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The Gro Company Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind
The Gro Company Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind
Price: £22.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius Idea, 3 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I can't rate this product highly enough: we've just come back from holiday where the blind was put into use and it was darker than what we get at home. The size of the holiday apartment window was huge but the blind was big enough to cope with it: unless you've got a shop window to blot out, this should do the job.

It went up and cam down easily, and resizing was no problem. It's nice and compact for travelling too.

The blackout effect was so good that the inlaws were considereing getting ones for their own use.


Star Wars: Order 66: A Republic Commando Novel
Star Wars: Order 66: A Republic Commando Novel
by Karen Traviss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please make her stop!, 23 May 2013
Thank Palpatine for Order 66. If it wasn't for this trigger we'd have yet another Republic Commando book where they sit around on their arses doing nothing. Of course, they still spend most of the novel doing nothing but they are at least eventually forced to do something (although Karen Travesty holds out as long as she can even with that).

Travesty must have been looking forward to this, where the evil, callous Jedi finally get their just-deserts and the Clones turn on their oppressors. She's always been keen to point out that the Clones are a slave army but she refuses to allow that the Jedi have been forced into this position too. What was the poignant death of goodness in Revenge of the Sith is cause for celebration for Travis.

The series has been like an ugly pimple that you've endured, waiting for it to come to a head if only for the satisfaction of watching it explode, but instead it oozes a bit of filmy pus and peters out. But don't worry if you're a fan of Darman & co, this is one case of acne that's doomed to return in Imperial Commando and- for no apparent reason- in the Legacy of the Force series.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 17, 2014 6:50 AM BST


Star Wars Republic Commando: True Colours: True Colours v. 3 (Star Wars Republic Commando 3)
Star Wars Republic Commando: True Colours: True Colours v. 3 (Star Wars Republic Commando 3)
by Karen Traviss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 50 Shades of Drab, 23 May 2013
Whoever wrote the blurb on the back of this book must have had a hard time filling the space because nothing happens. Waiting for Godot has more of a plot than this. I'd rather have just given George Lucas the £8 directly. At least then there'd be no publication costs, Travesty wouldn't get her cut and I wouldn't have wasted hours of my life trudging through this mire. You could honestly skip this instalment and miss nothing.


Star Wars Republic Commando: Triple Zero (Star Wars Republic Commando 2)
Star Wars Republic Commando: Triple Zero (Star Wars Republic Commando 2)
by Karen Traviss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Triple-Zero Action, 23 May 2013
The Clone Wars are in full swing and our elite squad of special ops clones is...sitting on Coruscant waiting for some ambiguous terrorist threat. Travesty always writes Star Wars as though it's the post-9-11 real world, not fantasy, so naturally she wants to write about terrorism. What's unnatural is having a squad of Boba Fetts on police duty, laying about and whining. She has a carte blanche to send them off on the most fantastic adventure she can imagine and instead we get the Clone version of Loose Women.

I cannot understand why Karen Travis has such a following. She's a parasitic writer who takes other people's inventions and saps all the life out it. Star Wars is a franchise filled with action and fun; Gears of War is a franchise filled with action and fun. Travesty worms her way into both cash cows and delivers bloated books that feature neither action nor fun. I'd like to see her produce something off her own bat and see how well she does then (so long as I don't have to read the thing: I've suffered enough of her writing already).

Dealing with clones, it's a difficult thing to build up an impression of them as individuals and it's not something that Travis manages. Once off the page, Darman is the only one I can ever remember and that's because Etain has a thing for him.

The only halfway decent things are mean old Vau and his dog-anteater-thing pet, mostly because they're the only ones that don't just whinge all the time.

The one thing that I won't complain about where other anti-Travis reviewers do is the Mando language. I think it's fine for her to use her own jargon: the problem lies in the way these words are constantly italicised. It means they always jar with the text and so seem unnatural: it's like a big signpost saying "this word's made up!". This choice is an editorial one, so the writer's not to blame.

The only good thing I can say about this book is that it's not as bad as the next installment.


Star Wars Republic Commando: Hard Contact (Star Wars Republic Commando 1)
Star Wars Republic Commando: Hard Contact (Star Wars Republic Commando 1)
by Karen Traviss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A High Point for Travis, 23 May 2013
This is Karen Travis's high point entry in the Star Wars canon, largely because it's the only one of her books where anything actually happens. It's not a particularly enthralling adventure but there is at least something going on.

Things start off promisingly enough: Travis demonstrates a truth unstated in the films: that the Jedi don't have a clue how to command an army. In Attack of the Clones we see hundreds of clones thrown away in open battle as they march towards the enemy in massed ranks and the opening shows these special ops troops being similarly thrown away. In-the-field realism is Travis' forte and she rightly highlights that shiny white armour's a pretty rubbish idea. To this she adds the idea that other equipment is unsuitable which is supposition but a reasonable one.

The central mission in the novel pits the commandos in a difficult and realistic situation: crossing a largely featureless arable land to oust the entrenched Separatists. By its nature, this is unremarkable terrain so the blandness of the setting is forgivable and actually makes the task in hand more interesting. It's not what I was hoping for, given the game it's based on (I was expecting something black-ops along the lines of Tom-Clancy's Rainbow 6). This plays out as a run-of-the-mill combat mission which is ok but nothing brilliant. The stand-out aspect is the lead enemy, a Mandalorian- the first non-Fett appearance I can recall from the novels.

It's not too bad, which is high praise from me considering what I think of this writer. Beware if you're thinking of buying though: things in this series go massively downhill from book 2 onwards. Taken in isolation, this book would be fine but if you're commitng to the series, bear the following in mind...

I have three bug-bears with Travis' writing. The first is that nothing ever happens in her books (Hard Contact actually being the exception). These are volumes that are 400-500 pages long but you'd struggle to recall an actual plot. In gunning for realism she's pushed the balance too far and people generally sit around doing nothing. Such probably is the reality of being a soldier but this is Star Wars- escapist fantasy- not reality.

Second, Travis has an obsession with making her creations better than anything else in the canon. Look out for the native "wraiths". These can make themselves invisible or change appearance at will and are conveniently invisible in the Force. They're stupidly invulnerable, the product of Travis's insistence on writing her creations in as super-awesome-better-than-anything-else. She's like a child in a playground saying "I'm wearing anything-proof armour and I've got a gun that can shoot through any-thing proof armour". The Beskargam (Mandalorian Iron) used in the Mandalorian's armour is a case in point: it's genuinely anything-proof (ok, there's pre-existing mention of the toughness of Mandalorian armour but Travis makes sure hers is better than Boba Fett's when she gets to write about him).

Thirdly, Travis hates Jedi. How someone who writes Star Wars books can hate the Jedi, I don't know, but she does. In Travis' hands the Jedi aren't guardians of peace and justice, forced reluctantly into a war not of their making but uncaring, warmongering bullies who command their slave armies with callous disregard. Of course, this isn't true of HER Jedi. HER Jedi are super-awesome-better-than-anything-else. They, and only they, are on the side of the clones and question the morality of the war. Again, this isn't too apparent in this book: we only see it in Etain's briefing but the head of Jedi intelligence is portrayed in the harshest possible light.

So, read this book if you like- on it's own it's alright- but for the love of the Force, don't get the rest unless you're a completist.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
by Karen Traviss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Travesty does it again, 23 May 2013
God, I hate Karen Travis. She's the Scrappy Do of Star Wars authors. All she had to do here was follow the plot of the film with a bit of character insight but we've got something that veers massively from the film and is clogged down with her usual dose of Jedi-bashing. I expected a light, breezy adventure, like the film: what I got instead was an utter chore.

A spin-off book of a spin-off film is a pretty pointless thing so adding bits should give it a bit more worth but this actually changes entire scenes. This isn't necessarily Travis's fault- there could have been plot changes after she was commissioned- but as this will only appeal to completists, releasing something that doesn't fit into the rest of the EU is unacceptable. A cynical cash in of the worst sort and utterly, utterly hateful. Just watch the film.


Star Trek [DVD]
Star Trek [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Pine
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £3.41

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Star Trek, 13 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Star Trek [DVD] (DVD)
On the day this launched I bounced to the cinema merrily humming "Star Trekkin' Across the Universe". The word was that this was a film to wash away the bitter aftertaste of Nemesis and Enterprise. I left with a scowl on my face.

What did they do to it? This isn't Star Trek. This is an action film dressed up as and pretending to be Star Trek.

I can put aside the mumbo jumbo science like the frying-pan-to-fire logic of stopping a supernova by making it a black hole, of needing to drill down into a planet to fire a black hole or magic red-matter gloop (and did I hear right that this Supernova was going to destroy the entire Galaxy? I'm no scientician but I thought a supernova was more solar-system scale disaster). Films like Independence Day are full of bad science but are still enjoyable.

You might even forget such bizarre plotting as the bad guy's 25-year hiatus after his time-trip and Kirk's strange leap from Cadet to Captain in one fell swoop.

I don't have much problem with the casting either: Christopher Pine looks the part and the way his Kirk behaves would be believable for a Kirk who had had an awkward upbringing. Quinto nails Spock, Bones is suitably laconic and the others are fine, apart from Simon Pegg who does nothing to dismiss his typecast as a comic buffoon (what's done with the characters is a different matter but I'll get to that).

I also have no issue with this being action and SFX-heavy. The morality-play ethos has been more than adequately handled in the TV series. The whole point of a film instalment is that it does more than a TV budget, episode length and production time will allow. Indeed, the Next Generation films often suffered from feeling like just a longer episode. If you accept that the franchise needed some sort of reboot, then big and loud seems a good way to do it.

What I cannot abide, though, is that they've shown zero respect for the source material. To include a plot that effectively wipes out the entire franchise is utterly callous: the makers could easily have explored the years before the original series without dismissing what went before but they wanted to make a statement that this was not established Star Trek. If it's not Star Trek, what is it then except something with the same name?

Even with what history it deigns to keep intact, the film is inconsistent. On one hand, the film makes nods to the show's history (Kirk cheating in the unwinnable test/ Captain Pike as the Enterprise's first Captain) but on the other, it takes massive liberties with the established order. Some, like Spock's anger-issues and his rivalry with Kirk can be just about shoe-horned in but others like the 5-or-more years younger Checkov being at the Accademy with Kirk or the romance between Spock and Uthura are just plain wrong. It's a strange situation where the heritage is acknowledged and then trampled on.

If you're not a fan of Star Trek, or even a casual viewer, none of these criticisms will matter. All that will matter is, is it entertaining and you can't fault it there. Sure, if it wasn't for the name, there'd be nothing to distinguish it from any other generic action film but it has no trouble keeping your attention for a couple of hours.

It's also worth saying that this isn't the only franchise that's been rebooted- Batman and Superman in particular must have half a dozen iterations apiece- and although I'm not generally a fan of remakes- I've been much more willing to accept these. Perhaps it's because with 28 seasons, 10 previous films and all the books (which I haven't read), Star Trek is such a well-developed entity that it's hard to accept something that casually replaces so much. It could also be that this lacks the heart of what makes Star Trek Star Trek: if you showed this to Gene Roddenberry he probably wouldn't recognise it.

I'm painfully aware that giving a less-than glowing review leaves this open to a bunch of negative responses, no matter how well-reasoned it may be. A two-sentence, 5-star review will probably fair better but I'm trying to be measured here. On the one hand, we have a reasonable action film deserving about three stars; on the other, we have a cynical cash-in that trades off a name and deserves one star. I'm therefore giving it a score in the ground between the two and awarding two stars. Consider it worth one star more or less depending on how much you regard the existing franchise.

Obviously, this is fiction and if you don't like how it sits with the established Trek world, you can always ignore it- which is precisely what I intend to do.

P.S. I guess the Enterprise series survived this cull?


A Storm of Swords, Part 2: Blood and Gold (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3)
A Storm of Swords, Part 2: Blood and Gold (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3)
by George R.R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Bloodbath, 12 Dec. 2012
Wow! This really turns things on it head. Just when you thought Westeros was starting to totter on predictably, Martin throws one out of nowhere that skittles everything. It's hard to explain how shattering events are without spoiling matters but suffice to say, there are several earth-shattering events that completely change the landscape of the saga.

I could easily wax lyrical about that's good in the book but doing so would absolutely spoil it. Any of the failings of Steel and Snow are suddenly forgiven: this is easily the best book in the saga so far.


Steel and Snow
Steel and Snow
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Lesser Half of a Very Good Book, 12 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Steel and Snow (Paperback)
This may be 500+ pages but it genuinely is only one half of a book. From a page-per-penny perspective you're getting value for money but you'll have no choice but to get the second volume too. That being said, this is book 3 of a saga that will include at least 6 books (8 volumes) so, if you're reading this, you've presumably already accepted making that investment.

Value aside, the biggest effect of this being half a book is that the pacing is a bit off: we have the establishing acts of a story but not the pay-off. Where Clash of Kings had a slow-burning start, Song of Swords starts with a bang. Sadly, it doesn't keep it there and we slip away from grand-scale action. However, it is worth persevering: this may be cold and hard like Steel and Snow but the coming parts, Blood and Gold are suitably hot and fiery.

To be honest, some elements are suspect. Possibly-bloated size aside, Caitlyn and Rob Stark both act irrationally, behaving in a manner that suits the plot (creating trouble) rather than in a way that makes sense to their character and situation: Arya, meanwhile, seems stuck in a perpetual loop of escape and capture. It's no deal-breaker but in the absence of any tent-pole events, these minor points more circumspect.

Many will be tempted to leave the saga after this instalment but, as with half-way through Clash of Kings, stick with it and you'll get your reward in the end. Hold on until you've read Blood and Gold and make your decision then.


A Clash of Kings (Reissue) (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
A Clash of Kings (Reissue) (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
by George R.R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars The Difficult Second Album, 12 Dec. 2012
When I read the Aubrey/Maturin novels, the second book- Post Captain- tested my commitment: it was bigger and slower than the first book, introduced new elements that didn't seem to have any bearing and left behind bits I'd been enjoying. I got through it though and was glad I did as the series really took off from there. Such is the case with a Clash of Kings.

It starts off weakly, introducing Stannis Baratheon obliquely through the eyes of his doddering maestar. It's unfamiliar but you'd better get used to it because Martin has a lot of new characters to introduce. The story is split between the perspectives of Arya, Sansa, Caitlyn, John Snow, Tyrion, Dany and now Davos and Theon. Each gives us eyes into one part of the world so clearly there's a lot going. It's a lot of activity to cover and with each chapter passing the 20 page mark, you can be looking at gaps of over a hundred pages between a cliff-hanger and its resolution. It's disjointing and the depth of information that Martin tries to pass along in this stretch of time is bewildering: often you come to a character's chapter unable to remember what they were up to when you last saw them.

This is something that Martin attempts to rectify in later books by splitting them up as he adds even more perspectives to the roster. Whether this works in these later books, there's nothing comparable here and this seems to be a barrier to many readers. It's a shame as Martin has created a rich and engrossing world.

There are plenty of key developments going on and periodic bits of action but it still somehow manages to feel ponderous. For the most part, it falls to Tyrion's manipulative workings in King's Landing to carry the book. It's like Martin's working to expand the scope of the story so that it can pick up the pace in later books. Within the book itself, the big payoff comes in the final section with an epic battle that makes it all worthwhile. If you're enthusiasm is waning, stick with it and you'll be rewarded in the end.


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