Profile for The Wanderer > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by The Wanderer
Top Reviewer Ranking: 46,970
Helpful Votes: 1163

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
The Wanderer

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
pixel
Objects of Desire
Objects of Desire
by C. J. Emerson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.46

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dramatic and darkly compelling - an excellent debut, 4 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Objects of Desire (Paperback)
"Objects of Desire" is the debut novel from C.J. Emerson. Social worker Jess Chadwick has escaped the pressured life of London and moved to the tranquil setting of the Welsh borders. However, when the body of a boy is discovered close to her house - a boy she was supposed to protect - she is drawn into the ensuing police investigation. At the same time she finds herself the target of a mysterious stalker who is not only hacking into her website but is also invading her privacy at home. Moreover, she has reason to suspect that the two events are not unconnected...

This is a fast-paced and complex story, full of intrigue and deception. The tension is developed continuously throughout the book as we discover more about the characters, and as shadows from Jess's own past start to re-emerge. Emerson's particular evocation of the Welsh borders as a bleak and isolated environment only helps add to the tension - as well as mirroring the main character's own state of mind. Her writing style, too, is easily readable and for the majority of the book flows very nicely. However, it should be said that the resolution feels somewhat rushed and uninspired, and though certainly dramatic, it lacks much of the emotional intensity which characterises the rest of the novel.

Emerson fleshes out the book with a cast of interesting and always quirky secondary characters, refreshing departures from the stereotypes of crime fiction. As regards Jess herself, however, it is difficult for the reader to feel completely sympathetic towards her, as she seems occasionally prone to acts of sheer irrationality, and to an extent is the maker of her own problems. Also, because of the nature of her past life, she is always kept at some distance from the reader, and rarely are we given the chance to fully engage with who she is. Despite these frustrations, however, she somehow remains a compelling character. Certainly as the web of deceit begins to close in around her, the reader is always provided with the incentive to read on.

"Objects of Desire" is an excellent and engaging debut novel, at the same time both pacy and complex. I definitely look forward to reading more of Emerson's work in future.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2013 7:02 PM BST


Medieval: Total War - Gold Edition (PC DVD)
Medieval: Total War - Gold Edition (PC DVD)

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Addictive, immersive, challenging - still a classic, 28 Nov. 2007
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Although "Medieval II" has been out for over a year now, this first "Medieval: Total War" remains a classic. This Gold Edition contains both the original game and the "Viking Invasion" expansion pack, allowing for a variety of campaigns set between the years AD 793 and 1453.

The game is split into two sections. The first of these is the campaign mode. In this turn-based mode the player uses the map to control the kingdom at large, setting taxes, building units and facilities, managing his/her generals, moving armies and fleets, conducting diplomacy with rival factions and employing spies and assassins. The second mode is the real-time battle mode, in which the players commands his/her armies directly, positioning troops, selecting formations and tactics and engaging the enemy. The level of detail in this mode is excellent; the 3D landscapes are rendered with trees, hills, water and bridges; even the weather changes.

There are 15 playable factions on the standard (European) map and 8 on the Viking (British) map. Each of these have their own characteristic units (longbowmen for the English, Teutonic Knights for the Germans, Varangian Guard for the Byzantines, for example) and each demands a slightly different style of gameplay. The standard map can also be played in one of 3 time periods, chosen at the start of each game, with more or less advanced units and facilities available according to each. There are also five levels of difficulty, making the game adjustable for all levels of expertise. Aside from the main single player game, there are a number of historical campaigns to undertake, including the Hundred Years' War (featuring the Battles of Crécy and Agincourt) and the Third Crusade. There are also four standalone battles (including Hastings in 1066), a custom battle option, a quick battle option (ideal for filling coffee breaks) and a multiplayer mode.

Indeed there are few faults to be found with this game. My biggest disappointment (and it is a small one) is that there is no manual booklet included with this Gold Edition, only a PDF copy on the disc. Because it isn't possible to view the game and the manual at the same time, it does make learning the game somewhat difficult - and it does take some time to master its full complexity. On the other hand, its very complexity means that once learned it is very immersive - almost as if one were really running a medieval kingdom.

Addictive and challenging, "Medieval: Total War" is an excellent game, and even years after its original release, still highly playable. For people with older, lower-specification machines who may be unable to run "Medieval II", the original will prove ideal. Moreover, at the low price Amazon are currently offering it, it is an excellent buy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 14, 2008 2:29 PM BST


Revised Medieval Latin Word-List: from British and Irish Sources (Medieval Latin Dictionary (British Academy))
Revised Medieval Latin Word-List: from British and Irish Sources (Medieval Latin Dictionary (British Academy))
by R. E. Latham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £37.60

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent reference - useful for students of medieval history, 25 Nov. 2007
The "Revised Medieval Latin Word List" by R.E. Latham is an excellent reference work for students of British and Irish medieval history. Latin was the lingua franca of the medieval period, used in government, by the church, by scholars and chroniclers alike, meaning that the majority of our sources are written in the language. Many of these sources have now been published in English translation, but occasionally students might still want to refer to the original text, in which case this book will come in useful.

The book's scope is wide, extending to military, political, social, legal, administrative, theological, musical, heraldric and scientific terms, and particularly those for which the meaning in the medieval period was substantially different from that in classical times. The definitions supplied are all derived from British and Irish sources dating between the 6th and the 17th centuries. This means that for each word there are often a choice of translations according to date, and it is usually possible to find one that closely matches the period of whatever text is being studied.

I found it highly useful as part of my university dissertation in translating medieval chronicles, where certain words and terms are used that are not covered by a standard (classical) Latin dictionary. It should be noted that this book, though a useful companion, is not in itself a comprehensive Latin reference and that at times it will be necessary to resort to a standard dictionary - for example, the Chambers-Murray "Latin-English Dictionary" by Smith and Lockwood.

The "Revised Medieval Latin Word List" is a handy resource but still very much a specialist book, useful for students and for academics. For more casual readers of medieval history, it may be worth considering Christopher Corèdon's "A Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases", a general reference which also includes Old and Middle English terms. Meanwhile, for someone interested in learning more about the language of medieval Latin itself, better choices might be Keith Sidwell's "Reading Medieval Latin" or E.A. Gooder's "Latin for Local History".
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2013 4:52 PM GMT


Norman Knight, AD 950-1204 (Warrior)
Norman Knight, AD 950-1204 (Warrior)
by Christopher Gravett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.38

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Concise but informative - a unique and invaluable guide, 10 Nov. 2007
The Osprey range of military history books have an excellent reputation for detail and accuracy, and "Norman Knight, AD 950-1204" by Christopher Gravett does not disappoint. Although the book is only 64 pages long, it contains a wealth of information regarding the equipment, training and tactics of the knight as they developed from the end of the Viking period through until the early 13th century.

The documentary and archaeological evidence for this period is sparse to say the least, but Gravett draws all the available sources together in a convincing and remarkably comprehensive fashion. Certainly you will not this level of detail in any of the standard texts on the period. Context is provided by a timeline and by black and white photographs of contemporary artefacts and documentary illustrations, which appear on almost every page. What really helps the reader in visualising the knight's appearance, however, are the centre pages - 12 full colour plates - which contain artists' impressions of the knight and his equipment - helmet, mail, shield, sword and horse - as they changed over the course of this period. Unfortunately the bibliography provided is short and somewhat out of date, as it lists no works later than 1989 ("Norman Knight" was originally published in 1993 and has not been revised since), which means that there are limited opportunities to do further reading and discover more, but this is only a minor failing.

All in all, "Norman Knight" is a concise, readable and highly informative guide to this medieval warrior. For me, as someone currently writing a historical novel set in the period, this book has proved to be an indispensable guide to understanding not just the knight's arms and armour but also his motivation. Any armchair military historian will find this a fascinating and accessible insight into the warfare of the time.


The Grail Quest (2) - Vagabond
The Grail Quest (2) - Vagabond
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining sequel, but lacks direction, 6 Nov. 2007
"Vagabond" is the second book in Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest trilogy, following on from where the story left off in "Harlequin", in 1346, just after the Battle of Crécy. Thomas of Hookton has been sent, along with his companions Eleanor and Father Hobbe, to Durham, in search of answers from a certain monk who knew his father - who was rumoured to have possessed the Holy Grail. Pursuing him is the Inquisitor Bernard de Taillebourg, who also seeks the Grail and will let no one stand in his way. Little known to Thomas is the fact that at the same time a Scots army is approaching the gates of Durham, and that his life and those of his companions are all in danger.

This is certainly an action-packed tale - we are hardly 20 pages into the book before we are into our first battle, which turns out to be merely a prelude to the main event, the Battle of Neville's Cross. After that we follow Thomas as he journeys the length of the kingdom from Durham to Dorset, and from there on to Caen and Britanny. Unfortunately, as with "Harlequin", there seems to be little direction to this story. Events simply happen; never is there a sense that we are going somewhere and we discover little more concerning the Grail than we knew at the outset. Thomas appears to wander aimlessly from place to place, sometimes deeply driven by his quest, but at other times strangely disinterested. After "Harlequin" I would have liked to have seen more development of Thomas's character, which sadly Cornwell never provides. Part of the problem lies in the style of narration he has chosen in this series, which slips disconcertingly between a wide number of points of view. This means that even when we do come back to Thomas, the main character, we are always kept at a distance, and it is difficult to ever connect emotionally or sympathise with him.

What Cornwell is very good at, however, is his evocation of time and place, and it is this feature of his writing which saves "Vagabond". His battle scenes are, as always, described in vivid detail and draw the reader right into the thick of the action. Similarly his depictions of the medieval landscape are colourful and the cast of supporting characters serves to flesh out this world in a interesting and believable manner.

"Vagabond" is by no means Cornwell's best work, and though it is perfectly readable and entertaining in the short term, it is also fairly forgettable. The scene has certainly been set, however, and there are many questions still to be resolved in the series's climax, "Heretic".


The Writer's Handbook 2008
The Writer's Handbook 2008
by Barry Turner
Edition: Paperback

145 of 145 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive listings guide - but the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook is better, 23 Oct. 2007
There are two books on the market which are widely touted as 'must-haves' for any writer looking to get into publication. One is this book, "The Writer's Handbook" (TWH), published by Macmillan. Its rival, the "Writers' and Artists' Yearbook" (W&AY), is published by A&C Black. Both contain roughly the same extensive listings of publishers, agents, print media, TV/radio producers, festivals, writing courses etc. You only really need one of them - but which one?

In truth there's little to choose between them. Much will come down to personal preference regarding the layout of the two books, and so if you can get the chance to compare them before you buy, all the better. However, to me the W&AY appears the more polished product, with a clearer table of contents and a more easily navigable structure.

What the TWH really lacks compared to the W&AY is the latter's many detailed and informative articles written by publishers, agents and successful writers (J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Bernard Cornwell, Joanna Trollope, to name a few). The W&AY has about 170 pages' worth of these in total (100 on books alone), discussing different genres and aspects of the writing process, as well as covering diverse issues such as self-publishing, marketing, writing for TV, radio and theatre, and e-publishing. TWH, by comparison, has only about 30 pages of such articles. This in my opinion sets the W&AY apart and makes it far more than simply a listings book - it is, in effect, an introduction to the entire world of writing.

This is not to say that there is anything particularly wrong with TWH - it is perfectly adequate for what it is. To be certain, buyers interested mainly in the listings (perhaps those already looking for an agent or publisher) will not be disappointed. All in all, however, my recommendation has to go to the "Writer's & Artist's Yearbook", for the added value of the sheer wealth of information and advice it contains.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 11, 2008 3:37 PM BST


Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2008 (Writers' and Artists')
Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2008 (Writers' and Artists')
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Paperback

100 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent guide - informative and comprehensive, 16 Oct. 2007
[Note: the 2009 edition of the "Writers' & Artists' Yearbook" has now been published.]

There are two books on the market which are widely touted as 'must-haves' for any writer looking to get into publication. One is this book, the "Writers' and Artists' Yearbook" (W&AY), published by A&C Black. Its rival, "The Writer's Handbook" (TWH), is published by Macmillan. Both contain roughly the same extensive listings of publishers, agents, print media, producers etc - you only really need one of them. But which one?

In truth there's little to choose between them. At the time of writing this review, they are both being offered at the same price by Amazon. Much will come down to personal preference regarding the layout of the two books, and so if you can get the chance to compare them before you buy, all the better. However, to me the W&AY appears the more polished product, with a clearer structure that is easier to find your way through.

The W&AY gains extra points for the many different articles it contains by professionals covering all aspects of the writing industry. Famous authors such as Joanna Trollope, Terry Pratchett, Bernard Cornwell and J.K. Rowling address various aspects of the writing process and discuss different genres. Many other highly informative articles cover diverse issues such as self-publishing, marketing your book, writing for TV, radio and theatre, the electronic world of websites and e-publishing, and financial aspects such as tax. This makes the W&AY more than simply a listings book - it is, in effect, an introduction to the entire world of writing. Much overlooked is of course the fact that this is a yearbook for artists too. Correspondingly there are sections for the budding illustrator and photographer in the W&AY which are not to be found in TWH.

What's new for the 2008 edition? In truth not much has changed since last year. A handful of articles have gone; 9 new ones have been added, covering a range of topics including audio publishing, writing short stories for radio and starting a blog. There are also new pieces by two successful writers (of romantic fiction and of biographies), by a literary editor and by a literary scout. Is it worth upgrading to the 2008 edition, then? For the articles themselves - fascinating though they are - probably not. On the other hand, the advantage of having fully up-to-date listings counts for a great deal, especially if you are already looking for an agent or publisher. And at the price it is currently being offered by Amazon, it is surely a worthwhile investment.

All in all, this is an excellent and comprehensive guide. Definitely recommended for the aspiring writer or artist.


Teo & Tea
Teo & Tea
Price: £10.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A real mixture - sublime and bland in equal measures, 11 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Teo & Tea (Audio CD)
"Téo & Téa" is Jean Michel Jarre's first album of entirely new material since "Geometry of Love" (2003). As someone who enjoyed both that album and "Sessions 2000" before it, I was interested to see what new directions Jarre would take with this one. In truth it is difficult to pin down any particular style or theme running through the album: tracks range from dance to trip-hop, ambient to simply undefinable.

The album opens very strongly with the upbeat "Fresh News" followed by the excellent title track. This latter (as well as its longer mix, the bonus track "Téo & Téa 4:00 A.M.") is easily the highlight of the album, combining the quirkiness and strong melodies we have come to love from Jarre with a catchy dancefloor beat. Much further down the tracklist, "Vintage" will straightaway remind long-time Jarre fans of Chronologie 2 & 4. Similarly, the minimalist bassline on "Beautiful Agony" is heavily reminiscent of Equinoxe 6, and its sensual vocals (provided by Jarre's wife) will certainly catch your attention - although they become more wearing after the first listening.

While there are these flashes of brilliance, however, there are also a number of tracks which are either unoriginal or unimaginative, or both. Some, though not bad in themselves, come across as highly derivative: the overuse of synth strings and clap-track in "Touch to Remember" would not sound out of place as a backing for almost any hip-hop song in the charts; the ambient "In the Mood for You" sounds like any other chill-out track. Some tracks appear to be merely filler: the uninventive two-minute "Gossip" springs to mind; "Partners in Crime, Pt. 2" sounds merely like a prototype version of Pt. 1.

Opinion has been extremely polarised on this album - as it always is on any new offering by Jarre. One of the problems is clearly that while there are a number of good tracks (and one or two great ones) there are also a number of very bland or uninspiring ones (though actually few completely awful ones). To my mind it is no surprise that the most minimalist tracks are among the most forgettable, and that the more interesting ones are those with the greatest range, depth and colour in their soundscape. Such depth, after all, is what Jarre has always excelled at.

All in all, "Téo & Téa" is a real mixture and very difficult to classify. On the whole, however, I would say that it is at least a respectable album, and if it is not Jarre's best work, neither is it his worst. As a final word of warning for those considering buying the CD+DVD version, the DVD contains no special features or visual effects to complement the audio, and so unless you particularly want the 5.1 surround experience, there is a lot to be said for buying the CD-only version instead and saving your money.


Teo And Tea
Teo And Tea
Offered by groove_temple
Price: £25.81

3.0 out of 5 stars A real mixture - sublime and bland in equal measures, 11 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Teo And Tea (Audio CD)
"Téo & Téa" is Jean Michel Jarre's first album of entirely new material since "Geometry of Love" (2003). As someone who enjoyed both that album and "Sessions 2000" before it, I was interested to see what new directions Jarre would take with this one. In truth it is difficult to pin down any particular style or theme running through the album: tracks range from dance to trip-hop, ambient to simply undefinable.

The album opens very strongly with the upbeat "Fresh News" followed by the excellent title track. This latter (as well as its longer mix, the bonus track "Téo & Téa 4:00 A.M.") is easily the highlight of the album, combining the quirkiness and strong melodies we have come to love from Jarre with a catchy dancefloor beat. Much further down the tracklist, "Vintage" will straightaway remind long-time Jarre fans of Chronologie 2 & 4. Similarly, the minimalist bassline on "Beautiful Agony" is heavily reminiscent of Equinoxe 6, and its sensual vocals (provided by Jarre's wife) will certainly catch your attention - although they become more wearing after the first listening.

While there are these flashes of brilliance, however, there are also a number of tracks which are either unoriginal or unimaginative, or both. Some, though not bad in themselves, come across as highly derivative: the overuse of synth strings and clap-track in "Touch to Remember" would not sound out of place as a backing for almost any hip-hop song in the charts; the ambient "In the Mood for You" sounds like any other chill-out track. Some tracks appear to be merely filler: the uninventive two-minute "Gossip" springs to mind; "Partners in Crime, Pt. 2" sounds merely like a prototype version of Pt. 1.

Opinion has been extremely polarised on this album - as it always is on any new offering by Jarre. One of the problems is clearly that while there are a number of good tracks (and one or two great ones) there are also a number of very bland or uninspiring ones (though actually few completely awful ones). To my mind it is no surprise that the most minimalist tracks are among the most forgettable, and that the more interesting ones are those with the greatest range, depth and colour in their soundscape. Such depth, after all, is what Jarre has always excelled at.

All in all, "Téo & Téa" is a real mixture and very difficult to classify. On the whole, however, I would say that it is at least a respectable album, and if it is not Jarre's best work, neither is it his worst. As a final word of warning for those considering buying the CD+DVD version, the DVD contains no special features or visual effects to complement the audio, and so unless you particularly want the 5.1 surround experience, there is a lot to be said for buying the CD-only version instead and saving your money.


Survivor
Survivor
by Chuck Palahniuk
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, disturbing, humorous, engaging, 25 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Survivor (Paperback)
Chuck Palahniuk's "Survivor" takes the reader into the world of Tender Branson, the last surviving member of a suicide cult. As the book opens, Branson, the narrator, has hijacked a Boeing 747 with the intention of crashing it, with himself on board, into the Australian outback. Having emptied the plane of passengers, he proceeds to tell his account of his life - ostensibly as it 'really happened' - into the flight recorder, from his childhood under the repressive authority of the Creedish Church to being propelled years later to media stardom as the last survivor.

The first thing that the reader will notice is that the book begins with Chapter 47 on page 289 and counts its way down to Chapter 1 and page 1 at the end, a device which serves to constantly remind the reader that Branson's last minutes are ticking away even as he retells his story, lending an air of foreboding to his words. Palahniuk also has Branson constantly backtrack upon himself in a way which mimics such a stream-of-consciousness dictation. The writing style throughout is informal and extremely sketchy as regards description. Even the names of key characters are never revealed - including the government caseworker appointed to prevent Tender from following the rest of his cult members into suicide, and the agent who later drives him to stardom. On the other hand, by having Tender talk at great length about apparently unimportant and superfluous things such as how to correctly eat a lobster, Palahniuk gives us a sense of Tender's quirky and disturbed nature, almost as if he exists slightly out of tune with reality.

This is a book which tackles big themes: birth and death, murder and suicide, free will and determinism, belief and unbelief, truth and falsehood. Palahniuk conjures up a vividly dystopian and disturbing world, which only grows darker as Tender is drawn within the media culture - a culture which proves every bit as restrictive, false, twisted and soul-destroying as the Creedish society that he used to belong to. What really engages the reader, however, is the strength of the main characters: firstly Tender, who struggles throughout the story to find meaning in his life and to become truly free; and secondly his friend Fertility Hollis, who claims to be able to see the future and acts as Tender's guide. It is their relationship which forms the backbone of the story right up until its climax in the final chapter.

Pacy, inventive, often funny, "Survivor" is a fine (though dark) book, and one that I can easily recommend.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10