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Nigel J. Morgan (Wales)
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How to be both
How to be both
Price: £3.42

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to be mesmerised...Read Ali Smith, 8 July 2015
This review is from: How to be both (Kindle Edition)
Wow, what a stunning work of fiction. Totally original, haunting, thought provoking and overall an exercise in sheer brilliance. What a privilege to be an early reader of what will surely become a classic.

However, like reading a classic the reader cannot be complacent but must work and think. The Renaissance section can be tough, particularly at the outset. But oh, the rewards if you stick with it!

We are told that the 2 sections can be read in either order. However, I urge you to read the contemporary section first. This will make the 15th century section clearer and will make all the more explicit the brilliant links between the sections, including a photo of two famous French pop singers from the 1960s. Sheer genius.

No wonder this is hoovering up so many awards. Shame on the Booker panel for passing this over in favour of the grossly inferior Richard Flannagan novel.

This is on a different sphere to everything else. A masterwork.


Bizet: Carmen
Bizet: Carmen
Price: £12.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one to go for!, 29 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bizet: Carmen (Audio CD)
I bought this after this recording was voted the finest 'Carmen' on Radio 3's Building a Library feature. It is easy to see why. This is a sparkling recording. The pace is swift and the orchestra and chorus wonderfully fresh, light and bouyant - it doesn't drag for a moment and the sound quality is so vibrant.

But the crowning glory is a Carmen to die for - the luscious seductive tones of Julia Migenes cannot be bettered - this is a voice tailor made for this role. It is a simply stunning vocal performance, incredibly nuanced and detailed and completely devoid of the matronly heft and overly wide vibrato which infects many performances. I have never heard the role sung with such total immersion in the character. A staggering achievement.

Domingo is at his best (this was 1984) and of the four principals only the Michaela of Faith Esham marginally disappoints with her slightly shrill tone and disconcerting vibrato. But her Act 1 duet with Domingo still sounds gorgeous.

Some listeners might be nonplussed by all the spoken dialogue. But this is the original version with the dialogue intact before the recitatives were later added by Bizet's friend Ernest Guiraud. Hence, this is a more authentic Carmen than many recordings. Also, it simply oozes Mediterranean colour and energy and the sound effects create a total dramatic listening experience.

Overall, this is a magnificent 'Carmen' and you really needn't look further.


Orfeo
Orfeo
Price: £4.79

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The music saves the day, 29 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Orfeo (Kindle Edition)
3 stars is possibly generous as I found this a bit of a mess. A weak, unbelieveable plot, characters who I really didn't care for, a strange and uncomfortable combination of music and microbiology, passages of limp narrative interspersed with tedious scientific detail and chunks of musicology - it didn't hang together for me and I am surprised this made the Booker longlist.

However, the redeeming feature is that Powers writes wonderfully about music. The portions on Quartet for the End of Time, Mahler and Shostakovich's 5th are insightful and absorbing. OK, one reviewer remarked that a degree in music is necessary to appreciate this. Well, yes it helps. I think Powers would have been better off writing a musicology book than this novel. He genuinely has a ear and sensitivity for art music and the ability to bring it to life for others. The novel is permeated with rich musical allusion and is well written. I'm so sorry the rest of this bizarre concoction left me cold.


Under the Ivy: The Life and Music of Kate Bush
Under the Ivy: The Life and Music of Kate Bush
by Graeme Thomson
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling portrait, 21 Sept. 2014
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A throughly engrossing and highly insightful biography of the UK's greatest female recording artist. It is well paced, well researched and well written. I hope this is a work in progress with future revisions to keep abreast of a career which is always surprising us. When this was written in 2010 Thomson was convinced that we would never hear Bush perform live again and he spends much time analysing why. Bush certainly proved him wrong and I am sure he was delighted this was the case!

Thomson only very occasionally teeters on the line of treating his subject over-reverentially - the downfall of many biographers. In fact, he is quite critical where criticism is I feel warranted. His insights into her music are often fascinating and perceptive. I agreed with most of his conclusions - especially his assessment of the generally weak 'Red Shoes' album. Though interestingly, some of the tracks he is less impressed with are the very ones Bush chose to perform live in 2014 e.g. Joanni, King of the Mountain & Top of the City.

All in all, this is an absorbing treatment of an extraordinary performer. So why only 4 stars? Sadly, the text is riddled with minor errors - repeated words, words missing, typos - this is shocking considering this is a revised & updated edition. The standard of proof reading is abysmal and does compromise the overall quality. There are some real howlers e.g. a reference to 'Kiri DeKanawa' (sic). I hate to be picky but you do not expect this in work of this quality.

Nevertheless, this is a great read and a biography worthy of its subject.


Lonely Planet San Francisco (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet San Francisco (Travel Guide)
Price: £9.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good choice, 17 Sept. 2014
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Whilst I prefer the depth and detail of the Rough Guides series I went for Lonely Planet this time as the latest edition is currently more up to date (Feb 2014). It proved extremely useful during my recent holiday. It seemed accurate (as far as I could tell) - OK, you expect things like prices to change - and was interesting to read and well researched.

I have deducted a star as the index was not always comprehensive enough. Also, because there are 4 separate indexes one after the other (general, food, entertainment, accommodation) I would often find myself using the wrong one. Better indexing please!

Otherwise this was a very good choice. Recommended.


Granta 117: Horror (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)
Granta 117: Horror (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)
Price: £12.34

2.0 out of 5 stars Unengaging and pretentious, 21 July 2014
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Generally, very disappointed by this collection. Whilst the idea of exploring the horror in daily life is intriguing, most of these pieces fail to deliver. Many are simply dull and pretentious. Indeed, it is difficult to comprehend that these were all written by different authors - the overall effect is one of dull homogeny, as if we are hearing one single authorial voice.

Worst of all is the Will Self opener - his aim seems to be to drop in as many long and obscure words as possible - a deplorable 'look at me showing off' style - truly nauseating. What a pretentious bore! Many other pieces just seem downright pointless and fizzle out without leaving any impact. Paul Auster's account of his mother's death feels interminable and extremely indulgent, as do many others.

There are three engaging contributions. Sarah Hall's tale of a woman's encounter with a sinister canine on an African beach is genuinely atmospheric, whilst Stephen King's The Dune is fairly interesting.

However, the one redeeming feature of this collection is the outstanding 'Infamous Bengal Ming' by Rajesh Parameswaran. This tale of a tiger on the rampage is truly terrifying, yet heart warming and intensely human at the same time - even though it is told from the tiger's viewpoint. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions reading this. A brilliant gem in a lack lustre collection. The story also appears in Parameswaran's collection 'I Am Executioner' which I intend to checkout. A better bet than wasting time on this Granta volume.


Lindo Black Guitar Tripod/Stand Adjustable Neck Support *Electric/Acoustic/Bass/Mandolin*
Lindo Black Guitar Tripod/Stand Adjustable Neck Support *Electric/Acoustic/Bass/Mandolin*
Offered by Lindo Guitars
Price: £19.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Just OK, 11 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These effusive reviews are ridiculous - and all because the manufacturer is offering a freebie to positive reviewers. Amazon shouldn't be allowing this sort of thing to happen and should remove the reviews. I agree entirely with reviewer Paul Martin. The quality is average. It does the job but it is hardly a quality item. In fact, the body rest swivels around and I initially thought mine was faulty.

It is fine for the money - you get what you pay for. But don't be gulled by these silly reviews.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2014 10:50 AM BST


Liars and Thieves (A Company of Liars short story)
Liars and Thieves (A Company of Liars short story)
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back with old friends ..., 5 Jun. 2014
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How fantastic to be back in the company of Camelot et al. This extended short story is a delight, though is permeated with the stench of the dark ages as we have come to expect from Karen's books. It is not a sequel to Company of Liars. In fact, it takes us back in time depicting an event early in the company's travels. The narrator is once again the enigmatic Camelot.

For me, Narigorm is one of the most terrifying figures in fiction. Knowing how Company of Liars ends, it is impossible to read this story without being fascinated and chilled by this figure of evil.

If ever a book cried out for a sequel it is COL. I have come across no other book which finishes on such a terrifying cliffhanger. But in the meantime, this novella is a welcome substitute and a great addition to Karen's compelling and startlingly original body of work. Thoroughly recommended.


Last Night in Twisted River
Last Night in Twisted River
by John Irving
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars We've been here before!, 3 Jan. 2014
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John Irving is a writer that I am falling out of love with. This book is in many ways, as well crafted as his others and the pages easily kept turning. So why 3 stars? Sadly, his recycling of the same old themes and ideas has lost its freshness - in fact, it has become incredibly tedious. Bears, wrestling, mutilation, flatulent dogs, the principal character being a writer - we have been here before with Irving - too many times now! Most surprisingly, we don't end up in Vienna or Amsterdam this time around, so I guess we should be thankful for small blessings.

As with many of his books, this one could have used a damn good editor - though I guess no one would dare 'tamper' with his work at this point in his career. He is a superb storyteller, yet frustratingly, he overloads his writing with too much superfluous detail. In typical Irving fashion, the plot stalls and meanders whilst he indulges his fancies. In particular, there is much thinly veiled autobiographical content. The principal character, Danny Angel, is the same age as Irving and Danny's career and politics roughly mirror those of his creator. This gives Irving the perfect excuse to lecture on the writing process. To an extent, Danny IS Irving, and it becomes irritating.

I am surprised that his writing does not engender more controversy. There is something deeply unpleasant and 'pervy' about his work these days. He seems to be fascinated with underage sex. Again, the main character, whilst still a child, is sexually initiated by an adult woman. Very unpolitically correct and extremely uncomfortable to read. There is also an ugly crudeness here which has permeated many of his recent books, especially 'Until I Find You'.

So why do I read him? He is a superb writer and despite his shortcomings, can hold his audience. I just wish that he would use his impressive talents more prudently and economically. There has been a gradual downward slide in his work since the late 1990s. But infuriatingly, he is still worth reading!


Sleep, Holy Babe: A Collection of Christmas Lullabies (Blossom Street Singers, Hilary Campbell) (Naxos: 8.572868)
Sleep, Holy Babe: A Collection of Christmas Lullabies (Blossom Street Singers, Hilary Campbell) (Naxos: 8.572868)
Offered by Naxos Direct UK
Price: £4.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite Christmas listening, 15 Dec. 2013
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Actually, this is a disc I would be happy to listen to at any time of the year. I recently heard an interview with Hilary Campbell on Radio 3 and found the fresh bouyant sound of her choir most appealing. I ordered this disc as a result and I was not disappointed.

The items range from the 16th century to contemporary, from the exquisite Renaissance polyphony of Pygott to the glorious dissonances of Campbell's own compostion 'Sleep my dreaming one'. Though, the highlight for me is Daniel Burges's haunting reworking of 'The Coventry Carol'.

The singing is exemplary, the balance of voices near perfect and the recording is clear and crisp. The overall effect is quite intoxicating. Altogether, an outstanding disc which makes one feel like one is being wrapped in a comforting warm blanket. An ideal Christmas gift for the discerning music lover who appreciates something a little bit different. Superb.


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