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R. Gray "bhafc99" (Edinburgh)

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Annabel Karmel by Lindam Cutlery Case
Annabel Karmel by Lindam Cutlery Case

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The dumbest product ever, 10 May 2010
Someone somewhere is having a huge laugh at our expense. Like others, we bought this without bothering to read any reviews. After all, it's a cutlery case - why would you need reviews?

And, yup, we too then did the Annabel Karmel shuffle: Take one Annabel Karmel spoon. Try to fit into matching case. Try again. And again. Assume you must be being incredibly dumb, and hand spoon and case to partner. Watch as they too fail to get even remotely close to fitting spoon into case. Hand completely useless case to baby - look, we've bought you a new, um, 'thing' to play with!

Coming next in the Annabel Karmel range:
Bottomless Bowls: Simply fill your Annabel Karmel Bottomless Bowl with baby's favourite food, then marvel as the food falls straight out the patented 'no bottom' design and onto the floor.
Paper Forks: Why bother with washing up normal cutlery, when you can use these fabulous Annabel Karmel paper forks instead? Simply dispose of after use. (Please note: paper forks are not suitable for feeding.)

by Gregory David Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.14

393 of 453 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, 13 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Shantaram (Paperback)
The cover blurb looked interesting. The opening pages, describing the author's arrival in Bombay, were good. I'm going to enjoy this, I thought.

How wrong can you be.

This is an awful book. Awful.

My top four moans are:
- The way ALL the characters constantly speak in sub-Wildean aphorisms. Ever heard of tone of voice?
- The constant and cringeworthy GCSE-grade philosophy that we're meant to think is profound.
- The embarassingly florid prose that litters every page, and especially any passages involving Karla.
- The author's relentlessly inflated opinion of himself. Every other page we're meant to be in awe of the fact he learnt some of the local languages, and is therefore the most amazing Westerner to have ever visited India. Ever. (And every Indian thinks so too, of course.) As another reviewer said wearily: Everybody loves Lin. Simple villagers love him, slum dwellers love him, beautiful ex-prostitutes love him, gangsters love him, Afghani drug lords love him, taxi drivers always love him at a glance and so on and so forth. As a character, he's just unbelievable. And that's without getting into the fact he's absolutely The Best at Everything - from fighting to lovemaking, medicine to philosophy.

It soon became apparent that this book is shamelessly aimed at a certain kind of buyer: the upper middle class 18 year old on their 'gap' year, who thinks that smoking a few joints in Goa qualifies as discovering the real India and you just have to read this book man, it's like the real India and like sooo deep and profound and if like everyone read it the world's problems would be solved dude...

I invite all future reviewers to start contributing their own Shataram efforts. To get the ball rolling, here's mine...

"That's not a review of the book, it's a book of the review," stated Karla, as the stars of Bombay's glittering sky danced in her eyes like a thousand diamonds.

"You're just trying to be clever," drawled Didier, waving the Café Leopold waiter over for his 437th whisky of the last 3 minutes. "Whilst I, my dear, am clever to be trying."

Had I realised it then, the rest of my life could have been different. But then I'd spent the last 750 pages failing to spot the obvious, and constantly saying that I was failing to spot the obvious, until the reader died of boredom. Such is life. We wait for what we expect, and then fail to be surprised. God I'm profound. In Hindi. Of course.

"Indeed," opined Khaled, as he exhaled the chillum. The wisdom of a million camels reflected in his beard like cascading streams of gibberish, and I trusted him even more as he gently wafted a warrant for my arrest for crimes against literature across the fragrant Bombay night. "It is not the crime you should trust in a man, but the time you crust that matters in a man."

"You're just repeating the same over-contrived sentence structure over and over," gasped Karla, as she floated above the Taj Mahal with the passion of my lovemaking.

With an enigmatic shudder of her arching and elegant nostril, Karla left me once more, the way a fragile lotus flower floats downstream in the monsoon.

I walked back to the slum alone, up to my waist in filth, but I didn't care, for I was hard. A rampaging lion threatened to kill two small Indian children, until I flicked it off them with my little finger. After all, it isn't the lion that kills us, it's the lying. God, that's clever. "You're incredible isn't it," waggled the Indians.

Yes. But lonely. For isn't that our ultimate lot in life? It was a question I could undoubtedly spend another 1000 pages dribbling sub sixth form poetry over. In fact, I could even smell a sequel coming, there in the night air of Bombay. And it smelt like ****.
Comment Comments (71) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 26, 2016 1:13 PM GMT

Kafka On The Shore (Vintage Magic)
Kafka On The Shore (Vintage Magic)
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.84

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, but still unique, 27 Jan. 2006
This isn’t Murakami’s best novel, but if you’re an existing fan there’s enough here to satisfy: that blurry merging of reality and fantasy; quirky minor characters (Hoshino is one of the best things about this book) and images and ideas that will linger after you’ve finished. Regular Murakami motifs and techniques crop up: twin narrative strands; a main character who’s a loner and seeker; a deserted cabin high up a wooded mountain; a parallel ‘other’ world…
As always, the prose is simple and the style engaging: it's alwasy easy to immerse yourself in Murakami's world.
That said, it didn’t quite come together for me this time. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was a hard act to follow, and Kafka on the Shore falls short. Around two thirds of the way through, the repetitious switching between Kafka’s story and Nakata’s story starts to tire as a format – more work on variety and pace would have helped here. And though loose ends and unanswered questions are Murakami’s style, too many ideas start running out of steam.
The somewhat American nature of Philip Gabriel’s translation jarred a little too – slang like “Jeez” and “Shoot” is peppered throughout. And the edition I read (Vintage paperback 2005) is riddled with typos. For example, at one crucial juncture (p289), Kafka asks Miss Saeki a vital question. There’s a big build-up, it’s an important moment in the plot, and then you get: “Do you have any chidlren?”

Seven Types of Ambiguity
Seven Types of Ambiguity
by Elliot Perlman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and ambitious, but flawed and unsatisfactory, 20 Sept. 2005
My main problem with this novel is, as others have pointed out, the fact that the tone of voice remains almost identical - an erudite, slightly contrived quasi-confession - no matter who's narrating.
Given that we're supposed to be hearing 'first person' from individuals as diverse as an alpha-male stockbroker, a prostitute, a middle-aged psychiatrist and an 18 year old student, this doesn't really work. Would they really all think, talk and relate to the world so similar a way? Not, perhaps, that you'd want Perlman to create a vernacular for each, but more distinction might have prevented the novel being quite so monotone.
Beyond that, yes the plot is thin, but intentionally so - it's more a brief device around which Perlman can introduce and dissect various issues and topics, from literary criticism to healthcare and the vacuity of 'consultants'. Together, these vaguely coalesce around a theme of modern society's focus on competition and commerce above caring, but his approach of scattergunning this theme around makes it more something to mull over whilst reading than be left with afterwards as a 'powerful conclusion'.
Another of the author's intentions is to make you empathise with a conventionally-contemptible act (abducting a child) by making the abductor a more caring and well-meaning person than others - in this I felt he was largely successful, and delivered on the book's exploration of ambiguity.
There's real potential here, and an intelligent breadth of ideas. I'll certainly keep an eye out for Perlman's next work. Something tighter and more focused hopefully - and, please, minus the puns ('trying my patience/patients' etc)!

Slow to Fade
Slow to Fade

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely welcome re-release for a long-lost indie gem, 20 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Slow to Fade (Audio CD)
I hadn't heard many of these songs as studio versions for years and years, having become dependent on the only other Red Guitars CD, a compilation of radio sessions called Seven Types of Ambiguity. Being able to play them again is wonderful!
The Red Guitars were one of the most unusual bands this country has ever produced. The lyrics were intelligent and political, the tunes were knockouts, one and and all, and their rendering a gorgeous blend of rock and African guitars, fluid bass and crisp drumming. A quirky and innovative heart lurks beneath a pleasurable surface - and if nothing else, the band sound like they love playing, a joy that's captured perfectly.
Added onto the Slow to Fade album are the singles that preceded it. In keeping with their desire to set up their own label, play free gigs for worthy causes and so on, The Red Guitars debut did not include many of the tracks fans had already bought as singles.
Peerless amongst these, and indeed amongst most singles ever released, is the stunning Good Technology. It's worth buying the CD for this track alone.
Initial listens always see people honing in on Good Technology's thought-provoking and unusual lyrics, but beyond them is as perfect a structure as you'll ever find in music. The sense of gradually building pace and layers, the play of melody and counter-melody, the use of silence and the contrast of noise, dynamism vs fragility - 20 years on I still rate this one of the best songs I have ever heard.
In the sleeve notes, the band say that with Good Technology they tried to write the ultimate pop song. I for one think they succeeded, and urge you to give them a try.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2012 4:19 AM BST

The Insult
The Insult
by Rupert Thomson
Edition: Paperback

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but flawed, 20 Mar. 2003
This review is from: The Insult (Paperback)
Faced with a six hour delay in an airport, I picked this at random off the shop shelf and started reading. And the first half certainly filled the time in - an interesting and unusual exploration of sudden blindness and what seems to be, on the surface, a recovery from it.
Can the main character really see again, or is it all in his mind? If the former, is it a conspiracy or a miracle? If it's the latter, then are the colourful people he meets and the unusual events he experiences what happens when our imagination unexpectedly eclipses our senses - we'd rather spend our lives with enigmatic lovers and entertaining circus performers than the reality of, for example, our stifling and emotionally-inert parents?
But then my flight finally came, and I finished the second half of the book at later times. It never really regained my admiration, and by the end I was quite disappointed in it. I presume the second story that takes over at the end is a comparative parallel about hidden secret lives, disabilities and how we shouldn't take people as how we 'see' them. But for me the two never truly gelled, and the promises of the first half weren't followed through or resolved enough. Not that a dramatic or trite conclusion was necessary, just that our interest in Martin Blom had been so engaged, yet by the end he was barely there. Or perhaps that's the point - in society it's not just that we become invisible to a blind person, but that they also become 'invisible' to us.
Intriguing in parts, but overall has flaws.

Taking on the World
Taking on the World
by Ellen MacArthur
Edition: Hardcover

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Course made good, 8 Oct. 2002
This review is from: Taking on the World (Hardcover)
... Previous Vendee competitors -Pete Goss, Raphael Dinelli and Tony Bullimore for example - have written about their races, but this breaks the mould of such books.
Partly because Ellen's aim truly is her life story, as she wants to tell it, rather than a record of the Vendee ghostwritten with a professional auther and sandwiched with a bit of bio. Partly because there's little sense of cash-in here - it's 10 months since Ellen was significantly in the public eye, as opposed to just that of the sailing world, and the book seems a more considered and worthwhile exercise for that distance. But mostly because she tries much harder than others have to convey the emotions of ocean racing, rather than just the impressions. There's no attempt to either hide or gloss over here - for example the verbatim emails to shore manager Mark Turner, full of typing mistakes and intense passions, are a brave yet successful approach.
By giving so much of herself - her childhood, her doubts, fears and dreams, and her relationships with family and friends - within the book, Ellen establishes a vein of honesty and intimacy that means we're then in a better position than with any other author I can think of (even the genre's classics, such as Bernard Moitessier) to understand the love of the sea and sailing that drives such individuals.
And of course, at the end of the day this is still a cracking good adventure. Even if you've never sailed on anything other than a cross channel ferry, it's impossible not to get swept up in the tale of the 2000-1 Vendee, and to share the sense of drama, excitement and achievement. I remember those three months so well, stuck in an office but subscribing to Ellen's daily emails, and my delight at the almost unreal way in which sailing finally got some national attention. Six months later I'd finally moved from a weekend sailing habit to a transatlantic passage and more, inspired in part by Ellen.
If just a percentage of the people who read this book are similarly inspired to sail, great. But if even more can see that this book's message isn't limited to sailing, that it's universal and is about how dedication can get you anywhere, all the better.
A donf!

Miss America
Miss America

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A record that everyone who truly loves music should own., 25 Jun. 2002
This review is from: Miss America (Audio CD)
At times bewildering, at others bewitching, Miss America remains stunning nearly 15 years on from its initial release. There's nothing else quite like it, so perhaps it's appropriate (if frustrating and mysterious) that MMoH never recorded another album (unless you count the soundtrack to 2002 Canadian movie Apartment Hunting). Trying to describe this record is almost impossible, words like 'singing' and 'vocals' don't come anywhere near capturing the effect of Mary's soaring impressionistic voice, floating and swooping from a whisper to croak and demanding to be listened to. Come on... buy it. And then buy the best stereo in the world and a faultless pair of headphones, switch off the lights, lie back and know, forever, that you will be loved again.

Offered by digitalmediadistribution
Price: £29.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luna's masterpiece, 25 Jun. 2002
This review is from: Penthouse (Audio CD)
Luna's masterpiece. Though all of their albums are worth buying, this is the one you should (MUST!) have. An understated, gentle delight on first listen - shimmering guitars to die for, varied and lively rhythms, Dean's intimate and textured vocals - Penthouse will slowly grow on you. More and more layers, and finer and finer touches, emerge with each listen. I own over 800 albums and have no hesitation in naming this one of the best constructed, played and produced rock albums ever. And where else can you find a record where theremins (23 Minutes in Brussels) and French lyrics (the 'hidden' Bonnie & Clyde) work so perfectly?

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