Review: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Photo: http://www.dreamworkstv.com/shows/she-ra-and-the-princesses-of-power/

Photo: http://www.dreamworkstv.com/shows/she-ra-and-the-princesses-of-power/

On November 13, Dreamworks Animation released the new She-Ra and the Princesses of Power series on Netflix. As a child of the 80s that grew up with the original She-Ra, I knew I had to check it out. It took me a few days to get through the 13 episode series but I did it.

First, let’s discuss the differences between the original version of the show and this one. Back in the 80s, She-Ra: Princess of Power was a spin-off of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Therefore, Adora/She-Ra was the twin sister of Prince Adam/He-Man. Adora was kidnapped, as a baby, by Hordak, the main villain of the series. Hordak’s sorceress, ShadowWeaver, puts Adora under a spell to keep her from remembering her past. (I don’t know why an infant would remember her parents or twin brother….) And she doesn’t receive the Sword of Protection, which allows her to transform into She-Ra, until He-Man is sent to Etheria to find her.

In the new version, Adora is significantly younger. While we never get a definitive age for the 80s-era Adora, she looks to be in her early-to-mid 20s. Today’s Adora is 16 years old. She is an orphan that was raised by Hordak and ShadowWeaver, so there are no spells required to keep her in line. Her big sword reveal moment happens when she goes into the Whispering Woods with Catra, her best friend. They just happen upon the sword and Adora hears Light Hope calling her. Adora doesn’t turn against the Horde until she gets captured by Glimmer and Bow, who show her the evil ways of the Horde. Also, Adora isn’t the only She-Ra. She-Ra is apparently a power handed down over generations. Adora is just the first She-Ra in a thousand years.

Photo: http://www.dreamworkstv.com/shows/she-ra-and-the-princesses-of-power/

Photo: http://www.dreamworkstv.com/shows/she-ra-and-the-princesses-of-power/

Which leads me to, in my opinion, the biggest change in the series - the characters. In the original, Catra was a Force Captain in the Horde. She was one of the main foes that She-Ra had to fight. In this version, Catra and Adora were raised together. They are best friends. As a result, a majority of the series focuses on their relationship. Catra spends a lot of time complaining about ShadowWeaver favoring Adora or Adora abandoning her. (I’m not sure what Catra wants. She is jealous that Adora is ShadowWeaver’s favorite but, at the same time, she doesn’t want her best friend to leave? It’s a weird dynamic.) In addition, the original Catra had powers of her own. She had the ability to turn into a panther by lowering her cat mask onto her face. Today’s Catra is already a catgirl and, from what I can tell, she isn’t likely to turn full panther at all. This is my least favorite part of the series. Catra was one of my favorite characters of the original show and this version of her pales in comparison.

Catra isn’t the only change. Besides making all of the female Rebels a lot younger (I think they say Frosta is 11?), poor Sea Hawk gets a complete personality change. He goes from being a roguish pirate to an insane pyromaniac stalker.

I could probably go on forever about the personality differences between the characters but I won’t. I’ll just say there are significant differences.

Photo: http://www.dreamworkstv.com/shows/she-ra-and-the-princesses-of-power/

Photo: http://www.dreamworkstv.com/shows/she-ra-and-the-princesses-of-power/

Overall, I didn’t hate the show. I understand why they made some of the changes they did. The writers were able to include people of color and LGBTQ+ people. I loved that there were gay characters in the show. My main problem is that they took perfectly fine characters and ruined them. For example, Mermista was always on the side of the Rebels in the original series but, in this series, she has this “I don’t really care” attitude that people like to attribute to millennials. (Mermista is voiced by Vella Lovell from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Mermista is EXACTLY like her character from that show.) I don’t understand why they couldn’t have taken the original characters with their original personalities and just updated the character designs and storylines. Even if the He-Man element was removed, they could have easily kept all of the characters similar to the originals. I don’t believe that kids nowadays wouldn’t enjoy a series with strong female leads that don’t have a ton of emotional baggage to carry.

Oh, and, for the record, I don’t hate the character redesigns. I don’t like She-Ra’s boots very much but the rest isn’t terrible.

While there haven’t been any announcements of additional seasons of the show, supposedly the writers have three more seasons finished. So, who knows. Maybe we will see more She-Ra in the future and maybe the show will grow into something better. For now, it just gets a ‘meh’ from me.

War of Rain

War of Rain, written by H.W. Vivian, is a tough book to categorize. Some reviewers have called it science fiction but it is not. Some people have called it adventure but even that is pushing it. I'm not even sure it could really fall under the Young Adult category, where the author, herself, places it. While I don't believe that all books necessarily need to fall under a category, it does make it easier to find your audience. Let me explain.

Miri, a 15-year old girl, is our protagonist. She lives in a small village called Boreala, one of four villages that have banded together via trade. Her people are peaceful Rain-gatherers. Every day, they trek up a nearby mountain to gather Rain, a strange frozen water-like substance that only melts with prayer. Rain is the only clean water source in the area so the Boreala trades it with the other villages for leather or pottery or wood. However, only the Rain-gatherers know how to pray in order to melt the Rain.

During one of the Rain gathering trips, Miri and her group are attacked by the barbarians of Stratos. These barbarians want all of the Rain to themselves. When one of the barbarians grab an elderly woman by her hair, Miri, without thinking, kills him with a throw of her hatchet. This sole act labels her a murderer. In retaliation for the kill, Genesis, the brother of the fallen barbarian, attacks Boreala. He kidnaps Miri and whisks her away to the mountain.

However, the barbarians do not kill her. Nor do they rape her. (Excuse me, "take her dignity.") Instead, Genesis throws her into the lowlands, commanding her to find five pieces of Rain before the next day. In the lowlands, Miri meets Philippe, a former citizen of Stratos who has been abandoned in the lowlands for killing a village leader. Together, the manage to escape the lowlands and kill an entire hoard of barbarians.

Back in Boreala, the other villagers aren't very welcoming to Miri. It is her fault that the barbarians attacked their village. When Exodus, the leader of Stratos, comes, he demands that Miri go to the mountain and get an invention from the God of Rain, Kalono. This invention would be able to bring war and peace to both villages. Not seeing any other way to save her village, Miri complies with the demand. She promises to return in two days.

Miri goes to the mountain, to the room where her people gather Rain. In the Rain Chamber, there is an opening in the ceiling. She enters the opening and climbs farther into the mountain, in search of Kalono.

Instead of finding the God, Miri finds an entire village of inventors living inside the mountain. However, these people do not give her the war-and-peace invention. They teach her how to read and scientific theories and mathematics. Despite promising to be back in two days, Miri is gone for 18 months. She figures out what invention she needs but will it be too late for her village?

Once again, Miri returns to her village. This time she has the war-and-peace invention. But her village, and the other three, are decimated. Everyone is gone. Or so she thinks. The barbarians attacked her village immediately after she entered the mountain. They destroyed the towns and kidnapped the people, trying to force them to pray to melt Rain. But a few of them hid in a nearby mountain and survived. With Miri's return, they attempt to attack Stratos to save their people.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one takes us from Miri's life in Boreala up to her meeting the people of Tropos, the village inside the mountain. Part two is Miri's entire time in Tropos. Part three takes us back to Boreala and Miri's attempt to save her people. I'm not entire sure how I feel about breaking the story up like this but at least it makes some sense.

While the writing isn't bad, my problem with the book lies with the heavy-handedness of the faith theme. For one, the reason that the people of Stratos were barbarians...they didn't know how to pray. They couldn't pray to turn the Rain into water. Miri had to teach Philippe how to pray! Even the scientific people of Tropos ended up with a "You have to have faith" reasoning. It got to be a little much, to be honest.

I would have liked the book much better if it wasn't so preachy. It seriously felt like the author was calling everyone who is not religious a bloodthirsty barbarian. With that in consideration, I would toss the book into a religion section, not a general young adult section. And I would definitely toss some sort of "Preachy Book Ahead!" warning on it. Nowhere in the book's description was I warned that I would be called a barbarian for not praying to the popular deity of my time. (Even the book agrees that they are all basically the same.) So, yeah. Read it but with caution and maybe some rolling eyes.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own.



One To Go Giveaway

One to Go by Mike Pace tells the story of Tom Booker, an alcoholic attorney in Washington DC. The story is a little difficult to tell so, please, bear with me. Tom is a divorced father. One Saturday, he was late picking up his daughter and two of her friends for a field trip. Annoyed by his tardiness, his ex-wife sent the kids off with her sister. As Tom was rushing to get to the kids, he texted his ex-wife, attempting to figure out the plans for the day. Of course, this means Tom got into a huge accident on a bridge. A teenage driver was killed and the van containing the kids (and his ex-sister-in-law) teeters over the river below.

Just then, two preppy-looking demons jog up to him. They offer him a deal. He can "take back" the accident but he would have to kill five other people in exchange for the lives saved. Disoriented by the crash, Tom agrees to the deal. But can he really murder five people?

While I loved the idea of the plot, this book was not very well executed. At a whopping 313 pages in length, not once are we given a reason to care about the lives of these characters. Sure, we're supposed to believe that Tom is protecting his daughter but he never really acts like he loves her. He spends most of his time getting drunk and sleeping around. Even when he is supposed to be emotionally torn about murdering people, he doesn't ever seem like it really bothers him. He just goes back to drinking and screwing. 

I really wanted to like the book. The plot sounded so interesting to me. In the end, One To Go is a short story that was never fully fleshed out to become a real novel. And that makes me sad.

Oceanview Publishing is giving away a copy of the book to one of my readers. I hope that you will read the book and think that I am being overly critical. Perhaps you will see the characterization that I missed. The giveaway ends on September 18. 

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

CacheAlaska Cell Phone Holder

For the past couple of months, my husband has been bugging me to get a phone holder for my car. I thought that CacheAlaska's cell phone holder might do the job. Sadly, it only really worked for about a month.

I have a Galaxy Note 4. The charging port for the phone is on the bottom, underneath the center button on the front. My car, a Honda Fit Sport, has the air vents right above the radio. (You can see this in the photo above.) When I have my charger plugged in, the connector pushes up against the face of the radio. I know that, eventually, either the charger or the phone port will break. The picture below will show you what I mean. 

The only way to keep the connector from pushing against the radio is to tilt the phone toward the driver. This works better for me because it makes it slightly easier for me to see the screen. However, I'm pretty sure this tilting as broken the holder. 

The piece that sticks into the vent is a soft plastic but the piece that holds the phone is a hard plastic. Over the past few days, I noticed that the holder no longer holds my phone upright. Instead, it acts like the phone is top heavy and drops it sideways. 

This picture looks like I have tilted the phone like this. I did not. I put the phone in the holder like I normally do (see the first picture) and the holder slowly tilts sideways. Unfortunately, this makes the phone unusable for the driver. 

I really wanted to like this holder. It seemed like the perfect match for someone who didn't really want a holder in the first place. Just when I got used to having it, it stopped doing its job properly. I think this whole situation could have been avoided if the holder stuck out a little further from the dash. I did try a number of configurations to try to get the phone to fit over the radio but none of them worked. Ah, well. Maybe I'll be able to find a better holder that will work with the layout of my car. 

I received this product for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

AmazaPens

I have a bit of a pen addiction. My daughter frequently drags me away from the office supply aisle whenever we are shopping. Needless to say, I leapt at the chance to try out this set of pens. 

AmazaPens is a set of 24 gel ink pens. There are 12 glitter pens, 6 neon pens, and 6 pastel pens. That is a lot of awesomeness in one package. But how well do they write?

I have been using these pens in my blog/vlog planner. And I couldn't be happier with the result. There are more than enough colors to allow me to color code everything I do.  Even though there are some "repeat" colors (for example, the neon pink, pastel pink, and glitter pink), they are still unique enough that I can tell them apart at a glance. 

While it is difficult to see in the picture above, most of the writing was done with the glitter ink. Thankfully, the ink contains the right amount of glitter. It is enough that it can be easily seen in person but the glitter isn't getting all over the place. (I usually have problems with glitter.) I think the glitter colors are actually my favorite.

There are a few colors that are a little problematic. As you can see on the September 1 block, the orangey pastel pen is very difficult to read on light colored paper. There is also a white pen that I don't know how to use. I suppose it might look nice if I'm writing on dark paper but, c'mon, how many people write on dark colored paper? 

Overall, I am in love with these pens. I just might have to buy another set when this one runs out. THAT is how much I love it.

I received this product for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

So You Want To Be A Reviewer

When people hear the word "reviewer," the first thing they think of is "free stuff." While you can sometimes get free stuff, that isn't always the case. And a lot of times, that free stuff isn't stuff you actually want. Still want to be a reviewer? Read on!

Whether you have a blog or a vlog, the road to reviewing is the same. Since companies want their product to be seen by the largest amount of people possible, they tend to want to work with established reviewers. But how does someone become established? 

The first step is to figure out what you want to review. Would you like to review baby products or would you prefer to  talk about dog toys? Perhaps your love of movies pushes you into becoming a movie reviewer. It's OK if you don't have a specific niche. Just keep in mind that a more general website might not have as large an audience as one dedicated to a specific topic. 

Once you have your niche in mind, just start reviewing things. Talk about things you already own or things you recently purchased. Talk about that item your best friend uses every day. This is where a majority of reviewers begin. If it's stuff you already own or you are already going to buy, you might as well take advantage of the situation and talk about it! 

Here is where the difficult part begins. You need to get your reviews seen by people. While cross-posting (posting your content on different platforms) sounds like a great idea, you want people to visit your site. Instead of posting your entire review on Tumblr, post the first paragraph and a link to the rest of the review. This won't work for reviews on Amazon, where you will need to post a full review, but you can put a link to your blog at the bottom. And make sure you are posting links to all of this on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. 

Becoming an established reviewer doesn't happen overnight. If you need to find some additional items for review, you can try websites like Tomoson, BzzAgent, or Influenster. There are quite a few websites out there looking to connect companies with bloggers. Do some research to find the ones that fit your style. 

When you have a decent following, you can create a media kit for your site. A media kit is a one- or two-page document that tells a company who you are and who your audience is. (My media kit can be found on my contact page.) Once your media kit is ready, you can send it out to companies to see if they will partner with you.  Don't be discouraged if you don't hear back from them. Companies have a lot of people contacting them. They can't reply to everyone. 

And there you have it. You are a reviewer. I know, it seems much more difficult but it's not. Just make sure that you are in it because you love it and not for the free stuff. Your reviews will definitely suffer if you are reviewing things you don't care about. 

The Diagram of Dogs by Pop Chart Lab

Pop Chart Lab is a merchant that sells all sorts of kitchy posters. There are posters about guitars, posters about wine, posters about eyewear....if you can name it, they probably have it. They send me one of their dog posters to review. 

This particular poster shows every breed of dog in their specific category. For example, if you look at the toy breeds, you will find a pomeranian or a pug but then that category branches off into sub-categories, like poodles. I have three dogs, myself, and it was pretty cool to look up each of their breeds to see how they fit into the world of dogs. 

Everyone in my family loves dogs. This poster is an absolutely perfect piece to hang on our wall. Personally, I would probably choose to frame it but it isn't absolutely necessary. The poster paper is thick enough that you could hang it on your wall as is without any problems. I highly recommend picking up one of their posters if you can. Not only are they well-made, they are cute to boot. 

I received this poster for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are solely my own. 

The Couch Tomato in West Chester, PA

On Saturday afternoon, my family and I stopped by The Couch Tomato in West Chester, PA.  I don't usually spend a lot of time in West Chester but my husband does. He easily found us a decent parking spot fairly close to the restaurant. (Hint: The parking meters nearby have free parking until 5PM on Saturday!) I believe there are some parking garages in town but they aren't quite as close to the restaurant.

We arrived around 4:30PM. Strangely, the only other people in the building were the two guys that walked in before us. However, more people arrived after we sat down, closer to 5:00. 

The Couch Tomato is set up a little bit like a fast food joint. You place your order with a cashier then you find a seat until they call your name over the loudspeaker. Once you hear your name, you head back to the front area to pick up your food. You also bus your own table, separating the recyclable materials from the food waste and placing the dishware onto shelves next to the trash can. So maybe not quite like McDonald's but not like a sit-down restaurant with waiters either. 

I had a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato bisque soup. The grilled cheese was delicious. It had a mix of cheeses and arugula grilled on...well, OK, I'm not sure what kind of bread it was. But the bread was chewy and crunchy at the same time. As for the tomato soup, I'm not a huge fan of tomato soup and, since this was a bisque, it wasn't quite a creamy as the tomato soup I'm used to. It wasn't the worst soup that I've had but it wasn't something I would have usually ordered. 

While my food was delicious, it took a very long time to come out. My husband and my daughter ordered food and both of theirs arrived before mine. My daughter got a Hail Caesar salad and my husband got the Couch Club sandwich. (More on those later.) All of the sandwiches are grilled so I'm not really sure why my sandwich took 20 minutes to cook while his only took less than 10. 

This was my daughter's Caesar salad. We both really liked it. (Yes, I tried her food too!) The salad dressing was perfect; the lettuce was nice and crisp; and the hard boiled egg was well-done. My daughter didn't like the croutons too much but she doesn't usually like croutons to begin with.

My husband had the Couch Club sandwich. This is turkey, tomato, turkey bacon, cheddar, and avocado ranch on a weird sort of sesame bread. As I said, all of their sandwiches are grilled, unless otherwise requested. I think I liked his sandwich better than mine. It was a little bit bigger so it might be difficult for small mouths to bite into but I think it would be well worth trying. The bacon was crisp, the turkey was tender...I didn't even realize there was avocado ranch on it! I would probably recommend this sandwich over the others.

Finally, my husband and I both got fountain sodas. And we both chose the cola flavor. The Couch Tomato uses New Hope fountain soda, which uses cane sugar instead of HFCS. For some reason, our sodas tasted off. We have both drank our fair share of cane sugar soda and he has had New Hope soda before. None of it tasted like this. It had a weird aftertaste that none of us liked.

As a whole, we had a rather enjoyable experience at The Couch Tomato. The only downsides were the soda and the extremely long wait for my food. Otherwise, the food was delicious and very well priced. 

If you would like to see my video review of the restaurant, please click below:

I received my grilled cheese and tomato soup for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are solely my own. 

Never Ending Bad Day

Never Ending Bad Day is a tween book aimed at kids aged 8 - 14. The main character is Misty, a 14-year old girl, who is spending the last day of her summer vacation in South Carolina with her family and their close friends, the Green family. For the final day of vacation, the parents let the children decide the entire day. After Misty and her best friend, Stanley, plan their day, Misty decides to toss a coin in a nearby fountain in order to wish for the day to never end. Little did she know that the gargoyle statue topping the fountain was actually an ancient ogre. The ogre curses poor Misty to have the most terrible day ever. Just when Misty thinks the worst day is over, she finds that she is doomed to repeat the day over and over again. Will she be able to break the ogre's curse or will she be forced to live this day for the rest of her life?

I thought the plot of the book was rather interesting. However, the author spent way too much time on the minor details of the first day then glazed over the events of the consecutive days. As a result, some of the chapters were extremely short (for example, a page and a half) while others were a lot longer. It may work for some of the younger readers but it is a little jarring for more experienced readers. I also thought that the ending was a little abrupt. It was almost like the author randomly thought to add in some "cool" magical ending, even if it didn't make a whole lot of sense in the context of the story. In addition, there were some minor misspellings littered throughout the text. Overall, the book wasn't terrible but it wasn't the best tween book either. 

If you would like a get a free copy of the book, you can sign up for the author's newsletter here: http://www.ladyjennivieresquill.com/join-the-newsletter-2/

I received a copy of this book for free. All opinions contained within are solely my own.