Tag: review

iPad: First impressions

Some of my friends and immediate family already knew this, but I got an iPad a couple of weeks ago. It was the 2nd of May to be exact, purchased in the US by a coworker who was there for a conference. As I’ve lamented about before, it is often tricky to get certain goods in Bermuda. If not tricky then expensive, as I paid a 25% import duty on the device plus the accessories. And although I wanted to write about my experiences sooner, I decided it would be best to hold out and wait until the initial fan-boy excitement wore off. I feel that three weeks in, the time is right.

For those who skim paragraphs, the iPad is amazing.

First a quick introduction. The Apple iPad is a device which is roughly 9.5” tall by 7.5” wide, which is essentially a tablet computer. It has a full screen with multitouch capabilities similar to the popular iPhone. If you’ve seen or used an iPhone the iPad will be very familiar. In fact most of the iPhone applications run on the iPad without change. However, the larger form-factor brings along certain key difference from the iPhone which I will outline in my discussion.


read more →

May 22, 2010

Review: Area 7

I haven’t written anything for a while, and the last review of a book I did was ages ago, so that must tell you something about being compelled by this book to write something about it.

And in this case, compelled by positive factors not negative ones. This book was great. I was introduced to the author through his Jack West Jr. series, starting with the Seven Deadly Wonders. I’d heard of his other series, the Shane Schofield series, which he has written first and had tucked it away in my mind to read sometime. That sometime became a reality on my recent trip to Vancouver where I bought the book as something to read on the plane ride back. I did start it on the plane, and despite being very busy at work right now, found time to finish it this past week. Normally I don’t read after work, but I found this book stealing time from my regiment of TV shows.
read more →

April 17, 2010

Review: Absolute Fear

I was given this book when I was in Bermuda and told that I would enjoy it. And the short version of the story is that I did. It is nice to find books written by different authors, to break out of normal patterns. A word that I would use to describe this book is vivid. Not “graphic” in a lurid or violent sense, but close. Certainly walking closer to that line than my usual fare. I guess the genre would be thriller or suspense but it really wasn’t much of either, except at the end when I did get quite intent on finishing it.
read more →

September 30, 2008

It was Batman

Last night Jordan and I finally saw “The Dark Knight”, which despite being in its third weekend in theatres still packed in an audience to almost capacity. We were lined up for half an hour to get a seat, and we bought our tickets three hours in advance. If you look into the movie online you will see that it is breaking all sorts of records in terms of box office revenues. Largest opening weekend, largest initial midnight showing, fastest to 100 million; 200 million, etc. My real question is why?

Granted it is taking a lot of these records from Spiderman 3 which also wasn’t that great of a movie. I guess that marketing and anticipation for a sequel can really get a lot of people to fork out an inflated amount of money to see something regardless of whether they want to or not, simply out of some injected sense of obligation.

Don’t get me wrong, “The Dark Knight” is a very good movie, but it wasn’t exceptional. It was paced a bit awkwardly and definitely felt too long at several different points. I found myself wishing it was over a couple of times. It was the first movie in the Batman franchise not to use the word “Batman” in the title. However, rest assured that it is still just a Batman movie. I have never been a big Batman fan at any point in my life, but I really did enjoy Christian Bale’s attempt in “Batman Begins”. I found him to be a good Batman and the movie to tell a good story.

I will say that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was excellent. He really went somewhere dark with the character. You could really feel the edge of craziness that he possessed. It was so out of character from what I know about Heath that made it that much more stunning. I’m also a fan of Aaron Eckhart and his version of Harvey Dent was just what I would imagine it should have been.

I guess each person has their own tastes and desires, I generally don’t agree with the critics. This movie is definitely worth seeing in theatres, but perhaps at a matinee or some other time you can get in without spending a small fortune. Enjoy.

August 2, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

I’m just going to go out there and say it, this is now one of my favourite animated movies. One might think that this is a kids movie, but like many contemporary animated features, it really does provide something for everyone. And funny, this one had me laughing out loud on many occasions. Perhaps I am just a big kid at heart, but then aren’t we all, in some way.

Casting was good, at least where it mattered. Some of the supporting characters didn’t have much dialogue and as such, you didn’t really get a feel for the voice. But Jack Black playing up against Dustin Hoffman was pure gold. I’ve heard other people praise this one as a classic that, since it doesn’t contain too much pop culture reference, should stand to endure the test of time. I certainly hope it does, because this is one that I suspect I will want to own in the long run. For me a good movie is one that you are excited having seen, and you leave the theatre (or your living room) wanting to watch it again. This is one of those movies with serious re-watchability in my mind.

Go see it if you get a chance, but bear in mind that if you go for a Sunday matinee, the theatre will likely be inundated with little kids. And you’ll be one of them.

“There is now a level zero.”

June 8, 2008

In Bruges

Unfortunately I am not in Bruges at the moment, although I will take this opportunity to plug my Bruges photos from my trip a couple years ago before starting my Masters project. No, what I am referring to is the movie with Colin Farrell.

I saw this movie on what must have been its second last day playing in Vancouver and the theatre was quite full, for a Wednesday night. And justly so, the movie was quite enjoyable, and if the Internet can be any indication, a generally good movie all around.

I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I had been to Bruges before, or just the story telling of the screen writers, but I was really drawn into this film which surprised me with a considerable amount of humour and charm. It had it’s fair share of oddness sprinkled in there are well, but that just added to the overall appeal, at least from my perspective. There are some startling scenes in it, especially toward the end, and it isn’t for anyone who offends easily, but for the rest of you out there, I’d recommend renting it when it hits DVD, because I’m not sure whether many theatres are still carrying it.

April 11, 2008

Review: The Chase

“The Chase” is a story of cunning and detection taking place in 1906’s western United States. We follow Isaac Bell, a renowned detective for the Van Dorn Detective Agency, as he relentlessly pursues the slippery and ingenious Butcher Bandit. Told from the perspective of both the protagonist and the antagonist, the story unfolds as the two are thoughtfully merged into one fast paced chase.

This is quite a departure for Clive Cussler as he breaks off from his usual familiar set of characters and themes and ventures into another realm altogether. It is his first period piece, taking place 100 years in the past. Normally Cussler opens his books with one or two episodes from history which will somehow come to affect the main story line in the present, but in this case he starts off in the 1950s and then jumps back in time to the early 20th century. Originally this deviation confused me, I didn’t realize how different this was going to be from Cussler’s other works. I knew it did not feature any of his usual characters, but it almost seems as though someone else wrote this book. You could have given me this book coverless, and I likely would not have guessed Clive wrote it. Not at first, because there are some hints throughout that point to a similar literary styling, but nothing that would make me say, “Yes, this is definitely a Clive Cussler novel”.

The deviation not withstanding, I enjoyed the book. I read it fairly quickly, but that was more of a function of my spending the day traveling on planes as opposed to not being able to put it down. The story was engaging, yet light, which is how I view most, if not all, of Cussler’s works. In it’s own right, the book was solid, and it will be interesting to see whether we get any other spurious novels like this one in the future. I’m not aware of how the sales are tracking, but I for one was a bit surprised to see a book that didn’t belong to an existing series.

As I find with a number of books, the ending was a tad rushed. It is very obvious that the beginning of the book which takes place in the future from the point of view of the main timeline, what happens at the end of the main story. It is still quite interesting as your mind attempts to fill in the gap from the two periods of time. However, even the jump back to the future at the end of the primary timeline didn’t really manage to resolve the story in a way that I was completely happy with. There were still a couple of unanswered questions. Despite that I’m still pleased enough to say seven out of ten.

January 21, 2008

Review: The Prometheus Deception

This is the first time that I am reviewing an audiobook on here, so I wanted to point that out at the beginning so people are aware. An audiobook, even when unabridged, provides a different experience to a normal paper-based book. Not only does the content of the book matter, but the person reading also contributes to the experience. A bad narrator can ruin an otherwise excellent book, and conversely a good storyteller can breathe life into an otherwise stagnant story. In this case the narrator, Paul Michael, did a phenomenal job reading. He clearly distinguished the different characters when speaking, his female voices convincing and some of his accents were spot on. Reading a Ludlum book always involves a very international cast of characters, and Michael didn’t disappoint in the delivery.
read more →

January 17, 2008

Review: The Husband

I have had mixed success in the past with Dean Koontz’s novels, so this is not an author I am necessarily going to go easy on out of the gate. The Husband, like the few other books I’ve read from the author, is a psychological thriller. Instead of taking the reader on some exotic adventure to far off locales, Koontz prefers to explore around your own neighbourhood, and show you the dark side of the human psyche. This approach can lead to books which are a bit more real, and therefore less of an escape. However, they are captivating.

In this case a husband, a lower-middle class gardener of modest means, is forced to face his worst nightmare and raise two million dollars to save his wife’s life. Confronted with this impossible situation, the husband, Mitch, is forced to see just how far he is willing to go to cherish and protect the one he loves. The book takes you along as this naïve gardener is transformed into a man of action. Sound like a good story?

I had this book for a while before starting into it. I was a little apprehensive after my last Koontz book couldn’t hold my interest, even on a plane. Appropriate I suppose that I started this book at an airport while waiting at my gate to board a plane. Boredom will make many people seek out any possible entertainment, regardless how weak, to help pass the time. This didn’t happen this time. In fact, my failure to pack more than one book on this trip had me faced with the dilemma of whether to finish the book sooner and risk not finding another one, or to ration my reading over the trip so as to have something to do on the way home. The trip wasn’t very long, but I still ended up finishing off the book in the hotel a day or two before leaving.

I honestly can’t find many bad things to say about this book. It did seem a bit over the top at times, but I can’t say that I know what a situation like this would feel like, perhaps this is a spot on representation. The book was engaging and fun despite the stress of the situation. About halfway in, it takes a bit of a turn and the action shifts a bit from purely psychological to physical and dramatic. It is a nice touch that helps keep the story alive and engaging. The story seemed quite credible, at least in the beginning which is one of the elements which makes it that my more exhilarating, the notion that this is something which “could” happen to you. Nothing alien or fantastical, just human avarice, which is a common theme, but only because it is very real.

Overall, I’m going to say that this book gets an eight because it was quite engaging and there wasn’t any flaw which distracted from the story. Not mind blowing, but a great read if you want something a bit more real than the adventures I usually read.

October 17, 2007

Review: Blue Gold

With this book, I have now read all of Clive Cussler’s current softcover fictional books. That makes 28 books in all. And of course, like all of the others, this one didn’t disappoint. It seems appropriate that I have caught up with Clive Cussler’s novels with a book “from the NUMA Files”, his second of three interrelated series. It was one of the books in this series that I first read just over two years ago now before I headed off to my masters in Europe. In fact it was the book I read on the plane over. But that is another book from another time for another review.

I have found that fans of Cussler’s books tend to seek out and read most if not all of them, which is exactly what I did, as did my mother, and my father is slowly but surely catching up. Since starting on this literary journey I have come across other people who are also big fans. This desire to consume the entire bibliography is a tad unusual since a quick scan of the plot outlines will tell you that all of his books are pretty much the same. At risk of losing my Clive Cussler fan club membership, if you’ve read a couple of his books, you’ve read them all. Trust me, I have read them all. I think that might be one of the reasons people do continue to amass the whole library—familiarity. Curling up with a new Cussler book is a bit like hanging out with a dear old friend. Familiar characters; fun, engaging action and the feeling of suspense and anticipation without anxiety. Makes me look forward to reading another already. Of course, now we are looking at the second book in the NUMA Files series called “Blue Gold”.

The blue gold referred to in the title is of course water, which is a central concept in all of the author’s books. In this case, a global shortage of water has brought a corporation out of obscurity which seems to be securing the sources of all of the world’s fresh water. Lead by a larger-than-life villain (literally), this group will stop at nothing to achieve essentially world domination. But these nefarious matters are brought to the attention of Kurt Austin and his special assignments team from NUMA (the National Underwater and Marine Agency). The good guys then set out to stop the bad guys. The particulars of their interaction are the only things which make this a different book from the others. However, like many of the other books, this one features a number of interesting international locations including the depths of the Amazon.

As far as details which make this book any better or worse than its siblings there are only a couple. I noticed when I was close to the end of the book thinking that the resolution seemed a bit more simple than usual. The book wrapped up relatively quickly, but didn’t feel rushed or abrupt. Perhaps a bit less satisfying than an average Cussler book. I’m going to give this one a six because I quite enjoyed it, but it certainly wasn’t anything to write home about. Of course, if you are an avid fan, you likely have read this one already or will once you get a chance, so this review doesn’t count for that much. As far as those people interested in seeing what all this Cussler fuss is about, this likely isn’t the one to start with. If you are interested in going the distance, you might as well start from the beginning with either “Pacific Vortex” or “The Mediterranean Caper” (aka. “MAYDAY!”). Otherwise perhaps try “Lost City” or “Atlantis Found”.

September 30, 2007

Review: Spy

Spy is Ted Bell’s most recent book, a self-proclaimed thriller which continues the saga of his return character Alex Hawke. This book is running up against mixed reviews online, and I will try not to let these opinions affect my thoughts on the matter. I picked up the book at a grocery store of all places. I had some time to kill waiting in the car one day and I had forgotten to bring the book which I was reading from home. So being impulsive as I am, I decided to buy a new one while trying to find something cheap for lunch.

The designation of thriller to me is a bit of a weak one—true the book is exciting at times, but in no way would I consider it a thriller. I guess if you usually read the romance books also found in the grocery store, then you might be thrilled by this one, but I wasn’t. The idea behind the story is that a group of terrorists, using the Amazonian jungle as a training platform are planning an attack on the US, using Mexico as a platform from which to do this. I suspect this book aims to prey on the fears of many Americans of a Latin invasion combined with those of a religious terrorist attack. Powerful and thrilling? Perhaps.

The book while overall enjoyable, was a bit of a weird read. The story does tend to jump around from chapter to chapter, which some people don’t care for. I don’t mind it myself, and found this book only jumped at chapter changes, and when it did, the new scene was announced via a chapter header. One of the awkward things about the story was that I was continuously waiting for it to begin. Combine that with an extremely weak ending and you have a book that doesn’t necessarily satisfy. A bit top-heavy is how I would describe it. A lot of time is spent setting up the plot, details laid out through multiple story lines and then around 600 pages in, the author must have thought: “I’d better wrap this up soon.” And he did. Seemingly abandoning some of the weaker plot elements and paying simple lip service to others. “And they all lived happily ever after.”

Some of the things I’ve read online about the book point to the butchered use of French therein. I know enough French to understand it when written, but I’m no grammar expert, so I’ll leave that argument to those in a better position to judge. I did notice that the book seemed to cast the one French character in a bit of a sour light. He was short and called Froggy. Really? How clever. This shouldn’t be used against the book per se, as there are many good books which seem to take an ignorant view on Canadians as well. It just speaks to the bias or ignorance of the author, but I try not to let that ruin an otherwise enjoyable book. I did feel as if I was missing a piece of the background of the story, which is easy to happen when reading the fourth or fifth book in a series with the same set of principal characters. A delicate balance to educate the first time readers without boring people following the series.

I give this book a 4 out of 10. I enjoyed it enough to finish, it contained an interesting story woven together in a way which wasn’t too confusing but had a weak finish. It really wasn’t particularly thrilling and it never really compelled me to continue reading. Give it a chance if you are looking for a bit of intrigue and adventure, but don’t spend too much on it.

September 25, 2007

Weather

Bermuda: 15°C
Halifax: 0.3°C

Backpack: Get Organized and Collaborate
If the code and comments disagree, both are probably wrong. — Norm Schryer