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Watching the English: The International Bestseller Revised and Updated
Watching the English: The International Bestseller Revised and Updated
by Kate Fox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 22.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph, 1 July 2014
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The quibbles first.
The book, at over 500 pages, is too long and runs out of steam in the final chapters.
The style, while engaging and accessible, can sometimes become indulgent and over folksy. Sentences like "it's my book, so I can write what I want" grate.
Her minute dissection of the intricacies of the English class system are extremely funny, precisely observed but become exhausting after a while.
However, as a voyage through the essentials of Englishness, this is a tour de force which I would challenge any English person to read without experiencing many moments of disarming self-awareness. Kate Fox does not sugar the pill in her presentation of the repressed and emotionally constipated race that we have become. Some of her set pieces (how we say goodbye at the end of dinner parties, pub etiquette, our obsession with gardens, etc) are wonderful and illuminating. How the book reads to foreigners would be difficult to judge - I imagine those closely familiar with England would find it chimes loudly, while those who are not would probably not believe how strange we are. To an English person, however, this is as close to a definitive guide to the emotional make-up of the English mentality in the 21st century as you are likely to find and, as such, despite a few reservations, a triumph.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 14, 2014 2:53 PM BST


Rhapsody in Black: The Life and Music of Roy Orbison
Rhapsody in Black: The Life and Music of Roy Orbison
by John Kruth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.91

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good enough, but should have been better, 5 Aug 2013
This is a book which adds to the Orbison story, but in a strangely uneven way. It is a mixture of interesting insights and a few revelations but is marred by an occasionally flippant style and some contentious statements that don't appear to be backed up by any more than rumour. Most notably, the "rift" between Orbison and his eldest son, Wesley, is alluded to several times, and Barbara Orbison is said to have wanted nothing to do with "anything that Claudette (his first wife) spawned" without providing any evidence to back up this disturbing statement. Similarly, the book ends most curiously, with the final few pages devoted to pointless speculation about whether, had he lived, Orbison might have released a gospel album. This bizarre ending really does devalue the book and the theme appears, out of nowhere, and goes nowhere.
There are some interesting takes on Orbison's music, although Kruth's dismissal of nearly all he produced between the sixties and his comeback shortly before his death ignores the many fine tracks that were produced during this period.
The author is not afraid to be contentious - he's the first person I've read to criticise Barbara Orbison and how her management of his posthumous career "candy-coated" his output, but there can be no doubt that he's correct in this assertion.
Many of the quotes in the book are recycled and familiar to devotees. It's questionable how many interviews Kruth actually obtained himself; certainly, there are none with family members or many with those who worked with Orbison in his latter years. While reliable band member Terry Widlake casts plenty of insights into Orbison's life and music, many of his quotes beg more questions than they answer. Kruth has a tendency to leave statements hanging without resolution.
There is still plenty for Orbison fans to enjoy, despite the reservations; reading the book leaves one in no doubt as to just what a major rock figure he was and just how many stellar figures regarded him with awe, particularly in his final years. His death was tantalising in that, his comeback well under way before he died, he was planning to change his live act substantially for the first time in 25 years, to incorporate "Mystery Girl" with the classic singles of the sixties. While Roy died knowing that he was fully re-established in the rock pantheon, he left us with the knowledge he still had so much more to give.


Mystery Girl
Mystery Girl

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed, 5 Oct 2012
This review is from: Mystery Girl (Audio CD)
The further you delve into Roy Orbison's music, the more you find. One of the ironies of his career is that his two most played radio songs, "Oh, Pretty Woman" and "You got it" are unrepresentative, both in terms of structure, theme and attitude, of his unique genius. That fact alone, however, is telling, in that he was probably too experimental, too unusual, to sustain mass appeal, even if those bewitched by him are hooked for life. Few will know more of his vast output (over 500 songs recorded)other than the above named, plus "Crying" and, maybe, "It's Over", "Running Scared" and, possibly, "In Dreams".
Mystery Girl is less unusual than many of Orbison's earlier offerings. Co-writing only five of the ten tracks goes some way to explaining why but, whatever the reason, there are no examples of familiar Orbison digressions from standard pop formulae, i.e. the abandonment of verse and chorus, (In Dreams) the slow-burning fuse, (Running Scared, Walk On) the false chorus, (It's Over) the ever-shifting rythyms (The Crowd)and so on. So, in many ways, this is more conventional an offering than might have been expected.
However, this does not detract from a wonderful album. Reading the previous reviews, the individual preferences for virtually every song is striking. For me, "In the Real World" is a poignant counterpoint to "In Dreams", a mature reflection contrasting with the anguished yearning of its predecessor. Windsurfer is just beautiful, with the old firm of Orbison and Bill Dees returning to the rejection which is so central to the Orbison persona throughout his career ("She told him no, no, never, no").Apparently, this song was originally dropped from the album, but re-instated on Roy's insistence, and how right he was."The Comedians" is the most off the wall number but it works tremendously well. Seeing it sung live on "A Black and White Night" with Elvis Costello all but swooning in the background is one of this reviewer's favourite Orbison moments.
Mystery Girl is nothing short of fantastic. Orbsison's voice has layers that were not present in his earlier recordings, yet still hits the big notes with ease.


Ordinary Thunderstorms
Ordinary Thunderstorms
by William Boyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.38

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boyd off course, 15 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Ordinary Thunderstorms (Paperback)
What is happening to William Boyd? The writer I consider to have written some of the most compelling and poignant novels of the last twenty - odd years has morphed into an above average, but less than outstanding, thriller writer, judged on both "Restless", and his latest novel, "Ordinary Thunderstorms". While I read the latter swiftly, and with enjoyment, the depth and detail that characterised his earlier works continued to evade me, just as it had done in "Restless". My overwhelming reaction is that he is far more interested today in knocking them out quickly than in creating the "literary" feel that was ever-present in his earlier novels.
"Ordinary Thunderstorms" contains an array of wooden, half-developed and one-dimensional characters - the contract killer who loves his dog and tut-tuts the state of the nation being the weakest - and a plot which, while it rattles along at a fair pace, contains more improbabilities and loose ends than it should. As in "Restless", there are elements of the plot which simply evaporate - the heroine's involvement in both the plot and the hero's life is contrived and feels like a device to introduce some naked romping once the book is filmed.
I suspect that Boyd's novels will always attract a fair degree of approval; he is too good a writer to produce dross, but there will be many, like me, whose anticipation at the prospect of a new Boyd novel will lessen in future until he ditches the thrillers and returns to what he does best.


Roy Orbison: Live In Australia [DVD] [2005]
Roy Orbison: Live In Australia [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Roy Orbison

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When tears are in your eyes................, 7 Sep 2009
A lot of what made Roy Orbison unique is captured here. Don't forget that, at the time of this concert, he had been ripped apart by the deaths of his wife, his brother, and two of his children, as well as undergoing quadruple heart by-pass surgery, and was piecing himself back together. While his sad songs were not a product of despair ("you've got to be in pretty good shape to write a sad song", he once said), they become even more poignant with knowledge of his emotional background. "Bridge Over Troubled Water", though a cover, stands out strongest, entrancing from the very first line ("when you're weary......")right the way through to the heart-rending climax. I seldom listen to The Big O without being moved, and this DVD is no exception.


Gilley's Unreleased Perfromance of Roy Orbison
Gilley's Unreleased Perfromance of Roy Orbison
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 17.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 7 Sep 2009
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Buy this, specifically, to hear the best live performance of "Running Scared" that exists, in my view. The club atmosphere is perfect to showcase the dramatic build-up, aching crescendo, and withering climax, which is then reprised to even more stunning effect. A masterpiece of songwriting, and singing, maybe Orbison's best. There's nothing wrong with the rest of the album, either.


The Angel's Game
The Angel's Game
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ran out of steam, 7 Sep 2009
This review is from: The Angel's Game (Hardcover)
Identical in setting, identical in writing style, and similar in plot to "The Shadow of the Wind", yet "The Angel's Game" fails where its predecessor succeeded so well. The story compels in much the same way, but the whole piece falls apart in the final quarter. The death trail becomes farcical, the hero's escapes progressively ridiculous, and many of the loose ends are never addressed, let alone resolved. The central theme (which was original and compelling) is discarded, and the conclusion is vapid and feeble.
To create a tale where the reader is led to anticipate a comprehensible denouement, only to allow the story to waft away inconclusively, is more than a little deceitful, and leads one to conclude that the commercial pressure to release another moneyspinner outweighed any considerations of artistic integrity.


Blind Faith
Blind Faith
by Ben Elton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.00

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why no laughs?, 4 Mar 2008
This review is from: Blind Faith (Hardcover)
In Ben Elton's best work, there are plenty of laughs, with "the message" happy to co-exist alongside a narrative that has its own life. In "Blind Faith" we are dragged into a world of unremitting grimness, without anything to laugh about at all (despite what one or two other reviewers claim). And, without humour, Ben Elton is a shadow of himself.If we want pontification, we can plug into Gordon Brown. In the absence of a single character about whom we care, the defining events of the book, including the grisly ending, move us not at all, and the "sledgehammer to crack a nut" mentioned in an earlier review is an apt description. There is little here that the average thinking person will not already have considered themselves, if distorted to a grotesque level. From the first few pages, I had the sinking feeling that this was likeley to become a moralising bore, and nothing changed my view as the book progressed. Come on, Ben, get the funny lines out and do what you do best again.


This Is Me
This Is Me
Price: 12.59

5.0 out of 5 stars A major talent, 27 Sep 2007
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This review is from: This Is Me (Audio CD)
Few voices are as arresting as that of Michael Dimitri. He spans many genres in "This is Me" and none of them disappoint. "Butterfly Kisses" is an obvious stand-out, and a wonderful platform for his vocal talents, with tenderness and passion to the fore, while the anthemic "Let Freedom Ring" is another instantly approachable track. There are others that need more listening - "I Am Somebody" brings out a very different side of this superb singer - but there are no duff trcks at all and I've found it constantly in the cd player since buying it.
We need more, much more of this singer. "Give me more music" - yes please!


Diana: The Last Days
Diana: The Last Days
by Martyn Gregory
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watertight and comprehensive, 31 July 2007
If you still subscribe to conspiracy theories after reading this book, you are either wilfully perverse or brainwashed. The conclusion, that there is not a single scrap of evidence to support any of Al Fayed's allegations, is argued in compelling and thorough detail. Furthermore, the author is at pains to point out that, not only does Fayed change his story frequently in order to deflect the blame from his, and Dodi's own failings, he is also the only one of his retinue who actually believes in any wrongdoings. Furthermore, the families of Diana, and Trevor Rees Jones, are in no doubt that this was simply a tragic accident. This book should be seen as the ultimate closure of the case - not, of course, that it will be, given the public's thirst for drama, and the Daily Express's never ending desperation to prop up its failing circulation on the back of the wrongful, and by now throughly tedious, allegations.


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