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Unbreakable
Unbreakable
Price: $11.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't work for me, February 9, 2016
This review is from: Unbreakable (MP3 Music)
Pleasure Principle. Rhythm Nation. Runaway. All For You. Together Again. Go Deep. The WHOLE Design of a Decade 1986/1996 album. Janet's music was energetic, emotional, enticing and inspirational all at once.

The Unbreakable album...it evoked the same feeling I got when I heard Dre's Compton album and Warren G's G Funk Era Part II. No risks taken. No barriers broken. And the biggest sin: they have gone away from what made them famous in the first place. The style is nowhere close.

Here, Janet's using autotune like it's going out of style. The harmonies sound artificially exposed and there's no "fun" to any of the songs. If you don't believe me about the style differences, go listen to "Together Again" and compare it to any song on this CD. On that song, you can hear the emotion in her voice as she belts it out. Every song on the CD feels underpowered and "just there".

I applaud her for at least putting out more music and I know she's going through stuff, so I give her 3 stars for the effort. But I was really hoping she'd stick to what made her famous in the first place.


Lusam: The Dragon Mage Wars Book Two
Lusam: The Dragon Mage Wars Book Two
Price: $4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Developed, but some strange decisions made, January 24, 2016
And I'm referring to the author.

I enjoyed the efforts of the author in the first book. I had only issues with character development mostly; it was lacking. Here, it is not only lacking even more than the first book, there are characters that seem totally different than the same character in the first book. Continuity feels "off".

A main character is kidnapped, later poisoned and abused. However in this book there's no residual effect. The character is now seemingly even more powerful than their peers (except Lusam). They're apparently unstoppable in one-on-one combat, which is a far cry from the way they seemed in the first book.

Another character comes across like Aragorn in the first book - evincing magical powers and a greater awareness of their surroundings, but in the second book they're relegated to being a follower-after, constantly shocked and surprised at Lusam's magic.

Lusam is so much more powerful in this book, it's like the author forgot that in the first book, just the sheer act of healing one person knocked him out for days and gave him a splitting headache, yet we're supposed to believe that in the second book (which from what I can tell, there hasn't been a lot of time passage since that event thus no real aging/maturity), Lusam is now able to levitate multiple people over castle walls, hold up a shield that defends against armies, cook fish and start fires with no negative physical effect? To me this was a missed opportunity to show that Lusam was not impervious to damage and had to be studious with his casting, which would have offset other authors' tendencies to make their main character unstoppable.

Antagonists that were introduced in the first book as dangerous and potentially deadly are not really "defeated" in the second book, rather domesticated somehow. By (essentially) children. Okee.

I share this feedback simply to show the discontinuity between the first and second books. It's a strong story at the core, it's just there are pieces missing where it feels like a lack of flow. If the author had written this as a totally standalone book, it might have been okay.


Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (128 GB, 4 GB RAM, Intel Core M)
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (128 GB, 4 GB RAM, Intel Core M)
Price: $799.00
28 used & new from $775.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sufficient replacement, though price IS a concern, January 24, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
About three years ago I bought a Samsung Series 9 laptop. I still own it, it has served me well, but it's a bit too wide for light traveling usage. I wanted to get a more portable companion computer for light tasks and school.

For the record I work in IT and have owned the original Surface Pro (awesome, just bulky and poor battery) as well as the original ARM Surface RT (which was garbage), as well as various MacBooks and iMacs. So I already knew what I wanted and didn't want. I was debating between getting a newer Surface and getting something else.

At the time the regular Surface (Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet (10.8-Inch, 64 GB, Intel Atom, Windows 10)) seemed just right, but the poor charging times were a dealbreaker. Debated buying the Surface Pro 3, but numerous reported issues with screen and battery life held me back.

I considered a MacBook Air. which I've owned and enjoyed in the past, but Apple's failure to update the screen made it a nonstarter.

I considered a MacBook Pro, which I've owned and enjoyed in the past, but didn't want to incur the additional VMWare Fusion and Windows cost again. Most of the apps I use are Windows applications. Also Apple's mad rush to get rid of standard ports - thus requiring dongles for everything - made it a nonstarter. This then disqualified the "new MacBook" in addition to performance concerns on the web.

Last year I settled on (at too high a price) a Dell XPS 13 13.3-Inch Touchscreen Laptop (XPS9343-7273SLV) [Discontinued By Manufacturer]. This is a beautiful laptop, perfect form factor, performance amazing...marred by technical issues with the keyboard and trackpad. It made the thing unusable, so I went back out and decided on this, now that the 4th series of Surface was released. After debating between the higher end Pro and the Core M Pro, I took a gamble on the lower end being sufficient.

Not only is it sufficient, it feels perfect for what I need even in Battery Saver mode. My work computer (which is a Surface Pro 3) is easily twice as thick as this guy. It runs the apps I need the way I need them and doesn't slouch for a moment. I would argue that for 80% of consumers the Core M is more than enough.

Even given the low RAM, the fact that it's a SSD means it'll page memory if/when needed reasonably fast. For those CAD developers and whatnot, there's always the higher end. If you're a student or a regular user of the computer, you'll find that it's more than enough.

Storage capacity is a minor concern, because frankly you've got free storage from Microsoft, free storage from Google, free storage from DropBox, and free storage from Box - AND a microSD card slot, allowing you to expand up to 128GB if you're willing to drop the money - AND USB slots allowing you add even more storage. In other words, you can work within the storage on the device, AND/OR you can use cloud storage which costs nothing, AND/OR you can buy expandable storage. You've got choices. But you're not forced to buy the internal storage as part of the machine.

Speaker audio quality is good; front facing. Screen is clear and crisp, and at times I can tell when websites haven't bothered updating to reflect higher resolution screens. Some plugins don't support scaling in certain browsers; LastPass is microscopic in Internet Explorer but fine in Chrome and Firefox. Flash doesn't scale cleanly in Firefox.

I had one issue early on with a blue screen, but that appears to have been caused by missing updates. Once I got up to date with updates I've not had an issue since.

The Windows 10 learning curve is about a 5 out of 10 on the scale. For me it's not too difficult, but there is definitely a curve between 10 and any OS before it because of things Microsoft moved around.

I feel that the price should be about $200 lower. This is because of the base specs. a 128GB SSD is roughly $100; 4GB of RAM is roughly $30. It's using integrated graphics which are cheap, and the only thing here that's overly expensive would be the screen. I feel that $699 perfectly represents a "fair" price for this lower end model. If it came with the keyboard + 8GB of RAM, then I could justify $899. Personal opinion.

What I would say to you is:

- Ask yourself the question: What do you need? Not what do you WANT, what do you NEED? Make sure it's NEED based, not WANT based. Start there, and chances are, this model will work.

- Once you've identified whether it meets the NEED, determine what additional you would have to buy to add what you WANT. Note, I said additional. If your WANT is nothing more than to store selfies, consider cloud storage. If your WANT is to do graphics design and video editing, consider an external drive. Calculate these options, then compare them against higher models to see if it ends up the same cost (at which point it may make sense to go with a higher model) or cheaper to just buy when you plan to use it.

- In my opinion, you need to include the cost of the keyboard in your calculations. I consider it a requirement and I feel Microsoft needs to figure out how to include the keyboard - make the Pen an optional purchase, because less people will use that than the keyboard. OR, give the consumer the option: Surface with Keyboard (buy Pen separate) for $899 or Surface with Pen (buy Keyboard separate) for $899.

- Do not compare this to an iPad. I know it's tempting. But let's be realistic. A consumption tablet (iPad) will not compare cleanly to a computer in a tablet form (Surface). It won't. This goes back to my first bullet: NEED and my second bullet: WANT. If all you NEED is to browse the web, iPad might be fine, but if you WANT to access school resources that are Java based, guess what? iPad is no longer sufficient. If all you care about is reading eBooks, consider whether spending $900 makes sense over a $120 Kindle that's designed to do that.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2016 1:28 PM PST


Lusam: The Dragon Mage Wars Book One
Lusam: The Dragon Mage Wars Book One
Price: $2.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy read, slight flaws, January 17, 2016
I want to emphasize that I did not have a problem with the author's approach in this book. It's a very easy read for any age, and I felt that the story moved along at just about the right pace. I did note a couple of instances where the wrong grammar was used, and I wasn't really a fan of the fact that Lusam and Neala just fell in step with minimal development - love and trust doesn't go that fast - but for the most part, it's a well told story.


Nightblade
Nightblade
Price: $3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I assume the author was depressed when he wrote this, November 17, 2015
This review is from: Nightblade (Kindle Edition)
Because literally nothing goes right in this story. And I'm sure that was his point.

Main character, Ryuu, witnesses a brutal massacre of his town folk including his parents, right before his eyes. He's saved by Shigeru, a nightblade. Raised as Shigeru's prodigy. There's a darker story to the nightblades, but the author attempted to blur the lines of good and evil while emphasizing causality: for every action there is an opposite, equal reaction.

I had three problems with the book.

First, Ryuu got way too good, way too fast. I understand there's more to him than meets the eye, and we'll learn about this in the second book, but it was like he couldn't fail. He was killing people left and right with ridiculous ease, even those that seemed to have godly powers. It was almost laughable.

Second, Takako made no sense. First, she's enthralled by Ryuu's conversation. Then, Ryuu selfishly acts, and the result is bloody. Takako ends up hating Ryuu, no real forgiveness, never gets over it, but never leaves. Then "the end" happens, and while it's expected, it's like the author couldn't make up his mind which way he wanted to go with Ryuu's feelings. We never got to explore Takako at all, and she never revealed anything of herself. She became a victim of circumstance with no real substance.

Third, General Nori and his son. Without spoiling things, this goes back to my first issue.

I gave it 4 stars because it was a very easy read, very well written, and it took an intriguing story that made me want to read the sequel at the end of the week when it comes out. Just don't expect a happy ending, and don't expect resolution or absolution.


Don King Presents: Prize Fighter - Xbox 360
Don King Presents: Prize Fighter - Xbox 360
Offered by cdgiveaways
Price: $9.99
31 used & new from $1.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Great game, but flawed, November 15, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Those who criticize the game really miss the point.

I played this game ages ago. Vividly remember it. If you're a fan of creating your own character and playing the game as if you're in it, this is the game for you. However, if you're just into "graphics OMG!!!", don't play it. This game focused more on telling a story.

You create a character. He has a storyline, starting from fighting in small, seedy gyms with a few people and gaining fame over time, all the way up to the main event scene. Along the way, realistic things happen; you get injuries during training or in fights, you have to buy stuff, you'll get into a feud with another fighter, dirty fighters where the judges/refs don't call it, etc. I remember once, my guy broke his hand, and you take damage with every punch with that hand. Just as with the real thing.

Loved the game. The graphics were not great, and the fight controls were clunky. But in terms of storyline, it was awesome.


Dawn of Wonder (The Wakening Book 1)
Dawn of Wonder (The Wakening Book 1)
Price: $3.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needed a really good publisher, November 13, 2015
.First let me be clear: Renshaw is a very good writer. He was able to explain scenery very well. I only detected one grammatical error so minor I don't even remember specifically what it was. Character development was about a B+; I was able to feel personalities from most of the main cast.

The problem here is the same that Terry Brooks suffered in the Genesis of Shannara series: there's just not enough to care about. I didn't care about any of the characters except Lira, who wasn't really explored. Part of this is because Renshaw went so many ways; this is a book that could easily be a third the length. There's that much "fluff" and it was dull. It got to the point I speed read to the end just to get to the predictable outcome I totally expected.

Main character is at first presented as just a kid with his friends. Slavers sneak into the town; he tries to warn people but is ignored. This was an interesting few chapters. But then, he's in a cart being taken somewhere by his parents (this is the FIRST time we're hearing anything about parents, and we don't learn hardly anything about them except that his dad is a violent child and spousal abuser). This felt like a forced attempt to make the reader feel something for Aedan; it didn't work on me.

Then, the bulk of the book - and when I say "the bulk", if it's 639 pages long, I'd argue that the breakout is something like this:
~50 pages with the first town and his friends
~400 pages of just Aedan training to be a marshal and failing, while constantly being bullied by nearly everyone. This segment was extremely DULL.
The rest, random out-of-nowhere quests complete with deus ex machina event and no real resolution at the end

This is not what I expected. I expected Aedan to be trained as a marshal, then thrown into battle fairly quickly; rough yet getting better. I expected him to overcome his fears naturally and by confronting them - you know, like NORMAL people do - and not by some strange light. I expected him to master his horse, which would become a loyal and trusted companion, not a terror to the town later completely forgotten. I expected him to finally forge a sword worthy of song, one that people would later talk about.

None of this happened. It just...stopped. And it stopped with Aedan no more a man, no more a warrior, no more a marshal, than when the book started.

What also went unresolved:
- Beef with Malik, never really explained or resolved
- Emroy, who basically threw Aedan "under the bus" (this might be dealt with in the next book, but he was so sparingly mentioned in this one the reader doesn't have any idea what's to happen or why)
- Ilona's strange "not when my friends are around" behavior (Aedan theorizes, but there's never a full 100% explanation of it)
- WHY Peashot feels a need to shoot things
- WHY Lorrimer freaked out in the middle of combat

I give the author major credit for not writing the equivalent of a short story and for writing so well, but too long is too long. I also would have preferred more closure, more definitive action, and more resolution than what I got.

Small side note for the author: the book does not paginate properly on Kindle because the chapter headers are images, not text (KDP tells you this is a no-no). Thus, when you want to go to a "chapter", it just lists the first sentence, not the chapter number. If you update this book, please do at least include basic text with chapter segments appropriately, so it's easier on Kindle readers.


Sleag's Last Battle (Sleag's Quest, Book 6)
Sleag's Last Battle (Sleag's Quest, Book 6)
Price: $2.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfactory ending, November 5, 2015
I'm reviewing the last book first, because it's supposed to be a culmination from the series. I felt dissatisfied, and here's why.

The first couple of books are slightly dark. There is failure. There's heartache. There's stress. There's death.
The last book has a bit of stress, and nothing else.

Pairings of couples, friendships, even stories told are not wrapped up in this book. The author essentially throws away everything that came before, as if he started off telling one story but somewhere along the way decided to tell a completely different one. It felt like he was trying to tell the reader that "everyone's got a little evil and a little good in them", but it ended up like "we're here, but yeah, we can't do what we came to do and everyone who was mad, is no longer."

Irrelevant characters are brought in, for no reason. Here, it felt like someone told the author, "hey, I read books 1-5 and uh, they don't feel like YA stories. You need more child-relatable characters!" so then he throws in a barkeep, a mage, some farmers, and some kids, but doesn't really do much with any of them except the mage, a character that simply makes NO sense.

Plot holes are all over the place - Percy walked off mad and vowed revenge, then nothing. A wooden arm is "critical" to Sleag's Quest, but only so he can see an arm that looks like it and know what to do? Sleag and Danagh are constantly carrying boatloads of weapons around only to leave all but one behind every time? What about the weapons Danagh left in the tree? Bree can talk to animals yet only does so once in the whole book - well, what's the point of her having the skill if it's not to be used after that? And what about "Danagh's Quest"? The ultimate cliffhanger.

I don't know if Hayes was compelled to "hurry it up", but I was not pleased with this book.


Fairfield Poly-Fil Premium Polyester Fiber, White, 1 Box, 5-Pound
Fairfield Poly-Fil Premium Polyester Fiber, White, 1 Box, 5-Pound
Offered by Kings Emporium
Price: $26.99
11 used & new from $12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, October 25, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Unlike others, I didn't get this stuff to fill a dog bed (IMO, that's too much money for such a use case when you could just buy a replacement dog bed for the same price, but I digress).

No, on a recent trip I stayed at a hotel that had quite frankly the perfect pillows. They never got too hot, never got too soft, had perfect neck support, and my head didn't sink too far down. I'd never had a pillow so comfortable, and believe me, I've gone through many types: down ("Poker face" anyone?), down alternative (sore neck anyone?), memory foam (breaks down when hot), water base (half of it too firm), shredded memory foam (either too hard or too soft), cervical (OUCH)...

A previous patron had ripped a corner of one of the pillows (clearly, as curious as I was what the stuffing was). Come to find out it was this stuff, though I didn't know it at the time. Google was key here.

So I bought a 5 lb bag and some zippered pillow protectors. Didn't want to bother sewing up a pillow and have it fall apart over time. These were King size protectors, and I would estimate that 3lbs was needed to properly stuff one of them. Which means for two King size pillows I didn't have enough, and this concerned me. Usually I have to sleep with two stacked pillows due to the issues above, but not here.

When properly stuffed, one King pillow was the same height as two pillows which worked perfectly for my neck. It was firm enough to support my head, but not so firm as to be painful. My head sinks down roughly halfway and just waits for blissful sleep. Less stuffing can be used for a softer pillow, but then you get the "down alternative" effect where your neck will suffer. It also didn't seem possible to "overstuff" the pillow, which was nice. It remained breathable no matter what.

I know pillows are a subjective thing, but I strongly recommend trying this if you've had issues finding a good pillow out-of-the-box. Might be that you have to just knuckle down and stuff your own.


LUCID 4 Inch Down Alternative + Gel-Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper - Queen
LUCID 4 Inch Down Alternative + Gel-Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper - Queen
Offered by LinenSpa
Price: $269.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plush. (LIVING REVIEW), October 9, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I will make updates to this review over time. It is difficult to know things such as quality, durability, heat retention, and flexibility of the piece without sleeping on it for a good deal of time.

I purchased this to help make my Casper mattress a bit more comfortable. While that mattress is basically a memory foam mattress, and while it touts great heat dispersion and durability, The problem is that it suffers from the same challenges that all memory foam mattresses do : when it receives a certain amount of heat, it breaks down and gets weak. This causes you to sink into the mattress, into a dented space, which wreaks havoc on your back, sides, and legs.

I've been sleeping on this topper for a couple of days now. I can say with confidence that it's a lot easier to fall asleep than it was without it. The top layer is a down alternative, plush and comfortable. There's a foam middle pad just beneath the down top layer, then a gel layer at the bottom. The gel layer is rigid enough that you will not dent into the mattress beneath unless if you weigh more than the rated amount for the mattress in the first place.

At first, the topper did not feel all that comfortable compared to the regular mattress, but my body adjusted quickly.
I get hot at night, especially my lower body, but this never got overly warm or uncomfortable. It seemed to do a great job separating the heat from my body. Note that this is not a cooling mattress; the heat will just flow away from you which has the net effect of keeping you cooler. Time will tell whether this continues to be the case as I sleep on the topper.

This does not come with any sort of fitted corners or extra fitted sheet, so you will need to add your own. It's just the topper.

Overall I'm satisfied with the purchase.


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