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J. Mellor "stayleyvegas" (Manchester, UK)
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Scarecrow
Scarecrow
by Matthew Reilly
Edition: Paperback

13 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More Aunt Sally than Scarecrow, 10 Jan 2008
This review is from: Scarecrow (Paperback)
The plot itself was very promising: Fifteen targets of varying Nationalities, the finest warriors in the world and they must all be dead by 12 noon today. The term "I want his head on a plate" is taken quite literally, as the bounty hunters who set out to earn a crust must bring the heads of their victim in an ice box to a castle off the coast of France in order to earn $18m for each kill.

The first strange thing is the noon today deadline as the start time of the novel is 9pm so either the time limit has passed or the deadline is 12 noon tomorrow or maybe the wannabee assassins simply got an extension that the author forgot to tell us about. This was the first subtle error that I happened to pick up on. There was nothing subtle about the others though.

The targets are a mix of spies, terrorists or commandos one of which is Shane Schofield a simple US marine. Quite why he is on the list no one knows. The list includes the heads of Al-Qaeda, SAS, Mossad etc and then a bloke who is a marine.

His call sign is Scarecrow and hence the name of the book. Every time his name came up though I could not help but replace this with Worzel Gummidge because he is more realistic.

The book actually starts off quite well but it is a disappointment when you finish the acknowledgements page. Actually the acknowledgements page includes a little nugget that only becomes clear when you have started the book. He thanks some military advisors and then says "and mistakes were mine and made over their objections". The author is saying that he just made some of the stuff up so in that case what exactly is the point of having advisors? Lazy git.

The authors stated view (in an interview he gave in the back in which he drops other bombshells relating to "poetic license", "outrageous" and "over the top") is that he wanted to write a book that went faster than his previous novels. He achieves this as the book goes off at warp nine then increases speed. There is no build up to any part of the book - it just arrives there and then seems to stop and say to itself what the hell am I doing here so the author comes up with some more implausible garbage to try and get it back on track. This usually means some outrageous ways and means Scarecrow has of escaping from certain death. David Blaine should sound out the author for ideas on his next trick.

There is no characterization and a plot that just seems made up as it goes along. Characters just seem to turn up anywhere despite being half way round the world not five minutes ago - the author seems to forget there is a strict deadline to complete the kills but also forgets it takes up most of this deadline just traveling somewhere

Reilly also has an almost insane, adolescent fixation on going completely over the top when describing military hardware the vast majority of which I am sure don't exist in the real world.

There is a total lack of any meaningful research - Reilly just makes things up to get through a sticky plot part usually to do with a Maghook which is a magnet which sticks to things magnets normally stick to but this one sticks to anything. It's not any old Maghook though. Oh no. This is the skeleton key of the Maghook world and can do anything you want it to.

Coming back to the main character. He is a US marine. The author has him as some form of superman. Whilst no doubt US Marines are good can they all fly any aircraft, can they time travel, can they pilot subs!! If the answer is yes then they are likely to be something other than a marine.

This is really a fantasy book which with the implausible plot holes, can only be aimed at pre pubescent teens. However, given some graphic language then I can only assume it is aimed at pre pubescent teens who can't read. Which is probably why his mum and dad bought the earlier books.

Despite my comments you cannot fault the authors enthusiasm which does come through the pages but it's like an over eager puppy trying to please it's owner as it is peeing on the floor.

If this was the last book on earth I would avoid it. If Keira Knightley was having a leisurely Jacuzzi in my back room and asked me to hop in but on the proviso I read one chapter of this book then I would read it but blame it on duress.

I give this book one star and that is because the word Scarecrow is spelt correctly.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2013 10:58 AM BST


Garmin Nuvi 310 Satellite Navigation - UK Mapping + Bluetooth
Garmin Nuvi 310 Satellite Navigation - UK Mapping + Bluetooth

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nifty little number., 30 Nov 2007
To anyone thinking of buying this then I would highly recommend it.

Pros

* small & lightweight weighing in at 145 gramms. A little bigger than a cigarette packet and easy to carry around.
* usage is fool proof, clear and obvious with no training required.
* simple plug in and play with device.
* post code and address recognition.
* 3.5 inch screen gives a clear picture.
* PIN protected so if it is stolen this provides some protection/comfort.
* clear voice directions
* hands free calls can be made through the unit via Bluetooth with a good clear sound.
* speed camera warnings included
* clear maps that can be customised (3D or 2D).
* quick to start and also picks up the satellite signal very quickly.
* around 3 albums of music can be dragged & dropped into the device although when playing it the music is interrupted when instructions are given.
* lots of points of interest pre loaded.
* can also play audio books but the memory available is too small for anything significant (memory cards can be purcahsed to expand the memory).
* has Travel Guide options and memory cards can be purchased for hundreds of cities where it gives you the guided tour.

Cons

* voice directions just say what to do ie "Turn Left" and not the road name.
* does not include traffic updates - you have to pay extra.
* only covers UK & Ireland although you can buy memory cards for other countries.
* The MP3 player part has very poor sound - very "tinny".
* does not come with an AC charger although can be charged via USB via your PC or car charger. However, my MP3 charger fits it.

Overall I am delighted with this product. It is a sleek, lightweight, portable unit that I can set up quickly, find very easy to use and can pop in my pocket when I leave the car. The negatives are more niggles than major downsides.


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55 Digital Camera - Silver (7.2MP, 3x Optical Zoom) 2.5 inch LCD
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55 Digital Camera - Silver (7.2MP, 3x Optical Zoom) 2.5 inch LCD

71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pointing & Shooting could not be easier., 20 Jun 2007
This is a great, sleek little camera which is packed with everything an amateur enthusiast will want. It weighs only 116 grams (without accessories) and on more than one occasion I have checked my pocket to see if it's still there!

It is a simple, point & shoot camera and the vast majority of the time you will simply leave it on auto as that will cover most photo scenarios. However, there are other options namely: landscape, twilight portrait, soft snap, twilight mode, beach, snow, high sensitivity and these can be shot in black & white, sepia, neutral & vivid.

Whilst it's not a professional photographer's camera it's not supposed to be and the pictures are crystal clear, vibrant, detailed and sharp and the difference between the 7.2 MPix compared to my old 2.0 Mpix is huge. The user menus are very clear and easy to navigate round and use of the 3X optical zoom is simply a matter of clicking left or right on a button. The 6X digital zoom is also very easy to use once you remember what menu it's on but you can turn it on permanently (and most people will do this) and it is then just an extension of the existing zoom !!

The camera is great to look at, made of brushed aluminium, with a 2.5cm LCD screen which is more than ample albeit the screen resolutions looks worse than my old camera but that is probably due to it being much bigger and the size compensates for it. The large LCD enables easy photo framing & viewing.

It has a 56MB internal memory (totally insufficient) which can be expanded via purchase of an optional Memory Stick Duo or Memory Stick PRO Duo flash media card. I have not as yet purchased additional memory but will need to do so as the internal memory is insufficient for a holiday or trip away.

The instruction manual that comes with it is very easy to understand (although is detailed and takes some time reading page to page if you are so inclined). The software is easy to load and pictures can easily be downloaded to PC via USB 2.0.

The DSC-W55 lets you capture VGA (640 x 480) audio/video clips at high frame rate (up to 30 frames per second), with length limited only by the capacity.

The NP-BG1 lithium ion, rechargeable battery enables you to take up to 380 pictures before it needs recharging and so should be more than adequate for a day out between chargings.

The Sony name and quality as well as the high class Carl Zeiss lens means this is a top class product at a very reasonable price.

Most people will buy this camera looking for something simple, with no technical awareness and simply wanting to take great photos. In that case this is highly recommended as it does exactly what it says on the tin.


Firewall [DVD] [2006]
Firewall [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Harrison Ford
Offered by gowingsstoreltd
Price: £2.75

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The firewall has been breached, 3 Jun 2007
This review is from: Firewall [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I am not a movie buff to any extent and do not go rushing to read the reviews/releases in the paper so when this film was advertised on Sky it looked so good simply because I had never heard of it (for those who have Sky it's on Sky Movies premier at 8pm each night until Friday, 8 June). Then it got me thinking that how could this have been on at the cinema and I hadn't noticed, after all Harrison Ford is a huge draw.

After watching it I now know why I hadn't heard of it and why it was pulled from the cinema screens after a week or so and straight to DVD.

Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) is a Head of Network Security for a Seattle bank (basically he is the head IT guy) and the movie starts with Ford leaving home for work with a typical "have a nice day" goodbye kiss for his wife Beth (Virginia Marsden), orders for his teenage daughter Sarah (Carly Schroeder) to feed the dog and ruffling of his son Andy's (Jimmy Bennett) hair with orders not to tease his sister ie, totally as expected and mundane and already I am thinking what the hell I have I let myself in for?

He then arrives in work to find some guy in to see him without an appointment and he is a debt collector for some online gambling debts in Jack's name although Jack is adamant that he knows nothing about it. Little does he know this is the start of the nightmare to come.

Ford by this time has slipped into character in his quintessential role as a serious man with the weight of the world on his shoulders who takes his responsibilities very seriously. You certainly cannot fault his abilities as an actor although they all feel a little bit "samey" for me. There is also an element of The Fugitive in this movie but without the plot.

The story itself is largely about a bank robbery/kidnapping but not where the bad guys are able to waltz into the bank and walk away with millions in cash. This is different in that they kidnap Jack's family in their own home whilst he is at work and when he returns he then finds out what they want. That is $100m wired from the accounts of the banks 10,000 richest customers and the robbers/kidnappers themselves will have very little to do with how this is completed, ie Jack will have to do it all and without going to the authorities. The chief baddie is Bill Cox (Paul Bettany with his cut glass English accent that seems all the rage at the moment) who heads up a handful of rabble rousers who don't give the impression they can mug a grannie never mind pull off an audacious robbery like this one.

The next day Jack is allowed to go to work as usual and get on with his day job and to prevent him going to the authorities he is wired for sound, has a video feed through his pen in his lapel and the bad guys are monitoring his computer and all the while they have his family as hostages with the threat of death so Jack feels he has no option at all other than to co-operate. I am also a bit put out that Jack, with all his security experience can not come up with even some minor way of circumventing the situation he finds himself in to buy some time.

In addition, Cox visits him at work on the pretence of being from the Federal Bank and they have carte blanche to basically go anywhere and do anything in the bank. I am still not sure why Cox has to visit Jack at work given he doesn't have to be there other than to keep him in line.

How he obtains the information about customer details is nothing short of garbage and the film losses all credibility at this stage (not as though it had much anyway). Any person who doesn't even know how to turn a computer on will probably think the way he does this is stretching the realms of possibility to it's maximum and it is really asking a lot of the audience to allow this. The director, Richard Loncraine, is really questioning the viewers intelligence with this bit.

It's a very predictable plot but with some minor twists. You just know his family will make an unsuccessful run for it, you know Jack will try something along the way and you also know that at the end there will be a showdown between Jack & Cox and you are pretty certain who will come out on top.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, this is a movie that will find an audience and will appeal but unlikely to be to the masses. Ford keeps the film together with a rugged performance and the story line itself it just far enough away from a totally predictable bank robbery plot to keep it interesting, without you ever thinking it's an original movie with an original story line.

In essence. It is a movie around the two central characters Ford & Bettany and the rest of the cast are superfluous to some extent and to be blunt, anyone could be cast in the remaining roles as there was little to do and little that they could add. There are some lighthearted moments between Jack and his secretary Janet (Mary Lynn Rajskub from '24') but little else.

Ford put in his usual performance and you can imagine him leaving and breathing his character whilst even not on set (although they are becoming that similar he could probable do it without thinking now) and Bettany, whilst not looking like your stereotypical bank robber puts in a decent performance but the character itself is not at all interesting.


United 93 [DVD]
United 93 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Khalid Abdalla
Offered by NextDayEntertainment
Price: £2.61

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, 13 May 2007
This review is from: United 93 [DVD] (DVD)
This film is the story of the passengers aboard United Airlines flight 93 on 11 Sepember 2001. This is the flight that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Director Paul Greengrass has done a fantstic job of telling this story without over glamourising anything and avoiding any political stories and just allows the story to tell itself.

The movie is harrowing and shows the anguish and despair of the passengers as the plane is hijacked and as they come to realise it is a suicide mission from phone calls home and finding out about the two planes crashing into the twin towers. They realise their plane is not destined to land and so have to take matters into their own hands to take control of the flight.

It also shows the chaos and disorientation experienced by the air traffic controllers and the military and the lack of a joined up approach in dealing with the problem and actually identifying which planes had been hijacked and which had actually crashed.

The film is like an in your face, fly on the wall documentary which pulls no punches and ratchets up the terror without going over the top. I felt as though I could get into the head of the passengers and understand what they were going through which means the director has done a wonderful job in potraying this story.

What makes the film for me is that there are no major stars in it which means the movie is the star.

We all know the ending but the filming of it was superb.


Amarillo Slim In A World Full Of Fat People: The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived
Amarillo Slim In A World Full Of Fat People: The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived
by Thomas 'amarillo Slim' Preston
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Legend, 8 May 2007
This is a great book for anyone interested in Poker or gambling or just wanting to read a true story of a remarkable man. Slim is best known due to the world wide boom in poker although he cut his cloth as a pool hustler and proposition betting, trying to ensure the odds are stacked in his favour at all times.

This is a book you will read in one sitting and be sat wishing for more.

The stories he comes up with are sometimes beyond belief but you can actually picture the scene very clearly and seem entirely appropriate for the times. Details about his days on the road with Doyle Brunson and the like make you wish you could spend an hour with him just to hear the stories first hand.

Some of the betting propositions he was involved in were absolutely fascinating and even more fascinating were the steps he took to get the odds in his favour!!

The book is honest about the scrapes he got into in his early days and whilst he undoubtedly has a an element of literary license to embellish some elements you feel as though everything is absolutely 100% true and even if it isn't it is that interesting that it doesn't matter anyway!!

You will not be disappointed.


Bringing Down the House: How Six Students Took Vegas for Millions
Bringing Down the House: How Six Students Took Vegas for Millions
by Ben Mezrich
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling, 8 May 2007
This is a very interesting page turner which has you begging for more when you have finished it in one sitting.

A great story which would also make a great movie as it has the feel of a book of fiction. The characters involved were certainly actors in a perfect setting for the times and you are certainly rooting for them in their endeavours to assist the casinos in parting with their money!

The writer gets into the heart of the characters involved and it is easy to put yourself in their shoes and see what happened from their viewpoint.

Even if you are not interested in gambling to any extent this is still a book that the vast majority will enjoy immensely because the story line is so powerful.

The story is told through the eyes of 20 year old Kevin, a MIT student, who cannot understand why his room mates have a lavish lifestyle on the basis they never do a days work. Kevin enquires about it and this starts him off on a journey of discovery into an alien world that is both frightening and exciting. His room mates invite him down to Atlantic City for the weekend and introduce him to the world of card counting at Blackjack and Kevin takes to it immediately and quickly becoames a major player in the card counting team.

The book is full of anecdotes about their escapades, detailing the casinos they targetted and won from.

The interesting part is when things start to unravel but I won't spoil the story here!

Fantastic story telling.


Kevin 'bloody' Wilson: Live [DVD]
Kevin 'bloody' Wilson: Live [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kevin Bloody Wilson
Price: £7.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars KBW you are a legend, 8 May 2007
If you like Kevin Bloody Wilson then you will love this CD as it has all his classic songs on, performed in KBW's unique way. If you dont know KBW but have a sense of humour then you will still love it!!

Its absolutely hilarious although doesn't really provide you with anything you have not already heard, seen or read before but you will love it all the same. It just shows how much Kevin has matured in terms of his singing voice over the years but the formula is the same and long may it continue!


Big Deal: One Year as a Professional Poker Player
Big Deal: One Year as a Professional Poker Player
by Anthony Holden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shuffle Up & Read, 8 May 2007
Synopsis

The story of a year spent by biographer Anthony Holden in the tough world of the professional poker player. He spent days and nights in the poker paradise of Las Vegas, in Malta and Morocco, even shipboard, mingling with the legendary greats, sharpening his game, perfecting his repartee, and learning a great deal about himself in the process. Poker, Holden would insist, is not gambling. Like chess it is a paradigm of life at its most intense, a gladiatorial contest that brings out the best as well as the worst in people. Its heroes, its eccentrics and is comedians stalk the pages of this book, along with all the hair-raising, nail-biting excitement of the games themselves. The book is reissued with a new introduction by the author.

This is a fantastic read and extremely well written book. It makes you actually feel that you are there and shows that life as a Poker pro is not necessarily exciting but you wouldn't swap it for anything in the world.

It's about a journeyman player who decides to give it all up and turn "pro" for a year just to experience the life and see where the journey takes him.

There are lots of anecdotes about well known players (The ones about Amarillo Slim are hilarious), a brutal honesty and an excellent insight into life on the road and the places they go and people they meet. It could almost be a work of fiction.

You do not have to be a Poker fan to enjoy this book as it's not really a book about Poker but a story of a year in the life of someone living the dream.


Bloodstain - The Vanishing of Peter Falconio
Bloodstain - The Vanishing of Peter Falconio
by Richard Shears
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars is this a revenge attack?, 8 May 2007
I remember being morbidly fascinated when the story broke in July 2001 of two British backpackers being attacked in the Australian Outback as we had just returned from 9 months doing the same thing. This was a crime that tapped into your worst nightmare and sent a shiver down your spine thinking "there but for the grace of God....".

The fact that one survived (Joanne Lees) and one disappeared (and has still not been found - Peter Falconio) only added to the fascination. In 2005, Bradley Murdoch, a maverick loner who smuggled drugs inter state was arrested and subsequently found guilty of the murder of Peter Falconio and assault related charges on Joanne and is elligible for parole on 2032. A recent appeal was dismissed in Jan 07.

What was interesting about this story is that Murdoch always vehemently denied any involvement (not suprisingly you may say) whilst at the same time Joanne Lees was also cast as not being whiter than white in the press and even in court some of her evidence contradicted what was said in her police statement, including the fact that at the time of the attack she was involved in an affair with a fellow back-packer.

This therefore was the perfect set of ingredients for a whole raft of conspiracy theories.

Prior to reading this book I had read two other books about the same subject, namely And Then The Darkness by Sue Williams & Where's Peter? by Roger Maynard. Both these books were very good reads and simply quoted the facts of the case as well as the discrepancies and allowed the reader to make up their own mind. However, Bloodstain - The Vanishing of Peter Falconio promised to give an alternative view and present other angles and effectively to ask the reader whether or not there was enough reasonable doubt for the conviction.

The author acknowledges that his interest with this story gathered pace because of frustrations both he and the media in general were experiencing with Joanne Lees at the time of the attack. Joanne basically refused to speak to the press or make any kind of statements which fuelled press speculation and made them rush off to dig up some dirt. Joanne then did a paid TV interview with Martin Bashir when she had always said she would never do this further fuelling the fire. As a result the author has written this book with a critical eye at Joanne in terms of her motives and asking did she have any involvement on Peter's disappearance.

This book was written to promote controversy and therefore promote sales. The writer (a journalist) has clearly had a problem with Joanne Lees's story and has tried to stir up some dirt to give an alternative point of view (and this is not my view but fact given the writer went public with his views before the court case). However, whilst he comes up with many questions there are few answers in the book other than the ones presented in court.

He tries to bring reasonable doubt on this case but given the accused was found guilty based on three pieces of his DNA being found in three seperate places then this fails miserably (I am not spoiling the story here as the outcome of the case is public knowledge). To find a conspiracy theory amongst this case is stretching the readers imagination (and intelligence) just a little because if the accused didn't do it and it was a police set up then that means the authorities planted his DNA which was identified 3 days after the attack. In this case why did it take nearly a year to link this DNA to the accused. There would also have to be a significant number of people involved in this conspiracy also. In fact, it would be easier just to find and charge the correct person with the crime than it would be to cover this up so the conspiracy theory angle makes no sense whatsoever and no evidence is presented supporting a conspiracy theory other than theoretical situations.

The author has highlighted a number of inconsistencies in Joanna's story though but given what she undoubtedly went through then this is no surprise given she would have been scared witless, confused and highly stressed so it's no wonder she got some things confused (I would be more concerned if she had remembered everything 100%). The fact Joanne had an affair, was confused about how she ended up in the back of the van or the breed of dog that was there are hardly theories that point to a miscarriage of justice. They provide a juicy twist to the case and an angle for a journalist to write a book (and me to review it!) but nothing more.

Also, given Joanna refused to speak to the press at the time of the incident and afterwards (and also did a TV interview for money when she said she wouldn't) then the journalists may want to exact a little bit of revenge and this book is an alternative view of the case from a critical journalist.

However, I have still given this book 4/5 as it was a very enjoyable read and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the case just to see an alternative view, albeit one that doesn't really hold any water.


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