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Christ Centered Gamer Blog

This blog contains non-gaming related reviews and random ramblings

Jessica Darling’s It List

Thank you MarVista for sending us a screener of this movie to review!

This one hour and nineteen-minute movie is based off of the popular book series by Megan McCafferty.  The main character is Jessica Darling who is about to enter seventh grade and wants to start off on the right foot.  Her older sister with a passion for fashion gave Jessica a list of four things to do to be popular in junior high.  Here’s the contents of her sister’s “It List”:

1. Wear something different every day

2. Make the cheer team

3. Pick your first boyfriend wisely

4. Stick with the It clique

The first item on the list doesn’t apply to Jessica since she doesn’t really enjoy shopping for or wearing exquisite clothing.  Jessica also struggles with making the cheer team since she lacks the grace and gymnastics skills to outshine the other cheer leader hopefuls.  She does land an interesting and humorous gig that is cheer team related though.

While noticing boys, Jessica doesn’t fall head over heels over any of them in her school yet.  Though the boy in her wood working class seems to like her.  Unlike her friends, Jessica wasn’t able to get into the home economics class.  

Friendship is something that Jessica learns a lot about.  She discovers that many of the girls in the It clique are very shallow and their feelings towards her come and go.  Jessica must first find her own identity and then discover who her true friends are and appreciate them.

Overall, Jessica Darling’s It List is a cute and funny film that teaches some valuable lessons on being yourself and being a good friend.    It’s a family safe film without any language or sexual content to worry about.  All of my kids enjoyed watching it, though my girls enjoyed it more since it’s geared more towards females.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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VicTsing Garden Hose Nozzle

hose nozzle

Thank you VicTsing for sending us this product to review!

There are many uses for a garden hose nozzle and we put this eight-mode gadget to the test by using it on three children and washing two cars.  While hosing down my kids on a hot summer day, they seemed to enjoy the mist mode the best. Not only was it gentle and refreshing, it also produced rainbows as an added bonus.  The Cone mode is a little stronger than the mist and the kids liked that one as well.  If you’re looking for some more power that’s not too forceful, the flat mode is another good option to use.

The soaker mode was a disappointment and seemed to dribble more than soak anything.  It could be an issue on my end since there was water leaking out of both ends of my garden hose.  All of the other modes worked flawlessly despite the leaks.  There wasn’t any text or instructions included in the packaging.  Just the nozzle and an extra washer.  The nozzle did have a washer in place as I checked to make sure that wasn’t the source of the water leak.  The hose used is old so I blame that for the leaks and not the nozzle.

If you need a bunch of streams, the center mode is a good one to use and the aptly named shower mode has several streams as well.  The shower mode is great for watering plants.    The jet mode has a powerful beam and the rinse mode is similar but stronger and great for taking off soap from a freshly washed car.

Overall, my kids and I are very pleased with this garden hose nozzle and look forward to more car washes and summer fun with it.  It’s probably time for us to get a new hose though.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Kindergarten Cop 2

Thank you Click Communications for sending us this DVD to review!

The original Kindergarten Cop starring Arnold Schwarzenegger came out in 1990 and was an instant classic.  Unfortunately, things have changed a lot since then and this sequel reflects many of those differences with the modern day kindergarten students.  One of the students is gluten free while another has peanut allergies.  The upscale private school that this movie takes place in caters to all religions and sexual orientations.  Not surprisingly, one of the students has two moms and a distrust for men.  Gone are time-outs and sitting “Indian style”; it’s now called “criss cross applesauce “ as the undercover FBI agent, Mr. Reed, soon learns. 

Mr. Reed (Dolph Lundgren) is a well-built ladies man that has no experience with children.  Reed’s partner (Bill Bellamy), has five kids and offers to help Reed, but he’s too proud to accept it.  To complicate matters, agent Reed has a tendency to fall for women while undercover, and this mission is no exception.  The other kindergarten teacher is attractive and nice and may have some information on the hidden flash drive that has the FBI’s data on it.  

The FBI aren’t the only ones after the stolen witness protection database as the syndicate boss, Zogu, seeks to silence a witness that is listed in it.  Time is running out and the FBI agents have to earn the kids' trust to uncover the secret location of the flash drive hidden somewhere on the school grounds.  

One would assume that a movie about kindergarten students would be safe for the whole family to watch.  Sadly, it’s not.  This 140-minute film is rated PG-13 and has some sexual references, violence, and plenty of blaspheming along with foul language.  Pretty much every cuss word is used with exception to the F-bomb.

In the end, this movie misses the mark and is okay at best.  The characters are not very likable and the story is sub-par.  Adding the politically correct nonsense only makes this film worse.  I recommend sticking with the original and renting this one before buying it.

(Amazon Affiliate Link)
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Learn to Program with Minecraft

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!

All three of my kids love Minecraft and they all have learned various coding concepts from several books from No Starch Press.  When my oldest daughter heard about this book being released, she was eager to try it out and she’s glad that she did!  Not only does this book teach basic Python concepts, it puts them in an environment that kids can relate to and see their results in game instead of in a monochrome command prompt screen.  

There is a little setup involved and the first chapter of this twelve-chapter book covers installing and configuring Minecraft, Java, Python, and Spigot.  There are instructions for Windows, Mac, and Raspberry Pi setups.

The first Python concept taught is variables and the reader will learn how to use variables to teleport to different areas in the Minecraft game world.  Modules, mathematical expressions, and strings will be explained throughout the book as well.  True/False Booleans and If/Then/Else statements are also taught and with those abilities, the reader will learn how to make various mini-games.  Instant forests are made possible with While Loops.  Towards the end of the book the reader will learn about lists, dictionaries, modules, saving files, and object oriented concepts.

My daughter’s favorite lessons in the book are making moving blocks and a dance floor that changed colors.   She also liked the secret door that would open when placing a diamond on a pedestal.  There are over seventy projects to be completed and each of them utilizes valuable Python concepts. These skills can transfer over to pursuing further programming with Python down the road.    This book sells for less than $25 on Amazon in hard copy form and is available for half of the $29.99 MSRP digitally.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Man O' War: Corsairs First Impressions

corsair

To my understanding, the version I have is not the review versions so this is the first impressions write-up.

Man O' War Corsairs is one of the latest Games Workshop licensed games.  Set in the Old World of Warhammer it mainly focuses on the waters off the coast of the Empire and my beloved Bretonnia.  The player takes on the role of the captain of a privateer ship and combines resource management with ship combat on the high seas.

The combat at sea is fast paced.  Very fast paced, and to be honest it felt more like I was driving a speed boat than a tall ship.  The vessel turns rapidly, moves fast and reacts very rapidly to enemy movements.  It's real time, so no time to plan moves or devise strategy between commands.  The primary opponents, at least in the early stages, are Orcs, though there's plenty of room for different adversaries as the campaign goes on.  I learned quickly how aggressive Orcs are, with a ship ramming my own and sending over a boarding party.  At that point the game turns into an almost over the shoulder FPS style game as you defend your ship against boarders.  I have to admit, it was pretty awesome when the Orcs started to pour onto my deck and the camera pulled back and the captain drew a flintlock pistol to dispense a little justice on the invading greenskins.

The game is still being polished and getting the finishing touches, so I'm eager to see how it all settles in!

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The Finest Hours

Thank you Disney for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

The Finest Hours is based on a true story and is considered to be the most heroic rescue in Coast Guard history.  The main character, Bernie Weber (Chris Pine), is a Coast Guard crewman who follows the rulebook and knows all of the regulations.  He’s very familiar with the ocean and knows how dangerous the bar can be to cross during nice weather, let alone during a severe winter storm.  When he was sent to assist the crew of the SS Pendleton, which split in half on February 18th, 1952, he did not hesitate knowing full well that this was a suicide mission.  It was up to Bernie and his crew to attempt to rescue the stranded men since all of the other Coast Guard ships were assisting another split oil tanker, the SS Fort Mercer.

The tiny rescue boat defied all odds and reached the SS Pendleton despite missing crucial navigational equipment.  The next hurdle was bringing the thirty-two rescued men to safety on a boat that’s designed to carry twelve.  Some tough decisions had to be made, but they paid off in the end.  I won’t spoil any of the details because I recommend watching this thrilling movie.

Although The Finest Hours is a Disney movie, it is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of peril.  There are some deaths and injuries shown and one of the characters cusses (d*mn).  Other than those issues, this movie is safe for most audiences.  

The acting was good and I recognized some of the actors in this film.  There were some blue visual artifacts and other inconsistencies that I noticed, but they didn’t detract from the story in any way.  For example, sometimes Bernie’s nose would be pink from the cold and a few frames later it was back to normal and then suddenly pink again.  

In the end I highly recommend checking out The Finest Hours.  It has a lot of intense action and edge of the seat moments, but there is also a love story in there too.  This 117-minute film can be yours for $25 or less on Amazon.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Layton v Wright: Dawn of Puzzles (Batman v Superman Parody)

New video out! It's a bit different from our usual Sonic Sitcom cartoons. Any Professor Layton fans out there? How about Phoenix Wright fans? I think you guys would enjoy this one:

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VicTsing Breathalyzer

Thank you VicTsing for sending us a review sample!

In all honesty, I rarely drink.  In fact, all of the alcohol in the house is used for cooking recipes only.  To test this breathalyzer out, I drank ¼ cup of soft, semi-dry white wine while preparing some braised chicken that called for it.  Setting up and using the breathalyzer is pretty easy.  The most difficult part (other than drinking wine that I’m not fond of) was putting in the three AAA batteries.  The batteries were a pretty tight fit, but I got them in by applying some pressure.  

breathalyzer

On the back side of the device is storage for five mouthpieces.  To use the device, simply insert a mouthpiece on either side of the device and press the power button.  The breathalyzer will beep and warm up for fifteen seconds.  When it’s ready it will beep again and you’ll have to blow for five to ten seconds until it beeps again to let you know that it’s done.

wine

Depending on your results, it will rate your blood alcohol level at a normal, caution, or danger level.  If it’s in the danger range, it will beep a few times to get your attention. According to the user manual, you have to wait twenty minutes after you have been drinking to get reliable results.  If you test yourself shortly after drinking, the results will be inflated.

breathalyzer

For my experiment I tested the breathalyzer before drinking and it accurately displayed at 0.000 (blood alcohol level) BAC.  After I drank the ¼ cup of wine, I tested myself again for grins and it registered at 0.101BAC and gave me the danger warning.  After waiting the recommended twenty minutes my BAC level was at 0.090.  A few minutes later it was back to 0.000.   

breathalyzer

Since I prefer not to drink, this device probably won’t get much use unless I suspect my kids in a few years.  For everyone else, the VicTsing breathalyzer is reasonably priced at less than $23 shipped on Amazon.  It’s compact and is the size of a flip phone and comes with a vinyl carrying case to keep it from getting scratched.  This breathalyzer is pretty easy to use and hopefully will save some lives.

 

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Honest Medicine: Effective, Time-Tested, Inexpensive Treatments for Life-Threatening Diseases

Honest Medicine
More than 100,000 People Worldwide Have Been Helped
Effective, Time-tested, Inexpensive Treatments for Life-Threatening Diseases
[Including MS (Multiple Sclerosis), Epilepsy, Liver Disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other diseases]
Book Author: Julia Schopick
Publisher: Innovative Health Publishing
Cost: (Paperback) $14.95

Thank you Julia Schopick for sending me this book to review!

Julia wrote Honest Medicine in the early 1990s when her husband was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. So Julia did everything she could to work alongside the medical community and doctors to help treat him. She did a lot of research on brain tumors, cancer, medicine, etc. While doing all of her homework, she realized how informed she had become with all of this medical knowledge that the public was not aware of. So she started to write columns and articles on health and medicine, and had become very popular and started to become published with a lot of widely known news companies, and health organizations. Julia felt that she should share all the knowledge and information she was learning with the public, and started her own blog.  I highly recommend visiting the blog and taking a look at the materials there, along with the book to learn what you can do if you or a loved one may have any of the health problems mentioned above.

Honest Medicine revolved around non-mainstream health and medicine cures for such diseases and medical conditions that even today doctors and well-known health institutions and hospitals have a difficult time treating and or curing. The first section of this book introduces you to Tim, who was Julia’s husband. In 1990 Tim was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor by his doctors. Once Tim was diagnosed with the brain tumor, Julia did all she could be to become Tim’s medical advocate and started to do all of the research she could on Tim’s diagnosis. She learned about the traditional treatments and medicines that doctors and medical institutions used to treat such conditions. She also learned the costs of these treatments. So Julia wanted to read about and research non-conventional and in her own words “out of the box” treatments. In doing all of her research, Julia learned about Silverlon. She convinced Tim’s doctors to try Silverlon to help his surgical wounds heal when nothing else seemed to be working. Literally overnight, Tim’s wounds started to heal amazingly. What a simple, and cheap treatment, and as Julia puts it, “an out of the box treatment”. Silverlon has many other uses, not just for treating a problem like Tim’s, but learn the other benefits of it, and who knows, you might be able to find a use for it for yourself, or a loved one.  

You will also read about pediatric and adult seizure disorders. You are given a background on each patient, the doctors who treated them, the treatments used, and then, the diet each patient was introduced to.  It was amazing to read the stories of these patients and what they went through, but to learn of a diet that can be so helpful to them and many other patients around the world. Unfortunately, since it isn’t a medicine that these doctors are taught about in med-school, it’s not something most doctors push to use. This is not the typical treatment used, it’s not the drugs that they spend so much time learning about. It’s not a surgical procedure that is cutting edge, and that can financially benefit these doctors, so a majority of these doctors and medical professionals push these treatments for their patients, and the patients don’t hear about this amazing diet that can benefit them in such a drastic way. You learn about this diet, patients who have used it, how it helped them, and foundations and doctors who do use this treatment. So maybe if you, or a loved one, or someone you know suffers from such terrible seizure disorders, this is something that would be helpful to read, and learn about. Who knows, it’s a diet, what do you have to lose?

I like to consider myself pretty medically savvy. I have not gone to medical school or received any medical training. But I do have quite a bit of medical conditions and take a lot of medications, see a lot of doctors, and spend a lot of time in the hospital. I feel I learned quite a bit reading this book and learning more about how today’s medical system works and how off-label uses for medical conditions can be very helpful if you just take the time and do your research. Reading this book has given me a different perspective on the medical system, doctors, and medicines. Other areas of the book teach you how doctors are trained, how medical schools work, and there are even chapters written by doctors themselves, so you hear it directly from them the truth about medicine. Take a read through Honest Medicine and learn for yourself.

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Patterns of Evidence: Exodus

Thank you Patterns of Evidence for sending us this book to review!

In 2015 my husband and I were blown away by Timothy Mahoney’s documentary searching for archaeological evidence of the Biblical Exodus.  Many Egyptologists disregard the Biblical account of the exodus due to lack of evidence in the New Era Kingdom of Ramesses II.   In this 392-page book, Timothy describes his twelve-year long journey to figure out if the events in Exodus really happened or not.  His methodology is logical, scientific, controversial, and the results very convincing.  I highly recommend reading this book and/or at the very least watching or renting the film!

Timothy focuses on six events that took place in the Exodus.  The arrival of the Israelites, their multiplication, slavery, judgement of the Egyptians, their leaving (Exodus), and their conquest of Canaan.  While there is plenty of evidence of these events all taking place in the Middle Kingdom time period, archaeologists disregard it all because it’s not in the New Era Kingdom.

The origin of the New Era Kingdom is explained and picked apart for its many inconsistencies.   Throughout this book you’ll read several interviews between Timothy and renowned Egyptologists and archaeologists.  David Rohl, who agrees with this new timeline, isn’t even a Christian.  Many of the other interviewees are not onboard with altering the current Egyptian timeline.  It’s easier to throw the Biblical evidence under the bus than to change and re-write history books.

There is plenty of evidence of Joseph residing in Egypt.  He has a canal, Bahr Yusef (waterway of Joseph), named after him!  Many assume that the seven-year famine that Joseph interpreted from Pharaoh’s dream was a drought.  Planting crops is equally difficult if areas are flooded and that could have been the source of food shortages as well.  An archaeological dig site has uncovered a city named Avaris and there is evidence that a high ranking Semitic ruler lived there.  On this property with twelve columns resides an empty tomb has a statue of a man with a Semitic hair style, skin color, and a colorful robe.  Since the bones are missing as the Bible declares, there is a good chance that this could have been Joseph’s residence. 

This is just one fascinating finding out of many.  Accompanying all of them are full colored pictures, graphs, and proposed timelines.  In addition to the twelve chapters are additional interviews and other arguments for the number of Israelites, how long they were enslaved and details about their conquest.  There are several pages of end notes that state the Biblical and other book sources referenced throughout the book.

If you’re interested in reading more about archaeological evidence for the Biblical Exodus, this book can be purchased on Amazon for $30 in hard cover format or $15 digitally.  (Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales

Thank you Click Communications for sending us this DVD to review!

Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales first aired on Disney XD in the summer of 2015.  With its recent DVD release, everyone can now enjoy the retelling of the Star Wars saga from C-3PO and R2-D2’s perspective.  The overarching story is that R2-D2 has been kidnapped and while chasing after his captor C-3PO recalls and shares his adventures with different audience groups during some downtime.  This 115-minute DVD is broken down into five episodes and here’s a quick summary of each one:

Exit from Endor – The victorious rebels are celebrating and Luke Skywalker sees the ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Mace Windu.  At the campfire,C-3PO recalls the story of Anakin’s childhood and run in with Qui-Gon Jinn and Queen Amidala.  Extra comedy is added into the retelling of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones including several severe injuries of Jar-Jar Binks and Darth Maul’s overuse of the word awesome.

Crisis on Coruscant – While still tracking down R2-D2’s whereabouts, C-3PO shares his version of what happened in Revenge of the Sith.  General Grievous and Count Dooku “kidnap” the emperor in order to lure Anakin to join the dark side.  Darth Vader makes his appearance in this episode.  On a lighter note, Yoda’s line, “Oh heck what the” cracked us all up.

Mission to Mos Eisley – C-3PO heads to Tatooine to track down R2-D2.  He reminisces about A New Hope where he and R2-D2 are sold to Luke Skywalker after all of the other robots scavenged by the Jawas mysteriously break during their inspection.  Luke Skywalker begins his Jedi training with Obi-Wan and Yoda and later destroys the Death Star.  At the end of this episode, C-3PO reunites with Chewbacca and continues his quest of rescuing R2-D2 from his mysterious captor.

Flight of the Falcon – C-3PO retells the events from The Empire Strikes Back to Chewbacca and Nien Nunb as they head to the old Battle Droid Factory.   The rebels faced the wrath of Darth Vader after destroying the Death Star.  Luke trains with Yoda in Dagobah and hilarity ensues.  Han Solo got a little terse with C-3PO by telling him to shut his protocol hole.  By the end of this episode, R2-D2’s captor is revealed and both robots are in danger of being recycled into battle droids.

Gambit on Geonosis – While C-3PO and R2-D2 are stalling for time, C-3PO shares the events in Return of the Jedi with the interested Stormtroopers.  Han Solo is freed from his carbonite prison and the rebels have to deal with Jabba the Hutt.  While Luke is portrayed with two different colored hands, the details are not revealed in this series.  In the end, R2-D2, General Ackbar, and the Ewoks save the day and provide a happy ending.  

My kids enjoyed this series and I recommend it for any Lego and Star Wars fans out there.  While it’s not as funny as the other Lego Star Wars DVDs, it’s still worth checking out.  The DVD sells for less than $13 on Amazon.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids

Thank you Quartous for sending us this book to review!

Like many kids, my children enjoy building all sorts of things in Minecraft.  It’s a great outlet to encourage creativity and to interact and work with each other to create enormous structures.  If your family is new to Minecraft, the Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids book will go through the basics and will provide guides on building projects both inside and outside of the game.

My son learned how to make a TNT cannon and both him and my daughter also made flags and banners inside the game.  I like how the home projects correlate with the in-game ones.  To accompany these labs, my kids also learned how to make a marshmallow launcher and a Creeper face banner.   To go along with setting up a target practice inside of the game, my kids learned how to make a bow and arrow using wet popsicle sticks, dental floss, and Q-tips.  (I kept finding Q-tips throughout my house for a few days afterward.)

Minecraft is about survival and that entails foraging for food to eat.  One of the final labs gives a recipe and instructions for making mushroom stew to enjoy outside of the game.  If your kids are like mine and not a fan of mushrooms, they may prefer the cookie lab found earlier in the book instead.    Some other labs include making a simple circuit with an LED and a watch battery, or a Chinese finger trap to go alongside the in-game zombie trap.

There are lots of great ideas and fun projects to enjoy together as a family.  This book was a hit over spring break when the weather wasn’t nice enough to play outside.  The book will retail for less than $24 on Amazon when it comes out in June 2016.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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5 Reasons to Play Slither.io

slither.io

Fresh on the heels of Agar.io is a new, exciting multiplayer game: Slither.io. Challenging for casual and advanced gamers alike, Slither.io is one of many free titles available at Poki.com. It's essentially a highly competitive and fun multiplayer version of Snake. Below, we've outlined five of the best reasons to play Slither.io.

5. It Really Is Free
Not every "free" game is truly without cost. Many of the most popular online games are free to play, but inundate gamers with invasive advertisements. Or, all too often we start a game at the beginner level, and have a difficult time progressing due to competitors that have paid for upgrades and special abilities. Slither.io doesn't incur any of these issues, because it's completely free, and there's absolutely nothing to pay for. Everyone is on an even playing field.

4. Quick to Start
Slither.io is a casual multiplayer game. By casual, we mean that every player can begin a game within seconds. When you're done playing, simply close the game or your browser, and start fresh next time. There's no lengthy registration process or progress to save. There aren't any introduction videos, cutscenes, or ending credits. Slither.io is one of the most convenient games to join and leave whenever you wish. That's why it works great on desktop computers, tablets, and mobile devices alike—try Slither.io and see.

slither.io

3. Easy to Grasp
There's nothing more frustrating than reading a game manual, memorizing complex controls, and losing because you accidentally pressed the wrong button. Slither.io has an extremely simply control scheme and practically no learning curve. During the game, your snake will follow your cursor. Point the slithering reptile in any direction, and it will go there. For a quick speed boost, simply click and hold—that's all there is to it. This type of one-button gameplay is the key to attracting all types of players. Young, old, casual, and hardcore gamers can master the control system instantly.

2. Healthy Competition
Multiplayer games are extremely popular because they bring people together. In Slither.io, there are no teams, but everyone shares the same arena. Every second of gameplay is shaped by individual players. Certain parts of the map may be inhabited by gargantuan snakes, and other sections may be filled with smaller, more defensive snakes. Each player chooses where they want to go and with whom they interact. The always-visible leaderboard is a constant reminder of how you currently compare to other gamers. Jump into the competition, and feel the joy of thriving!

1. Fun, Fun, Fun
The best reason to play Slither.io is for sheer entertainment. It's an undeniably fun game that uses simplicity as a vehicle for addictiveness. Crawl, eat, slither, and grow. The bigger you become, the more you have at stake. Sometimes it takes a minute to climb the ranks, and other times, well, it just doesn't happen. The most important thing is that you have fun trying. Be the best snake you can be in Slither.io!

 

Disclaimer: This article has been provided by one of our donors - Poki.com

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Touched by an Angel: The Complete Series

Thank you BH Impact for sending us this DVD set to review!

Touched by an Angel began in 1994 and was almost cancelled after its first season. However, it was brought back for eight more seasons after the fans of the show wrote enough letters to change CBS’ mind.  During season’s three through six, Touched by an Angel was one of CBS’ highest rated series.  While it was nominated several times for the Golden Globe Awards it never won them.  It did however win multiple Outstanding Drama Series awards, and rightfully so!

The series begins with a couple of angels named Tess and Monica.  Tess is Monica’s supervisor and Monica is a newly promoted “case worker” who lends a helping hand to people in dire situations.  The show doesn’t pull any punches with the topics it discusses.  There are shows about alcoholism, drug addiction, AIDS, cancer, teen pregnancy, racism, homosexuality, and that’s just within the first couple of seasons!  While many of the shows are kid safe, some of them have serious themes and minor language that may not be suitable for young children.   I am happy to report that intimate relationships are eluded to and not explicitly shown.

I also like how this show displays God's love and even though we may be going through tough times, God never abandons us.  It also makes it clear that tough times are not necessarily a punishment and our mistakes still have consequences despite repenting and being forgiven for them.  The angels are not depicted as being perfect either; both Tess and Monica let their pride and emotions get to them and they get set back on track and confess their sins and make amends.  Andrew (from season two on), the angel of death, often appears in the show as well.  His appearance doesn't always mean that someone is going to die, but it's usually the case.  

Throughout the nine seasons and fifty-nine DVDs in this set there are numerous guest appearances from many popular celebrities including Bill Cosby, Celine Dion, Montel Williams, Randy Travis, and Wynonna Judd.  I also like how the show’s finale has guest characters from the first season reprising their roles and bringing closure to this inspiring series.   

Despite the low picture quality of the first couple of seasons, the stories are timeless.  Widescreen format is not available until the final season!  The musical talents of Della Reese (Tess) and other guests is a pleasure to listen to and the writing is excellent.  Some of the episodes will bring tears to your eyes so keep some Kleenex handy!

The complete series retails for $145 but is available for less than $90 on Amazon.  That’s a great price for over one hundred and sixty-five hours of inspiring entertainment.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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PrayerBowls

box

Thank you PrayerBowls for sending us one to review!

PrayerBowls is a husband and wife team that offers two different styles for bowls designed to receive prayer requests.  We were sent the Angie set, which is named after a woman that prayed daily for the founder during a serious illness and her many surgeries.  Angie used a bowl to place her written prayer requests and this idea inspired Karen to design some PrayerBowls for family and friends. They were well received and PrayerBowls was born.    

The Angie bowl is white and has a light teal edge with a cross in the center of it.  A Swarovski Crystal adorns the center of the cross. Inscribed on the edge is Philippians 4:6 which states: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.”   The Celeste set is white with gold trim and it has five Swarovski Crystals on its cross and the verse Romans 12:12 which reads “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfast in prayer.”  

 

prayerbowl

Each set comes with one pack of 25 prayer cards.  Some of the cards have lines to fill out while others have fill in the blanks like “Protect __ from harm” or “Lord, I lift up __” or “Please bring comfort to __”.  While any piece of paper will do the trick, replacement card packs are $3 on the website and are best ordered in bulk or with the PrayerBowls since there is a $5 flat rate shipping price on any item.  Both PrayerBowl styles sell for $52 apiece and a dollar from each sale goes to the Mary Lee’s House Charity which aids children who are abused.

PrayerBowls can make wonderful gifts and can be an excellent tool for strengthening your prayer life.  There’s even an AppStore version if you prefer to digitize your prayers.  Our family has been blessed with our new PrayerBowl and my son alone has put about ten prayer requests into it. One of his cards thanked God for the PrayerBowl and cards.   If you have children or foresee a lot of prayer requests, it’s probably not a bad idea to order an extra set or two of prayer cards.  Many retailers sell PrayerBowls and their website will help you locate the nearest store that carries them for you.

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My Little Pony Friends Across Equestria

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Oculus Snift

VR Has leveled up: Oculus has included the sense of smell with their latest product, the Oculus Snift!

By adding the sense of smell to video games they take gaming to a whole new level! For example, when you burn a meal in the forthcoming VR version of Cooking Mama you’ll take your meal preparation a little more seriously!  A DLC for Lucky's Tale will feature Pepe’ Le Pew as he pursues his love interest, a black and white cat that looks like a skunk.  “Believe me, you DO NOT want to get him killed” says the present of Oculus VR, Brendan Iribe. Some games will feature pleasant smells like the Snift version of Flower which will be coming to PC later this year.  

Owners of the Snift can put their noses to the test with the future release of Jackbox Games'  "Name that Smell!". If your nose isn't very good, doctors are looking into using Snift's technology to strengthen the sense of smell.  Nothing can be confirmed without FDA approval though. Pricing and availability for Snift has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. Snift is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.

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Glimmer Girls: A Dolphin Wish

Thank you Zonderkids for sending us this book to review!

This book is the second book in the Glimmer Girls series, and in it Maddie, Mia, and Lulu are swept away to San Diego for another one of their mom’s concerts. You will also find out the dad’s name - Jack.  To relax the family goes to Captain Swashbuckler’s Adventure Park, an amusement park with an ocean theme. On their first day there, the Glimmers visit the dolphins. On her way back from the bathroom, Mia overhears a conversation that revolves around the topic of illegal animal releases!

The mystery begins when the family is seeing seals and Lulu finds a slip of paper - a possible clue!  The girls think people might get suspicious if they talked about the criminal as a criminal, so they agreed on the code name Dr. Dolittle.  The girls needed to get the feeding schedule of the animals, for it was crucial to the solving of this mystery. Lulu’s slip of paper just happened to be the feeding schedule. 

When they were visiting the  seals, Lulu found a boy with a sketchbook. She asked what he was drawing, and the boy acted all secretive. He could be a possible suspect! The girls were also doing a treasure hunt throughout the park. Mia had one clue the others didn’t – the golden key. She told them about it on the last day as they were preparing to leave the park. The rest of the story you’ll have to read the book to find out.

The drawings in this book are in the same style as in the last one- cartoony and monochrome. They are typically at the beginning of chapters, and sometimes at exciting parts in this 208 page book. It was a really good story and I highly recommend it. 

Buy it on Amazon
(Affiliate Link)

 

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Sole to Soul

Thank you to Westbow Press for sending us this book to review!

Eleanor MacLellan and her husband, Ig, were out of options when their son Patrick began having problems. From bad grades to school suspensions, Patrick was on a road to nowhere fast. During his junior year in high school, Patrick totaled the family van in an unauthorized road trip. The breaking point, however, was when he was caught for shoplifting and thrown in jail. The end result was a change of scenery for Patrick. He was sent out of state to repeat his junior year at an alternative school for at-risk youth. 

At Hyde School, not only were students expected to perform with high standards, but parents as well. While a senior project is normal for any student entering their last year in high school, his parents learned they also needed to complete one. The goal of the senior project was to operate beyond your comfort zone while doing something worthwhile to help your community. Ig decided on a community service trip to El Salvador. Eleanor, on the other hand, embarked on creating a large canvas labyrinth to donate to her church. As Eleanor reflected on her life leading up to this as well as researching the project, she discovered the labyrinth was symbolic of life itself as there are no straight paths or dead ends such as with a maze; all the surprising twists and turns carry you on a walk towards the rose center, which represents the soul. 

With one family crisis after another, Eleanor's passage also led her to become more confident and stronger as a Christian. She didn't do it alone however. Obviously, she had her family but she also had a group of close friends who helped her with funding, designing and creating the labyrinth. Together these special companions journeyed through life's toughest battles including many hardships, pain, loss and grief. 

The author cleverly wrote each chapter chronologically in "circuits" to coincide with the labyrinth path from the entrance to reaching the center. For example, Circuit One is primarily the beginning of the story and upon entering the labyrinth, a brief description of the path is provided. Accompanying each chapter also includes a small diagram of a labyrinth. This has two shades of gray. The darker shade displays the previous path taken while the lighter shade displays the current path the chapter is about.

While the intro was interesting, admittedly, it took awhile to really get into this book. At first I found the story dry. There are small anecdotes about Eleanor's family including divorce from a previous marriage and then having to manage a blended family, her work as a trial lawyer, and church service. Although the book follows a labyrinth path, I kept wondering to myself, "Well what about the creation of the labyrinth itself?" The labyrinth is discussed in greater detail in Circuit Five. As Eleanor gets painfully honest with herself and realizes she needs help, she reaches out to five church members and bares her soul. These five women not only became her closest friends but also become known as the Labyrinth Ladies.

Although a large portion is written about Patrick's triumphs and struggles, his story becomes vaguer as the book continues. Patrick is eventually kicked out of Hyde School two months before graduation. At one point there is an occurrence of an ethics violation early on, however, no clear reason is provided for getting kicked out and not allowed to graduate. I found it odd that the author skimped on providing more information about this particular detail. 

The only other issue I had with the book is Eleanor went to a New Age book store in order to find out more about labyrinths. It is no secret that New Age and Christianity oppose each other. The memoir occurs in the early 2000s. She could have looked in traditional bookstores and even the library. It's not to say that a labyrinth is strictly tied to New Age spiritualism. Many churches, including orthodox and nontraditional, have labyrinths on display. However, with information about any subject easier to obtain nowadays, why research in a nontraditional method especially for a Christian? 

Returning to the review, I admire her group of friends. To have close friends who you can share secrets with yet won't abandon you when you're struggling through the darkest of days is something each person hopes for but very few have. 

As with many, the completed labyrinth was a marvel to behold. It is a thirty-six foot square of purple canvas. The path was hand-painted not only by the Labyrinth Ladies but by church and Hyde School volunteers. It was a concerted effort that reinforced the concept of community. In fact part of the actual labyrinth made serves as the cover of the book. 

Probably one of the reasons I struggled with reading the book is it's not a straightforward memoir. There is so much detail to digest here. It's not only Eleanor's struggles with her family but her friends are given a fair amount of time as well. Each person you read about is real and walk their own labyrinth path, which is skillfully depicted in the book. 

If you are looking for an in-depth memoir that encompasses the many paths people take towards their own God-inspired center, please give Sole to Soul by Eleanor MacLellan a try.  It's available on Amazon for $3.99 electronically or for $24.95 on paperback. (Affiliate Link)

 

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Odd Squad: Dance Like Nobody is Watching

Thank you PBS kids for sending us this DVD to review!

The Odd Squad is a government agency that’s run by kids.  Their mission is to investigate and rectify strange occurrences and to keep everyone safe.  All of the agents have names that begin with the letter “O”.  Field agents Otto, Olive, and their boss Miss O., are in each of the six episodes on this 90-minute DVD.  As the title suggests, each episode is musically themed and most of them use math logic to solve the perplexing mysteries in their neighborhood.

Here’s a break-down of each episode:

Dance Like Nobody is Watching – The agency is under a lockdown as their alarm system got triggered.  Their scientist, Oscar has put many booby traps in place and has long forgotten their patterns.  Otto gets to show off some of his dance moves while de-activating a tricky laser trap. 

Sound Check – There’s a hot boy band called Sound Check and all of the townsfolk and agents (except for Olive) are digging their new single – “Take Away 4.” The problem is that whenever people hear the song, four of their items disappear!  

Sound Check Part Deux – Sound Check is back, well at least one of the members is.  The Odd Squad has to help put the band back together by locating the missing three members.

Case of the Sing Alongs – The mayor has developed an unusual habit of singing and dancing at public events.  The Odd Squad has been called in to figure out why and to put a stop to his strange behavior.

O is not for Old – The agency wants to throw a surprise birthday party for Miss O.  Everything is set up except for the forgotten present and birthday cake.  Oscar can produce them quickly if the group can decide on what type of cake and present to give her.  Olaf’s suggestions for potatoes for both are not very helpful. 

Mystic Egg Pizza – The pizza delivery girl and egg sandwich delivery guy have discovered that pieces of their products show up missing after they are placed into their delivery boxes.  The Odd Squad is called in to follow some leads and crack this tricky case.

My kids enjoyed this show and its wacky humor.  Besides entertaining, it teaches logic and math concepts like fractions and graphing/charting.  I highly recommend this DVD which sells for less than $10 on Amazon (Affiliate link).

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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