Exploding Kittens [App Review]

Date Wed, July 5 2017

When the Exploding Kittens app first became available but only to iOS users, I was bummed. I mean, I donated to the campaign for the physical card game (which is awesome). I have all the expansions. Don’t I, an Android user, deserve the game?

I guess so. It’s out now. I’m not sure how long it’s been out, but a friend reminded me, and I downloaded the app.

But first I had to pay for it. Now, $2 might not be much for a lot of fun, but it’s enough to deter many people from grabbing the app. After all, there are so many awesome apps that are available for free (Legendary is one I play lately). So I really wish that Exploding Kittens was available for free, but it you’re interested, you can get it from iTunes and Google Play.

Now, Exploding Kittens is far from the first party card game I’ve played on my phone. Evil Apples is a version of Cards Against Humanity (review here) that I played a lot of for a while. I cannot help but compare Exploding Kittens to this game for that reason.

When you log in, you choose your avatar. There are a rainbow of cats to choose from, but they’re a little generic. There are more interesting options, but you need to pay to use them. I opted for the free one. There’s not an option to use your own photo as far as I can tell.

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The app also generates a name for you. I am HuggyBear. I haven’t changed this because it’s cute and, judging from others’ names, they followed suit. The avatars and names really make Exploding Kittens feel more anonymous than Evil Apples, which may be a negative for some people.

For people who want to play Exploding Kittens with friends, that’s also an option. Instead of inviting friends like in Evil Apples, you provide them with a code and log in. You only need two people to play, but my experience shows that this isn’t enough to be fun.

When you’re in a game, there’s a chat menu with preset options, but you can’t type any message you’d like. For people who are more focused on the game than socializing, this might not be a detractor, however.

If you’re into playing anonymously, you can log on to a game with strangers. First, you choose a deck: the free/original deck, the party deck or the betrayal deck. The game will let you try theparty deck for free once, and it adds a couple different cards including one that turns all your opponents’ cards into cat butts.

The game collects a few players, and you’re good to go. It seems like Exploding Kittens isn’t super popular because it takes longer to populate a game than with Evil Apples. I’ve also experienced more than a few canceled games due to connection errors or the host dropping out.

Once you’re in the game, you’re dealt a hands of cards that use the same art style (thanks to Matthew Inman of the Oatmeal!) that you’re used to, but some cards/game mechanisms have been changed to work better for the mobile format. For example, you can still peek at three cards or shuffle. You want to avoid the exploding kitten with a defuse card, but there are now slap and double slap options in the stead of favor and attack cards, and you only need a single kitten to take a card from someone else rather than pairs. This makes sense given that you’re playing digitally, and it work be harder to select two cards at once.

You can touch a card to see what it does, and a little screen explains the effect of the last played card. Learn how to play here.

A notable omission comes in the form of “Nope” cards, which you can use in the physical game to stop any action that isn’t defusing a kitten. When I’ve played, there has sometimes been a sequence of players laying down those cards and yelling “Nope,” which is always a good time. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as fun in the app. I’m not sure because it’s not there.

Like the card game, you can replace an exploding kitten in the deck. You can choose from a few specific locations or replace it in random. There’s a gauge that explains the likelihood of picking an exploding kitten, too, which can help you to determine which cards to play.

If you do lose, you need to wait for the end of the game, which is a bit frustrating. I’d rather be able to leave.

Play involves a number of unique animations and sounds that I think are well done and realistic enough to bother my cat. LOL However, the animations make an already mediocre game take longer than it otherwise would.

Since I paid for the app, I plan to keep playing it, but it hasn’t been as fun as Evil Apples or the actual card game. I find myself playing because the game prompts me. It’s a bit slow in between turns, and it doesn’t hold my attention.

LipSense and ShadowSense Giveaway (Multiple Winners)

Date Fri, June 30 2017

Welcome to the newest giveaway at Reviews by Cole! I am sure you’re going to love this one!

This product is for some products I’ve heard a lot about lately: LipSense! Whether you’ve seen swatches, ads or Facebook groups, I bet you’re as intrigued as I am. I have yet to try these products but you could be able to just by entering this giveaway!

But you won’t just have a chance to win their lip products. You’ll also have a chance to walk away with their ShadowSense eye products. I didn’t even know they made those, did you? This is a pretty awesome giveaway that will reward not one but two winners!

First, let’s give some love to our sponsors and hosts:
Sponsored By: Julie Jones

Hosted By: Love, Mrs. Mommy

Co-Hosted By: MomJunky and Keystrokes by Kimberly

And if you want to know more about the specific prizes, keep reading.

1st Prize: Winner will receive their choice of LipSense Starter Kit (of available colors) worth $55.
2nd Prize: Winner will receive a ShadowSense Duo in Moca Java and Moca Java Shimmer worth $44.

Below are swatches of the LipSense shades in all their shiny and vibrant glory. Which one will you pick?

Open To US and must be 18+ to enter

Giveaway Dates ~ 7/1 12:01 AM EST through 7/19 11:59PM EST

Disclosure: Love, Mrs. Mommy and all participating bloggers are not held responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill their prize obligations. This giveaway is in no way endorsed or sponsored by Facebook or any other social media site. The winners will be randomly drawn by Giveaway Tools and will be notified by email. The winners have 48 hours to reply before a replacement winner will be drawn. If you would like to participate in an event like this please contact LoveMrsMommy (at) gmail (dot) com.

Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal

Date Fri, June 23 2017

I like comics. I first read them more than half of my lifetime ago. Yet, somehow, I managed not to read any Marvel titles. I wanted to rectify that this year and had the chance when Comixology added a bunch of Marvel titles to their Unlimited subscription program (it’s no longer available from there, though). Check out my review here.

I started with Squirrel Girl, which was fun. I’m not going to write a review for it, but I think it’d be good for girls who want to read comics and anyone who wants a little girl power in their lives.

I followed up with the first volume of Ms. Marvel. I’d heard a lot about it — how it features a Muslim girl as the superhero and how she wears a pretty atypical costume for superheroes — and seen some of the art, so I definitely wanted to read it.

Ms. Marvel follows in the tracks of being a book that is family-friendly, and I’m loving that Marvel is offering those options. The plot takes us through Kamal Khan, a Muslim teenager in high school, suddenly gains superpowers and becomes Ms. Marvel. She then must learn how to use those powers to protect Jersey City from bad guys while still making it to homeroom and managing to please her strict parents. You know the drill. Everyday teenager stuff! d=

The main storyline has Ms. Marvel looking for teens who have gone missing. No one else seems to notice, and Kamala stumbles across a trail that doesn’t wrap up between these pages, which collect issues 1 – 5,  so you’ll need to pick up the next book if you want to finish the story.

The first book will tell you whether you want to read more, and it’s a strong start to this character. It’s interesting for me as a non-Muslim to see how her family and background are treated, and the Comixology version included letters written in. There is a demographic of comic readers who never had a character that had similar origins before Ms. Marvel. That’s super cool!

Along with her faith and family, Kamala must deal with changing dynamics with her friends, homework and discovering who she is as a person — with or without superpowers. Ms. Marvel absolutely has the potential to be a coming-of-age story, so if those aren’t your thing, you might not fall in love with the story in these pages.

With that said, while there are certainly refreshing aspects to Ms. Marvel that make it worth the read, it’s not amazing. It wasn’t earth-shattering. I didn’t find myself clamoring for the next book, even though I did get around to reading it. This is light reading material, and I can imagine that some people might want something heavier, and a few reviewers found it slow or boring (the pace does pick up in the second volume). But the light read means even if it doesn’t hit the spot for you, you won’t have spent much time trying it on for size.

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Hyperbole and a Half [Book Review]

Date Thu, June 22 2017

Do you guys know Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half? She’s a hilarious blogger who, sadly, hasn’t been active for a few years. Even if you don’t recognize her name and haven’t read her blog, you might recognize her style of art that accompanies each post. It’s been used as many a meme (Know Your Meme has a good page on it).

So if you haven’t heard of her, now you have. I obviously had heard of her and have read every blog post on her site. I knew how hilarious she was. I knew she wrote a book, but it took me a while to get around to reading it. This meant it had been quite some time since I read those posts, which was probably a good thing.

Much of the content in Hyperbole and a Half, the book, is content curated from her blog. It’s some of the best, but not all of the best The Alot is Better Than You At Everything is one example of a missing post. I suggest you start there. If you like that post and find yourself wanting to read more, maybe stop and buy or check out this book to support an artist, you know?

You’re going to get a great impression of Allie from her blog, but the book does include some new content, and you can curl up in bed and read a hard copy or on your Kindle, which is a little more comfortable than reading a website.

I read Hyperbole and a Half in just one or two sittings. I couldn’t put it down despite having read many of the “chapters” as blog entries in the past. I had forgotten much of it, but it was all funny. I laughed until I cried and then nearly puked. I had to stop for my own health!

Despite being funny, Allie tackles issues such as anxiety and depression and how they make her react to specific things in her life. It’s easy to relate to her, a blogger who is sometimes awkward, a millennial who isn’t quite sure how to adult and a dog lover who attributes personality quirks to her pets that might make other people raise an eyebrow.

Hyperbole and a Half probably isn’t for everyone, but while I know many people who don’t know of the blog, those who do never seem to dislike it. It has nearly a 5-star review on Amazon from over 3500 readers, so I don’t think I am alone in my enjoyment of this book.

I feel pretty good recommending this book when you want a quick, easy read. If you’re not a fan of light humor and short blog-post-style “chapters,” then Hyperbole and a Half might not be for you. But I still recommend you read a blog post just to check.

The Night Circus [Book Review]

Date Wed, June 21 2017

In The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern tells the tale of a mysterious and magical circus that shows up without warning in various towns. It opens only at night, attracting a curious sort of crowd, both as circus-goers and performers. Within the fences are glorious tents, all in red, white and black, and within those tents are contained exhibits and performances that are beyond the scope of imagination to most characters who visit the circus in the book — and perhaps to many readers as well.

The Night Circus contains page after page of description of fantastic exhibit and magical show. It’s quite the treat for the mind’s eyes, but it’s also the bulk of the pages (of which there are many). It makes the book feel slow and, at times, quite tedious. There weren’t really any moments while I had put down my Kindle that I found myself with an insatiable desired to pick it back up.

Interspersed between descriptions of the circus itself is a plot, but the reader is never quite sure who is the main character or even if there is supposed to be one. I found that I was rather unsympathetic to the plethora of characters that lived within these pages — and there were no shortage of characters to follow, relationships to understand and lives to unravel.

Perhaps that last point is where all my frustration with The Night Circus rests. Throughout much of the book two characters, Clare and Marco, are set against one another by their masters, mentors and – in one case – father. But the characters struggle to understand the rules, the playing field and the outcome of that competition. Thus, the reader also fails to understand the game and, perhaps, the book that surrounds it and seems hinged on it.

I’ve read reviews that describe this as a book about a circus rather than one about people or a story. And I could give you that. So much of the book is spent describing the exhibits, and they’re certainly creative. It’s not difficult to envision them or wish they were real so that I could visit my very own night circus. But I am almost left with the feeling that this idea would work better in a visual format than it does as words on a page. There’s just not enough story here to support The Night Circus being a novel, let alone one that’s just so, well, long.

With that said, if you’re not as plot or character oriented, if you like the slow burn, if you want to be captivated by the imagery painted by the words, then you might enjoy The Night Circus more than i did.

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What To Do If You’ve Lost Your Smartphone

Date Tue, June 20 2017

I am fortunate to never have had lost my phone or have it stolen. Knock on wood. But I recognize that it only has to happen once to wreak havoc on your life. And I’m prepared to deal with it should happen.

Chances are, you’re here because the worst (or what seems like the worst for the moment) has happened. Your phone is lost — or stolen. But it doesn’t need to be a catastrophe.

If your phone has already been lost or stolen, the next bit of advice probably won’t help you. However, the key to finding your lost phone is to set up protections before it becomes lost. This is pretty easy.

Google Device Manager options

Google Device Manager options

Android

Head to Android Device Manager and sign in with your Google account. Click to enable remote phone locating. This will enable a few features that I’ll discuss below.

You’ll also be able to select “Enable Lock and Erase”. This is an extra security measure that I recommend. Once you enable it, you’ll be able to lock your device, set a new password and even enter a phone number where a finder can reach you (if a kind bystander happens to come across it, of course).

Lost Android?

Simply head back to the Android Device Manager (there’s also a Find My Device app if you prefer to access from another device and not your browser) There, you’ll see the location of your phone as well as battery level and if it’s connected to a network! I’m at home as I type this, so I see it located on the map.

In fact, you don’t even need to go there. A simple Google search for “Find My Phone” shows me the same information as long as I’m signed into my Google Account. But there are a few features of the device manager that are pretty handy.

Let’s say the Device Manager thinks your phone is at home, but you can’t find it. What can you do? From the device manager, you can turn on your ringer, even if your phone is set to silent. 

Now, this function requires a few things: that your phone be powered on, connected to a network, location services enables and “Find My Device” enabled.

One last ditch option is to track your device history from this page. It may direct you to the last place you had your phone.

Lock and Erase a Stolen or Lost Android Phone

As long as you’ve got Lock and Erase enabled, you can rest assured that the contents of your device will be safe, even if you never see the device again. You can log in to the device manager to lock your phone if you have hope of its return.

If you suspect that your phone has fallen into nefarious hands or even if it contains data that is sensitive (think phones used for work or any phone with banking/financial information on it), then erasing is the only option you might have. Unfortunately, you’ll lose access to any data including apps, contacts, photos, videos and messages on your phone. But no one else will have it, either.

Erasing is a last-ditch attempt to secure your privacy, so make sure you’ve exhausted other options before using it.

Locating a Lost iPhone

Find your iPhone

Find, lock or erase your lost iPhone or Apple device

Apple has a similar setup to Google should you lose your device, and it doesn’t just work for an iPhone. Your iPad and iPod Touch will also benefit from this feature.

You must first enable it by opening Settings > iCloud > Find my iPhone. 

You can log in to icloud.com/find to find a lost device once this is enabled. You’ll see its location and also be able to play an alert to help find it.

Apple’s version of locking is Lost Mode. Lost Mode locks your phone so others cannot access it and enables you to enter a phone number where people can reach you if they find your phone. Lost Mode also prevents Apple Pay payments from your account.

The final option from this site (or the Find my iPhone app) is the ability to erase your iPhone just like you can an Android device.

If your device is turned off or not connected to a network, setting it to Lose Mode will activate as soon as it’s powered on again.

As you can see, these functions are of limited use if you haven’t enabled them or even if you have but your phone is dead. But they can be a lifesaver in the event that they’re turned on and your phone has power!

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Derma E Vitamin E Giveaway

Date Mon, June 19 2017

As a reviewer, I occasionally receive packages that I don’t recall signing up for. I sometimes get things that I don’t really need. I usually don’t check my mail to find a box containing items that I shouldn’t have received, have no idea why I got, and don’t know what to do with. My confusion is your gain, dear reader!

I recently received a package from Derma E debuting some of their new products, specifically those containing Vitamin C. Now, I am more worried at this point in life about my skin’s redness, blemishes, and oiliness than hydration or youthfulness, so I don’t really have a use for these products. Thus, I’ve decided to give them away on Reviews by Cole.

Derma E Giveaway

The two products I have to give away are Derma E’s Vitamin C Concentrated Serum and Vitamin C Renewing Moisturizer. One is a daily moisturizer, and the other is an intensive serum if your skin needs a little more help. The serum has a light, citrus smell, feels soft and calming on the skin.

They’re both full-size products in 2-ounce containers, and they come with a Derma E bag, too! The retail value of these two products is $47, so it’s a good deal for you to be able to try them for free if you win this giveaway!

Per usual, I’ll be using Gleam for this giveaway. It’s easy-to-use for both of us. You get one free entry, a few options to enter via social media and some daily entries – so make sure to check back every day!

Since I am mailing these items myself, I’m opening this giveaway to U.S. entrants only. Sorry!

I will be verifying entries. Any invalid entry will invalidate all of your entries. I am forced to do this because of the rampant cheating in my last giveaway. If you can’t play by the rules, you don’t get to play at all.

For everyone else, good luck!
Derma E Giveaway

Giveaway ends July 15th.

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