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.

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: ★★★★★

15 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Tombow Mono Professional Drawing Pencil Set, 6 Pencils and Mono Zero Eraser, 2H, HB/B/2B/4B/6B Degrees (61002)

My 11-year-old daughter has really gotten into sketching recently and has gone through several different drawing pencils – starting with the yellow wood school pencils and finally settling on the Tombow brand. I ordered these for her to add to her art arsenal and this is one we don’t regret. They are fabulous for getting clean smooth lines, they do NOT smudge (how do they DO that?!?!). The awesome part is the eraser. It’s tiny. No, it’s TEENY-TINY – which simply means that’s awesome.

The eraser that comes in this set is pretty small, we have a separate eraser pen thing that she uses and it’s fantastic for getting into those small spaces in your sketch to eraser something. The downside is because they ARE so small, you go through them pretty quickly, but that’s the price we pay for art, I suppose.

Recommended for artists that can draw a mean wolf :)

Description:
At Tombow, we’re passionate about offering the finest and most innovative executive pens, office, arts and crafts products on the market today. The Tombow MONO professional drawing pencil is the ultimate instrument for drawing and drafting. It features superior extra-refined, high-density graphite, high point strength, and is break-resistant. With the MONO drawing pencil you will get smear proof lines for crisp, clean drawing combined with slow wear for smooth, dense writing. Fourteen different degrees of hardness are available so there is MONO pencil for every drawing need. We know your projects are important to you. That’s why Tombow art products are designed to last a lifetime.

Rating: ★★★★★

13 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

CrossWays: The Path to Victory is Not Always a Straight Line

I grabbed my kids and said “Let’s play!”. I have an 11, 13 and 15-year-old. Now that they are older, board games are more fun because we’re not endlessly playing Candy Land. This is a great game for pre-teen through senior because the directions are pretty easy (once you figure out what they are saying, it’s very easy to play) and it’s not a super long game. We played three rounds and it took about 40 minutes. It is a game of strategy, and a little luck. It reminds me of Connect Four a bit.

All of us enjoyed it and we’ll pull it out of the game night cabinet again, for sure. There’s enough strategy that you can play it over and over again and still have fun. The downside is that if you want to get your kids to hang out with you for more than hour, this isn’t the way to do it. After a few rounds, it loses its luster and it’s time to move on.

Having said that, this is definitely staying in the game cabinet, we had a great time and it’s a fabulous way to turn off the televisions, computers and phones and spend a little time together. It’s amazing the things we talk about during family pizza and game night at my house.

Recommended for everyone that loves board games.

Description:
In CrossWays players want to be the first to build a path of their pieces from one side of the game board to the opposite side, but to build they need to use the cards they draw and have in hand.On a turn, a player can lay down a single card (e.g., a red 9) and place one of their pieces on this space on the game board; she can also lay down a pair of cards with the same value and place two of her pieces in a stack on any space, including the white ones that are otherwise off-limits. If a player has two pieces in a row on a stack, no one else can play on top of that stack but by playing a suited run of cards, a player can remove pieces already on the board, putting those spaces into play once again.

Rating: ★★★★☆

11 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

myCharge Amp Max Rechargeable 6000 mAh Battery (AM60K-A)

I’m a myCharge fan. Over the years, I’ve purchased several myCharge products. My favorite ones have the built in cords so you don’t have to worry about being without a charging cord. I was hesitant to try this one because I’m pretty much married to that mobile battery. My entire family has various mobile chargers (why is that teens can NOT remember to charge their precious phones?!?!?) so we’re very familiar with all types of these.

Overall, we liked the quality and the size. It was perfect for tossing into a kid’s backpack when heading out for the day, knowing they would be able to charge their phone to get in touch with us after spending hours on a bus, watching videos on it. What really impressed us, though… the time. Man, this thing charges pretty quickly for such a small device! A phone from completely discharged to fully charged took less than two hours.

When I go to week long conference, I always take two mobile chargers, they are great for your tablet/phone while taking notes or whatever else you may be doing. Conferences are usually very long days, at least 12 hours. So having this with you makes you not only the smart girl for not having to hunt down a preciously few outlet, but it also helps strike up conversations. Several times, I’ve sat down at a table and had someone there hunting for an outlet (to no avail) and offered to let them juice up their device with my mobile charger. It’s a great ice-breaker to conversation.

But, bottom line? This thing just works. If you want more power, look at the 9000 mAh Power Bank by this same company, but for quick on-the-go charging, this can’t be beat.

Recommended for everyone that’s ever had to say “oh darn, my battery is dead!”

Description:
The my Charge Amp Max Rechargeable 6000 mash Battery delivers 2.4A output via USB port. Pre-charged and ready to use, the Amp Max has Peak Power Technology that draws maximum power from your power source. The High Density Battery Technology gives you more power in a smaller footprint. Smart sense Technology, identifies and charges any device. Four-light LED battery indicator shows how much power you have left. A convenient built-in flashlight is built into the Amp Max. Premium soft-touch finish. Recharge cable included.

Rating: ★★★★☆

16 July 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Inateck Compact Kindle Paperwhite Cover Microfibril PU Leather Protection Cover Case – Sleep Mode Control Through Magnetic Induction for New 2014 & 2013 & 2012 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 6″ 3G / Wi-Fi + 3G – Simple & Lightweight – Black (will only fit Amazon Kindle Paperwhite)

I have a Kindle cover made by Amazon that turns it on when you open it and I adore it. My daughter has coveted it for a while, but they are pricey so we just haven’t gotten around to purchasing one for her. When I saw this cover, I knew I had to have it for her.

What a great deal this thing is! The price is amazing for the quality. No, it’s no QUITE as good of quality as mine is for my Paperwhite, but this thing is really close. Compared to the Amazon one, this one would work just fine. Mainly because most folks upgrade every two or three years and this cover should last at least that long, if not a little longer. I was really surprised at the quality for the price and, honestly, next time I need to order a cover for my own, I’d look at this company. You can’t beat the bang for the buck or the quality.

Of course, the sleep mode and turn on feature are always appreciated. I guess I have fumbling fingers because I can never find the little button, especially in the dark (and I read a LOT at night). Honestly, my daughter nor I can remember the last time we had to find the on button for my Kindle because these covers have us totally spoiled.

As far as protection goes, it’s sturdy, has a nice soft interior (that doesn’t seem to shed, I have been using it for a month now and no shedding yet – will update it if it starts doing it, but my experience has been that it usually starts right away).

Highly recommended for those with a Paperwhite looking for a good, sturdy protective cover (the fun colors don’t hurt either!). You can’t go wrong here.

Description:
Color: Black

High quality craftsmanship using sturdy Microfibril PU Leather Cover Case, effective protection of your Kindle screen
The surface of this Inateck Kindle cover is made using fine and high quality Microfibril PU Leathe, it is dirt-repellent, water and sweat resistant. The material feels comfortable and natural to the touch, possible friction between screen and cover surface is minimised. Your Kindle is thoroughly protected when choosing this protection cover.

Better Together
The cover automatically puts your Paperwhite to sleep when it is closed and wakes your device upon opening making it so easy to jump back into your latest book. The magnetic button ensured that the cover remains firmly shut, but can be opened without much effort, without using cumbersome hooks or nubs. Closing and opening can be realised effortless, while your Paperwhite is effectively protected from most external adversities, be it at home, abroad or in the office.

On the Go
Thin, Simple & Lightweight, Compact and durable, this cover is perfect for taking Kindle Paperwhite wherever you go. When you are finished enjoying your content, simply close the cover to put your Kindle Paperwhite to sleep and you are good to go. The integrated magnetic closure will ensure your cover stays shut while in a backpack, purse, or briefcase.

Lose Yourself in Your Reading
its precise, form-fitting frame ensures a seamless fit, allowing you to focus on reading without being distracted. Reliable enough to endure long-time use, so you can get lost in your reading.

Rating: ★★★★☆

14 July 2014 ~ 0 Comments

DEWALT DW317SA Corded Jig Saw and Sheet Sander Combo Kit

We recently started renovating out house. This meant we needed some new tools. My husband had a little hand sander and a hand-me-down jigsaw from his father. Neither we really up to the task.

The sheet sander in particular was a very nice upgrade. The vacuum attachment is very handy in keeping the dust down, and even just when using the included bag we notice a huge difference.

The jigsaw is also very easy to use. His old jigsaw required a fulll set of tools just to replace the blade for different jobs, the keyless replacement is much easier and a lot less confusing.

Overall: 4 stars. Probably not great for everyday use, but for home DIY, this set was a perfect match.

Description:
What’s in the Box:

  • (1) DW317 compact jig saw
  • (1) D26441 sheet sander
  • (1) Dust bag with vacuum adapter
  • (1) Sandpaper punch

DEWALT DW317SA Corded Jig Saw and Sheet Sander Combo Kit
The DEWALT DW317SA combo kit features the DW317 corded orbital jig saw and the D26441 1/4 sheet palm grip sander. These two tools are designed for precision and accuracy with innovative features that allow for easy control in a variety of projects around the house. This kit would make a great addition to any woodworker or DIYer’s tool collection.

D26441 1/4 Sheet Palm Grip Sander
The 1/4 sheet palm grip sander features a 2.4-amp motor that sands at 14,000 opm, providing a superior finish. It has a textured anti-slip top and body grip that provides ultimate comfort and control during use. The dust-sealed switch protects against dust ingestion for longer switch life, and the sealed 100% ball-bearing construction provides longer life. This sander offers a dual plane, counter-balanced low-vibration design to reduce user fatigue. A high capacity dust bag with built-in vacuum adapter provides maximum dust collection with or without a vacuum. The kit comes with a dust bag as well as a sandpaper punch.

DW317 Compact Jig Saw
The compact jig saw features a 5.5-amp motor that delivers powerful cuts in the hardest materials. The jig saw provides users with an easy-to-control saw ideal for detailed work and curved cuts that require real precision. Make fast, accurate work of tough jobs with variable-speed control, a shoe that bevels, and the saw’s four-position orbital action. The jig saw’s variable-speed control allows the user to make quick, accurate adjustments and utilize speeds ranging from 0 to 3,100 strokes per minute. The saw delivers a 1-inch stroke length and its dependable 5.5-amp motor provides the power needed for tough applications. For quick blade changes, this jig saw has a keyless blade clamp which allows for changes without touching blade or reciprocating shaft.

This easy-to-maneuver jig saw weighs just 6.2 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it compromises on dependability or comfort. An all-metal gear case provides the durability necessary in a professional shop environment, while a comfortable grip allows the user to work longer and produce work with precision. All of these features work together to provide better control over the tool and work pieces.

Rating: ★★★★☆