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Tony Roberts (Bristol, United Kingdom)

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History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Volume 1, Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire 1280-1808: Empire of the ... Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808 v. 1
History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Volume 1, Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire 1280-1808: Empire of the ... Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808 v. 1
by Stanford J. Shaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: £49.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In depth but not objective, 2 Sept. 2010
This is one of the best histories of the rise and consolidation of the Ottoman Empire around. It tells of the rise of the house of Osman and how they came to dominate Anatolia and then go onto conquer much of south eastern Europe.

But I would caution the reader not to expect a fair and objective history. Its very much a polemic of the Turks and no mention is made of the harshness and slaughter they exacted over the conquered peoples, particularly Constantinople. (There's a shocking attempt at covering up the Armenian massacres of the First World War in the second volume to show just how one-sided these histories by Shaw are).

That objection from me aside, its well worth buying if you are intending to study this fascinating empire and how it worked.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2011 10:34 PM BST

Russia and the Russians: From Earliest Times to the Present: From Earliest Times to 2001
Russia and the Russians: From Earliest Times to the Present: From Earliest Times to 2001
by Geoffrey Hosking
Edition: Paperback

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a complete history, 2 Sept. 2010
Be mindful if you do think of buying this book. There are large chunks missing from this 'history'. If you're like me and wish to read a chronological story with no gaps then this will be a disappointment.

The reason is that for much of the book the complete lives of many of the rulers are not there. Yes, there are parts touched on, but largely these interestingnand colourful characters do not have their complete lives told by this author. We go from one reign of a monarch to the next without finding out what happened to them, such as how did they die and how did the new monarch succeed the throne.

Its too disjointed for my taste and disappointing. Also as is the case in many histories, its far too biaised in favour of the modern era. Yes I know there's far more material and sources to pull on as you get closer to the current era but its just far too much a story of communism rather than a balanced story of Russia.

So yes it does touch on most of the reigns of the Tsars and Empresses etc, but don't expect a complete story from start to finish. Expect to read much about the communists and I detected very much a tone of admiration of them from the author. So again, don't expect an unbiaised history either.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2013 11:29 AM GMT

Early Medieval Spain (New Studies in Medieval History)
Early Medieval Spain (New Studies in Medieval History)
by Roger Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.95

10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Knowledgeable but dull, 31 Aug. 2010
Roger Collins appears to know a lot about medieval Spain, but really tells little in this book. If you are looking for a university-type thesis then this book is right up your street, but if you like a book that actually tells you about the subject in an interesting and absorbing way, then don't buy this as it'll drive you to sleep.

Collins spends far too much time apologising to us, the readers, that there isn't evidence for this, that and the other. I lost count of the number of times he did that. I would rather he do this once in the foreward and then get on with trying to pull me into the subject rather than lecture me from a distance.

As someone who avidly reads history books of the type that Sir Stephen Runciman and John Julius Norwich write, and finding them absolutely spellbinding, this was a bad shock. Its dull, dry and passionless. I think Collins was far too worried about his own reputation in the academic circles to take any risk whatsoever in his manuscript, so plays it terribly safe. In doing so, he turns what could have been a really great period of history covering the demise of the Roman rule, the invasions of the Goths, Vandals and Sueves, and the Moorish invasion, into a flat, insipid drone.

Ashes Series 2009 [DVD] [2009]
Ashes Series 2009 [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Ricky Ponting
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £4.15

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent presentation, 10 July 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having bought the 2005 Ashes series DVD a while back, I thought it a good idea to buy this one once the memories of this topsy-turvy series began to fade from me. I didn't see all the action on TV when it occurred (I refuse to bow to corporate greed and invest in Sky so I have to be satisfied with Channel 5 highlights).

This is a well presented package with Mark Nicholas, Geoff Boycott, Matthew Hayden and Simon Hughes providing the commentary and analysis, as well as explaining the day's events. There are 3 DVDs, the first providing the 1st and 2nd tests, the second the 3rd and 4th, and the last having the 5th test. As a result there are more highlights of this game as well as more commentator input and explanations.

Its very professional and of course the action makes it memorable. How a series could swing from highs and lows on both sides from match to match is incredible, and you get drawn into the nail-biting tension of the 1st test as England try to save the game; the 2nd test where the Australians are outplayed; the 3rd where Australia mount a rearguard action on the last day in an effort to save the match; the 4th where Australia show just why they are the world's number one, and the 5th test where all hangs on the game and you enjoy the great batting, bowling and fielding of both sides.

Definitely one to buy for all fans of cricket.

Price: £8.30

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Step up from Phoenix, 12 May 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: OMEGA (Audio CD)
I'm going to put this on both the UK and the US amazon sites, since the reviews of this album are reasonably similar as at the time I'm writing this.

I've gone through other reviews on both sites and I think references to John Payne aren't valid or relevant anymore since he's gone and this Asia is what was at the beginning and is once more. Therefore I'm only going to make comparisons to Asia, Alpha, Astra and Phoenix.

Having given the debut album 5 stars I can only give this one 4 stars since its in no way comparable in content or quality, but its better than Astra and Phoenix which I'd say were 3 star albums.

Like Phoenix, and for that matter the other 'proper' Asia albums, this one starts with what is essentially the best track. A rousing rocking number with a good beat. 'Finger on the Trigger' lays the foundation to what is hoped to be an enjoyable musical experience (5/5). I had the same hopes for Phoenix but apart from the start, the end and one other, it was like a caramel bar; soft and sickly sweet in the middle. 'Through My Veins' was only marginally less than the opener (4/5), and that was because I didn't care much for the melody but Steve Howe's guitar play pulled this one through.

'Holy War' was a delight (5/5); top marks for John Wetton managing to get the word Trebuchet into a song. As a fan of history I enjoyed this one for its content as well as the melody and the racey beat. But then after this the album fell a little flat in the middle. 'Ever Yours' was too much like the sickly sweet offering from Phoenix. I liked this one the least (1/5). Things picked up nicely with 'Listen Children' (4/5), an upbeat number that had Yes-style chords to it towards the end with Geoff Downes' synths.

Then there was a relapse. 'End of The World' was reasonable (3/5), with a great anthemic intro but maybe a little too much of a Christian type of lyrics? The ending was nicely melodic. Then we had three consecutive songs that I thought were (2/5); 'Light The Way' had an average sounding melody and a harsh beat to the song which I found a little jarring. 'Emily' was reminiscent of a 70s pop song, at least Geoff Downes' piano was anyway, and the whole sound reminded me of Pilot. Did enjoy the story of the song with a man's lament of never being able to consumate his love of a woman as she was a lesbian. Nice Mona Lisa-type twist there. 'I'm Still The Same' ends the trio of songs I didn't really care much for, even though it does sound like an ELO song. I liked ELO but this song just doesn't sit well with Asia.

Thankfully came two good songs after this, (4/5). 'There Was A Time' certainly has a folk influence, and that's something I like and admire. I'm getting more into folk music these days and after seeing Jethro Tull live and am about to see Show of Hands, this track shows how much English folk music has been forgotten. We need more of these sort of things. John Wetton's voice is so versatile and superbly suits this style. 'I Believe' has a great start and carries on with a lovely foot-tapping, head-nodding beat. Its what I'd call Driving Rock. And I agree with other reviewers who state this should have been the album closer.

Finally a bit of a let down with 'I Don't Wanna Lose You Now', (2/5). Its a comfy pipe and slippers sort of song that really doesn't do much and this should never have been an album closer.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2010 10:28 PM BST

Marlborough: Britain's Greatest General: England's Fragile Genius
Marlborough: Britain's Greatest General: England's Fragile Genius
by Richard Holmes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good comprehensive biography, 19 April 2010
Churchill was, despite the criticisms of his many haters, one of Britain's best generals. His victories began Britain's rise from a mere disregarded foggy little island off the coast of Europe into THE world power by the Victorian era.

This biography takes him through his hesitant beginnings through the Byzantine-style corridors of power of restoration England, to his apogee at Blenheim and Ramilles. Intersperced with the military accounts of not only Marlborough or his often unreliable Dutch partners, but also the common soldier, are the letters from him to his wife, the mercurial Sarah, who needed almost as much effort to keep under control as Marlborough's French enemies.

The skill in which John Churchill had to hold the coalition together took its toll on him and led to his physical decline. The book is an excellent account of that time and of the Spanish War of Succession which forms the backdrop to much of this book.

Some have averred that Churchill was a grasping man, who sold his friends down the river when it suited him, and that he was even a traitor. An absurd claim, but one that is typical of the attitude in some quarters even to this day that prevents John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, from being recognised alongside the likes of Nelson - who lets face it, was just as much a flawed genius as Marlborough (Nelson's victory at Trafalgar and his death saved him from public disgrace which was where he was very likely heading at the time).

Richard Holmes is to be congratulated on yet another brilliant historical biography and is a must for anyone wishing to study this period of history or the Spanish War of Succession.

South By Java Head
South By Java Head
by Alistair MacLean
Edition: Digital Download

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely underrated suspense thriller, 9 April 2010
This is a vastly underrated story. Set in 1942 with the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, a British national, Brigadier Farnholme (Retired) barges into an army base and demands a ship out of the habour before the Japanese get there.

The story basically follows him and his attempts to get out of Singapore, but develops reasonably quickly to also include the fate of a British tanker and its crew who keep on bumping into the Brigadier and the motley crew that he joins in the escape from the doomed city.

The story is full of suspense and you know that something is wrong with more than one of the passengers' stories. Also why are the Japanese chasing them with all they have and refuse to let them get away?

The action jumps from the burning doomed port of Singapore to the waters around the South China Sea and the Indonesian islands as the tanker makes a brave attempt to get away. Finally the story follows the crews and passengers onto the Javanese shore and littoral where their true identities and roles in the story are revealed.

Great story, great characters and a classic suspense action thriller.

Ice Station Zebra [DVD] [1968]
Ice Station Zebra [DVD] [1968]
Dvd ~ Ernest Borgnine
Offered by Atronica
Price: £24.98

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Passable but disappointing, 9 April 2010
With such an assembly of actors and a director who knew his stuff, I honestly expected more from a film taken from a great book, but sadly it didn't do the book or the cast justice.

Where was the exciting fire aboard the submarine after the rescue? It had gone. Instead we had a company of Russian troops being parachuted down to confront a company of US Marines who had been carried on the submarine to the Ice Station (neither the Russian or the American troops had been in the book) and to me it seemed the show-down between the two sides was as frustrating as the storyline; great potential but nothing really happened - it was like opening a huge box of a present and finding a tiny uninteresting object inside.

It would have been better to dispense with the pointless confrontation between the two armies and concentrate on the story of why secret agents from the UK and Soviet Union were there anyway. What about the characters of the Ice Station? Almost ignored and passed over, they were just names, yet Ernest Borgnine and Patrick McGoohan knew each by name, and as these two guys were spies it stood to reason the blokes on the Ice Station were also spies or at least in cahoots, and would have known something.

Too much made of making it like a Cold War stand off and not enough injected into it of a man hunt between the protagonist and antagonist. We had a brief flash at the end but by then I'd lost interest and couldn't care who was what or what happened to them.

Alistair Maclean's Puppet On A Chain [DVD]
Alistair Maclean's Puppet On A Chain [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sven-Bertil Taube

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great action, great chase sequence, 9 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I remember watching this film long ago on TV late at night with my parents and younger sister (I must have been about 12 or 13) and it ended around midnight and we all looked at each other after the finish and went 'wow' or something like that. Not many films had that effect.

Today the 70s music and fashion have dated, but frankly if you watch a film from the 70s don't expect anything else.

The story goes along the lines of an interpol investigation into heroin smuggling from Amsterdam, and the lead character Paul Sherman (played by Swedish singer Sven-Bertil Taube) is a ruthless man hell-bent on smashing the smuggling ring.

There are some good secondary actors supporting the film; Alexander Knox and Patrick Allen (pictured on the cover of this DvD) as the Dutch police and Vladek Sheybal as a rather strange looking priest. No giveaways of the plot but the film winds up to a fantastic ending as we have an unparalleled boat chase along the canals of Amsterdam and the unmasking of the mastermind behind the gang and a final fight to the death scene high above the streets of the city.

Bear Island (Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark) Region 2
Bear Island (Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark) Region 2

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Really Bad - Bare of Ideas, 9 April 2010
Alistair MacLean wrote many entertaining and exciting books (if you discount the later ones from The Golden Gate onwards). Many were made into films. I found the films were hit and miss. On the hit side we had Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, Puppet on a Chain and Fear Is The Key, to name but 4. On the miss side were Force 10 From Navarone, The Golden Rendezvous, and this one.

Firstly I'd recommend all who wish to find out about the book to buy it; its a really well written thriller. However, this film Bears (excuse the intended pun) NO resemblance to the book.

The plot is threadbare to start with, so the actors - who include some reasonably accomplished ones such as Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Widmark - have little to go on. I really have no idea what the screenwriters thought they were doing with this one.

Its a neo-Nazi plot involving a wartime U-Boat that is marooned in a remote Arctic location and it still contains bullion from the war years. The violence is random (rather like the screenwriter's ability) and little happens with any degree of plausability. I feel sorry for the actors (which also include Christopher Lee and Lloyd Bridges) who have this rubbish to work with.

Of all the poor films made from adaptations of MacLean books this must rank as the worst. It could have been written by a pre-pubescent child, and frankly is a waste of the acting talent. Its a shame this story was so ruined as it could have been an interesting one if not for the inane screenplay.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 5, 2012 9:01 PM GMT

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