Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: Wicked Appetite

Title: Wicked Appetite
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Reviewer: Dawne Prochilo
Recommended? Yes

My Review: Think Stephanie Plum visits her long lost cousins in Salem, Mass. and add in Diesel (made infamous from Visions of Sugar Plums, 2002, Evanovich) and the heroine of this story Lizzy Tucker has a job ahead of her. Diesel's cousin, Wulf, is wreaking havoc on Lizzy and the neighboring town of Salem's called Marblehead, all for objects that hold special powers. The Evanovich sarcasm flows throughout the novel and the storyline makes for a change of pace for Stephanie Plum followers.

The race against time has Lizzy and Diesel as they battle Wulf in scenarios of the deadly sins.

I would recommend this book for anyone that loves Evanovich's writing. Her style is evident and the charm of Diesel is enough to swoon the harshest critic and female reader.

Wicked Appetite is available at amazon.
Saturday, January 29, 2011

Board Game Review: Sudoku Board Game

Product: Sudoku Board Game
Manufacturer: Imagination Entertainment
Ages: 8 and up
Price: $7.99 at Amazon, list price $19.99
Recommended: No


Sudoku is a Japanese number puzzle game that peaked in popularity in the West about 5 or 6 years ago, by my admittedly oblivious estimate. It began appearing in the Washington Post puzzle section and as hundreds of iterations of travel puzzle books sold everywhere. Our family couldn't fail to miss the trend, and although I first claimed I would never understand the object (to fill in every row and colum with the numbers 1-9 without repeating any digit within a column or row), and loudly and repeatedly gave up before even starting a game, I was still fascinated. And then I understood it. And then I completed a puzzle. And then I was hooked. My sister was hooked. My mother and grandmother were playing.

So naturally, we bought the board game for the family to play. The puzzle is really geared toward the single player, but the board game requires at least three players. The rules are not difficult to understand if you already know how to play Sudoku. The only new rules are for keeping the game honest and setting up a point system. Players take turns placing number tiles while one holds the puzzle key to let each player know whether they placed the tile in the right spot. Placing a tile wrong loses point, while placing one right gains the face value of each tile.

We played this game a few times, and although we enjoyed it at first, after a while, most of us had something better to do than sit and keep score while everyone else played. Since the scorekeeper is crucial, the game has been on the shelf for months now. I still enjoy playing Sudoku alone, however; I played the free app on my former cellphone regularly, and will still tackle a puzzle in the newspaper with gusto. But attempting to spread the game out among so many players seems forced, at least in this game.
Friday, January 28, 2011


Review by Patricia Anne McGoldrick
Title: Nowhere Boy
Genre: Bio pic/Docudrama
Run Time: 98 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Sam Taylor Wood
Writer: Julia Baird’s memoir and Matt Greenhalgh’s screenplay
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey

Recommended? Yes, but with reservations due to ratings; now available on DVD for $19.99 U.S.

Synopsis: The early teen years of John Lennon.


This movie is about John Lennon but it is clearly the emergence of a new actor in the person of Aaron Johnson who captures the young Lennon as he was molded by the circumstances of his childhood.

In fact, a novelist would be hard pressed to write a more conflict laden story than found in the portrayal of John Lennon’s family, extended and immediate.

Set in the Liverpool of 1955, ten years after WWII, John’s character is emerging. The teen rebel spirit is developing in school pranks, smoking, verbal expletives and a distinct sense of humor.

Without giving away the details of his dysfunctional family, we can thank Lennon’s Uncle George for nurturing musical talents and some semblance of family attention. We learn that, in the small Liverpool house, there are few private moments and one big secret.

While John pursues more sense of family and belonging, he also discovers the guitar and rock ’n roll. If ever a guitar came to the rescue, I would say that it certainly saved the day for John Lennon.

Music becomes a passion for Lennon. Soon, the young Paul McCartney, played by David Morrissey, arrives on the scene of building a band. Almost like finding a missing puzzle piece, things came together for John, the emerging group, and Paul. The irony of John & Paul experiencing some of life’s toughest events is not lost on Beatles fans viewing the movie. You know the rest of the story.

Ironically, on leaving the theatre, I asked another moviegoer how she liked the film. She replied with a smile and a distinct English accent:

Well, actually, I was there. Of course, it, Liverpool, looks a lot cleaner here in the movie, not like the way it was back then, but it was a time! I just wanted to see what they would do with it in a movie. I remember it all, the concerts….

I could only imagine.
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Educational Product Review: Franklin Speaking Spelling Bee SSB-208

by Alyssa Ast

Product: Speaking Spelling Bee SSB-208
Manufacturer: Franklin
Product Details:

  • 3 fun game modes: Practice, Game Show, and Competition
  • 3 challenging skill levels, perfect for any grade level
  • Definitions, origins and usage examples for all Spelling Bee words
  • Large 2.5" LCD color touch screen
  • Stylus for quick, easy game play
  • 2 fun word games: Hangman and Jumble
  • Headphone jack for private gaming

Price: $59.95
Recommended? Yes, for kids 7 and older

I received the Franklin Speaking Spelling Bee to review with my children. When I first opened the package, I was very surprised by the device. It has a touch screen and buttons on the sides to use to operate the options. Plus, it appears to be built very well, which is a must in a house with 4 children. It is small enough it can be thrown in the diaper bag and taken along for rides in the car.

I used the Speaking Spelling Bee with my two 5 year olds, who are in kindergarten, and it was too advanced for them because the skill levels don't go low enough. However, as their reading skills continue to develop over the next year, I see it as being a very handy learning game for them to have to practice their spelling. The games are fun and indeed educational, which makes it the perfect toy in my book.

My husband and I even played with it and it certainly challenged our spelling skills and was enjoyable in the process. So, while it may be a little advanced for my children right now, I still recommend the Speaking Spelling Bee for children around the age of 7 and older and for parents who want to sharpen their spelling skills.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review: 'Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters'

By Christina Newman

Title: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

Author: Barack Obama
Illistrator: Loren Long
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Recommended? Yes

President Obama hit a home run with this beautifully written book about diversity, togetherness and love. Showing his love for his daughters and the wonderful traits that make up who they are. Giving examples of amazing people throughout history that have exhibited such traits to show them a few of the possibilities of who they may become; Martin Luther King Jr, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Albert Einstein are just a few who were named.
Loren Long delivers amazing illustrations that give a very dream like quality to the book. She offers a creative way for children to envision all the wondrous things they can do if they put their minds to it.

This book gives examples of how amazing people persevered throughout time even though they faced monumental challenges. They fought against the odds to show the world what they could do and in doing so changed the course of history time and time again. Without these people American would not be as great. President Obama is explaining that anyone can do this with enough bravery, creative thinking, honesty and integrity. That you can truly become anything you want to be.

My bottom line - This will become a favorite bedtime story in my home.
Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review: Longing for December

Review By: Dawn Prochilo

Title: Longing for December
Author: Shelia Dawn Burket
Publisher: Self-Published Kindle
Recommend? Yes

My Review: Set in West Virginia, Longing for December, tells a sweet love story over the course of decades. Savanna finds love with Ryan, who has headed off for military boot camp. The separation is hard on the young couple but eventually they find each other, marry and have a family until his untimely death.

Throughout the novella, Savanna has visions of her first love Blake, who reenters the picture after Ryan's passing. Savanna perseveres and discovers her second love of writing and pens a novel of her life and love for Ryan.

This sweet romance is a nice quick read but I would recommend more in-depth description of Savanna and Ryan's love. Nothing tells a love story like the way someone looks at the other, the simple gestures and sentimental words. Burket started to bring the reader into the storyline but she needs to elaborate more making the reader cheer for the heroine, Savanna.

This is Burket's first novella and I, as a published romance author, foresee a future for her.

Longing for December is available in Kindle here.
Friday, January 21, 2011

Computer Product Review: Inspiration 9


Product Name: Inspiration 9

Manufacturer Name: Inspiration Software, Inc.

Retail Price: $39.95 for upgrade; $69 one unit; group or educational prices—see online or local store.

Where to Get It: Online store or retail outlets authorized to sell Inspiration 9.

Sizes/Specifications: Compatible with Mac and Windows

Product Description: Software for learning, planning, organizing, creating.

Recommended? Yes!

Review: As a writer, do you prefer to start a project or paper with a visual focus, a brainstorming session, an outline? If so, Inspiration 9 might be the product for you.

This software enables the user to outline, diagram, mind map and present all in one package.

With a click of your mouse, the varied options are available for personal, business, educational purposes.

Along with user-friendly tutorials, the program contains numerous templates and graphics for diverse needs. Check out the Inspiration website for the current research on the merits of using this visual learning product.

Having purchased and used Inspiration Versions 6 & 8 in settings as a writer, a parent, and as an educator, I have seen growth of creativity and adaptability in this product.

Using the free trial version of Inspiration 9 has reaffirmed my positive impressions of this product.

Give it a try. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Worst Movies of 2010

How can you spot the best movies? They are the ones that are risky, like a cliff-dive into a piranha pool. But Hollywood played it safe in 2010, and the results were tepid.

These are the worst movies of the year -- the movies that should have been good, but weren’t:

3. The American – despite a fantastic opening where George Clooney’s “Jack” mistakenly shoots his girlfriend, the rest of the film disappoints. While building the ultimate, silent weapon, Jack dates a hooker in Italy and waits for the moment of his death, which takes too long.

2. The Tourist – nominated for a Golden Globe in the “musical or comedy” category, when it was neither, this Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie hair-job was limp. When the predictable ending hits, you wish you had seen a real musical or comedy.

1. Inception – the worst movie of 2010 that should have been good is this sleeper. Leonardo DiCaprio’s dream-within-a-dream film went to the third level because I slept through it. But – in the final analysis, it is admirable that this movie was made. It was risky, and will probably leave a lasting memory, for someone.

Let's hope that 2011 is the year Hollywood decides to go fearless and create movies that meet their expectations. And we'll buy the popcorn.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best Movies 2010

Best Movies 2010

Jane Turner

At the Oscars, will Harry Potter charm voters, or will another film reign supreme? In a year where Hollywood excess was slimmed, three films stood out. The top 3 movies of the year 2010 are:

3. 127 HoursJames Franco’s smile fills the gaps in this arm-flinching music video. The story is slight, but perfectly directed by Danny Boyle.

2. The Town – this movie should be the #1 film of the year just for its screen-filling nun action. Ben Affleck directs, co-writes and stars as a brilliant bank robber, but his scenes with Rebecca Hall are unconvincing. Her naiveté reads as stupidity, and the ending is forced, dulling the overall experience.

1. The best movie of the year is The Social Network
– Despite claims this is the best TV miniseries impersonating a big screen movie, this talkie is perfectly crafted. With breathless glee, director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin tell us how the world’s least-social person developed the social network. Along the way, Jesse Eisenberg, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, proves that it’s who you know (Justin Timberlake as King Maker Sean Parker) that counts as much as what you steal.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2010’s Best Computer Product Review: iPad

Reviewed by Patricia Anne McGoldrick                                                                                                                  

Product Name: iPad

Manufacturer Name: Apple

Retail Price: $499. U.S. and up

Where to Get It: online store; local stores that sell Mac products


Product Description: Tablet computer

Recommended? Yes

For a 2010 best product, I did not have to think twice—the Apple iPad was #1 for me!
This product has so many positive features:
o   Size--Light, slim, portable.
o   Ease of use with touch and accessible keyboard.
o   Capability—online, communications, wordprocessing, email.
o   Extensions—Apps available online at iTunes, everything from music to lectures to games; some free, some for a fee
o   Energy—easy to recharge
o   Support—available on website in the usual Apple quality way.
One of the  features that most appeals to me as a writer, is the portability of my iPad. I can relocate to continue writing poetry, articles, even reviews. Also, it is convenient to check for messages as the day passes.
Various types of Apps aid in creativity, research, writing environment. I have paid a small fee to download the Pages App which is more than adequate for my daily writing. Templates are available plus, photos and charts can be added as you wish. It is also possible for me to update my blog posts, add photos, communicate . The social media platform is at my fingertips, literally.
One negative aspect is the price; however, that has already declined from when the iPad was first issued.
Overall, the iPad is an excellent resource for easy access to social media & off-line writing work as well.
2011 promises even more for iPad users as the second version of iPad is released with some new  & improved functions. Excited to see this new version, but for now, I am quite content with this amazing product!
Tags: 2010’s Best
Monday, January 10, 2011

2010's Best Baby Product Review: Aveeno Baby Lotion

by Alyssa Ast

Product: Aveeno Baby Lotion

•Fragrance Free
•Pediatrician Recommended
•Moisturizes For 24 Hours
•Helps Heal & Protect Delicate Skin

Price: Varies according to size

Recommendation? Yes


First off, let me say I LOVE Aveeno baby lotion. Most baby lotion lasts for a very short period of time because it is so thin and runny. But, not the Aveeno baby lotion. This lotion is very thick and creamy and really does last 24 hours. I use it on all 4 of my kids every night after their baths and in the morning, their skin is just as soft as it was when I first put it on. Plus, it works so well the entire family can use it, which I have never been able to say about any other baby lotion before.

The Aveeno baby lotion works great for my kids who have eczema. My oldest son's face becomes very, very chapped really easily, and this lotion works very well to heal his face. It works very well for healing any severely dry skin.

While there are fragrance free forms of this lotion, they also have calming fragrances, such as lavender. I love the lavender form because it is not overpowering and the smell lasts for quite sometime, leaving the kids smelling great.

I highly recommended this lotion for anyone with a baby and even for those that don't have one. This is a great family product.

Join us all week for a recap of our reviewers top 2010 picks!
Thursday, January 6, 2011

Baby Product Review: Cosco Beep Beep Walker

by Alyssa Ast

Product: Beep Beep Walker
Manufacturer: Cosco

•Manufacturer Suggested Age: 6 Months and Up
•Features: Padded Seat, Adjustable Height, Squeaking Horn
•Material: Plastic, Metal
•Care and Cleaning: Machine Wash
•Minimum Weight Supported: 5.0 Lb.
•Maximum Weight Capacity: 30.0 Lb.
•Certifications: JPMA Certified
•Dimensions: Height: 22.5 "; Width: 24.0 "; Depth: 28.1 "
•Product Weight: 10.0 Lb.

Price: Around $30.00

Recommended: For the money, yes


I recently received the Cosco Beep Beep Walker for my 7 month old son. It is very cute and even has a steering wheel with a beep beep horn. With 3 kids, I have had a couple of walkers and out of them all (all Cosco brands) I would have to say this is my least favorite. Most of the walkers I have had adjust lower down than this one does so it leaves my little guy's feet dangling. I don't like how close they placed the steering wheel to the seat because it irritates his chest so I have to wrap a blanket around his tummy to keep the pressure off of it. He becomes bored easily because the activities really aren't that amusing.

Now, I do like the overall look of the walker. It is very cute and neutral gender. The wheels do slide well so that is a good thing for when he gets a little older, although I will have to chase him more. The toy tray is removable, which will be the perfect snack tray for when he is older. Because it is adjustable, it can grow with him as his legs get longer, even if it is too short for him now. I love the little steering wheel with the horn despite the fact it is in an awkward position.

Overall, I would say, for this price, I would recommend this walker, but if you have more money to spend I would suggest getting a different one. But for the most part, it serves it's purpose well.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Review: 'Badass'

By: Christina Newman

Title: BADASS: A Hard-Earned Guide to Living Life with Style and (the Right) Attitude

Author: Shannen Doherty
Publisher: Random House, Inc
Recommended? Yes

The world has thousands of self help books but none (that I have found) hold a torch to BADASS by Shannen Doherty.

While other self help guides out there dance around the issues or bury them under large words that intimidate the reader, Shannen successfully explains how to be the person you truly want to be. She does not sugar coat, allow excuses or try to justify her own past and explains why you shouldn't either.

BADASS not only helps you dig through the vast sea of self help garbage, it takes you to a whole new level. Giving the reader steps (simple yet difficult) to follow. Shannen puts herself out there, opening herself up for all the world to see. Trying to help her fans understand that she is simply human with her own set of insecurities just like them.

This book is inspirational while being funny and straightforward. Shannen gives tips, quotes and even recipes to start you off down the road to self love. She explains the do's, don't and differences in being badass or simply a b****. She believes that understanding the differences will help you better understand your own behavior and therefor giving you the ability to change negative behavior.

What's wrong with the book? Shannen's overuse of the word badass is the only thing that comes to mind.

My bottom line - Add this book to your collection and reference it any time you catch yourself straying from your true potential as a person. It will provide clarity and a smile.
Monday, January 3, 2011

Product Review: Modern Family, The Complete First Season DVD Set

By Pam Houghton

Title: Modern Family, The Complete First Season DVD Set
Genre: Situational family comedy on ABC
Cast: See summary
Price: Currently available for $29.99 on Amazon, though my daughter purchased it at Target for $19.99.
Recommended: YES!

Summary from the DVD set: "Come join the family for the hilarious and critically acclaimed breakout hit of the year! Featuring an all-star cast led by Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vargara, Julie Bowen, and Ty Burrell, Modern Family takes a refreshing and funny view of what it means to raise a family in this hectic day and age. Multi-cultural relationships, adoption, and same-sex marriage are just a few of the timely issues faced by the show’s three wildly-diverse broods. No matter the size or shape, family always comes first in this hilariously 'modern' look at life, love, and laughter."

My review: My daughter, husband and I became big fans of Modern Family by watching the second season currently airing on ABC, Wednesdays at 9:00pm.

We weren't aware of the show's charms right away, so we missed much of season one. Thankfully, the 4-disc set was released last September. With a recent purchase of the DVD set over Christmas break, we've been able to catch up on on this terrific show.

If you haven't seen Modern Family but love shows about family based on truth, awkwardness and humor, The Complete First Season is worth the time you'll spend watching over 20 episodes, outtakes and extended scenes. It's absolutely wonderful, starting with the first show in which modern dad Phil Dunphy, played by Ty Burrell, talks about his "peerenting" - a unique parenting style that blends parenting with an ability to relate to his kids' peers; and ending with the last show of the season, a two-parter about an extended family trip to Hawaii that results in some surprising moments.

All the characters seem real. I can relate to Phil Dunphy's desire to be both parent and friend to his kids, which sometimes results in a hilarious lack of follow through when it comes to discipline. The show never mocks; it just mirrors back to us our own humanity when it comes to creating and keeping our families intact.

Strengths: the acting, writing, humor and truth!

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