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Mr. D. W. Kenrick "Student" (UK)

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Miracle Cure
Miracle Cure
by Harlan Coben
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1.0 out of 5 stars Miracle Cure, 14 Mar 2012
This review is from: Miracle Cure (Paperback)
My grandad throws a lot of these prolific crime writers' paperbacks my way after he's read them and I often find them all alike. Harlan Coben was a notable exception, and I've really enjoyed the few books of his I'd read so far.

However 'Miracle Cure' is a terrible book. It's so bad that Harlan Coben felt the need to preface it with a warning not make this your first Coben book- which says it all really. It's clearly been released as a shameless attempt to cash in on the author's subsequent (and far superior) works and is contrived and dull, an uninteresting landscape populated by two-dimensional and boring characters. I only bothered finishing it out of a sense of obligation to my grandad.

Not worth the paper it's printed on. Avoid at all costs.

Price: £7.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provincial, 12 Feb 2012
This review is from: Provincial (MP3 Download)
John K Samson's 'Provincial' is an exceptional record. I pre-ordered it through the Weakerthans' website and it's all I've been listening to ever since it arrived a few weeks ago. Samson's amazing, poetic, lyrical skill is deployed in full force on the album, which continues the theme of his most recent two EPs by exploring a series of Manitoba Roads. If the subject matter sounds hopelessly parochial and unrelatable (provincial even) you'll find yourself surprised. As the musician Frank Turner said in his own review, it's amazing how much the underlying themes of Samson's songs can resonate with anyone, anywhere. The album is structured like a journey and its wonderful tales of small-town life or small-scale worries are played out across a number of songs. Standout tracks for me are 'Heart of the Continent' Samson's ode to his home city of Winnipeg and perfect accompaniment to The Weakerthans 'One Great City', the haunting 'Letter in Icelandic from The Ninette San' which accompanies the postgraduate frustration (and procrastination) of 'When I Write My Masters' Thesis' (one of the album's liveliest tracks), the staff-room affairs of 'The Last And' and the absolutely fantastic ode to the local hockey hero '' (formerly 'Petition' for those who also own Provincial Road 222'). In fact, the only track I have a tendency to skip (sometimes) is 'Taps Reversed', everything else is slowly cementing itself in my 'Top 25 played' playlist.

If some of these titles sound familiar, don't let that put you off. Admittedly 6 of these 12 songs have appeared on the two EPs (Provincial Road 222 and City Route 85) but those on Provincial are usually different recordings, some of which I think are distinct improvements on the originals - notably the gamer's hymn 'Stop Error', which was a lot more choral on Provincial Road 222. Similarly, 'Cruise Night' and 'Grace General' are a bit more full-bodied than the bare-bones versions seen on the EPs.

If you have enjoyed Samson's previous solo work, buy this album. If you're a fan of the Weakerthans and want to listen to something which still has the same fantastic lyrical content, and of course John's distinctive voice, but is a little more acoustic buy this album. In fact, just buy this album, you won't regret it!

Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics)
Burmese Days (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Burmese Days, 3 Oct 2010
Burmese Days is an extremely readable novel dealing with life in the British Empire. As a former history student of this subject, I would argue that Orwell, writing from his own experiences, provides an insightful and interesting account of the mechanics of British imperial rule in the Raj - particularly regarding the use of subordinates, and the importance of prestige and 'keeping the British end up'. His treatment of Dr. Veraswami and the perceptions of him by the white members of the club (particularly the vulgar Ellis) recalls typical British attitudes towards 'anglicised' Indians - which, paradoxically given the rhetoric of 'civilising force', was often one of disdain. Indeed Orwell's views about the Empire are amply expounded by his main character 'Flory', in who's resentment and disillusionment - coupled with powerlessness - I could see Winston (from 1984), but found him ultimately to be more likeable.

For the less historically-minded, Burmese Days is extremely well written, and Orwell is able to describe vividly the Burmese setting for his plot. Clearly Orwell feels the same way about Burma as his main character, expressing a love-hate relationship which existed for English ex-pats there and, no doubt, all across the Empire. In his other characters he presents a damning view of the charade of European society in far-flung corners of the world, and his emotive treatment of Flory's love for Miss Lackersteen, despite all her flaws, resonates with the reader. At about only 300 pages, Burmese Days is a very pleasant read that can be completed in a day or two, highly recommended.

Desert Raiders (Warhammer 40, 000)
Desert Raiders (Warhammer 40, 000)
by Lucien Soulban
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Desert Raiders, 18 Feb 2010
Being a lover of all things Imperial Guard I decided to branch out from my usual sourcebooks into some 40k fiction. Desert Raiders was the second Guard-related book I'd read after Dan Abnett's First and Only. I feel a little for the Black Library writers (once you've read some of Abnett's work you'll understand what I mean - there is a real gulf between him and almost everyone else), however I gave it a try.

Desert Raiders deals with one of the "common" regiments of the Imperial Guard, the enigmatic Tallarn Desert Raiders (funnily enough), and I really enjoyed the glimpses of background and traditions we got from the regiment's homeworld. I agree, however, with the other two reviewers in that the tribal rivalries taking up the first third of the book were a little tiresome. However once the Tyranids turn up the classic 40k gore-and-guns action begins and doesn't really let up. However it sometimes suffers, there are only so many times you can describe deaths-by-Tyranid I know but do so many people have to get impaled by tongues? This is part of a wider problem with the book in that it isn't that polished in places. Some of the writing is clumsy and awkward, a sentence from the start of the book springs to mind "Nothing short of Turk's knife at his throat would bring Turk pleasure." Now obviously I wasn't expecting a literary classic but its little things like this that help the book flow.

Another 'con' of this book, in my opinion is the introduction of too many characters. Yes I appreciate its an Imperial Guard regiment and there are, consequently, loads of people in it, but Desert Raiders is just full of people called things like Major Al-Raheem, Sergeant Bashir, Corporal (insert pseudo-arab-inspired name here). Whilst some of these, such as Turk and Nisri, feature more than others, I felt it jumped about a bit too much between some of them, and it was hard at times to keep track of who was who. This slew of characters also prevented almost any character development throughout the novel. Commissar Rezail for example, who the novel starts with, remains a caricature throughout, similarly Turk and Nisri don't really go anywhere.

The book also lacks any real suspense. Ok,so the Tyranids are on the front cover, and the blurb on the back, but I feel they are a race which provide a real opportunity for some horror and suspense - lictors anyone? - however this opportunity is painfully wasted right from the start "Remember when we fought those Tyranids?" "Oh yeah they were horrible" *WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE* when someone said "At least there's no Tyranids here!" I winced.

Finally, in the cons section, I feel the Tallarn are wasted here. The book itself states that they are best at mobile, fast, limited warfare as befits their nomadic origins, but we have them fighting static battles here. Yes I can appreciate why they were taken out of their 'comfort zone', but since this is the only Tallarn-centric book, why have them do something Cadians or Mordians can be doing?

After that intense deconstruction of the book you might be wondering why you want to read it at all. Well, if you can overlook the sometimes dodgy writing (which you probably can), accept that there are loads of characters who are essentially going to pop off a few shots and then get impaled or blow themselves up, and pretend they didn't keep going on about how it was a good job the Tyranids weren't there (surprise!) you will enjoy it. Its an easy-to-read romp with good fighting scenes, and some interesting background about the Tallarn, who have been pushed to the back with the recent Cadian and Catachan love going on at GW. However there is a fair bit of room for improvement, and I would like to see Soulban, or someone else, develop this regiment more in the fiction. Also, at its "used or new" price its an absolute bargain. Have a go, but don't expect great things (for that you'll have to read the Gaunt's Ghosts books).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2013 5:41 PM GMT

Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360)
Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360)
Price: £8.96

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old and New, 14 Mar 2009
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
After much anticipation Resident Evil 5 is here and since getting it this morning I've played the first three chapters of the game. So here are some first impressions:

-Graphically this game is amazing, the effects are spot on, the water is incredible, the environments lively or brooding, it just looks stunning.

-Gameplay, is reasonably good, RE4 changed the pace of things a bit, which is continued in this installment. However the focus really is on shooting here, puzzles (which were few and far between in 4) are pretty much non-existant here - in the first three chapters there was only one "collect and combine items to open area" puzzle and it was ridiculously easy (the pieces were marked on the map!)

-Story, seems relatively engaging, the usual Resi cheesy dialogue appears, as do side characters with an inexplicable need to split up and lack of ability to destroy hordes of Manjini (zombies) despite having much better weapons than you! This one ties in a bit more with the rest of the series too, though there haven't really been any big reveals yet.

-New bits:
i) The controversial inventory - can be frustrating but it hasn't really caused me any major problems, you just have to be careful about your item usage and at the end of each chapter you get a chance to juggle things about.

ii) Sheva - she's generally pretty handy, especially when you're about to die. However in some of the co-op sections the AI is ropey, particularly in the second boss battle when she suggests you split up to defeat the boss, and proceeds to follow you round for the rest of the fight.

So, yes, judged on its own merits, this is a top-class game, one of the best-looking around, with fun and fast-paced gameplay. However as part of the Resi series so far its somewhat lacking. Resi fans will notice some changes - this game lacks the scares of the others (though is just as, if not more, grotesque), it has most definitely been 'dumbed down', but those familiar elements remain - naff controls, hordes of enemies, sparse ammo. Well worth a buy, even if you've not been into Resi before, as the style of play is far removed from the statue-pushing of the originals in the series.

Fallout 3 (PS3)
Fallout 3 (PS3)
Offered by smeikalbooks
Price: £8.21

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fallout 3, 30 Nov 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Fallout 3 (PS3) (Video Game)
An intensely enjoyable experience, Fallout 3 - along with Bethesda's other epic Oblivion - is one of my favourite PS3 games. It's important to get the Oblivion comparisons out of the way first because it is very similar, and if you enjoyed the sandbox, decision-based, RPG nature of Oblivion you'll find Fallout 3 to be both familiar and exciting. Like Oblivion Fallout 3 is a game you need to spend time on, its not one to be played in fits and starts but rather chunks, and you will go on to complete a quest and find several hours have passed! The world you live in is grey, brown, black, bleak - but what do you expect from a game set in a post-apocalytic nuclear wasteland? There is a small amount of greenery should any intrepid explorers search hard enough! Despite this limited palette you will soon find yourself sucked into the Capital Wasteland and meeting plenty of interesting characters, even gaining followers to aid you in your quest.

However despite my high rating Fallout3 is not infallible - for one the combat system is somewhat lacking - V.A.T.S. is amazing and innovative - but the standard combat is clunky and awkward, so you come to rely more on the V.A.T.S. system, similarly the graphics are occasionally substandard for a next-gen console, but on the whole the grim, decaying Washington D.C. is well realised. Finally, there is not as much playing time in Fallout 3 as in Oblivion. While there is still enough for your money's worth in a time where single-player campaigns on games are still far too short (Call of Duty anyone?) you might find yourself cheated if you go for the main quest first (because you are unable to play after its completion, so I strongly advise doing the side quests first to extend this game's life and improve your experience).

So on the balance of things I think Fallout 3 is not a perfect game but one well worth investing in if you enjoy a good RPG and willingly devoted hours of your life to Oblivion!

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (PS3)
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (PS3)
Offered by 666 Media
Price: £4.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mercenaries 2, 22 Sep 2008
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
As an avid fan of the first of Playground of Destruction I was really looking forward to World in Flames, and pre-ordered it before going on holiday. Whilst abroad I read some of these reviews and got a bit nervous - viewing the first cutscene reinforced these fears, but afterward I settled back into the Mercenaries I knew and loved.

Cutscenes look awful, but in general the graphics are not THAT bad, for some reason the unexplained "fog" which pervaded any helicopter flight in mercenaries is still there, but on the whole (as you'd hope) graphics have improved, though there are small issues with character animation and game mechanics.

Anyway, onto the gameplay - Mercenaries 2 plays very similarly to the original, with some new features - this time you run your own PMC and recruit in 4 specialists to help you out - vehicles, supply drops and airstrikes are bought from the shops which a faction owns at its bases and then delivered as and when you need them. Naturally the problem here is that each faction has its own equipment and you have to once again balance faction favour in order to complete the game and have the widest possible amount of missions and equipment available.

Blowing things up, as with last time, is always a joy and though enemy AI isn't fantastic, there are plenty of times when you find yourself challenged if only by the sheer amount of firepower coming your way - making that well-placed airstrike all the more rewarding! The new shops have allowed the range of vehicles to expand massively in the game, which all serves to add further variety and individuality to your style of play. There are also "HVTs" similar to the Deck of 52 from the original game, for those who enjoyed capturing/killing them for bounties.

All in all Mercenaries is an enjoyable game to play, and while evidently not everyone's cup of tea, has graphics that can impress (but not those cutscenes!), more variety and new elements but retains enough of the spirit of the original game, and if you can get it for £25 as mentioned in other reviews its definitely worth a look-in!

Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
Offered by Bonkers4Bargains!
Price: £32.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A Winning Formula, 23 July 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Super Smash Bros Brawl is a fine example of Nintendo's ability to deliver consistently pleasing franchises, also seen with the recent release of Mario Kart Wii. However, for whatever reasons I've found myself spending a lot more time on SSBB than Mario Kart. Brawl sees the return of many favourite fighters such as the inevitable Mario, Donkey Kong and Starfox - with some new favourites added in the form of Meta Knight, The Pokemon Trainer and even non-Nintendo Brawlers Solid Snake and Sonic. This range of Nintendo favourites taps into the rich and diverse Nintendo product history that these kind of games rely on, much more so than its Mario Kart counterpart- similarly there are LOTS of trophies and the new addition of stickers to collect.

If you've played Super Smash Bros Melee before you'll find the multiplayer brawls as straightforward and fun as ever, a good thing for both experienced and new gamers, with plenty of new and interesting items to assist you in combat. In single player mode there is the addition of a campaign with the Subspace Emissary - a surprisingly rewarding addition to keep you busy when the friends go home. Similarly, there are plenty of other challenges to meet to win trophies - target smash, boss battles, event matches - all which serve to further extend the game's playability and value for money.

One final issue is the online play, not being an online gamer i've not yet tried this out but the fact that it is limited to four players seems a bit of a letdown when Mario Kart can be up to 12 racers, but that's just minor griping.

This is an instant classic and one of those games Wii owners like myself have been waiting for to justify their purchase of the console. Buy it, you won't be disappointed!

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
Offered by SamuelUKMedia
Price: £9.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, 16 July 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This being the first Metal Gear Solid Game I've played (I know, terrible) I had to do a bit of research to get a feel for the MGS universe before I bought this game. And I would recommend that all others in my position do the same (if only to understand the story a bit better), because whether this is your first MGS or not, everyone should enjoy it!

There is so much to love about Metal Gear Solid 4, besides that fuzzy feeling inside that the PS3 has (if only this once) paid off you can marvel at the beautiful graphics and excellent sound quality which serves to make this game such a unique experience!

Right from the start you're plunged into a battle which is so intense, images of Call of Duty 4 spring to mind, something I'd never have expected from what I thought was a largely stealthy game. There really are opportunities to go trigger-happy in some parts of this game, with an impressively large collection of weapons to choose from for all occasions.

Other items in your arsenal include the Metal Gear MKII - something which I admit I didn't really use much, perhaps on my next play! Still its a nice little addition which I'm sure could be put to better use. More prominent is the OctoCamo suit, another fine graphical achievement with its camo abilities. The Solid Eye is an all purpose visual aid allowing the player to view in Night Vision (important for some boss battles or certain enviroments)and also in a binocular fashion. All welcome aids to your gaming experience.

Finally the cutscenes and loading times. I'm not an especially patient person, so this kind of this should bother me, but it doesn't - though the first act is a little cutscene heavy the game's amazing cutscenes add a depth to the story and give it an almost cinematic feel - I've just finished the game and I was so absorbed that I can tell you the final cut scenes (which I assume are the famed 90 minute ones) were far less daunting and a lot more enjoyable than they may seem.

So, an all round amazing piece of work which has surely inspired me to play the other Metal Gear Solid games - if you buy one game for the PS3, make this it - its something you can't afford to miss out on!

Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution (PS3)
Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution (PS3)
Offered by Bargain Games UK
Price: £16.49

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent Effort, 15 Jun 2008
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
As a person who had never played Civilization before [my computers aren't good enough =(] I was pleased to hear that a game was coming out for the console. Though I can appreciate how limited it must seem to die-hard Civilization fans I think for someone who has never played the game before it is probably a decent introduction. The controls work quite well with a console and single player games can provide a good few hours entertainment depending on your style of play. Though the graphics aren't especially next-generation and even I was surprised at the inability to customise single-player games it can be fun to watch your nation develop in the way you want it to. So, whilst its not a top-notch game I think it's well worth a look-in, especially at this reduced price (or wait a bit till its gone down some more) or to rent for a weekend - and that's without talking about the multiplayer (which I've not yet experienced).

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