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Beth Cholette "doctor_beth" RSS Feed (Upstate NY USA)
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Classical Stretch: The Esmonde Technique - Season 4
Classical Stretch: The Esmonde Technique - Season 4
DVD ~ Miranda Esmonde-White
Offered by The Fulfillment Center
Price: $79.95
8 used & new from $49.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Early introduction to Classical Stretch series, July 12, 2014
Classical Stretch season DVDs were originally played on PBS stations prior to being released on DVD. All episodes from this season feature instructor/creator Miranda Esmonde-White alone. As opposed to latter seasons, Miranda gives longer introductions at the start of each episode here; she explains in detail the purpose of each workout. During the workout itself, she also refers to "Chapter ___ in your manual." These references are to her book, which serves as a companion to this series.

Miranda can be quite goofy, but I like her! She is a bit less polished here than in the newer seasons--does miscount at times, and her cuing, while mirrored, isn't always the best. However, these are flowing routines, not overly choreographed workouts that you have to follow along with exactly.

There are 3 discs to this season. I have broken down down each episode below. Please note that each workout, with introduction, is about 23-24 minutes long (to allow for a 30-minute TV slot, with commercials).

DISC 1

401, Deep Muscular Stretch
Miranda works out here poolside, and she states in her intro that she will be teaching you how to stretch. The warm-up includes toe taps, kickbacks, and arm circles. There is a brief plie segment followed by whole body stretches which emphasize making a c-curve with the back and stretching the joints. With 12 minutes left, Miranda moves to the floor for side-lying work for both the inner & outer thigh, and she finishes in a seated position for hip, back, & groin stretches.

402, Toning & Slenderizing
This workout, which takes place by a miniature pool, is designed to focus on eccentric elongation. In the warm-up, Miranda performs big arm swings, shakes, plus front & side leg kicks with balance. The standing stretch includes both front & side lunges and pulling moves. At the 12 minute point, Miranda moves to the floor for about 6 minutes of side leg lifts, 3 minutes of abs work, and then 3 minutes of seated full body stretches (including leg lifts).

403, Muscular Tension Release
Here Miranda states that the emphasis will be on stretching effectively using PNF (contracting & releasing of muscles); she is on an outdoor path for this workout. The warm-up includes joint & waist rotations, throws, little kicks, & curls; this is followed by a brief segment of arms work. Miranda next focuses on using PNF for the back & hips, then moves into full-body stretches which continue to use tensing & releasing. With 11.5 minutes to go, she transitions to the floor for lying hips and hamstring work. She finishes with seated groin stretches & additional PNF work, including the neck.

404, Pain Relief
This workout is performed on a balcony overlooking a pool. Miranda states that you will be working on straightening out the body's fascia in order to reduce pain. The warm-up (which is performed without music!) includes punches & kicks; it moves abruptly into a brief arms work sequence. A series of gentle full body stretches follows, and then with 12 minutes to go, Miranda begins barre work, stretching the hips, hamstrings, psoas, and quads. At the 5.5 minute mark, Miranda moves to the floor for additional groin, calf, & neck stretches.

405, The Spine
Here Miranda is exercising in an covered hallway outdoors. She begins the warm-up with arm swings plus Frisbee & ball throws, and she moves right into stretches for the hips, psoas, and calves. The standing segment emphasizes use of PNF. At the 12 minute point, Miranda transitions to the floor for work on the stomach, performing locust variations. She then moves to her back for hip & hamstring stretches, followed by about 3 minutes of abs work. The workout concludes with a brief reclined stretch & seated stretches.

406, Muscle Memory
For this workout, Miranda is pondside on a golf course. During the warm-up, she focuses on loosening the hips & includes some brief arms work; a short plie sequence follows. For the standing stretch, Miranda focuses on maximum reaches, windmills, and pulling weeds. With 12 minutes to go, she moves to the floor for hip & hamstring stretches using PNF. After 3 minutes of abs work, Miranda finishes with 3 minutes of seated stretches.

407, Maximum Flexibility
For this workout, which takes place by an outdoor pool, Miranda begins with Figure 8 moves for the arms, circles, and some marches. She performs plies combined with arms work and then moves into standing stretches which include side lunge & open swan. At the 12.5 minute mark, she comes to a seated position with the legs in front of her for various stretches which target the hips, IT band, & ribs. She continues with back & quad stretches and finishes with stretching the back & neck.

408, Scar Tissue
Miranda states that in order to target the scar tissue, this workout will focus more on the joint and range of motion; it takes place on the beach. The warm-up consists mostly of moves to shake out the joints. Miranda then starts right in with barre work, performing hip cleaners, leg lifts, and rotations. She also performs stretches with the barre, targeting the hips, quad, psoas, and finally the back. At the 11-minute mark, Miranda moves to a side-lying position on the floor for more hip stretches. She comes to seated for quad & calf stretches and finishes with PNF work in a butterfly position.

409, Posture (Pulling Up & Turning Out)
Miranda is again by the mini-pool for this workout. During the warm-up, she includes cross-country skiing, little kicks, and big swings. She follows this with balance work, adding a balance challenge to the standing flow stretches as well. With 11.5 minutes to go, she switches to performing plies and then leg lifts to the side & front with balance. Miranda concludes this workout with additional full-body stretches, including familiar moves such as the table twist, the bell-ringer, and pick a flower.

DISC 2

410, Hip Flexibility
Miranda describes this workout, which is performed on a outdoor patio, as addressing "body awareness.' The warm-up includes shaking plus Frisbee & tennis moves. Following this, Miranda moves into balancing leg lifts to the front, side, and back. With 11.5 minutes left, she moves to seated on the floor with the feet out in front, performing twists for the hips, ribs, and IT band. She also does a pretzel quad stretch and then returns the feet to the front for some seated leg lifts; she finishes with brief neck stretches.

411, Muscular Balance
On an outdoor balcony overlooking a pool, Miranda starts with a warm-up that includes moves for the arms and fingers. She follows this with balancing leg lifts to the front & side; next, the standing stretch emphasizes side lunges and windmills. With 12 minutes to go, Miranda moves to a barre for hip, hamstring, psoas, and quad stretches. At the 6 minute mark, she goes to the floor for 3 minutes of abs work and then finishes with 3 minutes of seated stretches focused on the abs.

412, Alignment
Here, Miranda states that the focus will be on both alignment & application; she works out on an outdoor covered patio. The warm-up includes shaking for the hands, shoulders, and feet. This is followed by aligning the feet with lunges and then full body stretches with side, front, & back lunges plus airplane. After a rather lengthy add for vacationing in Cancun(!), the floorwork begins at 9 minutes left with 3 minutes of abs work. Miranda concludes with 4 minutes of lying hips stretches and 1 minutes of seated groin work.

413, Opposing Muscle Groups
This workout involves agonist & antagonist work. Because it takes place on a golf course, Miranda incorporates some golf moves as well as wrist stretches & feet articulation into the warm-up (which oddly has no music). She then performs some gentle plie work involving tensing/releasing the quads & hamstrings followed by a standing stretch emphasizing side stretches (and some neck work). With 11 minutes left, Miranda moves to a barre for a long (6 minutes) series of hip stretches; she concludes with some balance calf work & upper body stretches using the chair.

414, Strengthening
This workout takes place on the beach; Miranda states that it involves eccentric pulling & strengthening. The warm-up is gentle & includes slow Tai Chi-like moves. This is followed by about 2.5 minutes of tough arms work, and then Miranda goes right to the floor for a fairly long (almost 5 minutes) situp sequence. Next come side leg lifts, and Miranda finishes with a long seated stretch (including seated on heels).

415, Posture 2
Miranda states that the goal of this workout is to protect the joints; it takes place poolside. The warm-up includes leg kicks and then is followed by 3 minutes of hand & wrist work. The standing stretch emphasizes washes and includes some shoulder extensions. This is followed by plies and some standing hip work/lunges. With 6 minutes left, Miranda goes to the floor for 3 minutes of situps; she follows this with brief lying hip stretches and then finishes with seated shoulder stretches.

416, Muscle Chains
Miranda performs this workout on an outdoor patio by a small pool. The warm-up includes arms work. Next, Miranda performs moves which she says will help frozen shoulder; this includes cow-face arms plus triceps & shoulder stretches. The standing stretch continues to emphasize the shoulders and includes Figure 8s. With 12 minutes left, Miranda moves to the barre to stretch the calves, back, hips, & psoas; the final 6 minutes are performed on the floor to stretch the hips & hamstrings.

417, Eccentric Stretching
In her long introduction to this workout, Miranda states that the purpose is to use force the muscles to the maximum using PNF to stretch & heal; she is exercising on an outdoor patio. The warm-up starts with toe articulations and includes leg kicks to the front, side, & back. Next come plies with tensing & releasing and then stretches for the hips, calves, and hamstrings. At 10 minutes to go, Miranda moves to the floor for side-lying work; this is followed by prone & child's pose stretches. She concludes seated with the legs in front for back stretches.

418, Abdominals
Exercising on an outdoor lawn, Miranda explains that the focus of this workout will be on flattening the stomach by keeping it pulled in throughout the workout. During the warm-up, which includes knee lifts & kicks, she emphasizes holding in the stomach. This is followed by balancing leg kicks, keeping the stomach hold in mind; the standing work concludes with the clock (1-way only). With 12 minutes left, Miranda moves to the floor for abs work: she performs 3 minutes of her traditional abs moves & then 3 minutes move of bicycle-like moves. Coming to seated, she does 3 minutes of stretches for the abs, and moving the legs straight out front, she concludes with a final 3 minutes of stretching.

DISC 3

419, Anti-Aging
Miranda leads this one on an outdoor patio setting. She explains in the beginning that there are differences between active, passive, and ballistic movements, and in CS, the latter is used only for arms work. The warm-up for this one is more choreographed than we usually see in CS, with knee-ups, Charleston, and some ballistic arms movements. Miranda then goes into a nice long arms segment. The standing section emphasizes washes and twists for the back. With 11 minutes left, Miranda moves to a prone position for cobra moves, then flips onto her back for about 3 minutes of abs work. She concludes with lying hip/hamstring stretches and finishes seated with cobbler's & back stretches.

420, Back Pain Relief
Miranda leads this one in what looks like a covered outdoor hallway. She states that it is a gentle program for when you are in active pain. It begins with about 6 minutes of very gentle standing stretches. Miranda then continues the standing stretches using a chair for additional side & back stretches. With 12 minutes left, she puts one foot on the chair to stretch the psoas as well as the hamstrings & hips. She moves to the floor with 9 minutes left for cobra & child's pose stretches, then flips onto the back for situps, emphasizing the idea of the pelvic tilt. The program ends with an additional few minutes of gentle stretches.

421, Back Pain Prevention
Miranda states that this one is designed to prevent chronic back pain attacks. She suggests that you can just pick & choose exercises which you find helpful from the program and do those only. Miranda starts using a chair in a standing position for about 4 minutes of various pelvic tuck and rotation-type moves. She then places one foot on the chair to stretch the psoas, hamstrings, & hips as well as sits in the chair for additional tucks & rotations. The floorwork starts at about 12 minutes left: first, Miranda performs several variations of child's pose, stretching the back from several different angles; she then does cat/cow as well as additional seated twists & stretches. Moving to lying on the back, she does mini versions of her usual hips & hamstrings stretches, and she concludes with brief seated stretches.

422, Stretching for Cardio
As Miranda explains in her intro, the "Stretching for Cardio" in the title refers to improving circulation, so the purpose of this program is stretching to the maximum, or to the very ends of the limbs. To this end, the warm-up includes a lot of very large arm movements. This is followed by a plie segment which includes held arm moves. The full body stretch includes both airplane & clock. The floorwork (starts w/12 minutes left) consists entirely of stretches: Miranda starts with the legs straight out in front for some upper body, hip, & hamstring stretches, and she concludes with a long sequence of quad stretches, including the calf in this series.

423, Strengthening 2
Miranda states that this program, which takes place on an outdoor patio, focuses on stretching & strengthening to lose weight and so emphasizes more of the cardio aspects of CS. The warm-up incorporates big arm moves and little kicks. This is followed by a short by tough arms work segment. The standing series includes a good deal of pushing a unique side windmill. With 11.5 minutes to go, Miranda moves to the floor for some side extensors work as well as some brief leg lifts. Abs work follows, and then Miranda concludes with hip & hamstring stretches on the back.

424, Anti-Aging 2
For this outdoor workout, Miranda notes that the emphasis is going to be on rotational moves to lubricate the joints and help you to keep moving. The warm-up begins with arm swings and little kicks. Miranda then moves right into stretching, going from stretching the long vs. short muscles for the hips, thighs, and hamstrings and then moving on to stretching the shoulders and the entire body. With 12 minutes left, Miranda moves to the floor for lying hamstring stretches, seated groin (butterfly) stretches, seated quad stretches, and seated leg extensions.

425, Digestive System
Miranda leads this workout in an outdoor grassy area. She reveals during the intro that it is designed to help with an embarrassing problem: constipation. To address this, she incorporates many "twisty" movements immediately into the warm-up; she also includes "fake sports" moves. Next come Tai Chi plies, but Miranda adds rotational hip moves in several different positions. This is followed by what Miranda calls "deep stretches for the entire torso"; I could feel this work in my upper back as well. At the halfway mark, Miranda continues the standing work with calf & inner thigh stretches as well as some quick kicks. Finally, with just 6.5 minutes to go, she moves to the floor for some abs work. She then finishes with some seated twists and a butterfly stretches. On note about this episode: there were several instances where Miranda counted incorrectly.

426, Injury Prevention
This episode takes place in an outdoor grassy pondside setting. Miranda states that in order to prevent injuries, it is important to pay attention to how you are transferring your body weight, so the emphasis of this workout is on transfers. During the warm-up, Miranda is constantly reminding you to keep your stomach in while lifting up and performing various knees up moves. A brief plie segment follows, and then the standing stretch series emphasizes smooth transfers of your weight as you flow from side to side. With 12.5 minutes left, Miranda goes to the floor for a long (about 6 minutes) side-lying legwork series. This is followed by abs work and then some final stretches that felt fairly rushed: Miranda performs a few on the back, then a few more seated.


Trans-Sister Radio
Trans-Sister Radio
by Chris Bohjalian
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.13
359 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling story about the journal of a transsexual and those around her, July 12, 2014
This review is from: Trans-Sister Radio (Paperback)
Prior to this novel, the only thing I had read from author Chris Bohjalian was his best-selling Midwives. I did enjoy that book, although I recall thinking it was somewhat muddled at times. TRANS-SISTER RADIO attracted me mainly because of the intriguing--and perhaps controversial--subject manner. The plot involves a transsexual male, Dana, who is planning to have a sex reassignment operation. Although Dana is attracted to women, he has always felt himself to be a woman, and he is starting to feel the first happiness in his life as his operation date nears. Unfortunately, at that time, he meets a woman, Allison, and falls in love. Dana intends to talk to Allison before things become serious between them, but Allison falls hard for Dana--as a male--and by the time she learns of Dana's plans to become a woman in just a few short months, the entire situation has become extremely complicated.

Bohjalian narrates the story from four different points of view, alternate amongst Dana, Allison, Allison's daughter Carly, and Allison's ex-husband Will. I don't always like perspective shifting in novel, but I thought that Bohjalian mostly handled it well here. (Although the one thing I did NOT like is that the jumps between the points of view often included jumps back and forth in time as well.) Where Bohjalian excelled, however, was in his portrayal of the issues facing the transgender person, both pre- and post-op. As a psychologist, I have some knowledge of this area (although not much--I am more familiar with gay/lesbian issues, which also arise in this book), and I thought that Bohjalian's writing showed both sensitivity and skill.

This is a honest book, offering a realistic account for the sake of accuracy rather than shock value. It is emotional without being overly melodramatic. Some of what occurs feels faintly predictable, and yet there are many moments--including the ending--which are completely unexpected. This is a highly worthwhile read; my final rating is 4 1/2 stars.


ELLE Beauty Sculpt
ELLE Beauty Sculpt
DVD
Price: $9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Offers two short, light interval workouts using light weights, July 1, 2014
I exercise at home daily using fitness DVDs. I usually shy away from "celebrity" videos (although I have tried a few others), but it seemed like this might be a nice change of pace. First, the DVD does offer a real instructor, Reebok's Sara Haley, and second, I liked the idea that it featured two short (approximately 20 minutes each) workouts, as I thought this would be a good option for when I was shorter on time.

The Main Menu offers options for Play All - Beauty Sculpt Warm-Up - Beauty Sculpt Workout 1 - Beauty Sculpt Workout 2 - 50 Minute Power Option - Bonus Menu. I have described each segment briefly below.

WARM-UP (11.5 minutes)
This exceedingly long warm-up starts off rather chill. Haley leads model Brooklyn Decker through large, fluid movements such as squats with arm circles and dynamic stretches. Given this, it was a bit of a shock that for the last 3 minutes or so, they jump suddenly into impact moves, include high knees, heel kicks, and jumping jacks; I definitely would have preferred a more gradual aerobic warm-up.

BEAUTY SCULPT WORKOUT 1 (17.5 minutes)
This routine is described as an "interval based full-body workout." Using what appears to be very light weights (3 or 5 lbs.), Haley and Decker perform compound movements such as a plie squat with front arm raise and a "tennis serve" (twist from one shoulder to opposite hip). The are also combination moves that include a balance aspect--e.g., a side squat with a knee raise and bicep curl. After completing a series of movements on the right side of the body, Haley leads Decker through fast interval work. This includes some high knees, jumping moves, etc. (Haley does provide an option to remain lower impact). Haley times the interval work, and after several moves, the entire sequence is repeated on the left side, starting with the strength work and finishing with the intervals. There is no cool-down.

BEAUTY SCULPT WORKOUT 2 (21 minutes)
Although this workout is described as "abs work, speed moves, and intervals," it follows the EXACT same format as the first routine. Haley introduces compound moves one-by-one--e.g., a plie squat with a side arm lift, a curtsy squat with chest press--first performing each exercise individually, then repeatedly taking it from the top to perform all of the moves in a "flow." She refers to this flow as raising the heart rate, but most people will NOT see an aerobic benefit from the light weights and slow pace of the routine. As with the first workout, after completing the moves on the right side, Haley leads Decker through what she calls "speed and agility" drills--basically, these are moves performed slow, then at a quick pace for 10 seconds. All of the strength exercises are then repeated on the left side, concluding with the speed and agility drills. There is no cool-down.

The 50 minute workout is simply the entire routine put together. The Bonus Menu actually offers additional workout options, including Bonus Sculpt Workout 1 (5:53 minutes), a side plank challenge, and Bonus Sculpt Workout 2 (3:09 minutes), a core-focused routine using a weighted ball (or a dumbbell). There's also a section on 1-Minute Workouts, Beauty on the Go, Pack Like a Pro, plus interviews with both Haley and Decker.

In the end, I was disappointed by this DVD, which seemed mainly to be a vehicle for Decker. I didn't like how Decker introduced the workouts (shouldn't the trainer be doing this?). Also, it seemed like Haley was reluctant to correct Decker's form. This might be a good video for those who are new to fitness DVDs and who don't do much strength training, but I would advise more experienced exercisers to look elsewhere.


Elle Make Better Series: Elle Beauty Sculpt
Elle Make Better Series: Elle Beauty Sculpt
DVD ~ Brooklyn Decker
10 used & new from $4.86

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Offers two short, light interval workouts using light weights, July 1, 2014
I exercise at home daily using fitness DVDs. I usually shy away from "celebrity" videos (although I have tried a few others), but it seemed like this might be a nice change of pace. First, the DVD does offer a real instructor, Reebok's Sara Haley, and second, I liked the idea that it featured two short (approximately 20 minutes each) workouts, as I thought this would be a good option for when I was shorter on time.

The Main Menu offers options for Play All - Beauty Sculpt Warm-Up - Beauty Sculpt Workout 1 - Beauty Sculpt Workout 2 - 50 Minute Power Option - Bonus Menu. I have described each segment briefly below.

WARM-UP (11.5 minutes)
This exceedingly long warm-up starts off rather chill. Haley leads model Brooklyn Decker through large, fluid movements such as squats with arm circles and dynamic stretches. Given this, it was a bit of a shock that for the last 3 minutes or so, they jump suddenly into impact moves, include high knees, heel kicks, and jumping jacks; I definitely would have preferred a more gradual aerobic warm-up.

BEAUTY SCULPT WORKOUT 1 (17.5 minutes)
This routine is described as an "interval based full-body workout." Using what appears to be very light weights (3 or 5 lbs.), Haley and Decker perform compound movements such as a plie squat with front arm raise and a "tennis serve" (twist from one shoulder to opposite hip). The are also combination moves that include a balance aspect--e.g., a side squat with a knee raise and bicep curl. After completing a series of movements on the right side of the body, Haley leads Decker through fast interval work. This includes some high knees, jumping moves, etc. (Haley does provide an option to remain lower impact). Haley times the interval work, and after several moves, the entire sequence is repeated on the left side, starting with the strength work and finishing with the intervals. There is no cool-down.

BEAUTY SCULPT WORKOUT 2 (21 minutes)
Although this workout is described as "abs work, speed moves, and intervals," it follows the EXACT same format as the first routine. Haley introduces compound moves one-by-one--e.g., a plie squat with a side arm lift, a curtsy squat with chest press--first performing each exercise individually, then repeatedly taking it from the top to perform all of the moves in a "flow." She refers to this flow as raising the heart rate, but most people will NOT see an aerobic benefit from the light weights and slow pace of the routine. As with the first workout, after completing the moves on the right side, Haley leads Decker through what she calls "speed and agility" drills--basically, these are moves performed slow, then at a quick pace for 10 seconds. All of the strength exercises are then repeated on the left side, concluding with the speed and agility drills. There is no cool-down.

The 50 minute workout is simply the entire routine put together. The Bonus Menu actually offers additional workout options, including Bonus Sculpt Workout 1 (5:53 minutes), a side plank challenge, and Bonus Sculpt Workout 2 (3:09 minutes), a core-focused routine using a weighted ball (or a dumbbell). There's also a section on 1-Minute Workouts, Beauty on the Go, Pack Like a Pro, plus interviews with both Haley and Decker.

In the end, I was disappointed by this DVD, which seemed mainly to be a vehicle for Decker. I didn't like how Decker introduced the workouts (shouldn't the trainer be doing this?). Also, it seemed like Haley was reluctant to correct Decker's form. This might be a good video for those who are new to fitness DVDs and who don't do much strength training, but I would advise more experienced exercisers to look elsewhere.


Transgressions, Vol. 2: The Things They Left Behind / The Ransome Women
Transgressions, Vol. 2: The Things They Left Behind / The Ransome Women
by John Farris
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
160 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read, June 30, 2014
I picked this book up at a resale store mainly for the Stephen King story, as I am a huge fan of that author. In fact, I am such a big fan that I actually ALREADY read King's submission to this volume, "The Things They Left Behind," as this story also appears in his collection Just After Sunset. Still, I'm glad I purchased this paperback just the same, as I always enjoy re-reading King, and the other author, John Farris, was new to me.

This collection, TRANSGRESSIONS, was edited by fellow author Ed McBain. In his Introduction, McBain explains how he got together a group of authors to submit novellas, a challenging task. Oddly enough, "The Things They Left Behind" felt more like a traditional short story to me, whereas Farris's "The Ransome Women" did seem more like a novella, particularly given the significantly longer length. Below are my brief impressions of each.

THE THINGS THE LEFT BEHIND
In this haunting narrative, King tackles the subject of September 11th. The main character, Scott Staley, worked for a company located in the World Trade Center; only he and one either co-worker lived post-tragedy. In the summer of 2002, Scott is trying to move on with is life while struggling with survivor guilt. But things get even worse for Scott, as objects that belonged to his now-deceased co-workers begin showing up in his apartment. Scott finds that the can't run, he can't hide--he must figure out what to do in this Twilight Zone-like tale.

THE RANSOME WOMEN
As noted, this was the first time I have read John Farris. He offers a thriller featuring young Echo Halloran, an assistant art appraiser and a good Catholic girl. She and her boyfriend, Peter O'Neill, a NYC police officer, would like to be married, but Echo must care for her chronically ill mother, and neither of them earns enough to support their relationship. Suddenly, a too-good-to-be-true offer comes along: famous but reclusive author John Leland Ransome wants Echo to model for him. But here's the catch: she must live with Ransome for a year, and during that time, she cannot see Peter or any other family members. Of course, this Hobson's Choice comes with a reward, as if she takes the offer, she will be financially set for life. Against Peter's wishes, Echo does agree to the arrangement. But just as Echo begins to question Ransom's behavior, Peter becomes more and more suspicious of Ransome's true motives--as well as what happened to those who modeled BEFORE echo. Although this story was engaging enough, I found the pace a bit uneven at times. Similarly, the characters did not seem to be well-developed, and thus their behaviors inconsistent. Given the novella length, however, this was still a worthwhile read.

Overall, I enjoyed these two stories, which I read in less than a day. I would recommend this collection to fans of either author.


Yoga Journal: Yoga for Core Strength
Yoga Journal: Yoga for Core Strength
DVD ~ Coral Brown
Price: $17.98
30 used & new from $10.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Workshop-style DVD offers short practices centered around the core, June 24, 2014
I borrowed this DVD from the library: I'm glad it wasn't it purchase, as I found it to be fairly disappointing. Although titled "Yoga Practice for Core Strength," it is not focused as much on strengthening the core per se as on maintaining an awareness of the core throughout various yoga postures.

The DVD offers four short yoga sequences and two brief yoga tutorials, each of which is listed on the Main Menu. All of the routines are instructed by Coral Brown, who leads student Sarah Yates through demonstration of the poses. The use only a mat plus a yoga block for a few of the practices. I have described each section below.

KEY CORE STRENGTHENING SEQUENCE (10 min.)
This floor routine is the one sequence on the DVD that really does have a strong focus on the core. Brown has Yates start in sphinx pose for sphinx roll-ups. Next comes side plank (unfortunately completed on one side only), and then both bent and straight leg versions of supine twist. This is followed by a reclined crow pose, and then, coming to seated, a staff pose lift (block between the thighs) to finish.

STANDING SEQUENCE (20 min.)
Brown explains that this sequence will build to warrior 3. She recommends warming up with sun salutations, but she does not do this. Instead, she has Yates begin with the seated staff lift, again using a block between the thighs. She the moves Yates through a warrior 3 prep move with the block as well as standing splits. Using a vinyasa to come to the floor, Brown cues Yates through a standing series that includes warrior 1, pyramid pose, warrior 2, wide-legged forward bend, and locust. After repeating on the second side, the entire sequence is performed again, this time subbing warrior 3 for pyramid pose and bow for locust. Savasana is encouraged but done on one's own.

TWISTING SEQUENCE (20 min.)
Here Brown again recommends beginning with sun salutations, but she starts Yates off on the floor in a supine twist. As with the Standing routine, this sequence includes two separate standing pose flows. The first series starts with a chair twist and then moves through a vinyasa to warrior 2, reverse warrior, side angle pose, half splits, low lunge, and standing wide angle forward bend with twist. After Yates repeats this on the other side, Brown starts off the second flow with a deeper chair twist, vinyasa to warrior 2, triangle, low lunge with twist, and standing wide angle forward bend with a deeper twist. Brown has Yates conclude the practice seated in a cobbler's forward bend.

BACKBENDING SEQUENCE (15 min.)
Brown has Yates begin her with a standing side stretch. The standing pose flow included a vinyasa to warrior 2, half splits, low lunge with backbend, and camel prep; this sequence is repeated a second time with some slight variations. To end the practice, Brown has Yates rest in wisdom pose (aka wide child's pose).

ARM BALANCE PREP (5 min.)
This section is designed to prepare for crow pose. Brown notes that all arm balances require hip openers, and so she encourages the practice of these poses first. She has Brown begin lying for supine cobbler's pose, performing several crunches in this position. This is followed by reclined crow pose. Rolling up to a squatting position, Brown has Yates practice setting up and then lifting up into crow.

VINYASA TRANSITIONS (3 min.)
This brief segment is designed to assist with performing vinyasas and eventually jumps forward and back. Brown has Yates first perform sphinx roll-ups, then take this move further by rolling into up dog. From there, she instructs Yates to move slowly through to down dog, plank, chaturanga, and back to up dog.

As noted above, I was somewhat disappointed in this DVD. If all of the practices had been more similar to the first one (the Core Strengthening sequence), I probably would have liked it more, as the DVD's title led me to believe that there would be a greater focus on core work. But I also found these routines to be poorly edited. One major issue is that for about half of each practice, Brown's instruction leads the viewer to be facing AWAY from the video, which is obviously awkward. Furthermore, Brown does not offer any modifications for any of the moves (such as the staff pose lifts, which I was unable to do despite being able to do crow pose).

In the end, I'm glad I got the opportunity to preview this DVD, and I might have picked up a few worthwhile tidbits from it, but I would not recommend buying it.


A Sheetcake Named Desire (A Piece of Cake Mystery)
A Sheetcake Named Desire (A Piece of Cake Mystery)
by Jacklyn Brady
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
130 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick, light "cozy mystery" for summer, June 24, 2014
I enjoy reading books in the "cozy mystery" genre--generally, fairly light, often somewhat comic reads that tend to feature culinary settings and to include recipes. I was attracted to this short novel at a used book sale because 1) it is the FIRST in its series (I hate jumping into the middle of a series), and 2) the few recipes included in the back looked good.

The main character here is Rita Lucero, a trained pastry chef, as is her estranged husband. Rita and her husband have been separated for two years, and she decides to travel to his hometown of New Orleans to get him to finally sign their divorce papers. On the day that she visits Zydeco, her husband Philippe's cake decorating shop, Rita is determined to stay as long as necessary to obtain Philippe's signature, but instead she discovers Philippe's murdered body.

Rita's world is turned upside down, especially when she discovers that she is still Philippe's next-of-kin and now the owner of his house, car, and other assets. Philippe's mother, Miss Frankie, his co-owner at Zydeco, asks Rita to take over running the business as well, at least temporarily. Strange things had started to occur in the months prior to Philippe's death, and Miss Frankie hopes that Rita's presence will help both to save the business and to find Philippe's murderer.

At under 300 pages, this book is a quick, easy read. It is nicely paced, with Rita acting as both protagonist and investigator. In the end, Rita doesn't so much as solve the murder as the killer is brought to light. The related mysteries are tied up, although not entirely in a satisfying way--for example, many confusing aspects about Philippe's behavior were never fully explained. Still, I enjoyed this book overall, and I am looking forward to trying the first recipe, "Aunt Yolanda's Chocolate-Banana Coffee Cake."


BURBERRY The Beat Eau de Toilette, 50 ml.
BURBERRY The Beat Eau de Toilette, 50 ml.
Price: $60.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle, long-lasting fragrance perfect for daytime wear, June 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I don't have a "signature scent"--rather, I love using a variety of fragrances to suit my mood as well as the occasion. Although I usually prefer testing a new fragrance in person, the description of this Eau de Toilette suggested strongly to me that I might like it, as it mentioned notes of mandarin, Ceylon tea, white musk, and cedarwood, all of which I tend to like in perfumes.

With the name "The Beat" and the check-patterned bottle, I get sort of a preppy vibe from this fragrance. However, the glass container is also sleek and modern, and I do like the cute little Burberry hang tag on the side.

I'm not an expert at describing fragrances, but I definitely like this. Although other notes are mentioned in the description, the strongest ones I get are the white musk, a subtle cedarwood, and a citrus-y scent that must be the mandarin. I find THE BEAT to be very reminiscent of CK ONE, although the later scent definitely has more powerful citrus notes. But both also are subtle fragrant of tea, although the description of CK ONE purports to be green tea, whereas THE BEAT mentions Ceylon tea. These two teas must be quite similar, as THE BEAT also reminds me of another green tea fragrance, Elizabeth Arden's GREEN TEA, which is much softer.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with this scent, which is perfect for daytime. Furthermore, although I frequently wear CK ONE during the summer, I will now swap out with THE BEAT on occasion, especially when I want something a bit lighter. Although the scent did fade slightly over time, it had excellent staying power--I could even catch whiffs of it on my skin the next morning. The only (slight) negative I have to mention is that when I go to pick up the bottle, the cap slips off in my hand (the cap was actually loose in shipping as well), so a larger/more secure cap would have been nice. In summary, if you enjoy the other scents I mentioned and like the type of fragrance I described, I would highly recommend THE BEAT to you.


Love Walked In
Love Walked In
by Marisa De los Santos
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.26
989 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet story told from two different perspectives, June 22, 2014
This review is from: Love Walked In (Paperback)
I admit that I am a sucker for books set in Philadelphia (I grew up nearby and lived in the city while attending graduate school). That aspect along with the back cover description--which actually turned out to have several inaccuracies--compelled me to purchase this novel, the first from author Marisa de los Santos.

LOVE WALKED IN is a story told from two different points of view. The first is Cornelia, a coffee shop manager in her early 30s who is basically treading water until she experiences a life-changing event: Martin Grace, a Cary Grant look-alike, walks through the door of her cafe. Cornelia is immediately smitten, but the true impact that Martin has on Cornelia's life is that he leads her to Clare. Clare is a bright 11 year old living in Philly's Main Line area with her beautiful, talented, and loving mother. Gradually, however, Clare comes to realize something has gone desperately wrong with her beloved mother. After failing at her initial attempt to reach out for help, she withdraws further and further, trying as best she can to protect both herself and her mother, until she can't anymore...and then she meets Cornelia.

I found both Clare and Cornelia to be likable characters. Clare was especially compelling, with her mix of vulnerability, bravery, innocence, and wisdom. Cornelia's personality felt a bit more uneven; sometimes it seemed as if de los Santos was taking her in too many different directions. Some of the plot points were somewhat predictable, yet there were several twists that caught me by surprise. Overall, I found this an enjoyable read, enough so that I will likely go on to read de los Santo's second novel, Belong to Me, which also features the character of Cornelia.


Travelon 3-Compartment Expandable Shoulder Bag, Camel, One Size
Travelon 3-Compartment Expandable Shoulder Bag, Camel, One Size
Offered by Galactics
Price: $14.99
5 used & new from $14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy, useful bag, but starts to get bulky and crammed quite quickly, June 22, 2014
I had a bag somewhat similar to this that I used for day trips and other outings when I did not want to bring a larger handbag. My old bag needed replacing (the lining was completely ripped), and this Travelon bag seemed to be a comparable size. I also liked the appearance of the camel color with the lime green lining.

When I received the Travelon bag, I was impressed. I definitely appears more well-made than my old bag, with a thicker adjustable strap, nicer zippers, and a more durable interior. There are two main zip compartments on either side, both containing smaller inner compartments (a combination of slots, mesh, and one zip section), a section between the two zip compartments that snaps closed with very strong magnets (it also has a mesh compartment inside plus a magnetic key fob with light), and finally, a large, flat zip compartment on one (good for tickets and maybe small sunglasses) end plus a smaller outside zip compartment on the other end (for small items such as lipstick, a nail file, etc.).

Obviously, this bag has a lot of great storage options. However, I found that when I began filling them up, I immediately lost room in the other areas. For example, in the "front" zip compartment, I put my wallet (which is rather bulky) and phone only (the smaller flip kind, not a smart phone). Then in the back (opposite) compartment, I put a tiny zip bag that I use to hold medicines. Already, the bag felt quite tight with just these items, but when I pushed the pouch way down, I could fit my small camera (no case). This made it difficult to use the middle section for anything other than very small/flat items--e.g., pocket tissues, a pen, small sunglasses. Similarly, in the outside zippered pockets, I was also only able to fit a few very items such as lip balm, eye drops, a nail file, and breath mints.

This bag does include a zipper along the bottom that will expand the size. I have not yet used this feature, as I preferred to save that option for extras rather than have the bag expanded all of the time for everyday use. Overall, although I would have liked this bag to be just a bit less bulky when filled, I do think it was a good purchase for me. I would recommend it--just be aware that despite the many compartments, it might not fit quite as much as you hope it will.


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