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Paul Johnson

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A Long Way Down
A Long Way Down
by Nick Hornby
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Let Down, 14 July 2005
This review is from: A Long Way Down (Hardcover)
Calling this book a let down is probably a little unfair. Indeed had it been written by someone else, I'd probably have given it 4 stars but you see when standards are as high as Hornby has set in the past, this just does not live upto them. If High Fidelity is worth 5 stars (and it is), then About A Boy which is not quite as good must only be worth four and as this is not quite as good as About A Boy........
Still, not to do it down, like all of his books, the characters are well developed and you feel some affection for all of them (even the most ghastly of the main characters). As other reviewers will have said, the book is about four people who all meet up at a suicide hotspot and end up forming a group to look out for each other. The neat trick of the book is that it is writted by each of the four characters changing throughout, though the story still reads sequentially (so one person might write about an action they are taking, another will write about the consequences). It's a novel idea and I have to say works extremely well.
Having never been suicidal I can't vouch for the authenticity of the emotions the characters are feeling, though they are very believable. I'd recommend this book certainly to Hornby fans, but if you have not read any of his books, I'd start with High Fidelity before this.

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour
Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour
by Kate Fox
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.49

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Am I Like That?, 13 July 2005
Following Bill Bryson who wrote observations of the English from an outsiders point of view and Jeremy Paxman who looked at us from a more intellectual point of view, we now have this study by Kate Fox who looks at us from a scientific (is an anthropologist a real scientist!?) point of view.
Her aim is to figure out why the English are as we are by using similar methods as anthropologists would use to study African tribes and the like. It's an interesting approach and Fox carries off the idea pretty well with only a few problems coming though.
It's interesting that most people are well aware of the stereotypes of the English, most of us don't know the background to why we are like that, or even have a detailed list of all the stereotypes. By looking at how we approach various situations, she manages to find the majority of answers.
The book is easy to read despite it's scientific approach and is laced with humour throughout. The only weakness I found is that Fox manages to find the bulk of our traits early on, and as she investigates more life situations, the same traits keep coming up again and again. For me, the book could have been a good 100 pages shorter and the same conclusions have been drawn. This is not a major problem though as even when the book starts to get repetitive, it is well written enough to keep you going.
Worth a read if you are English and want to find out why you are as you are and worth a read if you are not and want to laugh at how odd we are!

Air Babylon
Air Babylon
by Imogen Edwards-Jones
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Waste Of Time, 13 July 2005
This review is from: Air Babylon (Hardcover)
The premise of this book is that the author has interviewed various people behind the scenes in the airline industry and has then pulled all the information together into one day in the life of a duty manager at Heathrow for 'Air Babylon'. An interesting enough idea but it is extremely badly executed.
For starters, many of the claims suggested are so outlandish that it is impossible to see them as anything other than made up. Secondly, whilst the narrator (the duty manager) of the book is a nice enough character, the rest are for the most part awful in the extreme.
I'm not sure if the book is intended to make you think twice about flying but I can't for the life of me see who would believe any of it.
I regret both wasting my money and my time on this book.

Rude Kids: The Unfeasible Story of "Viz"
Rude Kids: The Unfeasible Story of "Viz"
by Chris Donald
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably Only For Viz Fans, 1 Dec. 2004
I have to admit that I love Viz. I've subscribed for years despite the fact that it is not as funny as it used to be, so I looked forwards to Chris Donalds autobiography with some excitement.
For those of you not familiar with the comic, Viz has for years been at the forefront of toilet humour, but despite being incredibly crude, it also contains a great deal of very subtle and intelligent humour.
Chris Donald is the man who started it all in his bedroom and here he takes us through it's inception, through it's peak years of the late 80's and early 90's (where it was the UK's third best selling magazine) and onto it's inevitable downfall.
Fans of the magazine will no doubt enjoy it, but others may well wonder what the point is. The book starts out well, as did the magazine, but towards the end, when he is explaining how they were trying to stave off falling sales and as he talks about his unfortunate depression, the book suffers.

Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure
Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure
by Dave Gorman
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So wierd, you have to like it!, 17 Nov. 2004
This book follows one of the strangest 'bets' that has even been made. Gorman, having been told that his website contained a Googlewhack (two words that feature on that page and no others as indexed by Google) then starts searching for similar websites himself. This leads to him meeting the owner of one of the sites and from there, to a quest to create a strange chain of ten googlewhack site owners in a row.
It really is too strange to explain in any concise way. The long and the short of it is that this is a book about the travels of Gorman as he goes around the world on his quest, detailing the people he meets and in some cases, talking about the places he visits.
It is an enjoyable and funny read and I enjoyed it a great deal. He struggles to keep the material flowing midway through the book, but it picks up towards the end and leaves you thinking it was a worthwhile read.
Not the best travel/bet book I have ever read (Tony Hawkes does this sort of thing a great deal better) but it's fun in it's own way.

Songs About Jane
Songs About Jane
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.30

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad at all, 17 Oct. 2004
This review is from: Songs About Jane (Audio CD)
This is an album that has completely caught me by surprise. If truth be known if it were down to me, it is not the sort of thing I would typically go for (I normally dismiss this sort of thing as soft rock and hence a bit naff!) but having been given it by a friend, I now need to re-assess my assesments of certain genres.
A few of the tracks on this album seem to have been given a great deal of radio airtime so most music fans will be familiar with at least some of the music. Naturally the tracks that have been given a lot of airtime, This Love, Harder To Breathe and She Will Be Loved (the standout track of the album in my opinion), are the best of the album and the rest is a little weaker and could be said to become a little samey.
I suspect all of the tracks, even the best ones, will get tiresome after repeated listening, but initially this is an album well worth some consideration.

No Title Available

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Simple, 3 Oct. 2004
I bought this CD off the back of hearing Fields of Gold on a compilation. Fields of Gold is in my opinion Stings finest track and it is impressive to hear a cover version of anything that manages to improve on the original. That is rarely the case.
The fact is however that Cassidy's voice could cover just about anything and improve on it. Whilst she does seem to have tremendous variety, there is no hiding from the fact that when simply relaxing and seeming to put little effort it, she sounds spectacular.
There are seveal standout tracks on this CD, indeed there are none that are bad, but I would say Fields of Gold, Wade in the Water and an outstanding rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow really make the CD worth owning by themselves.

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
by Sue Townsend
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.34

7 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, 2 Oct. 2004
Now this is a series that should have ended long ago.
The original Adrian Mole books were excellent, a completely new idea and refreshing as a result. Now the diary idea has been hijacked most notably by Bridget Jones, the whole Adrian Mole idea is shown to be stale, un-original and pointless.
This book runs from late 2002 - mid 2003 and how Adrian Mole deals with the events going on at the time. He has his oldest son in the army about to serve in Iraq, is in a dead end job and in a spiral of debt.
The problem with the book is that we have reached the limits of the mis-fortune that can face Mole. Past books have shown just how pathetic a character he is and in my opinion, it is not possible to feel any level of sympathy for him. Instead you find him irritating beyond belief and I was personally glad when I got to the end of the book.
Sue Townsend has proved herself to be an extremely skilled writer in the past, but there is no hiding from the fact that with this she is cashing in on a formula that really should be finished by now.

All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
by A. W. Wheen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pointlessness Of War, 2 Oct. 2004
During my education in the UK, history does of course always focus on both WW1 and WW2 from the point of view of the Allies, though we do have the grace to mention the Christmas football match of I believe 1915 if memory serves, where the soldiers showed that they were actually all similar people and merely pawns in the political game.
This book demonstrates the same, but in a far more stark way.
I have to say that I have never thought about either war from the point of view of the German soldier, and it is to my shame that this is the case. World War One, The 'Great' War is surely the finest demonstration of human beings at their worst and only by seeing things from both sides, do we really get that impression.
This book follows a German soldier during his time in the trenches and the thing that shows through is that he hates it and resents it in much the same way as the British soldiers we were taught about as children. We are left in no doubt that the soldier is doing his duty not because he wishes to, more because he feels he has to. You can not but feel sympathy for him as the events unfold showing him loosing friends throughout the various battles.
The thought I was left with is this. They were no different from the guys in the trenches on the Allies side. They did not hate the people they were up against, they merely wanted to stay alive.
What a shame that the people that cause and start wars are not put in the same situation.
All in all, an outstanding book and an excellent translation.

The Pleasure of my Company
The Pleasure of my Company
by Steve Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far More Moving Than I Expected, 28 Sept. 2004
Now this is a book that you will read through non-stop and you will be happy to have spent the time on it. When I finished, I was left with one overriding thought. 'That was a nice book'.
The main character, Daniel, is a 31 year old who is suffering from some form of mental problems, which as someone who knows little of these things, I would regard as something akin to obsessive compulsive disorder. Psychologists who have read the book should feel free to correct me on that! Anyway, for the bulk of the book this chap goes about his life without much outside influence, with his life being extremely routine mostly due to his obsessions.
What little interaction he does have with others is between distant and non-existant, though in his mind, and especially with his thoughts towards women (which would be sinister if the author had chosen to write it that way), they play a more important role. During the couse of the book we watch as these develop, seeing how Daniel copes with situations and relationships as they change.
The book is extremely well written and all of the main characters have a warmth that you can't help being attracted to. I felt it has some similarities to The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Hines and I imagine that anyone who enjoyed that, will enjoy this.

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