Author Archives: By Ryan Lawrence

3 Cool New Gadgets that Are Blowing Minds

Mindflex

Advancing technology has set the stage for some incredible new gadgets that make life easier, more convenient and a lot of fun. If you think your latest smartphone app is something special, wait until you see how three cool new gadgets are giving consumers and creators the opportunity to utilize their minds in ways many never thought possible.

Google Glass

This amazing eyewear can do almost anything a smartphone can do, including provide access to the World Wide Web for answers to almost any question. Even more amazing, Glass can generate visual displays that augment reality. Don’t know where you are? Ask this amazing piece of Google technology for directions and arrows will appear atop the ground before your very eyes. Don’t know the meaning of an Italian word? Ask Glass and it will speak the meaning right into your ears. Completely hands free, Google’s intuitive augmented reality eyewear also lets you easily take videos and snap pictures, which you can send to any person, regardless of their location on the planet.

Mindflex

Mattel’s mind-boggling mental acuity game lets opponents control tangible objects using just their minds. Competitors place sensors on their foreheads and earlobes, allowing Mindflex to sense brainwaves which it interprets as directions. Strong concentration skills force a floating sphere in the direction of your opponent, who tries to push it in your direction using only his or her mind. It may sound like something from the future; however, this incredible “toy” is already available at local department stores.

eBook Downloads

To the dismay of the publishing houses, e-Readers are quickly changing the way consumers get their books. Additionally, these gadgets have been a godsend to authors, who are now able to use self-publishing platforms to get their novels in front of readers. According to RJ Lawrence who distributes his eBooks download through Amazon.com, this technology has been hugely beneficial to both readers and authors.

“Some of the old guards in the publishing profession say that self-publishing hurts readers by letting low-quality material into the marketplace,” he said. “In the past, agents and publishers acted as filters that supposedly worked to keep bad writers and bad stories off bookstore shelves. In reality, however, I think we can all agree that there were plenty of bad books available to readers long before self-publishing came about. In the end, readers are perfectly capable of keeping bad writing at bay on their own through basic word of mouth and ratings systems.”

UBid, Happybidday, Pennygrab: Are All Online Auctions the Same?

Auction user (photo by Petar Milošević)

Penny Auctions have grown in popularity over the past year, thanks to widespread radio and television promotion. Unfortunately, they’ve also come under plenty of fire for bilking unsuspecting consumers out of their hard-earned money. Sites such as UBid, Happybidday, and PennyGrab pit users against one another in auction-style online formats that promise to deliver bargain prices on brand name products. That said, although these sites seem quite similar at first glance; they aren’t necessarily the same.

AARP Issues Warning

Recently the AARP issued a warning to its members regarding penny auction sites that take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. According to the organization, many people don’t realize that many of these sites are unlike traditional online auctions, such as eBay, because they require consumers to pay for the right to bid. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether bidders win an individual action or not; they must pay to participate. This means that any time an auction ends; numerous people have lost money, allowing the auction company to reap large profits at the expense of its customers.

Are They All the Same?

While most penny auctions work the same way, not all maintain the same level of credibility. For instance, while Penny Grab and U Bid are accredited by the Better Business Bureau; Happy Bid Day is not. Likewise, while pennygrab.com and happybidday.com require customers to pay money for the right to bid, ubid.com says it only charges a consumer’s credit card if he or she actually wins. Ultimately, this characteristic makes uBid a traditional auction site, which sets it apart from typical pay-to-play auction sites that force consumers to put money at risk just for the right to participate.

FTC Urges Caution

Like the AARP, the Federal Trade Commission has expressed concern about the way some of these bid-and-buy websites work. According to the federal agency, even when participants win a penny auction auction; the vast majority end up paying more than they expected. Additionally, the FTC warns that some sites use automated bots to make false bids on products, which helps drive up prices to encourage higher profits for the company.

New Book Lists for Thursday, May 16

A great resource which offers reliable suggestions, Listmania is quickly becoming one of Amazon.com’s most popular features. Our in-house book reviewer, Lois McGinty compiles new lists on a weekly basis to guide readers toward novels and authors that are similar to many of their favorites. Below, we’ve listed her most recent lists:

Authors Similar to James Patterson
Books Similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Books Similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Books Like Outlander
Must Read Novels that Stick with You
Books like The Lord of the Rings
Books Like Harry Potter
Books Like Game of Thrones

If you have an idea for a new Listmania topic, contact Lois at lmcginty.kingofhowto@gmail.com.

3 Realistic Fiction Books that Demand Attention

While romance and fantasy books such as 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight continue to break sales records; numerous readers grow aggravated. Nowadays, more and more authors seem to be writing outlandish stories that meet the rising demand for far-fetched fiction. Fortunately, if you love realistic fiction, there are a few fantastic choices that will capture your attention. Before you purchase another eBook, consider the following page-turners.

Expert Advice

Although I’m always on the lookout for great novels to add to my Amazon.com Realistic Fiction Books List, these are my current top three:

White Noise

Synopsis: Jack Gladney is a college professor in Middle America. Each day, he moves through a smog of suburban “white noise,” consisting of TV murmurings, sirens, ultrasonic appliances and more. Nothing much interesting happens in Jack’s life, until one day, when an industrial accident spews deadly toxins into the local atmosphere, resulting in an airborne “toxic event” which turns everything upside down.

No Country for Old Men

When they see this title, many readers are apt to think of the film adaptation directed by the famed Coen brothers. While their movie scored best picture at the 2008 Academy Awards; Joel and Ethan owe most of the credit to Cormac McCarthy: the Pulitzer Prize winning author who wrote the original screenplay. When Hollywood producers turned down his original work, McCarthy turned it into a full-length novel, which ultimately made its way onto the big screen. If you enjoyed Javier Bardem’s portrayal of Anton Chigurh, you’ll love McCarthy’s novel, which features much more information about the sinister villain.

The Hell that Followed

Scary, gripping and beautiful, this emotionally-moving novel will have your full attention. Not only is it beautifully-written, The Hell that Followed is intense and thought-provoking. One of the best realistic fiction books of 2012, this intense novel is on sale at Amazon.com in five separate parts, each priced 99 cents.

Synopsis: When five local lawmen steal from a powerful drug lord, all hell breaks loose. Now, all must deal with a strange and cold villain or face consequences beyond their reckoning. The reader falls in with each character, as he tries to save himself and his loved ones from what seems like certain death.

Building More Muscle without Getting Fat

Building m

Most people know that great bodies are made in the gym; however, not everyone understands what they should be doing when they aren’t working out. If you’re interested in building more muscle without getting fat, learn what our in-house fitness expert has to say.

You Can’t Build without Materials

We’ve all seen it: that skinny guy busting out rep after rep in the gym. He works as hard as anyone. Unfortunately, he never seems to get any bigger.

“When I’m training someone who wants to develop more mass, I always use this analogy,” says Jake Weathers, a personal trainer and health and fitness expert. “Think about trying to build a house without any materials. It can’t be done. The same is true when you are trying to build more muscle. If you don’t consume enough protein and calories, your body simply will not grow no matter how much weight you lift.”

Getting Enough

To gain more lean mass, bodybuilders must consume more calories than they burn. That said, not all calories are created equal.

“You must eat enough protein, or your body will not change for the better,” Weathers said. “Most people need at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight, and some need even more. At the same time, bodybuilders should get most of their calories from healthy fats and carbohydrates coming from fibrous foods. Sugar is something to avoid, because it encourages the development of fat.”

Avoid Getting Fat

Often, when men and women try to pack on lean mass, they end up with a spare tire. According to Weathers, this can be avoided in two ways.

“First, you need to avoid carbohydrates after eight at night, when we tend to move very little,” he said. “Second, you need to add in some cardio exercise. This second point is important; however, timing is everything. If you do your cardio at the wrong times, it could prevent you from building more muscle. Usually, it’s best for bodybuilders to do brief aerobic exercises immediately after a weight workout, when their glycogen reserves are depleted.”

What to Do if You’re Struggling to get a Mortgage

real-estate

According to Freddie Mac’s latest survey, 30-year mortgage rates remain near record lows, while 15-year rates linger .74 points lower than what they were this time last year. Low mortgage rates have combined with rock-bottom home prices to create ideal buying conditions; however, most buyers have remained on the sidelines.

Why Few Are Buying

Currently, average 30-year mortgage rates flounder at around 3.66 percent, while 15-year rates average about 2.95 percent. Usually, low rates encourage buyer activity; this hasn’t been the case for the past several years.

“People just aren’t buying for a variety of reasons,” said business and financial expert, Nathaniel Hutchinson. “A lot of people are afraid to buy, because they don’t want to take on new debt. More often than not, though, prospective buyers just can’t get approved for a loan.”

In response to the foreclosure crisis, most lenders tightened their requirements for loan approval. These days, applicants must live up to some pretty lofty standards to qualify for a mortgage.

“Banks want people who have very good credit scores, a strong job history and a good chunk of money to put toward downpayments,” Hutchinson said. “If you don’t have all three of these characteristics, lenders will perceive you as somewhat of a risky investment, and you’re liable to be declined.”

You Can Still Get a Loan

According to Hutchinson, even if you don’t live up to modern lending requirements, you can still get approved for a mortgage.

“In many cases, if you are struggling to get a mortgage, you can get approved by a local first time buyer program,” he said. “These programs tend to have much more lenient standards when it comes to credit scores and downpayment requirements. Additionally, some will even let you take out a second mortgage, which can be used to contribute toward your downpayment and closing costs. Usually, you only need to invest around $1,000 of your own cash to get approved.”

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