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Jaybird (London, UK)

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The Book of Chameleons
The Book of Chameleons
by Josť Eduardo Agualusa
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Charming and quick to read - perfect for the beach, 1 Aug 2007
This review is from: The Book of Chameleons (Paperback)
The Book of Chameleons is the story of an albino black man, living in Angola, who invents family trees for people without a venerable past.

The book is narrated by Eulalio, a gecko who lives on the wall of his host, and observes the comings and goings with a detached and world weary eye.

The book tackles big themes - memory, truth and identity, with a light touch. I cannot say that it adds much to the canons of literature on this subject.

However, it was a reasonably enjoyable read. Eulalio's tone reminded a little of Archie from Archie and Mehitabel, a book I preferred to this. It is also a very short book, with short chapters, so a decent choice for travelling. Not bad, but not as good as it has been hyped up to be.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2009 2:52 PM BST


The Impressionist
The Impressionist
by Hari Kunzru
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.67

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Derivative and ultimately as confused as its protagonist, 1 Aug 2007
This review is from: The Impressionist (Paperback)
The Impressionist is OK, but nothing more than that. It deals with issues of identity, but does not match Philip Roth's The Human Stain.

It is full of Indian colour, but cannot compare to "A Suitable Boy" for its veracity, although there is more sex (and less romance) in The Impressionist.

It has something to say about colonialism, but unfortunately deals so much in caricatures, with its sex-crazed, spendaholic Nawabs, ascetic Sabus, and drunken, repressed English Commissioners that you never quite believe any of it. If the writing had the verve and style of PG Wodehouse, or Evelyn Waugh, one might forgive Kunzru his eccentric panapoply of characters, but the funny bits are not that funny, and sentimental parts lack an emotional heart.

The writing is OK, but not much more. This was fine for a holiday read, but I would not recommend it.


Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
by Vendela Vida
Edition: Paperback

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple and charming, 1 Aug 2007
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is the story of a young woman who discovers, on the day of her father's funeral, that he was not actually her father. Abandoned by her mother at a young age she sets out impulsively to discover her real father and roots among the Sami people in Scandinavia.

The early part of the book, describing both her grief and her relationship with her partner, seemed the strongest to me, written with clarity and depth. The later section, amongst the Sami, was not as well achieved.

Vida manages to pass on quite a lot of information about the Sami and their lives, without overloading the story with anthropological detail. There is colour and understanding, but the facts to do not occlude the humanity of the story.

This book is character driven, rather than plot driven, so don't expect too many exciting, unforeseen twists and turns, just vignettes of people living their lives.

This is an enjoyable read, well-executed, although not great. Recommended.


Stuff
Stuff
by Martin Rowson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wade through nostalgia for the 70s, 10 July 2007
This review is from: Stuff (Hardcover)
I'm not sure quite what I think about this book. It has moments of brilliance, with real insight; moments of charm, where you revel in waves of recognition; and some parts of really poor writing, which grate enormously.

The premise of the book is that Martin Rowson has written it while sifting through the junk, treasures and general accumulation of a lifetimes objects in his father's home, shortly after the death of his father and stepmother.

In his case, there is rather more to sift through and a rather more eclectic collection than most, because his father was an inveterate hoarder.

As he comes across things, they trigger recollections. In many ways, this attachment to objects, to the things a loved one has left behind after they die, is normal. They take on a totemic quality, because they are all that is left, which is probably why so many families squabble so bitterly and futilely over wills.

I loved the idea of this book, but somehow, like Rowson's own sister, I found it left me unexpectedly cold. There is a detachment, a measured air to his disclosure, which is distancing.

There is not the openness there is in Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, for example. However, there is an eye for detail, particularly period detail, which ill appeal to lovers of retro TV programmes, and fans of Nicolson Baker.

The book absolutely held me, despite the fact that I did not warm to Rowson, which is why it gets 4 stars. It was an interesting approach to a study of grief, and an accurate documentation of a particular time and place.


Motherland
Motherland
by Simon Roberts
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary document, 2 July 2007
This review is from: Motherland (Hardcover)
Roberts book of images from his journey across Russia contains some ravishing images. But it is when seen as a whole that this book really scores. Mixing portraits with interior and exterior landscapes, photographing individuals, friends and families from different social strata right across this turbulent country, Roberts has really managed to capture a particular moment in history for this country.

The diversity of his subjects reflects the diversity of the country he was exploring. His straightforward framing and unsentimental use of light suit the directness of his subjects, whatever their circumstances.

Highly recommended


Real Food, Real Fast
Real Food, Real Fast
by Sam Stern
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another decent cookbook for teenagers, 2 July 2007
This review is from: Real Food, Real Fast (Paperback)
I bought this cookbook for my 14 year old twin sons, who have always enjoyed cooking alongside me, but never attempted anything on their own before.

They both instantly loved this book, saw lots of things that they fancied cooking, but, unlike many other cookbooks, felt confident enough to give them a go.

My sons are very dyslexic, but they found the layout easy to follow and the pictures useful. The recipes are clearly written in a large, unadorned font, without being patronising. Personally, I found some of the chatty comments a little cheesy and wondered if they would put my sons off as being uncool, but they did not mind at all.

The book is divided into time estimates for cooking, which I found less helpful. However, it did not seem to bother my boys, who were quite keen to know how long between starting to cook and food on the table.

These are not groundbreaking recipes, or even the best renditions of well-known dishes, but they work fine, are well illustrated and introduce young cooks to a range of techniques in a very straightforward, jargon free way.

There are also helpful comments on diet and nutrition, delivered in a very matter of fact way.

Impressive all in all


Cooking Up A Storm - The Teen Survival Cookbook
Cooking Up A Storm - The Teen Survival Cookbook
by Sam Stern
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.90

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cookbook that my sons use, 2 July 2007
I bought this cookbook for my 14 year old twin sons, who have always enjoyed cooking alongside me, but never attempted anything on their own before.

They both instantly loved this book, saw lots of things that they fancied cooking, but, unlike many other cookbooks, felt confident enough to give them a go.

My sons are very dyslexic, but they found the layout easy to follow and the pictures useful.

These are not groundbreaking recipes, or even the best renditions of well-known dishes, but they work fine, are well illustrated and introduce young cooks to a range of techniques in a very straightforward, jargon free way.

There are also (from my point of view) helpful comments on diet and nutrition, delivered in a very matter of fact way.

Impressive all in all


Ballad of the Broken Seas
Ballad of the Broken Seas
Offered by ALL-MY-MUSIC-GERMANY
Price: £10.90

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nu folk-ish melodies with lovely voices, 2 July 2007
The Ballad of the Broken Seas is a collaboration between American Mark Lanegan and Scotswomen Isobel Campbell (of Belle and Sebastian).

I bought it because I read a review that said that their voices sounded the way you always wanted Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue to sound together.

To an extent that is true: their voices compliment each other beautifully and have that mix of gruff darkness and sweet lightness. The songs, whilst not ground-breaking, have decent melodies and thoughtful lyrics.


Gypo [DVD]
Gypo [DVD]
Dvd ~ Pauline McLynn
Price: £7.51

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent film, but perhaps a little too worthy, 6 Jun 2007
This review is from: Gypo [DVD] (DVD)
Gypo is the story of a working class family in Margate, Kent, a town where immigrants have become the focus of most of the public's discontent.

The film tells the story of the a couple of weeks in this family's life, beginning when a young Czech girl, Tash, comes to visit.

The film is made in the Dogme95 tradition, so no costumes, no lighting, no props or sets, which gives the film a gritty texture appropriate to the story.

The same story is told from the point of view of each of the three protagonists, Helen, her husband Paul, and Tash. The format has something to say about the selectiveness of memory, and how the same events can be experienced differently by different people. Certainly it does that with subtlety and sensitivity.

However, the downside of this form of story-telling is that you inevitably have a lot of repetition. This slows the film somewhat, and makes the edning visible from a long way off. Unfortunately, what it also does is make explicit the sensitive pieces of acting, so things you picked up and realised early on and spelled out in capital letters, and on one occasion with Paul with unnecessarily overt imagery.

Paul McGann puts in a great performance but for the other characters the improvised feel to the film works more unevenly - there are moments of real insight and others that jar you back.

I would give this film 3.5 stars if I could - it is worth a watch, because it has interesting things to say, but it also has its flaws.


Transamerica [2005] [DVD]
Transamerica [2005] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Felicity Huffman
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.92

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Transformations and journeys, 30 May 2007
This review is from: Transamerica [2005] [DVD] (DVD)
Transamerica is the story of Brie, a male to female transexual, a week away from her final gender reassignment operation, who suddeny discovers she has a teenage son. The boy, Toby, has been arrested for theft and possession of drugs.

Brie's therapist demands that she go and meet the boy, so she collects him from New York and they drive cross country together, back to Brie's home in LA.

Brie's gender dysphoria has been the central issue in her life. She has avoided relationships, friendships, a career, putting everything on hold until her reassignment. Toby has been working as a prostitute to support himself, and has his own issues about his body and sexuality.

The film shows their slow, fumbling towards a relationship, portrayed tenderly and perceptively.

A lot has been said about Felicity Huffman's performance. I agree it was great, but that should not take away from Zeggers performance as her son, Toby, which I thought was genuinely touching and real.

I would give this 4.5 stars if I could; definitely worth a piece of your of time.


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