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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

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

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

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

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

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. Full review...

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

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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...

Rooms of One's Own: 50 Places That Made Literary History by Adrian Mourby

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The debate is never-ending about how much of the author's life we can find in their pages, and what bearing every circumstance of their lot had on their output. Things perhaps are heightened when they do a Hemingway or a Greene and travel the world, but so often they have had a cause to stay in one place and write. Does that creative spirit survive in the walls and air of the room they worked in, and do those four walls, or the view, feature in the books? And does any of this really matter in admiring the great works of literature? Well, this volume itself kind of relies on that as being the case, but either way it's a real pleasure. Full review...

Star Wars: Imperial Assault Activity Book and Model (Star Wars Construction Books) by Emil Fortune and Neal Manning

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Bobby, my U-Wing model, was feeling lonely. Sure, he had a few select critters from Harry Potter on his shelf, but nothing else from his world. Luckily, now he has a companion. Unluckily, however, it's a baddy – one of the AT-ST Scout Walkers those nasty Empire people like to use to stride around and attack the good rebels. But that aside, it is a very handsome companion. Full review...

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...

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

3.5star.jpg Autobiography

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...

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...

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

5star.jpg Graphic Novels

As 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...

Labyrinth by Theo Guignard

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Of all the books published for people's paper-based hobbies when I was a youngster, it's remarkable that all of them have been revisited and revamped. I say this because they certainly weren't exactly brilliant fun back then. No, we didn't have quite the modern style of colouring-in books, but they were available, if you'd gone beyond 'join the dots'. I read only recently that origami is allegedly coming back – and I remember how every church book sale for years had Origami, Origami 2 or Origami 3 paperbacks somewhere for ten pence. But the ultimate in paper-based fun back then was the use-once format of the maze book. This is the modern equivalent – but boy, hasn't the idea grown up since then… Full review...

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

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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...

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...

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

5star.jpg Autobiography

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...

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

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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...

Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe by Julian Palacios

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There were few sadder casualties of the sixties music scene than Syd (real name Roger) Barrett. The original songwriting genius and front man of Pink Floyd, he burnt out all too soon. A few months in the spotlight were followed all too soon by a pathetic postscript of a stuttering solo career, and over three decades as a largely housebound recluse. Full review...