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Customer Reviews: 448
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Terry Mesnard RSS Feed (Bellevue, NE)

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Samsung SL-C1810W/XAA Wireless Color Printer
Samsung SL-C1810W/XAA Wireless Color Printer
Price: $204.93
20 used & new from $191.12

4.0 out of 5 stars This is a very nice printer that has an incredibly quick and easy setup, July 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very nice printer that has an incredibly quick and easy setup. I was up and wirelessly printing in a matter of minutes. Toss the CD into the drive, hook the printer up with the included printer cable for a one-time wireless set up and then you're good to go. In terms of ease setting things up, it wasn't as easy as the Epson WorkForce WF-7520 that had a lot more control options on the actual printer.

In terms of options, this Samsung has all the ones you could probably hope for. It uses Near Field Communication (NFC) for printing directly from devices that have that function (like your phone). In fact, you can update your printer settings with the NFC function on your phone, which is a very nice addition since it lacks a lot of the onscreen functions I'm used to with the Epson. In terms of doing, you know, the actual printing, this printer is a beast. It pops pages out incredibly fast and with amazing colors. It definitely feels as quick and responsive as the printers made for our offices at work. It's pretty fantastic.

The biggest "problem" is that the printer uses toner cartridges...very large and expensive toner cartridges. According to the information provided by Samsung, the black toner will work for, on average, 2,500 pages while the color toners will last approximately 1,800 pages. So they pump out a lot of pages for the toner, but when you need to replace them don't be surprised at the cost. They are expensive, as evidenced looking here at Amazon.

Overall I've been using this printer for over a month and it works perfectly. I've not had a single hiccup or any problems with it. Pages are brilliant in color and fast. Just beware of sticker shock when you go to replace the toner cartridges.

Sleep Innovations Adapticool Memory Foam Pillow, Standard
Sleep Innovations Adapticool Memory Foam Pillow, Standard
Price: $42.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Too Hard + Too Soft = Just Right?, June 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a side sleeper, I have been on the search for a comfortable, but supportive pillow for...well, a very long time. I tend to destroy pillows, it seems like, and, being a side sleeper, I want something that supports my neck but isn't a brick. I started looking into memory foam pillows since they seem like they would be the best bet for a supportive, firm but not hard pillow. I purchased the Sleep Better Iso-Cool Memory Foam Pillow, Gusseted Side Sleeper ,Standard because it received a lot of good reviews, particularly in reference to being a side-sleeper pillow. And it supposedly kept its cool, a feature I would love. That item was a brick. Seriously, I'm pretty sure it could be used as a weapon, it's so heavy. But it was very supportive and thick enough a side sleeper. Except for the comfort level...because it's a squishy brick. It is so firm and heavy that I found myself using another pillow on top of it for comfort.

Because of that purchase, Amazon offered me this pillow to try and while it's definitely a lot softer and more comfortable than the last pillow, it is not good for a side sleeper. It's too thin. The picture looks thicker but it's not. And it's so soft and fluffy that when I put my big head on it, it sinks too much and offers absolutely no side support. It does do a decent job of keeping cool, though.

So I was presented with a Goldilocks problem. My first memory foam pillow is way too hard to be used on its own. This one is way too soft and thin. But when I combined them? Just right. So I'm not exactly sure what to score this one as. But together, I have a fantastic pillow.

Brutal Youth: A Novel
Brutal Youth: A Novel
by Anthony Breznican
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.62
57 used & new from $11.34

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not as great as it should have been., May 15, 2014
This review is from: Brutal Youth: A Novel (Hardcover)
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I had the perfect opportunity on a road trip to tear into Brutal Youth. When you're zooming across the Western side of Nebraska, it's nice to have something to pull your attention from the boring plains. I'm glad I had this period of time to read Brutal Youth because I'm not so certain I would have finished it. I don't mean to slight it, but it is a bit more exciting than staring at the plains. In fact, Brutal Youth opened surprisingly with a kid on the run, escaping kids and adults through St Michael school. This violent episode immediately caught my attention at the brutality of what was happening and the inept staff that allowed it to come to this. But our attention is quickly diverted to Peter Davidek, our main protagonist, who is starting school the say day that the other kid caused so much craziness.

For most of the book, I couldn't put it down as author Anthony Breznican keeps things moving as we see the loves, betrayals and bullying that happens in school. Wisely setting it in the early 90s, it evokes a time when hazing was more popular and no one had cell phones to take pictures or record what was happening. Breznican also does a good job of setting up stereotypes with its stock characters and then showing a bit more behind them, rounding them out a bit. Unfortunately, I didn't really see much of a point to the novel. There's no real thread of plot that continues through the book, other than "this is Peter's freshman year." It felt more like little vignettes were presented throughout, sometimes surprising, other times completely on-the-nose. I enjoyed it throughout, but by the end I didn't really see the point. Bullying is bad and destroys what should be the best times of our life. There's a moment at the end that's supposed to be surprising and it should have tied everything together, but in the end, it just felt like another vignette and didn't really pull everything together.

I enjoyed Brutal Youth, but it wasn't as good as I was expecting.

You Should Have Known
You Should Have Known
by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.00
26 used & new from $12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't do it., April 17, 2014
This review is from: You Should Have Known (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Okay, I'm going to be honest with you. I have not finished this book. I've tried, reader, I've tried. But I just cannot get into it. The protagonist is Grace Sachs, a therapist. Her husband is a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital. Grace wrote a book entitled You Should Have Known, which warns women to listen to what the men in their lives are actually telling them. Well, as you know, you can't write a book in a novel without it somehow unravelling and showing that the protagonist just didn't understand what she was telling other people. Particularly if the novel within the novel is entitled You Should Have Known. Obviously, Grace should have known. Before the book is published, everything goes to hell.

Like other reviewers have written, this books is exceedingly passive. It's hard to get to know Grace and even though most of the novel is insight into her mind, she basically flees town and doesn't return. I thought this was going to be a psychological thriller, but most of the thrilling moments happen off page and are usually just alluded to.

I can understand that there's readers who will get more enjoyment out of this novel. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them.

South Park:  The Stick of Truth - Playstation 3
South Park: The Stick of Truth - Playstation 3
Price: $42.29
81 used & new from $31.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and a true South Park game, April 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Licensed properties are almost uniformly bad. They are usually rushed, buggy and just plain terrible. Take a look at the South Park game on the N64 for a good example of a terrible game version of a hit TV show. This stigma has been kind of changing recently, with the Lego series doing a decent job and, more importantly, the Arkham games and the amazing games Telltale has been creating off of other intellectual properties. Into this fray, we have the new South Park game, The Stick of Truth. And while it comes from a well-known developer, Obsidian also doesn't exactly have the best track record in terms of new IP. They're usually known for making "That other Fallout game" or "The other KOTOR." So I was trying to calm my excitement for the new South Park game because of the history of this type of game.

Turns out my fears were unfounded. South Park: The Stick of Truth is an absolute blast and is as hilarious and irreverent as the TV show.

You start the game as the mute "New Kid." Your family moved to South Park to escape something in your past. You're immediately sent out to go play and meet the kids of town and you run into Butters. Pretty soon, you're brought to meet the Grand Wizard, Cartman, and are quickly embroiled in an all-out war between the humans (led by Cartman) and the Elves (led by Kyle) for the titular Stick of Truth. This being a South Park story, there's another, more sinister plot happening behind the kid's fun and eventually the two stories intertwine in hilarious and sometime unexpected ways. Along the way, practically every character imaginable shows up and there are often sight gags or items that show up from the show. Some characters show up in unexpected ways. Towards the end of the game, I was wondering, "Where's Big Gay Al?!" And then, boom. The humor is just as biting as the TV show and, like the movie, tears into the medium of video games. It makes fun of the mute hero and other game clichés. It's hilarious. Some of the levels are absolutely brilliant, too.

At the beginning of the game, you choose a class from Fighter, Thief, Mage or Jew and each class comes with its own specific abilities. But any class can use any weapon or armor. You can customize your character by spending points in their class-specific skills and you can also put points into perks. This allows you, with the combination of weapons and armors, to create a character that plays how you like. It's a very simplistic system, but it's fun. And I'm glad that weapons aren't class-based because it gives you the flexibility to play as you like. The combat system plays like the Mario RPG series on Nintendo's handheld systems. You choose your attacks and they have timed presses or some kind of active button press to get the best damage. Additionally, whenever you're attacked, you can time your block just right to ignore some damage. More complications come into play with different stances that make certain types of attacks ineffective and also shields that block damage. Overall, it's not a complicated RPG and most veteran players won't have any problems with the combat once they get the hang of the timing of skills. But, like a good licensed game should be, it's very inviting to players who normally don't play these types of games.

It took me about 12 hours to finish The Stick of Truth and I enjoyed absolutely every minute of it. In fact, this is the first game I've finished this year because I couldn't stop playing. In the end, if you love South Park, you will almost assuredly love The Stick of Truth.

Natchez Burning: A Novel (Penn Cage)
Natchez Burning: A Novel (Penn Cage)
by Greg Iles
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.17
152 used & new from $11.16

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and problematic, March 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First, can we take a deep breath and say thank you that Greg Iles is finally coming back to the spotlight? It's hard to talk about his latest book without addressing the fact that he, like Stephen King before him, might not have written another word because of the horrible traffic accident. It's been five years from when The Devil's Punchbowl was published and the world has missed his talent. But Iles is roaring back with not one, but a trilogy of Penn Cage-centered novels, set in Natchez Mississippi. Natchez Burning is the first barrage in this trilogy and is probably one of the best things Iles has written...which, coming from me, is saying something.

To be honest, Penn Cage's novels were never my favorite of Iles. The first book of his I read was Dead Sleep and after being hooked into that during a cross-country flight, I quickly devoured his other novels like 24 Hours. Iles obviously has a lot of love for Penn Cage, but to be honest when I first heard the next three novels would be all about Penn, I kind of sighed. Turns out, though, that I shouldn't have worried because Natchez Burning is quite a fantastic novel that kind of feels like a culmination of everything he's written before. It meshes historical fiction, race relations, mystery and suspense all together. Natchez Burning begins in the 60s, with a horrific murder by members of a secret offshoot of the KKK called The Double Eagles. In the present, Penn's father, Tom is being accused of the murder of Viola, his once assistant who left Natchez and finally came back at the end of her life. Viola's son is the one accusing him. And this act opens up a decades-long history of violence that involves everyone in Natchez.

Natchez Burning is a fantastically-paced novel. Some of the middle gets bogged down, but for the most part it actually moves at such a brisk pace, given the fact it's over 700 pages long. Iles does a fantastic job, juxtaposing historical references with fiction to create a moving narrative that touches on everything from race, segregation, forbidden love and the quest for the truth. My biggest problem with Natchez Burning is that, for a story that's about racism and the historical context surrounding being a black person in Mississippi, the book has a dearth of strong black characters. It's interesting. There's a moment in the novel where Iles proselytizes on the concept of white privilege. He seems to get the idea that as a white, straight man, he is privileged in this world...but then, sadly, he doesn’t do anything to use that to his benefit. All of the black character in this novel ultimately end up being victims, murdered or absolutely corrupt. And once again, it's the white knight in shining armor swooping in to save the day. Thank you, white man. And I say this as a white man.

So I find the novel problematic at times. It's obvious from the couple passages that touch on the subject that Greg Iles understands the position he's in. I just wish he would have used that more effectively, instead of relying on old tropes. That said, Natchez Burning is easily one of the most all-encompassing and exciting novels Iles has written and ranks among his best.

Shovel Ready: A Novel
Shovel Ready: A Novel
by Adam Sternbergh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.45
103 used & new from $4.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, funny noir, March 20, 2014
This review is from: Shovel Ready: A Novel (Hardcover)
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In Shovel Ready's version of New York, New York has become a shell of its previous self and the world has been split between the wealthy who log in or "tap in" to the newest version of the internet, a virtual reality world where they tend to spend most of their life. Their servants take care of their earthly bodies, while they go on whatever virtual pursuits they desire. The rest of the people are forced to fend for themselves, on the mean streets of a destroyed New York. Into this equation is Spademan, who used to be a garbage man, and now it just a garbage man...who disposes of individuals. He's a man who is ruthlessly efficient in what he does and has a couple rules that guide his moral compass. He's one of the best in the business and doesn't care why the individual wants someone dead nor any other information. As long as it doesn't mess with his code. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist and, as you can expect from a noir novel, the story spirals out from there.

Books have a rhythm to them, a speech pattern all their own. Sometimes, they are choppy and the beat comes in spurts. Other times, they just flow flawlessly. The best ones are effortless, allowing the written word to take you along its journey without you realizing it. Shovel Ready reads like noir sounds. It immediately invokes those old black and white movies, with the hardened private detective narrating the events. I think that's probably the biggest compliment I can give Adam Sternbergh; his prose perfectly captures the way noirs sound. And he uses this to paint quite the dark, disturbing and sometimes laugh out loud (but still quite dark) funny picture of a futuristic New York. It reads fast and the words come at you like bullets. It is really really dark at times. But, still, the dark humor shines through. It's not for the squeamish but for those looking for a good futuristic noir, I have to say this is one of the best I've read.

Duracell Powermat GoPower Longhaul backup battery, power bank, for iPhone 5S/5C/5, Samsung Galaxy S4, other smartphones and tablets
Duracell Powermat GoPower Longhaul backup battery, power bank, for iPhone 5S/5C/5, Samsung Galaxy S4, other smartphones and tablets
Price: $75.20
13 used & new from $74.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for travelers, December 31, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A couple things to note up front. This isn't an insta-charge type device. Your phone or tablet won't be magically charged in a moment. It does take awhile. It's not like plugging your device into a wall outlet. But for the frequent traveler who doesn't have access to ports or car chargers or something, this device works wonderfully. I used it when I went on my last trip and it kept my phone fully charged, which is nice when you rely on it for entertainment on long trips but also need it for the practical side of things and keeping in touch.

It charges through USB and doesn't include a wall unit, so that's kind of annoying. It took about 5 or 6 hours to charge for me, but it kept my devices charged perfectly on the trip. I'd really recommend this for frequent travelers. It put some ease into my mind, knowing that I could use my phone as needed without worrying about it running out when I needed it.

Gioteck EX03  Bluetooth Headset for PS3
Gioteck EX03 Bluetooth Headset for PS3
Offered by PIP GAMING
Price: $16.68
21 used & new from $10.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable and priced right, December 31, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've never heard of Gioteck and had no experience with their products, so when a chance was offered to review it, I decided to jump on it. I'm always looking for cheaper alternatives to other products, as long as they work well. With this Bluetooth headset, you're not getting the feature-rich products of other, much more expensive headsets. Like most Bluetooth devices, you have to pair this one with your Playstation 3, instead of simply plugging it in. It paired quickly and effortlessly (it also worked with my cellphone; however, I don't think I'd use it for that).

The sound quality is decent. It's not the best I've used, but you're also looking at a ~$20 headset. It fit comfortably over my ear, though it seems to be designed for right ear only. The battery life usually lasts an afternoon of playing and typically took 3 or so hours to charge.

Personally, I'd look towards other more expensive headsets in the future; however, for the budget conscious buyer, this is a great headset for the price.

Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Xbox One
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Xbox One
Offered by DealFisher
Price: $24.99
141 used & new from $20.00

127 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As a non-fan of Assassin's Creed, this game is awesome., November 25, 2013
Assassin's Creed is one of those series that is constantly disappointing me. I start playing them, get enthralled in the historical context and parkouring around all over the place. Then, I invariably get bored. The systems in place never seemed to hold my attention. The most I've played an Assassin's Creed game was probably the second one, but even that game I never finished. Never even came close. Because boredom. With my new Xbox One, with its kind of depressing slate of exclusive games, I wanted to make sure that I had a game that I knew wasn't a rushed launch title. So I sighed and picked up Black Flag, expecting to play it a little bit and then go back to playing XCOM on my PC. I was shocked to find that I didn't hate Black Flag.

Actually, I absolutely love it.

The biggest problems with these franchises (see: Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Elder Scrolls) is that each game is released as iterations, in that the core game is remarkably similar to the first game, but each time they iterate it, refine it. They change the story but you are doing pretty much the same thing you've done in Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty. The story and settings might be different. They might have given you a dog (or a Dragon Shout). But you're still playing the same game. In that regard, Black Flag follows suit. You're still assassinating Templars. You're still free-running across buildings. You're still performing absolutely annoying eavesdropping missions or sometimes frustrating sneaking missions. You're still caught up in some metaphysical story. You're still being interrupted with annoying modern day Abstergo interludes. But this iteration has a boat, something somewhat introduced in AC3, and it makes you a pirate. And that has changed absolutely everything, for me, at least.. There's just more to this iteration that makes me want to play than any time before.

Examples. Naval fortresses. These are heavily fortified areas that turn into a mini-boss battle of sorts, between your ship, the Jackdaw, and the fortress's armaments. Once you've destroyed the armaments, it immediately segues into sieging the fortress on foot. It culminates in an assassination and the keep becomes yours and sheds light on the map of the area surrounding it. These, so far, have been eminently thrilling for me.

Sea battles. The first time I fought a ship in a stormy sea, with rogue waves crashing into us, high seas causing eye-sight issues and complications for firing cannons, and water spouts spawning around us, I was entranced. The epic scale, the graphics, everything was just so exciting. And then when the ship was dead in the water and I could board it, swinging from my ship to the burning wreckage of my foe, before jamming my sword into an unaware British soldier was everything I imagined as a kid, growing up on pirate films. It was exciting. It was thrilling. It was different.

Hunting/fishing. Yes, hunting is back. Yes, it's still kind of annoying. But it's tied to your growth (health upgrades, pistol upgrades, storage upgrades, etc.) and presented a lot easier. Each island or area has a certain type of animal, marked on the map. And it doesn't take a lot of skins to create new items. But the game also introduced fishing and these little moments can be thrilling. When you go harpooning, you're in a small boat and it's just you and a very large fish/whale. There's a good variety between the whales (humpback, killer, even the mythical white whale) and sharks (Bull Sharks, Hammerheads and, of course, a Great White), and they add little wrinkles to the combat, depending on the animal.

Later on, as these games do with breadcrumbs, Black Flag introduced the diving bell. This device allows you to investigate shipwrecks on the bottom of the ocean. These are both thrilling and terror-inducing, reducing you to a weaponless man in an often shark-infested area. The first time a shark lunged at me from behind, spawning a QTE minigame, I almost leaped out of my chair. It was so intense. I had to yell "Xbox record that" to share the moment. These shipwrecks are all different, with their own sets of obstacles and threats. Some include sharks and rely on racing from wreckage to areas with heavy seaweed to hide in. Some involve underwater cave systems, requiring you to be quick before you run out of air. All of them are thrilling and add just a bit more to the game.

The rest of the game is pretty much the same Assassin's Creed game you've been playing since the beginning, just refined and iterated. You can upgrade your ship, the Jackdaw, by adding different cannons, increasing the durability, etc. You can also purchase items to customize the appearance of the ship. And of course, there's a home base that you can start sinking your money into, to upgrade it. I just feel more attached to this part than I have in previous games, mostly because of the pirate motif.

I don't really have much else to say on other aspects of the game. I don't really care about the stories in these games; they are more of a means to an end, for me. The graphics are awesome, but that's to be expected. I don't know how this version compares to the PS4 (other than the PS4 version is rendered in native 1080p) or the previous generation, but I honestly don't care because it looks beautiful, particularly the open sea. It is engulfing in its majesty and I haven't seen water effects look this realistic (though the boat sometimes seems to be floating through it, when you're in travel mode). I will say that the on-land portion is mostly just okay, for me, but for fans of previous Assassin's Creed games, you'll probably find the same stuff to love. What makes this game and what I wanted to focus on was how much different it feels because of the pirate theme. Black Flag is the most fun when I'm on the open sea, destroying ships, fighting epic battles, tackling legendary ships and exploring the massive world. I really hope that they will stick with this motif a little bit because this is the first time I've truly enjoyed an Assassin's Creed game and will be the first Assassin's Creed game I've completed. Very much recommended.
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