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Jaybird (London, UK)

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I Wish I Could Have Loved You More
I Wish I Could Have Loved You More
Offered by cdbear1
Price: £1.50

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Adding a note of dissent, 19 Sep 2007
I bought this album on the strength of its reviews, but I was sorely disappointed. Payne's voice is OK, but generic, without the abrasiveness of Amy Winehouse, the emotion of Dusty Springfield, or the lightness of touch and vivacity of the Pipettes.

On top of that, the songs are repetitive and, more than anything, her lyrics are banal.

It is not the worst album about at the moment, but it is definitely not all it is hyped up to be.

Me Talk Pretty One Day
Me Talk Pretty One Day
by David Sedaris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cocktail party anecdotes served up like pretty canapes, 18 Sep 2007
This review is from: Me Talk Pretty One Day (Paperback)
Me Talk Pretty One Day is the first Sedaris book I've read. It is a series of anecdotes and reminicences and, as such, the chapters are rather uneven. The best of them (towards the end of the book) are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny; when Seadris pulls it off he creates that magical mixture of insightfulness, charm, bitchiness and wit that makes you wish he were singing for his supper at one of your dinner parties.

Clear-eyed observation of both the eccentricities of family and friends, and the moments we all can relate to, however obliquely, is at the base of the best humour and Sedaris definitely has this.

Inevitably, he does not quite pull it off with all his stories, which can then seem slight, rather staged and a little mannered.

I've given him 4 stars because I did laugh out loud at one point, which is an amazingly difficult trick to pull off. That said, I would have given 3.5 if that was possible, because there were moments early on when I was not really sure why I was continuing with the book.

On the plus side, it is easy to dip in and out of, so recommended (even if not highly) for travelling or for when you want something you can pick up and put down.

Knitorama: 25 Great and Glam Things to Knit
Knitorama: 25 Great and Glam Things to Knit
by Rachael Matthews
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, clever patterns from a leading artist in the field, 6 Sep 2007
Knitorama is a book of knitting patterns for objects rather than garments. From knitted cakes and sandwiches to the marvellous three flying ducks, it is packed full of ideas, all carefully executed and charmingly modelled, by the artist who once recreated Princess Diana's wedding in a knitted scene.

This is a picture book for knitters and non-knitters alike; cheerful and humourous, I have yet to find anyone who didn't raise a smile looking through it. As a bonus, all the patterns work. Rachel Matthews has followed Knitorama up with another book, Hookorama, for crochet fans.

The Gift of Rain
The Gift of Rain
by Twan Eng Tan
Edition: Paperback

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegantly written story taking on big themes, 6 Sep 2007
This review is from: The Gift of Rain (Paperback)
The Gift of Rain is the story of young, motherless boy of Chinese-English heritage, living in colonial Malaysia around WWII.

Philip meets Endo, a Japanese diplomat, who takes him on as a student of Aikido, but also uses him.

The book deals with ideas about identity and cultural heritage, the nature of colonialism, destiny and free will, and moral contingencies. All big important issues, but it does so with a lightness of touch that makes this a fluid, enjoyable read.

All of the characters are placed in impossible situations; all of them act badly at one point or another and yet the reader doesn't lose sympathy. Neither are you overwhelmed with sentimentality.

This book was not quite 5 stars for me; although wonderfully ambitious, I felt some of the themes were not as fully explored as they might be (but maybe because I couldn't quite connect with the buddhist themes of reincarnation in such a bald way. Nevertheless, highly recommended.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An accessible insight into a history that was real for many women, 20 Aug 2007
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is the story of young woman who discovers that she has a great aunt in a long stay psychiatric institution, who needs rehousing, because the institution is closing down.

This sudden unearthing of a family skeleton leads the girl to reassess her life, relationships and family, as she slowly gets to know her elderly relative.

One reviewer earlier stated that the premise of this book, that people were locked away in mental institutions without having anytihng wrong with them, was completely false.

I would take issue with that. I have personally met elderly women who have been institutionalised after 50 or more years in a long stay facility, who were initially admitted because they were pregnant without being married, or sexually promiscuous. One remembered being brought into hospital in an ambulance drawn by a horse. It is a hidden part of our (female) history and Maggie O'Farrell has done a great service highlighting it.

That said, this is a light, easy going book, that has no pretensions to being great literature. The writing is fine, the characters reasonably well delineated and the story, although predictable, nonetheless worth telling.

This book will not set you on fire, it will not change your view of the world, but it is interesting enough, sympathetically written amd quick to read. It is fine - not great, not awful - better than most chick lit, but not as good as the hype.

If this is the sort of book you like, then The Wife by Meg Wolitzer would be a better choice.

The Ones You Do
The Ones You Do
by Daniel Woodrell
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric novel for lovers of Runyon and Hiaasen, 20 Aug 2007
This review is from: The Ones You Do (Paperback)
Winter's Bone remains my favourite Woodrell novel so far, but this book is still highly recommended.

It is the story of John X Shade, an aging womaniser, pool hustler, gambler and alcoholic, with children up and down the Ozark Hills. When his much younger wife runs off to seek fame and fortune, stealing $47,000 from a hitman on the way, John and his ten year old daughter have to go on the run. This at a time in his life when friends are retiring or sitting on their porch with their grandchildren.

The story is perhaps predictable, but what lifts this book above the ordinary is the quality of Woodrell's writing - how is this for a line, describing John's son Rene "His eyes were blue and challenging and his nose had been dented artlessly meeting those challenges."

John Xavier Shade predicament forces him to look back on his life and the choices he made. Woodrell considers this with unflinching honesty, but without ever losing his reader's sympathies altogether.

Woodrell writes with verve and humour, with real insight into his characters and more importantly genuine affection too.

A great holiday read, or a curl up on a rainy Sunday afternoon book, the literary equivalent of watching Guys and Dolls with a steaming mug of tea or cocoa. Lose yourself for a couple of hours in the company of the Shades.

Guide to the Cheeses of the World: 1200 Cheeses of the World (Hachette Food & Wine)
Guide to the Cheeses of the World: 1200 Cheeses of the World (Hachette Food & Wine)
by Roland Barthélemy
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but an overwhelming French bias, 7 Aug 2007
This is an attractive small book, well-laid out and with reasonable photography. It has interesting initial chapters on the seasonality of cheese, the importance of terroir and the fundamentals of cheese making and storing. The photos are utilarian rather than lush or styled, but still attractive.

There is no doubt that Barthelmy is an expert on French cheese. However, this book claims to be a book about the cheeses of the world and there is no way that it is that comprehensive.

The subtitle to the book is 1200 cheeses and 100 favourites, and that is the catch, because Barthelmy is strongly biased towards French cheese.

Cheeses are divided into families rather than categorised by country of origin, as is more usual, so under the Manchego family, instead of a description of all the many manchego-like Spanish cheeses, there is a stock page on Manchego, followed by a list of French Manchego like cheeses.

Similarly, in the Cheddar family, the only English cheese which merits its own page is Sage Derby, which is described as delicious, but criticised for its lurid colouring, going on to talk about the other bizarre flavour combinations in English cheese (Wensleydale with apricots or ginger etc). Cheddar does not merit a page, nor does Lancashire, Wensleydale, Swaledale, Cheshire or Yarg, but Salers and Languoille do get a page in this section.

The Stilton family section does not get a page on Stilton either.

There is passing mention of English, Dutch, Swiss and Spanish cheese, but passing mention is all it is.

I love some of the descriptions of the French cheeses. I have no issue with the writing or indeed his comprehensive knowledge and passion for French cheese, but I found the nationalistic viewpoint arrogant and irritating in a book which purported to be somewhat wider than it is.

Wide Sargasso Sea
Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and incredibly inventive prequel to Jane Eyre, 6 Aug 2007
This review is from: Wide Sargasso Sea (Paperback)
The Wide Sargasso Sea is the story of Antoinette Cosway/ Bertha Mason, the mad first wife of Mr Rochester from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

It tells her story, as the marginalised outsider, and shows how she came to be locked in a grey tower in England, guarded night and day, and despised and feared by her husband, from her childhood roots in the Caribbean.

It is a brilliant book, atmospheric, passionate and political; still as relevant as when it was first written. It stands alone, without having read Jane Eyre, despite its brevity. However, it is in the context of Jane Eyre that it is really best understood.

It is always audacious to take on a classic novel in this way, but Wide Sargasso Sea does so imaginatively and sympathetically, creating characters that have a life of their own, beyond Bronte's text.

Ushpizin [DVD]
Ushpizin [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shuli Rand
Price: £9.02

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and insightful, 6 Aug 2007
This review is from: Ushpizin [DVD] (DVD)
Ushpizin is the story of an impoverished Orthodox Jewish rabbi and his wife, who live in Jerusalem, in the days around the annual festival of Succouth.

Before his conversion to a fundamentalist view of his religion, the rabbi had been a tearaway and criminal, who had spent time in jail. His wife is unaware of his past.

During the festival it is traditional to offer hospitality, so the couple open their home to two escaped prisoners on the run.

This film works on so many levels, as an exploration of a loving relationship within a couple it is sensitive and tender.

The film also explores the attraction of fundamentalist religion, and how this couple both seek to use their faith to guide their lives in every way.

I was fascinated to see how bounded by superstition their lives were (sorry if that sounds offensive to anyone, but that it the only way I can describe it), and how they came to make choices, which were ultimately wrong choices, by trying to make their everyday lives conform to their beliefs. Once they realised they had made errors they went back and reinterpreted all the signs, desperately trying to make sense of their lives.

This felt incredible real to me, and I am sure is as applicable to fundamentalists of any of the religions of the Book (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).

The film explains enough about the festival and the religion for non-Jews to understand it, but wears its learning very lightly. The central characters were very well portrayed. My main criticism was the slightly caricatured portrayal of the two escapees, who seem almost cartoonish in their foolish bumblings, and also insufficiently sinister.

A must see for atheists to understand how fundamentalists view their lives and fate.

The Essential Madhur Jaffrey (Ebury Paperback Cookery)
The Essential Madhur Jaffrey (Ebury Paperback Cookery)
by Madhur Jaffrey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.60

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Authentic and delicious, 2 Aug 2007
This is the only Indian cookery book I use, because the recipes are straightforward, and the flavours are fresh and clean.

Jaffrey writes well, and makes her food sound appetising. The recipes are approachable and she gives helpful hints on combining different dishes.

This is a small, sleek paperback. There are no pictures, but that did not bother me at all. In a way, without pictures to distract you from presentation, it makes you concentrate on the flavours when choosing what to cook. I still enjoy browsing through it.

I have recommended this book and lent it to friends, who have gone on to buy their own copy.

Highly recommended.

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