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Daphne the WonderCat "Daphne the WonderCat" (The sofa, London)

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A Commonplace Killing
A Commonplace Killing
Price: £2.99

66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling portrait of postwar London, 7 May 2013
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Sian Busby's final book is a tremendous achievement both as a novel and as an example of what an indomitable spirit can achieve. First, the book itself: it's a very good read, with a strong narrative and a stronger sense of place and time: north London, as tatty and battered as its inhabitants immediately after the end of the war. The body of a woman is found on wasteland, the police investigating wearily assume it's a sexual assault that went wrong. But it turns out not to be the case, so who is the dead woman? A prostitute? If not, how did a "respectable" woman end up strangled?

Busby's characters are a bit squalid, like their physical surroundings; morally compromised (petty criminals, fences, spivs, sleeping with people they shouldn't) but one of Busby's hallmarks as a writer is her empathy with, understanding of and compassion for people and choices that many would dismiss with a judgmental word or two. And so you find yourself caring about the war-traumatised thief, about the diminished husband, about the hard-edged victim, about her brittle, feckless lodger, about the weary police officer who can't do a good enough job.

As well as standing as an achievement in its own right as wonderfully conceived and executed book, A Commonplace Killing is also an extraordinary achievement for Busby, who was dying of cancer as it was being completed. When she died in September 2012, her husband, BBC business editor Robert Peston, found the final part of the book handwritten in her notebook; he transcribed the final pages so that the book could be published posthumously. As he explains in the foreword to the novel, "I did not know, until reading handwriting as familiar as my own and hearing her voice in my head, that she had finished this exquisite work."

Where Peston's transcription takes over is noted in the book; I'm not sure that a reader would otherwise spot the join. Perhaps the final few pages are a little more sparse than the prose that precedes it, but that sparseness is appropriate to the bleakness of the end of the book. The love with which the book was completed gives A Commonplace Killing a redemptive and emotional power that the narrative itself deliberately doesn't provide: there's little redemptive about the narrative that unfolds.

Any book is a labour of love. This one, which stands on its own two feet as a very good novel by any standards, is doubly so, given the circumstances in which it was written and the circumstances in which it was finished. I'd recommend it without the coda of its completion; the achievement that it represents makes it outstanding.

Pocket Guide to Girl Stuff
Pocket Guide to Girl Stuff
by Bart King
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable manual for the modern miss, 26 Feb 2013
Wow, now I know where I've been going wrong all these years and why I've remained single. I shouldn't have learned how to build a gaming PC, nor how to admininster an Exchange server. No, I should have learned my celebrity name and tried the "greatest, super-duper amazing diet of all time" (and how to abuse commas, it seems). I haven't been enough of a Girl! Thank you SO much for this book, which has helped me see the error of my ways! I just hope it's not too late for me to find my Prince Charming!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 26, 2013 6:13 PM GMT

London Calling
London Calling
by Barry Miles
Edition: Paperback

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good subject, shame about the writing, 24 Feb 2011
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This review is from: London Calling (Paperback)
This is a great subject to write about and I'd love to see it done by someone whose writing would do it justice. This book is, disappointingly, plodding rather than thrilling, and marred in parts by the author going off on side rants. For example, I don't think he likes the BBC much, as he wastes no opportunities to castigate it for being dreary, late and for not keeping old footage of early pop programmes - all valid criticisms, but the rants sit oddly in what is otherwise a fairly pedestrian trudge through the history of London's counterculture.

The book lacks pace, the narrative drags in places and characters fail to come alive. What should be the author's unique advantage - that he was there, right in the heart of it, in the early 60s - becomes an irritation as he throws in asides such as the never-returned loan of a tie to a poet that simply get in the way and further slow an already less than snappy narrative. The surely amazingly colourful characters, from George Melly to William Burroughs among many others, are two-dimensional; their presence never excites.

The book is a missed opportunity; a disappointment.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 28, 2014 11:19 AM BST

Adobe CS3 Master Collection (PC)
Adobe CS3 Master Collection (PC)

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Serious problems with installation, 11 Aug 2007
There are serious problems with installing this suite, well documented all over the internet. Google "CS3 install failed" and see for yourself. I haven't yet got it installed and I've been trying all day. I'm sure once it's up and running it will be fantastic - but I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get it up and running.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 3, 2008 1:29 PM BST

Apple AirPort Express Base Station with AirTunes M9470B/A
Apple AirPort Express Base Station with AirTunes M9470B/A

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great, but not with Vista, 26 July 2007
If you are a Vista user and you don't have access to a Mac, you will not be able to get this working.

Apple hasn't yet stirred itself to release a version of Airport Express Assistant that works with Windows Vista - you can't set it up via Windows' own networking software and nor does the Airport Admin Utility work under Vista. It installs and you can run it, but it returns error messages if you try and connect to the Airport Express.

I had to use a Mac to get it working, though once it's set up as a client to your existing wireless network, you can stream from iTunes on a Vista PC to the Airport Express.

The documentation is very poor, too, with this: I had to do extensive Googling first to track down the fact that I couldn't set it up with Vista and second to identify the device's IP address and default password.

Having said that, it is a breeze to set up via a Mac and works like a dream witih Vista once it's up and running. But don't bother if you have Vista until Apple updates the software.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 15, 2008 3:19 PM GMT

Confessions of a Park Avenue Plastic Surgeon
Confessions of a Park Avenue Plastic Surgeon
by Cap Lesesne
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-regarding, 15 July 2006
Cap Lesesne is obviously very proud of what he's achieved but his leaden prose means that this pride comes across as tediously sanctimonious and self-regarding. If you believe everything he writes, he's the most compassionate, skilful, up-to-date, modest, hard-working, philanthropic, in demand, thoughtful and generally fab surgeon that ever graced the earth, or at least Park Avenue.

It's a boastful and unattractive book, full of tiresomely self-obsessed anecdotes about his jetsetting lifestyle nipping and tucking the rich and famous. It's also poorly written and flat despite the potentially fascinating material he has at his disposal. A big thumbs down.

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