Category Archives: Puzzle Review

Sweetly Addictive, Adding to my Puzzling Habit

There are a dozen popular artists whose artwork is used for puzzles. I’m fond of Nene Thomas and Chris Ortega, not so much Thomas Kinkaid. Of the more recent artists, I’ve been avoiding Aimee Stewart. It isn’t that I don’t like her style, rather, I found myself intimidated. Aimee’s art is very reminiscent of Lisa Frank, all bright colors and happiness.

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While at Toy Fair, I spoke at length with one of Buffalo’s representative about their new puzzle lines and some of the art styles. When I mentioned how popular Aimee Stewart’s puzzles seemed amongst my puzzling groups, but that I was not sure I could handle the visual busyness; it was suggested I try the 300 Large Pieces version. I chose the Sweet Shop, as it reminds me of the old-fashioned candy store I went to as a girl in Cape Cod.

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Yes,this piece is a little bent. It came that way, and I’ve emailed Buffalo about it. 

The 300 Large Pieces are designed to be 67% larger than Buffalo’s normal puzzle pieces. I found them to be wonderful for gripping on a bad hand day, and they still had the Perfect Snap™!

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This shows both the Large size, and the fact I can pick up whole sections to move them!

My fear of being overwhelmed by the bright colors and busy design proved to be moot.  Instead, the cheerful, bright colors made assembly a joy! This puzzle was moderately challenging, but not so much as to need a break. With the tight fit between pieces, it is easy to move whole sections of pieces.

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So pretty!!

I might be hooked on these, not that I NEED more puzzles. One of the joys of being a reviewer is also the bane of my productivity. There are always new products to try, and very little time to go back and enjoy something I’ve already done. Then again, I might have to make sure an Aimee Stewart is set aside for the 2020 World Puzzle Days.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Buffalo Games
  • Title: Sweet Shop
  • Artist: Aimee Stewart
  • Year released: 2016
  • Pieces: 300 Large
  • Cut-Style: Steel-cut Die
  • Finished size: 21.25 x 15 inches
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Thin cardboard, sturdy, 8 x 8 x 1.5 inches
  • Board: Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Ribbon Cut
  • Image Quality: Excellent
  • Finish: Semi-Gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: Standard 2-knob and some star-shaped pieces
  • Piece Fit: Excellent

Disability Notes: As I noted, the large pieces of this puzzle are easy to handle, which is great for those of us with arthritis or other hand mobility issues. I know that several of my readers have puzzlers in the younger generations of their families, and think this would make a great family project.

Where to buy: Sweet Shop is available on the Buffalo Games website for $10.95 USD. Buffalo Games also has displays at local Walmarts and Targets, but their selections will vary.

Buffalo Games : Website/ FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle  from the manufacturer  in exchange for a review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

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Patience, Persistance, and Chevy Gold

Back in August, just as I was starting to blog, I was contacted by Christie Dotolo. She is the CEO of Gearhead Puzzles, a woman/veteran owned puzzle company. Gearheads focuses on classic cars and she wanted to know if I was interested in doing Chevy Gold; their inaugural puzzle.

I was super green, and super eager, so I said yes.  Thus began my six month road trip with Chevy Gold.

Please keep in mind, everyone puzzles differently. My challenge may be your cakewalk.

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It’s a gorgeous puzzle, and I did an unboxing video when it first came in! Click here.

This puzzle is based on a fantastic photograph by Laurie Hatcher of the interior of a 1952 Chevrolet. My dream car has always been a 1957 Chevy Bel Air (I dig tailfins), so I was excited by the subject matter.

In my eagerness to do ALL THE THINGS, I seriously overestimated both my ability to do projects, and forgot that Murphy loves hubris. September had hurricanes, October was booked solid, so I planned to debut the puzzle in November.

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Day 1

My initial assembly went quickly,  as I focused on the frame, speedometer and the center of the steering wheel. The pieces are random cut, on a sturdy midweight chipboard. The image is a bit blurred due to being blown up and made into a puzzle, and has a semi-gloss finish.  If this is the quality of their first puzzle,  I’m seriously impressed!!

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Day 2 (upside down)
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Day 4 So much brown!!

There are a lot of shades of brown, black and gray in this puzzle. After a few days, I started to struggle. My eyes didn’t want to focus on the slight variations, and my frustration mounted.  I put a cover on it and focused on my Christmas puzzles. This saved my sanity, but made me feel incredibly guilty. I’ve never given up on a puzzle, but I really wanted too.

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Day 38 Zane is sitting on my pieces and Hurricane is napping.

After the mess of Christmas and January, I started again. I cleared off all the debris that had covered the puzzle board, resorted my pieces by color and tried again. I wasn’t perfect, I still had a mild hate for the difficulty and coloration of the puzzle. I mentioned this to Christie, who patiently checked in with me and agreed that Chevy Gold was a tricky puzzle. I swear, her patience and understanding is what goaded me to finish. I WANTED to do Christie’s puzzle.

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Day 42 Almost there!

Superbowl Sunday, I worked on Chevy Gold. I looked at the tv for commercials, but I was determined to finish. I filled in most of the dark areas by halftime, but was missing four light brown pieces from the steering wheel. My cats have loved sitting on this puzzle, so I did the smart thing and swept under the couch. I found dust bunnies, cat toys and three of my missing pieces!

I kept going, because as the number of pieces dwindled, the ease of matches increased. I could see I was going to finish!!

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Day 42 part 2. The Patriots and Chevy Gold have won.

Remember what I said about Murphy? Yeah, he’s laughing.

 

One piece!! Months of assembly, and I’m denied victory at the final hour!  SC is convinced that the cats or fairies have hidden it. I’m convinced that I know how Captain Ahab felt. I’ve torn the living room apart, but that missing piece is mocking me.

You win Chevy Gold. I still feel accomplished.

This is officially the most difficult puzzle I have done yet.  Also, my longest assembly time. If you love classic cars and a serious challenge, try Chevy Gold. Gearhead Puzzles has since added three other puzzles to their catalog, all 500 pieces. They look amazing. For me, I’ll wait until they make a puzzle of a Tucker 48.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Gearhead Puzzles
  • Title: Chevy Gold
  • Artist: Laura Hatcher
  • Year released: 2017
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Cut-Style: Steel-cut Die
  • Finished size: 19¼ x 26¾ inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Thin cardboard, sturdy, 10 x 8 x 2¼ inches
  • Board: Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Random
  • Image Quality: Excellent
  • Finish: Semi-Gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece Fit: Excellent, once fully assembled. Because of the random cut, some pieces will be loose until connected to the whole.

Disability Notes: Due to the difficulty level of this puzzle, I would not recommend Chevy Gold for anyone with a visual impairment that makes differentiating similar shades impossible. Some puzzle pieces are small, so folks with arthritis or hand mobility issues may want to wait for a good day or look at Gearhead’s 500 piece puzzles.

Where to buy: Chevy Gold  is available on the Gearheads website for $18.95 USD. They also have three other puzzles at this point in time.

Gearhead Puzzles : Website/ FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle  from the manufacturer  in exchange for a review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

25 Days of XMAS – Day 8

This post is about the next-to-last item from Uncommon goods. SC was over the moon when I chose this puzzle.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater®, a 2-in-1 500 piece puzzle. I hadn’t done a double-sided puzzle since the original My Little Pony 3D one in the 1980s. The one side is a glossy reproduction of one of  Christopher Little’s photographs, while the other side is a matte reproduction of Fallingwater®’s blueprints.

With this puzzle being only 500 pieces, it only took me two days to assemble, and that was mostly because I would get distracted. The pieces are of a decent size, and I enjoyed the sensation of the different finishes on the two sides. I’ve only done one other Galison puzzle, but I’ve found them to be of excellent quality.

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I did my best to reduce the glare, but sunny days and glossy puzzles don’t mix! I assembled the puzzle using this side, and really loved it. There is a reason Frank Lloyd Wright’s building are remembered, each one has a certain…emotion to it.

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SC liked the blueprint side, and I can’t really blame him. There is something visually interesting about it.  Honestly, this puzzle was just too pretty to put back in the box. SC is in the process of layering fixative to it in the mudroom as I write. He thinks we can rig a double-sided picture frame so that we can hang this lovely puzzle in the dinning room and simply turn the frame around when we need to change our decor. Man is a genius, I swear.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Galison
  • Title: Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater®
  • Artist: Frank Lloyd Wright / Christopher Little – Photographer
  • Year released: 2017
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style:  Ribbon cut
  • Finished size: 24 x 18 inches
  • Bonus poster:Yes
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Thin sturdy  cardboard, 11.5  x 8.5  x 3 inches
  • Board: Mediumweight Recycled greyboard
  • Cut: Steel-cut dye
  • Image Quality:Excellent
  • Finish: Semi-gloss / Matte
  • Puzzle Dust:Minimal
  • Piece shapes: Traditional 2-Knob
  • Piece Fit: Excellent

Disability Notes: I found this to be a wonderfully easy puzzle to put together. The pieces are of a medium size and well-made. If you have mild hand issues, you should be just fine. If you have an eyesight issue, you may want a friend to help or a magnifier and light. All those greens and browns get tricky.

Where to buy: You can buy the Frank Lloyd Wright Fallingwater® puzzle for $16 USD  at the Uncommon Goods Website, listed below.

Uncommon Goods: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received these products for free in exchange for a review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them. Fallingwater®is a trademark and a registered service mark of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Photograph © Christopher Little.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

25 Days of XMAS – Day 7

Today’s puzzle is one that I’ve been dying to assemble since it came in this fall. Part of Buffalo Games’ Adorable Animal Series, Meowy Christmas has to be one of the cutest Christmas animal puzzles I’ve seen!

It’s so cute!!

Meowy Christmas is a 300 large piece puzzle, so I wasn’t worried that it would it take long to assemble. The puzzle is a ribbon cut, with the traditional 2-knob pieces, which is really nice  to do after having done quite a few random cut puzzles in the last few months. The large pieces are easy to handle, and harder to lose! The Kitten, AKA Hurricane, kept trying to hide a piece under the table as I worked. I think she liked the “shhhing” noise it made on the hardwood.

I’ll admit to being a horrible cat-mother…I put my Santa hat on two of my cats, just to see if they could be as cute. Honestly, there are reason my cats are house-cats and not furry models. Zoomie at least took the whole thing with grace…Teedle is convinced that I’ve lost my mind.

Zoomie is ready for her winter nap!
Teedle wasn’t enthused to wear the hat!

There are few pleasures for a puzzler better than opening a new puzzle and the wonderful “click” of a perfectly placed piece. Buffalo’s  “Perfect Snap” has to be one of the reasons I love the brand.

These kitties are cuter than mine in their winter headgear!

All done! As you can  see above, this puzzle is perfect for any cat-lover in your life.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Buffalo Games
  • Title: Meowy Christmas
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year released: 2018
  • Pieces: 300
  • Cut-Style: Steel-cut Die
  • Finished size: 21.25 x 15 inches
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Thin cardboard, sturdy, 8 x 8 x 1.5 inches
  • Board: Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Ribbon Cut
  • Image Quality: Excellent
  • Finish: Semi-Gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: Traditional 2-knob pieces
  • Piece Fit: Excellent

Disability Notes: As I noted, the large pieces of this puzzle are easy to handle, which is great for those of us with arthritis or other hand mobility issues. I know that several of my readers have puzzlers in the older generations of their families, and think this would make a nice change from some of the puzzles available for those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Where to buy: Meowy Christmas   is available on the Buffalo Games website for $10.95 USD. Buffalo Games also has started having displays at local Walmarts, but their selections will vary.

Buffalo Games : Website/ FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle  from the manufacturer  in exchange for a review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

25 Days of XMAS – Day 6

Today’s a little special, there will be a bunch of posts as I catch up from my cold earlier this week. The first one is featuring Zen Art & Design’s Peapod Puzzles series. Peapod puzzles are their children’s line, and I have to say …. They are really cool! I was sent three puzzles to share with my godsons, Minions 1 & 2.

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The boys were stooked to see me come over with new puzzles for them to try!

The third puzzle I’d assembled at home to get used to before helping the boys with theirs. I love the designing of the packaging! The embossed pea-pod is so minimalist it’s cute, and the boxes are easy to open and reuse.

My puzzle is the World Turtle, something that fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series are sure to recognize! It’s the flat disk of the world sitting on the back of four elephants which are in turn, standing upon the back of a gigantic turtle!  Peapod puzzles come in either 25or 53 pieces, which makes it easy to adjust any design for the age range of the child it is meant for!

World Turtle is a 25 piece puzzle, which comes with one whimsy, or as Zen calls them, figural.

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The boys worked on Sea Turtle 1 and T. Rex. My Minions had 53 piece puzzles, which come with four figurals apiece! They loved these! Once I showed them the technique to putting together a wooden puzzle, they had a blast assembling them. I had worried a little about the fact that there would be a squabble about who owned which, but the boys exclaimed over each others’ puzzles, assembled their own, then switched! For an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, it was a miracle!

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All finished!

One nice touch I found with the Zen puzzles is that each of them comes with a small card letting you know who made your puzzle. It’s a great way to help the company track any errors and to also adds a personal feel to each puzzle!

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Zen Art & Design
  • Title: Sea Turtle 1 / T.Rex / World Turtle
  • Artist: Unknown
  • Year released: 2018
  • Pieces: 53 /53 /25
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 7½ by 7½ inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy white  cardboard, 4 × 4 × 3¼ inches
  • Board: Birch wood
  • Cut: Laser
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: None!
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Excellent. Some of the irregular pieces make it so that pieces can only be moved in small groups.

Disability Notes: These are great puzzles for people who are bed bound using a lap desk or for those with failing mental capacity. While the Peapod series of puzzles are marketed to children ages 4-8, the artistry of these wooden puzzles is such that they will appeal to all ages!

Minion Notes: Minion 1 thought that the puzzles were great, and loved the figurals, but thought that paper-based puzzles were easier to disassemble. He really liked the fact that his herbivore dino figurals were hidden in the foliage of the T.Rex puzzle, while the carnivores were part of the Rex itself. He also noted that Minion 2 would not have been able to handle a 53 piece puzzle without an adult to help him. Minion 2 had fun learning the names of his figurals and pulled out the BIG DINO BOOK to figure out that the herbivores were a hadrosaurus and a parasaurolophus!

Where to buy: PeaPod Puzzles, which is the series of puzzles that Sea Turtle 1, T. Rex and World Turtles are from;  is available on the Zen Art & Design website, which is running a sale, for $19.99 USD.

Zen Art & Design : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received complimentary puzzles from  in exchange for a review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

25 Days of XMAS – Day 5

So this is a new sort of post for me, and yet it’s not. You see, normally I either get a puzzle directly from the manufacturer, or I buy them. Today’s post is sponsored by SeriousPuzzles.com, an online puzzle distributor. They carry thousands of puzzles by just about every possible brand! They sent me my first ever shaped puzzle to assemble!

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It’s so festive!

I’ll admit I was super stoked when this puzzle arrived only a few days after I ordered it. The email updates and tracking of my puzzle were top-notch! Serious Puzzles knows their customers! Most puzzlers I know are horribly impatient when it comes to waiting for a new puzzle to arrive!

Sadly, no sooner than I started to assemble this lovely puzzle than I ran into  2 problems. The first was annoying, but workable – As this is a shaped puzzle, I had no framework to build with and had to adjust my style slightly. SC helped quite a bit. The second issue was worse, I caught a horrible cold that took me out for 3 days. Sneezing, coughing, general misery. I got very little puzzling done while I was ill.

The Twelve Days of Christmas x 2 is a really nifty collage style puzzle that references the Christmas carol that involves an overly eager True Love who likes to gift his beloved with fowl and people. This puzzle has twice the usual amounts, with the lyrics being the subjects of both ornaments and the gifts under the tree.

Overall, I really liked this puzzle. It may be awhile before I attempt another shaped one, but I do know that Serious Puzzles has several of the hard to find puzzles on my Christmas list and that I’ll definitely order from them again!

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PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Sunsout
  • Title: The Twelve Days of Christmas x Two
  • Artist: Lori Schory
  • Year released: 
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 27 x 3′ inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Thin cardboard, 12½ x 12½ x 2 inches
  • Board:  Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Moderate
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Excellent. Some of the irregular pieces make it so that pieces can only be moved in small groups.

Disability Notes: The smaller size pieces of the 1000 piece puzzle are harder on the hands and eyes. I can recommend this for people with mild arthritis or good to excellent hand/eye coordination.

Where to buy: The Twelve Days of Christmas x Two is available on the  Serious Puzzles website for $15.95 USD.

Serious Puzzles : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from Seriouspuzzles.com in exchange for a review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

25 Days of XMAS – Day 2

Yes, today’s post is at a different time than usual. There’s a reason. You see, a few years ago, before my disease got really bad, I worked at Colonial Williamsburg. I loved CW, and when I found out that Eric Dowdle had painted a quilt representation that had been made into a puzzle, I jumped on it!

 

As for the lateness of the hour? Well, today is Grand Illumination at Colonial Williamsburg. It’s the start of the Christmas season, with bands, parades, and at 9pm EST, there will be fireworks. Everyone has decorated the doors with homemade wreaths and the air is full of the scent of fresh-baked gingerbread and spiced cider. Grand Illumination is second only to the 4th of July! And since most of my readers aren’t local, I figured I’d share this little slice of my Christmas tradition. Go grab a mug of hot cocoa or hot apple cider and follow me!

All Dowdle puzzles come in a resealable box with a paper sleeve, and include a mini-poster of the design and a resealable plastic bag. I love this company’s dedication to minimal waste and reusable design.

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So many little pieces!!! So many colors!!

This puzzle has, much like it’s namesake city, weathered much. I started this puzzle in September, right before Hurricane Florence caused mass evacuations. I had to leave the puzzle behind and when I got home, it was weeks before I had the house settled back down to focus on it again. By the time I did, and finished assembling it, I found I was missing a piece! Horrors! The thing was…I could clearly remember finding the loose piece right before the evac…and putting it somewhere safe. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember where!!

Poor SC had to deal with the fact that I had an ALMOST completed puzzle taking up room in the computer lab and was tearing the house apart looking for that missing piece for WEEKS!

It took forever, but I finally found my missing piece. It was right where I’d tucked it, on a shelf near SC’s video games.

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Finished at last!

 

About the Company: Dowdle Puzzles is a part of Dowdle Folk Arts. The artist and owner is Eric Dowdle, who has over 200 folk art paintings, mostly focusing on American cities and national parks.  As well as selling paints, prints, and puzzles, Dowdle is now branching out into coloring books!

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Dowdle Puzzles
  • Title: Williamsburg Quilt
  • Artist: Eric Dowdle
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 19¼ by 26½ inches
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy and compact, 7.5″ by 7.5″ by 3″, with paper sleeve
  • Board:  Medium weight chipboard, sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss, with great color saturation
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very Good. Some of the irregular pieces make it so that pieces can only be moved in small groups.

Disability Notes: The smaller size pieces of the 1000 piece puzzle are harder on the hands and eyes. Honestly, I want to try this brands 300 and 100 piece counts for this winter when my hands threaten to swell into claws. I can recommend this for people with mild arthritis or good to excellent hand/eye coordination.

Where to buy: Williamsburg Quilt is available on the Dowdle Puzzles website for $19.99 usd.

Dowdle Puzzles : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!