Hi, my name is Candy in Austin, TX and this my blog to rave (and sometimes rant) about books, movies, products, services or just whatever strikes my fancy. I love when people comment on my blog, so feel free to agree or disagree or maybe I inspired you to try something?

Disclaimer: I do get some of these books/products for free for doing an honest review. Yes, those are affiliate links and I could be compensated if you purchase through them. It\'s always small and it always goes to my kids college funds.

12 September 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Mini-Rewards Lamb Formula Semi-Moist Dog Treat

I shared these with a friend of mine’s dogs. My dogs are smaller than hers and loved them as well, but this is what she had to say about them:

My dogs will eat just about anything unfortunately they also have some crazy allergies such as chicken, duck and turkey. Finding dog treats with reasonably natural ingredients is relatively easy to find but finding treats with no chicken is difficult. When I found these I was excited to try them since the puppy is in training and I like to reward him with treats occasionally.

These treats are small and my dogs are medium and large so it’s just a little taste for them. They are great for training so we’ll definitely be using them for that. As far as an everyday treat these are pretty small so it’s not so much a treat for them as a swallow.

I’m picky about ingredients and watch their food closely so these are a winner in that regard. Their usually treats are ice cubes (they love them) and vegetables from the fridge but those are a little harder to carry around when working on obedience.

The real test for me is smell and feel. These don’t have a bad odor and they aren’t slimy (another issue I’ve had with other dog treats that were chicken-free). They are moist so be sure to store them out of heat and direct light, they will mold and get hard.

Recommended for training sessions and pet owners who are picky about their dog’s food.

Description:
These delicious Mini-Rewards turn anytime into treat time and help keep training fun and healthy! Natural Balance Mini-Rewards are a great way to reward and motivate your dog while helping your dog stay healthy, balanced and trim. Natural Balance Mini-Rewards are made with high quality proteins for the delicious taste they love and are less than 5 calories per treat. Formulated without corn, wheat, artificial flavors or colors.

Ingredients
Lamb, Brown Rice Flour, Dried Potatoes, Water, Dried Sweet Potatoes, Vegetable Glycerin, Sucrose, Cane Molasses, Natural Flavor (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Gelatin, Salt, Salmon Oil, Phosphoric Acid, Sorbic Acid (preservative), Mixed Tocopherols (preservative), Citric Acid (preservative), Rosemary Extract.

Directions
This product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.

Rating: ★★★★★

10 September 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Guest Post by John DiRicco, Author of Through

Why did you decide to become a writer?

There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet. It is amazing to me that these 26 letters can (through hard work, inspiration, and sometimes maybe a little luck) be arranged into words, and those words into sentences, in such a way that moves a reader (or listener) to laugh, think, get angry, or cry. And sometimes all at the same time. Words can stand forever. Writing is so hard to do, and often frustrating to try, but there’s something about trying to find those words.

Your book “Through” is set in purgatory. How did you approach writing about a place like this?

I understand the religious connotation the word “purgatory” has, but I did not approach my story necessarily from that perspective. There are hints of that in my story, but I was interested in writing about the idea of atoning for the sins one commits during his or her life. Is there a price to pay for how you live your life? Who might make that judgement? And what if you can, after you die, still be forgiven for your sins? And the concept of a purgatory seems rather scary – a limbo that one may or may not ever leave, like an open prison of some sort.

How can readers identify with a character in purgatory?

I think readers can identify with the characters in this story because we are all flawed. No one is perfect, and while readers might not have committed sins as grievous as the characters in this story, they can ask themselves: “Would I have done the same thing if I found myself in a certain situation?”

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is John DiRicco, and I was born and raised in Munhall, Pennsylvania. My schooling (St. Therese, Central Catholic High School, Duquesne University) kept me close to home, which was a great thing as I remained close to my family and met my future wife at Duquesne. We’ve been happily married since 2003 and live in the Pittsburgh area.

About the Book:
Is it too late, even after death, to save yourself? This is the only question worth answering for Thomas when he wakes up dead and in purgatory. He is perhaps trapped in this dismal world, with only fellow liars, thieves and sinners to turn to as he seeks an answer. One person seems to know a way out, but can Thomas trust her? Or anyone here? Or himself? The individuals he meets in purgatory are damaged and guilty. All are here for a reason, but few show just one shade. And some seek only damnation for themselves and others. There is not much time. Most succumb, sooner rather than later, to the pull below the surface. In this world, Thomas is both his own biggest weakness…and only hope.

Rating: ★★★★★

Book count for 2014: 00

08 September 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Kobi Electric K7L6 12-watt (60-Watt) PAR30 LED 3000K Warm White Outdoor Flood Light Bulb, Non-Dimmable

My family has always been fairly energy conscious. We first switched to CFL bulbs a few years back but the lack of instant on, long warm up time, and the upfront cost has constantly disillusioned us. About 6 months ago we started transitioning to LED bulbs in the house, but this is our first exterior lamp purchase.

Is it instant on? Yes.
Does it have to warm up? Nope.
And I would have to say that the light quality is just as good as the incandescent bulb it replaced.

But is it worth paying 12x the cost of a similar incandescent?

Well, obviously I haven’t had this bulb that long, but looking at the warranty and the ratings:

Kobi LED: 12 watts
Competitor Incandescent: 60 watts

Are you really going to notice $3 a year (or so) in energy savings? (Maybe, maybe not)

Kobi LED: 25,000 hours
Competitor Incandescent: 2,000 hours

Even if you don’t save any money on electricity, the two pretty much break even.

Where I see the biggest advantage is in security and convenience: If you leave this light on for 9 hours every night you should not have to replace it for almost 8 years. Mine is only on when it is needed, maybe 4 hours a night, max. If everything go right, this bulb could last as long at 20 years. My grandparents talked about bulbs that last this long, but I’ve certain never seen one.

But I’m looking forward to it!

Description:
The Kobe Electric PAR30L LED light bulb produces 700 lumens which makes it the ideal replacement for a 60-watt halogen light bulb. Being UL approved for wet locations, it is ideal for the outdoor application where it is exposed to rain or snow. Not all PAR30L LED bulbs are UL approved for wet locations, Consumers beware. This is the perfect PAR30L LED for outdoor security lighting or outdoor spot lighting. Designed by KOBI in Texas to deliver maximum value at an affordable price. We stand behind our products with a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty – if you are less than completely satisfied, we will make it right. Let us know by calling 800-505-2106 or email: helpdeskatkobielectric.com.

Rating: ★★★★☆

05 September 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

As a kid I took up archery for a few years with my father. 20 years later, I picked up the Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster. I have to say it is fun to play with, but has very little in common with the real thing.

Feel: Unlike a lot of Nerf’s blasters, the ThunderBow feels like a toy. The balance feels off and it isn’t easy to carry. Firing position is easily held though, and the grip is good for right- or left-handed people. When pulling back to fire I was always a little worried: Far enough to fire? Go too far and the arms feel a little creaky. There is a green indicator for when it is “just right” but it isn’t readily apparent.

Looks: I think it looks pretty cool, but once again, but you have to suspend a lot of disbelief to see it as a “blaster”.

Range: Raising the firing angle, you can easily get 90 to 100 feet.

Accuracy: Accuracy was definitely worse than the last Nerf model I tried out. At 40 feet I consistently hit within 3 feet of my target. 30 feet was not much better. I feel that the larger projectiles and the “whistle effect” really kill the accuracy on this model.

Things I liked:
- While it may (or may not) effect accuracy, the whistle effect is cool.
- It definitely has a different look than other blasters.
-Rapid fire of the individual darts.
-Five extra projectiles

Things I didn’t like:
- Watch out for the string! It may not be a real bow, but if you hit your forearm enough times it starts to sting.
- No place to store the extra projectiles.
- No way to easy reload all 5 darts.

Overall: 3 stars. Interesting idea, I can definitely see that it has a place in some peoples Nerf arsenal.

Description:
Experience the excitement, energy, and attitude of the Nerf brand, and find out why it’s nerf or nothing. Nerf N-Strike Mega blasters feature bigger darts for bigger battles! Take aim with the Nerf ThunderBow blaster that features real bow action, and let the darts fly with the first Nerf Mega bow!

  • Mega ThunderBow blaster has real bow action and flexing bow arms
  • Fires up to 100 feet
  • Includes 10 Mega Darts
  • Fires 5 Mega Darts at a time without reloading
  • Mega Darts scream through the air

Rating: ★★★☆☆

03 September 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Nerf Elite 2-in-1 Demolisher

I have to say, the pictures do not do this “blaster” justice. It is big and looks impressive, even in the hands of an adult!

Looks: As stated above: Impressive! The bright orange still keeps it from looking too real, but you feel pretty invulnerable holding this thing.

Comfort: I would say this is just right for a medium size 11 to 13 year old. The stock is a little too short for adult arms, but the hand grip is too large for smaller children. The children pictured on the Amazon page are just right.

Range: You can definitely get 90 feet out of the small darts by raising your firing angle. The “missile” We were able to get 50 feet. However, these are maximum ranges with the darts that come with the blaster. You can forget about accuracy at that range.

Accuracy: After getting used to the “Missile” we were able to consistently get within a foot of the target at 40 feet. The standard darts were spot on target at 30 feet, at 40 feet 8 out of 10 were on target. At 50 feet 5 out of 10 were within 1 foot of the target. Overall, I consider this a fairly accurate blaster with good range.

Extra goodness:
- Extra missile
- Storage for missile in the stock
- Dual trigger safety feature
- Clip has to be inserted for triggers to work

Questionables:
- Banana clip unnecessarily large for 10 darts max capacity
- Loading the missile is not easy or intuitive

(Note: Do not try to load the missile while holding the blaster in firing position, the fins can be separated from the missile by the missile barrel if you aren’t careful.)

Overall: 4 stars. Impressive looking and fun. The missile is a nice addittion. (Makes me think of the pulse rifle from Aliens.)

Description:
Experience the excitement, energy, and attitude of the Nerf brand, and find out why It’s Nerf or Nothin’. Nerf N-Strike Elite blasters from Hasbro deliver the ultimate in blaster performance for your Nerf blaster battles, with upgraded distance and the revolutionary Elite dart. Take aim with the Nerf N-Strike Elite Demolisher 2-in-1 blaster and unleash motorized dart blasting and pump-fire missiles!

  • Demolisher 2-in-1 blaster fires darts, missiles, or both up to 90 feet
  • Motorized dart blasting and pump-action missile blasting
  • Acceleration trigger powers up the motor
  • 10-dart banana clip
  • Detachable stock with integrated missile storage

Rating: ★★★★☆

27 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Guest Post by Connie Knight, Author of Chances Choices Changes Death

Tell us about yourself.
I’m Connie Knight, and I write cozy mysteries. That’s the key to my life at this time. I’m a novelist at last, something I’ve always wanted but couldn’t find time to create.

I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and our family made frequent visits to other branches of the family who lived in the country nearby. Cozy mysteries, like those written by Agatha Christie, are set in small towns, or manors, instead of cities. Mine are set in small towns in Texas, or ranches—large or small. I draw upon the childhood memories of visits to the country, even though by now things have changed.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Writing is part of who I am. I love to read and write, and have done it forever. I started writing in grade school and continued it into college, where I majored in English literature, Creative Writing, and journalism. Journalism was my career. Lately, I’ve returned to fiction writing, that is, mystery novels, which I love.

Tell us about your cozy mysteries. Where can we find them?
I enjoy working on the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery series, with two books published and a third in progress. I’ll stay with the series. I like the setting and the population I’ve developed, with a chance to bring in new characters and find new problems for Caroline to solve.

Cemetery Whites is the debut mystery novel. Caroline Hargrove Hamilton is the heroine, the amateur sleuth solving the puzzles in her small town in the country. She and her cousin Janet find Professor Harrison lying dead in their family cemetery. He’s lying close to the hidden grave of a victim shot in 1875. They solve two problems, from 2010 and 1875.

The sequel, Chances Choices Changes Death, is set on a large ranch where Caroline and Janet are taking Western horse riding lessons so they can ride in the September trail. A single mother who lives on the ranch is found dead on the side of the country road, and her young son is missing. The book plot and subplots are intertwined, and Caroline and Janet become involved with episodes on the ranch. Many things happen. Caroline’s childhood English riding helps her get her Western horse to jump a fence and chase an ornery bull into the right pasture—one episode I enjoy reviewing.

Tell us about your work in progress.
The third cozy mystery is underway. Caroline and Bob Bennett are planning a wedding, and Caroline’s daughter arrives in DeWitt County. She’s a new character. She’s broken up with her boyfriend, lost her job, and run out of money. She decides to stay in the country and go into organic small farming. She’s funny.

Do you think your readers are going to enjoy your third book?
I enjoy writing it. I choose a setting, a family of characters, a main plot and subplots, and other things pulled from memory or found in research. When I start writing, a certain amount of humor develops. I’m having fun putting the chapters together, and it’s interesting to unravel the mystery, solve the puzzle, and laugh at certain people and events.

If an unpublished author asked you to give them one piece of advice, what would it be?
That’s a hard question to answer, because the advice might need to be different for one writer than another. What kind of book have you written? What is the market for it, what publisher would be interested in what you have produced? I might not have a good answer.

Why should readers read your book?
Those who enjoy books by Agatha Christie, or who watched Murder She Wrote on TV, might like my books. They set murder puzzles to be solved, an element of the cozy mystery. Cemetery Whites dips into Texas history, and Chances Choices Changes Death is set on a large cattle ranch with trips to small ranches and small towns, too.

What else can you tell us about your books?
Both of them are eBooks published recently by Maple Creek Media. They’re available Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online sources. The price is $4.95. You can find out more on my websites:
www.connieknightbooks.com
www.connieknightmysterywriter.com
www.independentauthornetwork.com/connie-knight-html

Description:
About the Author:
Connie Knight grew up in San Antonio, Texas, with many childhood visits to her family in DeWitt County. Cemetery Whites is based on memories and stories shared, but all characters in this mystery novel are fictional, and so are the events.

Ms. Knight began writing in junior high, studied English and journalism in college, and worked for newspapers, magazines, and public relations departments. Cemetery Whites is her first Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery novel, followed recently by Chances Choices Changes Death.

About the Book:
Myra Cade is a single mother, living with her father, Doug, and raising her son, Scott. She mostly keeps to herself and really has no time for anyone else. But shortly after serving paternity papers to Danny, the suspected father of Scott, she’s found dead at the side of the road in the country. Caroline and her cousin Janet, who are taking Western riding lessons at the nearby Robinson Ranch, find themselves drawn into the murder investigation and looking for the missing boy and the murderer.

25 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Natural Balance Pumpkin and Chicken Meal Formula with Papaya Dental Chews for Small to Medium Dogs, 13-Ounce

My dogs love chewy things and I love the idea of not brushing their teeth. In fact, I hate brushing their teeth and even though the vet says we should, I will admit that we rarely do. I’m sorry, but I’m just NOT going to make it part of my nightly routine. It just ain’t not happening over here, folks.

My terrier/dachshund isn’t really picky so he LOVES these things. He’ll do anything for them, sit, shake, even do his little 360 turn dance on his hind legs. My female chihuahua turned her nose up to them, but she turns her nose up at everything unless it’s a nice brie or sharp cheddar cheese because she’s a diva. BUT the real test of a doggie treat is my male chihuahua. HE loved them too. I gave it to him and sniffed, grabbed it and hid under the table. I found him with it standing up between his paws and he was happily gnawing away.

I was pretty happy with the ingredient list and the packaging was easy to open and reseal. A great find and one I suspect we’ll be purchasing on a regular basis. I like pumpkin in my dog’s diets, it seems to help keep their digestive systems working well.

Recommended for dogs that like chewy treats and pet owners that like to spoil their pups.

Description:
Natural Balance Dental Chews are scientifically formulated to encourage your dog’s natural chewing instinct, to help support healthy teeth and gums.

  • Helps Reduce Plaque & Tartar; Unique grooves encourage healthy chewing action and the removal of plaque & tartar
  • Easy to Digest; Formulated to support easy chewing and digestion
  • Helps Freshen Breath; The mechanical chewing action helps remove plaque & tartar that may cause bad breath
  • With Antioxidant Nutrient; Vitamin C, a key antioxidant nutrient, is added to help support immune function

Ingredients
Pumpkin, Potato Starch, Chicken Meal, Glycerin, Papaya, Natural Chicken Flavor, Lecithin, Beta-Carotene (color), Parsley, Alfalfa, Sorbic Acid (preservative), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C).

Rating: ★★★★☆

22 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Book Giveaway: Ashlynn’s Dreams by Julie Gilbert

Author, Julie Gilbert, is giving away 10 audiobook copies of her book, Ashlynn’s Dreams. To enter, post a comment below that you are interested. The contest will end Friday, August 29.

Julie’s 2014 Goal | Give Back + Raise Money: Charities

Description:
Before she was kidnapped, Jillian Marie Antel Blairington was just an average bright, brave, headstrong child. She was excited for life in a new house with her Momma and new Daddy. Afterward, she’s all that … and so much more.

Held in a scientific facility, Jillian discovers her past-a family she never knew and a power she doesn’t understand. With her ability now activated, she can enter and even shape a person’s dreams. Jillian’s been kidnapped, and her Gift has been triggered, so she can locate and save Benjamin Connelly, a brother she never even knew she had. She’d better master this strange ability quickly, though, because her life isn’t the only one at stake. Her babysitter, Danielle Matheson, is being held as a hostage to ensure Jillian’s full cooperation. Slowly, Jillian begins to learn more about her captor and the other genetically altered children held at the facility.

Join Jillian as she tries to survive the training being forced upon her, find her unknown brother, escape with Danielle, and work her way back to a normal life once more.

20 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Case Logic Samsung Galaxy S4 EXTREME 2-Piece Case – Retail Packaging – Black/Red

We bought this case for my nephew. He can be pretty hard on phones and we wanted to get something that would protect the phone but still be stylish and easy for him to use.

Looks: The case looks great. The red and black combination was stylish but colorful enough that the phone could easy be seen when he put it down on his desk or at the table.

Feel: The case feels a little cheap. It definitely did not feel sturdy prior to putting it on the phone. Even after, you really didn’t feel like you were holding a $300 piece of equipment. However, it did give good grip on the phone.

Functionality: This was the killer in the end for my nephew. The case covers the buttons and just ended up making them too hard to use. No one wants to sit and fiddle with the power button or the volume controls. You just want the screen to turn on.

In the end, he took the cover off because it was too much hassle. (And yes, ended up breaking the phone…but that is a story for another review.)

Overall: 3 stars. Not bad for the money, but don’t expect high end features or functionality.

Description:
Layers of color and texture combine with a tailored fit for ultimate protection and style. Rubber silicone base cushions phone while rigid shell protects device from bumps and scratches. Full access to all buttons and ports keep you connected and able to use your phone’s many capabilities.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

18 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4640 Wireless and WiFi Direct, All-in-One Color Inkjet Printer, Copier, Scanner, 2-Sided Auto Duplex, ADF, Fax. Prints from Tablet/Smartphone. AirPrint Compatible. (C11CD11201)

In our home and office we use our printer for many things:

1.) I use it for work and I usually need what I print quickly.
2.) My husband prints things for his classes at school, so the ink can’t be too expensive.
3.) The kids use it for more things than I thought possible, both color and black and white.

We use the printer wirelessly over our wifi. Even though it is the furthest device from the router, it has not had a single problem with communication: each print job goes through seamlessly. Speaking of wifi: the setup was very simple through the large touch screen. Follow the instructions and done.

Speedwise: As I said, I am often printing on the run. I am used to the slow inkjets from the past, and the 4640 really surprised me. At standard settings the printer easily spits out 20 black and white pages in less than a minute.

Flexibility: We use many different types of paper and materials to print. The 4640 has two feeder trays and a rear feeder as well. We have printed on several types of paper, card stock, and even printable plastic sheets with no bleeding of color or deformation of the page.

Ink storage: The 4640 uses 4 different ink tanks, so you can replace all or just one as required. The tanks are also large, so you should not have to be replacing them very often.

Scanning: You have a couple of options when it comes to scanning. You can scan to an inserted usb drive or to a computer on the network. Scanning can be a little slow, but it really depends on the user to select the correct settings.

Overall: 5 stars. This is a flexible machine that is great in a small office or busy home environment.

Description:

  • Get Performance Beyond Laser with the WorkForce Pro WF-4640, powered by PrecisionCore
  • Speed through any project – professional-quality prints at speeds of 20 ISO ppm (black) and 20 ISO ppm (color)
  • Save up to 50 percent lower printing cost vs. color laser
  • Remarkable durability – 30,000 page monthly duty cycle for high-volume printing
  • Print anywhere, anytime – from iPad, iPhone, tablets and smartphones; includes wireless and Wi-Fi Direct

Rating: ★★★★★