Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Punisher (TV series)

Punisher Netflix.jpg

A spinoff of Netflix's Daredevil, which introduced the character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is a good, faithful take on the antihero, Frank Castle's family murdered by criminals and his consequential vigilantism.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Lost Patrol

The Lost Patrol by Vaughn Heppner

The fifth installment of author Vaughn Heppner’s Lost Starship series opens with the oldest Methuselah Man, Strand, on the run from humans, leading a group of New Men. Two months later, Captain Maddox wants to visit the Beyond, against the wishes of the starship Victory’s AI Galyan to deter the threat of the New Men. Androids continue to play part in some of the book’s early plot twists akin to the previous installment, with an entity known as the Visionary having a role, as well. There is also a minor love triangle among Maddox, Meta, and the Spacer Shu, although this quickly falls out of favor.

Maddox ultimately receives his independent command, and has a spat with giant men in the streets of Paris while on a date with Meta, with Lieutenant Keith Maker having lust in the romance game, which receives occasional repeated reference. Many androids that attempted a takeover of Earth are still at large, although who was behind the takeover is still somewhat an enigma, with the androids further being found aboard the Victory. Shu also antagonizes the professor since he dislikes Spacers, with the feeling being mutual, and Keith making a few passes at Shu.

Maddox and his companions eventually visit the pyramidal Nexus that holds key to quick travel across space, although several events occur that necessitate finding a replacement. Backstory on the “lost” humans that become the spacers the professor eventually tells, with Shu herself making a pass at the ethereal AI Galyan in an effort to reprogram him. Another alien race that the Victory encounters, the Chitins, has a role as well, and is in conflict with the Swarm Imperium, the Swarm themselves holding ten percent of the galaxy, their damage seen in a red giant star system.

A marine going by the name Yen Cho plays part in the latter chapters of the book, which ends with Commander Thrax Ti Ix anticipating the Time of the Great Migration and the Great Extinction, accounting for another satisfying entry in the series with plentiful action, background, and occasional romance. There are some times when the quantity of the chapters, numbering in the seventies, places itself over the quality of the subsections themselves, and the author as with before could have come up with better names other than “the New Men,” but those who enjoyed prior entries will enjoy this one.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Accessible Fine Dining

Book Details:
Book Title: Accessible Fine Dining - The Art of Creating Exciting Food in Your Everyday Kitchen by Noam Kostucki, with Chef Quentin Villers
Category: Adult Non-fiction , 128 pages
Genre: Creative Cookbook / Fine Dining
Publisher: Amazon
Release date: Dec 10, 2018
Tour dates: Jan 7 to 31, 2019
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

Six months after opening my first restaurant, one of my dishes was selected as "25 dishes to travel around the world", featuring me next to culinary legend Heston Blumenthal.

Exciting and healthy food doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Over the years, I have seen some of the most exciting dishes come from the simplest kitchens and the most modest ingredients. The purpose of this book is to focus our attention away from the distractions of fancy kitchen equipment and luxury produce and instead focus our attention towards ingenuity in the kitchen and culinary innovation.

For some strange reason, cooking is taught in books as a series of mechanical steps to follow and repeat with precision. I see cooking as a creative art like painting or playing music: it is the freedom of expression that is most interesting to me. When we create from an artistic perspective, we give birth to something new and potentially magical.

The purpose of this book is not to teach you specific recipes, because the ingredients you will find in your local organic food market will likely not be the same as the ones we see here. Nor is the purpose to show you how to imitate us. The purpose of this book is to guide you into thinking about your dishes in a way that elevates them to a fine dining level, from ingredients which are easily accessible to you. Naturally, you will find a few recipes, but most importantly you will find a new way to look at food.

We will share how we think about food shopping, searching for unusual ingredients, the combinations of flavors, techniques, textures, nutritional value, and of course, plating. The purpose of this book is to guide you to become a more exciting, creative and adventurous version of yourself in the kitchen. What separates a craft from an art form is the story behind it; cooking is a craft, while fine dining is an art form.

If you want to create fine dining dishes, start to focus your attention on the different stories a dish can tell. Some stories can be told through your cooking, and others are told through words. Taking the time to present your dishes before people eat is crucial to creating anticipation for the food they will eat.

Buy the Book:

Watch the book trailer:

Meet the Authors:

Noam Kostucki


I was an awkward child, so I changed school 5 times. I spent most of my life trying to please others, and be the kind of person I believed everyone else wanted me to be. I wasn't happy and I struggled to get what I want. Everything changed when I started changing.

I spent the last 12 years creating the life I dream of. I've had the privilege to be homeless twice, and to speak at Harvard about entrepreneurship. I have grown to be myself more fearlessly than ever before. I am now surrounded by people I love, and who love me.

I traveled over 40 countries, and I've helped over 25,000 people create magic. For example Patryk Wezowski who raised $500,000 in 8 weeks and Esther Perel who gave the 30th most viewed TED talk. Some less public successes include a blind eyed student who experienced his blind eye for the first time and a journalist who left an abusive relationship.

As a university drop out, I was surprised when my first book (personal branding) became required reading at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, as well as receiving the UK Business Speaker of the Year runner up award, and a honorary degree in Business from Hofstra University. As an artist, I was honored to exhibit my photography at the European Union's Innovation Conference.

My most recent venture is HiR Fine Dining, a jungle culinary adventure. I create a discovery menu of 7 plates per person for groups of up to 12 people. HiR Fine Dining became #1 fine dining on TripAdvisor in Tamarindo within the first month. Within 6 months one of my plates was selected out of 40,000 restaurants by OpenTable as one of "25 dishes to travel around the world for". I was invited to speak at Chateau 1525, Costa Rica's most reputable cooking school and our guest chefs include a blind chef who traveled all the way the United Kingdom.

Quentin Villers

Quentin has been cooking in restaurant since the age of 18. He helped his brother build a restaurant for which they received a Michelin Star. Quentin moved to Costa Rica to consult for hotels and restaurants. He managed 3 of the 4 restaurants at Hotel Nayara in La Fortuna, for which he lead a team of over 20 people to be selected to enter Relais & Chateaux, a prestigious network of unique luxury hotels with exquisite cuisine. Quentin is a regular guest chef at HiR Fine Dining and consults for a number of fine dining restaurants in Costa Rica.

Connect with the Authors: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Feb 7, 2019


Art of the Day, 29 January 2019

Doughboy Felix
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions


Few gamers would expect Nintendo’s mascot plumbers Mario and Luigi to star in RPGs, although the original Super Mario RPG, one of the Super NES’s swan songs and a cooperative effort between the Big N and Squaresoft, proved popular, the former company ultimately attempting to make RPGs without Square’s involvement (a consequence of the companies’ fallout between an aborted CD add-on for the 16-bit system), their first effort being Paper Mario, one of the better-received titles on the Nintendo 64. With a little help from AlphaDream, Nintendo would start the subseries Mario & Luigi on the GameBoy Advance, a decade later remaking its first entry on the Nintendo 3DS as Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions, for the most part a solid rerelease.

The main quest mostly retains the original version’s timing-involved turn-based battle system, with cooperative Bros. Attacks between Mario and Luigi that consume Bros. Points from whoever initiates one of them, not to mention standard hammer, jump, and magical glove skills. Standard battles tend to be quick affairs, with the player able to gain the initiative by having Mario or Luigi jump on or hammer-strike foes visible in dungeons and in fields connecting them, victory netting both siblings experience for occasional level-ups, most stats increasing and the player able to get a bonus for one stat. The system definitely works, with an Easy Mode giving more predictability in enemy commands that are for the most part avoidable, and the final battles definitely taxing the player’s items inventory.

New is the Minion Quest, which features real-time tactical battles in the vein of the Dragon Force series, where the player picks a captain among Bowser’s minions and seven recruits to accompany them, with battles consisting of several stages, victory through all of them netting all participants experience, and defeat merely sending players back to the stage-select screen with nada. Strategy arises from the Rochambeau formula of melee units beating ranged units, which beat flying units, which beat melee units, although certain minions are more powerful against other specific types regardless of said rock-paper-scissors methodology. The player randomly gains new recruits after beating stages, and while the subquest is a little grindy, strategy RPG aficionados will likely find good in it.

While control has some improvements from the GameBoy Advance release such as the ability to have the Mario siblings simultaneously jump, there are still lingering issues such as the lack of detailed maps for dungeons and the areas between them, with shortcut pipe warps not labeled on the overworld map at all. There’s also one part where the game shows players where beans necessary to feed Yoshis are buried, but then doesn’t keep them labeled on said overworld map, and there were some moments where this reviewer had to look at a guide to find out how to advance, something no one should ever have to do when playing a game. In the end, interaction could have received a once-over.

The main storyline remains generally the same as in the original release, and while many have ballyhooed the alleged humor in the dialogue, this reviewer personally didn’t find the plot all that funny, and in fact found the Minion Quest subplot, which actually has a bit more comedy even in its “failed” jokes indicated by wind gusts, to be superior, with some background given to Bowser’s children, the Koopalings, although players are still left in the air about their matriarch. The translation is largely polished, aside from the occasional unnatural line, and all in all, the story fortunately doesn’t detract too much from the gameplay experience.

Yoko Shimomura as with before provides the soundtrack, which somewhat overuses Koji Kondo’s signature Mario themes at points, but is mostly pleasant. Characters also have distinctive speech sounds during dialogue, Mario and Luigi for instance having Italian-esque gibberish conversations with the occasional English such as “Oh, yeah!” and “Let’s-a go!”, which again doesn’t detract.

Whereas the GameBoy Advance version had a visual style emphasizing pastel coloring, the remake has a different graphical disposition, 99% two-dimensional, that treads the line between realistic and cartoony and very much looks pleasant, the only real flaw being the game doesn’t take advantage of its system’s 3-D capabilities.

Finally, finishing both quests takes a total of somewhere between one- or two-days’ worth of playtime, with things to extend it such as finding all item blocks, uncovering hidden beans, and procuring all musical tracks.

Overall, this remake is for the most part solid, given its involving turn-based battles, the fun diversion of the Minion Quest, nice soundtrack, and superb visual style. However, it does have some strikes against it such as the grindy nature of the strategy subgame, the poor direction at points on how to advance and consequential need to reference a walkthrough, and the general lackluster nature of the primary plotline. Regardless, it’s very much worth a playthrough by Mario and Nintendo enthusiasts, the added quest in particular sure to appeal to tactical RPG fans, and stands as one of the strongest games featuring the Big N’s plumber characters.

The Good:
+Involving turn-based combat.
+Minion Quest is a fun diversion.
+Solid aural and visual presentation.

The Bad:
-Minion Quest is a bit grindy.
-Sometimes poor direction on how to advance.
-Main storyline is generally lackluster.

The Bottom Line:
A nice remake for those who missed the original.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: 1-2 Days

Overall: 8.5/10

Knife of Dreams

Voltron - Legendary Defender logo.svg

An American reboot of the Voltron and GoLion animes focusing on five spacefarers who stumble upon the robot lions that can form the giant robot Voltron and use it against the Galra Empire. Twists and turns, with plenty of good action, though the Voltron-forming animation becomes old after a few times. Wraps up nicely, as well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Knife of Dreams

WoT11 KnifeOfDreams.jpg

In the eleventh main Wheel of Time novel, the last written solely by Robert Jordan before his death, the Last Battle draws near, with Rand al’Thor slated to battle the Dark One as the only hope for humanity. In the meantime, Perrin makes a truce with the Seanchan and a deal with the Dark One in want of his kidnapped wife Faile. Moreover, Mat flees through the Seanchan-controlled land of Altara with Tuon, the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, who leads him on a spirited chase. Furthermore, Elayne fights for her rightful Lion Throne while wishing to avert civil war, and Egwene in the White Tower attempts to undermine those loyal to Elaida.

Unlike prior books, which Jordan mostly dedicated to his wife Harriet, he instead dedicates the eleventh entry to the prematurely-deceased Charles St. George Sinkler Adams, and opens with a fictitious quote that “inspired” the book’s title. The prologue, as has been the case throughout the series, follows multiple perspectives and updates readers on what the various characters are doing at the time the novel opens, with Galad and his companions, for one, riding to the manor house that the Seanchan had given Eamon Valda, Sashalle being healed, Talene receiving an order to appear before the Supreme Council, Alviarin being marked by the Great Lord, and Egwene entering Tel’aran’rhiod, hoping tos peak with Siuan.

The main chapters open with the same windy motif that precedes the primary text of prior series entries, with the Amyrlin Egwene’s life in danger, with fear that her death would result in her replacement by Romanda, whom many Aes Sedai would consider worse than Elaida; Lelaine also yearns for the post of the Amyrlin dies. Mat in the meantime continues to follow Valan Luca’s Grand Traveling Show and Magnificent Display of Marvels and Wonders, and Thom receives a letter from Moiraine claiming that she isn’t dead, after which the minstrel yearns to visit the Tower of Ghenjei.

Elayne, in the meantime, fears for her forthcoming children, receiving security against assassins that would have her brought to the Tower to continue her training as Aes Sedai. Several sorceresses receive accusations of being members of the taboo Black Ajah, and towards the end of the book a series of well-described battles occur, involving both Ogier and humans alike, with Rand’s father Tam leading a few of them. Elayne ultimately finds herself captive of Darkfriends, and the book itself ends with word of Aes Sedai bonding men who can channel, Asha’man, as Warders. Overall, this entry is a good swan song for the author before his death, although the prologue may confuse some given its abrupt switches in perspective.