Posts Tagged as reviews

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  1. Friday, May 24, 2024:
    Review Day: Song of the Mysteries by Janny Wurts   There are no explicit plot spoilers, although I describe aspects of character development and the flow of the book in broad generalities.      The Wars of Light and Shadow series is a massive geoglyph, painstakingly shaped by hand across miles and years. We may not have had the authorial bird's-eye view to see what it would become, but this final volume perfectly completes the image and vindicates the author's efforts.  Song of the Mysteries  works as a culmination and callback to the entire 11-book series, resolving and reshaping everything that I've fervently read and reread over the past 30 years. It weaves the vast, abstract planetary perspective back together with the intimate, introspectiv...
  2. Friday, May 17, 2024:
    Review Day: Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky    Empire in Black and Gold  is Adrian Tchaikovsky's very first published book and kicks off the ambitious, ten-volume Shadows of the Apt series in high form. It took me a while to begin, as I'd heard it blandly described as "insect people fighting each other", but the book is so much deeper and more imaginative than that false encapsulation.   In a world of industrial city-states and provincial rivalries, mankind has taken on traits of different arthropods, like the Ant-kinden who can communicate telepathically with each other or the Spider-kinden who can charm or manipulate and are masters of political intrigue. Stenwold Maker returns from a distant land to warn his people that the Wasp Empire is expanding...
  3. Friday, May 10, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Key & Peele, Season Two : The second season of this show feels a little more experimental so more of the skits fell flat for me. Good for a few laughs at the end of the evening, but not as great as the first season. On Netflix.   Final Grade :  B-     Shogun : This limited series started strong and remained strong, but I personally lost interest towards the last few episodes. The acting and set design were all great, but I no longer felt invested in where the story was going and I can't really explain why. Perhaps it was one of the later episodes that fixated too heavily on a "wil...
  4. Friday, May 03, 2024:
    Review Day: Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Switch)   There are no major spoilers in this review.     We purchased this game almost a year ago, and haven't played it in at least 4 months, so I think it's safe to say that we'll never finish it.    Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom  is the sequel to  Breath of the Wild  which I gave a  solid C-  to. Looking past the hype, the first game was a tedious grind only made bearable by the fact that Maia loved watching me play it and there was nothing else to do during the pandemic.   This game reuses the same engine and takes place in the same world (although the world is so altered that it felt very different right off the bat). Though it has some newness ...
  5. Friday, April 19, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Mr. and Mrs. Smith : This limited series remake is a misfire that's barely worth watching. The spy aspects of the show are just a throwaway canvas for the lead actors to argue and be miserable in their marriage (it sometimes reminded me of  Fleishman is in Trouble  in that regard). There are some sparks of creativity in the last few episodes, but it takes way too long to get there. This might have been better with a different title -- the one selected misleads you into thinking you'll be getting something completely different. On Amazon Video.   Final Grade :  C     Untitled Goose...
  6. Friday, April 05, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Key & Peele, Season One : We gave this ancient sketch comedy show a try after rewatching the first season of Fargo that included Key and Peele as bumbling FBI agents. It's aged surprisingly well and has a few great laughs. It felt more experimental than SNL and less so than Tim Robinson.   Final Grade :  B     Maybe Man  by AJR: While I like the songs on this album, there are too many songs with obvious swearing that prevent me from playing the album with the kids around. I have no problem with swearing on tracks (as evinced by the fact that I play Australian hip-hop music on car ri...
  7. Friday, March 22, 2024:
    Review Day: FreeTaxUSA   After too many years of piggybacking off of the family TurboTax purchase, we finally took the plunge and used FreeTaxUSA.com this year. It took the same amount of time as TurboTax and was a pleasant experience.   The base product is free (you just need an email to make an account). You can e-file Federal for free and pay $14.99 for state e-files. It handled our investments just fine. We did W-2s, 1098, 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, 1099-B with the base product.   It can import a PDF of last year's taxes to use as a roadmap. We found that it imported the official Returns just fine but overlooked a few details from Worksheets. However, it didn't cause any errors of omission as a result, it just said "We don't have ...
  8. Friday, March 15, 2024:
    Review Day: Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky   There are no major spoilers in this review.      Children of Memory  is the final book in the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky (although the author might revisit this world if ideas lead him there in the future). The book works very well as a capstone on the series, taking the ideas from the earlier books and then stretching, weaving, and elevating them to logical conclusions.   The story begins in a familiar way, with the convergence across time and space of ancient human terraformers seeking to build a new Earth and the modern, uplifted species traveling across the galaxy in search of life. This recognizable setting effectively toys with your expectations while the aut...
  9. Friday, March 08, 2024:
    Review Day: A Lion's Pride by P.L. Stuart   There are no major spoilers in this review.      A Lion's Pride  is the fourth book in The Drowned Kingdom saga by P.L. Stuart. I absolutely love where the story takes us in this book, the midpoint of the series. However, I found myself frustrated by aspects of the writing that stalled the momentum.   King Othrun of Eastrealm seems to have attained a period of stability for his fledgling kingdom. He has acquired considerable political capital from his past strategies and hard-earned reputation as a warlord, but still can't always resist the urge to step straight into trouble (especially when it involves a pretty face). Othrun's growth as a character continues to be a compelling threa...
  10. Friday, March 01, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Kindle Oasis : I was perfectly happy with my 9-year-old  Kindle Paperwhite , but the Oasis was my prize for coming in 2nd place in our company's Advent of Code competition (The Meta Quest 3 was already claimed and I didn't really want a Playstation 5). In terms of features, Oasis has two dedicated forward / back buttons (in addition to its touch screen) which I end up using maybe half the time. It also flips from left-to-right-handedness by turning it upside which I really like. The last new feature is that it's supposed to be submersible in the bathtub which I obviously don't plan on testing. The reading experience is as good as...
  11. Friday, February 23, 2024:
    Review Day: Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky   There are no major spoilers in this review.      Children of Ruin  is the second book in the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Although it's a sequel in the sense that you need to have knowledge of what came before, it plays out more like an anthology story, laterally covering similar themes as the first book.   The story begins on one ship out of many tasked with terraforming a new planet for mankind's salvation. Unlike the first book, the crew arrives to discover the planet already teeming with life forms that seemed to evolve without Earthlike biology. When signals from Earth stop transmitting, the five-man crew allows their mission to evolve more towards exploration an...
  12. Friday, February 16, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       They Cloned Tyrone  (R): This blaxploitation thriller is a fun ride although the overall theme doesn't convey as well. The three primary characters (John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris) turn in great performances although Kiefer Sutherland's supporting role feels a bit miscast. Best watched without knowing too much in advance. On Netflix.   Final Grade :  B     Cobra Kai, Season Five : The penultimate season of Cobra Kai is very strong, constantly pushing forward towards an explosive conclusion. I'm glad that an early plotline involving a road trip through Mexico wrapped up qu...
  13. Friday, February 09, 2024:
    Review Day: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky   There are no major spoilers in this review.       Children of Time  is the first book in the like-named trilogy by Adrian Tchaikovsky.   The last remnant of mankind has traveled across galaxies in search of a fabled planet that was terraformed and intended as a new Earth. They discover that the planet is not as uninhabited as they had presumed, and find it under the stewardship of a fiercely-protective artificial intelligence in orbit.   The book foreshadows the collision of two civilizations -- mankind at the tail end of a slow collapse and an on-planet presence with unnervingly similar societal traits on the rise. The story is told over millennia and generations, wit...
  14. Friday, February 02, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent  (R): This is a low-stakes buddy movie with Nicolas Cage (as Nicolas Cage) and Pedro Pascal that allows Cage to riff on his entire portfolio of acting choices, good and bad. It's funny, moves along quickly, and never totally devolves into cringeworthy parody. You will like it more if you're more familiar with the trajectory of Cage's acting career.   Final Grade :  B     The Human Demands  by Amy MacDonald: I really liked Amy MacDonald back in  2009  because of her folksy, poppy uniqueness. All of her subsequent albums have gotten ...
  15. Friday, January 26, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Que Ta Tete Fleurisse Toujours  by Mika: Mika's latest album is completely in French. A few of the melodies are recognizable from his  Sinfonia Pop  concert, and the whole album is a pleasant confection that's just a little too short (37 minutes).   Final Grade :  B     Reacher, Season Two : This show gets progressively worse as it goes on.  Season one  was barely held afloat by the bromance between the two leads, but the bulk of this season consists of the main characters standing around spouting exposition and really bad dialog that may have been written by ...
  16. Friday, January 19, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Love Hard  (NR): This is a pleasant Christmas movie about a woman who gets catfished on a dating app by Jimmy O. Yang. It passes the muster as a "not awful movie to watch around the holidays when you're tired of Home Alone". On Netflix.   Final Grade :  B-     Feast of the Seven Fishes  (NR): A surprisingly good, understated holiday movie about a large Italian family in a Rust Belt town. It emphasizes slice of life over plot and has nice roles for half the supporting cast of the Sopranos. The tone of the movie reminded me of the second season episode of  Bear  where the fa...
  17. Friday, January 05, 2024:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Bodies : This limited series about similar events occurring in different time periods has serious  Dark  vibes but struggles to carve out its own space in the first few episodes. It gets better around episode 4 as the characters and relationships start to deepen and has a few actual surprises in its worthwhile conclusion. The final tag diminishes the impact of the conclusion, as if the writers wanted to lay the groundwork for another season, just in case. On Netflix.   Final Grade :  B-     House of the Dragon, Season One : After the  cafeteria meatloaf  that p...
  18. Friday, December 22, 2023:
    Top Reviews of 2023  Here are the experiences I gave the highest ratings to in 2023. I hope you discover something new!    Television Shows       Severance, Season One  (A+) (AppleTV+)    Silo, Season One  (A+) (AppleTV+)    Sandman, Season One  (A) (Netflix)    This Fool, Season One  (A) (Hulu)    The Bear, Season Two  (A) (Hulu)    Beef  (A) (Netflix)    Mythic Quest, Season One  (A) (AppleTV+)    Righteous Gemstones, Season One  (B+)    Party Down, Season One and Two  (B+) (Amazon Video)    Better Call Saul, Sea...
  19. Wednesday, December 20, 2023:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Cobra Kai, Season One : This is a follow-on TV series to the seminal movie,  Karate Kid , and can be enjoyed even if you've only seen the first movie in the trilogy. I liked that the show has more to say about the original characters -- it's not just a typical reboot with young actors playing the exact same types of roles as the original. There's a good balance of cheesiness throughout even though the setting and character depth has been modernized (no one's a villain but no one is perfect). On Netflix.   Final Grade :  B+     Last of Us, Season One : This HBO show is ba...
  20. Friday, December 08, 2023:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Lincoln Lawyer, Season Two : The second season of this show is so shallow that infants can swim in it unattended. The court case is marginally interesting but the characters are plot ciphers that constantly speak the clunkiest, cliche dialogue in every scene. May have been written by an AI. On Netflix.   Final Grade :  C-     Barbie  (PG-13): We liked this more than expected. It had a great visual style and was much more subversive and tongue-in-cheek than one might expect from a Mattel-blessed movie. Good performances and a nice balance of absurd and dramatic.   Fina...
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