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Terry Mesnard RSS Feed (Bellevue, NE)

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Cash N Guns Second Edition
Cash N Guns Second Edition
Price: $30.45
44 used & new from $29.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, fun group game, October 23, 2014
This review is from: Cash N Guns Second Edition (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I remember seeing Wil Wheaton tweeting about Cash N Guns a few months ago and thinking, "ah man, that looks like fun!" Unfortunately, the first edition was sold out and I wasn't aware of a second printing. Normally, my board game interests run the gamut of Last Night on Earth or the recently Kickstarted Arcadia Quest or Shadows over Camelot. But there's something to be said about pick-up-and-play party games. Let's face it, not all of our friends want to hunker down and play through a four hour marathon game of Arkham Horror. For them, we have Sushi Go, Bang! and, now, Cash N Guns.

Cash N Guns is the best part of those heist movies: the crew has gotten away with a massive robbery and everyone is meeting up to disperse the goods. But, like any good heist movie, you're dealing with robbers. Criminals who think that they deserve more money than the rest of youse crooks! The game is played out over eight rounds. You turn over the loot and then everyone picks a card from their hand, either a "bang" or a "click" and finally the bullets start flying. You point your foam gun at whoever you want and the game becomes a bluffing game. Does the person who is pointing their gun at you have a "bang" card? Or is he/she trying to fake you out. The goal is to make it through the rounds with the most money, and to not get shot, obviously.

Cash N Guns is a very simple game. The rules are few and easily understandable. This type of game is really dependent on the group of people playing. I find bluffing games to be fun and laugh-inducing. But if you have a group of people who aren't into the more social games, this might be like pulling teeth. For those old enough, it also can get quite raucous when you introduce alcohol. It also can be played with up to eight people. In fact, I would recommend with this type of game to play with at least five people. I think six hits the sweet spot. I'd really recommend this game for the board game group that sometimes has a lot of players. It's a good game to break the ice or as an intermission between more complex games.

Alien: Isolation - PlayStation 4
Alien: Isolation - PlayStation 4
Price: $56.14
22 used & new from $40.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally. A good Alien game., October 14, 2014
20th Century Fox hasn't done right by the Alien saga in...well, an extremely long time. One could argue that they've not done right by the saga as far back as Alien 3, a movie that was pretty much bungled from day one. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy Alien 3 and I think it's aged remarkable well; but to call that movie contentious or controversial is a bit on the nose. Video games haven't fared well, either. The less we talk about Colonial Marines, the better. But recently, I'm a least a little hopeful that maybe (maybe??) they're starting to get on the right foot. Maybe? First, there was the start of what could be a really interesting comic cross-over series that pits Aliens, Predator, AvP and Prometheus together in a shared universe and is overseen by Kelly Sue DeConnick. The first few issues of that suggest that the creators of the comic have an actual understanding of the universe and are writing with confidence. Now, we have Alien: Isolation, by veteran developer The Creative Assembly (developer of a ton of Total War-branded games) and the results have me mostly giddy.

Glossing over the story, it's about Ellen Ripley's daughter, Amanda. As an engineer working for The Company, she discovers that the flight recorder of the Nostromo was located and is now held aboard Sevastopol Station. She, along with two other notable Weyland-Yutani employees, Samuels and Taylor, go to the station, in hopes of finding out what happened to Ellen Ripley. Of course, Sevastopol is found in disrepair, people are dead or missing, the androids are acting up and there's something out there, waiting in the dark. Without getting into too much detail, the story hits most of the beats you'd expect from this game. It takes a lot of story beats from Alien and feels like it could almost be a remake of Alien, in terms of the pacing. But the most important aspect is the little things.

It's all about the details. Alien created a signature look that was used and abused for many years afterwards (think: Critters and a host of B or C-grade horror films). Isolation nails that look. The dark hallways. The wetness of everything. The contrasts of stark white and industrial pipes. The vastness of the ships, piloted by a small number of people. The isolation. Then there's the music, probably one of the best scores by Jerry Goldsmith. Isolation takes the score and the look of Alien and runs with it, creating a universe that feels like a perfect companion to Alien. Everything is as it should be, down to the sounds the old school computers make and the little tippy bird. The space suits look great, the atmosphere is heavy and misty. I could go on about the set design of the game. As a huge fan of Alien(s), I had a huge smile on my face for the first hour and a half of the game.

And then the alien happened.

Isolation takes the cue from Alien and is pretty skimpy with the alien in the beginning. The first hour and a half is a slow burn where you, as the player, are anticipating the moment the alien will make its appearance. I jumped at little things and got spooked walking under vents. I just knew it would happen. And when it finally makes its appearance, it's worth the wait. My smile left my face and was replaced by an agonizing fear as it hunted me, its metallic tail slowly trailing behind it. The creature is huge and menacing in just the right way. Again, it is based on the idea of the alien in Alien; tall, imposing, with exaggerated and almost leisurely actions, even when it's speeding towards you. This isn't the creatures in Aliens, moving along the walls and ceiling, swarming you. This is one large beast, methodically hunting you. As the game progressed, Isolation found even worse ways to mine that fear, whether it was forcing you into the open as you try to hack a door, waiting as an airlock decompresses and/or tackling androids (who the alien completely ignores), Isolation utilizes the Alien effectively. Even when it's not there, its presence is felt.

I have a confession to make, though. I played the game on Easy. After reading reviews about how frustrating the Alien was on Hard difficulty, I over-compensated and went with easy. Easy is almost too easy in a lot of ways. The alien isn't as observant. There were times when I knew for sure it'd see me and it just walked by me. It's a lot more forgiving than I thought it'd be. I probably should have stuck with Normal. The problem is, there's a fine line between being afraid for your life in a game and being frustrated that you're constantly repeating a section. The more times you die or are thwarted, the less fearsome the event becomes. Even on Easy, the game walked a thin thread between these two thoughts and honestly, towards the end I was more afraid of not finding a save point than I was of the Alien. And that's kind of a problem. You should be terrified of the alien, not of losing progress. Additionally, at least on easy, my fear of the creature was diminished after I got the flamethrower. Supposedly, the alien learns your behavior and weapons become less effective. That never happened to me (again, on Easy) and I relied on the flamethrower to get me through each encounter with the Alien.

The last half of the game becomes a fan service explosion that feels like a "best of" in terms of Alien and Aliens. But in a good way. There are a lot of moments that directly call back to Alien that I would love to just discuss. Through it all, the game never feels cheap or manipulative, like I felt the events of Colonial Marines were. It brought out the Alien nerd in me. One particular moment was both exciting and emotional, for a variety of reasons. The pace picks up and the game races to the end in a fantastic way...and then it just ends. Abruptly. Biggest letdown ever, with the ending. After all of the strife and pain that Amanda went through it just ends. That was the only truly disappointing thing about Alien: Isolation.

All of my quibbles aside, Alien: Isolation finally gets this massive franchise back on the right feet. It's scary, intense and fits all of the right pegs. I'm actually shocked that no one has done anything substantial with Amanda Ripley until now. What a rich narrative they could mine with that. While Alien: Isolation isn't the perfect vehicle for that narrative, it's the best Alien game I've played. I hope The Creative Assembly makes more.

Horns [HD]
Horns [HD]
Price: $14.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Giving the Devil his due...mostly, October 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Horns [HD] (Amazon Instant Video)
Some books are called unfilmable. I remember reading Horns and thinking how great of a rambling book it was. Partly an allegory, partly a dissection of Kafka's famous story Metamorphosis, it verged in many different directions, careening from horror to romance to a religious critique. But considering how over the place the novel was, I couldn't imagine it being turned into an effective film. As the time passed, Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) was attached to direct and, shockingly, Daniel Radcliffe was going to play Iggy Perrish. Still, I worried: how would they make this into a movie?

The answer is by mostly changing it and focusing on telling a mostly linear story centered around the murder of Merrin Williams. And it's mostly effective, probably more so than I could expect or, frankly, hope. Horns, the film, starts with Ig waking up and dealing with his normal routine. His life is pretty much in the dumps. We meet the pissed off townspeople who have already written Ig off as his girlfriend's killer. We meet his parents and his brother who is a relatively famous musician and who is eye-rollingly introduced with trumpet in hand. How do we know he's a musician? He walks out to a sad Iggy, playing a mournful tune on his trumpet. We're then quickly introduced to Lee Tourneau, Ig's friend since childhood. Unlike the book where Lee works in a congressman's office, here he is a public defender who is defending Ig. But worry not, for now we are whisked away to the night where, in the novel, "Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things." The next morning, he wakes up with knobby pointed protuberances; aka, horns. Not only does he have horns, but for some reason people around him start telling him their darkest desires and, if Ig touches them, he gets a clearer picture of their thoughts. And he learns he can push people to do their darkest, most base desires. And, of course, he decides to use these powers to find out who actually murdered Merrin.

Whew! Horns, the film, has a lot of problems. It (mostly wisely) cuts out a lot of what I thought made the novel unique and focuses on one major aspect of the story: Merrin's murder and Ig's task to find her killer. It takes a narrative that was structured more like a puzzle that unspooled its secrets, histories and character development in a very non-linear way and makes it into an a more succinct mystery about the horns, Merrin's death and Iggy's quest to discover who actually killed her. I can't honestly think of a different way a two hour movie could tackle this rambling tale. Unfortunately, it's also a bit heavy-handed in its message and is too on-the-nose in terms of its religious imagery, specifically the religious-tinged dialogue. The foreshadowing is too blatant in the dialogue. And I don't feel like we get the full transition of Ig to The Devil that we do in the novel. What surprised me most was how much Alexandre Aja pulled his punches with Ig; the director of The Hills Have Eyes, a movie that threw the worst at its protagonists, didn't seem to want to go that far with Ig. Also, the climax of the film was cheesy and not as effective as the novel. On the plus side, the movie can be incredibly funny at times. One aspect the movie completely nailed was how random people would simply start spilling their deepest desires to Iggy. And Daniel Radcliffe completely sold the amusement and horror of realizing he has this effect on people.

So why the four stars? Because Aja's heart is in the right place and most of the changes help strengthen the movie into a more cohesive tale for film. Even though it loses a lot of the metaphors and philosophy of the novel, it still feels like a good telling of the story. Its pacing is equally excellent and kept me enthralled the entire time. It's also incredibly darkly funny and Aja gets a fantastic, if brief, performance out of Heather Graham. She steals the movie, for me; something I never would have thought possible with her. And Aja gets the romance between Ig and Merrin right. Sometimes in order to translate a book to a film, you have to kill your darlings, as the saying goes. And I believe Aja has given Joe Hill his due.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2014 1:02 PM PDT

OXO Knife Block Set, 10-Piece
OXO Knife Block Set, 10-Piece
Price: $76.62
2 used & new from $76.62

4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice set, October 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My last knife block set did not stand up to the test of time very well. Even though I spent about as much money on those as this OXO set normally costs, those knives were loose, the knife block's top was falling apart and I was pretty much completely disappointed in them. On the other hand, this set is pretty great for the money. If you are a professional chef, you will probably have a much different opinion on this set, but then again, you probably have individual knives you've purchased for a couple hundred dollars a pop. For the average person, needing a good set for their kitchen, this is darn good.

Included with the set is an 8" Chef's knife, a 6.5" Santoku knife, a 5" serrated utility knife, a 3.5" paring knife, an 8" bread knife and four steak knives. I actually really like the steak knives; they're reminiscent of the kind you'd see at a steak house. The other knives are also of good quality and mine came pretty sharp.

When the package arrived, I was actually pretty surprised at how thin it was. Turns out, the knife block is very thin, with the knives turned sideways. I thought I wouldn't be happy with how miniscule it would look, but it turns out the space-saving aspect of it is nice. And the color of the block can't be fully appreciated in the picture here. It's a very nice cherry. Much nicer than I expected. Overall, this is a great knife block set for the price.

You: A novel
You: A novel
by Zoran Drvenkar
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.93
75 used & new from $2.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, slow burn page-turner, September 23, 2014
This review is from: You: A novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been trying to figure out exactly what to say about You by Zoran Drvenkar. I've written this paragraph a couple times. The truth is, I don't know what to say, exactly. At its core, You is a typical thriller involving three different groups of individuals who inadvertently end up crashing into each other. It's about revenge, lies, death and drugs. It's about a Mafioso-type family. It's about a serial killer. It's about a group of young women who end up getting caught up in something way above their understanding. It's about unreliable narrators. It's about fate, in some ways. Above all, it's one of the most enthralling novels I've read in sometime.

But You makes you work for it. For a lot of readers, You is not an easy read. Going into this novel, you have to realize a few things. It's written in the second person perspective, putting you directly in the shoes of multiple characters, as if you are that character and Zoran is writing about you. It's a translated novel from German to English. And it's told non-linearly, with events spiraling back around from a different perspective. I bet--and judging from some of the reviews here, it seems to be true--some people won't be able to get through the first few pages. But there are novels that require a bit more investment from their readers. A lot of times that investment is paid in great dividends. You is one of those novels.

On the surface, You is a crime novel about three different groups of people. But it begins by putting you directly in the shoes of an individual named The Traveler. The Traveler is a sociopathic murderer, patient and methodical. In the opening section, Zoran puts you directly in his shoes as he murders a bunch of people stuck in a snowy traffic jam. These particular chapters are uneasy to read because it places you in the character's head; as if you were the one performing the murders. Next, we're introduced to a group of Berlin criminals led by a man named Ragnar. Ragnar's brother has been found dead and his piles of pure heroin are missing. He wants to find who did it and do unspeakable things to them. Up next, we have a group of teenage girls, who are incredibly loyal to each other. One of their friends has been out of contact for a while and they are worried about her. These three disparate groups eventually converge on each other in surprising and violent ways.

In the Authors Thank You page, Zoran thanks George R.R. Martin for his writing, particularly in the way it taught Zoran. Even though You is not a fantasy novel and in many ways feels completely divergent to A Song of Ice and Fire, the first thing I thought of when I started reading You was Martin. The chapters are titled after the point of view of the character and the story is told from their (your?) perspective. You is told out of order, with scenes and sequences crisscrossing over each other, showcasing events from different perspectives. It's never boring and each time it does it, it provides smaller twists to the story. It's quite an intriguing way of putting you in the action and Zoran masterfully unravels the story slowly. It's a slowburn build to the climax, but it's never boring. It's also subtle in spots, presenting scenes and then allowing you to, at times, piece together the timeline. It doesn't hold your hand. Some people will be turned off by this, particularly with the slow burn aspect of the storytelling. But it's a very rich story and the way its told helps add pathos and dimensions to the character. It's been a very long time since I've seen someone attempt a second person narrative, but Zoran does a fantastic job of putting you in the character's shoes--sometimes, uncomfortably so--and allowing you to get wrapped up in the story. Special mention must absolutely be given to Shaun Whiteside, the translator. In many ways, the translator is the most important person in presenting the story. And You is never choppy. It flows elegantly and if I didn't know better, I would never expected it to be a translated work. That's the best kudos I can give to Whiteside.

I think this novel will be divisive, particularly among people who go into the book thinking it's simply a fast-paced, beach-reading thriller; like a James Patterson or a Dean Koontz, maybe. You is thrilling, but it simmers along the surface. I was leery selecting it, more leery when I got it but was absolutely blown away. It grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go. It's probably one of the best books I've read this year.

Wasteland 2 - Classic Edition [Online Game Code]
Wasteland 2 - Classic Edition [Online Game Code]
Price: $39.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic dose of nostalgia, September 23, 2014
Wasteland 2 isn't the most forgiving game, when you're being introduced to it. I spent a good 2 and a half hours or so, with my premade party of people, going through the game, passing by a bunch of opportunities, running low on ammo and basically getting my ass kicked before I decided to restart from scratch. It's a game where you won't know the importance of specific skills and attributes until you've dug into the game a bit. It doesn't hold your hand, during character creation. Which can be problematic when you're expected to carry these individuals along a 70 hour+ game. After spending about 3 hours in the game, I had a good feel for what I should and shouldn't do when creating my characters. So, I deleted my game and started from scratch in order to make a more well-rounded group.

For example, early on, I had problems with ammo because two of my people were using the same type weapon and ammo was scarce. I was reduced to wielding makeshift machetes, which I wasn't trained in, futilely against the most ridiculously hard mutated bunnies. I'm not kidding. The bunnies in this game are no joke. They will maul you. Beware the bunnies. Restarting gave me a better chance by spreading out the types of weapons my four-person team had. The first few hours with the game also gave me and understanding of the skills, how they fit in with each other and the best way to maximize my exploration. My problem is that if there is a locked area/chest, I have to see what's in it, even if it ends up being a box of junk. So on my second start, I had to really think about the skills and how to spread them out so that I could open that random safe we passed or disarm that alarm on a fence before disarming the bomb that was attached to it...before finally unlocking it. The game is unforgiving. And if you don't have an understanding of what to do, particularly in the early game, you will run into the same frustrations I had.

Compounding this is the fact that some of the skills seem split just for the sake of being split. Is fixing a toaster really that much different from fixing mechanical devices? Do we really need two different skills? Likewise, if you're trained in bladed weapons do you really need to have a second skill for blunt weapons? Isn't the death-dealing mechanism really the same, whether you're slashing someone or bashing them?

Once you get past these little details and unforgiving speed bumps, you can really appreciate the love and care that went into building Wasteland 2. The game is full of world-building flavor. Click on most things and you'll get a witty anecdote or informational snippet. Honey Badgers don't care. Chests might be a treasure trove from before the crap hit the fan. Bodies have been hacked to pieces. Doors...well, the game will tell you there are like any of the other hundred doors you've walked through. The descriptions are oftentimes funny or caustically snide. Characters are full of dialogue, both of the exposition and of the world-building variety. The world feels huge. Your skills oftentimes combine in glorious ways as you make your way around the zones. Exploration-happy people, of which I consider myself, will find a lot to discover.

Combat, where you'll be spending a lot of your time, feels like a mix of the new XCOM and old school turn-based strategy games. You can go into an overwatch-like stance (called Ambush here) to attack enemies when they come close. Guns have different firing modes. Guns also open different playing styles. It feels a little slower than the new XCOM. And it lacks some of the inventive skills (like being able to jump to higher vantage points) of XCOM but it also maintains that nostalgic feeling of ye olden strategy games. This is the most nostalgic aspect of the game. I was hoping for a bit more interactivity and modern flair, like XCOM. It feels very static at times.

The story is pretty typical. You play four new recruits to the Desert Rangers. Ace, one of the experienced rangers, was found dead and General Vargas sends you on a task to find out who killed Ace, why they did it and then continue his mission. Of course, the story builds from there and takes you to a myriad of locations. Along the way, you'll have to make decisions that will affect your missions. One of the first things you'll do is have to choose whether to save the Agricultural Center from a mutated plant attack or Highpool which is under siege by raiders. You can't save both. You'll have to choose. These types of decisions carry forward as you progress. There are times, too, where you can really feel like you're in the movie Fargo. At one point, I was in a town and, as I mentioned above, there was a locked area. I had to get into it, obviously. Little did I know that doing so would turn the entire town against me (even though they hadn't caught me in the act). So before you know it, I'm slaughtering everyone and it just spirals out of control. I truly felt like those bungling criminals in Fargo.

Wasteland 2 is another in a line of nostalgic-fueled Kickstarted projects, like the upcoming Pillars of Eternity or Torment. They take established products and either build on them or heavily reference them to the point of "spiritual successor." Wasteland 2 is an exercise in nostalgia, there's no way around it. And some of its gameplay is stuck in the past. To some, that is perfect. To others, it might be annoying. But what Wasteland does, it does perfectly. It encapsulates this style of game and can be so addictive, if you let it. I highly recommend it.

Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones - Black
Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones - Black
Price: $249.95
11 used & new from $249.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If used as intended, you will have a fantastic time with them., September 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is my first Bose speaker/headset and they surprised with how awesome they are. They pair quickly and easily with my iPhone, my iPad and they worked wonderfully. The sound quality is crystal clear, with booming lows and perfect highs. With 15 hours of play time, they last for a good amount of time before requiring a charge. That's better than a lot of wireless headsets I use on my PC.

The biggest caveat I have to give before I go into my review breakdown is that they work perfectly until you try to do things that they aren't truly made for. I was hoping I would be able to pair these headsets with my PC to use when I game and for talking to friends through Ventrilo/Mumble/etc. They paired easily and quickly with my Bluetooth adapter. The sound quality was pretty damn impressive while I played games. I'm used to using 7.1 virtual surround sound wireless headsets, so my expectation of sound is pretty high. While obviously not as "immersive" as the 7.1 virtual headsets, the Bose pumped out fantastic sound that accentuated the highs but also had fantastic depth for the lows. The problem with using them for the PC came when I tried to talk to people. Because the headsets are meant for mobile pairing, there's no software/driver support that I could find. The mic would not work. I spent a good hour trying different things to try and get it to work and it lasted for about 5 minutes before not working. This was incredibly frustrating for me, but again I can't put fault on the device. It's made to work with mobile Bluetooth pairing and, for that, it works exceptionally well.

When I review headsets, I look at a few different areas: 1) Comfort 2) durability 3) sound quality and 4) Mic quality.


This headset is incredibly comfortable. I have a bigger head and a lot of times I go through a period where the headsets feel like a vice grip until they loosen up and get used to my head. I didn't really have that problem with these. They are lightweight in design and the ear pads are comfortable. They aren't noise-canceling and they don't engulf the ear. They lay against them, but I didn't find my ears being pressed back too hard. A lot of times these types of headphones will smash my ear to my head and grow uncomfortable. I didn't have that problem with these.


Considering how lightweight and bendable these headsets are, they feel surprisingly durable. The speakers fold in and the bands fold up, so you have a smaller storage requirement. They come with a small container and at first I didn't think they would fit in there. But they fold up and easily fit in the small bag.

Sound Quality

This is the big one and they sound fantastic. Like I mentioned above, the range is great, the lows are booming but not overbearing and the highs sound fantastic. From watching movies to playing games to listening to music, they sound fantastic.

Mic Quality

Considering this doesn't have a boom mic and the mic is positioned on the outside of one of the speakers, I was worried the sound quality wouldn't be very good. Aside from the problem I mentioned above where I couldn't get it to work with my PC, the mic works very well. It doesn't work as well as a boom mic would; however, for the miscellaneous call that comes through while you're listening to music, it works fine.

Overall, this is a great headset. The Bose-quality sound is definitely evident and it's both comfortable and durable. I was really hoping it'd be an end-all headset I could use while gaming/talking on my PC and out and about. But for those looking for a good mobile headset, I don't think you can do much better.

The Deep
The Deep
by Nick Cutter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.26

4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good B-horror buoyed by a great writer, September 8, 2014
This review is from: The Deep (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There is something about underwater laboratory/society stories that just speaks to me. Whether it's the alien-influenced Sphere or the giant shark/animals of The Trench, cinematic masterpieces like The Abyss or critically acclaimed video games like Bioshock, I am a glutton for these stories. It doesn't even matter how bad they are (i.e., The Trench, Leviathan, Deep Star Six). There's something mysterious and, yes, foreboding about deep sea. It's such a perfect location for horror because while it's terrestrial, but it's as closed off, uninviting and dangerous as space exploration. It's also completely alien and unexplored. Enter The Deep, an upcoming novel by Nick Cutter. Cutter has a bit of an edge over other new horror authors because his last book received a seal of approval from Stephen King. King really enjoyed The Troop (a novel I have since added to my Kindle to read) and while Uncle Stevie and I sometimes don't see eye to eye with his suggestions, you can't simply ignore the master of modern horror's recommendations.

The Deep begins with some world-building. Earth has been pretty decimated by an unknown disease called the 'Gets (shortened from Forgets, I assume). What started as something similar to Alzheimer's has turned into a terrifying disease that causes people to forget everything. It might start as forgetting an important date like an anniversary but, by the bitter end, the poor victim completely forgets how to breathe. The heart forgets how to pump and the person will eventually die. No one knows how to combat it. No one is completely sure how it spreads. There's no cure. Enter into this picture, two brothers. One, a brilliant and coldly calculating and compassionless scientist named Clayton. The other is Luke, a veterinarian whose son vanished one night and completely destroyed his family and his life. Clayton has been doing top secret work in an underwater lab, deep in the Mariana Trench. But, as things happen in these types of novels, communication gets shut down and no one knows exactly what's going on under the sea. To make matters worse, one of the scientists has surfaced, dead, with recent scars covering most of his body. And there's a message, seemingly from Clayton, asking for his brother to "come home." And so Luke ventures deep into The Trieste, the super expensive undersea laboratory that...might become his tomb! Dun dun dun.

I'm pretty partial to these types of stories. But truthfully, there's more terrible ones than good ones. The Deep could have very easily been dumped into the first category. I mean, it pretty much screams B-quality horror when you look at it. The chapters are only a couple pages long and usually end with a minor cliffhanger to keep you reading. The prose is simple and unwieldy (the more to get you reading, my dear) and it's filled with stock characters. There's Alice (who goes by Al, natch), the military badass. Luke is the compassion-filled brother who can never live up to his brilliant brother. The brother, Clayton, is your typical compassionless scientist. You know the kind in these books. He names the animals he tests on, but refers to them as "it" and "subjects." All he cares about is the puzzle and being the one to solve it. Then there's the mysterious substance that's at the center of the mystery. Termed Ambrosia, this substance seems like it could be a cure-all for everything, including the 'Gets.

What elevates this novel past a lesser horror novel is that Nick Cutter has a command of the plot. It moves quickly, yes. But Cutter knows how to build suspense. The way he describes the claustrophobia and intense darkness of undersea can transport you there. There are moments of complete terror in this book, particularly towards the end when it veers into Clive Barker territory, that had me wide-eyed and page-turning. It doesn't matter that the story is implausible. If an author can teleport you to that place and make you forget, even for a little bit, that the premise is ridiculous, you know you are in good hands. I could not put The Deep down. I received it on a Friday and it was done by the end of the weekend. The final few pages made me feel as if we're not done with the world Cutter created. In some ways, this book feels like the first part of a series. I think this is an author that we'll be seeing a lot of down the road. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read The Troop.

Contigo Purity Glass Water Bottle, 20-Ounce, Greyed Jade
Contigo Purity Glass Water Bottle, 20-Ounce, Greyed Jade
Price: $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A decent glass bottle, September 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been using a Camelbak Groove for the longest time to get my water needs. I think the Camelbak Groove is the best water bottle I've ever used, partially because of the filter but also because of the leak-proof nature of it. This Contigo Purity Glass Water Bottle is just that: a glass water bottle. Some people will appreciate that over plastic. Others will find it a bit cumbersome because it's shatterproof glass (which is heavy), it's covered in rugged silicone (which is bulky) and when you put water in, it's obviously heavier. To me, this isn't a carry everywhere type of water bottle. It's more of a stationary bottle (like if you were doing yoga or something). That said, it's a very attractive and modern-looking bottle. I've gotten compliments on it. And as a water-delivery-device, it works about as well as you'd expect it to...

So not as good as my Camelbak, but still, for someone looking for a glass water bottle, I can't complain.

Belkin Apple MFi Certified Lightning to USB ChargeSync Cable for iPhone 5 / 5S / 5c, iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini, 4 Feet (White)
Belkin Apple MFi Certified Lightning to USB ChargeSync Cable for iPhone 5 / 5S / 5c, iPad 4th Gen and iPad mini, 4 Feet (White)
Price: $17.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Your mileage may vary, August 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I guess I have to put out the disclaimer of buyer-beware. Reviews seem to be all over the map on this one. I can only write my own personal experiences with it. When I was offered to test this out, I almost passed on it. I like to stick with whatever company my product belongs to (in this case Apple) instead of going for an "off-brand." Even though Belkin is a known company and I've purchased things developed by them, I still tend to be leery. But I ran into a problem. A common problem, it seems. I have an iPhone 5 and the new iPad, and I've been relying on one charging cord for about three months because the cord that came with my iPhone 5 eventually stopped working. It started fraying around the area where the cord meets the lightning connector. At first, it was pinched and I had to move the cord around just right to continue charging. Then it just started falling apart. With the new iPhone just around the corner (hopefully) I didn't want to drop a huge amount of money on a new charging cable since I'd be presumably getting one when I upgrade.

So I took the chance on this one. A lot of the reviews are negative, suggesting some of the same problems I noted above. Well, those are problems I had with the Apple-created charging cable. So, you win or you lose. For what it's worth, I don't have any of those non-compatibility errors and it charged my iPad really nicely. Also, the cord seems a bit thicker than the Apple one, so I hope that means I won't run into any of the stripping problems that caused it to fail last time.

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