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I Readalot (UK)
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Teach Yourself Visually Windows 8 (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
Teach Yourself Visually Windows 8 (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))
by Paul McFedries
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical and easy to understand, 31 Jan 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having recently got a new laptop with Windows 8 installed this book appeared at the perfect time. I have found it to be useful, practical and easy to understand. I have used various versions of Word over the years and have managed to convert without the need of a manual but Windows 8 just `looks' so different and I mainly got it to get to grips to working with Apps. Within about a week of this book arriving I was able to do everything I needed to do as well as picking up a few new tricks. Although I have used PC's for a long time, both at work and home, I have always relied on someone else when it came to the more `techie' stuff but with the help of this book I feel more confident to deal with it myself. I found the `shortcuts' detailed in each chapter to be particularly helpful.

If you are struggling with Windows 8 and are considering buying a book then you can't do much better than this. If you are completely new to Windows than I think it will be invaluable.


Asus S56CA 15.6-inch Laptop (Black) - (Intel Core i5 3317U 1.7GHz Processor, 4GB RAM, 750GB HDD, DVDSM DL, LAN, WLAN, Webcam, Integrated Graphics, Windows 8)
Asus S56CA 15.6-inch Laptop (Black) - (Intel Core i5 3317U 1.7GHz Processor, 4GB RAM, 750GB HDD, DVDSM DL, LAN, WLAN, Webcam, Integrated Graphics, Windows 8)
Offered by electronic savvy
Price: £449.99

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love my new 'toy', 17 Jan 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been using PC's for a long time now, since the days of Windows 95 in fact but it has always been a `family' or work machine and had already decided it was time I got my own before this one appeared on my Vine Newsletter. In spite of having a `techie' around I was determined to set it up myself and it was a far easier operation than I had anticipated and if I can manage it then anyone can. All you have to do is insert the battery, plug it in, switch on and then follow the onscreen instructions. The Emanual is not model specific but it is definitely worth reading through even if you are not a novice.

The design is sleek and elegant although as another reviewer has noted the black top does mark easily with fingerprints. I have successfully removed these by using a damp cloth with a tiny amount of washing-up liquid and finishing off with a soft paper towel. However it is better to avoid touching the top as much as possible.

The screen definition is quite impressive when working or watching, and you do get the full widescreen experience. The sound quality is good and volume is easily controlled by using the fn button together with f11 or f12.

Having been a secretary in a previous existence I have used a lot of keyboards, starting with typewriters and whenever I have used a laptop I found myself unable to get up to a decent speed, however for some reason I have no problem with this one which must be down to the fact that there is a gap between the keys more closely emulating the experience of working with a standard keyboard. There is also an option for an onscreen keyboard, geared toward people with hand mobility problems or simply those more used to using touch screens.

The Touchpad is very sensitive as it does respond to touch and not pressure. It is easy to do things you don't mean to do. The bottom right-hand quarter works the same as clicking the right button on a mouse, the remaining three-quarters can all be used to move the pointer and clicking (the way you would normally use the left hand button), therefore, using one finger you can move across the Touchpad to reach the desired object and then tap to select. You can also use the Touchpad to zoom in and out on the page, like you do with touch-screens, rotate images and also scroll by using 2 fingers together.

Within a couple of days of having this PC I was able to do just about everything I need to do as well as loading photo's from my (new) android phone and music from CD's which I have never done before.

There are power options to choose from to minimise power consumption and an `Instant On' icon tells you how many days the laptop has in standby given current battery capacity. The Emanual explains clearly how to use this facility.

The only problems I have had have been with the Windows 8 OS, although after just over 2 weeks (and with the help of a book) I am adjusting. The only laptop I can use for comparison is my OH's 3 year old Compaq and this one is definitely lighter, sleeker and faster, just goes to show how quickly technology moves on.

In general I would recommend this model to anyone, either novice or experienced. My son who is far more knowledgeable about tech than me, partly to using it more and partly due to having worked in a specialist PC retail outlet for a few years, is very impressed with it (and dare I say it a little bit green) although admits that for gaming he prefers his desktop setup.


Hyundai MS01S Pocket Scan Silber Scanner
Hyundai MS01S Pocket Scan Silber Scanner
Offered by triple_a
Price: £89.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight and easy to use, 10 Jan 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found this scanner easy to use but I do agree with another reviewer that the memory card should be included, fortunately my son is the kind of person who has spare ones 'lying around'. The instructions are fairly easy to follow even for a non-techie like me. I connect using the USB port and a message comes up 'do you want to open these files', just a matter following the onscreen instructions after that.

Lightweight and convenient for anyone who is likely to need a scanner on the move but also useful for anyone who wants a scanner at home but hasn't got the space for a traditional one.


The Polish Boxer
The Polish Boxer
by Eduardo Halfon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Blurs the distinction between fact and fiction, 9 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Polish Boxer (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Recently in the fiction forum a thread has been started to discuss `Gems from small publishers', the `'Polish Boxer certainly fits the bill. The `Polish Boxer' is a difficult book to describe. It is a novel structured as short stories it is fiction but reads like a memoir as Eduardo Halfon uses his own name for the protagonist. The first story `Distant' involves Halfon as teacher, trying to teach his students how to read short stories, the fact that there are always two stories, the one on the surface and the other that you can discover by reading between the lines. It is difficult not to read `The Polish Boxer' in that way, Halfon the author is encouraging the reader to look deeper into his novel and even think about the very nature of the novel in the 21st century.

`The Polish Boxer' blurs the distinction between fact and fiction, the character Halfon is told a story by his grandfather to explain the numbers tattooed on his arm, years later he is told another story involving the eponymous Polish Boxer, which he claims to be the truth, but is it? This book is published as fiction yet if it had been published as a memoir I would have had no difficulty believing it to be so. It also made me question the very nature of memoirs, many are published nowadays by people talking about their abusive childhoods for example, and they are read as fact. A family member may then appear who denies that any of it happened and tells their story, who are we to believe? Maybe both are versions of the truth simply seen through different eyes.

It is a far more accessible book than many of the contemporary Latin American authors although it is best to devote a bit of time to it so that you can read an entire section/chapter/story in one sitting. It works well on the surface and is a compelling story but it is what lies beneath this that I found most intriguing and has ensured its place on my ;to read again' pile.


Sugru black (Pack of 8)
Sugru black (Pack of 8)
Price: £12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful and practical, 6 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is really useful stuff. The handle on my favourite small kitchen knife had cracked and I was struggling to find one the same to replace it, thanks to Sugru its life has been extended. I have also repaired the rubber soles of a very comfortable pair of shoes, nothing wrong with them apart from a worn patch in the heels in danger of turning into a hole. It is easy to use, a bit greasy and my fingers did pick up the black colouring but it washed off easily. I now find myself checking around the house for anything else I can use it on and will definitely be getting a pack of the white.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 25, 2012 3:29 PM GMT


Feedback
Feedback
by Robison Wells
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great sequel, 22 Nov 2012
This review is from: Feedback (Paperback)
`Feedback' continues the thrill ride that began with `Variant'. We last saw the group of teenagers following the final twist which revealed to Benson the truth about Maxfield Academy. `Feedback picks up with Benson and Jane in exactly the same place as we left them. Once again it is told from Benson's perspective and the main action takes place over a week. The plot becomes even more twisted and darker and the `truth' that Benson has discovered is only part of the story, if you think you know what is going on then think again. During the course of this novel we get to know the characters in more depth which adds an extra dimension to the story. If you enjoyed `Variant' then you are going to love this sequel. This is a modern day `Lord of the Flies' with a big twist.


Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me (Penguin Modern Classics)
Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Javier Marķas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic, poetic and thought provoking, 15 Nov 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As other reviewers have commented 'Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me' is a book to be enjoyed for its language and style more than its plot, although the plot, minimal as it is does throw up some interesting and thought provoking ideas. Victor is in bed with Marta, a married woman, when she suddenly becomes ill and dies, should he leave or stay, should he contact someone and let them know? His dilemma is made worse by the fact that she has a 2 year old son. Even if he did say something would it make any difference? He intends to tell the truth to her family but when and how. Even when he meets her husband and sister he keep his peace, waiting for the right moment. The dead Marta haunts his life. At times it reads like a psychological thriller and it has a stunning twist towards the end, Victor's decision to stay quiet on the night has consequences he could never have imagined.

The writing style is compelling and poetic. The structure with long, often rambling sentences and paragraphs will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Latin American/Spanish writers and I found this novel to be more accessible than much of Roberto Bolano's work, for example. The translator, Margaret Jull Costa definitely deserves a mention, translated works can sometimes appear clunky but she has obviously worked to bring out the style of the original as well as the story, it could almost have been written in English originally.

The title is taken from Shakespeare's Richard III, words spoken to Richard by the ghost of Clarence. Parts of the speech are quoted throughout and there is a section of the narrative where kingship is discussed, fuelled by the watching of an old film. I think it safe to say that Marias has a liking for the Bard and I wouldn't be surprised if this novel has a few readers reaching for their copies of Shakespeare, I did. This is not a novel for anyone looking for a plot driven novel with action as very little actually happens throughout. However if you enjoy beautiful, poetic, hypnotic and thought provoking writing then I am sure you are going to love this.


Sennheiser PC363D Surround Sound Gaming Over-Ear Headset
Sennheiser PC363D Surround Sound Gaming Over-Ear Headset
Price: £206.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable with outstanding sound quality, 1 Nov 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I chose these headphones mainly for my son, his old set were definitely coming to the end of their life and he was already looking for a replacement. He is a, let's say enthusiastic gamer, and it is not unknown for him to spend around 6 hours in a levelling-up session on World of Warcraft. Therefore when it comes to headphones then comfort is extremely important, so many models are apt to put pressure on the ears but these fit snuggly around them, add to that the velvet covered pads and these Sennheiser's are the most comfortable that either of us have tried.

What can I say about the sound quality apart from Wow! Admittedly I haven't used them much myself but whether my son has been gaming, listening to music or watching a film I have been dragged from whatever I am doing to `listen to this' as he changes the sound from normal to full surround. Play anything involving gunfire and it does sound as if the shots are coming from all around you, enjoy games involving fast cars with loud engines? The effect really does add an extra dimension to the game play. He assures me that these headphones provide a more immersive gaming experience, not quite as if you are `really, really there' but basically about the best you can get outside of `virtual reality'. Apparently 7.1 surround is the best you can hope to get for with headphones and that headphones that cost half as much aren't half as good sound-wise. When he is chatting, or should I say planning strategy during WOW then it sounds as if the other person (Mage, Dwarf, whatever) is sitting next to him, and if he needs to say `thank you' for the cuppa or bacon sandwich I have just brought him then a slight upward movement of the mic arm switches it off. Having said that if you do have a family member who uses these they won't be able to hear you so a tap on the shoulder might be in order, which could be a bit of a shock if they are playing `Silent Hill' for example (I know that's not MMO but you get the idea).

I briefly should mention installation, it is a doddle, when I asked about it, it was a case of `even you could do it Mum' and as he knows that I lack the `techie gene' that is really saying something. Put in the disc and away you go. I have definitely gained quite a few Brownie points from getting these; only trouble is when these need replacing it will be almost impossible for him to go back to anything else.

They have been in use now for just over a week and so far we have not discovered any problems however if any arise I will update this review.


The Twelve
The Twelve
by Justin Cronin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.00

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horrific yet very human story, 25 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Twelve (Hardcover)
As one of the lucky people who received a proof copy of `The Twelve' I have just finished reading it for the second time. `The Twelve', as most of you reading the reviews will know is the 2nd book in a planned trilogy that began with `The Passage'. I was excited when I received the book but at the same time had my fingers crossed that it would live up to my high expectations, in fact it more than lived up to them. In spite of having the proof I have bought the hardback.

The prologue is effectively a recap of `The Passage' told in Biblical style chapter and verse, useful for anyone who read the book some time ago. The story then briefly moves to 97 A.V. `Five years after the fall of the First Colony' with scenes involving Amy and Alicia Donadio before going back to Year Zero which we see from the perspective of different characters. Remember Wolgast's wife, Lila? She becomes a major figure along with Grey, the `sweep' who took care of Zero. Then there are new characters like the childlike Danny who drives a school bus and wants to be `a useful engine' like Thomas The Tank and collects a small group of survivors on his route. We also learn more about the origins of the Virus and the people responsible for it. A jump in time takes us to a central and very harrowing event in 79 A.V. in `The Field' and another jump takes us forward again to 97 A.V. and we catch up with characters we last saw at the end of `The Passage' whose lives have changed drastically since the fall of the Colony, by which time we know a bit more about their history.

It is a novel full of horror and yet it is also a very human and at times emotional story. Cronin is able to write fast paced action and harrowing, graphic horror but he is equally at home with beautiful dreamlike sequences, as well as scenes involving human emotions. It would also take a very cold heart not to feel for the fate of the Virals' as portrayed in these books, after all it isn't their fault that they crave blood and they do retain enough humanity to be horrified about what they are doing whereas the human 'cols's or collaborators are truly evil.

The world Cronin has created feels real and even the minor characters are fleshed out to make them appear believable. The character of Naval Captain Leo Merriwether is fixed firmly in my mind his story only fills two paragraphs (211-212) and yet in that short time I got to know and understand him. The plot is incredibly complex but Cronin knows exactly where he is going and appears to be in complete control. His descriptions of the destroyed world are vivid and heartbreaking.

So, is it worth reading? Does it match up to `The Passage'? I have to answer yes and yes, if anything it is a better book and one that I enjoyed more on the second reading than the first and I don't say that very often. Cronin builds up the tension beautifully before the final conflict, which takes place in a football stadium, is both horrific and emotional with a few surprises, The ending takes us back to Alicia and leads perfectly into the final instalment. I haven't really mentioned Amy but a lot happens to her and I really don't want to risk giving anything away.


The Bat: The First Harry Hole Case (Harry Hole 1)
The Bat: The First Harry Hole Case (Harry Hole 1)
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book fans have been waiting for, 11 Oct 2012
At last English speaking (reading) fans can finally read the first Harry Hole novel concerning his exploits in Australia. Having read it I can understand why it has not been published before, the main attraction of Nordic writers is the fact they are set in their native country and they are enjoyed for the atmosphere, the often bleak yet beautiful settings and this one breaks away from that as it is set in Australia. Once Nesbo's books became popular it would have been difficult to slot this one in between those set in Norway as it would have broken the momentum of Harry's story. Then of course the work of the translator has to be taken into account, Don Bartlett had his work cut out keeping up with the new books and I am sure thee would have been an outcry if the English publications of 'The Leopard' and 'The Phantom' had been delayed because 'The Bat' was taking preference. In 'The Bat' it is made clear how to pronounce his name 'Hoo-leh', although he accepts the Aussie's calling him 'Holy', after all it is better than a name that sound like an 'aperture or orifice' we also learn why he is called Harry.

The structure of 'The Bat' is much simpler than his subsequent novels as it is a linear narrative told from Harry's perspective, there is also less graphic violence, although the book does have its moments. Harry travels to Australia to help in the investigation following the murder of a Norwegian girl. It is set in Sydney's underworld and he encounters transvestites, gays, prostitutes and drug dealers and Nesbo has created some very colourful characters including Otto, a transvestite, gay clown and Joseph, a fellow alcoholic. I have always been impressed with the way that Nesbo deals with alcoholism, it has a ring of truth about it that is lacking in many novels. Harry's romantic interest comes in the guise of Birgitta, a Swede who works in a bar. At the start he is completely sober but as readers of the series will be aware, it is only a matter of time before Jim Beam makes an appearance.

When I started to read 'The Bat' I had my fingers crossed that I wouldn't be disappointed, after all it was his first novel, published in Norway in 1997. I needn't have worried, this is just as compelling and hard to put down as the others and the only thing I really did yesterday was read it, everything else was put on hold. As expected there are many plot twists, changes of direction and dark humour with the culture and history of the Aborigine's creating an interesting and colourful backdrop, I actually learned quite a lot from this novel, although as a 'whitey' some of it did make me feel very uncomfortable. As for Harry's final confrontation with the bad guy - a truly evil villain it has to be said - it may be one of the more graphically nasty parts but I couldn't help finding it amusing in a warped and twisted way.

Now we just have to wait for 'The Cockroaches' to be available in English to fill in that last hole in Harry's story.


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