size and perfect for grilling vegetables, fruit or any small pieces of food that would fall between the grill grates. The slotted openings let in the maximum amount of smoke and heat while keeping the food in the pan. It's made of stainless steel. The one problem is that hot oils such as olive or safflower oil burns easily in the grill's high temperatures that I like to use for grilling and this pan is very difficult to clean. Bar Keepers Friend cleanser is about the only thing I've found that does a decent job of cleaning it and even with that, it takes a great deal of time and elbow grease to get the burned areas completely clean. I finally decided to leave those areas as they are, just cleaning off any actual debris that come off with a normal amount of gentle scrubbing. Hopefully this will eventually result in a "seasoned" grill pan that will be more stick-free. At any rate, I like this pan and will continue to use it almost every time we grill.

Fitleader FS1 Exercise Bike Fitness Indoor Workout Upright Cycling Stationary Cardio Indoor Gym Sports Black Friday Cyber Monday
Fitleader FS1 Exercise Bike Fitness Indoor Workout Upright Cycling Stationary Cardio Indoor Gym Sports Black Friday Cyber Monday
Offered by FITLEADER
Price: $285.99
6 used & new from $285.99

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid, smooth ride that's a breeze to assemble, January 24, 2016
A spin bike is a piece of exercise equipment that I always wanted to add to our home gym, but since we didn't have a lot of extra space I figured one wouldn't fit in the room. So when the manufacturer emailed, asking if I would like to review the Fitleader FS1 Exercise Fitness Bike I was ready to decline their offer, but then measured, re-measured and realized this one would fit in the space. It's a comfortable size for all family members ranging from 5'3" to 6'. The maximum weight capacity shows 293 pounds. We don't have anyone here to test that weight since the max of family members is about 165, but we're all using it and everyone gives it a thumbs up so far.

The measurements shown on the page description are correct: 46 x 25 x 38.8 inches, except that I'm getting the width to the very edges of the pedals to be more like 23 inches. (But use theirs, it's a little hard to measure.) The whole thing looks narrower than I expected once it was assembled. I was worried we wouldn't be able to get around it. I'm posting some photos so you can see the tight space I was dealing with.

The first thing I have to tell you is that this was the easiest piece of equipment to assemble that I've ever encountered. And I've put together a few other pieces of equipment and several furniture items over the years. This manual was clear and straightforward and the print was big enough to easily read. Each piece of the bike, including each type of screw and washer was packaged separately with a large sticker with a letter and number. The manual referred to that letter or number in each step. There were 8 steps, each on a separate page. All tools needed were included. My husband saw me putting it together and came in to help, but I could have assembled it easily myself. It took about 30 minutes. (We didn't time it.) Every piece fit perfectly and no bad language was used by either of us. (This is a huge thing in home assembly projects!) I'm adding some photos showing the pieces all labeled with big letters and numbers, very easy to read. (The control console and frame aren't in the photo.)

The bike is surprisingly quiet to operate and the pedaling is very smooth, no jerky motions or slippage like in some bikes I've tried in stores. It has a steel frame which feels very sturdy. It operates with a magnetic, bidirectional flywheel. The seat and handlebars are adjustable and mounted on posts with slots for the different heights. The height is adjusted by pulling out a knob, sliding the handlebars or seat up and down and then tightening the knob. There is a little bit of play in the handlebars and seat when using the bike due to this, but it's only slight. The bike feels solid overall to me. It has a wide seat which at first seemed like it might be too hard, but after using it for several hours over the course of a few days, it seems fine. As my stamina increases and I spend more time cycling I may add a cushioned cover if it needs it.

There is a lever below the console with 8 levels of resistance. I like the lever better than bikes that have dial that you turn to increase or decrease the resistance because with an unnumbered dial that turns several times, you don't really know where you are from one time to the next, especially if someone else changes the settings in between. With this numbered lever it's easy to see where you are and if your muscles are strengthening. At the highest level there was a LOT of resistance. I think it will be a long time before I can use that level for any length of time.

This bike has a small lighted display on the console which is also a holder for a book or tablet. It has dual sensors in the handlebars to measure heart rate. With a push of a button you can see the time, pulse rate, distance, speed, calories burned, ODO, and RPM. I like to watch videos or read on my tablet while riding, so the console works great for that. I'm using the app, MyFitnessPal on my iPad and enter in the time and calories burned each session that I get from the display.

I went to a couple local stores to compare this bike with other brands. I couldn't find a bike in this price range that felt as solid and sturdy as this one or that had the smooth ride of this bike. There were models that cost 7 or 8 times the price of this, or even more that felt as smooth, and most in that price range felt more substantial, had fancier displays and most were a lot larger. But the size of this bike is a feature that I really like. Most of us don't have the space for a huge bike in our homes. Even with a dedicated exercise room it's amazing how quickly the room fills up. Although the weight is about 70 pounds in the box, it has wheels on the front end so you can tilt it up and move it. When assembled and the weight distributed over the whole bike, it doesn't feel that heavy when I move it.

Think peddling a spin bike has to be a "ride to nowhere"? Not anymore. There are many virtual bike ride DVDs, available on Amazon or even for free on YouTube that can be watched on a tablet. We have the bike facing a TV and watching these DVD videos makes it feel like riding in cool locations all over the world. Imagine biking around Italy listening to Andrea Bocelli on your iPod or cycling around the South of France with just the sounds of nature in the background. These videos make my ride interesting and make an hour go by quickly. Training DVDs challenge you to pedal faster and can really up your workout. There are some where you're riding with other cyclists and some where you're riding alone. Do a search for "virtual cycling video" to see some of your options. Here are a couple that sound good to me: Virtual Cycle Rides - Bike Through the French Alps - for indoor cycling, treadmill and running workouts Virtual Cycle Rides - Corsica, France - For Indoor Cycling, Treadmill and Running Workouts This series looks very good to me: Angeles Crest Highway Virtual Bike Ride Scenery DVD and they have a bunch of others. I haven't tried any of the cycling DVD's yet, but I have tried several for the treadmill and find that they're a great way to keep my interest and motivation up. You could use the walking DVD's for the bike, but the speed is faster on the cycling ones which makes it seem more realistic. I'll update when I've tried some of these.

So if I hadn't received this bike to review, would I purchase it on my own? Now after trying it, yes I would. It's a great spin bike and a very good deal for under $300. It fits well into a small amount of space, has a smooth ride and it's attractive looking. Even if we had the extra space, having used this bike, I would purchase it rather than a larger one because it meets our needs and gets the job done.

I will be posting updates periodically to let you know how the bike is working and on my motivation and results.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2016 1:08 AM PST

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