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the antiquary (England)

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The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Get out of the way John, I'm trying to read, 26 Jan 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I don't usually comment on endings, but here the author himself doesn't seem to have attached narrative importance to it (and I don't give it away in any case)...

It does all go so well until the ending, previously having toyed intelligently with the reader Fowles declares he cannot make up his mind and uses literary pretensions as a cop-out - turning the motives implausible to air his own political points. It came over more as moral cowardice to me, given his preferred ending is obvious, but spoils the story (and I'm not referring to happy or sad endings).

If you don't mind politics and sociology lectures (bearing in mind the incarnation of both have a limited shelf-life and this was published 1969) hijacking your novel reading then it may feel a refreshing change for you. If you do mind being invited to a sumptuous dinner to be bored by the host afterwards then you may be put out.

Either way I'd urge you to read this book. It contains the best modern depiction of the Victorian age from an author who truly understood it.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2009 8:58 AM GMT

The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages
The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages
by Brian Bates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately a wasted idea, 26 Jan 2009
An excellent idea for a book - and the frequently conversational style is as clear as a bell. Unfortunately one thing that spoils it for me is that when this style dominates the author too often is just belabouring the obvious. For example, I can do without being told in a whole paragraph simply that today we take clean water for granted. And the author's presentation of the Dark Age world-view feels very alien, with comments that betray little instinctual understanding and others that are just plain wrong. Nevermind the academic standards, this is no accurate recreation of the feeling of the real middle earth.

Still, fairly informative once you get past the padding, it can lead you into areas for which you must find another guide.

A much better book, while it concentrates more on Tolkien's work, philology and mythological sources rather than straight history, is Tom Shippey's The Road to Middle-Earth: How J. R. R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 11, 2013 9:35 PM BST

Grailquest: Castle of Darkness Bk. 1 (Armada Original)
Grailquest: Castle of Darkness Bk. 1 (Armada Original)
by J.H. Brennan
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best-ever choose your own adventure, 26 Jan 2009
I was lucky, being nine years old at exactly the right time to catch this one print run of choose-your-own-adventures. These were great fun, intelligent and witty, without forgetting their target age. The art didn't 'talk down' either, realistic dark fantasy stuff, with heads on spikes, skulls - real menace, all in a good old English setting (even if it was actually a confusion of old Britons, Saxons, Celts and Normans).

Where else were you recruited by Merlin? Where else were you given a talking, reluctant, cut-sized Excalibur rip-off? Where else did you have to write bad poetry rather than roll dice to deter the vampiric Poetic Fiend?

If more people had read these over the Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson Fighting Fantasy then I might have found someone else willing to start a role-playing group later as a teenager and even now I'd probably be headbanging to Rammstein, wearing a lot of black t-shirts, embarrassingly tatooed, with perhaps a couple of rusty piercings - I've had a narrow escape.

Excalibur Classic, Vol. 1: The Sword Is Drawn: Sword Is Drawn v. 1
Excalibur Classic, Vol. 1: The Sword Is Drawn: Sword Is Drawn v. 1
by Alan Davis
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief glimpse of how great a mainstream comic can be, 26 Jan 2009
The original Chris Claremont and Alan Davies Excalibur comics were amongst the best that Marvel has ever issued. A spin-off from the X-Men, except with humour and contemporaneously better art and writing (it almost gave 'wacky' a good name), unfortunately Excalibur soon fell victim to the constant push for $ with the ridiculous demand for output and therefore frequent turnover of writers and artists at Marvel.

Kitty has never been so charming and geeky, Rachel was given a coherent and decent (if indecently clothed) storyline for the one and only time (not including Days of Future Past of course), Captain Britain was still Captain Britain and a wonderfully flawed hero, Megan endearing and the character you were patiently waiting to grow and Nightcrawler at his swashbuckling best (the antithesis of the movie version). There's precious little to compare it to, but it does have a similar feel to Buffy sometimes (apparently Kitty was the inspiration for Buffy, and with his British connections I'm sure Joss Whedon must have taken notice of these - in fact I'm wondering now if Captain Hammer was partially inspired by Cap. Britain).

Every issue not featuring the Dan Dare inspired Alan Davies really was a case of criminal damage, no invective is bad enough to describe the abysmal substitute art. With no more CC and AD the comic very quickly lost its way with writers of little talent who had no idea what had made it great. The magic numbers are: Introductory Special Edition, 1-7, 9, 12-17, 23-24, 42-50, 54-56, 61-67.

Oh, and the new Dr Who shamelessly ripped-off at least the war wolves from here.

Nero 9 (PC CD)
Nero 9 (PC CD)

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Once Upon A Time..., 18 Jan 2009
This review is from: Nero 9 (PC CD) (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Blur and Oasis mattered for some reason, the Unabomber was finally caught and Windows 95 roamed the land. And kick-starting Nero takes us back to that time with bafflingly primitive process boxes and an interminable installation time.

1. Close all windows.
2. Turn-off your anti-virus
3. For good measure disconnect from the internet and turn off your firewall.
4. Leave your PC alone for 30 minutes (if it's fast) - don't expect any helpful tips or instructions to pop up.

But this is no reason to bash the product with 1* reviews and I wanted to stick up for Nero, only I'm not really able to, much.

Every piece of free to try video capture software has been able to detect my graphics card - but not Nero - I have an Nvidia 8800GT.

I tried Nero Recode next - apparently the world's fastest video converter - thought I'd try to play around with a video file that needed compressing, well I added files, but Nero gave absolutely no options so I couldn't do a thing. So I tried importing a non-copy protected amateur DVD production - but near completion Nero said it couldn't read it.

The video author/editor is not great. Nero Vision's interface is like it's been translated from a foreign language - not intuitive, not even clearly labelled, few icons are immediately intelligible. Perhaps professionals call video files assets - but I can't imagine why they would use this piece of software so obviously for the amateur. I'll never fathom why you can't continue editing or even pause playback in full screen mode.

But finally a winner - sound file creation and manipulation. Got any music files that are incompatible with whatever media player you are using? Convert audio files can fix that and to save time you can do them in batches. It can even make Windows Media Player recognise an mp3 again - something which Roxio cannot.

Similarly the ability to record sound files in WaveEditor might need an initial adjustment, but is far superior in utilities and execution than Roxio.

Picture editing is good for a jack-of-all trades package like this, but not comprehensive.

Given haphazard performance I don't want to trust Nero with backing-up my data so I can't comment on this feature.

-Good for sound files, very poor for video.
-Video editing feels like a chore when ought to be fun.
-Slow, badly organised multiple menus - access is not simply a click away.
-The online tutorials are not a great help at clearing up confusion.
-Faster than Roxio's latest, but still slow.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time [DVD] [2006]
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Mamoru Hosoda
Price: £4.75

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent manga film in an (almost) realistic setting, 15 Jan 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A good, involving film. The back cover blurb rather overdoes it a little with 'feast for the eyes', given the setting, but there's no doubt that the animation is very good within the limits that manga sets itself, and the character design is something to boast about.

Makoto is an endearing character and carries the story well so that you do care about what happens, which is fortunately not obvious. The film can be read a number of ways, so I'm wary of giving details of even themes away, which might make you anticipate the ending. About the ending there is a loose hinge which was very unsatisfactory for me (although not everyone is bothered by it).

The film does have a slight Studio Ghibli feel to it, which isn't surprising considering some of the artists involved.

Power DVD 8 Ultra
Power DVD 8 Ultra

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultra for Blu-Ray playback on your desktop, 15 Jan 2009
This review is from: Power DVD 8 Ultra (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First of all let's make it clear - because the product page does not - that anyone looking for just DVD playback needs to get over to the deluxe or standard editions (personally I think the extra audio capabilities make the deluxe version worth the extra) - The doubling in price to the Ultra edition enables you to play blu-ray discs.

So PowerDVD, make no mistake, is the best film playback software for PC for the general consumer. Picture and sound are obviously superior to Windows Media Player, Real Player, or anything else I've encountered, and with no bugs (as opposed to those 2 blights to our computers). The core program makes this a 5 star product (even if blu-ray is currently overpriced in my opinion).

However, there are one or two things that need improving:

Whereas the automatic settings on version 7 were too light, version 8 has overdone the attempts to fix this and now automatic settings are too dark, overall the mood might be better but now detail is lost.

It would be great to play audio through this program but it seems to have been designed to discourage this. Controls are unintuitive or non-existent, I eventually found shuffle, the playlist is a pain, the list does not stay open and even accessing it resets you back to the start of a song in the middle of playback. There are only presets for a graphic equaliser, one of which is 80s Glam Rock, which gives new meaning to the phrase 'If you can remember it, you weren't there'.

A radical rethink of MoovieLive and the movie remix is needed. These are not going to take-off in their current foramt. MoovieLive as a web site has not been properly thought-out (the name itself is incredibly childish). The main problem is that the website has been clumsily set up - the review section is more like a comment section and there are no individual forums for films, so the stated aim of making friends and a community is hamstrung - and we need an alternative to the weirdos and stalkers on IMDB.

And the movie remix? Remember Etch-A-Sketch? Did you like me wonder what was the point of spending an hour or so painstakingly creating something only to have it wiped clean a minute later? Well, it's not that bad but almost, you are forced to save into a file format used nowhere else (and for how many years and versions will that be supported?) and can only be viewed by people who also own the dvd through the inadequate website.

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: Chairman Humph (BBC Audio)
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: Chairman Humph (BBC Audio)
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £8.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry there wasn't more, 29 Dec 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I don't need to recommend this well-presented obituary to existing Humphrey Lyttelton and ISIHAC fans - it's a fine thing to have - and included are plenty of funny anecdotes and clips (just don't expect this to be a compilation). As the original free broadcast it is pleasant and blameless, as a cd to buy though it is lacking in range and detail.

There isn't enough jazz, at least one full track with the band surely would have made this a more rounded tribute. As would hearing from a wider range of people than predominantly Radio 4 personalities. Still, it is clearly labelled and aimed at the radio show fans, and a worthwhile remembrance of a man who needs to be remembered.

The Red House Mystery
The Red House Mystery
by A. A. Milne
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ho-hum, 8 Dec 2008
This review is from: The Red House Mystery (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A good opening, but nothing else like it follows. A few witty lines, but not as good a mystery as the author thought it was and Holmes would have solved it before he'd finished his breakfast. It feels like after planting a character Milne forgets to feed them and they stop growing. Pleasant but not compelling.

Roxio Easy Media Creator 2009 Ultimate (PC)
Roxio Easy Media Creator 2009 Ultimate (PC)
Offered by BitsAndBobs4U
Price: £28.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished homework 2 stars - after the time extension 4 stars, 14 Nov 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I loved the old Roxio from around 2005. It worked, it worked well and worked fast. Unfortunately like so many other packages Roxio has now lost the plot - buggy and slow - its main purpose now seems to be to put your firewall through a punishing exercise. I was really looking forward to this update but Roxio has now become the kind of program I originally turned to Roxio to avoid.

(Using high end PC with Vista 64)

EDIT June 09 - It has improved - as with so many other programs and games nowadays the lesson seems to be to try and wait until 6 months after release - by which time updates should have turned the beta program to a proper item ready for consumers.

It is pleasanter to use than Nero, and far less buggy after the patch, otherwise there's not that much between them.

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