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The Show Must Go On - Being with an Australian Travelling Zoo
The Show Must Go On - Being with an Australian Travelling Zoo
Price: £3.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful book, 4 Mar. 2015
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Both compelling and enlivening, 'The Show Must Go On - Being with an Australian travelling zoo' is a truly wonderful book from Sal Bolton. In light-hearted and humorous prose, Bolton leads the reader through a day in the life of a circus-hand and, through it, the reader is, just like Bolton herself, "... allowed to gain insight into this exclusive historic circle of showmen folk, who are allegedly known to show caution to outsiders". These splendidly drawn characters, with their lilting Aussie (and, in one character's case, German) dialects reported in pitch-perfect dialogue, fill the book with a rich and vivid life, while Bolton's descriptions of the minutiae of a modern-day circus (contrasted at times with the age-old depiction of a circus which she carried in her mind before joining - the kind of depiction we might all recognise) is both fascinating and enlightening. You should read this book, and you should tell others about it, too. But, whatever you do, never say "Too easy" to Bolton.


The Perilous Postman
The Perilous Postman
by Ben Gavan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute joy, 19 Aug. 2014
This review is from: The Perilous Postman (Paperback)
What a read! In The Perilous Postman, Ben Gavan has created that exceptional thing in a book - be it for children or adults - he has not just come up with a brilliant story, he has created an entire world. The village of Big Wig is, as you turn the final page, as real as any of the other great literary landscapes - Macondo, Malgudi, Wessex, Leith. This is, I hope, just the first book in a saga which derives from a unique imaginary universe which we can all empathise with in some way.

This might be a children's book, but it's one of those children's books which can be read and enjoyed by people of all ages. I found myself laughing out loud more than I'd like to admit as I flicked through its pages - mostly at the explicit humour and wordplay, but also at those little hidden gags inserted just for the pleasure of us adults. Roald Dahl did it, The Simpsons continues to - and now it's Ben Gavan's turn to join the canon.

As a teacher, I would not hesitate to use this book as a class-reader in my school - and am fully determined to pressgang my Head into buying a shedload of copies once the new year starts. It's exactly the kind of book I know my kids would love: the kind which they would demand we keep reading even if it's time to move from literacy to numeracy. And what more could you ask than that?


The Ribbons are for Fearlessness: A Journey
The Ribbons are for Fearlessness: A Journey
by Catrina Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensational, 15 May 2014
Every once in a while, a book comes along which thoroughly inundates your senses from all angles. This is such a book. Beautifully written and compellingly constructed, "The Ribbons are for Fearlessness" is awash with evocative imagery of Europe's wild spaces. Davies is one of those rare travel-writers who can not only immerse you in the sights and sounds and smells of her journey, but also in the deep and raw emotions of herself. She is immaculately brave in her honesty, taking her readers on a journey which is both worldly-wise and astoundingly intimate. It made me yearn for the campervan I parted company with a few years ago (also rusting, yellow, and a dear home to me for a year of my life). If I still owned it, I would have left for Norway the moment I finished this book.


A Short Ride in the Jungle: The Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle
A Short Ride in the Jungle: The Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle
by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A tremendous book, 16 April 2014
This is such a wonderful book, and for so many different reasons.
First, it does what most other recent travelogues fail to do: it tells the story of a true ADVENTURE. Bolingbroke-Kent lives and experiences that adventure with all the bravery and tenacity of the great explorers. Perhaps the adventure as a trope has dwindled in travel literature because travel has become so easy, and the potential for adventure difficult to find. One thing is for certain - Bolingbroke-Kent finds that adventure in this book, and her re-telling of it is both compelling and thrilling.
Second, underlying the adventure is a well-researched and contemporary document of the post-Indochinese subcontinent. "A Short Ride in the Jungle" is not just a journey through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, it is also a journey through that region's unique history, and Bolingbroke-Kent does it a justice which is hard to match in other books.
Third (and most important for me), this book is so well-written it becomes, at times, mesmerising. Bolingbroke-Kent's sheer linguistic skill, her carefully-chosen semantics and impeccable dialogue prove that there is nothing faddish about this book: it certainly has its place in the canon.
I would fully recommend it to anyone - it is an absolute delight to read.


Falling in Honey: Life and Love on a Greek Island
Falling in Honey: Life and Love on a Greek Island
by Jennifer Barclay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happiness is easy sometimes ..., 18 April 2013
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I was warned I might not like this book. How delighted I was that, on putting it down, I could inform the naysayer how wrong they had been.

For a travel book (and all the limitations that genre holds), 'Falling in Honey' succeeds in weaving together myriad themes to create a truly sensational read: the nature of love; the history of Greece; the strength that it takes to book a one-way ticket and just GO. Jennifer Barclay knits these concepts together with the skill of a novelist, but she underlines it with something much more profound - that this is all real, has happened - and her ability to fly phoenix-like above it all will leave any reader at once in awe and jealous.

While the evocations of Greece are sumptuous and the characterisations three-dimensional, the real treat in this book is the life-affirming chorus of refrains ... 'happiness is easy sometimes' ...


To Have & Have Not
To Have & Have Not
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ... but for the right reasons?, 25 Mar. 2012
This review is from: To Have & Have Not (Paperback)
I am a huge Hemingway fan. To my mind, 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' is one of the 20th century's best novels; 'A Moveable Feast' one of the same century's best pieces of narrative non-fiction; and I'm not sure there's ever been a better short-story written than 'The Old Man and the Sea'.

But I'll also be the first to admit that his writing failed almost as often as it succeeded. 'Across the River and Into the Trees' was as stultifying as 'The Old Curiosity Shop'; 'True at First Light' was beautiful in parts but ultimately strange and meandering; and 'A Farewell to Arms' (contentious statement this one) was simply dismal.

'To Have and Have Not', like many of Hemingway's short stories (for this was born out of two), stands somewhere in the middle. It is difficult not to get tugged into the story of Harry Morgan and difficult not to like him: murderous, racist profiteer that he is. I've never seen the myriad film-adaptations, but can understand why it has been so popular with Hollywood executives - Morgan's story is a gun-blazing, hard-drinking blockbuster, and his scenes in the novel range from terse action to moments of surprising tenderness.

Then suddenly, in the last fifty pages, we are introduced to a score of new characters whose relation to the main story is tenuous at best and disjointed at worst. It's still fascinating stuff, but so unconnected and so late in the novel that one wonders what Hemingway was thinking when he structured his novel in this way.

I think, perhaps, he wrote it as a first draft and was so displeased with it (he has famously claimed it to be his worst novel) that he just shouldered it on to his publisher without any corrections just to be done with it. This is a shame, for with some careful interweaving of narratives and a little more bulk, this novel could have been as fine as much of his other output.

But, still, it's Hemingway, isn't it? And even when he's bad, he's still better than most.


Bulletin
Bulletin
Price: £2.27

5.0 out of 5 stars A vital story, 24 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Bulletin (Kindle Edition)
The atrocious conflicts of the Sarajevo crisis have been largely ignored by contemporary literature. Here you will find a moving and astute account of those days. The writing is dark and poetic, the themes disturbing, and the climax as shocking and moving as any well-written novel. I've always found drama far more challenging to read than prose or poetry, but I was so taken by this story from the start that I finished it in one sitting. BULLETIN manages to surpass both the prosaic and the poetic by what is left unsaid: as the dialogue rapidly unfolds, the sentiments, emotions, concepts, truths and untruths bite the reader with a clarity one finds in the non-fiction of Hemingway and Orwell. An accomplished and astonishing work.


Ashton AGT40 Telecaster Style Electric Guitar Tobacco Sunburst
Ashton AGT40 Telecaster Style Electric Guitar Tobacco Sunburst

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not buy, 18 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Do not be tempted by the low price. This is an awful guitar which seems to require a different tuning depending on which fret you play at. Very poor manufacturing. I bought one and had to send it back. For only 30 quid more I got a Squier Telecaster.


The Year Of The Flood
The Year Of The Flood
by Margaret Atwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Atwood does it again, 23 Oct. 2011
This review is from: The Year Of The Flood (Paperback)
Is it me, or is Atwood getting better with each passing year? The first book of hers I read was the Booker-winning 'The Blind Assassin' and, I must admit, I found it challenging. But then I read 'The Handmaid's Tale' and 'Oryx and Crake' and suddenly realised why my old English teacher had lionised this author so much. I've since gone back to the start, buying and reading each of Atwood's novels in chronological order whenever I find them in a charity shop. 'The Edible Woman' was good, but clearly the work of a first-time novelist. But then 'Surfacing' and 'Lady Oracle' set the precedent of high-quality page-turning married with relevant social commentary which defines Atwood's novels. I loved 'Oryx and Crake' so much that when I saw this, its sequel, in my local charity shop, I ignored the chronology and bought and read it.

Many credit Orwell and Huxley as the unsurpassed creators of the dystopian novel. Atwood is, in my opinion, right up there with them. 'The Year of the Flood' is simply a wonderful read, and one which leaves you in constant awe of the author's unremitting innovation and inventiveness. To be allowed entrance into this flowering imagination is a privilege - I have no doubt Margaret Atwood will be read for a long time to come. I know I'll be reading her for the rest of my life. Well, she's already given me enough books, and she's showing no signs of slowing.

Nice one, Woody.


Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Penguin Modern Classics)
Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Semi-autobiography, 14 Oct. 2011
Orwell did not like 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying'; he believed it and 'A Clergyman's Daughter' were awful. I agree with him on the latter, but not the former. Granted, 'Aspidistra' is no '1984' nor 'Down and Out', but it is still a wonderful piece of writing from one of the 20th century's most wonderful writers, and is perhaps Orwell's most introspective and self-effacing work of fiction.
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