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Gołębnik (Edinburgh, Scotland)

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The Blue Book
The Blue Book
by A. L. Kennedy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.54

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I gave up, then carried on, but was it worth it?, 9 April 2012
This review is from: The Blue Book (Hardcover)
Like some of the other reviewers here, I gave up on this book, something which I very rarely do, around page 130 ... but then I returned to it, determined not to let it beat me! I wonder why the first 130 pages or so are so difficult and dense and uninviting, because the remainder of the book, for me, at least, proved to be much more readable.

However, I still found it very lacking overall and can only give it two stars. The very heavy use of italics, capitals and even bold italics (which in the Bembo typeface used in the hardback edition are very bold indeed), is jarring to the eye. Some authors (Nicola Barker included) may think it clever to break typographical conventions, but there is a good reason why those conventions exist!

As others have pointed out, the characters are not particularly likeable; in fact I didn't feel we even got to know them much, despite some of Arthur and Beth's 'back story' emerging right towards the end. For me this made it hard to engage with the story.

Either it is going way over my head, or the tricks and codes in the book, as described in the publisher's blurb and by other reviewers, are massively exaggerated. True, there is a simple code mapping numbers to words which is exposed about halfway, and reappears at the end, and there are some strange page numbers which appear at the tops of pages (while the correct numbers appear at the bottom), but is there really some clever game-playing going on between the book and its reader? If so, I missed it.

Like one or two other reviewers here, I really wanted to like this beautifully presented and ostensibly mysterious book. I have a lot of time for A. L. Kennedy as a critic and social commentator, and she was hugely entertaining at the 2011 Edinburgh Book Festival, but I am coming to the conclusion that she is more entertaining as a personality than she is readable as a novelist -- very much like Will Self in that regard.


Sennheiser PX 100-II Foldable Open Mini On-Ear Headphone - Black
Sennheiser PX 100-II Foldable Open Mini On-Ear Headphone - Black
Price: £29.99

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One channel will always fail within two years, 29 Feb 2012
These headphones are great while they are working -- comortable, nicely foldable, and with a very pleasing sound. However, in my experience, one channel always fails within two years. I am only awarding them one star because I feel that such a product should last more than two years, and if it does not, it is not fit for purpose.

When buying from Amazon, you have to return the headphones to Sennheiser Ireland (service@sennheiserserviceireland.com), who are helpful, if a little slow. The headphones have a two-year guarantee. Sennheiser Ireland will send you a return code, you then post the headphones to them (you do have to pay postage, unfortunately), and a few weeks later you'll receive a replacement pair.

I have returned both of our original pairs, when they both failed within two years, and have also now returned both of our replacement pairs, as the same thing happened. I expect these replacement-replacement pairs also to lose sound in one channel within two years.

You could have an endless cycle of sending your headphones back to Sennheiser Ireland every year or two and waiting for replacements, but personally I am completely sick of this, and will now look for an alternative, more reliable pair of headphones.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2013 6:35 AM BST


SLX Gold digiTop Amplified High Performance Indoor Aerial for TV (UHF/Freeview), FM Radio, DAB Radio, Wideband
SLX Gold digiTop Amplified High Performance Indoor Aerial for TV (UHF/Freeview), FM Radio, DAB Radio, Wideband
Offered by cherrypickelectronics
Price: £15.78

1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't work for me at all, 10 Feb 2012
I bought this aerial after reading the review on here, but unfortunately it didn't work for me. I tried the advice given, moving it around and placing it in different locations, but to no avail. What little signal I could receive was too weak for my Elgato EyeTV for DTT stick to handle. I had no channels whatsoever. This is on the second floor of a four-storey tenement block in central Edinburgh, incidentally. Luckily Amazon's returns service was excellent: I sent the product back and got a full refund, which I put towards the £160 that it cost to have a roof aerial installed.


Even the Dogs
Even the Dogs
by Jon McGregor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sympathetic and beautiful treatment of grim subject matter, 1 July 2011
This review is from: Even the Dogs (Paperback)
After having been blown away by If Nobody Speaks ... and then being slightly disappointed by So Many Ways ..., I didn't read this book when it first came out, but picked it up in a three-for-two offer later. I had been previously put off by the subject matter, which just seemed a bit too grim, even by my standards.

I did indeed find the book grim, but it provides a real insight into the lives of people living on the fringes of society, and is clearly very thoroughly and sympathetically researched. The bleakness is counterbalanced by the writing just being so delicate, beautiful and poetic. The structure and length are just perfect too.

The ending of sentences prematurely is a bit. One could quite easily do a parody but. Nevertheless this is a beautiful book and I very highly. I'll look forward to the next Jon McGregor with.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2011 5:17 PM BST


Burley Cross Postbox Theft
Burley Cross Postbox Theft
by Nicola Barker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.09

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed and annoying, and not in a good way, 1 July 2011
I have always been a fan of Nicola Barker's books in the past, from Wide Open, which I thought was amazing, back to the earlier short stories, and then on through Behindlings, which drove me up the wall somewhat, but enticed me back to read it a second time. However, the Burley Cross book is just awful, plain awful. I persevered with it, thinking it might get better, but was disappointed. Not only are all the characters annoying -- not in itself a bad quality -- but they all speak in the voice of Nicola Barker! The disjointedness is never resolved, with many of the characters only appearing once -- again, not in itself a problem in a 'literary' novel, but only if there are some other redeeming qualities, which are absent here. I shall be taking my copy to a charity shop forthwith ...


Walking to Hollywood: Memories of Before the Fall
Walking to Hollywood: Memories of Before the Fall
by Will Self
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.81

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The long centrepiece of the triptych is practically unreadable, 13 Mar 2011
I must admit that I find the idea of Will Self - the cantankerous man with the deadpan voice, enormous vocabulary and uncompromising left-wing politics - preferable to the literary reality. I'm giving this book just two stars because I found the 215-page central section, "Walking to Hollywood", almost unreadable, and it was a struggle to stick with it to reach the third section.

The first section, "Very Little", about a dwarf friend from childhood who becomes a successful YBA-style visual artist in later life, I found highly entertaining, especially the "divide by ten, multiply by ten" meme. The third section, "Spurn Head", based on a walk along that rapidly eroding stretch of Yorkshire coastline, I also found highly readable, although the weirdly and inconsistently spelled rendition of the local accent was annoying. Both of these sections could be reasonably described as "Sebaldesque", after the mysterious literary style of W. G. Sebald, mixing fact, fiction, geography, fantasy and photographs, although with far more humour than Sebald.

But the middle section, "Walking to Hollywood", rapidly became for me totally confusing, boring, messy and unreadable. It is founded on a false premise, for starters, that cinema is dead, and that Hollywood has killed it - completely untrue, judging by today's cinema audiences and the huge breadth and depth of films being produced, but an interesting "factoid" on which to hang a chunk of novel. Then we find the narrator character, constantly being played by one of two well-known actors, doing a seemingly pointless walk around Los Angeles over the space of a few days, meeting other film folk, themselves being played by other actors, while all kinds of ridiculous things happen and one scene kind of morphs into another. I found it difficult to work out what was actually going on - nothing wrong with that in itself in a literary novel, but in this case I found that I simply didn't care any more and was desperate to get to the end. Despite the welcome recurrences of Dr Zack Busner and his psychiatric techniques, which will be familiar to readers of other Will Self books, I just found it an absolute chore to get through, and it comprises half of the book.

One thing that Dr Busner might like to analyse, incidentally, is Will Self's apparent need to describe almost every instance of going to the toilet - something which most novelists happily omit!


A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain
A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain
by Owen Hatherley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.71

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wanders off topic, but enjoyably so - a first-class read, 9 Jan 2011
This was an amazingly enjoyable book, which I whizzed through far more quickly than I expected. The writing style is very quirky and wryly humorous. I don't normally read architectural tomes, and although this book is quite specific in its use of architectural terms and names of practices etc., one doesn't need to have more than a passing interest to be able to enjoy it.

This book is not entirely a critique of the architecture and (lack of) planning of the Blair property bubble, but wanders off topic for long stretches at a time - very enjoyably nonetheless - to discuss earlier buildings, particularly the unashamed modernist and brutalist buildings of which the author is a fan. Also there are many references to pop/underground culture of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, rather than merely to architecture.

This book has inspired me to visit some of the cities described and to explore the architecture for myself.

I am only giving it four stars rather than five mainly because it doesn't entirely stick to its stated topic, the reproduction quality of the photographs is indeed poor, as other reviewers have stated, and, on a petty personal note, I strongly disagree with the author's opinions of the films Red Road and Control! But all the same, it's a first-class read.


So I Am Glad
So I Am Glad
by A. L. Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.24

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very unusual and only slightly baffling book, 17 Dec 2010
This review is from: So I Am Glad (Paperback)
This was the first A. L. Kennedy book I had read. I chose it in a charity shop, because I have lived in Scotland for three years and always like to read more Scottish novels, and A. L. Kennedy is always quite entertaining on TV and radio.

I am slightly baffled by the book, but not more so than by a great many literary novels. (The 'pretentious nonsense' reviewer may have missed the fact that literary novels often do not spell out plot etc. explicitly, and should perhaps stick to reading Dan Brown.) I chose to let it 'wash over' me, much like one of the earlier reviewers here. Nevertheless, I would describe this book as being plot-driven. The story is mostly quite contemporary and down-to-earth, but with the added twist that the main character, outwith the first-person narrator, is a French author who died in 1655, and who inexplicably fetches up in a Glasgow house-share in the mid 1990s! This, and how the character's trajectory is dealt with, is what makes the story baffling, and overall makes this a very, very unusual book. Note that it is most definitely NOT magic realism, despite the appearance of the 300-year-old character.

I found the prose style delightful, and very readable, and the book overall was a fine mix of seriousness and humour. I am only giving it three stars because I reserve five stars for real favourites, and I didn't find this book quite enjoyable enough to give it four, but I definitely enjoyed it -- it's staying on my shelf, rather than going back to the charity shop -- and I shall definitely seek out more A. L. Kennedy.


A Beginner's Guide To Acting English
A Beginner's Guide To Acting English
by Shappi Khorsandi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very engaging insight into a fascinating culture, 1 Oct 2010
I bought this book having greatly enjoyed Shappi Khorsandi's appearance at the 2010 Edinburgh Book Festival. I found it extremely engaging, and whizzed through it very quickly -- it is, after all, hardly the most challenging of reads. The vast majority of the book consists of pre-school and primary-school memories, with a couple of sudden jumps towards the end to incorporate other important events in young Shappi's life. Perhaps she is definitely leaving a gap for a second volume of memoirs!

Normally I wouldn't give much thought to Iran or to the Iranian communities in the UK, so for me it was quite an eye-opener to read about how the rich culture and liberal intellectual traditions of that country have been largely destroyed, and of the nightmare of living through the revolution and subsequent war, or indeed of living through it in exile, knowing what family and friends are having to endure back home.

I would have given the book four stars, but for one thing which drove me up the wall. There is a grammatical mistake which occurs time and time again, and that is the use of 'I' instead of 'me' as the object of a sentence, e.g. 'Maman hugged Peyvand and I.' This is a very common mistake -- children get told to say 'Jane and I went to the shops' rather than 'Me and Jane went to the shops', but they conflate the polite word order -- putting the other person before oneself -- with the use of 'I' instead of 'me'. 'Maman hugged Peyvand and me' would be correct. I do not deny that I am a terrible pedant, but in a published book the grammar should be correct, and frankly Shappi Khorsandi's editor should have corrected this.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 13, 2013 11:07 AM BST


Essential Gaelic Dictionary: Teach Yourself
Essential Gaelic Dictionary: Teach Yourself
by Boyd Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.79

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No pronunciation!, 1 Oct 2010
As any learner of Gaelic knows, the relationship between spelling and pronunciation is unpredictable, and the pronunciation of every word has to be learned. (Foreign learners of English have exactly the same problem.) Therefore a Gaelic-English dictionary which does not show the pronunciation of any Gaelic words is pretty useless.

None of the dictionaries currently on the market, to the best of my knowledge, shows the pronunciation. The authors and publishers had the opportunity, in producing this new edition, to remedy this, but unfortunately they didn't bother. There is no indication of pronunciation whatsoever. That is why I cannot give this new edition more than one star.

On the positive side, the layout is very clear, the plural and genitive forms of nouns are given, and there are a few boxes containing cultural/contextual information. Another negative point, though, is the binding, which is not suitable for a dictionary, as I imagine the spine will quickly become creased and pages might fall out.

Having bought this book for £6.99 from Amazon, I am not complaining too much, as it is marginally better than no dictionary at all, but if I had paid the standard list price of £15.99 I would be absolutely outraged.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2013 9:19 AM BST


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