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Aether Cone - The Thinking Music Player
Aether Cone - The Thinking Music Player
Price: $399.00
3 used & new from $380.00

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich sound, simple, and elegant, December 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Aether Cone is amazing. Here's why:

- LOOKS: When we pulled it out of the velvet bag it was packed in, we thought it much better looking in person than in the pictures. It's a statement of high tech beauty.
- SETUP: We plugged it in and fired up the wifi search. Then you log into the Cone with another wireless device, and give it your wifi password. Very simple. Note - you NEED another wireless device.
- LANGUAGE SELECTION: my husband has had problems with Siri because he speaks British English but asks for American topics and locations. Both Apple and Android phones have problems understanding him at times. However, he set the Cone to British English and it has understood him perfectly. He then set it for American and it also seemed to recognize what he said very well. Note that you can only pick one, so if you have multiple people using it who have strong accents, this might be a problem.
- LANGUAGE RECOGNITION: we press the button and ask for something, and after a few seconds it plays it. We only have the free Rdio so we can't ask for specific songs or albums, but it gave us great results when asking for "kids songs", "'50s hits", "Modest Mouse", and "KROQ" (Los Angeles radio station).
- MUSIC TASTE LEARNING: once it finishes what you requested, it will keep playing just like a radio. I'm not sure how it is coded, but I assume that it uses what you ask for, what you listen to, and what you skip in order to keep serving up music that is tailored to you. It does get better as you go along, and given time to fine tune, it starts giving you songs you haven't heard in forever and forgot you loved. Also, there is a dial that allows you to go on to a new selection. A little twist = something similar. Big twist = something different.
- SOUND: I think it sounds fantastic, which is amazing considering the small size. When you sit about 15 feet away you get a depth of sound, like the vocals and guitarist and drummer and bassist are at different locations in the room. It has deep, rich sound, with impressive clarity.
- COOLNESS FACTOR: this blows away any gadget that anyone I know has. All of our guests like to test it out and are delighted with it. I took it to work one day and we all had a blast using it. Later in the day, people would keep coming into our office area because they heard about it and wanted to check it out.
- RDIO: This works with a free RDIO account. If you want a specific song or album, it will tell you that's not available. This will be a deal-breaker for lots of people. If you use RDIO or are willing to get a subscription, this will make a huge difference. If you're already happy with a competitor (e.g. Spotify) then I would not recommend this device unless you're happy to pay for RDIO as well.
- RADIO: this seems to work really well with radio stations that stream online. We can say "play KROQ" and it will tune to that and start playing. Pretty neat feature.
- APPS: We've moved away from iPhone and the Android app is not out yet - so you can't do the fine-tuning that's available through the app, and we can't give feedback on that.

This is a fantastic present for even your friend or relative who is the most technology challenged - it's that easy to use. WE LOVE THIS THING!

Note: This is only if you use Rdio or are going to use it.

WeMo Maker - Home Automation for the Tinkerer & DIY'er, Wi-Fi Enabled and WeMo App Controlled
WeMo Maker - Home Automation for the Tinkerer & DIY'er, Wi-Fi Enabled and WeMo App Controlled
Price: $79.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Cool, December 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For the less technical, you'll likely be frustrated by the lack of support/info/directions. This is meant for those with a decent background in wiring/technical/electrical knowledge. But for those with a firm grounding, this is quite a fun toy - the ability to use your iphone to turn on/off a device remotely. Applications include coffee makers, crockpots, garage doors, even a remote plug for a car heater in Winter.

What I've found:

- the ap could use some work. On my iphone 5, it does crash every now and then and I need to reinstall.
- It's a basic on/off type of switch. There are no levels of sophistication for different settings other than click on/click off.
- It's noted as a DIY (do it yourself) in the title of the product because you do need to have a firm technical background.

I was more than happy to give this to my electrical engineer husband to wire up and recognize that I would not have had the knowledge to do so. But once done, it worked well (other than the flakey ap).

AT-A-GLANCE Meeting/Planner Padfolio, Black (YP218-28)
AT-A-GLANCE Meeting/Planner Padfolio, Black (YP218-28)
Price: $20.44
2 used & new from $20.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous and extremely practical, December 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I absolutely LOVE this pad. The exterior has a matte soft velvety look and feel that I absolutely love. It looks and feels expensive.

The pad is also awesome. It has the date on the top, a grid for my notes at work (grids are important as I do a lot of "whiteboard" talking in places where there are no whiteboards. At the bottom is my action item list complete with checkboxes, which is the most important part. The backs of the pages are blank, which is good if I have to draw anything out freeform.

Yesterday I brought this to a meeting and my manager saw it and loved it (she grabbed it out of my hands!). She asked me to send a link to her admin so that she could order a bunch of them for the team.

This replaces my old notepad, which was done in the CMU notes style.

The MD Factor Diet: A Physician’s Proven Diet for Metabolism Correction and Healthy Weight Loss
The MD Factor Diet: A Physician’s Proven Diet for Metabolism Correction and Healthy Weight Loss
by Caroline J. Cederquist
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.19
28 used & new from $13.52

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes the Science of Metabolizing Food Very Understandable, December 18, 2014
The MD (Metabolism Dysfunction) Diet focuses on changing eating patterns to regulate glucose and ensure that food is turned into energy rather than fat. The book is beautifully presented with scientific information nicely and easily explained for the layman. This is a protein/carb counting diet but servings/portions are clearly laid out and recipes/diet plan easy to follow. Women, especially those in later years, will find the information in here especially useful as topics of pre and post menopause are discussed. But the real heart of the book is that it is the rare animal that really makes sense of the the science behind why your belly won't go away.

The book breaks down as follows: Part 1 Discover Your MD Factor (Metabolism dysfunction, it's not your fault). Part II: Understanding The MD Factor (The MD Factor = Metabolism Dysfunction; Triggers for the MD factor; The protein you need; The carbohydrates you need; The fat you need; The vitamins and supplements yo need; The exercise you don't need - yet; The alcohol you need to watch; The artificial sugars you need to watch). Part III: The MD Factor Action Plan ( The MD Factor daily action plan; Keeping track of your progress; The MD Factor maintenance plan). Part IV: Recipes (Main course meals; Sides; Sauces, toppings, salad dressings; Snacks). Appendices (Why other diets don't work; Blood work for the MD Factor; Calculating net carbohydrates; Genetic influences on your weight; Metformin; Nutritional information quick reference guide; MD Factor food log; Additional resources; Animal protein and vegetarian diets).

The beginning of the book has several quizzes to help you understand your own current metabolic situation. But most of the book's attention is on understanding how your body metabolizes food rather than the usual scary health warnings of diabetes, heart risk, etc.

The presentation is very friendly (I recommend a Kindle Fire or physical copy for that reason) with different fonts, colors, and call out boxes. It makes for a pleasant and easy read despite the hard science topics. How this diet differs from many others right now is its strong concentration on protein, though carbs, fat, and of course vitamins/supplements are given enough detail as well. Although readers may have seen a lot of this information already if they've read any diet books in the past 3 years, I have to say that the ease of understanding in the presentation really makes this book stand out.

The diet itself breaks down into these sections: 3 reclaim days, 25 transformation days, 6 stabilization days. The reclaim days clear the blood of insulin to jumpstart the metabolism. The 3-1/2 weeks of transformation days are intended to keep energy high, with the only difference between the reclaim and transformation days being the amount of carbohydrates. Finally, the stabilization days add more carbs for 6 days. If that seems confusing, don't worry, there is a 70 day calendar to guide you through the entire process.

As noted, you will need to carb count. E.g., reclaim days are 60 grams of carbs, transformation days are 60-100 grams of carbs, and stabilization days are 100-150 carbs. If it sounds grueling to have to count carbs, don't worry. There are very specific charts, graphs, and info with each recipe that give you the carb counts. What is important is the portion size and learning to take less quantity but better quality food. Then you aren't starving yourself with too much food that never gets metabolized and instead bypasses your cells and goes straight to fat.

The recipes are simple and easy to prepare. They are nicely laid out with numbered steps in paragraph form. Protein, fat, and carb info is given for each recipe item, from pomodoro sauce to French lentil salad.

Because the information is so accessible and easy to digest, this is a great book for those who are unsure if they want to commit to a diet but do want more information to help understand why they aren't losing belly fat or are sluggish every day. Of course, it is an easy diet to follow as well, with an emphasis on removing processed simple carbohydrates and artificial ingredients.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

The HD Diet: Achieve Lifelong Weight Loss with Chia Seeds and Nature's Water-Absorbent Foods
The HD Diet: Achieve Lifelong Weight Loss with Chia Seeds and Nature's Water-Absorbent Foods
by Keren Gilbert
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.76
28 used & new from $11.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Unique "Water Friendly" Diet, December 18, 2014
The HD Diet (hydrophilic diet) is simple: eat foods that absorb water and have high fiber, expand in your stomach (e.g., oatmeal, chia seeds), and thereby fill you up and create satiety. At the same time, avoid IF foods (infrequent foods) that inhibit your ability to lose weight when eaten too frequently (e.g., desserts, fried foods, alcohol, refined carbs, cheeses, etc.). The book mostly concentrates on weight loss rather than lifestyle and has a specific meal plan with recipes as well as motivational aids to help readers achieve goals.

The book breaks down as follows: Part 1: Your Decision (Hydrate and satiate: The HD philosophy; Deciding to live in HD; Daily HD decisions - uncovering your current habits; Put it in writing - your HD work). Part 2: The 12 week HD Plan (Eating in HD - the HD plan guidelines and core foods; start strong in HD - daily checklists and menus; Still focused and adding IFs). Living in HD (Healthy HD alterations; Curing excusitis; Meal prep in HD; The HD recipes). Appendices (My HD contract; HD food log; Weekly goal tracker; Navigating the supermarket).

The diet is focused on the cleansing effects of water/fiber in the system as well as creating a sense of fullness and satisfaction through the bulk of 'water loving' foods. Chia seeds really do seem to be the heart and are probably the single most important component in the diet. You'll be eating them daily in the meal plan and all throughout the recipes. The other water-friendly foods include okra, oatmeal, pears, barley, brussels sprouts, kidney beans, chickpeas, oranges, and agar. If a reader dislikes one or several of these foods (called a 'block food'), the author suggess people learn to like them if they want to lose the weight. There is an implied "illogically stubborn dislike" as the core reason for not liking that particular food. It's a strong stance not found in most diet plans.

The psychological aspect is well covered here, with a contract for weight loss, food log charts, weekly goal tracker, examples from the author's clients who have lost weight, and examinations of different dieter types (e.g., the busy mama, on the go gobbler, the social person).

The meals are simple but likeable; made for those who don't want to spend a lot of prep time and are quick/easy to make. Since the diet is more about adding water-friendly foods rather than eliminating food types, the recipes are accessible and fairly normal - an egg or oatmeal for breakfast, for example. So it isn't too onerous unless you don't wish to sprinkle chia seeds into everything.

A detractor for me is that it did feel gimmicky with a lot of made up terms ('hydrophilic diet' or 'excusitis,' 'water friendly'). And then taking the acronym HD and turning it into "Healthy Diet" or "High Definition" felt like marketers were reaching a bit. It almost steered what is a deceptively simple and easy diet with a unique concept into fad territory.

The HD Diet definitely has a unique angle I haven't seen before and I am looking forward to trying it out for the 12 week period. I may not love pears and haven't figured out a use for agar, but I can definitely start sprinkling chia seeds and watching my portions better.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Unbreakable (The Legion)
Unbreakable (The Legion)
by Kami Garcia
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.80
124 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of Shallow, December 18, 2014
Unbreakable by Kami Garcia isn't a terrible book by any means and there are going to be people who really like it. But it does feel very much like it is pandering to a specific young teen audience, bringing an almost 'mary sue' wishful trope especially suited for those invested in the "Supernatural" TV series. I can't imagine being accused of being a derivative of a CW show can in any way be considering a recommendation and certainly this book treads a thin line between shallow and unlikeable. Readers will likely be polarized between loving it and hating it as a result.

Story: Kennedy lives a somewhat normal life - until her mother dies mysteriously and she is attacked by ghosts. Saved by uberhandsome emo twins, YA love triangle and instaluv ensue. Cue 'on the run' team fighting supernatural entities while evading authorities.

The characters here were the main problem for me. Kennedy is nearly unlikeable - overwritten in the 'show not tell' style to an early death of believability. She spends most of the book showing how plucky she is being ensuring she will need to be saved by the cute emo twins as often as possible. And not so much for thrilling action sequences so much as to provide reasons for soppy romance scenes.

The love interest wonder twins themselves are ciphers; two dimensional walking cardboard cutouts of a typical reverse-harem situation: one is sociable and one is moody and withdrawn. Any guesses which one our overdramatic heroine will fine most intriguing? I found them boring and wholly uninteresting. Sadly, that remained true for all the characters in the book.

The plot needed more depth and believability to bring credibility to the characters' actions. Not much makes sense, especially in the logic department, and as a result it became very hard to invest in anyone or anything that happened. I enjoy characters I can respect rather than those that feel the need to make every situation completely over-the-top. That is my personal preference (an intelligent, sane, nuanced, heroine) and others may like Kennedy a lot more than I did. In my world, she's be an annoying brat.

There is much that could be done with the premise to take it above and beyond a shallow homage to a beloved TV show. What worked in Supernatural, the likability and quirk of the main characters, would have taken this book so much farther. Unfortunately, too many of the shortcomings and lowest-common-denominator values of the speculative YA genre are overrepresented here.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

Storm Fall (Rebel Wing Trilogy, Book 2)
Storm Fall (Rebel Wing Trilogy, Book 2)
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Very Much About the Romances, December 17, 2014
I enjoyed Rebel Wing, the first in this series, and was looking forward to seeing the story continued in Storm Fall. Banghart's writing is straightforward, easy to follow, and with strong characters. But the emphasis on the romances greatly derailed and detracted from the plot, making this a somewhat hollow book lacking in nuances and worldbuilding. Still, as an undemanding read, those that enjoyed the first book should also enjoy Storm Fall as well.

Aris was unmasked in the first book but did effect a very major change: women are now allowed in the Atalanta military. But they don't have it easy: bullying, harassment, and general nastiness mean Aris and her female friends might almost have preferred to continue to hide their gender. When she is shot down over enemy territory, it will take her former friends and love all their strength and mettle to sneak in and retrieve Aris. But they will have to beat Elom to her first.

The story revolves around three romances. Aris and Milek (with her former love, Calix, thrown in for a triangle), Milek's mother and a politician, and Aris' friend Dysis and Daakon. Most of the story seemed to be about their little romance moments rather than much needed worldbuilding and plot. Even the villain, Elom, is casually disregarded for most of the book despite supposedly being the big antagonist. His scene at the end of the book is a complete throwaway just to have an Aris/Milek moment.

Admittedly, for me, the plot was overly simplistic and lacking purpose and drive. There's a lot of soapboxing (women in the military, yay! War is hell, boo! Save the children, yay!) that is very heavy handedly applied. Between the romance moments and messages, there wasn't any room left for much of a plot.

The heart of the book is Aris and she is a very likeable and relatable character. I only wish she had been given more to work with this volume. She flails for most of the story. I'd also have liked to see less emphasis on Milek's mother (those scenes are pointless beyond the romance aspect) or Dysis' POV. The book lacked punch by pretty much being 3 short story romance vignettes rather than one cohesive and driving narrative.

What really didn't work for me, though, is the overt "we can do whatever we want" aspect of a relationship while in the military. If Aris is supposed to be a groundbreaker of bringing women into martial activities, nothing would destroy that foundation and weaken her and Milek's authority by a very overt relationship with a superior officer. There's no way he could be objective over her (or that any of the men would believe he could be). As well, that Calix would defect to save her because he is in love with her also emphasizes the point that women would ruin the military. That contradictory message is a real problem. It meant a loss of credibility and logic in the worldbuilding.

So although I did not enjoy Storm Fall (I'm not even sure where the name of the book comes from?) as much as Rebel Wing, I am sure those who prefer an undemanding romance with a strong female main character will enjoy the story.

Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.

The Dinner That Cooked Itself
The Dinner That Cooked Itself
by Kenard Pak
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.18
39 used & new from $9.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Little Fable, December 15, 2014
The Dinner That Cooked Itself is a gorgeously illustrated fable type story set in ancient China. It is one I enjoy reading with my daughter and giving her a small taste of Chinese culture.

Story: Tuan longs for a wife but, for various reasons, all the available women are not suitable matches. When he finds a large snail and feeds it, he is astonished to discover a full meal always waiting at his house. Was it the neighbor's wife? A friend? Who can he thank for his bountiful meals? It's then that he discovers the snail he has been feeding is actually a fairy.

The Swan Maiden fairytale (usually referred to as Hagoromo or feather cloak in Asia) fairy tale is given a different spin here, with the shell being the maiden's home. This is a gentler version of the tale, which usually meant the enslavement of the fairy/maiden. Here, when she is discovered making his food, she says her name is White Wave and she must leave him because he's seen her. It's far kinder than the typical Crane/Swan maiden stories.

The artwork is quite lovely - with a painterly feel to the backgrounds and then digital art on top with textures and motifs. The illustrations are full page in several areas and quite striking.

In all, a lovely, light, and enchanting children's book.

Reviewed from an ARC.

Gund Buddy-Boo's Best Friend Plush
Gund Buddy-Boo's Best Friend Plush
Offered by Think Fast
Price: $19.07
41 used & new from $16.42

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously cute!, December 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Seriously, seriously cute. My daughter fell madly in love when she first saw him - all that fur and the cute expression on his face. He's very soft and huggable and makes a great night time pal. He's also a great display when not being loved to death - sits up nicely on her bed and is there waiting for her every time she gets home. Very pleased!

Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy
Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy
by Pierce Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.63

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, December 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Red Rising, the first book in this series, had really impressed me with its pathos and refreshing take on Dystopian sci fi. Golden Son continues the story and even improves upon it by upping the game to a global scale while also maintaining the distinct personalities and heart of the first book. A completely unpredictable and twist-laden plot ensures a very compelling read. Golden Son isn't a perfect book but it is a very good one.

Story: Two years have passed and Darrow has carefully integrated himself into the ArchGoverner's retinue. He is a favored son as he continues to gain influence and power among the Golds. But those who rise to power also gain enemies and Darrow's training could not possibly cover the maneuverings of a brutal and bitter society. Friends will betray, foes will ally, and Darrow will have to find the strength of will and heart in order to survive.

Golden Son has a refreshingly labyrinthine plot. At no point could I have predicted even one of the many plot twists. Like a tree that has been carefully pruned for width rather than height, there is no clear path through the story and instead we have a series of action vignettes or moments. It can mean a choppy ride but also a fascinating one as we see how Darrow will manage to survive. There are a few deus ex machina moments and I'm not a fan of the main character putting plans suddenly into place without ever having hinted he had the situation fully under control. But I also have to admit that it makes for a thrilling read when a situation suddenly completely changes - and then just as suddenly there is a full counter-solution at hand.

The real strength of this book is the heart. Characters have complex motivations and certainly there is no soppy romance to weigh it down. Darrow has to consider each person he betrays and each life lost as his enemies retaliate or are retaliated against. At the same time, he grapples with both the desire and the fear of telling those he cares about just who he really is. I fond myself rooting for some characters even with their quirks while also appreciating the others who have other interests at heart that conflict or align with Darrow's.

The surprises come thick and fast, as do the revelations. Things are MUCH more complicated than in the first book now that Darrow is in the larger milieu. There is a lot more science fiction now that he has taken to space as well. I was really looking forward to the sci fi aspects but really Goldon Son is about the politics and machinations rather than space battles. As well, the unprejudiced violence returns in very cruel ways.

Roman mythology and society have been used in other sci fi novels (read: Hunger Games). Here, Brown uses it as a complete basis for a society and interweaves so much of that historic flavor into his futuristic sci fi. I was continually impressed with the depth of knowledge and liberal application: this is more than just using Roman names and instead we have a whole society based on the ideology. If Rome had been transplanted to space, this is what we would get. It was so fascinating to explore in the story with that perspective.

In all, once I started, I could not put it down. There were a few disappointments and niggles but as a whole, this is definitely a 5-star book.

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