Thursday, May 10, 2018

Book Review - Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik

I enjoy nonfiction books that help me better understand my world around me as long as they do it in an interesting and informed way and are written by someone with firsthand experience and/or knowledge of the subject.

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik is an overview of common (and a few uncommon) materials in our worldIt is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and as one of those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Stuff Chosen. The author chose a lot of really interesting, everyday materials that I have personal experience with such as stainless steal, graphite, diamonds, porcelain, paper, and concrete. This made it much more meaningful. And the exotic materials he brought up were linked to familiar ones, and he explained how these new materials could affect my future life.

Stuff Described. The author did an excellent job describing the history, development, and make up of the materials as well as their uses, limitations, and other aspects. I was really fascinated, never got lost, and never felt like he was leaving important information out.

The Bad


Narration. The narration wasn't bad, but it was a little dry and academic. I'm sure this provides an air of sophistication and authority, but it does make the material less interesting than it needs to be.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the author had included more stuff.

Overall


Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik is a fascinating look at the materials that we interact with everyday such as graphite, paper, concrete, plastic, and so much more. The history, development, uses, and possible future are all covered in sufficient detail that I was informed, interested, and never confused or felt talked down to. The exotic materials the author brings up are linked to existing materials with practical future applications, so they seemed appropriate. The narration was a little dry and academic, but I'm sure that was purposeful to make this book sound authoritative. I give this book a solid 4.5 out of 5 eReaders.

    
    

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Book Review - Capital Gaines The Smart Things I've Learned by Doing Stupid Stuff by Chip Gaines

Half the books I read I buy because they are on sale at Audible and look good. Most of the time they are titles I've never heard of by authors I know nothing about. This is one such book.
Capital Gaines The Smart Things I've Learned by Doing Stupid Stuff is an autobiography of Chip Gaines, one of the hosts of Fixer Upper and co-owner of Magnolia. It is available as an eBook, Audiobook, and as one of those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Story. Chip has a really interesting story, and he's honest about the good and the bad.

Message. Chip has a lot of good advice and shares a lot of important life lessons he learned. I also appreciated how he wasn't afraid to share his faith but didn't force it down the reader's throat.

Positive Attitude. Chip faces a lot of ups and downs, and through it all he somehow maintains a pretty positive attitude that is reassuring and inspiring.

The Bad


Writing. This book feels like Chip came over to your house to talk as a friend. It feels very unpolished and rambles quite a bit repeating the same thing over and over using different words. That's probably the authentic tone he was going for, but it took away a bit from the pleasure of reading.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish the author had been more succinct and trusting of his reader to get what he meant the first time he said it instead of repeating it four or five times using different words.

Overall


Capital Gaines The Smart Things I've Learned by Doing Stupid Stuff by Chip Gaines tells the story of his life from his earliest ventures into running his own business and meeting his wife to his current hit TV show and rapidly growing retail business. The author is very honest about the good, the bad, the smart, and the dumb and has no qualms about sharing any of it. His positive attitude is very inspiring, but his writing feels rough and unpolished with a lot of rambling and redundancy. I give this book a solid 4 out of 5 eReaders.

    
    

Friday, April 27, 2018

Movie Review - Avengers: Infinity War

I loved Phase One of the Marvel Universe movies, but have been less impressed with the follow up films. They seem to be getting darker and moving away from the classic Marvel stories that made the first half dozen movies so amazing and so fun. I was hoping Avengers: Infinity War would break that streak.

Avengers: Infinity War is a 2018 superhero, science fiction, action film based on the characters appearing in Marvel Comics. It is rated PG-13 for violence and deaths and is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good


Thor vs. Star Lord. I think the best part of the film was the fight between Thor and Star Lord. It was classic Marvel movie, and I wanted more. It was funny, clever, original, and so unexpected.

Juggling Heroes. This film has a huge cast of characters, and everyone deserves his moment in the spotlight. And this film succeeds marvelously (see what I did there?) in giving everyone a few moments to shine. I was impressed.

Story. With so much action and so many characters, I was concerned this movie would be nothing more than a slug fest, but there is a story, there is a plot, and there is character development.

Surprise Cameo. I'm amazed the producers were able to keep the appearance of a certain character from a previous movie a secret, but they did and I was genuinely surprised by his appearance, as was most of the theater.

Thanos. So often the big bad guy of major movies is little more than a two-dimensional bad guy who is completely evil and just wants to kill and destroy (see Steppenwolf in Justice League for an example). But Thanos was an actual, developed character that showed a lot of development and motive. While he never became likable, he is a credible threat. His motivation is misguided and obviously ridiculous (overpopulation), but there are a lot of people in this world who have proposed the same measures for the same misguided reasons.

The Bad


Dark and Gritty. One of the things that made the Phase One movies of the Marvel Studios so much fun is their bright colors and humor that made them look like and feel like the classic comics. This movie lacked both. It felt more like the grim and gritty Justice League movie than a Marvel comic. The only humor came from Thor, and there wasn't nearly enough of it.

Video Game Action and Effects. The special effects and movies in the Iron Man movies, Captain America: Winter Solider, Avengers, and others were amazing, well choreographed, and things I hadn't seen before. This movie looks like a video game. The action felt like a video game instead of the beautiful choreographed action of earlier films.

Deaths. There have been rumors and speculation about who would die. I was a little surprised by the deaths, but the way it happened and the ones chosen make me think none of them are going to stick, so I didn't really feel anything for them. I can see most, if not all, being undone easily. This is a comic book movie after all.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish this had adapted a classic Marvel story instead of just using the name of one and creating a completely original story. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't amazing either. I also wish the fight scenes had been unique and well choreographed instead of the same ole slug fests we've seen in so many movies.

Overall


Avengers: Infinity War feels more like Justice League than the first Avengers film with its dark, grim & gritty feel. The juggling of multiple heroes is very well done, and there is a solid story with real development of Thanos' character. The action is little more than one slug fest followed by another and the special effects look like a video game. There is little humor and few character movements that make Marvel movies so unique and fun (although the Thor vs. Star Lord fight is amazing!). This movie did not have the classic feel of the Phase One films choosing to go a much more traditional route. It was entertaining, but not as good as the first Avengers film. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

   

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Book Review - Denslow's Illustrated Classics Volume 2: ABC Book, Humpty Dumpty, Jack and the Bean-stalk, Old Mother Hubbard, One Ring Circus, & Tom Thumb

I am a huge fan of the golden age of children's illustrated books, also known as toy books or gift books. The age began with Edward Leer and ended with WW Denslow and included such notable artists as Ernest Shepard (Winnie the Pooh), Walter Crane, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, Caldecott, and so many more.

Denslow's Illustrated Classics Volume 2 is a collection of 6 classic children's storybooks by W.W. Denslow, the artist of The Wizard of Oz. It is available as one of those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Art. W.W. Denslow is a master artist. He took the best of design and illustration from Walter Crane and added his own touch. The drawings are fun, lively, and convey emotion.

Reproduction. The quality of reproductions is excellent. The illustrations are clear and the colors are mostly vibrant and correct.

The Bad


This is a print-on-demand title, so the colors are slightly different than if they had been printed on a traditional press, but the illustrations still look great.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I've got nothing.

Overall


Denslow's Illustrated Classics Volume 2 by W.W. Denslow is pure perfection. The illustrations are big and clear with nice colors. This is a print-on-demand title, so the colors are slightly different than if they had been printed on a traditional press, but the illustrations still look great. I give this book a solid 5 out of 5 eReaders.

    
    

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Movie Review: Ready Player One

I rarely watch romantic movies. They tend to be too melodramatic for me. But I saw the trailer for this movie and was really interested in watching it. There just seemed to be a good story and good chemistry.

Ready Player One is a 2018 science fiction action film based on the book of the same title. It is rated PG-13 and is appropriate for tweens and up.

The Good


Action. The action in this movie is great! It's exciting, it's fast paced, and there is the right amount of it.

Pacing. This movie has a great pace. I never found myself getting bored nor getting lost. It moved quick enough to hold my interest but slowly enough I understood what was going on.

Visuals. This movie is beautifully shot with eye-popping visuals. Both the real world and the fantasy world are a treat to behold.

Story. While the movie isn't as fleshed out as the book and the stories aren't as well developed, it is still a solid story that introduces interesting characters and you get caught up in the quest.


The Bad


Puzzles are too easy. There were two really fun aspects of the book. The first was the puzzles the characters had to solve. They took a lot of thought and obscure knowledge of early video games and 80s nostalgia. The puzzles in this movie are completely different and very simple to solve.

No Nostalgia. The other fun part of the book is the 80s and early video game nostalgia. This movie instead uses random, unconnected pop culture references that while fun to see don't make any sense together or evoke any era of nostalgia.

Weak Villain. I'm not sure what the filmmakers were thinking. The main villain is a laughable, bumbling, cartoon character who would never become the head of any major corporation or present any real menace or threat. It took away from the conflict and made the quest seem too easy.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish there had been more video game references and more 80s nostalgia like the book.


Overall


Ready Player One is an exciting science fiction action flick with great action and great visuals. The filmmakers did an excellent job squeezing the essential elements of the book into a film without making it feel rushed or incomplete. The challenges are solved fairly easily and the villain was a laughably incompetent cartoon character which made the stakes seem low and the threat not very threatening. And the film lacks the nostalgia of the book. What pop culture references they do make appear too briefly and too randomly to really enjoy. I give this film 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

   

Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review: Paradox Bound by Peter Clines

The first book I ever read by Peter Clines was really good, and the next one blew me away. I kept reading more and more by this author until I got to his Ex-Heroes series that was so awful I didn't dare read anything more from this author. This book had been in my wish list for a long time, before I decided to give it a chance.

Paradox Bound is an time travel mystery adventure. It is available as an eBook, audiobook, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good


Characters. The characters were so distinct, well developed, and likable, even those that appeared briefly.

Original Take on Time Travel. I love time travel, but most of the time it's the same half dozen stories being retold. This was a fresh and clever take on the idea that I've never seen done before. And yet it makes so much sense that I can't understand why I haven't seen it before.

World. The author creates a really wonderful world with clearly established rules he never breaks. Exploring the world was a lot of fun.

Twist. I never saw the twist at the end coming even though it was foreshadowed and made perfect sense.

Ray Porter. Ray Porter is a master of reading audiobooks. I buy audiobooks just because he reads them, and even mediocre ones he elevates to pretty good.

The Bad


I've got nothing

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I've got nothing.

Overall


Paradox Bound by Peter Clines is pure perfection. It is one of the best books I have ever read. The characters are all so distinct and so likable. The original take on time travel was both refreshing and clever. The twist at the end I never saw coming even though it was foreshadowed and made perfect sense. I give this series a solid 5 out of 5 eReaders.

    
    

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Movie Review: Forever My Girl

I rarely watch romantic movies. They tend to be too melodramatic for me. But I saw the trailer for this movie and was really interested in watching it. There just seemed to be a good story and good chemistry.

Forever My Girl is a 2018 romantic drama based on a book. It is rated PG and is appropriate for most ages.

Overview


A young man leaves his wife at the alter for a country singing career. Eight years later he comes home for his best friends funeral, meets his ex- fiancée and their daughter. Romance, comedy, and drama ensue.

The Good


Acting. Everyone does such an excellent job playing their parts. You feel like you are watching real people and not actors and actresses playing a part.

Chemistry. All the characters have great chemistry. There is great romance between the two leads, great feeling of family between the father and newly discovered daughter, and great father-son conflict and resolution between the lead and his father.

Romance. The romance was really well handled. It wasn't melodramatic or over the top, and there wasn't too much of it. When it did appear, it felt earned and realistic.

Comedy. There isn't a lot of comedy in this movie, but the funny parts are laugh-out-loud funny. They really pack a punch.

Story. This film has a solid story that is well told. The pace is very gentle and could be a little faster, but I never felt bored or confused or cheated by a too-convenient twist in the plot.


The Bad


No Surprises. If you've seen the trailer, then you know what you're getting with this movie. It plays out just like you expect it would, which isn't necessarily bad unless you were expecting more.

What I Would Like to Have Seen


I wish there had been a little more struggle. Everything was resolved just a little too easily with minimal resistance. It cheapened the ending.



Overall


Forever My Girl delivers exactly what the trailer promises--a solid, enjoyable, romantic drama with great acting, great chemistry, some very funny jokes, and a heartwarming ending. There aren't any surprises, but the film is so well crafted it doesn't detract. I give this film a solid 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.