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T. A. Sainsbury (London)
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I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau
I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau
Price: £4.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searingly Honest, 23 Sep 2013
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Gary Kemp wrote three of the most perfect pop songs of the modern generation (True, Gold and Barricades) and the man he got to sing them had a perfect voice, but beyond that I knew little of either the Spandau or Kemp history. This book is huge; not just as a pop memoir but as a lesson in how to mature gracefully within this narcissistic business. Kemp is heart wrenchingly honest in his assessment of the New Romantic period and the part he played in it. He is tough on himself, perhaps sometimes unnecessarily so, after all stardom, adulation and wealth came early and few are equipped to deal with it, but his self deprecating, emotionally intelligent approach indicates just how far he has come as a person. He fell victim to the hype, made some mistakes, (notably around Live Aid/Band Aid) and he could have spared us his inner most thoughts. But he spares us little of what he is thinking and this is a much better book for it. It is short on the more salacious details and heavy on the more interesting, thought process that he himself went through. His parent's death is handled beautifully and it is that event that catapults the band back onto the stage again. Given the high profile court case, celebrity marriages and friendships this book could have read like a gossip column but the end result is so much classier than that. More The Times than The Mirror. I liked Kemp a lot.


Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics)
Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics)
Price: £5.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Eclectic!, 6 Aug 2013
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A thoroughly eclectic collection of characters sharing their home in Cannery Row. Despite the lack of a strong plot, the novella keeps you gripped with the unusual peripatetic lifestyles of Doc, Mack, Dora and co. As with all Steinbeck's writing I felt a sense of sadness when I finished; as if I had lost a group of friends.


The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck "Essentials")
The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck "Essentials")
Price: £6.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 30 July 2013
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Steinbeck is a true master of the written word. This epic novel has so many threads. On one level it tells the story of a migrant family escaping from the Dustbowl of Oklahoma for the rich promise of California. But on another level it offers a social and political commentary on the injustice of the farming situation in America in the 1930's. The most subtle thread however is the clear, resonant voice of Ma Joad at the heart of the story. Steinbeck's depiction of her shows an incredibly sensitive understanding of women and in particular the strong bond that often exists between mother and son. Ma and her son Tom are the two key protagonists and through them Steinbeck conveys the heat, dust, hunger, overwhelming tiredness but dogged determination of the migrant.
The narrative is interspersed with short chapters written in a stream of consciousness style, revealing some of the historical details of the era; the onset of mechanization, the hopeless political situation, Route 66. This style adds a certain pace and diversity to the writing.
But it is undoubtedly around Ma that the tale revolves. In many ways Steinbeck has given the book a feminist feel by leaning so heavily on her character. Many of her lines are both prophetic and memorable. " A thousand lives we might live, but when it comes to it it'll only be one". Her last moments with Tom when she says " I wanta touch you again, I wanta remember" are heartbreakingly sad.
I suppose a truly great novel is one that makes a massive impact on you - Grapes of Wrath did just that and I urge everyone to read this masterpiece.


In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran
In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran
by John Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Ultimate grown up book, 17 July 2013
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Duran were never my number 1 band, but I always appreciated their contribution to the Music Industry. I downloaded this book for a holiday read and was instantly impressed with John's ability to tell his story. It is a fairly rapid skip through his life ( I was left wanting a little more which is always a good thing), but it didn't disappoint on any level. He is articulate and witty, wears his fame lightly, and is extremely honest about his descent into drug abuse. He emerges as an honest and thoroughly likeable person. One thing that struck me is that unlike lots of other rock stars turned writers, John never attempts to over intellectualise the industry. He acknowledges that luck, timing, glamour all have their part to play. The long wait for the ideal front man is another interesting thread; I guess Le Bon would always be worth waiting for.


The Shadow Of The Wind
The Shadow Of The Wind
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.91

5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate love story?, 27 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Shadow Of The Wind (Paperback)
There have been so many reviews written about this mesmerising book, it hardly needs another. But then I thought, everyone takes something different from a novel, so why not share my thoughts with you. Between its spellbounding pages I found a tragic love story. Arguably the main narrative deals with the protagonist, Daniel's, relentless search for the mysterious author Julian Carax, but closley entrwined is Julian's love for Penelope and Daniel's own burgeoning relationship with Beatrix. Daniel "chances upon a book and enters the lives" of all those connected to it and we are introduced to a fabulous cast of characters brought to life with great skill by Zafon. There are so many passages of perfect prose; I particularly loved the way the author paints a picture of Barcelona "in the early morning haze..the city awoke like a watercolour slowly coming to life". The City is often personified as a woman " a sorceress,..getting under your skin". The story itself is complex, at times detective novel, at others Gothic horror story, and it never fails to disappoint.
However, it is the way that the two love stories are woven into the book that kept me gripped. Julian and Penelope's relationship is slender in terms of the time they spent together, but that does not diminish the intensity, in fact it inflames it, with a sense of what could have been. Julian's publishing assistant Nuria Montfort is an important thread. At times she takes over the narration of the tale and finds herself falling for Julian even before she meets him. Her unrequited love is dealt with beautifully. She is the strong female presence in the book. Utterly belivable, utterly selfless.
Daniel's relationship with Bea takes second place and you have the sense that Zafon may deal with it in more detail in another novel.
Zafon uses some clever techniques to keep the book flowing seamlessly; different narrators, changing identities, the cruel presence of Fumero the corrupt police officer, and the hialrious comedy provided by Fermin.
This is a book that truly makes you laugh and cry. I read it in about four sittings, ignoring the world around me, totally lost in the wonderful words of Carlos Ruiz Zafon.


11.22.63
11.22.63
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.18

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable!, 3 Nov 2012
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This review is from: 11.22.63 (Paperback)
I had never read a Stephen King novel...until now.. and what a fabulous experience it was! I was intrigued by the title, so downloaded 11.22.63 to my kindle and a few days later I emerged back into the real world.
In essence this is a classic page turner, written at a cracking pace and with great characterization, but it is also underpinned by some meticulous research into a real life mystery. No-one really knows why Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger on JFK and King attempts to shed a little light on his motives whlist providing the reader with a rollercoster ride through time.
Time travel yarns have never really interested me, but King navigates his way so seamleesly between the two eras that I for one couldn't wait to see what happened the next time Jake/George made his way through the "hole". There are lots of subtle twists and turns as the protagonist attempts to stop the Kennedy assasination not least of which is his love for someone on the 1960's side of the divide.
I disagree with the comments that this book is overlong; at no point did I feel that the writing was laboured, on the contrary I was amazed at King's constant pace and energy. The ending is simply beautiful and moved me to tears. Read this book - you will not be disappointed. I now have a back catalogue to work through...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 4, 2012 7:59 AM GMT


Lifeblood
Lifeblood
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars a thorough education, 8 Aug 2012
This review is from: Lifeblood (Audio CD)
For some reason I never quite tuned into tho Manics in the 1990's. I loved all the singles, but never bought an album; well, what a mistake that was! My husband bought me "Lifeblood" and I have spent the last year or so discovering everything the Manics have ever produced. Because this was my first album, I have massive affection for it and completely disagree with any reviewer who has given it less than 4 stars.
Apart from Emily, which is a little on the dreary side both lyrically and musically,I personally don't think there is a weak track.
1985 has always struck me as deeply ironic (all the fuss about '84, what chance did it stand) and I think it was the year that the Manics started playing/songwriting in their bedrooms in Wales. Richard Nixon is pure genius; love the tone of JDB's voice, and I'm desperate to ask Nicky Wire if he is expressing symapathy for Nixon and Richard 111 in his lyrics. (The beauty of his words are that they pose so many questions).
Other highlights include Song for Departure with its gorgoeus big stadium sound, Galsnot, Solitude and Empty Souls.
The combination of gorgeous tunes and thought provoking lyrical content is wonderful.
If you are new to the Manics, this album will ease you in gently. Some of their other material, particuarly the early albums, are a little more raw, although totally brilliant.
My son (age 13) listened to Lifeblood on a long car journey and found it to be a mini politics lesson (Nixon, Glasnot, Emmeline Pankhust). You can't ask for more than that. Keep writing guys - there is a new generation out there who need you!!


Fidelity! [Deluxe Enhanced Edition]
Fidelity! [Deluxe Enhanced Edition]
Price: £12.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired, 9 Jun 2012
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This is the best album I have heard in a long, long time. Since the early Eighties, Chrissie had been my favourite female vocalist and I have liked (but not necessarily loved) all her material, some of which, Life in my Veins, Talk of the Town, Kid are in my all time Top 10. But this collection of songs moves her into an entirely different genre, and wow are they inspiring. Read the main Amazon review if you need the background, but suffice to say the love story played out in front of us is raw, gritty, with oodles of paasion and a touch of kitchen sink drama thrown in too. The music is in the main slow, a bit lazy (in a good way), a bit country. We are treated to Chrissie's golden voice with JP's hoarse gravelly tones laid on top. I disagree with the main reviewer about JP. I think his voice adds an edge to this album and contrasts really well with Chrissie's. But then again I love the lead singer of the Stereophonics! My favourite song is Meanwhile, but there are loads of absolute gems here. It gets better as you play it more. Buy the Cd so you get the sleeve notes and lyrics. Chrissie looks and sounds like a woman half her age... I'm looking forward to my fifties..


Pure
Pure
by Andrew Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly original, 9 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Pure (Paperback)
Pure is an unsettling and original book, based on the clearing of bones from an old cemetry in Paris before the Revolution. An unusual topic from a very accomplished writer. Miller's prose is beautiful, rich and highly desciptive,and at times I could almost smell the odour he so vividly describes emanating from the graves. Jean Baptisite, the protagonist meets a selection of eccentric characters as he attempts to successfully remove the bones from their resting place. For me, the most interesting was Heloise, the former prostitute, with whom he strikes up an unlikely relationship. Miller paints a very positive picture of her, ignoring the stereotypical "woman of the night", and we slowly discover an intelligent woman who helps Jean Baptiste with his "word blindness." As many dyslexics become highly talented engineers this is a very belivable storyline! This book is incredibly original and will remain with me for a long time.


W. Axl Rose: The Unauthorized Biography
W. Axl Rose: The Unauthorized Biography
by Mick Wall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 22 April 2012
I may not be the best person to review this book, as I am not a particular fan of eithe Axl or Guns n Roses, but I bought it for my husband and once I started it I couldn't put it down. It was fascinating to read about the shambolic chaos from which this group emerged. The hedonistic and chaotic lifestyles of all the band members, makes it seem almost a miracle that a band and a record contract ever saw the light of day! It was testamemt to one particular record compay executive and Axl himself that the band started to get a glimpse of success. I like the style of Mick Wall's prose; it is rich and engaging, but as to its accuracy (raised by a previous reviewer) I couldn't comment. He is reasonably sympathetic to Axl, obviously a complex and difficult man, and the book feels like a story that definitely needed to be told. It's not as good as Keith Richard's autobiography, but that is because the cast of Guns n Roses simply haven't the intelligence and charm of messrs Richards and co.


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