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Roger Risborough (Richmond)

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More Fool Me
More Fool Me
Price: £12.93

5.0 out of 5 stars More Fool Them, 26 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: More Fool Me (Kindle Edition)
And to think I almost didn't buy this, based on the huge number of indifferent or down-right negative reviews on Amazon.
I have previously listened to and loved the first two installments of Stephen Fry's autobiography (you just HAVE to listen to Stephen telling his own story rather than reading it yourself) and this is truly another great installment. Other reviewers have heavily criticised each of the three distinct sections of this book - firstly a summary of the first two books; to me this was great, and it was fascinating to hear the author musing on his earlier musings. Secondly, tales from his London life in the late 80s and early 90s, and the first trappings of success and coked-up-celebrity. Again, for me, brilliant - anecdotes about Kenneth Brannagh, John Mills, Frank Sinatra and numerous others are fascinating, funny and moving, And the last section, direct diary extracts from August to November 1993 when Stephen was writing what turned out to be The Hippopotamus, are a wonderful insight into how someone actually writes a book whilst spinning the conflicting plates of working hard and playing harder. I don't understand why people criticise the diary extracts when I could happily listen to Stephen Fry reading his diary about any day of the week, on any day of the week. Those that just didn't get it, More Fool Them. I can't wait for Stephen Fry Part Four, in whatever form it takes.

Moonraker: James Bond 007
Moonraker: James Bond 007
Price: £3.95

4.0 out of 5 stars From Dover With Love, 16 Feb. 2015
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Like another recent reviewer, I read this following Stephen Fry's recommendation of it in his latest autobiography. And he's right. Moonraker is a gem of a book that I'd somehow missed (along with the film). Fleming brilliantly captures post-war/Cold-War London in this early Bond novel that is distinctive for being wholly set in London and Kent, and one that couldn't be simpler and sparer in its set-up and climax. When they made the film, they ditched this contained Englishness and went (I now understand) for something ludicrous involving space, volcanoes and Roger Moore, completely missing the essence of the book. Hugo Drax is a vividly drawn Bond villain and again the film-makers lost the plot completely when casting him (as well as Bond). In the book, we get the definitive James Bond - excelling at the card table, flaunting his connoisseurship of exotic alcoholic drinks and canapes, chasing the girl, and of course, saving London (if not the World). I'd love to see Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have a go at this one.

Spend Game (Lovejoy 4)
Spend Game (Lovejoy 4)
Price: £4.49

3.0 out of 5 stars The (Love)Joy of Essex, 10 Feb. 2015
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Lovejoy is the original Essex Man . . . a ducker, a diver, and a divvie . . . that means someone with the magical gift of being able to divine the presence of true antiques. That's a great basis for a series of hero-in-peril novels in the Dick Francis mould. This is the fourth in the Lovejoy series - I've read a few previously and hearing that the TV series is to be reborn with more emphasis on the original source material, I thought I'd try another of the books. This is an enjoyable romp with all the same positives and negatives from previous readings. The positives are Lovejoy himself; the Essex-estuary setting (little villages full of big characters, boozy pubs, antiques shops and dealers) but more than anything, the little nuggets of antiques history and information (different in every book but here including locks, railway memorabilia and "treen") that stud the whole story. The negatives? Well this was written in a hurry in the pre-laptop era and could have done with a lot more crafting - many of the descriptions of action and situation may have made sense in the author's head, but they often don't to the reader. The biggest minus, though, is the apparent need for these stories to climax with some improbable maelstrom of danger, fisticuffs, blood, sweat and tears. That's a shame, because that approach detracts from a lot of the earlier cosy antiquey stuff. These are novels of two halves - great beginnings, but with boringly predictable, physical endings. So overall, lots to enjoy, less to love.

The Joy of Essex: Travels Through God's Own County
The Joy of Essex: Travels Through God's Own County
Price: £4.79

3.0 out of 5 stars Phoney Maconie, 3 Feb. 2015
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Pete May sets-out on a tour of Essex to convince us that the stereotypical view of that much-maligned county based on TOWIE and before that, press favourites Essex Man and White Van Man, is not the whole story. But although he is from Essex himself, and admits that Essex Man’s world is based on wheels, wonga and women, he is in fact one of life’s pedestrians. So this is not a whistle-stop, wheel-spinning, hand-braking-turning, boy-racer-rally round the highways and byways, it is instead a series of middle-aged day trips by bus and train. This gives the author plenty of time to stand and stare, but the end result, I’m afraid, is rather, er, pedestrian as we plod from town to town, chapter-by-chapter, punning-chapter-title by punning-chapter-title. And given that he sets out to eschew the TOWIE factor, by his own admission he just can’t resist the lure of “Estuary Essex” (TOWIE’s homeland) as opposed to middle-England-Essex on the other side of the A13. This means that his assessment of every town he visits is based on comparing numbers of nail bars and beauty salons, and his attempts at Vox-Popping the residents don’t go any further than asking them about sightings of TOWIE stars. I also couldn’t help worrying about the author’s health, because he celebrates his arrival in each new chapter with a big helping of fish-and-chips, a full fry-up breakfast or ice cream, and frequently all three. He only gets a bit health-conscious in the company of Porky The Poet (Phill Jupitus) and absent-mindedly orders an omelette.
In mocking Essex’s mock-Tudor aspirations and bling-merchants, May comes over as a bit of a Mock-Stuart-Maconie, but with half the charm and none of the wit. You get the impression he really enjoyed his own journey going back to his roots, but it’s hard for the reader to say the same.

How Did All This Happen?
How Did All This Happen?
by John Bishop
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £16.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Not Bashing THe Bishop, 31 Jan. 2015
A really likeable guy reading his own very likeable story.
What's not to like?

Cheltenham et AL: The Best of Alastair Down
Cheltenham et AL: The Best of Alastair Down
by Alastair Down
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down Memory Lane, 25 Jan. 2015
Alastair Down is brilliant at putting into words what we are all thinking but can't articulate ourselves.
And often, we only realise we were thinking it, after he's put it into words. That is a great skill, and one that outsiders could say is wasted in the narrow world of horse-racing, evidenced by his articles on 9/11 and the Queen's visit to Ireland. But I think it was Brough Scott who once said that "racing may be narrow, but boy, is it deep", and Alastair Down's articles over the years take us deep into our memories and deep into our emotions (laughter and tears in equal measures). Racing tends to make us focus too much on the here-and-now - what's going to win today? how can I make some money in this race? but Alastair Down's writing takes us on a glorious gallop back in time, straight down memory lane to the there-and-then, when Corinthian values and colourful characters were the order of the day . There can be no greater tribute to any journalist than for the very people he writes about for his daily bread to end up wanting him to write their funeral eulogies and obituaries, but that is where this writer really comes into his own - commemorating Terry Biddlecombe, Henry Cecil, Best Mate and all the other greats who are now gone but far from forgotten. This whole book is an extended elegy to late Twentieth Century horse-racing, an age that has already all but slipped away from us, but one that couldn't have been chronicled and immortalised by a more loving scribe.

F: A Novel
F: A Novel
Price: £5.49

3.0 out of 5 stars F is for Fake . . . F is for Fate . . . F is for Faith . . ., 25 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: F: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
From the various options available for what F may stand for (in English, if not the German original manuscript), you can take your pick really, because this is a novel with plenty of gaps between the dots allowing you to create your own meanings even where they may not have been intended by the author.
F is for fake . . .
- Lindemann is not really a hypnotist . . .
- Arthur is not really a writer . . .
- Martin is not really a "believer" . . .
- Eric is not really a financial wizard . . .
- Ivor really is a painter but pretends not to be . . .
F is for fate . . .
- We are all the result of chance . . .
- We have no control over our past . . .
- We have no control over our future . . .
F is for faith . . .
- Have faith that the author has something deep and meaningful to say about life, then it will be so.

The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
Price: £4.27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 867 Pages Of Impending Doom, 20 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
And it is the impending doom that gets you through the 867 pages, as opposed to any other Pulitzer-worthy aspects of literature. This length of book must inevitably stray into other people's territory, and this (more Jackdaw than Goldfinch) helps itself to: "a novel about a painting" (cf The Girl With The Pearl Earring); a conventional thriller (cf the Bourne franchise - terrorist bombs, flight across different continents); the state-of-the-nation/Great American Novel (cf Jonathan Franzen); born-again (as opposed to Bourne-again) redemption movies/books (cf It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol). But as they say, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few curate's eggs. So: is it the longest book I have ever read? Yes . . . by a mile; is it worth the time investment? Yes . . . just; Did I enjoy it? Yes, but there's a better, shorter book lurking inside this cuckoo's nest; should it have won the Pulitzer Prize For Literature? Surely not?

An Encyclopaedia of Myself
An Encyclopaedia of Myself
Price: £4.72

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Me Me Meades, 6 Jan. 2015
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Jonathan Meades lifts up a big heavy mirror to reflect on his post-war adolescence, and hurls it to the ground to produce 40-odd shard-like chapters of his back-story - sharp, fragmentary, uneven, and lots of different sizes. Meades is determined to resist the conventional chronology and structure of autobiography, preferring instead a willful, esoteric approach (based loosely on the alphabet, if only to justify the word "Encyclopaedia" in the title), an approach that perhaps reflects the true haphazard nature of memory. His story is of the English military generation that emerged limping, drinking and embittered into the real battle that post World-War-Two peace-time represented for them. These colonels, majors and captains (ranks real or imaginary) are the people who rage and sulk through Meades' memories - bastard barbarian masters at school, dysfunctional parents at home, all steeped in booze and deeply resentful of the post-war children having it better than they had it. Meades has a great (encyclopaedic?) recall of period detail, but more than anything this book feels like a Latin/Greek primer in which the author exercises his immense classics-derived vocabulary. The reading process (for me anyway) was constantly interrupted by delving for definitions, and it's hard not to conclude that the aim of the book isn't to tell Meades' early life story, so much as to tell us all how clever he is as a result of it.

The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri 1)
The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri 1)
by Tarquin Hall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Red Herrings & Butter Chicken, 22 Dec. 2014
This is fun, well written and a refreshingly sweaty, sprawling antidote to all that stark Scandinoir stuff. Vish Puri, sitting somewhere between Mma Ramotswe and Sherlock Holmes, is the affectionate creation of author Tarquin Hall who lives in India and has married into Indian society. This is his teasing examination of Modern India's conflicts between the grasping, emerging middle classes and the old traditions and beliefs, seen through Vish's jaded (but ever-peeled) eyes. I sense he's someone who will always get his man (or woman), but not before he's had his butter chicken, a few red herrings and a peg or two of whiskey first.

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