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David Lovie (Aberdeen, United Kingdom)

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Professor Layton And The Eternal Diva [DVD]
Professor Layton And The Eternal Diva [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Miller
Price: £4.80

3.0 out of 5 stars Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, 14 Nov 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Originating with the game series for the Nintendo DS, Professor Layton has built a reputation for great storytelling running through the fantastic cut scenes and voice acting of the games. Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is the next obvious step from there in removing the game part, and harnessing Laytons unique style and storytelling into a full length movie.

As a movie, I think Layton has made the jump well, being given more space to expand on the storyline and allowed to keep more of a flow to the scenes without the continuous interruptions for gameplay that a game demands, while already being home turf for anyone who is familiar with the game series and many of the characters - from Layton and his assistant Luke through to the various supporting characters like the disturbingly hairy chested constable. The story is as mysterious and grand as is expected, with a range of game style puzzles cropping up along the way as the professor figures out what is happening and who is behind it. I shall say no more lest give away any spoilers, but can say if you enjoy the storytelling of the games, you will feel right at home here.

My one bugbear with the film is the game style puzzle aspect to it - in the games you are given all the puzzles to work through yourself to further the story, which they have kept in the film often being announces in the same style ("puzzle zero-zero-one") but are rapidly solved by Layton and on goes the storyline - to me I would either prefer to see the viewers given some option to solve them themselves without having to pause the film (perhaps with some 'working out loud' and providing the hints the game gives), or have them taken away, as it stands they seem to flash past too quick to have them as anything other than a somewhat odd throwback to the roots of Layton as a game you had to solve yourself.

Overall though, the story is suitably grand and involving to work through, accompanied by the familiar drawing style and voice acting used in the games (which I believe does vary by region - I know my copy was similarly voiced to my UK release of Mysterious Village). So if you are a fan of the series and would like something with the same style but less mental acrobatics than working through a game, then this is a good choice.


Everything is Broken: The Untold Story of Disaster Under Burma's Military Regime
Everything is Broken: The Untold Story of Disaster Under Burma's Military Regime
by Emma Larkin
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The history of a near unknown disaster..., 21 Oct 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The disasters of recent years such as Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquakes or Indonesian tsunami have all been massively reported and documented with global responses. This book looks to try and document and explain another recent and much less known disaster - that of the Burmese cyclone and more importantly how the Burmese government responded to it.

The book looks at Burma and the disaster of Nargis in three main parts over the authors trips to the country starting with her time in Rangoon just after the cyclone hit - looking at a time period where huge restrictions were in place to foreigners, while everyone scrambled to help the affected areas in any way they could - speaking to both foreigners and locals in the Rangoon area and collecting information on the disaster and the governments response so reading as a mix of stories relayed by those visiting and also of her attempts and time in Rangoon and what was happening there and sifting through the propaganda of the official media in Burma.
The next part looks to something of an explanation of the government themselves with some background of the general Than Shwe and the history of the Burmese government, and also their response to other issues such as the monks protests.
The final part of the book details her return around six months after the disaster when the area was starting to open up officially to foreigners where she travels to the affected regions to see something of the devastation and rebuilding going on.

All of this adds up to an enlightening report of both the cyclone Nargis disaster itself which I will admit to not knowing huge amounts about, and also about the country of Burma itself, and how it and its government operate in todays world.


The World's Most Extraordinary People ... And Me
The World's Most Extraordinary People ... And Me
by Mark Dolan
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Some truly unique people..., 13 Oct 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"The worlds most extraordinary people... and me" by Mark Dolan was written alongside the TV series of the same name, featuring Mark Dolan travelling around to meet with some of the most extraordinary people on the planet to hear their stories first hand and find out about their lives.

I will start by admitting that while knowing of its existence, I have not seen the TV series the book came from (though I know the book to be a cut down version meeting only some of the characters of the series), so am reading this as an entirely standalone book, for which it is perfectly suited. The main premise is of Mark travelling the world to meet various extraordinary people (the worlds tallest woman, the worlds smartest child, etc...) to discover more about them and how their everyday lives are affected by the extraordinary circumstances of their lives instead of just trying to parade them on front of the camera. As such it leads to a very interesting insight into the huge problems coming from being the worlds tallest woman, or the private side to having the worlds largest breasts. This personal approach is perhaps most evident in some of the people he meets initially being very reserved and hidden expecting him to be another foreign journalist out to parade them for the cameras, who open up with the realisation he really does want to know more of them as a persona and their lives.

The book itself is written in a very engaging and easy going manner that draws you in to the subject matter and keeps you turning the pages to find out that little bit more about the people included and finding out who he meets next on his journeys.


The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather's Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation
The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather's Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation
by Martin Davidson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different story of the second world war, 19 Sep 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Growing up in Britain I am used to hearing 'our' accounts of WWII - the tales of the blitz in London with Churchill standing proud, the men of Bletchley decoding the enigma machine, and tales from the fighting at the front lines and throughout Europe and further. When you do hear from the other side a lot of it focusses on the grand plans of Hitler and his commanders rebuilding a broken Germany and going out on the warpath again, or more often than not the fairly innocent men conscripted into the army to do Hitlers bidding. 'The Perfect Nazi' starts off with a different target and follows the investigation of the formerly closed doors of what the authors grandfather, Bruno Langbehn, did during the war and the realisation that far from being one of the innocents swept up in Hitlers Nazi Germany, he was one of the true devotee's born out of growing up in the shadows of the first war and one of Nazism's staunchest and most devoted followers.

The book particularly follows Bruno's story, from his early days in the local Frontbahn, before getting involved as an official member of the Nazi party and one of the SA's most notorious regiments - sturm 33 - and later moving up to the SS and more particularly SD. At the same time for someone relatively unknowledgeable on the intricacies of how the war fully came about it also stands as a story of how the Nazi part grew from the more paramilitary side of things, so gives an interesting insight into how life actually was in Germany during those years.

At the same time the book is also very well written, collecting Bruno's history from various records, supplemented with information from other sources on the SA, SS and so on and life during the Nazi years to piece together the full story. Despite the fairly serious topic and gravity of the whole situation I found it a very enjoyable book, and very readable and hard to put down as I was drawn into the story and how Bruno and the Nazi's evolved throughout their existence.
I guess it should be said that this probably isn't going to be much of a 'general interest' book, and will require some previous interest in the subject to get the most from the story, but a very worthy read.


Roadie: My Life on the Road with Coldplay
Roadie: My Life on the Road with Coldplay
by Matt McGinn
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Coldplay, as seen from the sidelines..., 31 Aug 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'Roadie: My life on the road with Coldplay' follows the story of Matt McGinn, starting out as a musician and roadie to a small band called Coldplay and ending up as guitar tech to one of the biggest bands on the planet.

As it follows through it is aimed to give you an idea of what normal life on the road is like from the eyes of the guys making it all happen - a life far from the drugs and sex of the Motley Crue or KISS and anchored in a lot of hard work under tight deadlines, working late nights getting gear stowed and moved before having to unpack everything and rig it all back up again the next day. At the same time it does also serve as a quick tour de force of Coldplay's rise, picking up with a small band touring England in a wee van and ending with todays world conquering gigs. For all of this it makes for an excellent read to those with some interest in the workings of a touring band, and finding a great point explaining something of how live sound is run and how complex a big guitar rig can be, while not being full of endless boring details that will alienate anyone who isn't a diehard guitar techie.

The book itself is written in a very formal and easy to read way that instantly draws you in and keeps you turning pages, again being light enough going so as not to bore you, while giving you enough detail to keep your interest high and keep you turning pages with interesting stories and anecdotes from the road.

Sure it isn't going to be as exciting as hearing about the legendary drug binges of the Crue, but to anyone with a passing interest in the touring business it is a great read to take you through something of the life and how much work goes into creating the shows you see in venues around the world.


The Tree House Diaries: How to live wild in the woods
The Tree House Diaries: How to live wild in the woods
by Nick Weston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living in the wild..., 26 Jun 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book charts the six months of Nick Westons life where he left behind city living in London to live in the outdoors in a treehouse, attempting to provide for himself from the surrounding land and live an existence with little cost.

I should start by saying this book is most definitely not a 'wilderness survival' book in the vein of Ray Mears and similar who can live entirely in the wilds, but as an attempt to move away from modern city living, back to a more basic lifestyle proving a large percentage of food and sustenance from the countryside. So in many ways he does cheat from the traditional idea of survival in having some basic staples of food bought, and during his time in the treehouse he does end up with semi regular travels to London, an odd surfing holiday and regular visits from friends and the media who all seem to bring small gifts of food. On the other hand it does show that anyone can get out into the outdoors more with a bit of learning and knowledge of the land and really do quite well for themselves.

More importantly the book is a hugely engaging diary of his time, giving some insight into how you have to adapt to go about living in such a style, and is also a great introduction to quite how abundant wild food can be - I will admit that if I walk down a country lane I (and the vast majority of people) will see lots of weeds and unknown plants, yet a little knowledge can show that a lot of these are edible, and with some knowledge of how to use them can become a very worthy and tasty foodstuff. To this end the book is regularly punctuated by small descriptions of the various plants and animals that are found, and recipes showing how easy it can be to turn them into some good staple food. Maybe not enough information for me to accurately go out picking all the pieces mentioned, but a great stepping stone and example of what can be done with a bit of knowledge and further reading, and if you know your plants a selection of new things to try...

So in the end the book comes to half adventure story, half guidebook, written in a very readable and engaging way that draws you into the story. And I will have to admit that while I regularly am to be found camping, my knowledge of wild food is sorely lacking, and this was exactly the example I needed to prompt me to find out a bit more and try some foraging of my own (even if I will stick to my house and Asda the majority of the time...)


Staedtler Triplus Fineliners 20 Assorted Colours With Magic Zip Pencil Case 334ZPC20 (Pencil case color may vary)
Staedtler Triplus Fineliners 20 Assorted Colours With Magic Zip Pencil Case 334ZPC20 (Pencil case color may vary)

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid pens and a unique case., 22 May 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Staedtlers 'triple fineliners 20 assorted colours with magic zip pencil case' is as the title hints at, a set of 20 fine tipped pens in an assortment of colours with a 'magic zip' pencil case to keep them in. The pens themselves are of Staedtlers usual high quality - a good line and a nice fine tip for drawing fine detail with (colouring pens these certainly are not) and with a triangular profile rather than the normal round one which is supposed to be easier to grip and more colourful - it certainly does 'centre' your hand better and helps stop the pen sliding or moving like a smooth round one might in the hand. The blurb also states that the pens are 'dry safe' and won't dry out if left uncapped like most felt tipped pens would, which is always a bonus if you are doing lots of coloured work and swapping pens continually rather than having to recap your pen every time you switch to protect the nib from drying. The colours are a fairly standard selection really, with all the normal culprits (black, reds, yellows, blues, greens and a whole rainbow of other tertiary colours, so there should be a colour to suit most any need.

Staedtlers 'magic zip' pencil case is an interesting an unique approach to the task of holding your pens when not in use - instead of a normal pocket with zippered top to hold them, it is made from one long strip of zipper, that when zipped up folds around itself in a spiral and into a traditional pencilcase form - definitely unique and a pretty cool way of doing it, even if I can't see any practical benefit to it (but it is fun and different, which is a winner in my book) The case comes in three different colours, though (buying unseen from Amazon at least) means you don't get to choose your preferred colours and get whichever colour the Amazon elf's grab from the shelf and put into your package first.

Big bonus marks to Staedtler for the packaging too - whilst it is the usual plastic clamshell box favoured by retail these days, instead of the usual impenetrable fortress you usually get needing an array of tools to eventually open the back is perforated so it can be opened by hand. Something I have rarely seen but always appreciate.

Overall some solid pens and a fun pencil case to keep them all in, top marks from me.


Elvenquest (BBC Audio)
Elvenquest (BBC Audio)
by Anil Gupta
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £13.29

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slightly predictable but god fun throughout., 20 May 2010
This review is from: Elvenquest (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Elvenquest is a six part radio series broadcast on the BBC and now available via cd on a three disc set (each disc containing two half hour episodes). The story follows Sam Porter, a fantasy novelist who gets inadvertently taken through a portal to lower earth by a small band of questers trying to find the chosen one, the only person who can wield the sword of Asnagar and banish evil from lower earth. The series tracks them through their quest to find the sword (which will let Sam return home) battling against the evil Lord Darkness along the way.

As a spoof in the fantasy genre a lot of jokes are on the obvious and sometime cliche'd side - the characters all fit into their fairly stereotypical places and all the locations and quests have suitably silly and over the top names. Separately the humour is often fairly obvious and you will be able to finish a lot of the jokes for the cast, but this somehow builds together with the fantastic cast to make a genuinely enjoyable series that will have you giggling away to yourself (the usual problem does appear - you will get odd looks listening to this on the bus grinning away to yourself). The cast all manage to fit the characters perfectly and manage to suit the style and humour of the series perfectly -just silly and cliche'd enough to get you laughing without going too over the top and ending up annoying.


It's Morecambe and Wise (Vintage Beeb)
It's Morecambe and Wise (Vintage Beeb)
by Eddie Braben
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £5.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage comedy, 28 Mar 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'It's Morecambe and Wise' is a new repackaging of some of their older recorded work, released as part of the newer 'Vintage Beeb' series.

To someone that is a big fan of Morecambe and Wise, it probably won't be anything new as the work has already appeared on the original broadcast plus earlier audio releases, but for a relative newcomer such as myself it is 45 minutes of brilliant comedy, in the traditional bickering and horseplay of Morecambe and Wise. I will have to admit I cannot tell you if they are some of the better known sketches, but can definitely confirm they are brilliant pieces, and that listening to them on a bus is a bad idea if you don't like other commuters looking oddly at you giggling away...

The only real complaint I have is that of the format - While the majority of the recordings work perfectly as audio, there are a few points where it is obvious it was originally recorded from a tv broadcast, as they make note of how they look and similar things which are obviously unavailable in audio, but even there it is fairly easy to piece together the image in your mind, and the humour more than makes up for the shortcomings.


Kitaro [DVD] [2007]
Kitaro [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Eiji Wentz
Offered by SweetBuzzards
Price: £1.52

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, if not spectacular, 18 Mar 2010
This review is from: Kitaro [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Kitaro is a new live action/animation hybrid based on the long running Japanese Kitaro anime series. It mainly follows the character of Kitaro, a member of the Yokai - a form of mythical creatures that generally live separately from humans, with various powers and skills and a huge range of different looks and people - somewhat reminiscent of all the characters inhabiting many of the Ghibli films like Spirited Away. The film is mainly based on Kitaro as he helps out the characters of Kenta and Mika, unwittingly involved in the theft of a special stone which the evil foxes want to get hold of. Based in live action the animalistic characters are all created through makeup for people like Rat man and the Foxes, but at the same time there is still a healthy amount of special effects to create some of the weirder characters (Daddy Eyeball comes to mind as one of the most prominent) and in the moves used in the fight scenes. This definitely moves the film away from traditional live action to the tag line of a live action manga and keeping it styled in a cartoon fashion - lots of bright colours and wild moves.

For a complete newcomer to the Kitaro canon, I did spend the first while of the film figuring out what was going on and how the characters intertwine (humans and Yokai, both good and bad), but I did get it all straightened out in my head after a short while and could follow the story. The storyline to me did seem to hold a bit of a mixed reaction to me, as it did seem to vary between the supernatural and intriguing, but at the same time at times quite formulaic and easy to second guess, which was again mostly offset by the new locations and characters revealed to keep you interested and watching. I would image it as something aimed possibly towards someone younger than me who will be a bit more forgiving, and happy to follow along with the graphics and characters, who in the main are very over the top and cartoonish, exactly as expected really - Kitaro himself was probably the biggest let down in being very stone-faced and undecipherable throughout, especially when compared to people like Rat Man.

For someone new to Kitaro, I did enjoy the film as something completely new and enjoyable to figure out, and bar a few small niggles a good watch. Perhaps suited to a younger viewer (though bear in mind it does need the subtitles to follow the dialogue) rather than the 20 something but enjoyable none the less.


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