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Jim (Blackheath, London, UK)
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Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar
Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar
by David Millar
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one sports book this year, make it this one, 9 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I purposely waited a few months before posting this review, because once the dust settled I wanted to see if my initial impression remained the same: that this is amongst the greatest sports books ever written. Three months on that view remains true.

The details of Millar's career are well known. A brilliant young cyclist and Tour de France stage winner at the age of 23, by his mid-20s he found his career plateau and became embroiled in the illicit taking of the blood-boosting drug, EPO. Caught and banned for two years in 2004, rather than disappear into disgraced obscurity he reinvented himself, becoming well known for his virulent anti-doping stance. An outstanding time trialist who is now in the veteran stages of his career, Millar's stubbornness and obduracy is often mirrored on the track and road.

So, a life less ordinary, which would make fine ghost-written materiel in most circumstances. But Racing Through the Dark is far more than that. Although written in collaboration with the journalist, Jeremy Whittle, the mark that Millar has made on the book is quite clear and he confesses to a 'Howard Hughes'-like devotion to completing it. From this most intense of sportsmen, this is quite an admission.

Throughout this work there is a genuine sense of place and it's almost as if the reader has their place among the peloton, riding in MIllar's slipstream. He writes with brutal honesty about his youthful flaws, the obsessions of team cycling as a teenager and his rise among the novice professionals in cycling's less glamorous outposts. From here there is a rapid ascent to Tour de France stage winner, where he is suddenly hanging out with Lance Armstrong.

Millar embeds us in this world; the obsessions, the graft, the glories - replete with cycling's moral ambiguities and the omnipresence of doping. His eventual capitulation to EPO has an inevitability that is almost understandable within the context of the book. There is no self-justification, nor self-pitying - even when brought to the brink of financial ruin. Millar merely presents this world and how easy it is to fall under doping's hold.

His return after a two-year hiatus isn't written about in redemptive terms. Millar is too straightforward for that. But I found a rising admiration for him as a man and an athlete as he came to terms with competing again as a clean athlete.

This is a truly superb book; moving, fast-paced, written with elan and, above all, genuine insight into the complex and often opaque world of professional sport. If you read one sports book this year, make it this one.


FX Factory 1 Amp USB Mains Charger for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, HTC, Kindle, Tom Tom, Navman
FX Factory 1 Amp USB Mains Charger for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, HTC, Kindle, Tom Tom, Navman
Price: £5.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plugging gaps in a hardware collection, 9 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What's to say? It's a plug. It powers things. It's black and shiny and has a blue light. It doesn't do anything extraordinary and is probably underpowered for devices like an iPad; yet is more bulky than the standard Apple charger. As a replacement for a lost USB charger it is perfectly serviceable.


The World at War - The Ultimate Restored Edition [2010] [DVD] [1973]
The World at War - The Ultimate Restored Edition [2010] [DVD] [1973]
Dvd ~ Peter Tiffin
Price: £18.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Digital remastery elevates classic TV to a new level, 9 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A classic of its genre, the World at War needs no introduction and its merits as a documentary have been widely discussed and reviewed elsewhere. This DVD elevates one of the greatest works of television to a different level. After nearly 40 years the film has been digitally remastered. The crackling VHS videos I watched of it in my youth seem as remote as the war itself; this is sparkling, clear, lucid, as if it were made last week and not in the early-1970s. Digital remastering is often used as a marketing tool to revitalise a back catalogue and sell the same product all over again. But in this case it brilliantly does its job, giving an entirely new lustre to one of the great works of television. Highly recommended.


Belkin Wireless N150 Modem ADSL Router (BT Line) - Black
Belkin Wireless N150 Modem ADSL Router (BT Line) - Black
Offered by BESTBUYIT
Price: £16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tin, 9 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Belkin Wireless Modem Router does everything you would expect from a router in this price range. It's easy to install both in terms of its software interface and connecting with the outside line. The instructions are well written. It doesn't drop its signal with any great regularity. It handles multiple devices. In short, it works. I don't think you want anything more from a product like this. Yet at the same time it doesn't enhance coverage, it won't make your web experience faster or smoother, or change your life as an online user. A functional product that functions well - what more is there to say?


Freesourcing: How To Start a Business with No Money
Freesourcing: How To Start a Business with No Money
by Jonathan Yates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas, but lacks overall sense of mission, 9 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Jonathan Yates's work goes through the fundamentals of starting a business with no (or very little) money in a concise and energetic way. There are some interesting self-marketing suggestions and I've no doubt that some readers will find it useful. But, for me, it lacked the overall sense of narrative purpose or mission that I've found in titles of a similar vein. I also found the way it was typeset - as if put together on MS Word '97 - really off-putting. Maybe it was the publisher's intention for it to look like the author had put it together himself on a 1990s desktop computer? There's a lot of decent information and ideas put across here, but the book is far from perfect.


Bill's Everyday Asian
Bill's Everyday Asian
by Bill Granger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent antidote to the typical country-specific cook book, 9 April 2012
This review is from: Bill's Everyday Asian (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a beautifully put together and easy to follow East Asian cookbook. Lacking the specialisation of individual country tomes, the author instead embarks on a 'best of' tour of the region, compiling all those delicious local staples that very often seem to get lost in other cookery books. Bill's Everyday Asian goes beyond this, of course, but it was the day-to-day dishes of Korea and Japan that I kept coming back to. The photography and overall feel of the book are excellent and there's not a dish here that you wouldn't want to try. The best cook book I've read since 'Plenty.' Recommended.


Pigeon English
Pigeon English
by Stephen Kelman
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The unseen city through the innocent eyes of an outsider, 10 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Pigeon English (Paperback)
Stephen Kelman's excellent 'Pigeon English' tells the story of eleven year-old Harrison Opoku, a Ghanian immigrant who lives on the eleventh floor of a tower block in a fictional London housing estate. Through a child's eyes we learn of an unseen capital; a city of poverty, gangs and vicious, unexpected violence. It's a brilliant device - the unseen city through the innocent eyes of an outsider - and one that evokes memories of Roddy Doyle's Booker winning, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. The juxtaposition of boyish innocence and inner city horror makes what he sees all the more powerful, not least the shattering and unexpected ending which sent a chill through my heart.

I really liked this book and am pleased it made the Booker shortlist. Yet at the same time I felt it lacked the qualities that might have set it out as a winner. For a start it could have been shorter and the backstory to the boy's migration better explained. I also didn't understand the talking pigeon (as a device) and although it had a powerful impact on the closing passages feel it could have been lost.

But overall this is a tender, poignant read, one I would particularly recommend to young adults for whom I feel it could become a classic.


Half Blood Blues
Half Blood Blues
by Esi Edugyan
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Let down by an unconvincing voice, 7 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Half Blood Blues (Paperback)
I really hate not finishing books, but I abandoned Half Blood Blues midway through because it wasn't going anywhere. Narrator Charles C. 'Chip' Jones is a black American musician caught up in the German invasion of Paris and the book, told in his voice, takes him back to Europe some 50 years later. The premise is an interesting one - what happened to blacks and, more to the point, German blacks - as one of his fellow musicians is - in the midst of the greatest racially motivated campaign of terror in human history?

Alas the searching questions and moral complexities of their situation are lost due to the unconvincing first person narrator. Moreover the sense of place of two cities in extraordinary times (post-invasion Paris in 1940, recently re-unified Berlin in 1992) is not really evoked. For an author to put a reader convincingly in the shoes of a black American of this era (as Toni Morrison does with Milkman Dead in Song of Solomon) is no mean feat and it's one that, alas, proves elusive to this author. It's a shame, because the idea is a good one, but in failing to convince this reader I was just bored and then irritated.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 3, 2016 9:22 PM GMT


The Club
The Club
by Christy O'Connor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine insight into the joys of amateur sport, 31 Dec. 2011
This review is from: The Club (Paperback)
Christy O'Connor's account of a year with his GAA Club offers a fascinating insight into the culture of gaelic sport but lacks the flourishes that would distinguish it as a classic of its genre. The author is the goalkeeper of the distinguished St Joseph's Doora-Barefield Hurling team and also a correspondent of the Sunday Times. The season is tinged with tragedy from the outset - one of its star players dies suddenly, then O'Connor's daughter dies, then the Parish priest and selector passes away - and there are dressing room divisions throughout. It is soon evident that the will to succeed of some of the team's senior members is not matched throughout the club. There are lots of dressing room bust ups, invariably followed by brutally honest clear the air talks.

Such details are often lacking in sport books, but oddly this is one of the reasons The Club falls down: in trying to be even-handed the author includes the opinion of everyone (and in some detail too) and it becomes bogged down in bust ups. All the rows are essentially the same ("We're not training hard enough" "Some of you lads don't want to win enough" "We can still win the Championship" etc. etc.) and the inclusion of so much detail means the effect is lost.

O'Connor is good when writing about how sport takes over the lives of some of his team-mates, but oddly we get few insights as to how it fits in with his daily routine. The narrative also flits uneasily between the present tense (as if it was written as a diary) and the past. There is little reflection on the reality facing the club: that it is an aging team, and clearly not able for the achievements that some of its members aspire to. We get little perspective on how the club is viewed from beyond the dressing room.

But this is also a cut above the standard sports book and a searingly honest work. Moving, insightful and, between some of the more ephemeral detail, at times a powerful exposition of the joy and hold of amateur sport.


Granta 117: Horror (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)
Granta 117: Horror (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)
by John Freeman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Granta's new American direction finds its feet, 31 Dec. 2011
Granta's transition from a definitively English literary tradition to a more American focussed publication continues with issue 117, entitled 'Horror'. US heavyweights Don DeLillo, Paul Auster and Stephen King are wheeled out by the (newish) editor, John Freeman (also American), in what is his strongest offering since the departure of predecessor, Alex Clark. The 'horror' of the title largely eschews preconceptions of zombies and ghosts, instead detailing the very human horrors of the modern world and ordinary life: butchery in Sudan, the death of a mother, Peru's dirty war, life-threatening illness.

Some of it is excellent: Will Self's account of a nasty blood illness, Paul Auster on losing his mother, Santiago Roncagliola on Peru, the cover design by the superlative Chapman twins. King's short-story is enjoyable but far from his best work and DeLillo delivers his customary excellence. The only bum note was a short story by Rajesh Parameswaren, which recounted a tiger's predatory instincts from the animal's perspective; the sort of badly conceived idea one would expect from a sixth form creative writing class rather than a literary magazine that is regaining its lustre.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 31, 2012 12:12 PM GMT


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