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Archive for March, 2007

bookrev: Great Britain (Eyewitness Travel Guide)

5 stars: Worn it out with several trips, but still haven’t tapped it’s full potential

We’ve used this guide book for:
- Two trips to Scotland;
- Multiple trips to London and surrounding areas, both for business and pleasure;
- A recent trip to Oxford, with side trips to the Cotswolds, Windsor Castle et al.

For sites to see, the DK guide books have excellent maps, points of interest and “star sights”, their recommendation of places you must see. I’ve found their Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral sections in this book particularly well done, and the coverage of London plus maps have prevented us from having to purchase a separate London guide. The Blenheim Palace, Oxford University and Cotswolds section were very helpful on this last go round. Recommendation on places to stop and things to see in Scotland saved the day on a long road trip from Glasgow up Loch Ness, over to Perth, finishing in Edinburgh…the stop for sheep shearing save my kids and my sanity.

One site recommendation that was oversold in the book was the hillside chalk figures in the Vale of the White Horse (Thames Valley)…interesting history, not much to see.

The recommendations on eateries and hotels are well done, we’ve used them for Scotland and London. In Oxford, we stayed at the wonderful Remont B&B, which is not listed in the version of the guide we have but may and should be listed in new/future versions.

We will wear this guide out on future trips.

bookrev: Hadrian’s Wall by William Dietrich

4 stars: Historical fiction mixed with romance and historical speculation

Hadrian’s Wall by William Dietrich mixes the culture of a declining Roman empire with the “barbaric” non-Romans of early Britain (Celts, Scottis, etc.) in a love triangle (quadrangle) story. As with his other works of historical fiction, Mr. Dietrich researchs the geographical areas and history of where/what he is writing about, and combines fictional characters with historical.

Valeria, a Roman senator’s daughter, is sent to marry Marcus Flavius, who is named Tribune at Hadrian’s Wall (built by Roman Emperor Hadrian to keep the barbarians out of the Roman part of Britain) because of this arranged marriage to Valeria. Marcus is replacing Galba Brassidias, a career Roman soldier who has spent his life at the wall and resents being replaced for political reasons by someone with less experience. Valeria is almost kidnapped before her marriage by Arden Caratacus, a Celt and former Roman who lives beyond the Wall in the wild north. He eventually does capture her (with Galba’s hidden assistance) and takes her back with him to live.

Although I did enjoy this novel, it did not possess as much history, locale and cultuer as Bill’s other historical fiction novels, Napolean’s Pyramids and The Scourge of God. Hadrian’s Wall was more about the story of Valeria and her romances than about the times and surroundings, which were more balanced in the other two novels.

movrev – V for Vendetta

3 stars: Predictable, but well done

“V for Vendetta” has a very predictable plot, but is visually well done, with good acting (or voice over?) by Hugo Weaving as V. Stephen Rea also does an excellent job as Chief Inspector Finch.

A number of the minor actors (esp. Stephen Fry as Dietrich and Tim Pigott-Smith) bring great acting to very stereotypical roles (Pigott-Smith as the feeling-less super bad guy, very Herman Goering-ish, Fry as the only person our heroine can turn to).

Unfortunately the plot is a repeat of other plots and books that set a formerly democratic government up as oppressive “for the public’s own good” and personal freedoms get taken away almost without people noticing. Eventually a victim of the government (in this case, V) performs daring acts to get the people to think about standing up to what should be “their” government.

A little too much propaganda-ish at the end, though I did like who the V character was shown to be both hero and villan in the eyes of Evey, the heroine. More of that would have made the plot interesting.

Worth watching once.

movrev: The Protector starring Tony Jaa

Bring on Ong-Bak 2

Well filmed and excellently coreographed, The Protector has decent story (very similar to Ong Bak) and decent acting to make it an enjoyable film. But the fight scenes will have you grabbing for the remote control to rewind and rewind again.

The story is once again of something stolen from a quiet village by a gang of criminals who have a master plan for some kind of evil in a larger city. In this case, the elephants that Tony Jaa’s family have protected for generations are stolen for their use as luck talismans. As in the first movie, Jaa has to journey to the big city to fight the henchmen of this criminal gang. His sidekick is the same actor as Ong-Bak as well.

But the choreography of the action scenes is second to none. There are many, but three stand out: the single-take shot of Jaa fighting his way up a seemingly never-ending circular staircase; Jaa vs. a Capoeria, swordsman and wrestler in a monestary, and the final fight, where Jaa takes on 50 fighters ala Bruce Lee, then finishes with fighting three huge brutes who are all twice his size.

The fight between Jaa and Lateef Crowder (Capoeria fighter and gymnast extraordinaire) is one of the best filmed and coreographed fight sequences in recent film history.

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


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