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Darren O'Connell "Darren O'Connell" (Perth, WA)

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Regarding Thomas Rowlandson, 1757-1827: His Life, Art and Acquaintance
Regarding Thomas Rowlandson, 1757-1827: His Life, Art and Acquaintance
by Matthew Payne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £39.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A sweeping overview of this artist's life., 3 Feb. 2015
I picked up a copy of this work immediately after finishing Uglow's masterpiece on Hogarth and as such I was expecting a rollicking narrative of a man who should have been, if indeed he was not, Hogarth's successor. There are a number of parallels between the two but the latter, while the story seems to muddy the waters a bit, did not or was unable to live up to the former's greatness, particularly in the realm of charity for which Hogarth is rightly acknowledged. Much of Rowlandson's work drew inspiration from Hogarth but the link between the two men is scantly acknowledged in this work. Also I found the description of Rowlandson's work as a caricaturist oddly downplayed for, after all, that is how the mass see him as. What work he did in this genre wasn't, I felt, given sufficient prominence in this work. I think this might be so because Rowlandson's other work has been scantily recognised due to the lack of primary material which is what these authors bring to the table. And it is how they differentiate their work from other extent biographies. However, the prose is dull and plodding which keeps it hard to maintain interest. Whilst Uglow's treatment of Hogarth is far more weightier, It took me less time to read it than I did with the Paynes' work on Rowlandson. Still it was a worthwhile read.


William Hogarth: A Life and a World
William Hogarth: A Life and a World
by Jenny Uglow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uglow's description brings the man to life more than his own works!, 3 Feb. 2015
I have been a keen reader of 18th and 19th century British history for many years. I'm particularly interested in the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Most of the texts I read contain caricatures of the events and places. Names such as Hogarth, Rowlandson, Gillray and Cruishank inevitable crop up. But who are these people, and, in relation to this title, what is it to be Hogarthian? Jenny Uglow begins the answer in her manifestly crafted but ultimately weighty tome.

Hogarth, his talent, his charity work and his insecurities really come to light over the 700+ pages. However interspersed throughout the text are many examples of his work; some in colour (the best of the pick) and many in black & white (to save on publishing costs). The overall result is that you really come to understand the man, his environment, and the period. While Robert Hughes' work on Francisco Goya is without parallel in terms of authorship, book production (weight and cost), and ease of erudition, Uglow's work on Hogarth scores highly in terms of ease of access, a panoramic view of his life and an excellent portfolio of his work.

Highly recommended!


The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die
The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die
by Niall Ferguson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An effortless explanation of the problems "The West" faces!, 3 Feb. 2015
I have long been a fan of Niall's work (in fact I wanted to approach him to mark my PhD thesis) and this recent release does not disappoint. I wish I could write history as effortlessly as he does. He sets out the problems that we face in almost simplistic terms that even a child could grasp. The solutions he offers would work in practice if we had politicians morally strong enough to tackle them. Niall acknowledges that current politicians are vote-driven rather than reform-driven, short-term rather than long-term in outlook, rendering the cure to our woes as unappealing preferring instead to call for a palliative. Unfortunately all this option option does is to defer the outcome. Finished in one sitting, highly recommended.


1492: The Year Our World Began
1492: The Year Our World Began
by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Slow, disconnected and plodding for my taste., 3 Feb. 2015
Whilst I'm a prolific reader of history I found this book hard going so much so that it was one that I couldn't finish.The Vignettes presented whilst interesting in themselves seemed to me to be not greatly connected and written in a plodding style that failed to keep my interest.Nothing about the prose excited me and the descriptions given failed to ignite my imagination. Armesto is an author who is well regarded, respected and justly acknowledged but this work was just too bogged down for my taste.


The Viz Annual: the Dutch Oven (Annuals 2015)
The Viz Annual: the Dutch Oven (Annuals 2015)
by Viz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.68

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought purely for my collection of annual Annuals!, 4 Jan. 2015
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Been a long time subscriber on the iPad but wanted this annual to compliment all of VIZ's Annuals in my collection in hardback (not hardcore?). There are a few new tidbits in this Annual that bring a smile to the face but otherwise its the best bits of the previous year, just as advertised. Very funny, very British and VERY recommended.


The Big Viz Book of Adventure
The Big Viz Book of Adventure
by Viz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 200+ pages of nostalgia and hilarity!, 4 Jan. 2015
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Ok, being a long-time cheerleader of VIZ, through good times and bad, and knowing its pedigree I thought this latest release was going to be a compendium of newly released material similar to their 1993 "VIZ: The Bumper Book of S***e for Older Boys and Girls". I had ordered the title from Amazon prior to the release of the "products" details (I think - beers consumed *accuracy alert*), given my obsession for toilet jokes and farts, especially from the sanitary Antipodes where VIZ is only known through the existence of "ex-pats"; Geordie ones especially.

So when this volume arrived I was a little disappointed for "shilling" out a large amount of money on postage only to discover that the "adventures" have been "ripped" from recent issues of the comic. However, my frown turned upside down quickly when I realised I had a handy compact of Simon Ecob's finest art work in my sweaty palms accompanied by the snappy dialogue of Thorp and Dury (including the recognisable genius of Davy Jones, as well as the echoes of the Donald brothers), some I'd already enjoyed and others that were new to me. For two weeks I laughed out-loud in Australian pubs over old and new strips of boys' own adventure stories re-imaged from the 1950s to the "current age" (whenever that is). The classic Jack Black (Shakespeare's "Silvio" *tears*) takes centre stage, as do the two world wars, but all kinds of offbeat subjects from history are tackled (including piracy and animal poaching). Some stories where football is the thread crop up a few times which makes for repetitive reading but the "in" jokes compensate for the alternative settings. I especially like the careers pages and the "see how it works" type montages as these are extremely cynical (but accurate) takes on what has screwed the world (e.g. builders, policemen, banking and the stock market etc). Overall, this volume got me through the turgid time that is Christmas, and kept me sane when interacting with "in-laws" that I don't know from Adam (and/or Eve).

I think the best eulogy I can give to this latest tacky VIZ merchandising activity is from some random Geordie at the Golden Barley Hotel, in Marrickville (NSW/AU) yesterday after I've reached the end (with a few tears streaming down my face). In his incomprehensible accent, he observed me reading this filth and regaled me with an (unverified) story about how he was at a pub in Newcastle (place undisclosed) in the early 1980s to see the launch of The Stone Roses, which this mysterious stranger put down solely to VIZ's patronage and he confirmed that he was a massive VIZ fan (subscription status - unverified). True or not, the anecdote is testament to VIZ's continued popularity, global reach solid fanbase, quality output, and the ongoing need for toilet humour in this dark world.

Long live the King!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 24, 2015 8:45 AM GMT


The Duke of Wellington and the British Army of Occupation in France, 1815-1818 (Contributions in Military Studies)
The Duke of Wellington and the British Army of Occupation in France, 1815-1818 (Contributions in Military Studies)
by Thomas Dwight Veve
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £75.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting thesis on the Army of occupation., 28 July 2014
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The author's justification for this work is, rightly, that there has been very little analysis and interpretation of this period in Wellington's life. Typical histories of the man do tend to gloss over his work in France in the immediate aftermath of Waterloo if indeed they are mentioned at all.

Veve has laid out his work in chapters that mirror very compartmentalised aspects of the Army of Occupation time in France with the page count before references not generally exceeding 15 pages making this a brief read on 174 pages in total. There is quite a lot of detail concerning the day-to-day aspects of the Army's role in northern France but very little about Wellington's personal role. In fact, Wellington is a name that appears on a page in connection with some task and one doesn't really get a sense of how he operated, the pressures he was under, his achievements, his losses etc.

This book is a quite the dispassionate analysis and appears very much based on an academic thesis rather than a history that brings to life this period of Wellington's career. I would have to echo some previous reviews that a lot more could have been done with this work to make it a valuable collection to Wellingtonia. For instance, an extension to include Wellington's interaction with the other foreign contingents (which we know was frustrating) would have been useful rather than simply regurgitating one line anecdotes from Longford's biography concerning the Prussians and the Pont de Jena. Given the price of this book, readers are entitled to more but, be that as it may, this is a good basis for a more detailed study of Wellington's time in France after Waterloo.


The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 (General Military)
The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 (General Military)
Price: £6.71

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting tale, well told, 25 July 2014
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I have read many reviews about this book particularly by readers who mistakenly thought this was a work of fiction (!) or felt the prose was too academic or that there were too many statistics. These did not deter me however and I am glad that I purchased this title.

I like many others have a very imperfect understanding about the origins or Magna Carta, King John and the Barons' Revolt, and this title seemed like a modern take on the events leading up to that significant event as seen through the eyes of one of the major, if little known, protagonists, William the Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. This person first came to my notice in Ridley Scott's 2010 take on the legend of Robin Hood. In this film, the Marshall is ably plaid by William Hurt but very little is known about his exciting earlier life as a Knight Errant, a jousting champion and a winner on the international tournament scene.

Brooks' biography does a sterling job in bringing this man to life by detailing the context and events of the time when the Marshall lived. This work does tend to rely quite heavily on the "History" and other contemporary sources but as the author makes clear on numerous occasions, very little of the Marshall's life has come down to us. I found the author's evaluation of sources to be balanced, and his interpretation and analysis of characters and events to be lively. Brooks is also critical of previous modern day interpretations and outlines his proofs in a logical fashion. I found the prose easy to follow and yes there are a lot of statistics than most would find in a coffee table work of history but I found that rather than detracting from the story, the tables of data actually enhances the understanding of the Marshall and helped to bring him to life. I managed to digest this book in less than three days which is a testament to the fast flowing way in which Brooks has penned this much needed biography. This tale of an unsung Medieval hero is long overdue and to be highly recommended.


Def Leppard: The Definitive Visual History
Def Leppard: The Definitive Visual History
by Ross Halfin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars This was a real nostalgic trip back to my youth., 4 Jun. 2014
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I was (am) a massive fan of the Lepps from their very first album right up to Adrenalize. I hated Slang, enjoyed Euphoria and chucked X in the bin. Since that time I lost interest in Sheffield's finest musical export since that time but that lost interest was rekindled by the release of Viva Hysteria and then I came across this "people are also buying..." Recommendation from Amazon. Ross Halfin's association sold me (as I have Ross' book on Maiden).

This book was a real trip down memory lane for me as I've seen the Lepps a lot over the years and seeing these top quality, bird's eye view of the band brought my childhood flooding back. During my band days, we used to practice Leppard numbers all the time including many from their excellent first two releases, and dreamed of living their lifestyles as we imagined them. Halfin's photos give us a glimpse at what that lifestyle might have looked like in reality as we only imagined it. Thanks Ross for the memories and what is a terrific book full of great insights into what is one of the most interesting, if inconsistent, rock bands to hail from the Sceptred Isle.


The Norman Conquest
The Norman Conquest
Price: £5.49

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real mythbuster about the Norman Conquest!, 24 April 2014
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Prior to purchasing this book, my knowledge on the Norman Conquest was based purely on what was rammed down my throat at school during the 1980s. My orthodox view of 1066 and beyond has never really been challenged and nor had I any interest in changing my understanding or appreciation. I remember thumbing through this book in Waterstones on a cold April afternoon in 2013 and what piqued my interest in this book was one of the plates showing the Norman castle in my home town of Pickering, North Yorkshire. Next to nothing is known about this castle even locally. I remember that during my "indoctrination" about Norman history at school, Pickering Castle was supposedly a place of internment for Charles I (rather than correctly Richard II according to Arthur Bryant)! Whatever, that one image was enough to me to add this book to my Amazon wish list, and I'm glad I did.

I particularly enjoyed the build up to the Conquest regarding the tangled web of competing Saxon claims to the English throne offset against those made by the Danes under the spectre of frequent invasion from a whole host of European factions. Morris skilfully teases out the causal chain that led to William and Harold Goodwinson both asserting their rights to the crown as promised by Edward the Confessor. The evidence presented tends to support the rather surprising conclusion – to me at least - that Harold was the usurper (again something not taught in school). The Norman invasion, as presented by Morris, also departs from the orthodoxy by rightly suggestion that the victory at Hastings did not immediately yield up the English Kingdom to William. There was far more fighting to be done against a rearguard of proud Englishmen led by the surviving remnants of the Saxon aristocracy. Between 1066 and William’s death in 1087, the Conqueror rarely enjoyed any peace in either England or the Duchy of Normandy as he sought to consolidate his power. This was particularly marked by the progression of castles stretching from the south to the north of England (including the one in Pickering). I rather enjoyed the description of how, at first, the Norman colonists displaced the English and then assimilated with them to forge a unique Anglo-Norman culture (something which our 18th and 19th century descendents failed to do when embarking on colonisation) and is clearly displayed in today’s British culture. Morris’ discussion on the Doomday process and the book that resulted from the survey was fascinating and again his narrative blew away the preconceptions I had formed from my schooling (or lack thereof). Finally the book ends with a brief survey of the Conqueror’s progeny which links to the civil war between Matilda, granddaughter of Conqueror, and Stephen of Blois which is a period that my father is interested in.

Morris’ book is well researched and the narrative is paced about right. As for historical inaccuracies, a number of other reviewers have picked up one or two but on this topic I cannot comment given that this was my first foray into this period. However the entire story of the Conquest does seems to be based on only a handful of primary sources written in Old English and Latin which increases the propensity to misinterpret key facts and clues about the past. Be that as it may, I believe that Marc Morris has done a wonderful job in bringing to life this fascinating period in British history. This book is truly an action packed history lesson that makes a true mockery of the three years or so of high school history classes. Highly recommended!


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