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A Season With Verona
A Season With Verona
by Tim Parks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Forza Hellas!, 6 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: A Season With Verona (Paperback)
Totally absorbing and unusual book. I bought it on the basis of it being a football book and indeed, in the main, it is but it also has much social commentary on Italian life which is almost as interesting! Tim Parks essentially follows Hellas Verona, a fanatically supported but underachieving side, for a complete Serie A season, recording the few highs and the many lows of a season long struggle against relegation. This is set against three backdrops, the first being his observations and interaction with the teams hard core fan base and in particular his experiences at away fixtures, the second being a socio-political observation of how Italy ticked at the time of the book (culminating in the Italian general election) and the third being his access to the clubs owner, management and players. In my view it's extremely well written and I like that Tim hasn't shied away from some of the more "earthy" sides of his experience but in the same breath he doesn't pass judgement giving a genuinely balanced feeling to his writing. The books chronological ordering makes sense but works really well given the exciting culmination to the season. I am a football fanatic and have a strong interest in Italian culture so this book is tailor made for me but would be enjoyed I think by a wide audience. Strongly recommended.


The American
The American
by Martin Booth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent & immersive, 30 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The American (Paperback)
The film of the same name is, in my view, excellent. It's sparse, tense and beautifully shot. On that basis I decided to try the book being fully aware that the screenplay for the film had been "based upon" this novel. There are similarities in the generalities of the surroundings, friendship with a priest, the main characters profession and certain aspects of the job he undertakes during the book / film but in many other ways the two are very different.

This book is narrated by the main character himself, often in minute detail and has no breaks as such. It is, as my review title states, totally immersive. It transports you to the mountains of Italy and makes you want to be there. The other characters are well developed enough to form an opinion on but not so overblown that they threaten to take over the story.

The plot is, as I've noted above, similar in some ways but ultimately takes a different path. It's no better or worse for this, just different.

I loved this book. I've noted criticisms in other reviews about how far the differences go but to me it gives you a basic premise and offers two alternative stories and that can't be a bad thing.

I'd highly recommend seeing the film and reading this book. It doesn't matter which way round you do it - just accept that they are different tellings of a similar tale and you will enjoy both.


Blur 21: The Box [Bonus Three DVD's and One 7" LP Record]
Blur 21: The Box [Bonus Three DVD's and One 7" LP Record]
Price: £129.31

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Magnificent, 22 Oct. 2012
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If you are a fan (and believe me, I am) you must own this. The remasters do improve the audio quality (although it isn't a black and white leap, just an overall improvement) but the strength lies in the additional material and the sumptuous packaging. There are some genius forgotten gems from my mis-spent youth here (Badgeman Brown / Mace / Young & Lovely (brilliantly ressurected live by the band!) / People in Europe / Cowboy Song / Black Book) as well as some fascinating early versions and rough cuts of other songs with the early version of "Trouble In The Message Centre" being my favourite. True, you may not actually need 3 versions of "Rednecks" but, hey, this is the box set. I've seen a few grumbles about missing tracks and so forth and it's true there are some odd bits and bobs not on here (of which the most puzzling in my view is the omission of "The Puritan" from the Westway single although please note Mr. official reviewer Under The Wstway is certainly on my copy) but the stuff not here is pretty small beer and should already be in the possession of the die-hards at whom this aimed at. I guess the groans about the missing CD booklets might also be fair enough although the enclosed book is a thing of beauty (How about sending the booklets to us EMI in recognition of our devotion in buying the box!). Including a download code is a nice touch (bit of a faff to do it though!!). But overall how can you go wrong - Take a day off work, fake an infectious illness to keep everyone away, start at "Leisure Disc 1" and lose yourself in endless hours of genius!


Tender is the Night
Tender is the Night
Price: £0.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid Kindle Edition, 22 Oct. 2012
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This isn't a review of the novel (which is brilliant) but of this kindle edition which is atrocious. It would be nice perhaps if the kindle editions were actually read through prior to issuing as this one contains numerous spelling mistakes, weird punctuation and, worst of all, missing words and sentences. It starts out OK but gradually gets worse and I gave up about 25% in as there was one point where I really struggled to understand what was happening due to the quantity of missing sentences. I'm still in the half kindle / half proper books camp, but in this instance buy the physical item and enjoy what is a genuine classic as it should be enjoyed.


Siamese Dream
Siamese Dream
Price: £35.73

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth It, 6 July 2012
This review is from: Siamese Dream (Audio CD)
I still remember the first time I listened to this album on its original release - the drum roll and urgent guitars of "Cherub Rock" followed by the cacophony of "Quiet" and all of the brilliance that follows.
I had no hesitation in buying this re-issue and neither should anyone else. The remastering on the original album is stunning and is best heard on the more delicate tracks on the album such as "Spaceboy" or "Luna". Corgans voice is crystal clear and the sound quality is second to none.
The real bonus here is Disc 2 which contains some excellent early versions of tracks that later appeared on "Pisces Escariot" along with some early versions and alternate version of Siamese Dream tracks. I particularly like the cover version of Depeche Modes "Never Let Me Down" and the acoustic versions of "Spaceboy" and "Disarm".
The packaging is excellent, the DVD well worth a watch and the music sublime. Pumpkins fans have long debated whether Siamese Dream or Mellon Collie was the highpoint - whilst I think Mellon Collie is a great album it does have some tracks that I still skip through whereas Siamese Dream contains 13 masterpieces and thus for me has always been the highpoint of one of my favourite bands. All this and they are back with new material (albeit as Billy Corgan and his backing band!) - give the new album a go too as in my view its very good!
Buy this - it's well worth the money and you won't regret it.


Depths
Depths
Price: £2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and atmospheric novel, 16 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: Depths (Kindle Edition)
I'm a fan of Henning Mankell. His books are well crafted, easy to read and very atmospheric. This book proved to be more of the same. Set in Sweden in the years 1912-1914 it tells the story of a naval officer who's task it is to sound depths and check navigational charts. But whilst there is plenty of interest in his naval career the main focus of the book is on his psyche and most particularly on his desire to plumb his own depths. This leads to his setting off a chain of events in his private life that is shocking and gripping in equal measures.

As other reviewers have remarked the book focuses on his surroundings and to very good effect - the overall impression is haunting. The book is cleverly written in a very high number of very short chapters and this facilitates you being able to easily dip in and out of it but in truth it's one of those books that tempts you to sit and read for longer spells.

This is very good. Not, in my humble opinion a masterpiece as some others have noted, but well worth a read. Recommended.


Cosi Fan Tutti (Aurelio Zen 05)
Cosi Fan Tutti (Aurelio Zen 05)
by Michael Dibdin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 10 Nov. 2011
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I've arrived a little late to the Zen series encouraged to look further by the BBC dramatisation of the first three novels (which I rather like but which seems to have been rubbished because it wasn't in Italian (!)). I bought and read the first 3 books and hugely enjoyed them then moved on to number four "Dead Lagoon" which is excellent. However this 5th installment which sees Zen posted to Naples is a disappointment. The description of the scene (Naples itself) and the underlying politics of that time are good (as they were in the first 4 books) but the plotline is pretty weak and shoots off in so many directions that although it's not a major strain to follow, it feels like almost too much trouble and not really worth the effort. I also was disappointed at the ending (although to be fair it does pull a multitude of strands together reasonably well) and it felt far more contrived than the previous efforts with Zen an almost peripheral figure at times.

Don't let this somewhat negative review put you off the Zen series - they are good and in the main well plotted and decently written. It makes sense to read the series in order so as to understand Zens increasingly complicated domestic life and as such you'll need to read this one. Just don't expect anything too much.


Birdsong
Birdsong
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Compelling, 10 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Birdsong (Paperback)
There is really nothing that can describe how good and how touching this book is. I challenge anyone to read this book and not be profoundly moved by it's contents. The opening "scene setting" story set in France in 1910 is good (if a little wordy in places) but doesn't prepare you for what comes next. I cannot recall reading another book with the mixed feelings I returned to this with - it's blunt potrayal of the atrocities and pointlessness of the trenches coupled with the fact that when the men got to return home the understanding of what had happened to them was almost non-existent in a pre-media age was almost impossible to put down yet in parts so moving that you didn't want to read on. The excerpt where Stephen returns on home leave in a troopship and they are met at the dock by family and friends of the other troops who are cheering until they see the state the returning men are in and the cheers fall to silence was just brilliant and I liked the interweaving later on with the story set in more modern times of a granddaughter trying to trace her family history which gave much needed relief from the harrowing story of the war itself.

This isn't my favourite book (although believe me it's up there) but is, to date, probably the most thought provoking and emotional book I have read.

Be prepared for, at times, a difficult read (in terms of content - not the writing which is up to Faulk's usual very high standards) but if you are able to deal with the subject matter this book is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece.


Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds [Explicit]
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds [Explicit]
Price: £5.59

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Debut, 18 Oct. 2011
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At last - and worth the wait. Noel Gallagher proves he's worth the accolades that are frequently thrown his way by producing this, his debut "solo" album, which is both interesting and comfortable in its content. All 10 songs are of a good quality (with perhaps "Stop The Clocks" my least favourite but it's all relative). Opening track "Everybody's on the run" sets the tone and all that follows doesn't really reduce the quality with "If I Had A Gun", "...Record machine", "AKA..What a Life!" and "Broken Arrow" all top notch songs. Think of Noels clearly solo offerings on past Oasis albums such as "Importance of Being Idle", "Sunday Morning Call" and "The Masterplan" and that's about where we are here.

All in all an excellent debut from a very assured and accomplished artist. Highly recommended.


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