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J. Groom (UK)

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Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi (Helm Field Guides)
Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi (Helm Field Guides)
by Terry Stevenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £31.50

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best guide for the region, 29 Oct. 2007
I own the previous edition of this book before it was published by Helm and Iam assuming that it is the same book (same cover!!)
I was inspired to write this review as I noticed that this book was not getting any love, compared to its nearest rival by Zimmerman. I used this book exclusively during 3 months travelling Kenya and Tanzania and though I did get to look at Zimmerman during this period I think this book is superior in a few small ways:
1. It has text and illustrations on opposites pages rather than a separate plates section. I realise that this is down to personal preference but when using a book as a field guide - having to flick back and forth from plates to text is a no-no for me!!!
2. The illustrations are better. Again subjective but I feel that they are more lifelike and vibrant.
3. It also covers Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
Needless to say this is a fantastic book and though Zimmerman is good, I would recommend this one - I certainly made lots of use of it. It was a constant companion and though quite big and heavy it was certainly robust enough to withstand intensive use in the field. This is possibly the 2nd best guide have owned and definately the best African guide I have seen (it also compares favourable with the Struik guides where they cover the same birds - the illustrations are much better in some cases).

The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand
The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand
by B. D. Heather
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like the Hand Guide but more informative, 29 Oct. 2007
Considering that you don't really get much for your money with the 'Hand Guide' version of this book compared to other field guides - I would definately recommend that you choose this book instead if you are a serious or semi-serious birder/naturalist as it is an informative read in its own right as well as an adequate ID guide.
It only gets 4 stars as the quality of illustrations and style of the ID guide section is good but doesn't compare to some of the best guides on the International market and as I explained in the 'Hand Guide' review, is perhaps not even required given the nature of birds seen in NZ.
See my review of the Hand Guide for some recommended places to visit.

Hand Guide to the Birds of New Zealand
Hand Guide to the Birds of New Zealand
by Hugh A. Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £41.99

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad book - just maybe uneccessary?, 29 Oct. 2007
The first thing I noticed upon ordering this book for my first trip to New Zealand last year is that this book isn't really very big. Especially for the money you pay for it in the UK. Secondly the majority of the book is taken up by pelagic seabirds and waders, many of which are rare vagrants. Thirdly the quality of the book is not terrible by any means but the illustrations are not the finest in the world. The text is adequate for ID purposes but presents little information.
Upon arriving in New Zealand I found that there really aren't that many species of non-marine birds there and many of those are introductions and will be familiar to UK birders. Of course when you do finally get to grips with NZ specialities like the Tui and the Kea and so on - they are all fantastic and unique birds. But heres the crux of it - you really don't need this guide in order to id them as they are all so distinctive and there is a lot of information to help you at any of the National Park or Dept of Conservation Offices. There are no complex warbler groups, only one pipit, only one lark etc. Really one of the small photographic guides (which I always think are aimed at the casual wildlife enthusiasts rather than serious birders) will probably suffice unless you want the most comprehensive and complete guide on the market. And if that is the case I would recommend the 'Field Guide' version of this publication which has all the contents of this book plus plenty more information to make it an informative read in addition to an ID guide - and its only a few pounds more. Therefore it kind of makes this book, good as it is, quite redundant.
Plus if you are really into pelagic bird spotting you can get a seperate and probably better book for them (though I haven't read it myself) plus you can get guided boat-trips with knowledgeable guides from places such as Auckland or Kaikoura.
New Zealand is the most beautifu place I have been to and I recommend it highly - not many species for hardened birders but the ones they have are gems and the scenery is spectacular to match. For birds I recommend taking a whale-watching trip from either Auckland or Kaikoura, the Otago Pensinsula at Dunedin (very good guided tours there), Tiritiri Matangi Island Sanctuary, Fjordland (go tramping along the Dart/Rees), and the mecca of NZ birding - Stewart Island, your best chance of spotting a wild kiwi (though sadly I didn't!).
But as I say you are better off investing in the 'Field Guide' version of this book if you are a serious birder/naturalist.

Yours Truly, Angry Mob
Yours Truly, Angry Mob
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.94

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh so average, 17 July 2007
This review is from: Yours Truly, Angry Mob (Audio CD)
There is a track on this album called Everything is Average Nowadays, which is ironic really as that is exactly what this album is. Completely average.
The formula remains the same, the sound is the same - it just lacks the hooks and the vibrancy that made the first album such a pleasure. Their first album stood out from the indie-pack by having some cast-iron singles. This album has Ruby, which is catchy enough but not a patch on I Predict a Riot, and very little else of note. Its not bad, it just isn't particularly good.

Price: £3.95

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes it IS that good!, 17 July 2007
This review is from: Puzzle (Audio CD)
To answer a previous reviewer's question: Yes I do think this album is definately worth 5 stars. It is a breath of fresh air in a musical climate populated by identikit emo or indie bands, combining aspects of both genres along with whatever else they feel like and to great success.
Opener 'Living is a Problem...' is one of the best songs I have heard in a long time. It makes the hairs on my arms stand on end with the bleakness and emotive power of the lyrics combined with the surging energy of the music. Not since Blackened Sky have Biffy been so powerful. If anything its such a good song that it initially threatens to overshadow the rest of the album, but give it a few listens and new things creep out at you each time. First the fist in the air rock-alongs of the more accessible 'Semi-mental' and 'Saturday Superhouse' and then the more epic moments and all the little quirks and nuances that litter the album. The whole thing plays like a great gig set-list from start to finish - no tailing off towards the end which some other great albums tend to do.
To be honest Biffy kind of lost me with 'Vertigo...' and 'Infinity Land' (both had their moments but I just couldn't get into them) and as much as I loved Blackened Sky, this one tops it simply by taking everything good about Biffy (the heaviness, the emotion and the experimenting) and wrapping it up in one probable rock album of the year package.
Get it!

Costello Music
Costello Music
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.97

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe the hype!, 25 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Costello Music (Audio CD)
I first heard them on Radio One - where they were being hyped to death - and thought "here we go latest indie flavour of the month". But that Chelsea Dagger song was pretty catchy you know...

So I though what the hey I'll check it out and Wow! This album is quite frankly superb.

Every song has a slightly different style from full on punk rock in the vein of the Clash, Undertones, Buzzcocks etc to whistful acoustic numbers, theres also dashes of blues and ska in there too; and all wrapped up with fistfuls of hooks that'll have you singing along before you know it. Each song has its own little narrative going and have some absolute gems of lyrics in there. Most indie albums I find, tend to have great singles but the albums are samey and uninspiring, but for The Fratellis nearly all of these songs would make great singles and although I haven't seen them, I think they could be a great live band too.

I love it and at the moment it's my most listened to album and easily in my top 3 of the year so far. Check it out.

Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam
Price: £9.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest band in the world really deliver the goods!!, 25 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Pearl Jam (Audio CD)
First of all, many people are hailing this as a return to form, when the simple truth that Pearl Jam never went away! True, Binaural and Riot Act were my least favorite of their studio albums but they were still very good and they were still rocking hard on the live circuit. But then again I can see where people are coming from because the album sounds energetic, passionate and vital and to my ears the best album since Vs. It is also really hard to dispute the fact that their recent live shows have seemed almost revitalised (I should know I caught them in Dublin. Amazing!), which is a good trick seeing as they weren't lacking anything in the first place!

Anyway the album itself is possibly their most consistent to date. Even the obvious weaker tracks such as Parachutes and Big Wave contribute to the overall atmosphere and dynamics of the album - Parachutes being a whimsical melodic Beatlesque number and Big Wave being a singalong surf-punk sugar-rush. But what makes this a keeper is the fact that as usual PJ mix in lyrics which tackle politics and personal introspection without ever sounding cliched or lame (as lets face it every man and his band were getting in on the anti-Bush/anti-war angle) with music that whilst not particularly ground-breaking is solid as a rock - equally comfortable pounding out bruising power chords to atmospheric acoustics. This is an album that appeals on so many levels and will have you coming back to it for years to come.

Its hard to pick highlights but the 1-2-3-4 punch of the first four tracks - some of the most rocking in their catalogue - is hard to beat, but also the amazing lyrics of Marker in the Sand ("Now you got both sides claiming, killing in God's name, but God is nowhere to be found conveniently") and Inside Job (where Eddie proclaims he'll never lose his faith, because his faith is in himself) are equally affecting.

Its an album that mixes depth with sheer bombastic energy to fantastic effect, and if that's not an achievement for a band, many thought were way past their prime at this stage in their career, then I don't know what is.

Long live Pearl Jam!

Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.04

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Derivative but kind of fun., 26 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Wolfmother (Audio CD)
Let me just start by saying that there is not one part of this album that does not remind me of another band (usually either Led Zep, Black Sabbath, the White Stripes or Deep Purple - the beginning of City of Dreams even reminds me of Tenacious D!). Some might say this makes them hopelessly derivative and not worth the attention they are currently recieving. Maybe this is the case, but lets face it, who else is doing this sort of thing at the moment? They play with enough energy and confidence to merit repeated listens and I bet they would be a blast live.

The lack of any real instrumental prowess (even the solos are pretty basic) and lyrics that rival some of Led Zeps more fantasy moments in ridiculousness, leads me to believe that they don't have too much of a future. After all there's only so many one riff songs about unicorns and magic cities one can take. But whilst they're around I'll enjoy them.

Player's Guide to Eberron
Player's Guide to Eberron
by James Wyatt
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Like all the players guides - not worth it!, 26 Sept. 2006
Here's the good bit. The book looks great and is up to usual standard of WOTC presentation and looks lovely nestled up to the rest of your Eberron books on the bookcase.
The bad side is that like most of the 'Players guide' series, most of this information is largely the same as presented in other sourcebooks with maybe a bit more padding. The few 'crunchy' bits (new feats etc.) could easily have gone into other supplements (Races of Eberron springs to mind) and the maps of Xen'drik and Frostfell should have been in the Explorer's Handbook. The book also gives players far too much info about topics that DMs may want to keep from the players initially, such as the Daelkyr and Dragons and the aforementiond Xen'drik and Frostfell (I thought nobody had mapped theses places fully yet? So why would the players know their layout?).

Magic of Eberron: Eberron Campaign Supplement
Magic of Eberron: Eberron Campaign Supplement
by Bruce R. Cordell
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be better, 26 Sept. 2006
Magic of Eberron had so much potential to be a very useful sourcebook but really there is not enough here to make it an absolutely essential sourcebook. The introductary chapter detailing Eberron's unique forms of magic is way too short although the Daelkyr and Elemental binding sections have some merit by introducing some much needed game mechanics.

Then we have your usual array of prestige classes, new spells, new items, new feats and new monsters. These sections are a mixed bag with some of the things on offer quite intriguing (the Dragon Prophet and associated feats are good ideas, the new Dolgaunt and Quori are welcome additions to the Eberron monster lists and a number of the new spells are pretty cool), and some which are just plain awful. I find it very difficult to get excited about some of the prestige classes (the half-man half-warforged in particular - if you want to be a warforged, just play a warforged!) and the new undead creatures. There is also room for a fair few more new spells here too. For example there is a new infusion to make your weapons adamantine, but not one to make them any other material such as cold iron or silver.

The whole section about various grafts is terrible. Whilst the idea is not a bad thing, the grafts themselves are horribly overpriced. The earth glide graft which basically allows you to meld into stone for 1/3 of your level rounds at the cost of 2 Dex (yes thats right a -1 to ranged attacks, numerous skills, Reflex saves and AC) a few hp and this miraculuos item is valued at 113,000 GP (I think from memory - its a lot anyway). I would say here that Meld into Stone is a 3rd level cleric/druid spell that lasts 10mins/caster level and think what magic items you could get for that sort of money. If these grafts were seriously revised in price then the section would add some flavour to a campaign. As it stands its useless.

So in summary, a bit more content and some better quality control would have made this book a more essential purchase. The book is of the usual high standards of presentation and if you're a serious Eberron fan go ahead and get it, but if you're on a tight budget or only a part time Eberron player, I wouldn't bother.

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