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Reviews Written by
M.D. Smart (London, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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Star Wars Black Series Special Forces TIE Fighter
Star Wars Black Series Special Forces TIE Fighter
Price: £140.28

5.0 out of 5 stars A huge, impressive centrepiece for any collection, 4 Feb. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm a big fan of Hasbro's 6 inch Black Series figure line, and was delighted when they branched out from single characters to include larger creatures such as a tauntaun and small vehicles like the speeder bike. Now they have gone a step further and released one of the new TIE Fighters from The Force Awakens in 6-inch scale...and it's an absolute monster, huge and surprisingly heavy.

It comes in an enormous box complete with an elite pilot figure, requiring only minor assembly; once finished the ship is so big it really needs both hands to hold steady. The level of detail on the hull and inside the cockpit is excellent, and the new red and black colour scheme is suitably menacing. Clearly, due to its size (not to mention the price) this is primarily aimed at adult collectors - in fact a young child might find it difficult to hold the ship at all, I imagine.

It's a very impressive model that looks great on display, but I do have one minor gripe: like the standard size Hasbro TIE Fighters, the wings are not as large as they should be and look slightly squat in comparison to the body. It's a bit of a shame, but this is still a terrific model...besides, more movie-accurate wings would have pushed the price up even further and made the ship even more difficult to hold so overall I think this is a reasonable compromise. If you're a fan of the 6-inch line and have the spare cash, I would recommend this unreservedly.


The Watchers
The Watchers
by Neil Spring
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars Fairly effective but eventually a little too outlandish for me, 4 Feb. 2016
This review is from: The Watchers (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Watchers is based upon real events, a number of UFO sightings which occurred in Wales in the 'Seventies. In Neil Spring's fictional retelling, Robert Wilding is a civil servant who reluctantly returns to the area he grew up in to investigate the strange phenomena that have been reported; he expects to find a rational explanation but gets far more than he bargained for.

I have mixed feelings about the book. It's pacy and quite gripping for the most part, and does raise the hairs on the back of your neck effectively at times. However, I must admit I found the twists in the plot and the introduction of supernatural elements began to strain my credulity a little too far. That may seem an absurd thing to say about a book involving UFO sightings, but (without wishing to give away any details of the storyline) I found the book's eventual direction was just a bit too much for me to swallow. Perhaps it's simply that I had certain expectations of where the story was headed that were completely confounded - which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in this case it was all a little too much to accept and remain immersed. I also found the author's prose is a little awkward and off-putting at times.

I think readers who enjoy both sci-fi and supernatural fiction may enjoy this; it does manage to create an unnerving atmosphere and give the reader a few shivers...it was just a bit too credulity-stretching for me.


The Ashes of London
The Ashes of London
by Andrew Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Turmoil and murder in Restoration London, 4 Feb. 2016
This review is from: The Ashes of London (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
After establishing himself with the Lydmouth series and the excellent Fallen Angel trilogy, crime writer Andrew Taylor has concentrated on writing historical mysteries set in various periods; his latest opens in London as the Great Fire is ravaging the city. These are turbulent times: only a few years after the Restoration following the English Civil War and the Protectorate, and just a year after the Black Death outbreak of 1665. James Marwood, son of a Cromwell supporter imprisoned for treason when the monarchy was restored, finds himself investigating the case of a murder victim discovered in the ashes of the Fire, a crime which is rooted in the political upheaval of the time and connected somehow to his father. It also brings him into contact with Cat Lovett, a young woman whose father also appears to be mixed up in the affair.

I always enjoy Andrew Taylor's writing, and his research seems thorough (from what I can remember of studying this period at school) - the atmosphere certainly feels authentic and although I felt the dialogue didn't always ring true to the times, it wasn't intrusive enough to spoil my enjoyment. The plot takes a while to get going but eventually becomes tense and full of intrigue; despite being fairly lengthy for a crime novel, the second half of the book flew by. The political tensions and the plight of women in the period feature heavily but never to the point where it feels like reading a history text book - the murder investigation is always kept at the centre of the plot.

If you enjoy historical crime, have a special interest in the period or are a regular reader of Taylor's work, I would certainly recommend this.


Watership Down [Blu-ray] [1978]
Watership Down [Blu-ray] [1978]
Dvd ~ John Hurt
Price: £6.40

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent adaptation but too dark and violent for young children, 6 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It's amazing how many people of around my age saw this film at the cinema in 1978 and were terrified by it. There's no question that the BBFC made one of it's most incomprehensible errors by passing this film as a 'U' certificate; this is 'nature red in tooth and claw', containing some surprisingly graphic violence...and the nightmare scenes of rabbits suffocating in their bulldozed warren must have caused many bad dreams for young viewers over the years.

Just like the book, it's perhaps best appreciated by older children and adults - although the seagull Kehar does provide some humour to lighten the mood, so it's nowhere near as grim and disturbing as the same team's other Adams adaptation, 'The Plague Dogs'. The animation is plain at times but has some standout moments of beauty reminiscent of a scenic watercolour, and the rabbits are all well animated and superbly voiced by a plethora of British talent, with General Woundwort making a suitably frightening impression. Although the story was much simplified and condensed for the screen, it retains the essence of Richard Adams' marvellous novel, and he professed himself to be pleased with the results so who are we to argue?

The BluRay transfer has been cleaned up from my old DVD version; the difference is quite noticeable. If you are thinking of upgrading from a VHS or DVD version, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.


FORZA Fitness Raspberry Ketone with Natural Fat Burner Pure Extract Capsules - 90 Capsules
FORZA Fitness Raspberry Ketone with Natural Fat Burner Pure Extract Capsules - 90 Capsules
Offered by Forza Supplements
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Seem to work, but be warned: it's slow going and expensive, 29 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was seriously injured in an accident twenty years ago, which has progressively limited my mobility ever since. Naturally, as my life has become more sedentary, my weight has steadily crept up and has proved very difficult to control even when dieting. So I was eager to try raspberry ketone, which I had been told burns calories without requiring exercise.

The dosage is two capsules shortly after breakfast and another two after lunch every day; the capsules are on the large side but not too difficult to swallow, and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Of course, taking four tablets a day means a bottle of 90 will only last just over three weeks, so using them long term will prove expensive.

As for their effectiveness...well, I found at the end of the three weeks I had lost 3lbs. I presume this must be down to the raspberry ketone as I deliberately didn't change my diet or eating habits during this time. So it looks like they really do work...however, they clearly aren't a 'miracle pill'; if you're looking to lose a substantial amount of weight using these tablets, it will take a long time and cost a great deal of money. Whether or not it's worth it is something only you can decide.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross Sections
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross Sections
by DK
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, but slightly less content than usual (no spoilers), 19 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the latest in DK's excellent series of Star Wars cross-sections, and follows the style of the previous books with large one- or two-page detailed illustrations showing the inner workings of the vehicles from The Force Awakens. Obviously it's difficult to go into any detail without spoilers, but the quality is up to the usual standard; the art and layout are as good as ever. The only slight disappointment is the lack of material; there are only 12 vehicles featured, with the pages padded out by a number of double-page photos. It's not entirely the authors' fault - there actually aren't that many ships featured in the film - but I would've thought they could easily have added cross-sections of some of the locations...but perhaps a separate book on those is planned. So, not as much material as in previous volumes, but still plenty for fans young and old to enjoy.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary
by DK
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another terrific DK Star Wars book that fills in the details (no spoilers), 19 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the latest in DK's excellent series of Visual Dictionaries covering the Star Wars saga, focusing on The Force Awakens. The layout follows that of the previous volumes: a large format hardback which is generously and beautifully illustrated, and covers all the characters, locations and organisations featured in the new film. Aside from the plethora of photos, the text fills in many background details that fans will be clamouring to know about the new personalities and the state of the galaxy 30 years after the original trilogy of films. Suitable both for children getting their first taste of the Star Wars magic and the older, long-term fans (including myself). If you enjoyed the film and want to find out more, this is the ideal book. Highly recommended.


Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Shattered Empire (Star Wars (Marvel))
Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Shattered Empire (Star Wars (Marvel))
by Greg Rucka
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A brief look at the Star Wars universe, post ROTJ, 14 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This four-issue collection (plus two bonus unrelated issues) takes up the Star Wars story in the final moments of the Battle of Endor and continues for several weeks afterwards. We find a galaxy still very much at war; the Empire have been dealt a crushing blow but they aren't finished yet, as the Alliance seek to take advantage of their victory and wipe out the remnants of Imperial forces across a number of worlds.

The story is fairly brief but does paint an interesting picture of the war-weary rebels realising that the fight is far from won yet. I liked the art, and of course it's exciting for fans to get their first glimpse of heroes Luke, Leia, Han and Lando after the destruction of the second Death Star. However, the plot is rather piecemeal, more like a series of short missions with no overall arc, which was somewhat disappointing.

There are some teasers for the imminent new film: we get to meet the parents of pilot Poe Dameron from The Force Awakens, and in the final part Luke Skywalker goes on a mission to retrieve an item which may possibly feature in the film's plot (although it's difficult to be sure with so much secrecy surrounding the storyline).

Overall it's decent enough but the lack of a strong continuing storyline through the four parts is a let-down and makes it seem more like a series of vignettes than a connected series. Worth a look but not really essential reading. The other recent Star Wars titles from Marvel have been stronger.


CROCI Cat Litter Eco Clean, 10 Litre
CROCI Cat Litter Eco Clean, 10 Litre

4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job well, from our experiences, 13 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Clearly reviewers have had some mixed experiences with this litter; I can only say, as far as our household is concerned, it's been a winner. While I would take the claim that a bag will last you six months with a huge pinch of salt, it certainly does last longer than the average supermarket litter, only requiring topping up occasionally. It clumps well, the odour control seems good and the litter itself doesn't get tracked all over the house on the cats' paws as others do. My cats had no hesitation in using the stuff, they seem perfectly happy with it. Judging by the amount I've used so far, I'd imagine this bag will last a couple of months, so it works out quite economically.

Clearly other cat owners have experienced problems that we haven't, but personally I would recommend giving it a try.


Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure (Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: the Force Awakens)
Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure (Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: the Force Awakens)
by Disney Book Group
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting new adventure featuring Princess Leia, 12 Dec. 2015
This is the third of the new young adult books featuring the central characters of the original Star Wars trilogy; I've enjoyed them all, but I think this one is my favourite. Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the adventure sees Princess Leia leading a decoy mission away while the rebel fleet musters its forces to attack the still-under-construction second Death Star.

Not only does the book capture the character of Leia very well, it also fills in the gap between the films believably and satisfyingly. We get to eavesdrop on the meeting where rebel leaders receive the news of the new Death Star's existence, we are privy to Leia's fears over the unknown fate of Han Solo and her concern for Luke, who will not talk about what happened to him on Cloud City, we hear her memories of Alderaan and of the torture she suffered at the hands of Darth Vader...all of this fits perfectly with the films and feels convincing.

As with the other two YA novels in this series, the prologue and epilogue are set just prior to The Force Awakens, and offer a few tantalising details to whet fans' appetites (as if they needed any more whetting...). The epilogue of this book in particular seems set up to lead into the beginning of the new film; no definite details, of course, but it's certainly intriguing.

Highly recommended for Star Wars fans of any age - apart from some brief, rather silly humour about disguises the rebels are forced to adopt, adults are likely to enjoy this as much as its target audience.


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