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Ghostgrey51 (Wales)
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Ultimatum: X-Men/Fantastic Four TPB (Graphic Novel Pb)
Ultimatum: X-Men/Fantastic Four TPB (Graphic Novel Pb)
by Mark Brooks
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Strange sort of collection but it does its job, 4 Jun 2013
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First things first. This is odd. It's not a cross-over. It's two separate tales linked only by the events in Ultimatum aftermath. There's are X-men & there's an FF tale. I guess that Marvel decided there was not enough to fit into two collections. Anyhow...
Read the Marvel Ultimate world for any length of time and you`ll realise this is a place short on happy endings and fluffy bunnies; also because of the short runs there is arguably a tighter continuity than in the `616'. I have been following both (albeit late on the scene) and my take is that each group were heading for train wrecks in one way or another. So here we have two sets of survivors coming to grips losses and destruction.
The X-men criss-cross with The Brotherhood, Stryker and The Alpha Flight, and the body count rises. No matter how hard they try you know the X-men will not now be accepted by the Human World; grim reading, strong artwork, tragic characters (I hate Stryker in the `616' world-I get that sort of involved when reading graphics; in The Ultimate World I feel so sorry for the guy)- Rogue has a particularly powerful role.
The FF is more Ben and Sue with flashbacks to the earlier years of the FF characters. Story starts with Sue hovering between Life & Death; this is impressively shown as in this state her skin is portrayed as transparent. Once recovered they set out to find Johnny and Reed; Sue's mother and Mole Man in attendance. Their main protagonists being the insufferably pompous and conceited Atlantis crew (sorry I told you I get involved).
Both stories end on cliff hangers, which weave into the Ultimatum book; there is certainly continuity but you probably have to read back and forth between the two
I got a lot out of this book both in art and story lines, though be warned you would need to have a good background knowledge of the previous events from way back and at the risk of repeating it does have very strong ties to the controversial Ultimatum.


Armies of the German Peasants' War 1524-26 (Men-at-arms)
Armies of the German Peasants' War 1524-26 (Men-at-arms)
by Douglas Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal Informative and Illustrated Overview, 28 May 2013
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The Peasant’s War of 1524-26 broke in several regions of what we would now call Germany; its initial cause being discontent at the complete absence of rights the ordinary people suffered under. Originally just bands of men armed with whatever they could find roaming the countryside it did attract the sympathies of some landsknecht commanders and a few nobles, though motivations could be murky. It was condemned by no lesser person than Martin Luther and so ruthlessly supressed by the nobles through their professional armies that some historians arguably cite this event as instrumental in the subsequent growth of obedience to authority in those regions affected.
This book is another example of Osprey on good form. Although in the Men-at-Arms series the author does not stint on the historical detail, in fact it would sit quite well in the ‘Essential History’ series.
Events, principal characters and battles are covered in detail and the Osprey trademark plates are very evocative, giving an idea of the feelings running through those times.
As a history it makes a bit of a gloomy read, the rebels were outclassed; although they worked hard at their organisation, their training was patchy and they lacked cavalry which in many of the encounters seems to have been the deciding factor. Even though the rank and file of the armies sent against them came from the same backgrounds there was no over-riding urge of fraternity.
If you have an interest in the in the military history of this era this is an interesting addition in providing background information. And I suggest it is a very good stand-alone book for anyone who like me has scant if any knowledge of this episode in history.


The Scandinavian Baltic Crusades 11th-15th Centuries (Men-at-arms)
The Scandinavian Baltic Crusades 11th-15th Centuries (Men-at-arms)
by David Lindholm
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good introduction to a period not often covered in english, 22 May 2013
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The Baltic Crusades differed from those in the Holy lands in that these were more territorial disputes between those rulers in the Scandinavian lands and their pagan neighbours in what is now Finland and the Baltic states; add into the mix the struggles between the Teutonic knights, pagans, Polish, Lithuanian , Livonian and what would be Russian kingdoms. Apart from a few set piece battles these involved mostly border skirmishes and raids by land or sea.
Being of the Men-At-Arms series this book concentrates more upon the types of warriors, their weapons, equipment and tactics, although there is a good comprehensive historical summery which is helpful if like me you are new to the era.
The trade mark Osprey plates are of a high stand with a great deal of animation and atmosphere; to support these are a good number of reproductions of contemporary illustrations and photographs of surviving equipment and some locations.
Highly recommended for modellers and wargamers who are fond of skirmish games (try out you `scratch' building skills on watercraft as they were often vital in a warfare in which sea and lakes played an important role).
Also a useful companion to those Osprey books that cover the individual armies of this era


Worlds of Arthur: Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages
Worlds of Arthur: Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages
by Guy Halsall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.60

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not All About Arthur But A Most Entertaining and Interesting read, 17 May 2013
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I am not a student of this era (though I was fairly certain if there was an Arthur, he hand his knights did not sit about all day in 14 and 15th Century armour, nor did he ever encounter a skimpily clothed young scots lady wielding a bow). So it was with some interest I picked up this book which takes a very academic approach to prove that there never was an Arthur.
From the opening lines it is obvious that Guy Halsall being a professor of history has very strong opinions of various books claiming the author has found some obscure evidence to prove there was an Arthur and also on the validity of the basis for their fictional counterparts. To summarise his view `Enough is Enough!'.
I must admit I was expecting something of a chapter by chapter demolishing of the various legends surrounding Arthur as the basis for factual evidence. Yes Guy Halsall does take the slender evidence to task but in this book he concentrates more on the cultural, demographical, political and military circumstances of those possible eras Arthur might have been around in. It would seem the intention being that there is no way there could have been an Arthur because he simply could not have been there; to have been who it was claimed he was does not fit in with the more detailed documentation and archaeological evidence.
That aside I enjoyed the wealth of information supplied concerning the severing of ties between Britain and the Roman Empire, the disintegration of the said empire and the cogent point that the popular view of hordes of blonde haired Teutonic Saxons turning up at Kent then sweeping away the gallant, romantically doomed Britains into the recesses of the isles might not be the true picture of things. (Alliances of expediency and infighting playing their part)
I was also drawn to the account of the process by which the professional historians and archaeologists reached their conclusions; this was a fascinating and informative read in its own account.
On the whole, more a book about The British Isles between 300 to 500 CE, the larger political picture, the process by which these conclusions are reached and interspersed with pithy witty asides concerning some `evidence' of Arthur (You just have to love the one about the `Black Horsemen' pubs)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 2, 2014 11:42 AM GMT


Knights of Christ (Osprey military)
Knights of Christ (Osprey military)
by Terence Wise
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An informative and interesting overview of the Christian Military Orders, 8 May 2013
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The Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights have found their way general knowledge as monks in armour, but in finding out anymore the reader is faced with that a lot of works tend to be vague in accuracy or sensationalist. This volume by the amateur military historian's great mentor Terence Wise went some way to bringing facts to the fore and although first published in 1984 is still a very good starting point, not just on these famous orders but also on the now lesser known ones.
Starting out with a brief introduction into the origins of the principal of monkish armed forces, Wise moves on the cover: (1) Those known for their actions in the Holy Land; The Templars, The Hospitallers and the lesser known Knights of St Lazarus. The Hospitallers were to relocate to Malta and their conflicts with the Ottoman Empire is also covered (2) The Teutonic Knights and The Brethren of the Sword who were principally active along the Baltic region against the Lithuanians, Poles, Russians in a complexity of war and politics. (3) The locally important Spanish orders involved in the wars against the Moors throughout the Iberian Peninsula; this part was quite enlightening as Wise lists nine separate orders which arose in this era, devoting at least one paragraph to each. (4) There is also mention of two Italian orders, one The Order of St. James of Altopascio arguably the first order, possibly predating the Holy land orders by approximately one hundred years and providing aid and protection for pilgrims on their way to Rome.
The reproductions of various artwork and photographs of locations are clear and add the usual hint of flavour, while the plates are of good animated artwork and a nice balance of Masters, Knights and auxiliaries, one plate given over to the Spanish orders.
On the whole then a very good and solid introduction and a stepping off point for anyone interested in the Osprey Men-At-Arms/ Elite books on the more well-known three orders mentioned at the onset.


The Second War of Italian Unification 1859-61 (Essential Histories)
The Second War of Italian Unification 1859-61 (Essential Histories)
by Frederick Schneid
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent compact narrative from Osprey, 7 May 2013
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Arguably there are not many works In English covering this important era; some although worthy are also very academic and so for readers not involved in study or research a bit of a trial to get through. Once again Osprey comes to our aid with this addition to their Essential History series.
Although this concentrates upon the war between Piedmont and Austria which Napoleon III of France saw advantageous to become involved in, this book proves its worth by providing an overall historical and geo-political background, a summary of the Risorgimento 1815-1849 and a concise clear account of the political manoeuvres both in and outside of the Italian peninsula in the years preceding 1859. In the description and narration of the events of 1859 this book and that of Osprey’s Campaign volume Solferino 1859 dovetail. Whereas there is there is some general duplication in the description of the battles of Magenta and Solferino each volume compliments the other in covering aspects not in the companion’s remit. This volume has a number of exceptional reproductions of the contemporary prints, photographs and paintings of events and characters and good maps of the important military engagements. It then covers the period following France’s withdrawal involving Piedmont’s campaigns against Naples and the Papal States and Garabaldi’s invasion and subsequent campaign in Scilly. There is an overview of the aftermath and an interesting chapter on how the events in Italy could have led to a wider European war
The book concludes with brief accounts of firstly of an unsuccessful Italian intervention in the 1866 war between Austria and Prussian and a more profitable one during the Franco Prussian of 1870 which added Papal Rome to the Italian state and then an overview of the entire Italian reunification processes in the 19th Century. In particular this book educates the reader into just how much a part was played by the various Italian states as independent nations and not simply allies of Austria and France
All contained neatly in 91 pages.
Recommended from those collecting Osprey’s more historical works or those interested in the military history of the 19th Century.


Three (Chandler Series)
Three (Chandler Series)
by J.A. Konrath
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.64

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pandemonium, Bodies, Conspiracies, Sibling Rivalry. All Good Fun, 3 May 2013
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Third in the series and I'm sure only a week and a bit has passed in narrative since the start of first book, but so what? This is the world of Chandler, suggest to the rational part of you to take a time-out and then the rest of you can just enjoy another excessive dose of destruction, high speed chases, murky conspiracies and characters with physical durability that exceeds that of an movie action hero.
This episode starts off with the three surviving sisters Chandler, Hammett and Fleming on the same side and being hunted for causing the then President of the USA to have his head blown off (no half-measures here). The shadowy and enigmatic Instructor is their protagonist, having unleashed another mentally unhinged team from the same black ops outfit. We also have a villainous new president introduced in the last book, snarling and vowing to bring in a new world order. And as a sub-plot Hammett and Chandler are snarking at each other over the ethics of killing one or thousands who has harmed who the most and who is the better sister to Fleming. Chandler has the edge on ethics but Hammett naturally has the better lines
The pace as in the previous books does not really let up and violence although almost cartoonish is portrayed with a stylish zest and verve that makes me suspect the authors enjoyed indulging in this book as much as the previous two outings.
This book is longer thus allowing space of extras such as the back story of Hammett's nightmarish childhood and a softer side to her character, also details of the circumstances which led to Fleming's disabling injury, a fleshing out of the team hunting them, and as is the practice the introduction of characters from works by the authors as individuals. So not only does the reader have a story but something of a map to the `Chandler-verse'.
I will say nothing concerning the way the plot develops or the twists for fear of spoilers; suffice it to say this book does not tie up all the loose ends and there is plenty of scope for more.
If you have read the previous books you will not be disappointed. For those new, although the authors do say this is a stand-alone novel it might be best to read `Flee' then `Spree' to enjoy `Three' to the fullest.


All-New X-Men: Here Comes Yesterday
All-New X-Men: Here Comes Yesterday
by Brian M Bendis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Continuity, The 'Jean' Factor, Logic and Good Rationale., 26 April 2013
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Well hats off to Marvel, they finally found a way to bring Jean Grey back without jarring anything, and in fact fitting it neatly into the previous story arcs. **Warning possible spoilers here but it is difficult to explain why I enjoyed this volume so much without going into some aspects of the narrative...
Set in post AvX; An ailing, beset by more mutant alterations, Hank McCoy is horrified at the train wreck Scott Summers has become and the danger his actions are placing the Mutant Race in. Hank's solution is to travel back in time using a modified device invented by Reed Richards and Tony Stark to when the X-Men were Ivy League `knights' and convince the younger X-men to travel back with him to confront `Present Day' Summers in the hope this will shake him up. This works nicely as Hank was voicing concerns over Scott's behaviour way back when Scott was portrayed as the consummate general/politician/diplomat/leader, so hello hubris. Shocked at this revelation the young X-men journey (back/forward) with him.
Scott with Magento and Magik meanwhile have been identifying new mutants and hauling them to the `Xavier' school (the old Weapon X facility-not anywhere as cheerful as the Jean Grey establishment). All is falling apart though since the Phoenix incident; some mutants' powers have been diminished, Emma's seriously ticked off with Scott (and lost her elegance in both wit and use of English); disturbingly the only one seeming to be having a good time is Magik. Scott is now in the position Xavier was a few years back after The Messiah Complex, with everyone lining up to tell him to shape up and what a rotten job he is doing.
When Past and Present or Present and Future collide all sorts of sparks start to fly, but the narrative keeps on going. Jean has to come to terms with her turbulent futures, and increasing powers. Two Hanks work on the ethics of the situation and the dynamics of saving `Blue' Hank from dying. Two Bobbys are the light relief. The Scotts are naturally angst ridden, although Scott The Younger's more measured response is a good illustration of the how obsessive and petulent his older self has become. And just in case anyone thinks he's there to make up the numbers Warren does not like any part of the idea and asks the very awkward question as to where is his older self. Storm provides a good mature sense of anger at Scott, Wolverine is naturally annoyed at everyone but at times is relegated to a sort of comic relief, which for a very over-used character is not a bad thing. Kitty is the one who seems to be taking rational charge of the overall response to the situation. And Emma now has to live in a world with The Jean Grey.
So this story juggles many themes and plot lines and makes the whole thing work. The art conveys some spectacular imagery in particular the two page spread of Jean seeing her whole future before her (except she's split down the two pages, so unless you nearly break the spine of the TPB she looks slightly cross-eyed); although the one page montage of X-men faces and the older Scott's tortured thinking process runs a close second.
The possible damage to the space-time continuum is addressed, and the possible solution for Young X-men when they get back to their own era, because technically having advanced knowledge would mean they would change the Future (or Present). The only question is; where was Xavier when his school was being disrupted by a time travelling character who proceeded to shake the living daylights out of his students, and then haul them off to the future. We would have thought this powerful telepath might of noticed, since apparently he was on campus? Or maybe we have other surprises in store in latter stories. For the Young X-Men have voted to stay in this Their Future to try and make good the damage, though there's that reluctance of Warren's...
Of late there have a been a number of wayward storylines in the X-men world, which whereas some were OK in themselves; at times they tended to suggest little groups working in very isolated boxes with no interaction. This volume covers wide issues and acrries on logically from the events in Schism and AvX and possibly smooths over some of the concerns about those story lines by suggesting quite a few exciting possibilities.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 24, 2013 5:05 PM GMT


Parallel
Parallel
by Lauren Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.20

4.0 out of 5 stars Good use of this favourite SF theme, 25 April 2013
This review is from: Parallel (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Parallel takes the much loved alternative worlds/parallel universe theme and places it in the equally challenging YA time of school to university mixed with other life choices. The central character Abby Barnes has to deal with shifting between two identities; one still in her senior year at high school and regretting a whim of a decision to get involved in the film industry the other at Yale University in a near future where she did not get involved with Hollywood.
Lauren Miller has set up quite a complex pattern for the reader and Abby to follow with the interactions between the two worlds. The central character is seemingly the Abby at High School suddenly finding herself in the future. Give Abby her due, she does a good job of keeping it together upon being confronted by this; and not as most characters in fiction of this sort running about for a chapter or two like headless fowls and insisting (loudly) that everyone else is crazy. Her friend Caitlain, in both worlds, is also a very sharp and composed young woman, being ready to accept Abby's situation and explanation, and not (as in usual in such stories) worries that her friend has gone instantly insane.
Although science and SF, naturally enters the theme, the main story concerns Abby trying to deal with the ramifications upon her social and academic lives and choices when the two lives interact. So there is no race against the clock to stop both timelines/universes colliding and wiping everything out. This is an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation. Miller manages to keep quite a tight rein on the narrative and helps the reader through this temporal and spatial maze by heading each chapter `(here) -and a date' or `(there)-and a date' to signify just which universe we are in; and very helpful that is too!
As an SF reader of 50+ years I was drawn to this book by the concept. The narrative being, naturally targeted to a YA readership was not one I could instantly interact with- although that was my problem to deal with; if I, a brit will at 62, go around reading USA YA.
On the whole a well-crafted book that will insist the reader pay attention to the Whys, Whens and Wheres to follow the story and get the most out the tale and so I would like to think it will do well with its target audience.


Curing Hiccups with Small Fires: A Delightful Miscellany of Great British Eccentrics
Curing Hiccups with Small Fires: A Delightful Miscellany of Great British Eccentrics
by Karl Shaw
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars My Reaction Was Not What I Expected, 23 April 2013
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I was going through one of the 'Why Not' phases when you come across bargin books, although I was cautious considering the in depth review but 'Neutral' in 15/10/10. However 'Why Not' won out in this case. So bearing in mind there is a question of the accuracy of some of the entries it was still one of those books that you find yourself saying, 'err..I'll just read one more item then I must get on with...'. There are a few funny and a number of very interesting reads, however I was quite suprised how many of these characters just plain annoyed me by their antics. In this it was a reminder to me that eccentric is not always amusing, only at distance of time and place. (And also an example of the old adage along the lines of ' Rich and Influential are eccenrtic. Poor and lower classes are mad or criminals'


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