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A. Byrne "Irish Reviewer" (Ireland)
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Becoming a Lion
Becoming a Lion
by Johnny Sexton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.86

4.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth A Read, 24 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Becoming a Lion (Hardcover)
This is not a biography ; it is the diary of Sexton's year leading to the Lions victory in 2013.

There is plenty here of interest to Leinster and Ireland fans alike. Johnny isn't afraid to speak his mind on or off the pitch, which he candidly acknowledges as both a strength and sometimes a weakness. There is no doubting he is passionate and that is surely an essential in any professional sport.

What is clear is the determination of a young man to make it in the tough world of professional rugby, honestly sharing the struggles and sacrifices required at the top.

The big stories in the book are obviously his decision to move to Racing Metro and the Lions Tour. Both are described with a fast paced and interesting writing style, giving plenty of insight into the emotional roller coaster journey of 2013.

Well worth a read.


Born to Ride: The Autobiography of Stephen Roche
Born to Ride: The Autobiography of Stephen Roche
by Stephen Roche
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honestly Written, 27 Dec. 2012
Stephen Roche has honestly written about his extraordinary achievements and his ordinary experiences.

This book gives a wonderful insight into the mindset required to be a champion, while at the same time feeling like a story being told naturally across a dinner table or while taking a walk with a friend.

Recommended reading for anyone interested in cycling and especially those who remember that epic battle with Delgado in 1984.


Tuesdays With Morrie: An old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson
Tuesdays With Morrie: An old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson
by Mitch Albom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, but Important Insight into Terminal Illness, 18 Sept. 2010
Tuesdays with Morrie is a short, but important insight into terminal illness.

This book is both easy and difficult to read ; easy in writing style, but difficult in content, chronicalling slow degeneration and death.

Mitch Albom shares some very personal experiences, which will no doubt give comfort to many, particularly those coping with the loss of a loved one through a slow degenerative illness.

This is a worthwhile, if highly emotional read. Recently bereaved readers might find the content particularly difficult.


James Connolly: A Full Life
James Connolly: A Full Life
by Donal Nevin
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars MOSTLY ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT OF IRISH TRADE UNIONISM TO 1916, 11 Sept. 2010
Donal Nevin has written an 840 page tome, which mostly comprises quotations from Connolly's published works on the development of trade unionism in Ireland up to Connolly's death in 1916.

This book is most suited to historians or those with a special interest in the minutae of that subject. It is definitely not light reading and those interested in an introduction to the life of James Connolly should look elsewhere for a more general biography.

Donal Nevin spent 40 years working in Irish trade unionism, which explains his passion for the subject. Clearly years of research went into this major work, which will no doubt be a useful reference point for future historians. He has given meticulous attention to detail, which, depending on your viewpoint, could either be the downfall or the making of this book.

There are some interesting insights into Connolly's associations with his famous contemporaries, such as James Larkin, Maud Gonne and W.B.Yeats. There is an interesting account of the 1916 Easter Rising and some poignant moments in the pages describing Connolly's last days, particularly the account of his last meeting with his wife.

However, on balance, this book is far too long. The vast tracks of quotations crowd each other and often the point of including quotations is unclear. Despite its length, Nevin gives only cursory mentions to Connolly's relations with the Nationalist Leaders of the time until very late in the book. Contrasted with the coverage given to trade unionism, this is a surprising imbalance given that Connolly was executed as a Nationalist Leader.

In summary, it is unlikely that this book will be read by many who do not already have a specialised interest in Irish trade unionism.


James Connolly: A Full Life
James Connolly: A Full Life
by Donal Nevin
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly About The Development of Irish Trade Unionism to 1916, 11 Sept. 2010
Donal Nevin has written an 840 page tome, which mostly comprises quotations from Connolly's published works on the development of trade unionism in Ireland up to Connolly's death in 1916.

This book is most suited to historians or those with a special interest in the minutae of that subject. It is definitely not light reading and those interested in an introduction to the life of James Connolly should look elsewhere for a more general biography.

Donal Nevin spent 40 years working in Irish trade unionism, which explains his passion for the subject. Clearly years of research went into this major work, which will no doubt be a useful reference point for future historians. He has given meticulous attention to detail, which, depending on your viewpoint, could either be the downfall or the making of this book.

There are some interesting insights into Connolly's associations with his famous contemporaries, such as James Larkin, Maud Gonne and W.B.Yeats. There is an interesting account of the 1916 Easter Rising and some poignant moments in the pages describing Connolly's last days, particularly the account of his last meeting with his wife.

However, on balance, this book is far too long. The vast tracks of quotations crowd each other and often the point of including quotations is unclear. Despite its length, Nevin gives only cursory mentions to Connolly's relations with the Nationalist Leaders of the time until very late in the book. Contrasted with the coverage given to trade unionism, this is a surprising imbalance given that Connolly was executed as a Nationalist Leader.

In summary, it is unlikely that this book will be read by many who do not already have a specialised interest in Irish trade unionism.


Parky - My Autobiography
Parky - My Autobiography
by Michael Parkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Parky Delivers Again, 7 Jun. 2010
Michael Parkinson, who entertained millions of TV viewers for many years with his talkshows, has delivered again with his autobiography.

The first mention of a TV interview comes almost half way through the book, which is good news for those interested in Michael's formative years. There are lots of interesting childhood reminiscences and stories from his early career as a journalist and a public relations officer in the British army.

Michael's talkshow career was launched by interviews with Orson Welles and Shirley McLaine. His success was grounded on his relaxed, respectful manner, which attracted big stars and then kept many of them coming back for more stimulating conversation with the son of a Yorkshire coal miner.

Depending on the reader's enthusiasm for cricket, there may be a few pages here and there where interest levels might wane. However, even those who don't like cricket will understand that Michael's love for the game was closely related to his love for his dad, who instilled a passion in him for the game.

A few skirmishes with his employers over the years are included, but these don't hold much entertainment value. However, they do illustrate that power plays can topple good people, just because they are good people.

The stories of his interviews with big stars largely carry the weight of popular interest. If there is any criticism, it is that there was scope for more anecdotes from those interviews. Perhaps that's for another book.

Well worth a read.


The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom
The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom
by Slavomir Rawicz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of an Epic Escape from Gulag 303, 7 Jun. 2010
Written in 1956,this book is firstly a powerful insight into the barbaric regime that was Siberian labour camps ( Gulags ) around World War 2 and is secondly the chronicle of an epic escape from Gulag 303.

The torture endured by the Author was horrendous. For months he suffered systematic beatings, starvation, interrogation and solitary confinement in a cell just wide enough for a human to stand. All this was for no other reason than to persecute him for being Polish and to force him into signing a false confession that he was a spy working for the Germans. It is staggering to contemplate that this treatment was meted out to thousands incarcerated in these camps. The legacy of shame weighs heavily on those responsible.

The escape itself is well told, with plenty of tension throughout. The story then moves on to one of raw survival, travelling through some of the toughest terrain in Central Asia, driven by the constant fear of recapture.

The mental and physical state of the Author on arrival in India is apparent, having walking approximately 5,000 miles. Even when safely in hospital, he continued to plan escapes by night and had to be restrained for his own safety.

The English translation could do with a little tidy-up, but, in the main, it flows well and is undoubtedly one of the classic true stories of escape and resilience.

Well worth reading.


John B: The Real Keane
John B: The Real Keane
by Gus Smith
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars An Informative and Respectful Biography of John B. Keane, 9 April 2010
This review is from: John B: The Real Keane (Hardcover)
This is an informative and respectful account of John B.'s life. Unfortunately it is not an autobiography, as it would have been nice to have had John B. telling his own story, but that was not to be.

Instead we have a well researched chronology of John B.'s life with a fair amount of detail coming first hand from John B. himself, together with lots of input from his family and friends. Clearly John B. was much loved by those who knew him.

Gus Smith and Des Hickey have clearly worked hard on this book, but an editorial haircut is merited. Sometimes less words work better. For instance too much space is given over to quotations from critics, whether favourable or not. We're told John B. stopped reading the critics, so the Authors' inclusion of so many quotations would hardly have interested John B. himself. A few stories retold from John B.'s kitchen would have been a warmer contribution.

The Authors do give us some interesting background information, such as the build up to the first successes of 'Sive' and an account of the real inspiration for 'The Field'.

On balance, this is worth reading and the Authors deserve credit for their effort in documenting the life of an Irish literary legend.


Beckett Remembering: Remembering Beckett: Uncollected Interviews with Samuel Beckett and Memories of Those Who Knew Him
Beckett Remembering: Remembering Beckett: Uncollected Interviews with Samuel Beckett and Memories of Those Who Knew Him
by Elizabeth Knowlson
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Insight into Sam Beckett, 7 Mar. 2010
Firstly the title of this book cleverly captures exactly what you get : quotes from Beckett himself, 'remembering' his own life, presented alongside quotes from those who knew Beckett, 'remembering' their experiences of him.

The format works very well, taking the reader chronologically through Beckett's life, offering multiple perspectives and achieving a balanced account throughout.

The calibre and range of contributors is excellent ; only those who knew Beckett personally have been chosen. From their reminiscences emerges a wonderful normality of understanding of Beckett the person, as distinct from Beckett the inaccessible author.

Jan Jonson's account of directing 'Godot' in San Quentin gives a special insight into Beckett's humanity and the power of his work to profoundly touch people.

This is an excellent read for anyone interested in Beckett and is particularly suitable as a general introduction to his work.


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