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Robin Johnston (Michigan, USA)

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Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.85

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My girlfriend at the time never got over it!, 9 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Four (Audio CD)
In early 1995, I had just started dating a girl. One evening we were back at her place on the couch becoming, how can one put it, progressively more interested in each other. VH1 was playing in the background.

That was the moment I first heard the song 'Runaround'. I sat up on the couch and started watching the video, which was OK, but the song itself utterly blew me away. My girlfriend became a bit upset with me.

I can give no higher praise to a song that to say I remember the exact moment I first heard it. I went out the next day and bought the album, on which there are several other excellent songs, not least 'The Hook'.

This is a great album. Buy it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2014 5:29 PM BST

1776: America and Britain at War
1776: America and Britain at War
by David McCullough
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, human and colourful., 6 Aug. 2007
This is the first time I've read McCullough, but the experience has certainly left a very good impression.

My only complaint is that there were not more maps, and that those that were included were the original versions and sometimes very difficult to decipher. If only someone could have re-drawn them to make the troop movements, coastlines and terrain easier to read it would have been most helpful.

That said, the book is fascinating. It gives what appears to be a very even-handed appraisal of both nations involved, clearly and sympathetically stating the positions of each.

I will not go into detail about what I liked most, since other reviewers have covered it sufficiently. But the point I found most fascinating was how inept and indecisive Washington was in many ways during that year.

The fall of Boston was largely due to the efforts of Henry Knox, the manner in which he split his forces time and again was a lesson in what not to do, and his defense of New York was very poorly thought out, to say the least.

Counter those flaws however with his genius in other areas. His ability as an organiser. His ability to cajole policymakers. His ability to inspire. His key ability to spot talent in subordinates such as Greene and Knox.

I found myself wondering at one point how on earth independence was ever achieved. But by the end, I knew. Washington by the end of 1776 seems a very different leader from the one we see in January that year. The American army he leads has been tried and proved in battle for the first time and is beginning to understand and accept the price that will have to be paid in blood if they are ever to taste victory.

Washington emerged, quite rightly, a hero. 1776 gives the reader a detailed look at the fire in which the hero was forged. It is fascinating.

A Good Year [DVD] [2006]
A Good Year [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Russell Crowe
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £4.50

9 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wretched in almost every way., 25 July 2007
This review is from: A Good Year [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Loathe as I am to write negative reviews I just can't help it with this, primarily because one would have expected the combination of Mayle, Scott and Crowe to have delivered something so much better. That said, I think the blame has to be laid squarely at Ridley Scott's door.

Some of the locations are magnificent. And while Crowe's performance is OK, one wonders how much better it might have been if the director had had any sense of what kind of film he wanted to make. Or maybe he did, in which case, why?

Several moments had me putting my head in my hands in despair, none more so than the car going round the roundabout several times at 3x speed. Why??

The music. Good grief. It seems as though decisions about music were left to the final edit and then someone was told "Oh, just stick in what you like", which they duly did with no regard to the nature or pace of the scene concerned, or indeed for the clarity of dialogue. This happened on at least 10 occasions. Why???

The incessant mobile phone calls to the uber-P.A. in London, (who seems capable of overcoming problems that would have the CIA scratching their heads) that added so little to the film. Why????

There were a few diamonds in amongst the rocks, notably the recurring scorpions / lavender theme, but this film could have been so much more.

The only guess I can take at the directing is that Scott was trying to convey a point about the inability of a trader from the hurly-burly of the London markets to adapt to the pace of life in Provence. If this is the case, it is perhaps worth noting that having left the hurly-burly of the London advertising industry of the late 1980, Mayle himself slowed to a snail's pace when he moved to Provence. It is the pace at which his books are written and the vividness of the descriptions that are largely the reason for their success - two things that this film completely loses.

Perhaps also of note is that Crowe is a very still actor. Look at his performances in `The Insider' and `A Beautiful Mind' - minimum physical effort, maximum dramatic effect. And yet in this, Crowe is charging about in all directions, playing tennis, making phone calls, selling the house, climbing out of swimming pools.

Whatever Ridley Scott's intentions, this doesn't work for me on any level. It's a great shame.

Vulcan 607
Vulcan 607
by Rowland White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed, but still very readable., 22 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Vulcan 607 (Paperback)
I'm not a "fan" of war or military history books (I've only ever read 2, including this), but I found this to be involving from start to finish.

One reviewer has suggested that the book is little more than "They take off, drop bombs, then come home" or words to that effect. One wonders what possessed her to buy it in the first place since that much was clear to me just from reading the covers.

One could dismiss Romeo and Juliet with "They fall in love, get married then kill themselves" which would be true, but of course there's a bit more to it than that. For those of us that read of the bombing mission in the following day's newspapers however, perhaps we didn't realise how much more.

This book gives what appears to be a very detailed description of the planning and execution of a hugely complex and challenging mission from the perspectives of those who were most directly involved (both military and non military). Peripheral events are added to provide context and the result could be a giant yawn. For me however, it is sufficiently well written to make it a page turner. The only criticism I would have, not being from a military background, was that sometimes I forgot who was where in the chain or command and who was flying what plane.

All in all though, well worth the money.

I Know You Got Soul
I Know You Got Soul
by Jeremy Clarkson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Clarkson..., 30 April 2007
This review is from: I Know You Got Soul (Paperback)'ll probably like this.

It's not brilliant, but then again nor is Clarkson. The research is adequate, but if you like him it's not because of how thorough his research is, but because his opinions often coincide with your own and he has a healthy disrespect for stuffed shirts, windbags and the politically correct absurdities of the age in which we live.

As I suspect is the case with many men, my wife (who likes him despite being American) insists I am Jeremy's long lost twin. As such, I read it cover to cover in 2 or 3 days, during the course of which I was entertained, discovered a few interesting facts and decided that if I ever win the pools I will buy a Riva Aquarama.

I long for something that is a bit more of a meal from Clarkson, as I think he can be much more than he seems content to be. This is a snack, but an enjoyable snack nonetheless, and I'll revisit bits of it from time to time. As I believe another reviewer has said, perfect for the bedside table, the train to work or a long haul flight.

The Remains of the Day
The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Edition: Paperback

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond good. This is a work of rare beauty., 22 Mar. 2007
This review is from: The Remains of the Day (Paperback)
I was given this as a present and only knew the title due to a vague awareness of a film of the same name (though I have never seen it).

What a wonderful book. The main character is like pieces of a jigsaw, but the jigsaw is constructed with such skill that you never feel frustrated by the pieces that aren't there yet. At the same time, you also feel sometimes that you want to reach into the book, grab him by his starched collar and shake him while yelling "Aaaaarghhhh!".

The language is quite beautiful. I am not the kind of person whose opinion of a book is largely shaped by things like construction or syntax, but several times while reading ROTD I found myself pausing to admire the beauty of a particular sentence - something I have never done before.

The Remains of the Day is quite simply a delight from start to finish. I cannot recommend it highly enough. There should be 6 stars for a book like this.

Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less
Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less
by Jeffrey Archer
Edition: Paperback

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love him or hate him, Archer can write., 22 Mar. 2007
I really enjoyed this book. I won't write what it's about since everyone else has covered it quite thoroughly. However, I returned to it many times to read again passages that I found particularly enjoyable. I can pick it up, open it at a random page and instantly be engrossed once more. As a matter of fact I find that with many of Archer's books.

Certainly that's the kind of thing that makes him a bestselling writer, but does bestselling mean `great'?

I don't know. What does `great' mean? I tried reading One Hundred Years of Solitude (which is supposed to be a great book) a few years ago, and gave up after 300 pages when I couldn't remember who was related to whom any more. On the other hand, I have loved Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird since I was a teenager. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Is Archer a great writer? Who cares? For me, `Not a penny...' is a great read, and that's what counts.

Finest Hour: The bestselling story of the Battle of Britain
Finest Hour: The bestselling story of the Battle of Britain
by Tim Clayton
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy book to read. Persevere., 25 Feb. 2007
I found this a struggle, I must confess, for the first 100 or so pages. In order to remain chronological it leaps from one person's perspective to another. Until you get the hang of this it is often difficult to follow. Just as you've become involved with one story, it changes to another and you think "OK, was this guy the hurricane pilot or the sergeant major?" More times that I care to remember I had to go back to the index of characters to remind myself who was "talking" now.

But I'm SO GLAD I stuck with it. One of the reviews on the cover says it should be part of the national curriculum and I find that hard to disagree with. It took a long time to read (over a month, but I always read 2 or 3 books at a time) but the stories are heartwarming or heartbreaking in equal measure and you really want to read and re-read every word.

This was my mother's book. I found it amongst her things after she died and just happened to start reading it almost by accident.

I would never have bought it from a shop. But now that I have read it, it would have been worth every penny, and then some.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Stephen J. Dubner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected., 25 Feb. 2007
I enjoyed this but what on earth is the "rogue economist" thing about? Surely looking for hidden meaning is what economists and statisticians are meant to do. Otherwise, why would we need them?

Unlike many, I read the book cover to cover. A lot of it was fascinating. Did it cover the hidden side of everything? Of course not. But the bits it did cover were often very interesting and made me think about things I hadn't in the past. Now, whether these particular subjects were worth reading about anyway depends on your point of view, but I found them sufficiently mainstream to hold my interest, and they often provided food for thought.

The one real potential "hidden side", for my money, was the abortion vs crime thing. If the author(s) have developed this conclusion without a hidden agenda then it is astonishing and the book is worth the price for that alone. If, however, the data have been manipulated to arrive at the sort of conclusion for which Andrew Lang coined his "drunks and lamp-posts" phrase, then it would be not only a great shame but also reprehensible.

I will assume nothing underhand, hence the 4 stars. Worth reading.

Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
by Lynne Truss
Edition: Paperback

6 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Reads, leaves and doesn't come back., 22 Feb. 2007
After all the hype I thought I'd better buy this. Thought it was great until I decided to share the wealth by reading some of it out loud to my wife.

After a while I looked over towards her to check she was finding it as amusing as me, only to find she'd nodded off.

It was only at this point that I realised that books about punctuation have a hard time holding one's interest for more than a few dozen pages. I put the book down and have not returned to it since.

Of course it could be that my wife found me dull, not the book. Oh dear.

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