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Friday, November 30, 2012

Balance of November


During the month of November, I reviewed the following:

Books:
- "Bedeviled" by Sable Grace. Read my review.
- "The Two Agreements" by S.L.Brannon. Read my review.
- "12.21" by Dustin Thomason. Read my review.
- "The Hidden Village" by Greg Krehbiel. Read my review.

Other Products:
- "Island of Hordaland, Norway 1500 Piece Puzzle" by Ravensburger. Read my review.
- "Backup Plus 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive for Mac" by Seagate. Read my review.
- "Tower Bridge 3D Puzzle" by Ravensburger. Read my review.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book "The Hidden Village" by Greg Krehbiel

About the Book: Geof Franklin gets the late-night phone call every parent dreads and discovers that his son has been missing for weeks. As he relentlessly searches for his only son, he gets pulled into the orbit of a cult-like sub-culture of clans that live by their own rules and think nothing of killing anyone who stands in their way. To have any hope of reaching his son he has to keep digging, but he's digging himself into more and more trouble -- with the mysterious clans, and with the law.
This exciting sci-fi adventure story is set in and around Washington, D.C.

About the Author: Greg Krehbiel is a happily married father of five wonderful children. He's enjoying a successful career in professional publishing that has included lengthy gigs in editorial, product development, IT and tech development, marketing, and audio and web conferencing. He earned a bachelor's degree in Geology and studied theology as preparation for ministry -- then thought better of it. He's a home brewer (beer, wine and mead), an occasional jogger, an avid writer, and enjoys camping and fishing. He lives in Laurel, Maryland.

My Review: This is quite a creative book, where the author develops a whole new world of games and fighting clans that take place inside our own regular world(more specifically, around Washington, D.C.). It is very well written and easy to read, goes smoothly in one single seat and grabs your attention from the beginning.
Plot is simple: a father receives a phone call and discovers that his son is missing for weeks. While searching for his son, he finds a scaring new world and the more he digs into it, the more dangerous it becomes, both in his real and fictional worlds. I found the end surprising and we just stay wondering if something like the described situation cannot be real... Will there be a sequel?
This is an excellent entertainment reading that I recommend to the permanent library of any science-fiction lover. It took me around 3 hours to read the whole book.

This book was written by Greg Krehbiel and published by Crowhill Publishing in October 2012.

If you read this review, please feel free to leave a message!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Product "Tower Bridge 3D puzzle" by Ravensburger

About the Product: Individually shaped plastic pieces fit together perfectly thanks to Ravensburger's Easy Click Technology. The pieces are numbered on the back so you can puzzle by the number or image - your pick. Set comes with base stand and extra plastic pieces to replicate the famous 3D puzzle structure. Sturdy - no glue required.
The distinctive bridge, recognized the world over for its twin towers, was built in the Victorian Gothic style, and designed to be in harmony with nearby Tower of London. The Tower Bridge lets puzzlers immerse themselves in the history of the structure and its many attributes as well as its status in the Londong cityscape. The finished puzzle stands 46.2" long and 16" tall and is a display-worthy historical replica and conversation starter for multiple generations to enjoy. It promotes communication and cooperation while it hones fine motor and construction skills.

My Review: I am a puzzle maniac, having assembled jigsaw puzzles from 100 to 9000 pieces (a 13200 pieces is in the queue). Some of them were 3D puzzles, like the Taj Mahal, US Capitol, Neuschwanstein Castle, Empire State Building, Big Ben, etc. This Tower Bridge does not disappoint at all. Very high quality product from Ravensburger (as usual), all the pieces have an excellent finishing and they stick together very well. No glue is necessary. The final assembly resembles a lot the real building, is very stable, and it is a nice decoration you can have for a while in your home. It is just a shame that this is only a 216-pieces puzzle...(and I do not particularly like the fact that the pieces are numbered... seems like cheating). You can assemble the whole puzzle in less than 2 hours.

Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not request to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book "12.21" by Dustin Thomason

About the Book: For decades, December 21, 2012, has been a touchstone for doomsayers worldwide. It is the date, they claim, when the ancient Maya calendar predicts the world will end. In Los Angeles, two weeks before, all is calm. Dr. Gabriel Stanton takes his usual morning bike ride, drops off the dog with his ex-wife, and heads to the lab where he studies incurable prion diseases for the CDC. His first phone call is from a hospital resident who has an urgent case she thinks he needs to see. Meanwhile, Chel Manu, a Guatemalan American researcher at the Getty Museum, is interrupted by a desperate, unwelcome visitor from the black market antiquities trade who thrusts a duffel bag into her hands. By the end of the day, Stanton, the foremost expert on some of the rarest infections in the world, is grappling with a patient whose every symptom confounds and terrifies him. And Chel, the brightest young star in the field of Maya studies, has possession of an illegal artifact that has miraculously survived the centuries intact: a priceless codex from a lost city of her ancestors. This extraordinary record, written in secret by a royal scribe, seems to hold the answer to her life’s work and to one of history’s great riddles: why the Maya kingdoms vanished overnight. Suddenly it seems that our own civilization might suffer this same fate. With only days remaining until December 21, 2012, Stanton and Chel must join forces before time runs out.

About the Author: Dustin Thomason is an American writer and producer. He is the co-author of the 2004 novel The Rule of Four , and the author of "12.21". Dustin also co-created the 2006 ABC drama The Evidence and has executive produced numerous television series, including Fox's Lie to Me. The Rule of Four reached the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, where it remained for more than six months. The book was a number-one national and international bestseller and has been translated into more than 25 languages. It has sold more than four million copies worldwide, and was the best selling debut novel of the decade. Dustin's second novel, "12.21" was published in more than twenty languages in August, 2012 and was also a New York Times and International bestseller. Dustin attended Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, then went on to study anthropology at Harvard University and received his MD and his MBA from Columbia University. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

My Review: This is a very well written piece of fiction. Very dense, this novel brings all the elements to make this book an instant success. A thriller that goes from Los Angeles to the jungles in Guatemala in 10 days. The plot is simple and interesting. Doctor Gabriel Stanton is a specialist in prion diseases and Chel Manu is a star in the field of Maya studies. Dr. Stanton receives a call from a resident in a hospital saying that they have a patient that he needs to see. Problem is that the patient only speaks a language they figure out to be a Mayan dialect, and Chel , as a Guatemalan American and Maya specialist, is called to be the interpreter. She is a researcher at the Getty Museum and she receives an artifact in a bag from a black market agent, that happen to be a book with the story of her ancestors written by a royal scribe. That story ended up being the key to solve the variation of the prion epidemic that start to happen initially in LA, but then starts spreading fast all over the USA.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of all book lovers that wants to be entertained with a story that will hook you from the beginning and you will read it on the edge of your chair. It took me around 12 hours to read the whole book.

This book was written by Dustin Thomason and it was published by  The Dial Press on August of 2012. Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not requested to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Product "Backup Plus 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive for Mac" by Seagate

About the Product: The Seagate Backup Plus for Mac portable drive simplifies backup for consumers who want to protect their entire digital life locally or on social networks. The drive is formatted for Mac out of the box, making it compatible with Time Machine software to provide the simplest and most efficient way to back up locally. With the Save feature, user-generated content can be backed up from your favorite social networks. Many people now use their smartphones to capture priceless moments. While these devices are handy and readily available, storage is not their strong suit. Capture a memory, post it on a social networking site and let the Seagate Dashboard automatically back up any content posted. Even if the file gets accidentally deleted from the device, another copy can be waiting. The Share feature allows multiple files to be uploaded to social networks at once from your computer. Simply select files to upload, choose where to post them and even add comments. Managing your social profile has never been easier. Install the downloadable HFS+ driver for PC, and use the drive interchangeably between Mac computers and PCs, without reformatting. Take advantage of the Seagate Backup Plus design and upgrade from the included USB 3.0 interface to Thunderbolt technology or FireWire 800 with the additional adapter. System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6 or higher or Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP3 (32-bit and 64-bit) operating system (HFS+ driver for PC operability available by download; compatibility may vary depending on user's hardware configuration and operating system.) SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port (required for USB 3.0 transfer speeds or backwards compatible with USB 2.0 ports at USB 2.0 transfer speeds; varies depending on user's hardware configuration and operating system.) Inside the Box: Seagate Backup Plus drive, Seagate Dashboard pre-loaded on drive, USB 2.0 interface adapter, 18-Inch USB 3.0 cable, Quick start guide, 2-year limited warranty.

My review: This is a nice piece of equipment. Very elegant design, very simple to use. It was completely plug&play. I am using it as a Time Machine for my daughter's iBookPro and as soon as I connected it to the laptop, it identified and asked if I wanted to use it as a Time Machine. When I answered yes, it immediately start doing the full backup of her hard disk. 41Gb of data were backed up in less than 30 minutes and now all her music and photos are safe, just in case something goes wrong. I am very pleased with the product and my daughter is also happy, as the disk has a nice visual aspect and did not pollute her desk...


Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not requested to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book "The Two Agreements" by S.L.Brannon

About the Book: If you are satisfied with your religious life as it is, you do not need to read this book, which challenges the largest global religious population to re-think its “saint and sinner” doctrine and embrace inclusion of all humanity regardless of race, gender, religion, past “sins,” or other barriers. It will compel you to examine the contents of the religious box into which you’ve been trying to fit all the pieces of your life, and question the leaders who have long enjoyed being on a pedestal and worshipped by followers. If you’ve been led to this book, you have probably realized that you have accepted religion’s programmed answers as truth without ever inquiring of the Spirit to find validity of such ideas. Perhaps accepting your forefathers’ beliefs as your own caused you to feel that your true self was a captive within your physical body as you tried to do good and become more like God. Would you like to stop this internal battle and move toward peace? Are you ready for a life-changing journey with the Holy Spirit that will convert your view of God, yourself, and your religion? The Holy Spirit (NOT the church) is the one Jesus identified as our Healer, Counselor, Comforter, and Teacher of all things. Why not use this connection to live your spiritual life in the happiest and most fulfilling way? Many Christians are confused when they compare Jesus’ once-for-all redemption message with the Church-dictated rules that are supposed to bring right standing with an angry, judging, and blood-thirsty God. Without allegiance to any man, institution, religion, or ideology, The Two Agreements is the retelling of the greatest story ever told. This reinterpretation of the gospel, coupled with the Emergent Conversation and quantum science, is causing those who love Jesus, the Bible, and the Christian faith-community to rethink their position. It shines a light on the perfect relationship you now hold with the Divine and teaches you how to live free and secure in your spiritual life in an eternal connection to our Life Source. As you gain awareness of your true salvation, you will experience a peace that is beyond understanding.
 
About the Author: Retired from the military and living the life of a mystic, author S. L. Brannon (Steve) enjoys sharing the reinterpretation of the Bible with anyone who crosses his path. He was first licensed as a minister in 1970 by the United Pentecostal Church; four years later by the American Ministerial Association. He received his ordination in the Esoteric Interfaith Church in 2005. After graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1979, he went on to obtain his Master’s Degree in Education. Later, he completed two years of coursework in the Doctorate of Philosophy Counseling Psychology program at Oklahoma State University and completed the coursework for the Doctor of Education program at Vanderbilt University. He holds a Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Esoterica, exclusively for use in the corrections system and with ex-offenders. Currently, Steve is an interfaith spiritual minister who offers counseling, teaching, and inspirational materials to offenders. He also assists ex-offenders in securing admission into local support groups, mental health services, and temporary employment. His not-for-profit (501 (c) 3) organization allows him to minister through two inspirational support groups for individuals suffering depression and other mood disorders, and their friends and family.
 
My review: This is an intriguing book, well written by the author, but with wild ideas that might shake your faith. I believe that this is exactly the intention of the author. He claims he was giving a reinterpretation of the Gospel that was revealed to him. As a student of the Scriptures (I have a bachelor degree in Theology), I always learnt that the interpretation of the Scriptures is a difficult subject because of the many metaphors used in the text of the Bible. In many points the author is trying to take what it is written in the literal way, and that might not necessarily be the right way. Don't take me wrong, but I am hard to be convinced of new ideas just because they are well described, if there is no biblical support. Remember how many people read the "DaVinci Code" and thought that everything in that book was true, just because the author was providing references supporting his views. They just forgot that the references provided were apocrypha.
When studying the Scriptures we learn both on Exegesis and Hermeneutics that we can never ever ever ever take a verse out of its context, for not incurring the risk of having even the Holocaust justified by some sentence in the middle of the Scripture text. And that is exactly how the author base his conclusions. He explicitly says that "When His words are separated from the context of the narrative they are even more powerful to read and contemplate. Devoid of narrative context, the sayings come straight at us like so many bullets, piercing all our armor and destroying all our carefully thought-out prior convictions"... This is what I would call swimming on dangerous waters. He also goes beyond, saying that "the Gospel (ironically called the "Good News" story even though it represents damnation)"...I believe he skip the part of the Scriptures where it is said that although we are sinners by nature, if we believe in Jesus we can have hope of eternal life on His presence. And one last remark (I could give dozens more), he says that "God and creation are one and the same"... In my humble understanding, we were created in God's image, but thinking that we are God is exactly what caused Lucifer, the angel of light, to go to hell...
I am not here to judge the author and tell that what he is saying is true or lie. Who am I to do that? I think this was an excellent book that triggered on me the desire to study more and try to understand better the Scriptures.
This book was written by S.L.Brannon and it was published in October of 2011. The author was kind enough to send me this book for reviewing and I was not requested to provided a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Product "Island in Hordaland, Norway 1500 Piece Puzzle" by Ravensburger

About the Product:

  • Puzzle measures 33" x 23.5" 
  • Puzzles are fun - on your own, or with family and friends 
  • Relax from your busy life and build a beautiful image and a new memory


My Review: I loved the picture selection. Although I have never been there, I wish I could visit this Island some day!
I am a puzzle maniac, having assembled jigsaw puzzles from 100 to 9000 pieces (a 13200 pieces is in the queue and I am really going to the 18,000 and 32,000 pieces from Ravensburger in the future...). This one in particular is a very high quality product from Ravensburger (as usual), all the pieces have an excellent finishing and they stick together very well.
The blue of the water and the blue of the sky have some similar grades, making the puzzle more challenging. Similar situation with the greens on the main land and on the island. Overall, a very pleasant entertainment.
I usually assemble this size of puzzles on Foam Boards. They are very light and conveniently cheap. The foam board being 3/16'' (5mm) gives your puzzle enough support. I usually cut the board (easily done with a cutter) after glueing the puzzle, leaving a border of 1'' at each side, so I can pin the board in my garage (that, at this point, is full of puzzles...).
What help me a lot is that my wife and daughters also like the challenge, so we move fast. A 1,000 piece puzzle do not last a weekend, although the 8,000 piece one took us 2 months (most 2 to 3 hours at night work) to put together. It took as 10 days to put this one together. I highly recommend Ravensburger products for the excellent quality to everyone that enjoys challenges alone or with the whole family. It is a guaranteed entertainment for hours, listening to music or talking in family environment.

Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not requested to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book "Bedeviled" by Sable Grace

About the Book: She has done the unthinkable—turned her best friend into a dark breed: part Vampyre, Lychen and Witch . . . Kyana thought only to save her friend’s life when she fed Haven her blood; instead, she created a monster. Now the woman she thought of as a sister is under the spell of an ancient, vengeful god, determined to set him free and wreak havoc on the mortal world . . . and only Kyana can stop her. But time is running out. In just seven days, Kyana’s Vampyre and Lychen abilities will be gone and she’ll be completely transformed into the Goddess of the Hunt—and her blood ties to Haven will be severed. By her side is Ryker—ally, demigod, lover— who will sacrifice everything to keep Kyana safe . . . even the attraction that burns between them. Together they have one chance to save Haven from herself . . . to save humanity from hell on earth.

About the Author: Sable Grace is the writing team of Heather Waters and Laura Barone, long time critique partners and friends who came together by fluke to discover their voices fit together quite nicely during an experiment of "I'll write the first sentence, you write the next." It was meant to be nothing more than a warm up exercise for each of them to get started on their own projects, but soon, the story became far more interesting than what they were supposed to be working on and Sable Grace was born. Both Heather and Laura reside in Florida, are happily married, and are, well, complete opposites. (Think the Odd Couple on crack here.) Still, there's enough common ground for them to weave their words together in the voice of Sable Grace. Heather also writes medieval romances under her real name, which you can find at www.heatherwaters.net, and Laura is a Golden Heart finalist for her highly sensual manuscript, Mr. Right Now. You can reach them both at sablegrace@ymail.com

My Review: This is quite an intense story, full of heroes, fights, friendship loyalty and love. The plot is simple and very well written. A young lady (Kyana), chosen to be the replacement of Artemis, Goddess of Hunt, turns her best friend (Haven) into a Vampyre by sharing her blood with her. That was a desperate solution, as Haven was dying. But that action happens to trigger a consequence greater than she could imagine. Her best friend is possessed by the spirit of Cronos, a vengeful God that is dead, and wants to raise again in his own body and uses Haven as a way of making that possible and Kyana is the only one who can stop that from happening. For that, she can count on the help of some good friends and some unexpected helpers. Ryker is a demigod, son of Ares, the God of War, that is in love with Kyana, but she is afraid of this relationship. He is assigned to protect her and, in case she fails, to kill Haven in order to prevent Cronos from raising from death. But he knows that if he kills Haven, he will lose Kyana's love forever. Geoffrey is another friend, the replacement for Hades, that loves Haven, and is troubled by the development of the situation. Silas is a Witch and ex-lover from Kyana. All those characters are created with full and rich personalities and the plot catch you from the beginning. Beautiful drama, I recommend this book to any reader that loves a well written story, full of twists and with a loot of Greek Mythology. Excellent entertainment, it took me about 13 hours to read the whole book.

This book was written by Heather Waters and Laura Barone and it was published by Avon on December of 2011. Amazon.com was kind enough to provide this product for me through their Vine Program for reviewing and I was not requested to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, fell free to leave a comment!