Goodreads Review – Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4)

Cibola Burn (The Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth Expanse book almost has the opposite problem of the third book, it sets up the characters, setting, and conflict in an exciting way, then drags on for most of the second half of the book.
Cibola Burn tackles early settlement of the first of the new worlds opened up by the gates at the end of the third book. A renegade group of Belters were the first through the gate, and by the time a giant corporation ship from Earth arrives to document, research, and set up facilities, the squatters/settlers are already entrenched, leading to political conflict, especially when the squatters sabotage the newly arrived ship.
In comes James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante to mediate. The human drama take precedent over the exotic alien planet, but the new characters (including a returning old one from the first book) are all solid new additions, particularly the villainous Murtry and passionate scientist Dr. Elvi Okoye.
A cataclysmic event separates the two halves of the novel, and the second half slows to a crawl as we transition into man vs nature. There are two main storylines, and the orbiting ships in space becomes way more interesting and action-packed than the plodding survival story on the planet’s surface.
I still love this series and the characters are fantastic, but so far most of them could benefit from better pacing and about 100 fewer pages.

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Age of Wonders: Planetfall Review [Pixelkin]

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In 2014 Triumph Studios revitalized the niche 4X strategy series Age of Wonders with the excellent Age of Wonders 3. After two solid expansion packs the studio quietly began working on their next project, and was acquired by Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive, known for big, densely packed strategy games.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is the long-awaited next step in the franchise. It’s less of an evolutionary leap forward, but builds upon the successes of Age of Wonders 3 along with several smart and fun gameplay improvements and dozens hours of replayability.

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Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared Review [Pixelkin]

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The second stand-alone expansion to excellent asymmetrical card game Disney Villainous, Evil Comes Prepared, finally adds Scar as a playable villain, along with dark-horse picks Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove and Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective. Scar is mildly disappointing but the others make up for it with unique and interesting play styles, proving that Villainous continues to host an impressive pantheon of Disney favorites.

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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review [Pixelkin]

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Once upon a time, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there was a fun, easy to play, co-op action brawler series called X-Men Legends. Later they bequeathed the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series, featuring a huge roster of Marvel heroes and villains in co-op action full of fireballs, laser blasts, swift punches, sword strikes, and plenty of shield-throwing and Hulk-smashing.

The series lay dormant for the last decade, until now. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a triumphant return, showcasing classic comic book writing, art, and action in a post-MCU world. The Black Order retains the deep stat-based RPG elements while maintaining its easy and co-op-friendly action gameplay with an impressive amount of content and replayability.

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Super Mario Maker 2 Review [Pixelkin]

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Super Mario Maker was a clever delight when it launched in 2015 on Wii U. The simple premise – a full editor suite for making and playing Mario levels across multiple eras – was an instant hit, recreating the dreams of many a dreamy kid scratching out level designs in a school notebook.

The Switch sequel keeps the same solid editing and classic Mario gameplay, while adding several high quality pieces, a vastly expanded story mode, and online and local multiplayer.

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Jaws Board Game Review [Pixelkin]

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Building upon the success of last year’s Jurassic Park Danger board game, Ravensburger returns with another movie license in the Jaws board game. Released in 1975, Jaws is often considered the original summer blockbuster, as a trio of men on the vacation destination of Amity Island try to keep a man-eating shark from, well, man-eating, first by trying to close the beaches, then by getting on a boat and hunting the shark themselves.

The Jaws game brilliantly captures both halves of the film in a unique two act structure, culminating in an exciting finale where the shark player rips apart a sinking boat while other players desperately try to fend it off.

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Goodreads Review – The Brightest Night (Wings of Fire #5)

The Brightest Night (Wings of Fire, #5)The Brightest Night by Tui T. Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than the other books in the Wings of Fire series, The Brightest Night has a distinct three act structure. The first act is lame, as Sunny is separated from the others in an incredibly stupid way. The entire plot is ramping up from the last two novels with the RainWings and NightWings but Sunny’s tale begins to feel like an annoying side jaunt that we shouldn’t have time for.
Act 2 picks up as we get a deeper look at the Sandwings, and Sunny’s unique family, including the return of old characters and a nifty Game of Thrones style battle.
Act 3 suddenly thrusts the overarching plot back into the lime light as our heroes decide how to stop the war. Everything wraps up a bit too neatly, yet I also appreciate that the entire SandWing Civil War
and Dragonets of Prophecy plot is solved, not dragged on through book after book.
Ultimately it’s a satisfying conclusion to these characters and the first series arc, and landing somewhere in the middle of my ranking of the first five novels.

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