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Profile for Michael J. Houston > Reviews

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Michael J. Houston (Northern Ireland)
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The Great Islamic Conquests AD 632-750 (Essential Histories)
The Great Islamic Conquests AD 632-750 (Essential Histories)
by Dr David Nicolle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Gives a decent overview of the Islamic conquests of the ..., 11 Jun. 2015
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Gives a decent overview of the Islamic conquests of the middle-east and the Iberian Peninsula in the century or so after Muhammad's death, alongside the factional struggles and rebellions which shaped the early Dar al-Islam, but it is rather vague and lacking in detail at times. A reasonable introduction to the subject, but I would imagine there are more comprehensive volumes available on the subject of early Islamic history.


The Devil in Me
The Devil in Me
Dvd
Price: £2.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars you'll be disappointed, but I thought this was a pretty entertaining ..., 7 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Devil in Me (Amazon Video)
If you're looking for anything hugely original or oscar-winning plots and performances, you'll be disappointed, but I thought this was a pretty entertaining horror movie overall.


The Mirror
The Mirror
Dvd
Price: £2.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Watchable, but nothing groundbreaking., 26 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Mirror (Amazon Video)
Not a bad found footage-type horror flick. I liked the way the idea that they were making an application for the James Randi $1000,000 challenge (which really does exist). On the downside the ending was predictable, and there were issues with the plot, (particularly concerning what happens at ~57 mins. Where do they go?).


The Darkening
The Darkening
Dvd
Price: £2.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Keep with it..., 25 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Darkening (Amazon Video)
Slow start, but it improves and takes an unexpected twist near the end.


Aliens in the Backyard - UFOs, Abductions, and Synchronicity
Aliens in the Backyard - UFOs, Abductions, and Synchronicity
Price: £3.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fiction Masquerading as Fact, 11 Sept. 2014
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Sorry, but the claims made in this book are just ridiculously far-fetched, to the extent where they don't even pass the smell-test. If you are going to make extraordinary claims, then you need to produce extraordinary evidence. These people seem to expect their readership simply to take their word for everything they say. Frankly I'm dubious about whether some of the individuals mentioned even exist. I've given it two stars (rather than one) because some of the tales might be entertaining if written as fiction and billed as such, instead of being unconvincingly presented as reality.


The Devil's Rock
The Devil's Rock
Dvd
Price: £2.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth watching, 11 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Devil's Rock (Amazon Video)
I know the whole "Nazis messing with the occult" isn't the most original idea for a horror movie, but this is definitely one of the better offerings from that particular sub-genre.


Whisper (Whisper Trilogy Book 1)
Whisper (Whisper Trilogy Book 1)
Price: £2.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read, although some obvious errors..., 3 Aug. 2014
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Enjoyable haunted house tale overall, but I couldn't help noticing that there are certain aspects of the story which are totally inconsistent with reality. Firstly the builder of Hope House goes to discuss the project with his business partner whose office is in London, yet the house is in the USA. Considering the time and money involved in a transatlantic round trip in the first decade of the 19th century, I found this very odd. Secondly, the generations of the Jones family make no sense. Michael Jones builds the house in 1809, and in modern era his great-grandson, Will, owns the local pub. From the plot we can deduce that Will's grandfather must have been already born when the house was built. Will is, I would guess, in his 40s, yet has a grandfather who would have be around 200 years old? Not likely. Also, Will states that his great-grandfather built the pub in 1899. Granted, it wouldn't necessarily be the same great grandfather, but even so, the time difference is far too big for two men who would be of roughly the same generation.


Hubris: How HBOS Wrecked the Best Bank in Britain
Hubris: How HBOS Wrecked the Best Bank in Britain
by Ray Perman
Edition: Paperback

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lesson Learned? Sadly not., 13 Dec. 2013
I don't normally read this sort of book, but as an ex-HBOS employee of ten years, including the period of near-bankruptcy in late 2008, I was interested to know exactly how the collapse was brought about. I worked in one of the call centres dealing only with personal customers, light-years from the world of nine- and ten-figure corporate finance deals, but many of the root causes of the destruction of HBOS were visible even from my insignificant position within the company hierarchy. None of these issues are particular to HBOS, either. They are symptoms of the degradation of the banking industry over the last few decades. Genuine customer knowledge and understanding has been replaced by box-ticking; a sensibly conservative attitude to lending has been replaced by a culture of hucksterism where quantity of sales is the sole measure of success, quality being little more than an afterthought; and long-term stability has been sacrificed on the altar of short-term profits and the annual bonus payment. I left the company [now part of Lloyds Banking Group] in February of this year (2013), and I'd like to say it appeared that the company had learned its lesson, but sadly I cannot. If anything, the period after integration into Lloyds was characterised by an even stronger focus on sales, as if the company believes it can claw back the billions it lost to the toxic debts of HBOS by employing the same sales strategy that allowed those poisonous loans to be made in the first place. I fear that another serious banking crash may not be very far away.


SmartFrench - Introduction to French, Vol.2
SmartFrench - Introduction to French, Vol.2
by Christian Aubert
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and totally illogical, 2 May 2012
Having never learnt French (I did German in school), I had considered purchasing one of these programmes for quite a while, and, seeing the positive reviews of this product, I was expecting something useful. Having gone through the lessons on the beginner's programme, I have to say that this product is being marketed as something it isn't. It may be useful for people who already have a reasonable grasp of the language and who want to improve their accent, but for a complete beginner it is of little use.
There is little there which is likely to be of use during a weekend in Paris. I'd imagine situations in which you would require the phrase "C'est un question de gout" (It's a question of taste) or "Ce n'est pas un bon exemple" (It's not a good example) would be pretty few and far between, as would situations in which one would be required to discuss metallurgy, or the line-engravings of Salvador Dali.
I expected to be taught nouns and verbs which are used frequently in everyday life and conversation and, having been given that basic grounding, could then progress to more complex material. The programme starts by teaching the alphabet and numbers in French, which is reasonable enough, but beyond that I cannot say it does anything but teach a few random French phrases.
If you have the time and inclination, you could probably learn every interview off by heart, but I don't, and I doubt that even that would confer much genuine skill in speaking the French language.
I hate to subject anything to such unadulterated criticism, but I feel that it is the only honest way I can review this product. One of the interview transcriptions was also missing from the accompanying booklet, although the company did send the text to me promptly when I emailed them. I'm not sure where all the positive reviews of this product some from, but it would be my suggestion that you'd be better off buying a couple of French movies with English subtitles and trying to learn the language from them.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 17, 2012 3:48 AM BST


The Ritual
The Ritual
Price: £4.74

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Terror in the Taiga, 16 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Ritual (Kindle Edition)
This was my first Adam Nevill novel, purchased on impulse after reading the brief description in the Kindle store. "The Ritual" tells the story of four thirty-something erstwhile best friends who take a wrong turn while on a walking holiday in the forests of Sweden. A disappointing vacation soon turns into a bloody nightmare when a vicious predator begins to pick off members of the group one by one. The novel combines an atmospheric setting in the ancient forests of Scandinavia with an interesting storyline involving the violent Satanic black metal underground of Norway, known in reality for a series of church-arsons and a couple of murders in the 1990s. My main criticism is that at it is somewhat longer than it needed to be, with the plot developing slower than I would have liked at certain times during the novel. Still a decent lost-in-the woods horror novel, though.


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