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Reviews Written by
Roger Risborough (Richmond)

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Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Look At Me, Listen To Me, Be Impressed By Me . . ., 13 Sep 2014
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Just in case there's any doubt that this should be in the "Oooh, Look At Me" section of your lending library, Viv Albertine entitles the opening chapter of her autobiography "Masturbation". She claims the practice itself doesn't do it for her (so to speak) but you could argue the whole book is an exercise in it. Albertine is instantly unlikeable as a person, but just like one of her many rockstar conquests, as a reader she targets you, reels you in, snogs you senseless, and then moves on. The first half of this book is effectively a manifesto for being the girlfriend from hell (I WILL sleep with your friends, I WILL sleep with your rivals) - and what emerges is the story of someone who doesn't need boyfriends, fellow band members, partners, friends, or husbands, she just needs people who will bolster her big, fragile ego, or 'muses' as she calls them. But not liking the author as a person doesn't mean you can't like her as a writer, because she has a great story to tell and she is brilliant at telling it (thank god she talked the publishers out of using a ghost-writer). And in the end (ie now) bereft of her 'muses' (divorce leads to friends melting away), a new Viv Albertine emerges, uncertain and unsteady, but increasingly determined, and ultimately, much more likeable. Terrible title, great book.


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Price: £3.08

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jean Louise Finch meets Madonna Louise Ciccone., 9 Sep 2014
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This book is an amalgam of various American icons and themes. As a little girl, our narrator, Rosemary, has the adult-in-a-grown-up's-body of Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird, whilst as a college student, she meets Harlow, her first real grown-up friend who comes over like Madonna: sassy and street-wise, and by taking Rosemary out of her comfort zone, she is the mechanism that allows the narrator's odd family story to unfold. On the surface, Rosemary's home-life is not that strange - a dad who becomes increasingly detached and unloved, a 'mom' on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a runaway brother, an unusual family pet, and an oft-referred-to inciting incident . . . The book's chronology switches backwards and forwards, before and after this incident, which when it is finally laid-out in front of us, doesn't seem "inciting" enough for what followed and the impact it had on all concerned. Ultimately, this is about the distorted realities and mythologies of all families (again, a very familiar theme), and how we all pay a heavy price for miscommunication and mistaken memories. After a fire-cracker start, the book flattens out, but finishes with a very powerful last page - and for me, that's only enough to get three stars. "Me Cheeta" covers some of the same territory, but with much more wit and wisdom.


H is for Hawk
H is for Hawk
Price: £5.29

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars H is for Hmmmmm . . ., 2 Sep 2014
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This review is from: H is for Hawk (Kindle Edition)
The idea behind this book is brilliant. And it starts magnificently, gripping you as I now understand a hawk will clutch the outstretched gloved-hand of its trainer (if it's holding a dead chick). Helen MacDonald is suddenly many things - a bereaved daughter, a Cambridge post-graduate, a life-long lover of falconry, and now the proud but unconfident owner of a young goshawk, Mabel. Out of all this comes her book, a deeply layered memoir of grief, loss, the past and letting-go. Inspired by the works of TH White as a girl (both his Arthurian fiction and his real-life ramblings about hawksmanship) she now records her own faltering falconry against White's, at the same time laying bare both their vulnerable emotional states. The irony is that both White and MacDonald have to imprison a bird-of-prey as a means of setting themselves free from their own traumas - in White's case repressed sexuality and missed opportunities, in MacDonald's case, grief for her much-loved father.
This is a heavy weight for Mabel's feathered shoulders, and she frequently fails to play her part properly in the author's recovery process, resulting in a long, drawn-out battle of wills, and lots of repetitive coaxing involving stuttering take-offs and bumpy landings (for both hawk and "austringer"). This protraction is not great for engaging the non-austringer-reader over long distances. It seems harsh to buy someone's autobiography and then criticise them for being self-obsessed, but that's how I ended-up feeling, as well as wondering about the central contradiction of loving hawks, given that their well-being is based on the savage death of lots of other wild creatures. I now know a lot more about hawks, T H White and H MacDonald, but in the end I was no longer "gripped", and my interest had long since flown.


That Close
That Close
Price: £3.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One or two steps not far enough, 24 Aug 2014
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This review is from: That Close (Kindle Edition)
Structurally, this is a strange book. It starts as a conventional autobiography, then loses its chronological thread to become a memoir, and ends-up as a sort of collagey scrap-book of essays about family, friends and holidays. So quite off-beat, a bit like Suggs himself, who goes out of his way to avoid revealing too much about the true dynamics of Madness and its various members. I'm sure this would have been a very different book if it had been written in Madness's wilderness years (1987 to 1992), when perhaps some of the inevitable tensions in a seven man band would have been revealed, but instead it's been written in the golden glow of the Madness revival, when Suggs can't afford to offend his fellow band members as they all make the most of our nostalgia for the nutty boys, and Suggs himself has become a national institution. National institutions, of course, rely on maintaining the status quo, but I may be straying into one of Suggs's anecdotes about Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi's stage gear being the same as their street gear. And that's about as revealing as this book gets.


A Street Cat Named Bob
A Street Cat Named Bob
Price: £3.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It has, I do, it is., 23 Aug 2014
Any (audio)book that makes you think differently about people (and animals), has got to be worth 5 stars, hasn't it?
It has, I do, and it is.


Downhill [DVD] [2014]
Downhill [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Karl Theobald, Jeremy Swift, Ned Dennehy Richard Lumsden
Offered by Rambling Road Entertainment LTD
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars West to East up North, 15 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Downhill [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
Loved it. A well-worn footpath, maybe, (former college-mates reunion, rambling west to east up north), but a wonderful walk in heart-warming company.


The Presidentís Hat
The Presidentís Hat
Price: £5.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Emperor's New Hat, 15 Aug 2014
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The logical thing to do on finishing this book would be to leave it on a bench in the park for a random stranger to pick up and let it improve their life. In the age of Kindle, that's not really a practical solution, but having read the book, I'm not desperate to keep hold of it. By it's own admission, this is a fairy tale, telling the story of how accidental temporary possession of Francois Mitterrand's hat can lead to new-found confidence, reawakened creativity, self-determination, and, well, health, wealth and happiness. And it's as simple as that. Not so much The President's Hat as The Emperor's New Clothes.


10 for 10: Hedley Verity and the Story of Cricket's Greatest Bowling Feat
10 for 10: Hedley Verity and the Story of Cricket's Greatest Bowling Feat
Price: £5.66

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 out of 10. An Elegy and a Eulogy, 4 Aug 2014
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This is both an extended eulogy to the greatness of Hedley Verity as a cricketer and a man, and a wistful elegy to a lost era of English cricket before the Second World War. It is Monday 11 July 1932. Donald Bradman is the undisputed king of world cricket and Yorkshire are the kings of the English game. Europe is poised between emerging from the Great Depression and descending into brutal conflagration, and cricket is at its own pivot between its Golden Age and the acrimony of the Bodyline series, which is just a few months away. At Headingley, it is pouring with rain, and in an age of uncovered wickets when most spinners would be licking their lips, Hedley Verity is expecting "some fun" but regretting that his work will be too easy the next day. In fact it was going to be easier than for any bowler before or since, as he made hay on a drying pitch to pinch all ten Nottinghamshire second innings wickets for exactly ten runs. The perfection of the figures is beautiful and appropriate, and has never been matched or bettered. Chris Waters takes us forensically through the background, the build-up, the match itself, and the shocking aftermath, and if this sometimes feels like a small subject spun-out into a book-sized delivery, the power of the Hedley Verity story makes this a compelling read all the way through to the close. For me, born in 1960 (and in Lancashire), names like Verity, Leyland, Sutcliffe and Rhodes, were always known (along with their records), but what "10 for 10" does most effectively is to bring these long-gone heroes back to life, and allows us all to wallow in a Golden Age, long ago.


Such a Long Journey
Such a Long Journey
Price: £4.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Noble Obligations, 30 July 2014
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This is a book about transitions. Set in Bombay in 1971, the Indian Sub-Continent is again sub-dividing with the creation of Bangladesh amidst the fall-out of India and Pakistan going to war with each other. There are battles going on too, in the life of our central character, Gustad Noble, whose children are growing up and growing away, as he becomes increasingly aware of his own generation's transition towards the dying of the light. As a Parsi bank worker, Gustad is a perfect vehicle for exploring India's complex pluralist theologies and the emergence of the new middle classes. Whilst Gustad never questions his religion, his faith in family, friends and mankind in general is tested throughout this journey. There are resonances and lessons here that stretch out universally beyond India, and will movingly touch all of us who are flawed fathers trying to make the best of our obligations, noble or other wise.


French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France
French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France
Price: £2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tour de Force, 24 July 2014
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I've just finished this whilst on holiday in France and watching The Tour de France on TV, and Tim Moore's book was the perfect accompaniment to all that. I much preferred French Revolutions to his later Spanish Steps - things happen faster on a bike than alongside a donkey, and the history of the Tour was (to me) much more interesting than the history of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, although the annual Gallic bike ride seems to engender just as much (if not more) reverential hysteria. The usual Moore preoccupations all line up with him at the start of his one-man circuit of France (self-deprecation, being generally out of his depth, unfriendly interchanges with the natives, problems with language, equipment, accommodation and family) but what sustains him most as he covers over 3,000 km (genuinely impressive) is his trade-mark wry bemusement and deep respect for the real riders who have gone before.


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