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Half a War (Shattered Sea)
Half a War (Shattered Sea)
by Joe Abercrombie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The conclusion to the Shattered Sea trilogy, July 2, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Half a War is the third book in the Shattered Sea trilogy and the book picks up right after the second book, Half the World leaves off. Since many of the main characters of Half a War were introduced and developed in the second book, reading the third book without first reading the second book of the series will most likely leave the reader lost and the characters felling shallow and underdeveloped. The first book of the series, Half a King was almost self-contained and although reading it first would help fill in the back story even more, reading the first book is not nearly as critical as the second book for enjoying Half a War.

War is coming and the story begins with the characters from the first book leading their lives in Gettland. But, Grandmother Wexen has unleashed her champions against the rebellious kingdoms, starting with the kingdom of Throvenland where Princess Skara lives. The princess becomes a critical part of Father Yarvi’s plans for vengeance for the deaths of his brother and father.

There are a few new, principal characters who are developed in Half a War, but none so much so as Princess Skara. Characters such as Koll and Rin are also developed more, but others such as Thorn and even Father Yarvi show only a little new development as they have already been the focus of the other books. The author also gives us more information about the Elves who lived in the world before they shattered god. The author gives enough to leave the reader suspecting their origin.

As with the earlier books in the series, the storyline is full of action and there are enough twists and turns that keep the reader enthralled. Some parts are predictable, however. Overall, I did find the story a fast and enjoyable read. I cant say that I am pleased with how things work out in terms of choices the characters make, but war bring out the worst in people.

I was also a bit disappointed that the women warriors who Thorn was to train at the end of the second book only briefly make an appearance and then are gone. There are plenty of strong female characters in the trilogy, but Thorn was a major character in second book and I had hoped that her students would play a bigger role.

A definite must read if you have already read the other books so that you can conclude the trilogy. While the third book is perhaps not quite as good as the first of the series, it doesn’t disappoint. If you are new to the Shattered Sea, then please read the earlier books first, especially the second book.


Powerstroke PS80960 3100 PSI 2.5 GPM Pressure Washer with Subaru Engine
Powerstroke PS80960 3100 PSI 2.5 GPM Pressure Washer with Subaru Engine
Price: $399.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent power washer, June 30, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This review is for the Powerstroke Pressure Washer with the Subaru engine.

This unit is a great pressure washer that is easy to setup and to use. The variable nozzle allows you to choose different widths of spray and to change the distance of the spray when you are using soap in the soap container. We have been using it during renovation work on a house and so far we are pleased with the unit. It is heavy enough that two people should probably carry it, but the wheels make it easy to move around. The range from your outdoor faucet is limited by the length of your garden hose and the 25’ long hose for the wand.

What’s in the box?
Inside the box you will find:
- the components of the pressure washer (assembly required)
- a container or oil (the unit is shipped without oil and the oil must be added before first use)
- a quick start guide
- the operator’s manual
- the Subaru engine manual

What isn’t in the box but you will need?
- funnels for adding the oil and gasoline
- gasoline (do NOT use E15 or E85 fuel)
- fuel stabilizer (the instructions recommend it to be used)
- safety glasses
- hearing protection - the engine is loud and you will risk damage to your hearing if you use
the washer for any length of time without hearing protection.
- garden hose
- detergents designed for use with pressure washers if you want to use detergents. The unit
uses downstream pressure washer detergents but can be converted into upstream. However,
you will need to contact customer support as there aren’t instructions in the manual to do
this.

Assembly
Assembly was much easier than expected and no tools are required. The main parts include attaching the handle to the unit which actually took a bit of pressure as the parts were misaligned on mine. Next, the wand is assembled and connected to the unit via the hose. Next the garden hose is connected. Next, the oil is poured into the engine. You will add the entire container of oil and you will need a small funnel to get the oil into the small opening. Lastly, the gasoline is added again by using a funnel due to the awkward gas opening position.

Starting the Unit
The water must always be turned on before the unit is operate to ensure that the pump is not damaged. First the trigger on the wand is depressed to release any air pressure so that the engine is not trying to work against the pressure when it first starts. Next the engine switch is turned to on, the fuel valve is opened and the choke is moved to start. Starting the engine the first time took two pulls on the cord and off it went.

Using the Power Washer
The power washer is loud and so hearing protection should be used as should eye protection. When the trigger on the wand is depressed, the engine will run on full throttle and then cycle up and down on throttle as the pressure is built back up. This is done automatically by the engine and although it was unnerving at first, it seed to work just fine.

The first job we used it on was a patio that was covered with moss and slime from being under a layer of leaves for years. The washer made short work of the mess with the nozzle set to a wide spray. We also used it to remove loose paint from a painted deck and again the job was pretty easy with the washer.

Maintenance
The oil must be changed after 20 hours the first time and then 100 hours the next time. Other scheduled maintenance includes changing the spark plugs, the air fitler and the air filter element after a set number of hours. Otherwise, the oil should be checked each use as should the integrity of the unit.

Overall Impressions
The unit is small and effective. The attached cord to the want tends to want to get tangled but hopefully this will stop after more use. Overall we have been pleased with the unit. The Subaru engine is loud but seems to work well. Only time will tell, but we intent to stick to the maintenance schedule in hopes of using the power washer for a good number of years.


Probelle Anti-Bite, Stop Nail Biting and Thumb Sucking, Clear, .5 Fluid Ounces
Probelle Anti-Bite, Stop Nail Biting and Thumb Sucking, Clear, .5 Fluid Ounces
Offered by AFL Fulfillment
Price: $10.00
2 used & new from $9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars The bad taste of the product takes a few moments to be detected and by then the biting has already started, June 29, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Probelle Anti-Bite was chosen for an adult nail biter in my family who wants to stop biting her nails at work because doing so at work looks unprofessional. That she might start biting her nails while she is working in a courtroom is a real concern. She has tried other products in the past and saw that bad taste as a challenge rather than a hindrance. She tells me that unfortunately, the Probelle taste does not kick in until after a few seconds. This is a problem since she is already biting when she tastes the product, so the goal of making her stop right away is not met by this product.

Overall, the product does not seem to be working, but to be fair, similar products from other manufacturers haven’t worked either. We will continue to try to use the Probelle Anti-Bite and will update this review in a few weeks.


WeMo F5Z0597 Osram Lightify Flex RGBW Starter Set, Wi-Fi Enabled and App Controlled
WeMo F5Z0597 Osram Lightify Flex RGBW Starter Set, Wi-Fi Enabled and App Controlled
Price: $119.99
3 used & new from $97.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to setup and provides plenty of indirect light with an color to match your color scheme or mood, June 27, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This review is for both the Flex and the Gardenspot Mini. Reviews from several WEMO products are being grouped together. I write specifics about the two products and then write about the connectivity of both since they both use the WEMO Link.

Osram Lightify Flex
The Osram Lightify Flex is basically a strip of 1/8 inch thick, flexible plastic material with LEDs embedded in it every 2 inches. Due to the brightness of the LEDs, the lights are best suited for use under counters or in other places where you are not looking directly at the lights but rather use them to provide light indirectly. There are several strips included to allow you to create long or short lengths of lights. You can also cut the strips to custom fit them. However, only one controller is included and so you can only use one string of the lights. So, if you have any strips left over, you cant use them separately. The strip of material has an adhesive backing so that it can be attached to a surface.

Whats in the box?
Inside the box, you will find:
- Model 73661 controller
- Power supply
- WEMO Link
- Three light strips, each 24 inches long.

Hardware Setup
Each of the light strips has a connector at each end which allows you to connect the segments together. At one end, the controller is connected. You can use one or all three of the light strips together and can even cut them to ensure that they fit into your space correctly. However, as there is only one controller, any left over strips can not be used separately.

Once the strips are connected and plugged into the controller and the power supply, the WEMO Link is plugged into an outlet and the controller is then setup using your mobile device.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Osram Lightify Gardenspot Mini
The Gardenspot Mini is a sting of 9 lights attached to a cord about 14 feet long. What is really nice is that you can use the lights on the attached stakes to put them into the ground or you can remove the stakes and attach the lights with the enclosed screws to surfaces such as under a deck. At least in theory as the enclosed screws are small and don’t have very aggressive threads for screwing into wood. I would anticipate needing to predrill holes.

The connections between the power supply and the controller and the controller and the string of lights are all secured with threaded connections to prevent the elements from damaging the connections. Note that the plug must be plugged into a plug with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protection.

Whats in the box?
Inside the box, you will find:
- Outdoor rated controller
- Power supply - waterproof
- WEMO Link
- String of 9 lights

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Connectivity
I have one other WEMO Link and of all of the WEMO products that I own including the Insight Switch, the Light Switch and the air purifier, the Link is the most difficult WEMO product to set up. First you must download the WEMO application from either the Play store or the Apple store. Note that the app from the Apple store only works with IOS 7.

Plug the Link into an outlet and then use your device to find the wireless signal from the Link. A trick that I have learned is that during the setup, it is easiest if you disable your 3G connection by using the airplane mode. Otherwise, my phone kept trying to connect to my home network through the mobile network instead of staying with the wireless connection. Once the wireless connection is established, you use the WEMO App to setup the Link. This includes giving the Link your wireless password. That is pretty much it. There are other options available for naming the device or setting up rules for when the lights turn on if you wish them to do so automatically.

It is through the App that you can control the color of the light strips. With so many options for the colors, it is fun to try.

ECHO
Unfortunately, the Link will not work with the Echo at this time. The Echo does work with the light switch and the Insight and I highly recommend pairing the Echo with the WEMO devices when you can for convenience.

Overall
I am slowly installing WEMO lighting throughout my home due to the convenience of having the lights turn on and off according to rules and because I can control them remotely. I installed the LED light strip under the counters in my kitchen and the setup took a few minutes. However, I have set up other WEMO devices before and so I knew what to do. Overall, I would be pleased with the FLEX light strip as just a white light. That I can change the color of the lights is a fantastic bonus and a nice feature. Likewise for the Gardenspot Mini which I have used around my patio. In the case of the Gardenspot Mini, the lights are pretty bright and I am thinking of installing them under the railings of my porch.


Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver Brazilian Amethyst, African Amethyst and White Topaz Dragonfly Pendant Necklace, 18"
Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver Brazilian Amethyst, African Amethyst and White Topaz Dragonfly Pendant Necklace, 18"

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice butterfly necklace made unique by the Amethyst stones along the body and base of the wings, June 26, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Dragonfly Pendant Necklace is in a word, sparkly. There are a large number of small, White Topaz stones fixed to the wings of the butterfly. The colorless stones are what give the sparkle, but what gives the character to the necklace is the Amethyst which are fixed along the body and base of the wings. The purple stones make what would otherwise be a boring silver colored piece into something special. Depending on the direction of the light, the Amethyst either reflect the light off of their smooth surfaces or are a light purple. The effect is very nice.

The dragonfly is attached to the silver colored chain at the end of one of its wings. This causes the butterfly to hang at an angle with the end of the body almost horizontal, but the rest of the body curved up toward the wearer’s neck. The effect is nice and much better than if the butterfly hung just horizontal or vertical.

The necklace comes in a black box. The lid is blue on the inside and the necklace itself sits at an angle on a soft insert. The box is nice enough to use to present the necklace as a gift.

Overall, a nice necklace which is a bit different due to the Amethyst.


Circulon Symmetry Hard Anodized Nonstick 12-Inch Covered Essentials Pan
Circulon Symmetry Hard Anodized Nonstick 12-Inch Covered Essentials Pan
Price: $59.49
10 used & new from $37.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Durable and easy to clean. It has become the everyday pan in my kitchen., June 25, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been using the Circulon Essentials Pan for the past year and it has become my go to pan when I am cooking anything not requiring a pot with steep sides. This is also my first Circulon pan and I am impressed with the durability and the ease of cleaning it. The lid is particularly nice for when I am cooking things that might splatter and to cook things a bit quicker.

The pan is sloped and so the bottom of the pan is in contact with the heating element of my electric stove whereas the sides of the pan are not, as one would expect with this shape pan. Using the lid helps to even out the temperature in the pan a bit.

I care for the pan by hand washing it only and setting it out to dry. I also only use plastic utensils with the pan, never metal. While some of my pans from other manufacturers show some scratches on the outside from contact with other pans in the drying rack, the Circulon one does not.

Overall, I love the pan and plan on purchasing more of the Circulon line in the future.


Kelty Salida 2 Tent
Kelty Salida 2 Tent
Price: $127.46
17 used & new from $120.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Great value tent for backpacking, June 20, 2015
This review is from: Kelty Salida 2 Tent (Sports)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In terms of features versus price, the Kelty Salida 2 Tent is an amazing bargain. At only just over 4.5 lbs and taking up roughly 1 square foot, the tent is incredibly light for backpacking. I have found that the tent is very easy to setup and to take down.

With 30.5 square feet of floorspace, the tent is comfortable for two people. The use of the vestibule adds another 10 square feet of space outside the tent. The tent can be made a bit roomier by purchasing the Kelty Gear Loft (available on Amazon) which can be used to store small items off the floor to allow for more room and you can hang a light from it.

If you are buying accessories, you might also want to consider the Kelty Salida 2 Footprint. Unfortunately, the tent does not come with one. The footprint will add another 18 oz to the weight.

The mesh walls of the tent allow for air to pass through which makes it much more comfortable at night than my old tent which only had mesh on the door and one vent.

I have not yet had the opportunity to try the tent in the rain. In fact, we didnt even use the waterproof fly at night. The product manual notes that the perimeter seam is sealed, but could benefit from additional seam sealing to further insure waterproofness. The same applies to the other seals such as the rainfly which also will benefit from additional seam sealing using a urethane-based seam sealer.

Bear in mind that this tent was built to be lightweight which makes it perfect for backpacking. However, if you dont plan to carry the tent on multiday trips, there are other tests of this size that offer better materials or more space such as the Marmont Limelight. But, the Limelight is heavier more difficult to setup and there are the tradeoffs.

Overall, a fantastic tent for backpacking. You get a lot of value for your money. Add the Gear Loft for convenience.


Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo
Price: $179.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very convinent for playing music, asking cooking conversions or listening to the news and it sounds great, June 20, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Echo (Electronics)
I was a bit dubious at first about the Echo. But, now that I have been using it for some months, I absolutely love it. I now want to tell all of my music devices what I want them to play and am a bit disappointed when I have to select and start playing music manually.

I am also enjoying the ability to ask about the weather, to hear Wikipedia entries and to ask random questions to see what the Echo does. If you havent yet, ask Echo what the fox says and who let the dogs out. My nephews and nieces thought the answers and the jokes that the Echo tells were hilarious.

The sound quality is very good for such as small device. I have reviewed two other bluetooth speakers, one of which was more expensive than the Echo and neither of the bluetooth speakers sounded as good as the Echo. While not as good as a full size loudspeaker, the Echo does produce lively sound that achieves a satisfying amount of bass. Not an each achievement for such a small package.

How useful the Echo will be in terms of a music player will depend on how invested in Amazon you are. With Prime, you get access to a large number of albums for free. Any digital music that you have purchased or have uploaded to Amazon will also be available. Between Prime and my own library, I have access to thousands of songs by just saying what I want the Echo to play.

However, what is disappointing is that you cant ask the Echo to add songs to playlists. This would seem a great idea for Amazon to implement and I cant believe they havent done so.

The response to voice commands is amazing. When I first plugged the Echo in, there were a dozen people asking the Echo questions and the Echo was able to respond to most of them. The notable exceptions were questions or commands from children. The Echo seems much more capable with an adult voice.

What is great about the Echo is that Amazon is continually adding functionality. A huge improvement towards home automation was the ability of the Echo to work with some WEMO lights. I installed WEMO lights witches and the Insight switch and I find it very convenient to have the Echo control them with voice commands. Especially so since some of the lights are located at the back of rooms and are not controlled by wall switches. Telling the Echo to turn on the lights is much nicer than stumbling into a dark room in search of a lamp.

Overall, I am very pleased with the Echo. I recommend it as an easy to use media player and a fun device to have.


Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.67

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining story of the days that the jinn travelled between their world and ours, June 18, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Long ago, two philosophers raged an ongoing debate about the nature of a god and his role in the workings of the world. The philosophers lived and debated at a time when back where there were cracks between the world of the jinn and our world. Not that the philosophers noticed, but the Jinn could travel back and forth between worlds to perform mischief. But not all came to perform mischief. In the rare case, one might come not just to have sex with a human but to fall in love and one jinn found herself in love with one of the philosophers. But over time, he moved on from her and when the cracks between the worlds were sealed, she an the other jinn left and our world was left to the humans.

But then one day, the cracks began to reopen and the world as we know it changed. Worm holes appeared in the oddest places, allowing the jinn to pass through into our world. Severe weather patterns emerged and New York was struck by a powerful hurricane that left not only the city in ruins, but the populace changed. Some could levitate, some could cause disease when a lie was told and some could shoot fire from their fingers. The jinn had returned with their magic and it wasnt going well for the humans. Spurred on by the age old debate of the philosophers, the dark jinn set upon the world to see if the misery and pain would turn the human race back to religion and to have fun causing the pain.

I have not read a book by Salman Rushdie since I read The Satanic Verses about twenty years ago and I didn't remember being that enthused with that book at the time. I knew that Rushdie is a highly praised author and so when Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights became available, I wanted to revisit his writing to see what all the fuss was about. And I am glad that I did. The author has created a beautifully written story that draws you in after the first two dozen pages. This is not a pretty story as there is anger, greed and destruction. Religion in general does not come across well. But there is also hope, love and compassion. The story makes allusions to modern day events which helps to connect the story to our own present. And the storyline itself is certainly entertaining.

I found the author's writing style to take a bit of getting used to at first. I think it is because he uses a style where he interjects important descriptions, descriptions of people or things, in the middle of sentences, middle mostly but sometimes at the end, which interrupts up the sentence (just as I have done here). But, within 20 pages or so, I was used to his writing style and stopped noticing it.

The storyline focuses mostly on the jinn princess, Dunia and her human descendent, Mr Geronimo who is a gardener living in New York. The development of these two characters takes time and in the case of Dunia, we are still learning about her almost until the very end of the story. There are also several other prominent characters, but these characters are not developed as much over the course of the story. They come in and out when needed and play major roles but are then put aside.

Overall, an enjoyable story and I recommend the book.


Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II (Pearl)
Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II (Pearl)
Price: $199.00
13 used & new from $199.00

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing sound from a compact speaker, June 6, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have tried several other Bluetooth speakers and the Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II offers the best sound of the compact speakers that I have heard.

Sound
For such a small size, the SoundLink Mini II produces an impressive amount of quality sound. The SoundLink Mini II offers the best sound of the mini speakers I have tried. The speaker produces a surprising amount of bass for such a small size. The mids and highs are clear and engaging without any of the distortion that I have heard from other small speakers. From jazz to classical to rock to ambient music, the SoundLink Mini II confidently delivers solid sound.

Directionality
I did find that the highs are much brighter and much more audible when the speaker is directed at the listener as compared to when the speaker is facing at an angle to the listener. For example, the horn components of some of the jazz music I listen to sound muted if the speaker is turned away from me, but sound great if the speaker is pointed directly at me. However, the directionality is found in most speakers (big or small) and the the Bose SoundLink Mini II is not nearly as directional as some other small speakers.

Form and Function
The speaker itself is surprisingly small. It could easily fit in a backpack or even in a jacket pocket. It is also surprisingly heavy compared to other Bluetooth speakers which are larger than the Bose. The weight and the solid feel of the aluminum body give the impression of quality.

The SoundLink Mini II has a 3 mm thick rubber pad at its base which helps to keep in place on uneven surfaces. The rubber also helps to isolate the speakers from the surface on which it is placed because the speaker does vibrate a bit due to the sound it is producing.

The rubberized control buttons are on the top of the speaker. The is a power on/off switch, volume controls and a Bluetooth button which you press to pair a device.

There is also a button which has three dots on it which is the multifunction control. Pressing and holding this button while my Android phone was connected started a dialogue visually on my phone and audibly through the speaker to call one of my contacts. I could tell the phone via the speaker who to call and make the call using the speaker.

Connectivity
I was able to pair the SoundLink Mini II to my phone, computer and iPod easily. You can connect to two devices at once. There is also a micro-USB port and a 3.5 mm input to connect devices which dont have Bluetooth.

Charging
According to the product manual, a full charge takes about four hours to achieve. The SoundLink Mini II comes with a cradle which you can use to charge the speaker. Alternatively, you can just plug the charging cable directly into the speaker (it is a micro-USB cable). As both methods appear to work, I am not sure of the purpose of the separate charging cradle other than the convenience of just being able to place the speaker into the cradle instead of needing to plug in the cable.

Documentation
There is very little in terms of documentation that comes with the speaker. This is a setup guide that helps to get the speaker setup and connected. To find out more information about the functionality of the speaker, you can download the product manual from the Bose website. The address is given with the documentation included with the speaker.

Overall
The SoundLink Mini II offers amazing sound from a solid feeling, small package. While it is more expensive than some of the other Bluetooth speakers which are available, the SoundLink Mini II delivers the best sound of the ones that I have tried. Certainly recommended.


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