Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review- This World We Live In


By: Dawne Prochilo

Title: This World We Live In
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publisher: Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin
Recommend? Yes



For those of you that are fans of young adult author Susan Beth Pfeffer's “the world is coming to an end” series, look for the third book in the collection.

This World We Live In is a continuation of Miranda Evans' rural family and Alex Morales' city family except this time they are together at the Evans' homestead learning how to survive one year after a meteor collided with the moon wreaking destructive havoc on the Earth.

Miranda's father, stepmother and new half-sister show up with three strangers and Alex in tow. Miranda struggles with newfound feelings towards Alex while he struggles with his religious beliefs and life. A devastating tornado hits and the effect creates turmoil for all the survivors.

The book is written from Miranda and Alex's point of view and you really feel sympathy for these two young adults.

I highly recommend this book. Even though it's a young adult (seventh grade and higher), I found myself intrigued by the inevitable question of What If? This was a great conclusion in the series and I found myself turning pages faster than ever.

This World We Live In is available at Amazon.
Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: The Assault

by Tiffany Jansen

Title: The Assault
Author: Harry Mulisch
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Recommended? Yes

Summary:
Thirteen-year-old Anton Steenwijk and his family struggle to make it through in Nazi-occupied Holland during the winter of 1945. Things take a turn for the worse when Chief Inspector Ploeg is shot and killed by the Resistance right in front of the family's home in Haarlem. Revenge is taken out on the Steenwijks.

The sole survivor, Anton is taken to live with his aunt and uncle in Amsterdam and succeeds in putting these events behind him and forgetting the past. But the past refuses to let Anton go. Over the course of the book, we follow Anoton as he grows up and grows old, all the while haunted by the events surrounding that night in 1945. More than 40 years later, he discovers the real and shocking truth.

Review:
In 2008, I moved to the Netherlands and was charged with learning as much as I could about the country and it's people. At my husband's urging, I found and purchased the English translation of Dutch author Harry Mulisch's book The Assault. It sat on the bookshelf for over a year until I finally picked it up yesterday to give it a go. I finished the book last night.

At just 200 pages, The Assault is easily read in a day. But don't let the size of the book fool you. It is a gut-wrenching page turner that quite often had me reading ahead to find out what happened. Mulisch wastes no time in jumping into the story: the assination happens within the first few pages.

About halfway through the book, the story slows down a bit as Anton moves on with his life, but once the clues start popping up as to what truly happened, the book starts racing again. The book is very well-written with fabulous descriptions and attention to detail. As it is a World War II novel, there are many historical goodies that do wonders in making this time in history come alive.

Mulisch succeeds in creating a thriller/historical fiction/drama that causes readers to take pause and question their ideas of good and bad, right and wrong. This is an excellent read and one that you certainly should not miss.

The Assault is available on Amazon.com
Friday, August 27, 2010

DermaNew Acne & Oil Clarifying System

by Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud

Product Name: DermaNew Acne & Oil Clarifying System
Manufacturer Name: DermaNew
Retail Price: $65-$75
Where to Get It: Wherever health and beauty products are sold. Also, from Dermanew.com
Sizes/Specifications: Kit containing microdermabrasion tool with 3 attachments, 2 AAA batteries, and 2.6 oz. tube of microdermabrasion cream.
Product Description: Microdermabrasion kit
Recommended? Yes, if you're not happy with your current deep cleansing regimen.

I know I just wrote a review on another skin refining product, which was a manual facial scrub. But I saw the DermaNew at a serious discount and bought it because I’d been secretly wanting to try it for months. My skin is combination. I get occasional breakouts, but nothing serious, and I keep it clean with a splash of water in the morning and evening and a weekly scrub, with almond oil for moisture. Last Friday I tried the DermaNew for the first time, instead of using my scrub.

I attached the small foam applicator to one end, the brush to the other. The large foam applicator is for body polishing. I dotted the microdermabrasion cream on my clean, dry forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin. Then I dotted on a little more. I hit the button for the two-minute scrub. It had a really fine vibration that was much quieter than I’d expected. I didn’t feel as if it was reaching very deep into my skin at all as I moved it around, applying gentle pressure according to the instructions. So I applied a little more pressure. That turned out to be a mistake I’ll be careful not to repeat next time, but I’ll get to that. I expected the cream to be creamy, you know, but it actually sort of dissolved into my skin, leaving the tiny particles on the surface as I moved the foam applicator around on my face. I paid special attention to my forehead and nose area, which is where I normally concentrate with my scrub. As an afterthought, I went over the edges of my jaw and chin a little more as well.

It felt good, but looking in the mirror, my face was covered in flaked off particles of cream and… skin, I guess, so it wasn’t pretty at first. Then I used the brush to sweep away the most of the particles, as in the instructions, and finished by washing my face with warm water. I looked in the mirror again and was impressed by how bright and yes, toned, my face looked. And it felt baby smooth. Seriously. I have a one-year-old, and my cheek felt just as smooth as hers. I patted my face dry, applied some almond oil, and went about my day. I don't wear makeup.

Later on that day and a little into Saturday, my face started feeling sensitive and itchy in the spots I’d gone over more vigorously. Guess those tiny particles, combined with the fine vibration, had done a little more work than I thought--and more than I needed. My fault, though, I guess, so I endured and it went away. I’m going to try it again today, though. This time, not as much pressure, and I think I went beyond the two-minute timer since I stopped it and started it again at one point. But overall it did what it said it would, and I'm glad I have something to use that makes me feel even more "special" during my Friday spruce-up.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Movie Review: Valkyrie

By Stacey Celaya

Title: Valkyrie
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Run Time: 115 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander
Cast: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson
Recommended? Yes

Synopsis:

This is the story of the last of fifteen known attempts on Adolf Hitler's life while running Germany during WWII. Colonel Stauffenberg is a member of Hitler's SS army during the war. He becomes disillusioned with Hitler's Germany and begins to see the true travesties being committed against the people of his country.

Joining with other members of the SS Army that no longer support Hitler and his ideas a plan is formed to kill Hitler and use The Valkyrie, a plan of Hitler's own making that allows the Reserve Army to take control of Germany if ever communication with Hitler is interrupted.
Colonel Stauffenberg places a bomb in a briefcase and places it next to Hitler during a conference. The bomb explodes and Stauffenberg assumes that Hitler has been killed in the blast. Once the confirmation of this has reached the other members that are a part of this plan all communication is to be cut off. This causes Olbricht, the man responsible for mobilizing the Reserve Army to delay issuing the order.

Hitler, as it turns out is not dead and is able to take advantage of the delay to order his people to gather the members of his army that have plotted against him. All of them are executed.

My Review:

I have wanted to see this movie for a long time. My grandmother was born and raised in Austria and my grandfather was a soldier in the U.S. Army during WWII stationed in Austria. My grandmother used to tell a story of how Hitler came to her school as a child and later, after coming into power, her mother burned that picture out of hatred for him. So when this movie came out it instantly went on my list of must-sees.

What I found fascinating about the movie was how it changed how I view the SS soldiers in my mind. It was interesting to me that there were several attempts to remove Hitler from power by his own people. There are so many horrible stories from that time in World History. There were so many evil, horrible travesties committed on the Jewish population in Germany. It never occurred to me that members of the SS were appalled at the things that were taking place and risked life and limb to eradicate the poison that was Hitler.

I would absolutely recommend this movie. It is a fascinating story of bravery and morality during a horrible time.
Monday, August 23, 2010

Product Review: RCA VR5220 512 MB DigitalVoice Recorder


By Alyssa Ast

Product: RCA VR5220 512 MB Digital Voice Recorder
Manufacturer: RCA
Features:

•Up to 200 hours recording time
•Built-in USB for direct PC connection
•Dual voice compression format
•Multi-task LCD display
•Automatic voice activated record
•Playback editing function
•Built-in speaker and microphone
•Date and time stamped recordings
•Selectable recording mode for conference and dictation
•3 recording modes-LP, SP and HQ
•Headphone and external microphone jacks
•Key lock function
•Includes 2 AA batteries, USB cable and carrying pouch

Price: $35.68 at Walmart
Recommendation? Yes!

Review:

I had been putting off buying a digital voice recorder for quite sometime, but I ended up landing a job that required one. Originally, I was looking for just a plain, old tape recorder, but once I arrived at the store I saw the RCA VR5220 512 MB Digital Voice Recorder for about the same price as a typical tape recorder. I thought hey, I will give upgraded technology a shot for once and I am pleased I did.

The play back quality is great. I am amazed at how well it picks up sounds, even background noise. Using the recording and playback options are simple. The only thing I would change is increasing the maximum volume.

I love the fact you are able to create multiple files and even bookmark files. You have a time and date setting that allows you to easily find the file you are searching for. Different playback speeds make transcribing notes a breeze.

The digital recorder even has a locking option to lock the keys, which is great for me in a house full of little kids. This way I can leave the voice recorder laying around and don't have to worry about anything being erased. Plus, because it is small and the buttons lock, I can even carry it in my purse.

Another great feature is you can upload your files to the computer. This is super great because if you should happen to run out of recording time, simply upload the files to your computer and delete them off of the voice recorder.

I am very pleased with this little device. Now I will be honest, you are going to want to read the instructions well because if you don't it is kind of confusing to figure out all the options the device offers. And, as far as the lack of loud volume control, you can plug in headphones to increase the volume or upload it to the computer and use your computer speakers. So this tiny annoyance I have with it is not great enough to make me stop using it. Highly recommended!
Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review: Sizzling Sixteen


By: Dawne Prochilo

Title: Sizzling Sixteen
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Recommended? Yes

My Review:

A cow stampede, an angry pet alligator, the return of Mooner the stoner and a cousin kidnapped are just a few hilarious characters and moments entering New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum's life in Evanovich's sixteenth book. Along with favorite characters Lula, Grandma Mazur, sexy police officer and on-again, off-again Stephanie's boyfriend, Joe Morelli and the take-your-breath-away Ranger, Stephanie catches, or tries to catch bail jumpers for her cousin Vinnie's bails bond business. But forget Vinnie's client's faux pas, Vinnie has his own heap of trouble that winds him up kidnapped and held for $1-million dollars. Not able to afford it, or really thinking her sneaky cousin's worth the price, Stephanie, Lula and bail bond receptionist Connie lead the way in adventures only Evanovich could dream up.

And to those faithful Plum followers: Yes, one automobile succumbs to the Stephanie Plum graveyard and much to the surprise of me, one of the men in Stephanie's life says the “L” word. Ranger? Or Morelli? Either way, it was nice, but shocking, to finally hear- well, you'll have to read to see which man claimed love to the nice half-Italian, half-Hungarian Trenton bounty hunter.

I highly recommend this book for any Stephanie Plum reader or lover. I found myself laughing aloud at least five times throughout the pages.

Sizzling Sixteen is available at amazon
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Product Review: Delsym Cough Syrup

By Pam Houghton

Product Name: Delsym Cough Suppressant
Retail Price: Varies depending on retailer, but I bought a 5 oz. bottle at Target for $10.59
Where to Get It: Drugstores, major retailers such as Target, Wal-mart, etc., and online
Sizes/Specifications: Available in 5 oz. and 3 oz. bottles
Product Description: 12-hour cough suppressant
Recommended? Yes

So I've been suffering from some stupid summer cold virus for almost a week now and I've filled wastebaskets with enough snotty tissues to cover Mars. And maybe Venus.

To saying nothing of the fearful looks I got when I took my son to get his driver's permit while hacking and honking away like a champ. Other than that, I've tried to avoid public places.

Of course, I can't avoid going to sleep at night and that is where a bad cough can get really aggravating, keeping you up, making you really crabby the next day.

The good news is - I found a cough syrup that helped me get a decent night's sleep without endless fits of coughing. Well, I still woke up and coughed, but probably not as badly as if I'd gone to sleep unassisted.

The alcohol-free elixir of which I speak? Delsym Cough Suppressant. In theory, it provides 12-hour cough relief and is available in two flavors, orange and grape, that don't make you squeeze your eyes and cheeks together, wishing you could chase it down with a swig of 7-Up. In other words, it tastes pretty good. For a cough syrup.

And at the risk of repeating myself, it did help me catch some decent zzzzz's. Well, at least I didn't thrash about like a Flounder on dry land all night long.

Delsym is also available for children in the same yummy flavors.
Monday, August 16, 2010

DVD Review: 'Date Night'


By Pam Houghton


Title: Date Night
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 88 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Josh Klausner
Cast: Steve Carell, Tiny Fey, Taraji P. Henson, Common, Mark Wahlberg
Recommended? Yes.


Suffering through a very bad summer cold, I needed a pick-me-up this past week-end to offset my horizontal position on the couch; a position I assumed with a box of Kleenex, a nasal inhaler and a bag of cough drops.

In spite of my frail sinuses, I drove to Blockbuster to rent Date Night, a comedy starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, whom I both admire for being funny and smart. I knew it wasn't academy-award winning material, but I needed a few laughs. Which thankfully, the DVD provided.

Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple with two children, concerned that their relationship has become mundane and boring. In an effort to combat their usual night out at a local restaurant where they rely on potato skins and salmon for date-night fare, they instead plan a night out in the city. New York City, to be exact, where the rest of the movie plays out like an action movie with two extremely normal characters leading the way.

They take a chance and try to eat at a posh and trendy restaurant without a reservation. After finding out most are made a month in advance, Phil and Claire hang around anyway and end up taking the reservation of a no-show couple.

At the end of a delightful meal, Phil and Claire are mistaken for the Tripplehorns, the couple who failed to show up for their dinner reservation, by a couple of bad guys. As they spend the rest of the movie trying to escape the bad guys' intentions, and reaffirm their identities as the boring Fosters from New Jersey, they find themselves in situations that are anything but mundane and boring. Not exactly what they had in mind for a special evening out alone!

I may have been an easy audience for this movie, but I laughed so hard at some scenes I had tears streaming down my face. Of course, that could have been the cold leaking out of my eyes, but none-the-less, I giggled. Or rather, with my respiratory challenged lungs, cackled. A lot.

This isn't a perfect movie - it dragged a bit in spots and the good guys/bad guys plot may have been too intricate for my cold-addled brain to follow. But with Carell and Fey in the lead roles and a fun, smart and surprising cast providing support, you can't go wrong with Date Night. Especially if you need a diversion from a ginormous box of tissues.
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Other End of the Line

By Stacey Celaya

Title: The Other End Of The Line
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Run Time: 106 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: James Dodson
Writer: Tracey Jackson
Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Shriya Saran
Recommended? Yes

Synopsis:

A beautiful young Indian woman living in Mumbai, India is fascinated with the American culture. While working for Citi One Bank Card center customer service and using an American accent she calls a customer named Granger Woodruff to help him with fraudulent charges on his credit card and a connection is made.

Priya, feeling stuck in a soon-to-be arranged marriage and yearning for an adventure, agrees to meet Granger in San Francisco. Once in San Francisco Priya changes her mind and decides not to meet Granger. But in a chance meeting they literally bump into one another and over an apologetic dinner Granger tells Priya about the Customer Service Rep that was supposed to meet him but blew him off. Afraid that he won't like the real her Priya neglects to tell him that she is that girl.

Over the next couple of days Granger and Priya begin to fall in love. Granger drops Priya off at a family function in Palo Alto where she explains that her family is crazy and so she will meet up with him after the event. Rushing out of the car, Priya leaves a present for her cousin in the back seat. Wanting to be a nice guy Granger brings the present to her at her family's house only to find that her father thinks that he kidnapped Priya and that Priya is engaged to be married.

A series of misunderstandings complicate things further and Priya goes back to Mumbai more unhappy with her life than before she left. Although she wants to please her parents she cannot see herself married to someone that she does not love and declares her desire to find out what makes her happy.

While giving the Best Man speech at his best friends wedding, Granger realizes that he is also unhappy and that he loves Priya. On a whim goes to Mumbai to declare his love.

My Review:


I am a sucker for Romantic comedies. I love the cheesiness, the lightheartedness and the predictability of these types of movies. The Other End of the Line is all of these. It is a sweet, funny, romantic, cheesy, completely predictable romantic chick flick. I loved it. It is one of those movies that if a network were to pick it up and play it repeatedly you can't help but watch it. I definitely recommend this movie -- it's probably one the hubby won't want to watch with you but that's okay -- Jesse Metcalfe is a cutie so you won't miss him.
Friday, August 6, 2010

Product Review: Desert Essence Gentle Stimulating Facial Scrub


by Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud

Product Name: Gentle Stimulating Facial Scrub with Jojoba Oil and Almond Meal
Manufacturer Name: Desert Essence
Retail Price: Ranges from $3.72 (Amazon) to $6.99 (Kmart).
Where to Get It: Wherever health and beauty products are sold. Also, from DessertEssence.com
Sizes/Specifications: 4 oz.
Product Description: Facial Scrub
Recommended? Oh yeah

Review: I have been using the Facial Scrub from Desert Essence for nearly a year and a half, but only starting the past 6 months have I begun using it steadily on a weekly basis. It’s used like any other scrub: massage it on your face in a circular motion for about a minute and wipe off. But it’s visibly effective at exfoliating all the accumulated dirt, oil and dead skin cells still left over after I splash my face before going to bed daily. My complexion looks brighter and feels smooth enough that I actually don’t touch for fear of “messing it up.” Even better, the formula is thick and pasty, delivering enough moisture into (not onto) my skin that all I need to do is dip my finger in my little jar of almond oil after washing it off. Whatever coats my fingertip is enough to moisturize my face for the rest of the day.

Jojoba meal, clay, honey, aloe, and cucumber extract work in harmony to soothe, moisturize, and tone my face. The texture is just gritty enough—the granules are a little finer than poppy seed size, but rough enough that you should be gentle when working it in. I consider this a weekly scrub, not daily, because of its roughness. I have repurchased more than once, and consider the scrub (and the almond oil) my weekly at-home spa treatment.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Review: The Fundamentals of SEO for the Average Joe

By Angela Atkinson

Title: The Fundamentals of SEO for the Average Joe
Author: Alyssa Ast
Publisher: Lulu
Recommended? Yes

My Review:

The Fundamentals of SEO for the Average Joe was written by my partner, and was edited by yours truly. While I might not normally review a book that I edited myself, I am doing so today because this particular book will come in handy for nearly anyone who writes online or who owns a website. It's really an invaluable resource that can help you to not only increase your website/content traffic, but also potentially boost your income.

Author Alyssa Ast is an SEO expert, as well as my partner in (and the co-founder of) The WM Network. Around WM, we call her "the SEO Goddess" and with good reason. She knows what she's talking about when it comes to this SEO stuff!

In The Fundamentals of SEO for the Average Joe, she very clearly and simply explains the basics of search engine optimization and search engine marketing (SEM) for online content in a way that nearly anyone can understand.

Some of the topics Alyssa covers in the book include:

  •       Choosing Keywords
  •       Keyword Density
  •       Utilizing Keywords
  •       Meta Descriptions
  •       Meta Tags
  •       Optimizing Websites
  •       Optimizing Web content
  •       Link Building
  •       Back Linking
  •      Techniques to increase SERP Ranking
Whether you're familiar with SEO and SEM and just want to learn a little more or you're totally clueless on the topic, this is the book for you. This book is appropriate for writers, but also for business owners who want to SEO their own websites. I'd call it a quick and easy read that could actually help you boost your career and your business. Check it out at Lulu in ebook or paperback form.
Monday, August 2, 2010

Restaurant Review: 'Lombardo's Sicilian Grille'

By Christina Newman


Name: Lombardo's Sicilian Grille                              
Cuisine: Italian
Location: 710 Eastern Ave, Kingman, AZ 86401
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Avg meal cost: $12 - $15




I felt that in order to give Lombardo's a proper review I must eat at the establishment more than one time. Having eaten there on multiple occasions I now feel qualified to write down my thoughts and share them with you.

Upon first setting eyes on the place you think - hmm they might have okay food. The building is part of a bigger plaza and it all seems to blend together. You walk through the front door and see a few seated areas and the bar. Wine covers the walls and the soft wall color is warm and inviting. To your right you have a short corridor that leads the main dining area where you can listen to a very skilled pianist.

Once seated, your server will help you select your wine if you so chose. The menus are beautifully done and have a wide variety to select from. My first time dining at Lombardo's I ordered the cheese stuffed zucchini and it was fabulous. The zucchini was cooked perfectly and the cheese married well with their red sauce. I must also comment on their spectacular Italian dressing, perfect blend of seasonings.

I have since selected many other items from the menu and I must say they never disappoint. The food is wonderful, the music lovely and the wine is fresh. So where does Lombardo's fall short?

Service, ah we must speak of the service. Now if you are anything like my family you understand most Italian establishments, if you and your party are having a good time your server will not "bother you" so to speak. 
While others might just think that they offer poor service and you shouldn't have to hunt down your server to get some extra rolls or the check. I believe that Lombardo's falls somewhere in the middle. While I definitely want the freedom to laugh and chat with my party without feeling rushed out I would also like to know that my glass will be refilled in a timely manner.

My bottom line - I will recommend Lombardo's to anyone who asks about good food in Kingman, Arizona. They offer a spectacular assortment of wines, mixed drinks and beer and of course wonderful food. They are friendly and welcoming much like a family and yes you will have to chase your server down at the end of your evening.

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