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Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

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On the coast of Santa Cruz, Patti Smith enters the lunar year of the monkey - one packed with mischief, sorrow, and unexpected moments. In a stranger's words, Anything is possible: after all, it's the year of the monkey. As Smith wanders the coast of Santa Cruz in solitude, she reflects on a year that brings huge shifts in her life - loss and aging are faced head on, as it the shifting political waters in America. Full Review

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Ask For Blues by Malcolm Walton

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Autobiography, Entertainment, General Fiction

Malcolm Walton's book is clearly a memoir about his introduction to the Trad Jazz scene of the late 1950's and early 1960's, but he has chosen to write it in the form of a novel, claiming in his prologue that this would give the book a different approach to the music memoir. His protagonist 'Martin' takes on Malcolm's mantle, and begins with his first discovery of the Salvation Army band with his grandfather. This catapults him into a love of music, initially taking piano lessons, and later delving into his true love – the trumpet. Full Review

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A Bientot... by Roger Moore

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Autobiography, Entertainment, Lifestyle

The news of the death of Sir Roger Moore in May 2017 came as a great shock: he was one of those people you knew would go on for ever. There was just one small glimmer of light in the sadness - the news that a matter of days before his death he'd delivered the finished manuscript of his book, À bientôt…, to his publishers. Just a few months later a copy landed on my desk and I didn't even bother to look as though I could resist reading it straight away. Full Review

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Sherlock: The Puzzle Book by Christopher Maslanka and Steve Tribe

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Who doesn't love a good puzzle, especially those really fiendish ones that get the brain working extra hard? There really is nothing to compare to that buzz we get from the Aha! moment, when everything falls into place and the solution reveals itself. If puzzles are your thing then you may wish to put your grey cells to the test with The Sherlock Puzzle Book, based on the popular TV series. Full Review

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Do You Mr Jones?: Bob Dylan with the Poets and Professors by Neil Corcoran

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Bob Dylan's award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 'for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition' proved highly controversial. It inevitably led some people in the literary world to take stock and look at his work and reputation with a fresh eye. This volume of essays was first published in 2002, and is now reissued with a new foreword by Will Self. Full Review

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Stream Punks by Robert Kyncl and Maany Peyvan

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Lifestyle, Entertainment

I watch quite a lot of YouTube. I play music videos when I want to listen to a particular song I don't already have in my collection. I use it to find out how to do things, with the instruction videos they seem to have for pretty much anything. At the gym, I'll stick it on on my phone, prop it up on the cross trainer and watch some behind the scenes interviews with the cast of my favourite shows. And sometimes I'll treat it as if it is Netflix, to watch series with new episodes releasing every few days, exclusively on YouTube. Having a new smart TV adds an extra, easy way to watch without having to plug in my laptop or squint at a small phone screen. So yes, I like YouTube and I use YouTube. But I didn't know a whole lot about the site it until I read this book.Full Review

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We Can Swing Together: The Story of Lindisfarne by John Van der Kiste

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It all began with a group of youngsters in North Shields. Rod Clements, Simon 'Si' Cowe, Ray 'Jacka' Jackson and Ray Laidlaw formed The Downtown Faction, soon changing the name to Brethren when they were joined by singer-songwriter Alan Hull. As a US-based group had a similar name they opted to change the name again - and Lindisfarne (with the name taken from an island off the Northumberland coast) was born. More than forty years on and with numerous changes of personnel the band is still very much around. They might not be touring or producing much in the way of new material, but they still perform, with Rod Clements, one of the original members on his fourth stint with the group. Full Review


Electric Light Orchestra: Song by Song by John Van der Kiste

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My memories of pop music in the early sixties revolve around guitars and drums, sometimes the piano with only occasional excursions into strings and brass. Pop music rarely stands still and it wasn't long before the basic instruments were seens as constraints and The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys began to experiment, with other groups following where they led. Amongst these groups was The Move and their lead guitarist and songwriter, Roy Wood. Wood wanted to develop the group's sound by adding more instruments but was prevented from achieving what he wanted by cost limitations and because the rest of the group didn't really share his enthusiasm.

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Let's Make Lots of Money: My Life as the Biggest Man in Pop by Tom Watkins

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Entertainment

Who on earth would be a manager in the larger than life, here today gone tomorrow world of pop? Anybody with an ego, a ruthless streak, an opportunity to embrace the chances and accept that it's not going to last, evidently. Tom Watkins is just one of several to have walked the fine line, and for part of the time, quite successfully. As his memoirs suggest, part of the time was achievement enough. Full Review

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Rooms with a View: The Secret Life of Great Hotels by Adrian Mourby

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Travel, History

Adrian Mourby has given us a flying visit to each of fifty grand hotels, from fourteen regions of the world, with the hotels in each section being arranged chronologically rather than by region, which helps to give something of an overall picture. So what makes a hotel 'grand'? The first hotel to call itself 'grand' was in covent Garden in 1774 and it ushered in the beginning of a period when a hotel would be a lifestyle choice rather than a refuge for those without friends and family conveniently nearby. The hotels we visit all began life in different circumstances and each faced a different set of challenges. We begin in the Americas, move to the United Kingdom, circumnavigate Europe, briefly visit Russia and Turkey then northern Africa, India and Asia. Australia, it seems, does not go for the grand. Full Review

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Autobiography, Entertainment

Celebrity autobiographies. It's a genre long tainted by the examples of people who clearly didn't deserve to be a celebrity, let alone have a ghost-writer create their book, and by those who did so little but managed to churn out five memoirs before they were even thirty. But more recently it's become a way of staking a claim to importance for female comics. They've not all written autobiographies, as Bridget Christie proved, but enough have to provide for a rapidly-filling shelf at the bookstore. 2016 we had Amy Schumer winning a GoodReads award, Lena Dunham's been at it, and we've also got Anna Kendrick. Now she's not a strict comic – not all of her films are designed to make you laugh, and some of them that are just don't – but this has to be in the same bracket. Full Review

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The Speed of Sound by Thomas Dolby

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From struggling post-punk musician to pop star, from Silicon Valley innovator to university professor, Thomas Dolby has had a remarkable if not unique career, often reinventing himself on the way. This memoir is based on his extensive notes and journals. Full Review

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Tragic Magic: The Life of Traffic's Chris Wood by Dan Ropek

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Chris Wood was a member of Traffic, the group formed by Steve Winwood in 1967 after he left The Spencer Davis Group. A gifted musician best known for his flute and saxophone work, he also played keyboards, bass guitar and contributed backing vocals as well as having a hand in writing several of the songs and one or two instrumentals. This biography takes its title from the name of one of his compositions for their fifth album. Full Review

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The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History by Jon Morris

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Graphic Novels, Entertainment

s much as I like comics – and I do, whether superhero ones or not – I have to admit one thing, namely that the villains in them are a bit pants. What is The Penguin but the world's worst Mafioso, with a hobby of waddling along like his pet birds? Where else do you win an Oscar of all things by playing a two-bit killer who just fell in a vat of random chemicals and changed colour, and got mardier as a result (although recently he's become a nanotech genius – but let's not go there)? And what is it with the gimp in the see-through plant pot because he is the embodiment of cold? And that's just some of the better-known enemies of Batman, one of the better goodies. You can imagine how awful the baddies related to the bad goodies can be. And if you can't, this is the perfect primer.Full Review

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In the Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett by Tony Fletcher

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Entertainment

Tamla Motown groups and singers apart, in the mid-sixties there were three major names in the soul music field who mattered above all. James Brown was something of a cult name who rarely bothered about or troubled the singles charts, and Otis Redding was on the verge of shooting into the stratosphere when he died in an aeroplane crash. The other was the man from Alabama, 'the wicked Pickett'.Full Review

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Reading Allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library by Chris Paling

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I once made a comical faux pas in a library when I was younger, but it certainly didn't put me off returning. I once declared in a self-important way that I would start at the beginning of the books for young children and not stop til the end, then do the same for those for the older children – and then do it all over again with them, I said, pointing at the large-print shelves. I hope not, was the response – but little me was only aware of a need for large font for my fellow whippersnappers, and not for any other reason. Since then I've needed libraries, and going to them has been second nature. On the dole I made sure I could use the free Internet they provided to pay me back for my council tax; later I was intent on finding out if a Senior Library Assistant girl was worthy of her title; and of course it saved a fortune on books for study and fun. I'm not alone in sharing the warmth of both their heating system and the very thing they were born to provide – books, but there was still a huge step up between my level of use and knowledge of them to actually working in one. Which is where Chris Paling comes in. Full Review

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Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Autobiography, Entertainment

No you haven't stumbled into a music review from the 1970s, I'm talking about The Boss's autobiography. Lots of books have been written about Springsteen by folk who knew him, worked with him and by others who have only read the cuttings. Over the last seven years he has been going about – not putting the record straight, exactly – but telling it from his own perspective. As he puts it: Writing about yourself is a funny business. By his own admission, it isn't the whole truth, discretion holds him back but in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I've tried to do this. Full Review

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A Beatles Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Beatles but Were Afraid to Ask by John Van der Kiste

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Reference, Entertainment

You might have thought that just about everything which could be said about the Beatles had been said and certainly there's been no shortage of books about what went wrong, what happened to the money and even what went right. But what I've never seen before is a 'miscellany' - all those little facts which are so hard to track down and this is where historian John Van der Kiste comes into his own: he's a man with an eye for detail and the ability to bring everything together into a very readable whole. It's a wonderful collection of the small facts. Full Review