Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: The Other Boyfriend

By Stacey Celaya

Title: The Other Boyfriend
Author: Sylvia Massara
Publisher: Smashwords
Recommended? Yes
My Review:

Sarah Jamison is the "other woman". She is in love with Jeffrey, a man that is in a relationship with Moira which he claims is too "complicated" to end just yet. With the help of her best friend Monica, Sarah concocts a diabolical plan to find an irresistible man to sweep Moira off her feet clearing the way for her and Jeffrey to be together. What she didn't count on was falling in love with Mike Connor the willing pawn in her game.

This was a fast, fun read. Everything in me wanted to hate the main character and repeatedly found myself thinking what an in idiot she was to put her self in that every predictable position of believing a cheating man when he says he will leave his wife/girlfriend for the other woman.

But just when I had written Sarah off as a helpless and naive female she would do something that I could completely relate to and redeem herself and I would find myself rooting for her.
In the end I discovered I really liked Sarah not to mention her kookie Internet spy of a mother.

I have two criteria a book has to meet for me to judge it a good read. The first being whether I struggle to put it down or not and the other being whether or not I think about the characters when I am not reading the book, sort of like long lost friends. This book more than met both criteria.

I absolutely recommend this book and look forward to reading Sylvia Massara's other work.

Find The Other Boyfriend at Amazon.com
Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: 'Let the Right One In'

By Pam Houghton

Title: Let the Right One In
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Recommended? Yes!

Twelve-year-old Oskar lives with his divorced mother in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. At school he is bullied by a trio of young boys; at home he keeps a scrapbook of unsolved murder cases.

Sounds uplifting, huh?

Well, wait just a minute because it gets even better.

He encounters a young girl, Eli, who lives in the apartment next door. Strange thing though, she only comes out at night.

Welcome to Let the Right One In, Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist's 2004 novel about a young/old vampire who is mysteriously linked to a series of murders in Oskar's neighborhood.

When Eli and Oskar first meet in the courtyard of their apartment building, Eli wears only a "thin, pink sweater" in spite of the winter cold. Hungry for conversation, Oskar develops an interest in the girl, who responds thoughtfully and intelligently.

Intrigued, Oskar begins to plan his evenings around a chance meeting with Eli. Sure enough, she shows up in the courtyard night after night, providing Oskar with an emotional connection to his lonely world.

Yet her habits are still strange, and as the story develops, Oskar wonders if she had anything to do with the local murders that continue to frighten the community. She doesn't eat food. She doesn't require warmth. She doesn't attend school. And she insists on meeting only at night when it's dark. Is she indeed a vampire?

Lindqvist does a masterful job establishing mood, atmosphere and tension in this character driven story which also includes the mysterious man Eli lives with; Oskar's parents, who have been divorced since he was a toddler; an older boy in his apartment complex who has a complex relationship with his own mother; and a cast of misfits whose woes are frequently discussed over copious amounts of alcohol; and whose "security" is shaken when one of them is brutally murdered.

The book is a page-turner, horrifying at times but never graphic. I don't normally read supernatural stories, so I didn't expect to enjoy this one as much as I did.

If you like well-written page-turners with a spooky, strange, supernatural bent, get yourself a copy of Let the Right One In.

Four stars out of four.
Friday, July 23, 2010

Product Review: Dirt Devil Extreme Quick Vac


By Alyssa Ast

Product: Extreme Quick Vac
Manufacturer: Dirt Devil
Price: $59.99
Recommended: For the most part yes
Features:


  • Lightweight - Less Than 12 Pounds

  • On-Board Dusting Brush

  • Stretch Hose

  • Automatic Height Adjustment

  • Bottom Empty Dirt Cup

  • HEPA Filtration

  • Powerful 10 Amp Motor

  • Scatter Guard Nozzle

  • Scuff Guard Bumper

  • Durable Metal Handle with Comfort Grip

Review:


When our vacuum cleaner unexpectedly decided to quit on us, we were forced to buy a new vacuum. Living in the desert, a vacuum cleaner is a necessity with all the sand and burs that get drug into the house. We purchased the Dirt Devil Extreme Quick Vac because it was on sale.


I didn't expect much out of the vacuum cleaner because it was cheap, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. The first time I vacuumed my floors and looked inside the bag less container I was horrified how much dirt and stuff was in it. I never realized my floors were that dirty. I guess our old vacuum cleaner had not been doing it's job for quite some time. For the price, the Extreme Quick Vac has an amazing suction ability.


The vacuum is light and easy to use. The hose attachment is very simple and does not require a ton of work to use. The hose attachment appears to have the same ability to pick up things as the floor cleaner aspect.


One complaint I do have is the area the bag less container connects to the hose. If you have pets then be prepared for this area to get clogged. I have a short haired dog that is rarely in the house so the amount of dog hair on our floor is limited. But it never fails, this area always gets clogged. It is simple enough to remove the clog but if this area of the vacuum had been designed a little better, the clogs would be eliminated.


Despite the fact that the vacuum gets clogged easily, I still recommend this vacuum for the money. It is light weight, easy to use, and has great suction ability. And even though bag less vacuums are a pain in the neck, this one is easy to empty with minimal mess.

Monday, July 19, 2010

DVD Review: 'It's Complicated'


By Pam Houghton

Title: It's Complicated
Genre: Adult romantic comedy
Run time: 2 hours
MPAA Rating: R
Writer/Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin
Recommended: Yes

When I rent DVDs, I'm usually attracted to smaller, art-house type movies. But on a recent Friday night, I wanted to rent something less complicated than your typical independent feature. Ironically, I picked a DVD whose title might have you think otherwise: It's Complicated starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

Streep and Baldwin play Jane and Jake, a couple who have been divorced ten years. Jake is a typically successful lawyer who remarried immediately after their divorce. His second wife, the "other woman" when he was married to Jane, is much younger, and often the target of derision when Jane meets with gal pals to dish on life as single or divorced middle-aged women. Jane also runs a flourishing Santa Barbara bakery and is facing an empty-nest, alone, after her last child finally leaves home for college.

Jane, Jake and their three grown children are reunited in New York City for their middle child's college graduation. Without Jake's wife around - who stayed behind in California due to her young son's sudden illness - Jane and Jake find each other ready to dine alone in the restaurant of the fancy hotel where both are staying.

Jane reluctantly agrees to eat dinner with Jake. After an evening consuming generous amounts of alcohol, and reminiscing about the past, they unexpectedly end up in Jake's suite, embarking on an extra-marital affair of their own. They return to California, gleefully puzzled over their attraction to one another.

When Adam, a recently divorced architect played by Steve Martin, enters the picture as a potential love interest, things are further complicated when Jane senses that her involvement with her ex-husband is wrong; that perhaps Adam is better suited to the person she has become.

The movie explores middle-aged love, especially broken love. Why are Jane and Jake attracted to each other now even though their marriage imploded ten years earlier? Are they better off re-visiting, and perhaps even re-inventing the past? Or should both move on?

What could have been a drag is made terribly fun to watch with three charismatic lead actors and a funny script that seems painfully aware of what it is like to reach middle-age after a long-time marriage breaks up, and the romantic possibilities that ensue.

Three humorous stars out of four.
Sunday, July 18, 2010

Product Review: Spenco PolySorb Total Support Sandals

By Kerrie McLoughlin
Where to buy: Spenco.com, Lady Foot Locker, Foot Locker, speciality shoe stores and more
Cost: Around $40, but I got mine on sale at a small local shoe store for $28
Recommended?  Yes

I am in love with these “sandals” … my flip flops. They have arch support and mold to your feet. The price can be daunting if you’re used to only throwing down about 5 bucks for a pair of flip flops every summer at Target, but these seem like they will really last and they are very comfortable. I’ve worn them for hours while walking on vacation and my feet felt great when I took them off … no blistering from trying to get used to a new shoe.

Unfortunately, these don’t come in half sizes, and I usually wear a size 7 ½. But somehow the straight size 7 fits me well. I got them in black so I can wear them with everything, but they also come in other colors. They also are not slippery on the bottom.
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie Review: 'The Last Airbender'

by Marina DelVecchio




Title: The Last Air Bender (2010)
Genre: Action, Family, Fantasy
Run Time: 103 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone
Recommended? Yes




Synopsis: Adapted from the animated Nickelodeon series 'Avatar: The Last Airbender,' this movie introduces the story of Aang, who lives in a world divided by four different nations: Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. Each nation is inhabited by a small group of individuals able to "bend" its element. A young and inexperienced Avatar that has been preserved in ice for 100 years, Aang is the only one that has the power to "bend" or manipulate all four elements. He awakens to discover that he is the last of his kind and that the Fire Nation has taken control over all remaining nations, imprisoning or destroying the benders of each nation. As he is the Avatar, it is his responsibility to free all nations and its people while overcoming the strength and power of the Fire Nation war lords. As he had only learned to bend air before running away from the hefty responsibilities that came with being an all-powerful Avatar, before Aang can confront the enemy and free all the nations from its domination, he must travel from nation to nation to learn how to "bend" water, earth, and finally fire. 


Review: I was looking forward to seeing this movie, and was happy albeit surprised that M. Night Shyamalan had taken on the project, because my son and I used to watch the animated version when he was around four years old. Divided into thirty minute intervals, the story of the Avatar was done quite well; it wasn't rushed and the characters, all of them, were fully developed. Shyamalan took on a very demanding and difficult project with this movie, and it felt as if he was trying to squeeze too much information and background flashbacks into the telling of the story. In doing so, he was not able to develop the story's characters to the extent that the animation series does, and thus, the true nature of the main characters, their motivation to act as they do, and the love and affection that the viewer develops for these children in whose hands the saving of the world falls into is completely lost. 


One needs to watch the animated version to get a sense of the characters and who they are. In M. Night Shyamalan's version, the children, who are the main characters of the story and the saviors of their world, are mechanical and dry. We don't get to see Aang's sweet and immature side. He is a little boy who wakes up to the realization that the Fire Nation has obtained control because he ran away from his ordained role as Avatar 100 years ago. The animated version portrays the difficulties with which he struggles, wavering between a free, youthful, and light-hearted little boy who is forced to assume adult responsibilities by acknowledging his guilt over the doom that has befallen the nations during his departure, and fighting life and death battles with hard-core enemies that only want to destroy him. Shyamalan's adaptation is dark and gloomy, his characters mechanical and ineffective, and what is grossly missing is the humor and light-heartedness that is so present in the animated version. It's an integral component because it captures the dynamic essence of each character and the struggles they each face when appropriating such adult obligations. 


That said, I still think it is a movie worth seeing. I don't regret taking my son to see it because it brought to life the characters we loved and because he has been taking Tae Kwon Do for the past two years. He was able to make connections between the forms he has been learning and how an individual can take the moves in the forms to defend himself. And my three-year-old loved it so much that she unearthed her brother's Avatar toys to play with them. It was not a scary movie at all, and what was really done well werre the fighting scenes. It helped tremendously that the actors, although unknowns, are real live Karate or Tae Kown Do black belts, so the scenes in which they fought were quite believable. And the bending of the water, fire, air, and earth are probably done better with animation, but Shyamalan did a great job with that in this movie. The best scene in the movie takes place towards the end when Aang learns to bend water and manipulates the entire ocean, not to destroy the Fire Nation Lords, but to scare them away, for in this scene, everyone realizes the great power that comes from this small and unassuming little boy. It is a great story, even if there are great flaws with the movie version. And of course, I highly recommend introducing your children to the animated version. 
Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie Review: Knight and Day

By Stacey Celaya

Title: Knight and Day (2010)
Genre: Action/Comedy
Run Time: 109 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: James Mangold
Writer: Patrick O'Neill
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Peter Sarsgaard, Jordi Molla, Viola Davis
Recommended? Yes

Synopsis:
June Havens accidentally becomes involved in Agent Roy Miller as he attempts to complete an assignment to protect the teenage inventor of a perpetual battery and prevent the battery from falling into the wrong hands and another agent that has gone rogue. The evildoers mistakenly believe that June Haven is teamed up with Miller and make an attempt to catch her and discover what she knows.

With both sides accusing the other of being the bad guys June is understandably confused as to who to trust. She finds herself attracted to and confused by Miller and his charm and quickly realizes that he is probably her safest bet at staying alive.

My Review:

My husband and I had a date night this past Saturday night. Surprisingly enough there weren't many choices for a grown-up date night. It boiled down to some kind of alien thriller with poor reviews, an animated film or Knight and Day. Since Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise rarely disappoint we decided to see their latest cinematic endeavor.

I am a big fan of blow em' up and shoot em' kind of movies. I also love romantic comedies. Surprisingly enough this movie contained all of the above. The writing was sarcastic and funny and the chemistry between Cameron and Cruise felt familiar and comfortable.

It was the perfect date night movie since it had a little something for everyone. It has been a while since my husband and I went to the movies and both walked out relatively satisfied. My husband is lousy at picking a good movie and never likes anything that we end up seeing. I, on the other hand love a good story and it matters little what the genre is as long as its a good tale. I came out smiling and my husband did not demand his money back -- in our home that's a winner!

I give Knight and Day two thumbs up!
Friday, July 9, 2010

Game Review: Nintendo Wii Mario Kart




Product: Mario Kart for Wii

Manufacturer: Nintendo

Rating: E

Price: $49.99

Recommended: Yes!


Review:


I grew up in a house that did not have game systems. The extent of my game system knowledge is only a few hours of Mario Kart from the Nintendo 64 game system. I instantly fell in love with the game as a child so when I heard there was a Mario Kart for the Wii game system I had to buy it.


The Mario Kart for Nintendo Wii is very similar to that of the Nintendo 64 game. The levels and layouts are different, but over all the idea is the exact same. It is fun to play a newer version of the favorite classic game.


I am very challenged when it comes to playing games. For instance, with the previous Nintendo 64 Mario Kart, I was the weird person turning my entire body to turn a corner and waving my arms around like a manic trying to drive the cars. What is nice about the Nintendo Wii Mario Kart is it has an actual steering wheel for a remote. This makes the game much easier, although I still drive into walls and fall off cliffs.


The game is fun to play and is great for the entire family. It is even simple enough for my 4-year-old to play. I recommended this game for kids and adults because it is fun for both. It's also simple enough to play if you have no prior experience with game systems.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

TV Series Review: True Blood

By Stacey Celaya

Series Title: True Blood - An original HBO Series
Created/Produced by: Alan Ball
Cast: Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse)
Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton)
Ryan Kwanton (Jason Stackhouse)
Lois Smith (Gran)
Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte)
Rutina Wesley (Tara Thornton)
Nelson Ellis (Lafayette Reynolds)
Where to find it: HBO, Sundays at 9:00 p.m.

My Review:

I recently did a review on Dead Until Dark, Book one of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse Series (also known as the Southern Vampire Mysteries Series). I fell madly in love with Sookie Stackhouse and her undead friends (her live ones too!). Curiosity killed the cat on this one and I ran out to my local Blockbuster and rented the first four episodes of True Blood, HBO's original series based off of Ms. Harris' world of supernaturals; now in it's third season.

I am a lover of books. I love the depth and the detail reading a good book gives to a story. Often times when a movie or series is created based on one of my favorite books (i.e. The Twilight Saga, The Women's Murder Club, etc.) I struggle with the content or the casting of the characters that have been wonderfully created in my imagination through the magical spinning of a great tale by an ingenious and inspired writer. It takes me a while to adjust to what I see on the screen compared to what I see in my head. True Blood was no different.

True Blood is a grittier, edgier take on the Sookie Stackhouse novels. It has a darker feel than the books do and is most definitely geared towards an adult audience as in typical HBO fashion. To be honest, ten minutes into watching the first episode of season one I wasn't sure I was going to like it -- I felt loyal to the original story and defensive of any alterations (real or perceived by me) as it translated onto the television screen.

In the end - I was hooked. By the time I finished the second episode - the on screen characters that I could SEE melded with the literary characters envisioned in my head. They became one and I love that Sookie, Bill and the others were able to make such a compelling transition onto my television screen. It's like seeing the same great story through a different pair of glasses -- the same but different.

Do I recommend True Blood? In a heartbeat -- or a flash of the fangs if your one of the undead...

Book Review: Elizabeth Wurtzel's 'Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women'




Title: Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women
Author: Elizabeth Wurtzel
Publisher: Anchor Books
Recommended: Yes


Summary: Elizabeth Wurtzel's 'Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women' celebrates strong and defiant women from biblical femme fatale Delilah to beloved Princess Diana to notorious Courtney Love. Deriving evidence from literary and theologian scholars to empowered women portrayed in music, literature, and the movies, Wurtzel argues that society tends to devalue women who break the rules, diminishing their power and strength to sexual wiles and manipulative destruction of men as a means of keeping them down, beneath men, beneath power. This book chronicles and defends strong, virile women who have lived outside and beyond the prescribed rules society inscribes upon their bodies and individuality, and who have been punished for it, one way or another.

Review: A Harvard graduate and social commentator, Elizabeth Wurtzel's prose is like poetry -- not the whimsical and romantic type that is expected of women, but that of a force to be reckoned with. It is not romantic or soft, but fine and intelligent, sometimes harsh and biting, but continually knowledgeable and well-researched. Wurtzel points out that historically, biblically, socially, and politically women continue to be blamed for men's destruction. Like Eve, the belief continues, women use beauty and sex to seduce and destroy men in power, men with strong resolve. She argues that men should be held accountable for their own demise. If women are weak and inferior and men are strong and superior, then how is it possible for little women to have such power over tough men? If men can fight wars and govern nations, then how is it that they cannot overcome the seduction of a minor character, an inferior being. She argues that "this notion that women drag men down with sex...is the basis for too much silliness -- it is the reason why rape victims are not named but alleged rapists are -- implying that the former, not the latter, should be ashamed because she must have made him do it -- she drove him to a felonious act...Women don't bring men down; for whatever reason, men bring themselves down, and then all of a sudden it's cherchez la femme" (64).

This is a powerful book with an even more powerful message that articulates how female strength and power has been appropriated and misinterpreted by male writers, theologians, and scholars. Since the time of Eve and Delilah to the present, strong women have been looked upon with negativity and derision, their power over men diminished to the manipulative use of their beauty and sexual prowess, even if they were not beautiful or sexy to begin with; but the blame had to go somewhere for man's downfall, and of course, the man could not blame himself. It's a great book with an empowering message towards redefining the way we look at female sexuality and female strength, and I recommend it to all women and young girls who want to find their power and agency outside of the wiles of their femininity.
Monday, July 5, 2010

Gardening Product Review: Miracle-Gro Shake’n Feed All Purpose Plant Food



Product Name: MBoldiracle-Gro Shake’n Feed All Purpose Plant Food
Manufacturer Name: Miracle-Gro
Retail Price: $19.99
Where to Get It: Target, Home Depot, Amazon, other retailers of gardening products
Sizes/Specifications: 4.5 lbs.
Product Description: Plant food
Recommended? Yes

Review:

I planted a wildflower garden in a new garden bed out front. I was starting from seed, so I wanted to get everything right, so I selected Miracle-Gro plant food in its slick new container. I got Miracle-Gro because the cheaper brand wasn’t available in that size at Target that day. I would also like to confess that I’m familiar with Miracle-Gro—I started out using the powdered plant food that’s mixed with water before “serving.” It worked, but it was a messy, wet business. I switched to granules the next year.

This year, I sowed my seeds, misted them as delicately as I could with water, and shook out an even layer of Miracle-Gro to get them started. I was excited to see my seeds sprouting within three weeks of sowing. We had heavy rain for a few days a little after that, and when I checked, much of the food was washed away, so I sprinkled some more. The special little spout at the top really does help distribute the granules more evenly than I used to be able to do, scattering palmfuls. I even had my sister do it, who’d never done it before. Not easy to mess up and pour too much. And—like all plant food I’ve seen in stores recently—it’s label says its formulated so that it won’t easily “burn” plants.

Now—around a month after they first appeared, my cosmos and coreopsis are cheerfully waving their yellow and pink little flower faces, looking like a 4-foot-tall flower forest beside my 2’4” daughter, who loves to pick. My Virginia stock grew like weeds, in a luxurious pink, purple and white spill over the edge of the border. And my bee balm is… well, I guess you could ask the bees. They’re pretty busy with all the blossoms, and I tend to leave them to their business, if you know what I mean.
Saturday, July 3, 2010

Movie Review: 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse'


Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Run Time: 2hr 4min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: David Slade
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay)
Stephanie Meyer (novel)
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Recommended? Yes

Synopsis:

Bella has made her decision, she will become like Edward. She will become a vampire..right after graduation. Senior year of high school is shaping up to mean more than just SAT scores for Bella Swan. She must decide between her love for Edward Cullen and her relationship with best friend Jacob Black knowing the outcome could lead to a war between vampire and werewolf. With a war coming no matter which way she turns Bella knows that: It all begins ... With a choice.



























Review:

I must admit before we go any farther that I am a Twilight fan. I have read all of the books including the unfinished Midnight Sun and the Short Life of Bree Tanner: a novella, that has recently been published. I can honestly say that I have loved all of the books and enjoyed watching the movies. Having said all of that I would recommend this movie to those who are not "Twi-Hard" fans and would just like to be entertained for a couple of hours.

Eclipse is most definitely the best Twilight movie yet as far as the acting portion is concerned. Kristen Stewart has come into her role as Bella Swan which I believe is due to the fact that Bella is finding herself has a woman. Dakota Fanning does a marvelous job at being creepy in a very serene manner. She manipulates the audience in such a way that you find yourself wishing that there were a great deal more scenes with her in them.

Though the movie is beautiful in just about every way visually I do believe that it lacks a couple of things that the first movie delivered, ambiance and detail.

Twilight gave us a certain feeling in each scene to deliver the so called "creep factor." The tone of the movie was completely different than the two that have followed. While I do enjoy beautiful colors and lush landscapes, Twilight to me was meant to be a bit more creepy.

Details always seem to get lost in translation. They must cut this here and drop that there for timing purposes. Well if it means cutting the things that really make the book great what makes people think that the movie is going to be so great? I don't know about you but one of my favorite things about books is all the attention to detail. You really get a sense of what is going on and who the characters are. When they make longer novels into movies they jump around in the book entirely too much. Though this movie was not overly choppy it had its fair share of scene jumps.

My bottom line - The movie is beautiful with wonderful special affects and slightly above average acting. If you are not a fan of your favorite books being cut up then it might not be for you. If you can manage to look past that and just watch the movie then I definitely recommend it for the special affects, action and emotional drama.
Friday, July 2, 2010

Children's Book Review: Who Pooped in the Park?

By Kerrie McLoughlin

Where to buy: Amazon and other online bookstores
Price: Around $10, but you can get it cheaper online and used
Recommended: Yes

Back in 2005 my mom and step-dad got the book Who Pooped in the Park? by Gary D. Robson for my kids. It’s the story of a family on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The son is afraid he’ll be eaten by a grizzly bear, but his parents explain how there aren’t any grizzly bears left in Colorado. Then the parents take the kids on a hike to teach them how to find out which animals have been where by identifying all kinds of marks, especially scat (POOP!!!).

This is a great book for kids who are interested in nature, hiking or animals. It’s great for boys since it talks about lots of poop!

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