Book Review: Touch

touchJump jump.

Are you losing time? Kepler can transfer consciousness by touch, and the only way you’d know is if you realized a block of time had passed that you had no memory of. Kepler’s not the only one, and not all of them treat their host bodies with respect. When one of Kepler’s favorite hosts is murdered, Kepler jumps into the murderer’s head – and from there, a story unfolds that’s equal parts unique and disturbing.

North’s storytelling is strong, and Kepler in particular wrestles with some heavy questions of morality. I especially loved that Kepler’s gender is never revealed. A ghost takes on the gender of the body they’re inhabiting, suggesting some interesting takes on nature vs. nurture.

The secondary characters are less enigmatic and by extension less compelling. Mustache-twirling evil is only entertaining if it’s done for camp; in a story as morally ambiguous as this one, it seems a bit out of place.

(BTW I’m endlessly amused by the question on Goodreads that asks if this is a “clean” book. I mean, what even is that?)

*I scored this title from Netgalley in return for a review.*

I Try Out Period Tracking Apps So You Don’t Have To

My smartphone is finally fulfilling its destiny.

I enjoy not having to remember things. It frees up valuable brain real estate for things like daydreaming about abandoned amusement park vacations and learning javascript. My phone keeps track of phone numbers, birthdays, my next meeting, the day’s weather, and how many steps I’ve taken. So why shouldn’t it track my menstrual cycle, too?

I’ll tell you why not: most period tracking apps SUCK. I can only assume the the predominance of flowers and the color pink means that they are aimed at a target market that is not me, and not just because I’m in my forties. I’m a designer. I cannot use an app that looks like a unicorn threw up all over it.

Happily, in the time between getting pregnant, having a baby, and finally getting my period back after a year and a half (thank you, breastfeeding), the selection for period tracking apps has expanded to include things that don’t make me cringe. Some of them don’t use pink at all!

I chose four free period tracking apps to try out; two are ad-supported but offer paid versions that are presumably ad-free.

(I have Things to Say, so this is going to be a long one.)  Continue reading I Try Out Period Tracking Apps So You Don’t Have To

Snacky Mouse

Influenster* sent us a fun cat toy: the Temptations Snacky Mouse. I know, it sounds like an 80s cartoon character, right? In reality it’s a little plastic cat toy/treat dispenser.

It came with the Temptations treats, which are probably fine, but Maru (our resident Fat Cat) is diabetic, so it’s a good thing you can put your own treats into the mouse. We did let him try out the Temptations for testing purposes, because he was sniffing at them and I am a sucker.

Maru with Snacky MouseMaru with Snacky MouseMaru thought this was a pretty good deal. He is fond of food of any kind, especially in treat form, and being able to bat around his treat dispenser is an added bonus.

The downside to the Snacky Mouse: just like with a real rodent, overly enthusiastic batting results in the mouse’s head flying off. And if you’ve got a one year old in addition to an enthusiastic cat, that head could end up anywhere, really. (Note: no actual rodents were harmed in the making of this post. Also, to my knowledge the baby has never absconded with an actual mouse head. Do not contact Child Services at this time.) Further product testing will resume when the mouse can be reassembled.

*Influenster sent me this product in return for a review. The opinions expressed above are all mine.

Shine On

Santa brought me a Misfit Shine, aka the prettiest wearable on the block. How does it stack up against my beloved FitBit?

I’d been coveting a Shine ever since I saw that it can be worn as a necklace. My main problem with most wearables is that they’re worn around the wrist, and I hate having things on my wrists. The FitBit, of course, can be clipped to waistbands or bra straps, but it still kind of always seemed to be in the way. Also, I was constantly worried that I’d forget to unclip it and put it through the wash – or (as was often the case) I’d carefully remove it and then forget to put it back on before my next outing.

misfit shine on a necklaceA necklace, though – that I can do. I originally had my eye on the Sport Necklace accessory, but it turns out the magnetic “clip” works just perfectly with a plain leather necklace threaded through it. It’s pretty cute, too, and it doesn’t scream FITNESS WEARABLE.

At night I do wear it on my wrist to track my sleep; the rubber sport band isn’t too uncomfortable and I mostly don’t notice it. By morning I’m usually wanting to take it off, though, which actually is a good thing because it means I don’t forget to put it on the necklace.

As far as tracking data goes, the Shine is a lot more limited than the FitBit. It shows your steps and an activity graph, but doesn’t track elevation or activity type; the most detailed view shows activity blocks rated by levels of exertion (pretty active, kinda active, etc – I’ve yet to get very active, so I’m not sure what the exact phrasing is for that one) with a graphic of a little exercising dude. Cute, but not super useful. There doesn’t seem to be a way to see daily or weekly totals.

The sleep tracker is also less detailed than the FitBit, with no readily available guide to the difference between “sleep” and “restful sleep.” Sleep time seems pretty accurate. I can clearly see periods of non-sleep that correspond to nighttime wakeups (yay, babies who don’t sleep through the night). Again, I wish there were more details, but I’m satisfied with what it shows.

The Shine does sync with the iPhone Health app, but it only syncs step data, not sleep. (I’m pretty sure the Misfit Beddit syncs sleep data with the Health app, though.) That’s the biggest thing on my wishlist for future updates, but I’m not holding my breath.

All in all I’ve been really happy with the Misfit. It hits a nice balance between fashion accessory and fitness tracker and does a good job of feeding my hunger for stats. And there are some seriously cute new accessories coming out soon, too!

Oh Hey, Influenster Perk: Reese’s Spread

So the latest Influenster perk? Reese’s spread. Chocolate and peanut butter in frosting spreadable form. It’s like they plucked the idea directly out of my head.

2015/01/img_9851.jpgThe spread is a lot like Nutella, but with a definite peanut butter kick. It’s a little bit saltier, too, which makes it a lot easier to “accidentally” eat way more than you planned to.

I had it on toast, and it was pretty good. Not as good as Nutella, but not bad.

2015-01-21 13.09.51Then I had it on a spoon. And it was HEAVEN.

There are tiny bits of peanut (like in the inside of a Reese’s peanut butter cup) blended in with the chocolate. Seriously, it’s like nomming a spoonful of melted candy, without having to go to all the trouble of melting it and stirring it together and having people look at you funny. I could eat this ALL DAY.

(I may or may not have finished the whole jar entirely by spoonful. IT IS JUST THAT GOOD.)

THANK YOU, Influenster, for giving me Reese’s goodness in exchange for a review. You can do that again ANY TIME.

Book Review: You Should Have Known

you should have knownCan you really miss all the signs, even if you’re looking for them?

Therapist Grace Reinhart Sachs makes her living telling people where they’ve gone wrong. She believes that there’s always a moment, usually early in the relationship, when you can see the truth about the other person – a truth you then “forget,” burying it in excuses and desires. In fact, Grace has written a book on the subject, called You Should Have Known.

Her own life seems to hold up under scrutiny: she has a loving marriage, a wonderful son. (She’s also materialistic and judgmental and clearly unaware of just how good she has it, but that’s a whole other thing.)

Then a woman Grace knows only vaguely is murdered, and her perfect husband has disappeared. As her life begins to unravel, Grace keeps asking herself: should she have known?

Unfortunately, it’s not a question the book really answers. (Mild spoilers to follow.)

Continue reading Book Review: You Should Have Known

Book Review: The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

the last winter of dani lancingI love a good ghost story.

On the surface, The Last Winter of Dani Lancing is a murder mystery, and a study of how different people react to grief. Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was brutally murdered. The killer was never found. Her mother becomes consumed with the need for vengeance. Her father has conversations with Dani’s ghost. Her old beau, Tom Bevans, still pines for the girl he lost.

Naturally, they all have secrets, and each of them knows things about Dani that the others don’t. Can they come together somehow and solve a decades-old murder without losing each other in the process? Or is there a reason everyone has something to hide?

The ghost story aspect is fun, and not terribly overdone, though by the end you may find that it has a bit of a saccharine aftertaste. The mystery is a good one, and the ending didn’t feel like a deus ex machina, which can be difficult with a book like this. I’m interested enough to read more from this author.