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Mr. D. J. Read (Alnwick, Northumberland United Kingdom)

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War and Peace (Penguin Classics)
War and Peace (Penguin Classics)
by Leo Tolstoy
Edition: Paperback

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TO be taken lightly, 29 Feb 2008
People will normally utter such platitudes with this book as 'don't start it lightly', but what is the alternative, to build up to it for years and never end up reading it at all? That, unfortunately is what the majority of owners of this piece do, buy it and let it stand on their shelves gathering dust. I was close to being of this ilk, but a moment of caprice had me actually starting on this tome, and now I'm 670 pages through. I don't hesitate to add, that it is growing tedious at this stage, and I am losing motivation, and it has become an exercise in my determination to finish it.

It is difficult to sum up the content briefly. Napoleon has come to power and is aggressively expanding. The Russians, under Kutuzov, and of course Alexander I, are drawn into a war of heavy attrition. In between bouts of peace and alliances, are major campaigns which culminate in the battles of Austerlitz and Borodino, at which our protagonists are present. The story alternates between these campaigns and the affairs of the gentry in Russian society, with its balls, affairs, rumours and petty quarrels.

We focus on three main characters, (Count) Nicolas Rostov, (Count) Pierre Besuchov and (Prince) Andrew Bolonski. Between the three we see the horrors and futility (and duplicity) of war, duels, freemasons, emancipation, romance (and heartache), loveless marriage, fraud, and everything you can conceive in any society. In fact it is rather overwhelming, and once you have read it you are only really left with a vague impression.

The beauty of the book, in my eyes, are these and other characters, who are so complete that they are constantly changing in personailty and outlook. Bolkonski himself goes from arrogant aide-de-camp, to disillusioned hermit, to philanthropist, to an unwilling colonel, from sheer hate and merciless regard of the French, to complete humanitarian, from hate to love..... It goes on.

The story skips between over 500 characters, all of whom seem to be 'princes' or 'counts'. The fact that they all have Russian, and therefore unfamiliar names, makes it easy to lose track, and to forget some of the minor characters. Also there are some people with almost identical names. I was caught out by the similarity between the Kuragins and the Karagins.

The book is certainly intimidating, open the first page and you see it is divided into 3 volumes, around 15 books, and hundreds of chapters, complete with epilogues, notes, a Tolstoy biography, historical notes and other paraphernalia. Do not forget that the origional version was around 1,800 pages, this has been condensed to around 950 (of the actual text), and is unabridged. It follows that the writing is going to be cramped on each page, as indeed it is, and this can fill you with a sense of forboding.

One frustrating thing about this novel, and believe it or not I am enjoying it in parts, is the constant need of the gentry to resort to speaking in French. In the version I am reading (translated by Maude), these remain intact and you must refer to the notes every time this happens, which breaks the concentration. An early example of this is a conversation by Shinshin, only a paragraph long, in which you have to refer to the notes 4 times!

I fully expected that I would not enjoy this novel, yet I tried (and am still) reading it anyway. The battles are fascinating, particularly young cadet Rostovs first action, and Austerlitz. Tolstoy fully researched his history and formulated his story around it, so you also learn some of the events of the Russian campaign. Later on, around half way through I think, we are 'treated' to Tolstoys philosophical digressions, by which he argues that the course of history is not formed by great individuals, but by myriad chances, by which people have no choice but to act as they do. this may sound confusing, and it detracts from the story.

Yet I gave it 4 stars. In summation, a great, truly epic story, and whoever it was who said this was a fantasy epic without the elves etc, was correct. It is easy to become absorbed in the story, and the characters. In many respects, no novel can compare to this, it is completely unique, and truly a literary experience.

Kim (Penguin Popular Classics)
Kim (Penguin Popular Classics)
by Rudyard Kipling
Edition: Paperback

6 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hardly a classic, 4 Feb 2008
This was my first foray into Kipling, being his alleged masterpiece. All I can say is, if this is the best he can manage, I don't think I'll bother with his other works.

The problem is, I found this novel dull. Dull, dull, dull. The plot felt entirely disjointed, I mean it runs thus: Kimball meets Lama, the pair seek 'The River' while Kim delivers coded message about 'Stallion's pedigre, Kim finds father's regiment and is essentially abducted, Kim sent to St Xaviers by the Colonel, Kim receives further instructions by Babu and Lurgan, Kim is finally release to play his part in the 'Great Game', culminating in the incident with the Russian/French Sahibs in the Himalayas. Along the way of course, our protagonist finds himself in all manner of scrapes, and we marvel at his street wise attitudes.

Sometimes I read Penguin classics, and wonder how they ever deserved such a title. It seems that, when published, this novel was popular, but then people had a vaster knowledge of the British Raj. In the introduction we are told that this portrays the many castes etc in India, but of what interest is this to you or I?

Personally, I do not know the difference between a Muhummadan and a Bengali, or a Pathan. Therefore when Kipling is making witty comments about these castes, I found my concentration drifting and my eyes growing heavy. The main characters were well developed, you would expect so, and I actually liked the Lama and his devotion to his 'chela', but marvelled at his naiivety.

Another black mark, is that I don't like these new Penguin editions. The green, flimsy bound novels look and feel cheap. I know we are only paying 2, and we must think of the environment, but couldn't an effort have been made to make these more attractive? Perhaps I'm just shallow.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 3, 2012 8:15 AM GMT

Still Figuring Out
Still Figuring Out
Price: 4.87

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, yet again, 28 Jan 2008
This review is from: Still Figuring Out (Audio CD)
Latest single by the finest band in Britain (in my humble opinion). Perhaps their weakest of the four, but still far better than any of the other dross in the charts.

I just do not see how they are not more popular. They are not perhaps, very famous, and have developed an unfortunate repuation as a band for the younger generation (as well as McFly wannabees), but these reasons are unfounded.

Give them a chance, and appreciate them for their music. Elliot Minor are superb, and I'm sure they can only get bigger.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2013 6:26 PM BST

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of The Lions (PSP)
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of The Lions (PSP)

4 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stop-gap, 28 Jan 2008
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Surely the only reason this game was released, is to fill the void until crisis core is released, and satisfy the demand for an FF game. Beware, if you were a fan of FFVII and more recent incarnations, this is nothing like it, it is more like Kingdom Hearts, if you remember it.

And this is no bad thing, per se, we all knew this was an 'srpg' before we bought it. So why the 2 stars? Well, initially the first thing that strikes you are the in-game graphics, nothing short of poor, and the PSP can do so much better, as we have seen time again. It just gives the impression of lazy programming. The soundtrack is mundane, and I cannot really comment on the plot as yet, being in the early stages of the game.

But the true problem the game has, is the learning curve. It is fiendishly difficult, very early on. You enter battles, which can last as long as 20 minutes, and just at the last, will lose one of the characters you have invested much time and effort developing, and there is no way to resurrect them. All you can do is go to a warriors guild and buy a new one, starting off at level 1! It is utterley infuriating. There is also no way to quit during a battle, so if you see things starting to go awry (as they seem to do most of the time), the only thing you can do is press 'home' and start again.

The only reason I can see for buying this, is if you are sick of your PSP, because after a few of these battles, you will have smashed it into many pieces, and have developed premature grey hairs. It is not worth the stress, nor the price.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 14, 2010 11:17 PM BST

Difficult Second Book
Difficult Second Book
by Chris Moyles
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good God!, 24 Jan 2008
This review is from: Difficult Second Book (Hardcover)
Thin, obnoxious book by a fat obnoxious man. This bloated mess seems to only have a lust for attention and money, and will do anything to get it. Whoever published this tripe should hang their heads in shame, that they would pay someone for the rights to print this. I mean, he confesses himself he put no thought or effort into 'writing' (should read, narrating to someone else), so why should be spend our time and money reading this.

Truly, reading really should be educational, or entertaining, or artistic. This is none of those three, and should never have seen the light of day. It pains me to think of genuine authors, who cannot be published because the market is saturated with this junk.

And it is you, reader, who is responsible, for actually buying this! I can only imagine this sort of guff will appeal to those of 'below average intelligence', like the man himself.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 5, 2009 1:16 PM BST

ATMT iZone FM101 Wireless FM Transmitter with Built-in USB Hub Charger for iPod or any MP3/MP4 Player
ATMT iZone FM101 Wireless FM Transmitter with Built-in USB Hub Charger for iPod or any MP3/MP4 Player

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It works - Just About, 18 Jan 2008
Having followed the advice of the previous reviewer, I promptly fitted this device with the requisite AAA batteries, and thought to enjoy my ipod shuffle on my radio.

At first, it seemed fine. I set the frequency to 101.1 fm, my radio found it automatically, and the music quality seemed fine, if a little distorted. However, once I began to drive for more than 2 minutes, the signal seemed to become intermitant at best, constantly dropping out and becoming unbearable.

Because there is no means of attaching the device to any place in the car, you then start to move it around in the desperate, but futile hope, that the signal will improve. This is dangerous practice of course. As is fumbling about tryng to change the track, I would recommend an mp3 player which has the capacity for 'playlists'.

So, on finishing my journey, I experimented with a variety of frequencies, and guess what, no improvement. So frustrated was I, that I have reverted to C.Ds. That is certainly the way forward, burn itunes to a compact disc, rather than wasting time and money on this.

Like I said in the title, it does work, but I almost rather it didn't. The frustration of listening to a tune distorted with static to such a ridiculous degree will have you on the verge of tossing it out of the window, and reversing over it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2008 9:31 AM GMT

Selected Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
Selected Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
Edition: Paperback
Price: 1.89

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Russian Society, 8 Jan 2008
The great thing about Chekov, is the accesibility and simplicity. He can write a story, seemingly about anybody, in any social class, age etc, and make it believable. While he does this he often paints a bleak image of both Russia, and those who populated it. Although he was certainly more famous for his plays which aided the ressurection of theatre, his short stories were equally compelling.
It is an ideal book for travelling, some of the stories (and there are 24), are merely a couple of pages long. The longest (and most poignant) is 'The Ravine', the final story. Though he appears only to be narrating a simple story, such themes come through as the greed of the petty bougeous (though he wrote before Marx coined that term), and the manner of which they treat the lowly proletariat.
This is an ideal introudction to a writer long underappreciated in this country. Perhaps this is due to his nationality, or the manner in which he leaves any 'action' of the story to the imagination. He is a neglected master, one who has made the short story an art form. In an age when publishers refuse short story collections, it is a reminder that they have more to offer than mere horror.

Pippa Funnell Stud Farm Inheritance (PC)
Pippa Funnell Stud Farm Inheritance (PC)

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars You need to be in to horses, 7 Jan 2008
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
I purchased this game for a horse nut. But if you are not one of those, or a child, there is little for you here.

The game is painfully easy, none of the puzzles will even challenge people who have played the likes of Monkey Island. You have to ride your horses EVERYWHERE, and it takes a ridiculous amount of time to get to such places as the show jumping course.

As for the actual riding, not to difficult here, just press space when you come close to a hedge/jump, and dressage merely consists of following arrows of different colours. The characters you interact with are annoying (especially the pompous lawyer), and the plot is so predictable and cliched.

The actual development of the stud farm is too easy. Just complete an event and select it, then it is built. You are constantly being given a plethora of horses, so you do not have time, or inclination to develop the earlier ones. Some of the challenges are ridiculously easy, such as rounding up sheep.

The game is also full of silly bugs. Initially the game struggles to actually load on my p.c, which is modern. When 'mucking out' the horses, you find that all horses need tending to on their first arrival, and perhaps after a tournament. But that's it. You can literally leave the horses in their stables for weeks, without having to touch them. Bizarrely though, the horse you start off with needs constant attention. Also, when retaking competitions, it is nigh on impossible to come first and beat 'Jacky'.

I don't know if anyone else experienced this, but when you buy the 3 horse box trailer, towards the end of the game, all the buildings on the stud farm turn black, and the main character when she is at the farm itself. This sort of lazy programming is intolerable, and there is no patch for it. Plus the fact that it is supposed to be a STUD FARM, but you can't 'create' ponies.

All in all this game can be completed in around 5 hours. Oh, and the rider of the quad bike is Davy!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2009 1:36 PM BST

Ratatouille (PSP)
Ratatouille (PSP)
Offered by Gameseek
Price: 14.21

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre Platform Game, 25 Nov 2007
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Ratatouille (PSP) (Video Game)
The problem with these movie ports, especially for blockbusters like Ratatouille, is that they are guaranteed success, mainly from a younger audience. Because of this, the programmers get lazy, they dont put any effort into graphics, sound, gameplay or plot. That is why this sort of games are generally below par, and why the more serious gamers shun them without a glance.

This is no different, even though it is an above average port of a movie license. But it's nothing special, and this is no good for the PSP in general.

The PSP, you see, is in a bit of a fix. Few quality games are being produced, and it is in competition with the Nintendo DS. That console is doing far better in terms of quality gaming, and I wish I had bought one of those instead, with hindsight. The way to fix these problems is not to churn out ports of PS1/2 games, or average movie licenses. The PSP programmers, who are concentrating now on the PS3, need to take a good hard look at the quality of games they produced, or that beloved console will have the same fate as the 'Game Gear'.

In short, if you want a mediocre game, and love Ratatoille, maybe you'll like it. If you have even the most remote idea about what constitutes a good game, avoid.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2008 1:59 PM GMT

Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology (PSP)
Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology (PSP)
Offered by 666 Media
Price: 20.95

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Worth Your Time, 25 Nov 2007
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
It is a horrible thing being the only reviewer for an item on Amazon. You will only have my opinion, and on that you may well decide whether to buy or not. Personally, I rarely buy anything that has a rating of below 4 stars, such as this game will be.

The Tales of.... series, on the PSP has already provided perhaps the finest game on the console, namely, Tales Of Eternia. So much is promised by the sequel 'Tales Of The Earth, Radiant Mythology'. Unfortunately, it is nothing like its predecessor, nothing at all. And it is so much worse.

As a descender of the world tree, it is the duty of our hero to destroy the devourer, a being which saps mana and destroys world. That is the plot in a nutshell, and all you really need to know. In order to do this, you must complete missions at the 'ad libitum' guild in each city. But these quests are so repetitive, literally the same quests recycled over and over, but with a different beast to kill, or a different material to deliver.

Speaking of repetitive things, lets come to the dungeons. They forbid any sort of free roaming aspect by forcing you to take a path, and go up through the levels of each dungeon with increasingly difficult characters. You will encounter enemies wandering around, and the battle system is refreshing, none of this waiting for your turn nonsense. But again, they get so reptitive.

The graphics are okay, and have moved away from the quaint cartoony to the third dimension. Another thing I would stress, when I talk of cities etc, is that you cannot roam among them, like in its predecessor, all you can do is select a town, then choose from a list of locations, nor can you roam on the world map, apart from going to the dungeons. All these things are major black marks against this game.

The plot contains no twists, and as such is very mundane. There are many characters you can choose (from the inns) to join your party, though often they refuse for some obscure reason. You can also change 'job', from Mage, to Fighter, Thief etc.

But perhaps the most annoying thing (apart from Mormo) is the chitchat between the characters in the towns. You will select, for example, the plaza, and when you walk in will be forced to listen to a discussion, which is supposed to improve the characterisation. But these are tedious and dull, and soon you will find yourself skipping through them completely, such will be your lack of interest, thus missing major parts of the plot. But soon you can only feel apathy for the plot.

The game is a stinker, avoid it. Get Tales Of Eternia, that is a wonderful RPG in the traditional style, which we all know and love. This game is little more than a travesty.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2009 12:45 PM GMT

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