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Arnold RSS Feed (Springfield, MA)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   

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Pure Protein PLUS Apple Pie, 60 gram, 6 count
Pure Protein PLUS Apple Pie, 60 gram, 6 count
Offered by House of Nutrition
Price: $19.78
3 used & new from $13.48

5.0 out of 5 stars ... the discovery that protein bars don't have to taste like cardboard. For some reason, June 13, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
One of the most exciting revelations while working out was the discovery that protein bars don't have to taste like cardboard. For some reason, the chocolate flavored protein bars never quite taste right, like watered down chocolate rather than the real thing. That's not the case here. These Pure Protein Plus Apple Pie bars have a rich apple flavor. The taste doesn't overpower you, but it leaves a nice aftertaste. Granted, they're not as delicious as real apple pie, but few things are. These bars are packed with protein. At over 200 calories, they're a pretty filling snack. I'm a big snacker, but even I felt satiated after one of these. Definitely recommend this as a source of protein, especially after workouts.


Weight of the Heart (Bruna Husky)
Weight of the Heart (Bruna Husky)
by Rosa Montero
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.71
29 used & new from $7.72

3.0 out of 5 stars nice to see more of Bruna, June 11, 2016
I really liked Rosa Montego's "Tears in Rain," which she advertised as a spiritual successor to the movie "Blade Runner." It stars replicant detective Bruna Husky. I hadn't expected it to lead to a series, but with "Weight of the Heart" it looks like Bruna Husky is going to get her own series of books.

I absolutely loved “Tears in Rain.” It’s one of the most memorable sci-fi books I’ve read during the past few years. I appreciated the way it interacted with “Blade Runner,” which happens to be my favorite film. The book explored the same themes of identity and empathy in clever new ways. It tells a story from a replicant’s point of view, really showing the horror of living with the knowledge of when you will die. It also introduced great concepts such as a black market for artificial memories. I also liked the way the book teased at a wider world.

In “Weight of the Heart,” Bruna Husky is hired to investigate a murder. Initially, it appears to be a run of the mill case, but it soon becomes clear that Bruna has stumbled into a much larger conspiracy. Meanwhile, Gabi rescues a young Russian immigrant, Gabi, who it turns out has a secret of her own.

It’s always great to see Bruna Husky again. She’s easily one of the more complicated and compelling female protagonists that I’ve come across in sci-fi literature. She can be moody, noble, smart, and sexual at the same time. I think Hollywood would do well to look at Bruna as an example of how to depict strong female characters. Pairing her up with a child is also a smart move. Bruna is obviously not the motherly sort, so her interactions with Gabi really work well. I’m just as glad that Montero keeps Bruna true to her character. Bruna obviously becomes more sympathetic to Gabi, but Bruna doesn’t suddenly become a mother-figure.

That said, I don’t think “Weight of the Heart” works quite as well as “Tears in Rain.” I understand that “Weight of the Heart” can’t simply retread the same themes as the previous book, but I think in a lot of ways that undermines a key appeal of the Bruna Husky concept.

As noted above, I really liked the world-building in “Tears in Rain.” Bruna Husky’s Earth is neither a utopia nor a dystopia. Technology has advanced, but it has neither cured all social ills nor destroyed humanity. The world feels multifaceted and complex, as if the world exists outside the story. As such, I found myself disappointed that the book spends so much time on the satellite world Labari. The Kingdom of Labari is a theocracy in which women are subservient, slavery exists, there’s a strict class hierarchy, and people use swords and spears. There’s no attempt to make Labari come across as a nuanced or complex society that rises above a collection of golden age sci-fi tropes.

SPOILER WARNING

It also felt like the book had a few really interesting ideas that were ultimately underdeveloped. For example, late in the book, we learn that a company producing replicants has actually been making several copies of the same model. So we get to meet Bruna’s “sister.” It’s a neat moment, but it seems somewhat incidental to the main story. The narrator mentions that the company’s business practices provoked outrage when revealed, but we never get to experience any of that fallout. Perhaps Montero is saving that for a future book.

END SPOILER WARNING

Overall, “Weight of the Heart” is still an enjoyable read. I’d recommend the book if you enjoyed the character of Bruna Husky and want to learn more about her. But the story doesn’t feel as rich as “Tears in Rain,” and at times even falls back a bit too heavily on worn sci-fi tropes.


Star Trek: Manifest Destiny #1 (of 4)
Star Trek: Manifest Destiny #1 (of 4)
Offered by Idea & Design Works
Price: $1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars start of the next movie tie-in, May 25, 2016
My guess is that this comic will tie into the upcoming Star Trek Beyond movie and provide more context on the Federation's relationship with the Klingons. It's also, at least in issue #1, a McCoy story. McCoy had been relegated to a secondary role in the films, so I actually like seeing him with a bit more to do in these comics.

McCoy definitely comes across as more of an action hero than I'd imagined based on what we've seen in the films so far (and even the Original Series). That probably fits with the emphasis of the JJ Abrams Trek films on action. Fortunately, it's given a McCoy twist. The comic doesn't simply forget that McCoy is a doctor. He has to use his wiles to outwit the Klingons. It almost doesn't work, but it's just corny enough to fit in with the spirit of the Original Series.

One thing that bothered me is McCoy's racism towards an alien species. He helps an alien mother give birth, but then is told that he cannot touch the baby because he's "unworthy." Granted, that is annoying and disrespectful, but it seemed a bit too far for McCoy's character to rant about how they're primitive and that with greater technology people should be more enlightened. The technology McCoy references is Federation technology, not the (unnamed) alien race's technology. For all we know, they could be a less developed alien species and not a Federation member. So it just seemed out of place for him to spend so much time complaining.

I can't really judge the story without having read the other 3 issues. It's just getting started (all we really know is that the Klingons have attacked the Enterprise and an away team).

[NOTE: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review]


The Hunt: The Outcome Is Never Certain
The Hunt: The Outcome Is Never Certain
by Alastair Fothergill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.35
39 used & new from $17.95

5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful wildlife photography, May 25, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Hunt is a companion to the latest BBC documentary featuring David Attenborough. It hasn't aired yet in the US, so I can't really comment on the show or how the book relates to it. I'm sure it will be as fantastic as BBC's past work.

As for the book itself, the photography is beautiful, as expected from BBC. The photos are extremely clear. I appreciated that the book takes advantage of its size to include a lot of full-page spreads. It really allows you to appreciate the beauty of the wildlife.

The theme of this book is a bit odd for a BBC production. Most of the past BBC documentaries have focused on a particular type of wildlife or biome. This one focuses on a type of activity (hunting). The book covers different types of predators in different types of environments, from cheetahs to killer whales. It works together well as a common theme to tie together the disparate photos.

That said, most of the photos don't scream "HUNT" as much as the one on the cover of this book. Indeed, there are only a dozen or so shots of a hunt "in action" (and very little of predators actually killing prey). Given how difficult it is to photograph wildlife, it's a credit to the BBC team that they even managed to get such spectacular photos.

Overall, I'd probably wait to watch the TV series. If you find yourself craving more information afterwards, this would be a great book to pick up.


The Modern Romantic: New Relaxing Classical Piano Music
The Modern Romantic: New Relaxing Classical Piano Music
Price: $9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Relaxing, May 20, 2016
I've become a fan of Laura Sullivan's music. She puts a really relaxing spin on classical music. It's mostly piano music, but there's still some variety in the music. Most of the songs have a pretty slow tempo. Perfect to get you into a relaxed state of mind while you're reading or before you go to sleep.


Starburst Sour Gummies, 8 Ounce (Pack of 8)
Starburst Sour Gummies, 8 Ounce (Pack of 8)

2.0 out of 5 stars too sour, May 18, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I usually enjoy sour gummies. I'm a big fan of sour patch kids. And I like Starburst candies. But these Starburst gummies are too sour for my taste. Also, these things are covered in sugar which doesn't hide the sour taste but doesn't go well with it. Not recommended.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Enemies Old, Enemies New (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW Unnumbered))
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Enemies Old, Enemies New (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW Unnumbered))
by Kevin B. Eastman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.84
48 used & new from $9.70

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars collection of earlier issues from IDW's comic run, May 3, 2016
First of all, this collection of TMNT comics is basically just a reissue of previous issues. There’s no new content.

This book collects four issues from issues 5-8 of IDW’s main line. It’s from much earlier in the line (IDW is currently on issue 54) and the story has come far since then. It’s actually startling to reread these issues given what I know of the later story. Some of the characters seem a bit underdeveloped in these earlier issues, especially in light of what we learn later on.

These are good issues – I’ve been a fan of IDW’s TMNT line – but I’m not sure why anybody would opt for this over the original release. The story doesn’t make sense without the context of issues 1-4.

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review]


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Allies and Enemies
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Allies and Enemies
by Mike Costa
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.05
53 used & new from $9.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars collection of earlier issues from IDW's comic run, May 3, 2016
First of all, this collection of TMNT comics is basically just a reissue of previous issues. There’s no new content.

This book collects four issues from the heroes and villains Microseries that ran during the early part of IDW’s run. The issues are Casey, April, Krang, Bebop & Rocksteady. Each provides a backstory on that character, often providing richer character development than seen in the main line. The Casey and Krang issues are particularly good and unveil fascinating new layers of complexity for the characters. The April and Bebop/Rocksteady issues are more action oriented.

These are good issues – I’ve been a fan of IDW’s TMNT line – but I’m not sure why anybody would opt for this over the original release.

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review]


Delonghi ECAM28465M Prima Donna Fully Automatic Espresso Machine with latte Crema System, Silver
Delonghi ECAM28465M Prima Donna Fully Automatic Espresso Machine with latte Crema System, Silver
Offered by Nation Mart
Price: $2,589.95
7 used & new from $2,589.95

5.0 out of 5 stars One cappuccino to rule them all, May 2, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'd been reluctant to get a cappuccino maker because they always seemed like such work. Fortunately, this Prima Donna model takes a lot of the frustration out of making cappuccinos in the morning.

This cappuccino machine has its own grinder so you don't have to worry about grinding the coffee beans beforehand (or buying ground beans). Just let the machine do the work for you. It's pretty quiet and seems to do the job well.

One of the highlights of this system is the integrated milk carafe. If you want cream in your cappuccino, you can put the milk in a separate container. When you're done using the machine, you can store the container in the fridge. It's simple, but it's a great little system that lets you reuse the milk and not worry about wasting it.

I'm not really sure if this machine is targeted towards professionals, like restaurants or cafes, or home consumers. While day-to-day use is pretty simple, it does require some set up. It even comes with a (very helpful) DVD to explain how it all works. I tend to have little patience with appliances and prefer them "ready to use" out of the box, but that's not really the case with this machine. That's certainly not a deal-breaker, but just something to be aware of.

Now I have to mention the price. Needless to say it's expensive, much more so even than other cappuccino makers out there. You definitely get value for your money in terms of this being a user-friendly machine, but I honestly don't know if this cappuccino maker produces a better cappuccino than the other ones (the flavor is mostly in the beans anyways). I'll let each buyer determine whether or not the price is acceptable.


Uninformed: Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It
Uninformed: Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It
by Arthur Lupia
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.41
60 used & new from $16.10

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars dumb voters or dumb educators?, April 26, 2016
One of the most persistent complaints heard this election year is that voters are ignorant. The media, political party elites, and every other person on Facebook have blamed the rise of Donald Trump (and to a lesser extent Bernie Sanders) on voter ignorance. It's quite common to hear pundits proclaim that voters ought to know more about the world and how politics really works.

All this makes Lupia's book extremely relevant. Yet, this isn't just another diatribe about why American voters are so uninformed. Instead, "Uninformed" seeks to understand WHY voters are uninformed. He uses a mix of game theory, survey research, and psychology to address the problem. He proposes that simply trying to force facts and information onto people is unlikely to make them more informed. Instead, the key is to focus on information that people care about and convey it to them in a manner that fits the way in which they process information. In other words, it's not just about HOW MUCH people know, but about HOW people learn.

I'm not fully convinced by all of Lupia's points. He spends the first part of the book arguing that Americans are not actually as uninformed as commonly believed. But here I think he perhaps gives people too much credit. Yes, some surveys testing civic knowledge are unreliable, but many aren't and those do demonstrate a worrying lack of knowledge. Moreover, there have been international studies done comparing American basic knowledge about the world versus those of other Western democracies, and America scores quite low.

That said, Lupia is certainly correct in saying that we cannot expect everybody to be an expert on everything. To address gaps in the public's knowledge, Lupia encourages educators to try to identify what information specific audiences care about and how to motivate them to learn more. In theory, this all seems well and good. But it's unclear if and how we put it into practice.

One of the problems with 21st century politics is that there are few sources of information universally regarded as authoritative. People filter out information that conflicts with preexisting biases by only visiting news sources that confirm their biases. So it's unclear how you get people to listen to educators in the first place (not to mention that a good chunk of the populace dismisses academia as too liberal). How do you educate people who don't even want to listen? And how do you convince people that you have a greater claim to knowledge than Fox News, Huffington Post, or their uncle Bob?

Ultimately, I appreciate Lupia's call for humility. It's a useful reminder that we "pundits" and "experts" should be careful before we look down upon our fellow Americans. Ignorance does not equal stupidity. At the same time, I wish I shared his optimism about the possibilities of educating American voters en masse. In some ways, I think this book will prove more useful to college and high school instructors trying to figure out how to teach their students. It contains some great insights into the education process. Readers looking to transform American politics ought to look elsewhere.

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]


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