Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Disclosure Statement for My Blogs

Disclosure Statement for My Blogs

To comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials 16 CFR Part 255 I share the following information, prepared December 1, 2009.

This disclosure applies to both of my blogs:



I publish my blog posts on blogger.com under the pen name ChristineMM.


For The Thinking Mother blog only, I am a member of BlogHerAds. One ad for BlogHer appears in my blog’s sidebar. I receive monetary payment not based on the content published on my blog but for showing their ads in my blog’s sidebar. BlogHerAds has strict rules regarding the content I publish on my blog and I am bound by contract to adhere to their rules. For example, I am prohibited from posting any reviews for which I’ve been paid money to write. I am prohibited from blogging a review of any product or service valued at over $40 which I have received free for the purpose of using to write the review. At the present I am not allowed to host “blog book tours” or give-away’s for promotional contests with product supplied to me by a third party (i.e. a book publisher or a publicist). For more information about the BlogHerAds policies, see their website.

If I prepare a review that violates the BlogHerAds agreement it will either not be published by me on any of my blogs or it may appear on my second blog which is not bound by the BlogHerAds contract: christinemmatcs.blogspot.com.

Other Ads

My blog does not accept other advertising, such as being paid by a company to show a specific ad in my sidebar, even though this practice is common in the blogosphere.

Amazon Associates Program

Since the fourth quarter of 2005, I have been an Amazon Associate. Purchases made through Amazon affiliate links on this both of my blogs (listed above) yield a small referral fee. This applies to all purchases made on Amazon regardless of whether the product the consumer purchased was mentioned by me or not. The consumer’s purchases are confidential; I don’t know who has purchased items using my blog’s Amazon Associate links.

Amazon Vine Product Review Program

Since mid-2007, I have been a member of the Amazon Vine review program. Amazon.com invited me to participate in this program. If I so desire, I may select a certain number of products per month (usually a maximum of 4) from a list that Amazon.com offers me. I may choose to not receive any product or I may leave the program at any time. I do not receive monetary payment for participating with this program. The product received is either a small sample size (i.e. one can of beverage or one granola bar) or a demo copy (scaled down copy of the real product i.e. DJ Hero video game). Books are usually in the form of an ARC or bound galley and many times are not the same edition of the book that a consumer would buy. These products are not owned by me, they are owned by Amazon and per the agreement I must return them to Amazon.com if asked to. I can submit reviews to Amazon.com which are clearly marked as Amazon Vine reviews. I do not have to review these products but in order to be eligible to receive more product I must maintain a 75% review level. I publish these reviews on my blog ONLY if doing so does not violate the terms of agreement I have with BlogHerAds. All of my Amazon Vine reviews are clearly marked as such on both Amazon.com. I am not persuaded to only write favorable reviews, Amazon.com encourages our honest opinions and asks us only to comply with their review policy (i.e. no use of profanity and some other general etiquette guidelines to encourage professionalism).

Not all of the Amazon Vine reviews I write are published on one or both of my blogs.

To be clear, my review arrangement with Amazon Vine is for reviews published on Amazon.com and clearly marked as being Amazon Vine reviews. Any reviews I wrote for Amazon Vine that I choose to also publish on either or both of my blogs is done of my own free will and was not published on my blog(s) at the request of Amazon.com. I receive no compensation for any Amazon Vine review that also appears on my blog(s).

See “Amazon Associates” section for more information.

Amazon Customer Reviews

Since 1997 I have been submitting customer reviews to Amazon.com. May Amazon customer name is ChristineMM. I receive no compensation from Amazon.com for writing these reviews. Since starting my blogs I sometimes publish the reviews on my blog(s) also. These blog post reviews are items are either purchased by me with my own money or borrowed from a public library or borrowed from a friend, unless they fall into one of the other categories mentioned in this disclosure statement. The source of the product will be mentioned in each blog post.

See “Amazon Associates” for more information.

Library Thing Early Reviewers Program

Occasionally I request and receive an ARC, review copy or a promotional copy of a book from the LibaryThing.com Early Reviewer program. My LibraryThing account name is ChristineMM. I receive no compensation for participating in this program. I am not bound to write the review and am not persuaded to write only favorable reviews either. If I do review it, the review appears on LibaryThing.com. I may choose to also publish the review on my blog. The source of the book will be clearly noted on those blogged reviews.

See “Amazon Associates” for more information.

ARCs, review copies, promotional copies from other sources

Occasionally I will accept ARCs, review copies, and promotional copies from authors, publishers or publicists. As of 2009 this is not something I frequently do. I am not bound by contract to write these reviews nor do I receive compensation for doing so. Some of these reviews are published on my blog while some wind up never being reviewed (as in the case of a bad book that I couldn’t manage to finish reading). These blogged reviews will be clearly marked with their source.

See “Amazon Associates” for more information.

Other Reviews and Comments Made on My Blog

Since starting my blogs I sometimes publish reviews on my blog(s) or mention various products on my blog which are all relevant to the topics discussed on my blog, mainly, parenting, homeschooling, education, art, crafts, handcrafts, photography, gardening, housekeeping, cooking, baking, nonfiction books for self-education and fiction pleasure reading. I sometimes review a product I own and love or discuss a movie I watched or own a copy of.

These are items are either purchased by me with my own money or have been borrowed from a public library or borrowed from a friend, unless they fall into one of the above categories, in which case they will be clearly marked as to their source. Sometimes I may discuss a product I would like to buy but have not yet purchased or consumed. I do not receive any compensation from any source for mentioning these products on my blog such as the publisher or the product manufacturer.

See “Amazon Associates” for more information.

Prepared by ChristineMM, published 12/01/09 7:45 pm EST.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

DJ Hero Video Game Review

Product Name: DJ Hero for xBox360

My Summary Statement: A Review From a Mom of Tweens -- We Like It!

My rating: 4 stars out of 5 = I Like It

Note: The Amazon Vine program provided me with a demo kit which had 4 songs (not 93 that is on the full game) and a wired turntable (the regular product’s turntable is wireless), so my review is based on limited game play.

Parents, note that the ERSB rating is T = Teen for lyrics and "mild suggestive themes". Since my demo kit has so few songs I can't comment on the song lyrics. Product information also states ERSB rating does not apply to additional downloads.

Our family uses the xBox360 and we own and use three different Guitar Hero (GH) games and own two GH guitars.

We don’t normally listen to mixed music or hip hop but my kids and I still had fun with this game. Not only do the kids think the sound of the mixed and scratched music is fun, we like that the songs are from a variety of music genres that they already know with some new-to-my-kids (but not new to me) songs. The full game has dance, pop, rock and hip hop. The songs include some classic rock and the songs are from the 1960s to present.

The games can be played solo with one turntable that comes in the bundle pack, or with two turntables (which requires an additional purchase). The second player can also use their GH guitar so by using DJ Hero you can inject fresh song tracks to your GH game play. Also if one person (friend or family member) prefers GH to DJ Hero in the end they can still play a two player game together using DJ Hero. The kids are already asking me to buy a second turntable and the full game with 93 songs.

Because our family plays video games together as a family and because visiting kids often play with my kids, everyone in our family is most interested in games that are flexible and are multi-player. DJ Hero fits that bill.

From a mom’s perspective, I’ll share how my two kids and I liked it to give you an idea of how different players of different ages experience the game. One of my sons is a natural at Guitar Hero (and also has been playing a real guitar for almost a year). He wanted to play with DJ Hero as it was something new and different. He took to DJ Hero immediately and found it fun (not frustrating at all). My other son doesn’t do so well with GH and avoids playing it was interested in DJ Hero. He is doing great with DJ Hero and was surprised to find Guitar Hero so challenging for hand/eye coordination with the GH guitar, but finds DJ Hero’s turntable easy and fun (and has no problem doing complex moves on other xBox360 games with the normal controller). Both kids laugh and talk while they play, so far no anger or frustration!

I tested the product and found some challenges with the turntable that my kids didn’t find to be an issue. Most problematic for me is I can’t find a good place to put the turntable so it is comfortable that is also a steady, non-slipping surface. The design doesn’t have enough grippers on its legs so it slides around easily. When I sat on the hardwood floor and placed the unit on the floor in front of me my back cramps up from bending over and down to reach the turntable plus was looking up toward the TV. The floor is not the most comfortable place to sit either and my legs fell asleep in the middle of some songs. I tried putting it on my lap and that didn’t work as it slides around. Losing contact with the buttons messes up the game’s whole score and was frustrating for me. (I am curious how others are positioning the turntable and how they can keep it from sliding around.)

Perhaps the best idea would be to sit on a chair or couch and use a coffee table for the turntable surface (I can’t test this because the wire is not long enough on my demo kit, the normal product is wireless). Sitting on the front of a chair and leaning forward may not be so comfortable and definitely not for long periods of time, and I still worry about the slipping of the turntable. If the whole bottom surface had a rubber bottom or something similar (like a skin) you could sit back with your knees angled up or sit flat and use your lap but the current design is too slippery to allow that.

You are basically tensed up during the game play with much less freedom of movement than any other xBox360 game requires. I don’t know how this can be remedied; I’m just stating a fact. Both the guitar for the Guitar Hero and the regular controller are much more flexible with one’s position, standing, sitting upright, or lounging back, and with the ability to move around during game play to use whichever is most comfortable at the moment is a big advantage over the turntable whose design is just challenging due to the nature of its design. Maybe players who like to be able to move around or shift position during game play may not like those restrictions on their physical movement.

As for what is on the screen, as with GH and Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) the player must focus on their section of the screen that shows their moves. Others in the room can watch the background images which are bright and ever-moving, just like those in GH and DDR of crowds, dancers, and with DJs.

In summary the game is fun for both solo and multi-players, so I’m rating it 4 stars = I Like It. The reason for not getting 5 stars is due to the challenge of the turntable sliding around and the difficulty with finding a comfortable way to sit that allows for proper game play.

Disclosure: I did not receive any payment to write this review. This demo kit was provided to me by the Amazon Vine review program. My demo game has 4 songs on it, not 93 and is not sold in stores. My wired turntable is not sold in stores (a wireless, better version is). The retail value of this demo kit is $0 and I am prohibited from reselling it.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Visions of America Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Visions of America
Author/Photographer: Joseph Sohm
Publication: Visons of America, 2009

Author and self-proclaimed Photo Historian Joseph Sohm has spent over thirty years traveling across America taking photographs. At some point the travel photography journey turned into a more of a quest with a goal to capture in photographed images, the idea of what democracy is and expanded to include visits and photographs of all fifty states. As a self-employed photographer without access to press credentials, Sohm has had to work hard to gain access to locations and politicians to succeed in capturing the wide range of content which he felt was imperative to the project (such as access to photograph Presidents).

I learned about this book by seeing Sohm on CSPAN's BookTV discussing the book. In his lecture, I enjoyed hearing stories behind some of the photos of his passion for photography and his patriotism for America. However I mistakenly assumed the book was ONLY a coffee table book of photography.

I loved seeing the high quality photography and the large number of photographs that should go without saying. But what surprised me about VISIONS OF AMERICA once I had it in my hands, was that it is filled with essay stories by Sohm.

Sohm's passion for America, his pride in being an American citizen and his wealth of knowledge about United States history was clearly apparent. I was so entranced by Sohm's words right from the first story that I decided to not peek at the photographs in the future pages, and instead read the book cover to cover, slowly taking in each image as I read the stories in the order the author intended to reveal his literal 'visions of America'. The images so closely tie in with the stories and the finely crafted chapters that reading it in its entirety and in order seemed the most respectful and best way to approach this book. Of the storytelling I will say that the stories are just right, not overdone, are full of passion (not exaggerated) and seem so sincere.

This winds up being anything but a generic compilation of color photographs of the United States of America, there are surely a number of those types of coffee table books on the market already, good only for their photographs. This book is different and SUPERIOR because it tells a story not just in the images selected in the chapter groupings, painting a picture of America's past and present but it is a collection of stories that reads like a travel journal and also like a memoir. The historical content gives a bit of nonfiction history book flavor to the book as well. Additionally there is a fair amount of discussion of the challenges of taking good photographs and the quest and hard work trying to get a great shot so that photographers who like to read about the photographer’s artistic process will enjoy that element of Sohm's stories as well.

The book is without strong political bias but I detect hints which were not troublesome to me. The books contain images of Presidents. Sohm was hired to photograph President Clinton and so that is the time period when the bulk of his Presidential photographs were taken and the book is heavier on the Presidents post 1992. There are images of the Bush's and a couple of now President Obama, taken close to the publication date. The hot button issue of global warming found its way into the book with the author seeming very worried about it (he's clearly not a validity of the issue doubter). A chapter features some photos of some abuse of the Earth by humans (pollution, garbage dumps and so forth) as a bit of a call to action to treat our planet more gently.

Patriotic Americans will love this book. This is a great book for families too, being a wonderful photographic introduction to our United States of America. If my eleven year old son was any indication, kids will enjoy hearing some of the stories too (he loved the story of the difficulty in getting a clear shot of Mt. Rushmore, when a man in an orange jacket was standing right on Lincoln's head, ruining an otherwise perfect shot).

This is also a great book for public libraries.

This is a great coffee table book for casual flipping for people of all ages, but readers should do themselves a favor and take the time to read through the book cover to cover to savor it to its fullest.

I can't recommend this book highly enough! It is a beautiful book, very high quality paper and printing with stunning color photography with very good storytelling.

Bravo Joseph Sohm and thank you for sharing your Magnum Opus with us!

External Links

Author's official website, see samples from the book

Watch author lecture on CSPAN's BookTV

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Word of Promise Next Generation New Testament by ChristineMM

Title: Word of Promise Next Generation New Testament
Genre: Bible, New Testament Dramatization for Children
ISBN-13: 978-1400313273
Full Retail Price: $49.99

My Rating: 2 stars = “I Don’t Like It”

Summary Statement: Mismatched Actor Emotions to What is Being Said, Bad Music Match to Content

I delayed in publishing this review because my opinion dissents from the majority. After discussing this with some other Christian parents they implored me to share my honest thoughts. I was also feeling guilty to share a negative review of a Bible product, to be honest.

I had high hopes for this as I wanted to hear a dramatized version of the New Testament for my own entertainment and information. I had hoped to share it with my tween-aged kids and the idea of them liking it enough to listen to it voluntarily appealed to me greatly.

I think this dramatization is of poor quality, not sound quality but it is a poor translation with a bare minimum of “dramatization”. It is more like an audio book being read aloud with a music track running at the same time. There are not enough sound effects to flesh out the scenes appropriately. In a scene with a crowd there is just music then a few voices at the end. In a scene with a boat there was music then a few lapping waves. Big deal.

I found it weird and distracting that a lot of the time the music track was not the same emotion or pace as what was being said. A serious scene should not have ‘happy and light’ music. The emotions were mismatched. Some of the music is classical type and others seems more of the new age-meditation type music.

The worst thing of all was the voice of Jesus Christ. This ruined the whole thing for me and caused me to give up listening to this a couple of times. There was only one tone to his voice, a monotone kind of hippie Kumbaya voice. To be blunt he sounded like he was high on drugs, mellowed out. In scenes where Jesus says things in anger, the voice was not angry. In scenes where a faster paced voice or a louder voice or a commanding voice was appropriate, the same monotone voice, quiet and calm was used. It was very strange and distracting with a tone one imagines someone saying “peace brother, God is Love”.

I had to keep playing some sections over and over as I was so distracted by the mismatch of emotion or the music that I had missed the content of what was said.

When my kids saw the box they were excited as they recognized many faces and names from the Disney channel shows. However they would have trouble following this as they are used to high quality recordings of audio books from Recorded Books publisher. This is not up to their standards.

As an example of what I think is a high quality dramatized product for children, I have read all the Chronicles of Narnia paper books, heard all the Recorded Books produced audio books and then heard the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre dramatized version of all the books (ISBN 978-1589971493). And I’ve seen the two movies that have been released in the last few years. That dramatization by Focus on the Family is a great example of the way a very good book can be adapted into an excellent dramatization by use of voices talking to each other with appropriate emotion with a small amount of narration and lots of sound effects (not simply reading the book aloud with mainly music in the background and a few sound effects thrown in here and there).

For my children and myself, I think I will find an audio book version of the New Testament and Old Testament with a high quality reader (even if it was produced for an adult audience), and scratch the idea of a dramatization or something special geared toward kids.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this product from the Amazon Vine product review program.

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