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A Field Guide to the Birds of Brazil
A Field Guide to the Birds of Brazil
by Ber van Perlo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent birding guide, 28 Aug. 2013
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I bought this book before a recent trip to Brazil. As we were going to the Amazon region, the Pantanal and then to the south east, I needed a guide for the whole of Brazil, which this book is.
The illustrations are drawings rather than photographs, and they miss the vibrancy of some of the more colourful birds. The Vermillion Flycatcher for instance is a most beautiful bird, but the illustration in the book makes it look fairly ordinary. However, the illustrations in a field guide are purely for identification, and the plates here serve this purpose very well. The book identified the Vermillion Flycatcher for me.
I liked the separate illustrations for male, female and juveniles (in species where the colours are different), and I found the distribution maps very useful, as the areas in each map are clearly identified in the Overview Map of Brazil on page 3.
The book is quite big, and I might have preferred a narrower format (which would admittedly make it thicker), but I carried it with me on all our trips and didn't find it too heavy.
Overall, I am very satisfied with this purchase, and I can recommend the book highly for birdwatchers going to Brazil.

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs
The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs
by Tyler Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely believable account of cycling's doping culture, 8 Oct. 2012
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Judging by the pre-publicity, I was expecting a much more vitriolic and bitter book. In fact this is a clear and believable account of how Tyler Hamilton, after a few years of racing clean, joined up to the doping culture of professional cycling. About half way through the book I realised I was taking the doping for granted and was caught up in the vivid and at times very funny accounts of the races in which Hamilton took part and the other riders in them. Hamilton doesn't have a bad word to say about anyone (except Lance Armstrong). He even likes Heras and Rubiera, whose hiring by US Postal effectively led to his own departure from the team.

The book, of course, will be of interest to many for it's account of the growth and subsequent decline of the friendship between Hamilton and Lance Armstrong. Apart from one ludicrous accusation (that Armstrong reported Hamilton for doping to the UCI in 2004) the account is wholly believable. Hamilton thinks that Armstrong turned against him because he feared him as a rival, but if you read the book carefully it seems clear that Hamilton was discarded when Armstrong could afford to hire better climbers. Hamilton does say that Armstrong was doping along with everyone else, but there is no suggestion that he was putting any pressure on other team members to dope. All in all, it is quite a rounded portrayal of Armstrong, and certainly no hatchet job.

I thought the quality of the writing, by Daniel Coyle, was very good. There is no striving after effect, or any attempt at sensationalism. Hamilton comes across as a sincere, likeable character, with perhaps a somewhat inflated idea of his own cycling ability. (But self-belief is a common trait of the top performers in any sport). The big question is, is he telling the truth? I believe he is, and I expect the USADA report of their investigation into doping in the US Postal team, if it is ever released. will support most of his revelations.

From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France
From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France
by David Walsh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsensational and believable, 28 Sept. 2012
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In this book the author analyses in detail the evidence for doping in the US Postal team and its successor the Discovery team in the Tour de France. Because of the sophistication of the team's "medical" programme and also the culture of omerta among the Tour riders, most of the evidence is circumstantial. However, I found it compelling, and it is made even more so by the recent confessions to drug use by Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton (and perhaps even Lance Armstrong himself).

Before I read this book, I believed that Armstrong had doped, but I wasn't too concerned about it because most of the top contenders in the race had done the same. I believed in effect that it was a "level playing field". The book clearly shows that that was not the case. There were clean riders who were denied podium places by their rivals' chemically enhanced performances. And the quality of the various drugs programmes varied. For example, as the author mentions, Dr Michelle Ferrari was prohibited by the terms of his contract with Armstrong, from working with any of Armstrong's main Tour rivals. The Tour was not just a test of the riders' cycling ability, but also of the expertise of their doping advisors and the organisation and timing of the individual instances of drug use or blood doping.

The book also portrayed the characters involved in this story in a realistic light. From reading newspaper reports I had thought that Jonathan Vaughters and Frankie Andreu were vindictive enemies of Lance Armstrong who would stop at nothing to discredit him. The author shows that is far from the case. Both of these ex-riders are committed to making professional cycling free of doping, but are reluctant to provide any testimony against Armstrong. Frankie Andreu's wife Betsy (a woman with no axe to grind but who was called a liar in The Guardian newspaper by journalist Donald McRae because she testified against Armstrong) comes across as somewhat rigid and inflexible but totally committed, personally and through her religious beliefs, to telling the truth. The portrait of Floyd Landis as shy, awkward and inarticulate is entirely believable.

What I missed in the book was any real explanation of how the "medical" programmes worked. How did the doping riders escape detection for so long? Even today, notwithstanding all the recent revelations, there are journalists writing that Armstrong must be innocent because he never failed a drugs test. As this book shows, this is incorrect, but it is extraordinary how he managed to come clean through so many. The author probably felt that this is not his area of expertise, and so avoid discussing it.

The book is a well-written, clear and factual account of one of the most disgraceful aspects of modern sport.

Maxell Crystal Budz Earphones -  Champagne Gold
Maxell Crystal Budz Earphones - Champagne Gold

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value, 29 Jun. 2011
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These earphones come with three sizes of in-ear fittings. The sound quality is fine. There is some leakage, but not too much. I chose just standard delivery, but they arrived within two days. For the price, this was a very good buy.

Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand (Commissaire Adamsberg)
Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand (Commissaire Adamsberg)
by Fred Vargas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 26 May 2011
I was shocked by poor quality of the writing in this thriller. The author is widely acclaimed by literary critics and this book has won an international award. But the plot is ludicrous, the story developments are laughably contrived, the characters are lifeless, the running jokes are unfunny. Worst of all for a thriller, there is absolutely no tension. Lots of quirkiness, but it's bolted on. This isn't real "writing".

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