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Ben (UK)
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Bike Snob
Bike Snob
by Eben Weiss
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and entertaining..., 14 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Bike Snob (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'd not visited the Bike Snob's blog before reading this book, so coming to it cold I initially thought 'snob' would mean a rather sanctimonious collection of writing about 'Why the Bike is Best'. Fortunately, it isn't that at all - instead it is an amusing, and often very wry, collection of writing on a host of bike-related matters, and it is aimed at all those who pedal - be it for pleasure, out of obsession or for necessity.

What I admired is author Eben Weiss' general disdain for all the tedious fads and fashions that circulate around cycling. He pokes fun at the various cycling 'tribes', and often those who chase the ultra-lightweight, horribly expensive kit. He ultimately wants to encourage and celebrate the joy of cycling, where the best kind of bike is really just the one that simply gets a lot of use from its owner (and is treated with respect!).

This is a well designed and attractive looking book, with some quirky illustrations and its tongue planted in its cheek. Recommended.


Painted Ladies (A Spenser Mystery)
Painted Ladies (A Spenser Mystery)
by Robert B. Parker
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff..., 16 Jan. 2011
News of Parker's death was a real shock, so opening "Painted Ladies" I was sad to think I was about to read one of his last. I love reading Parker's books, he just hits a groove with his characters and knows how to ride it out brilliantly. Being with Spencer is like hooking up with an old friend, and even average Spencer novels are entertaining.

Rest assured, the only disappointment here is that Hawk isn't along for the ride. If you enjoy Parker, you'll enjoy "Painted Ladies". It's got a good solid plot, plenty of action and all the usual wisecracks. It's a worthy inclusion to the Spencer cannon.

I've read other reviews here where people suggest Parker didn't finish this book, and that someone else did. Sorry, I have to say, I don't agree with that at all.


An Object of Beauty
An Object of Beauty
by Steve Martin
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting..., 10 Jan. 2011
This review is from: An Object of Beauty (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"An Object of Beauty" is my first Martin novel. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but much like his film "L.A Story", it's a wry and often satirical story on a subject that seems close to Martin's heart.

I was impressed with the New York art scene that Martin created. Some people may say it is a little cliched, but it felt suitably bohemian to me - with people running fashionable galleries, chasing the pictures that will turn them the next big profit, all the while courting the wealthy collectors who might be accumulating art out of habit, rather than love.

It's a novel filled with characters drifting with that rather detached coolness that reminded me of Bret Easton Ellis' "Rules of Attraction" and "Less Than Zero".

If I was disappointed by anything, it was the pace of the plot. It's a book happy to meander along, until finally gathering pace in the final quarter. Suddenly we're galloping through the life of his lead character, Lacey Yeager, as she establishes a gallery of her own. A story line of a potential fraud investigation never really consumes the plot as much as I expected it to, and is then dispensed with all too quickly. It ultimately made for a rather uneven read - hence my three star review.


Sony MDR-ED21LP Groove Shaped Earpiece headphones (discontinued by manufacturer)
Sony MDR-ED21LP Groove Shaped Earpiece headphones (discontinued by manufacturer)

2.0 out of 5 stars Good sound for the price, but they are not very durable..., 6 Jan. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this Sony set to replace my original iPod headphones, and I was initially very pleased with them.

They fitted much better in my ears and the sound quality was, in my view, noticeably improved. For the price they are being sold for, I considered them to be a bargain.

Still, within 8 months of buying them sound no longer came out of the left earpiece - a result of a broken or loose connection near the jack plug, so there was nothing I could do but put them in the bin.

It's a shame they were not more durable. I listen to my iPod most days and was always very careful with them, so the fact they were ultimately so flimsy is very disappointing.

Be warned...


Brothers
Brothers
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Back where they belong..., 2 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Brothers (Audio CD)
Not wishing to open by dwelling on the past, but 'Attack & Release', with it's dreadful Dangermouse production, had me weeping for the gritty Black Keys of old. Letting Brian Burton slap his hazy, glossy production and bland instrumentation over Dan and Patrick's racket was, in my view, a huge mistake and he blunted the bands impact.

Fortunately he only returns to produce one song on 'Brothers', so this is an album that sounds like the band of old. It's a record that's wonderfully sleazy, slightly haggard and very loud. There feels to me to be a lot more fire in these performances, and perhaps best of all Dan has evolved as a vocalist, employing an effective falsetto on some of the tunes, which adds a new dimension to their sound.

It's a great record, perhaps even their best - and I'm so pleased they're back on top form.


The Empty Family: Stories
The Empty Family: Stories
by Colm Tóibín
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting collection of often very moving stories..., 1 Dec. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As with Colm Tóibín's "The Heather Blazing", I enjoyed a great deal of the writing in "The Empty Family". It's a collection of many beautifully written stories that are delivered with Toibin's measured and sparse style.

A reoccuring theme is of characters returning from somewhere, or arriving for the first time, and so they share this sense of never being quite comfortable or settled, with an implied sense of loneliness linking them together.

Whilst, as other reviewers here have pointed out, not every story in this collection is all that interesting (Barcelona 1975, for example, felt aimless and one-dimensional) I admired how Tóibín gave each story, and the characters within them, their own distinct voice. These are not stories that are fixed, or linked, geographically, historically or sexually.

I didn't realise, until nearly finishing the book, that these stories weren't necessarily intended to form one collection, as they had previously been published in newspapers and magazines - but they aptly demonstrate Tóibín's gift as a memorable and provocative writer.


The Canal
The Canal
by Lee Rourke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.49

3.0 out of 5 stars A decent debut, with hopefully better to follow..., 8 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Canal (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Rourke's debut is a pretty bleak slice of modern living. His narrator drops out of work and sits on a bench by a canal day after day, quietly observing the mundane life that circles around him. He embraces the warm, fug like state this new-found boredom brings. No matter how tedious it gets, he's happy to drift through this new life. Things only beginning to unravel for him when he's eventually joined by a disturbed young woman, and from there he can't help but get drawn in to her story.

For what is essentially quite a cold, and occasionally uninviting story, I admired Rourke's ability to write convincingly about disengagement and disenchantment. His characters inhabit a lonely and rather hostile London, where aggression and violence is often bubbling close to the surface.

In contrast, through flashbacks we learn of episodes in the narrator's childhood where he shares the kind of painful lessons we all experience during adolescence. It is a devise that adds a valuable human dimension to the sombre story around it.

If Rourke has a weakness as a writer, I'd probably single out his grasp of dialogue. Some of the exchanges in this book between characters felt extremely clumsy and underwritten to me.

Ultimately though "The Canal" is an interesting, solid first novel, and well worth looking out for.


Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing (Lonely Planet Travel Literature)
Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing (Lonely Planet Travel Literature)
by Winchester
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, eclectic and inspiring..., 24 Sept. 2010
This collection of Lonely Planet's travel writing is really quite inspiring stuff. A broad range of established writers offer their own short stories, which cover a wide range of unusual and exotic countries. If you want to dip your toe into travel writing, then given the breadth of what's included here, it's a great place to start.

As you would expect, there is little conventional about the destinations they write about, or the experiences they have. The best travel writing should really inspire the reader, and make them feel part of the situation or the geography that is being described, and I feel this collection achieves that. Despite having never been to most of the locations in this book, the writers helped me feel a connection with the places they described.

There is also a good eclectic mix of writing styles here. For example, Danny Wallaces' humorous Prague adventure is a good anecdote to some of the more serious, and thought provoking pieces that are included here.

For anyone looking for a bit of holiday inspiration, or about to set off for a holiday adventure of their own, this collection is recommended reading.


Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 500 GB USB 2.0 Ultra-portable External Hard Drive - Blue
Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 500 GB USB 2.0 Ultra-portable External Hard Drive - Blue

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good little device..., 19 Aug. 2010
With its sleek design, and weighing next-to-nothing, the Seagate 500GB seems well suited to being slipped in and out of a computer bag or rucksack as a nifty portable drive. Compared to my other hard drive, which is by Western Digital, this device is visually far more appealing and takes up less space.

I'm sure for some the Memo Instant Backup will bring a lot of advantages, but my intention has been to use the device a little more sparingly, with just the occasional plug-in required to back-up holiday photographs. As a result, I find the requests to install Seagate software onto my computer a bit annoying. For others though, I'm sure it will be a really handy application. Still, if you're looking for a simple 'drag and drop' device, without having to install yet more programmes onto your computer, you might be wise to look elsewhere.

Overall though, this is an attractive, well designed and handy little device.


The Upright Piano Player
The Upright Piano Player
by David Abbott
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A very impressive debut novel..., 12 July 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
David Abbott's debut is an elegant and moving novel. It details a few years in the life of its protagonist, Henry Cage, a man recently retired, who is in the throws of burning a few old bridges in his life whilst looking to build new ones.

I was immediately drawn to the story, with its rich collection of characters and particularly strong plot. Although this is also a novel with a sharp sting in the tail, with revelations in Abbott's bleak opening chapter pointedly lingering over the story as it unfolds. It leaves the book with a distinctive, melancholy air as we, the readers, can see the sadness that ultimately lies ahead. I thought it was an encouraging sign of Abbott's talent as an author.

Ultimately, this is a confident first novel that packs a strong emotional punch. I would strongly recommend it, and I am looking forward to his follow up.


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