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Cuban Heel "Neil Schiller" (Liverpool)

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Tokyo Vice
Tokyo Vice
by Jake Adelstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I'd hoped, 20 Jan 2011
This review is from: Tokyo Vice (Paperback)
I first became aware of this book when I heard an extract of it read on Radio 4. It was the opening and it sounded so gripping that I rushed out and bought it straight away. I started to read it and yes, the opening was gripping and tense and had me turning the page desperate to find out what happened next. Then it moved on to the beginning of the author's career as an American journalist in Japan, and that was great too. After that, though, it kind of started to drift a little bit.

Don't get me wrong, each chapter of the book is interesting and very well written. It's just that the synopsis and the opening set you up for a very tight and linear tale where everything that happens to Adelstein leads up to this ultimate confrontation with the Yakuza. And the problem is, the structure of the book doesn't live up to that. The case that he opens with doesn't really reappear until towards the end, and inbetween are a series of individual crime cases that the author covered during his time in Tokyo, but which are not really related beyond the fact they involved him and, sometimes, different members of the Yakuza. It feels a bit like the book started out as a more general memoir and then, either as a framing device or under publisher pressure, this beginning was tagged on to make it seem more focused.

I'm not saying it's a bad book - it isn't. But I feel a bit disappointed as I was led to expect one thing and ended up with another. I think it would have been better had it just been presented as a series of memoirs, then the disjointed nature of some of it wouldn't have mattered.

A Clockwork Orange (Penguin Modern Classics)
A Clockwork Orange (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Anthony Burgess
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult, but brilliant, 19 Jan 2011
I read this book out of curiosity really, to see what the fuss was about. And at first, it bemused me with its use of what seemed incomprehensible language. But strangely, as I worked through the first couple of pages, I found it made perfect sense. So that's the book's first stroke of genius really - how Burgess writes in a language that should be obtusive, but is somehow intuitive and allows you to understand exactly what it all means whilst being aware of the difference and strangeness of the dialect.

It's a violent book, unnervingly so in parts, but is so well written that it pulls you along despite that. Not to give too much away, but the conclusion is just superb. Because whilst you never feel sympathetic towards Alex, you are forced to acknowledge the author's point about morality and how 'curing' him by making him a victim of others is hardly constructive, is far from a satisfying social solution.

I read the novel in a day and stayed up late to finish it. The thing that impressed me the most was the intellectual questions it poses about violence, crime and what the civilised response to it should be. No easy answers of course, but a book that really makes you think, which is a rare thing.

The Promise
The Promise
Offered by Direct-Offers-UK-FBA
Price: 4.20

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, not great..., 19 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Promise (Audio CD)
I was excited when I heard about this album as 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' is one of my favourite records of all time. When the 'Tracks' box set came out I took the songs from it that were from around the same time and stuck them together on a CD which was almost like creating a lost album (I know, it's a bit sad how obsessive I am about this period in Springsteen's career). So when I heard there were more from the same sessions I was overjoyed.

I saw somewhere, however, that they'd tinkered with the tracks recorded at the time and it certainly sounds that way. Springsteen's voice on some of the songs sounds like it did back in '78, and on others sounds like it does now. There are violins here and there, blended with the sax, which I'm pretty sure weren't in his sound back then, and in parts you can tell where they've tried to merge new production into the old. Which was a little bit disappointing for me.

Having said that, the alternative take on 'Racing in the Street' is interesting and it's great to finally hear a recorded version of 'Because the Night' from the man who wrote it. Other tracks are ok. I had the CD on in the car recently and as background music, without paying a lot of attention to it, I enjoyed it a lot. Lots of tinkling e-street piano over the wall of sound they used to produce back in the day. So it's ok, it's not bad. It just isn't the lost masterpiece I was kind of hoping it would be.

(life) razorblades included
(life) razorblades included
Price: 0.77

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Underground Writing, 19 Jan 2011
I was led to this book by a roundabout route after reading something else by a member of the Year Zero group. Essentially, it is a short collection of stories, poems and, I guess, prose poems. Overall, it's pretty good, but there are moments in it which are fantastic. In particular, the short story 'The Last Fluffer in La La Land' is superb. Fantastically well written and utterly convincing. 'Solid', another short, is equally engaging with great dialogue, but dreamier in tone, a little bit abstract. Somehow, though, the story hangs together without having to be explicitly laid out. It's a great example of a narrator lost in some despondent state of mind, only able to engage with specific moments in his existence, kind of adrift the rest of the time.

I'm not the world's biggest poetry fan, but what is in here seems pretty solid and well put together to me. There is a great line in the final section Skin Book: "When I was a child I prayed to God for cancer every night, for the doctor to tell my parents 'your son's dying' and them to notice they had a son. But I turned 18 and I'd never even had the flu so God and I went our separate ways." That's really stuck with me since reading it. Because it captures brilliantly the drama of being a kid, being naive, feeling ignored.

Overall, this seems like a good introduction to Dan Holloway's work for me, and it's certainly made me want to check out his novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall. As a sampler it's worth the Kindle price and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to try something a little bit different. (Come on, do you really only want to use your Kindle to read Twilight fan fiction)?

Price: 3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 16 Jan 2011
This review is from: Trainspotting (Kindle Edition)
I first read this book back in 1996 when it was relatively new. The cover said it deserved to be read by more people than the bible, and I have to agree. It's a tremendous novel. The film was quirky and interesting enough, but it isn't a patch on this. The characters are so well drawn, the life of squats and petty crime so fantastically well portrayed. It has a point to make about conformity to consumerist ideals. And it's funny as well.

I know the dialect it's written in put a few people I know off, but in my opinion it adds so much to it, and like A Clockwork Orange (Penguin Modern Classics), you get used to it in a page or two and you hardly notice from there on in.

I've read a few books by Welsh since and whilst I've enjoyed them, none have come that close to this one. Probably because it is just THAT good. Seriously, you really should have read this already. But if you haven't, there's still time to redeem yourself...

Suicide Casanova
Suicide Casanova
Price: 9.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nersesian's Best, 12 Jan 2011
This review is from: Suicide Casanova (Kindle Edition)
This is a tremendous book, by far Nersesian's best (which is saying something because almost everything he puts out is great). It follows the story of Leslie Cauldwell and his sort of sexual mid-life crisis. Somewhat numbed by the death of his dominatrix wife, he sets out on a quest to find the porn star he spent his youth obsessing over. It's one of the darkest novels I've ever read, and yet it never gets too grim and its erotic edge never descends into anything beyond engaging, and integral to the plot.

Originally I had the 'paperback' copy which was actually a book glued into a vinyl video cassette cover, which looked cool when reading it on the train.

God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise
God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise
Price: 5.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Glorious, 12 Jan 2011
I've been a fan of Ray Lamontagne since his first album was left behind in a break up and I put it on out of curiosity. I was instantly hooked on his voice and the way he blends folk with rhythm and blues with soul with country. There's no-one else out there with quite the same sound.

This is yet another great album from the man. The opening frantic blues energy of Repo Man drew me straight in - he always opens his records with a surprise in my opinion. The pace settles down a bit thereafter, but there are some gorgeous moments further in. Are We Really Through is just one of the most beautiful songs I've ever come across. The first time I heard it was live on Songwriter's Circle and it actually made me cry (I don't mind admitting it, I'm a modern man). I love the bluegrass feel to Old Before Your Time. And what about Rock & Roll And Radio? What a song that is. It starts like a lost Neil Young track but then the harmonies that come into it are just mind blowing.

In a world of posturing pop stars, I'm so glad that there's a Ray Lamontagne. No nonsense, no fuss, just a big beard, a great voice and some tremendous tunes. In terms of talent, he's the real deal, and I'm looking forward to the next album - as soon as possible please.

Ham on Rye (Canons)
Ham on Rye (Canons)
Price: 5.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Novel, 11 Jan 2011
Bukowski is my favourite author, and this is his finest novel, which makes it a contender for my favourite book. The deadpan tone to the writing is present, as always with Bukowski, but there is a terse reality to it which reveals the seedier side of life in LA perfectly. From his overbearing father to his horrific juvenile acne, every element of the writer's childhood is perfectly realised. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, and continue to do so even it meant arguing against some the objections people raise to Bukowski from time to time. Genius.

Glimpses of a Floating World
Glimpses of a Floating World
Price: 1.92

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Gritty Novel, 11 Jan 2011
I was recommended this book by someone I was speaking to on the forums. The conversation was about British and American fiction and I was saying that I didn't think there were any UK writers who wrote fiction about the outsider, the character on the fringes of society, as well as US writers do. She suggested this book as an example of how I might be wrong, and I'm so glad she did because I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The novel essentially revolves around the tale of Ronnie, an idealistic but ultimately naive teenager living in Soho at the time the sixties were just really getting underway. He's a heroin addict and attaches himself to the small, bohemian scene in London that existed before the Summer of Love. We follow him as he falls foul of emerging attitudes and policies on drug addiction and moves in and out of institutions (usually escaping before being caught again) intending to cure him.

Glimpses of a Floating World is an extremely well written book and deals with subject matter you don't see too often in British literature. It reminded me in tone, strangely, of Ed Bunker, especially his autobiography Mr. Blue: Memoirs of a Renegade. There are lots of books about the psychedelic sixties so I found it interesting that this one focuses more on the friction between the established fifties social order and the very beginnings of sixties rebellion - a handful of characters more influenced by the American Beat movement than anything else. That is something I haven't seen before in a British context.

My only gripe would be that the culmination of the novel comes a little bit quickly. Harrison spends a lot of time fleshing out Ronnie's character and the world he inhabits, and then the plot which brings about the book's conclusion happens rather fast. It could have been a longer book is I guess what I'm saying. But this is a minor point in what is one of the best books I've read this year.

It's worth noting as well that this is a self-published work. Why it hasn't been picked up by a major publisher is beyond me. If you ever needed proof that self-published authors do not just produce weak, insubstantial vanity texts, this book is it. I'd highly recommend it.

Juno [DVD] [2007]
Juno [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Ellen Page
Offered by filmrollen
Price: 2.70

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Indie Film, 6 Jan 2011
This review is from: Juno [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
We had this film hanging around the house for months and I just didn't fancy it - thought it looked very saccharine and twee. Eventually my missus convinced me to give it a go and I'm so glad she did. It was a great film. A proper American indie in the same vein as Ghost World [DVD] [2001], Garden State [DVD] [2004], The Station Agent [DVD] [2004]. The film it reminded me of the most was Napoleon Dynamite [DVD] [2004], but if anything it was better than that. Fantastic performances from everyone in the cast, especially Ellen Page - all the characters were really engaging and the script had some great witty moments in it.

Without spoiling the plot too much, there was a really nice touch where your sympathy for one of the characters is twisted around at the end and you have to kind of reverse your judgement on them. I found that interesting, and not something I'd seen a lot of in this kind of movie.

I'd definitely recommend it. If you like films by Wes Anderson, or any of the ones I mentioned above, you'll love this. It's quirky and funny and better than most of the rubbish that seems to be released these days by a mile.

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