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  • Enrique Bouchot - Beautiful Ruins

    I decided to read Beautiful Ruins without reading the plot's description on the sleeve, and I'm glad I did. Because if I had read it, I may not have picked it up since I tend to dislike books with celebrities in the plot.

    So I'll spare you the details, just know that this is a story with a powerful underlying message about the dichotomy of responsibility and desire that spans 5 decades, two continents, and all sorts of characters, from fictional ones to fictional versions of real people. The story is both funny and heartbreaking and easy to read.

  • Reges Vobis - A brilliant little device...as long as you know what you're getting.

    Let's get the obvious out of the way first: This laptop/tablet hybrid does not run Windows 8.1. Instead, it runs the ARM variant of Windows which is called Windows RT. Windows RT cannot run traditional Windows apps such as Photoshop, iTunes, or VLC. Instead, it can only run apps that are downloaded from the built-in Windows Store. If you need to use apps that extend beyond the basics of web browsing, casual gaming, or Microsoft Office, this is not the device for you. You would be better served by purchasing the Ideapad Yoga 11S, which retains basically the same look/feel of this model but runs full Windows 8.

    All that being said, if you are a student or someone who is a light computer user that doesn't need all of the bells and whistles of a full-fledged operating system, the Yoga 11 is a brilliant device that you'll be exceedingly happy with. The recent Windows 8.1 RT update breathes new life into this device by improving boot time and making it feel "zippy" with none of the lag that plagued the original Windows RT release. While many reviewers pan this device for running Windows RT, they constantly neglect to mention all of the BENEFITS that the Yoga 11 offers to the end user:

    1. Super long battery life. I easily get 10-13 hours on a single charge on my Yoga 11 depending on what I'm using it for. More importantly, this thing can charge to about 90% full battery in as little as one hour. This alone makes it the perfect travel companion. The included AC charger is small and compact, but knowing that you won't have to frantically pull it out every few hours gives you peace of mind. If you're on a long flight, you'll be able to get at least 2 full movies in before worrying about your battery.

    2. Thin, silent, and fanless. By the definition of an "ultrabook," this device fits the bill. At 2.8 lbs. it is only slightly heavier than the Samsung Chromebook, but it can do twice as much as that device (more on that later) making this a great value. It's extremely well-built and has a nice soft touch finish, and it feels very sturdy when you're holding it. You won't hear any creaks from cheap plastic here; this is meant to be a high-quality product. Furthermore, because it uses an ARM chip, it is fanless and completely silent when it's running, and it doesn't get hot! You can place it on your lap (or stomach if you're laying down) for extended periods without searing your flesh off.

    3. Sandboxed desktop environment. Sure, lots of people will complain that Windows RT can't run legacy Windows apps and doesn't have as many apps as Android or iOS (although I'd argue that that's a GOOD thing), but THIS is the future. I'll say it again: Windows RT is the future of where Windows is headed. While that seems like crazy talk, think about this: It's a Windows that doesn't get viruses. It's a Windows where if one app crashes, it doesn't bring down your whole system with it. It's a Windows fully committed to touch without the need for a traditional desktop, even though it has one anyway. With the recent news that Microsoft plans to merge Windows RT with the Windows Phone OS, these benefits will be even more realized on mobile devices. In fact, I predict that Windows RT will eventually do away with the traditional desktop altogether. It might not be with the next update, but mark my words...it'll be sooner rather than later.

    4. Microsoft Office INCLUDED. How's that for value? Full disclaimer: The RT version of Office is missing some features that the full desktop version includes, but once again, students and casual users won't miss those features at all, much less realize they were missing in the first place. You can still do about 95% of everything that you'd be able to do on the regular version of Office, meaning that the Yoga 11 can be as much of a productivity device as a casual one. Need to edit that Powerpoint presentation while you rent and watch a movie at the same time? Done. Even better: With the Windows RT 8.1 update, Outlook is now included in the RT Office Suite!

    So I've told you all the reasons why this device is awesome, but no single product is perfect. The Yoga 11 does have a few minor flaws, none of them being dealbreakers, but just some things you should be aware of:

    1. No USB 3.0. Bummer, I know. Still, if you're buying this device, you probably don't care how fast your USB is anyway, and 2.0 is sufficient enough. It also comes with HDMI and an SD card slot to make up for the absence of USB 3.0.

    2. Not so great as a tablet. Lying in bed with the Yoga propped on your stomach or using it in tablet mode while sitting at a table is fine, but it's a little on the heavy side to use as a tablet on a regular basis. Also, while in tablet mode, you can feel the keyboard keys on on the back, which is a little weird. Not uncomfortable...just weird. If it bothers you that much, Lenovo does sell a case for $29.99 that covers either just the keyboard or the entire tablet.

    3. Not likely to receive another update. The Tegra 3 chip powering the Yoga 11 is going on 3 years old, so we'll be lucky if the Yoga 11 is able to upgrade to the next iteration of Windows RT. As I mentioned earlier, the Windows RT 8.1 upgrade really does give the laptop a new lease on life, so time will tell if Microsoft and Lenovo continue to support it. At this point, I'm not feeling optimistic.

    You really owe it to yourself to give this nifty hybrid device a try, especially if you're a member of the intended target audience which I mentioned earlier. Don't listen to the naysayers; try it out yourself. If you're like me and only need a small, light device for basic computing and travel use, I think you'll genuinely love the Yoga 11.

  • Elizabeth from Wythe - A marvelous collection

    This is a stunning introduction to a dark confining world. Mr Howey sets out to show us a world confined underground and ruled by fear. The characters and their dark spiraling living quarters take you by the hand and guide you into their world. This is a marvelous epic tale in the sci-fi world. You must read this series!

  • Gunnar H. - I LOVE MY KINDLE!

    I just received a Kindle for Christmas and I love it. It's so easy to read...I never imagined I'd prefer it to a traditional book, but I do! It also downloads quickly, has good battery power, and is very user-friendly. I highly recommend it...wouldn't want to do without it now! I think the Kindle is to books what iPods were to music.