Michael Kiwanuka's debut album - Really good and what a voice!!
"Mindset" - the latest offering from The Necks. Late night listening recommended.
"Dawn of Awakening" by The Tawdros Trilogy - Joseph on Oud and James on Req & Bendir plus the amazing Matt McMahon on piano. Great stuff, especially the Prophet Suite.
"Springs, for all winters" by Nat Bartsch Trio. This is an absolutely fabulous follow up album. Buy it!!
"Rio" the latest wonder work from Keith Jarrett. Beautiful, atmospheric and emotionally charged as always.
"At the Temple Gate" - Prabhu Osoniqs' hypnotic album of hang (convex steel drums) music. Meditative stuff!
"Hope and Ruin" by Canadian rockers The Trews. Not usually my schtick but this is outstanding!
The Church live at the Notes, Enmore, in their 30 year anniversary tour. Fantastic band, music and lyrics but caught them on an off night.
"Play Scar" by Necks pianist Chris Abrahams. Textured and challenging as always.
"Little Bird" by Kasey Chambers. Her best album yet and the title track video is great.
"The Drums" self titled debut..Can hear the Manchester Factory sound loud and clear. Worth a listen though and more upbeat than The Smiths (well, actually, even Requiem Masses are too!)
"Conditions" by The Temper Trap. Great debut from Melbourne band taking the world by storm.
"Weaving my Ancestors' Voices" and "A Zen Kiss" by Sheila Chandra. Stunning works and she has come a long way from "Ever so lonely".
"Phyrigian Gates" by John Adams from 1977. Minimalist piano tonal structures but great listening.
Savage Garden's "Affirmation" from 1999 - Good driving music and Darren Hayes' voice was amazing. Where are they now??
"Down the Way" just released by Angus and Julia Stone. Richer sound and better produced than last album. Learning to like Julia's voice still but a good listen and Angus is excellent.
"Selling England by the Pound" by Genesis from 1973...still sounds as good now as it did then even if it is not their best album.
"Chemist" by The Necks. Accessible improvised jazz at its very best.
Steely Dan's classic (and best) third album of 1974; "Pretzel Logic". Might get a vote in my "Hi-Fi" Top 5.
Keith Jarrett's Sun Bear Concerts - 5 Japanese cities, 5 exquisite nights in 1976
Billy Bragg's "Must I paint you a picture?" (best of)...the revolution is just a tie dyed T shirt away!!
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. French alternative rock (pop) and deserved Grammy winners.
Reading this week
"The Golden Egg" - Brunetti's back (hooray) ...and so is the comatose editor (boo!!). 6/10
Jonathan Safran Foer's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" - moving, imaginative and hopeful. 7/10
"The Jewels of Paradise". Leon's first non Brunetti fiction and she's very good as always. 7/10
"Teach us to Sit Still" by Anglo-Italian Tim Parks. This is disturbing and confronting real life stuff. 7/10
"The Living" by Annie Dillara, a quite remarkable writer. Her prose is tight and the imagery fabulous. 8/10
Keigo Higashino's, the" Japanese Stieg Larsson", Devotion of Suspect X. Sold over 2 million copies in Japan and deservedly so. The first 'ending' is good. The second and final ending disappointing! 7/10
"The Sense of an Ending" by the superlative Julian Barnes. The ending itself is the problem and much debated..is it Tony and Sarah or Veronica, Adrian and Sarah or Veronica or even Jack and Veronica or Sarah. Icky!! Well written. 8/10 o
"The Twelve" part 2 of Cronin's vampire esque trilogy. Better than The Passage and the retelling of the story works. Can't wait for City of Mirrors in 2014. 7/10
Jonasson's "100 Year Old Man ...". Great ideas and dry humour. So refreshing to read a Scandanavian novel with only two murders!! 7/10
"Irma Voth" by Miriam Toews - Boy, can she write!! 7/10
"Dance of the Seagull", the latest Camilleri. Quite disturbing and Montalbano speaks to the author and actor Zingaretti!! 8/10
"Seven Days in the Art World" by sociologist Sarah Thornton - Fascinating and well structured. 8/10
Bryson's childhood autobiography "The Thunderbolt Kid". So so. 6/10
"The Scapegoat" by French author Daniel Pennac. Absolutely bonkers and surreal! Surprisingly good. 6/10
Bill Bryson's "Down Under" and "Neither Here Nor There". Bryson is funny, informative and honest about what he feels and sees. 8/10
"Wonderboy" by musician Stephen Cummings - his first novel. It's okay but he is no Rushdie so the fantasy just seems drug induced and not imaginative. 6/10
Serge Joncour's short novel "UV" is part psychological thriller, part social commentary. The characters are good but the ending is just too House of Hammer for me. 6/10
"The Passage" by Justin Cronin, the first of a trilogy. The first third is fabulous, maybe because it is set pre apocalypse in a familiar world. The middle third is awful and the last third average....Will still read "Twelve" though so better than I am making it sound. 6/10
Jasper Fforde's "The Eyre Affair". Oh, dear....he is a one joke author after all. 5/10.
Haruki Murakami's "After Dark". I am a huge Murakami fan and this is disturbing and clever though somewhat predictable. 7/10
The last two Brunetti detective novels....Leon is very good. Not sure whether to get her latest as Brunetti seems to have been retired. 7/10
Not sure why I waited over 20 years to read "How to make an American quilt" by Whitney Otto - it is very good and moving. 8/10
An Italian reading festival - Marco Vichi's Bordelli in "Death in August" - good start, 6/10; Michele Giuttari's Ferrara in "Death in Tuscany" and "Death in Calabria" - quite good 7/10. It seems all Italian fictional detectives like local slow food, dislike thier bosses and have difficult relationships....
Well I am a sucker for punishment..Paul Torday's "The Girl on the Landing" - Good 7/10, Guillermo Martinez "The Oxford Murders" - OK 6/10, Rimington's "The Geneva Trap" - OK - 6/10 and Emilio Calderon's "The Creator's Map" - OK - 6/10
Edmund de Waal's "The Hare with the Amber Eyes" - a quite extraordinary bigraphy/history/detective story. An emotional read and very well written. Deserves all its success. 8/10
The next 5 Brunetti books by Donna Leon. All good. 8/10
"This way to the sea" - a tree change by Gillian Nicholson. Light and fluffy. 5/10
In a fit of compulsive behaviour I read (in order!!) the first nine Commisario Brunetti novels by Leon.....wont give all the titles.....They are excellent 'read in a day' books and the characters are really good. Leon should change her editor though as they are asleep on the job. 8/10
Ian Rankin's first Rebus "Knots & Crosses" - all a bit grim and desperate but will persevere with the series. 6/10
"Death & Judgement" with Donna Leon's Commisario Brunetti. Recommended by my mother. I have already orderered the other 20!! Very atmospheric and as much about Venice as a detective novel. 8/10
Camilleri's latest (in English) "The Age of Doubt". Still good after all these years. 8/10
"The Discovery of France" by Graham Robb. Extraordinarily interesting book about French (social) history. Meticulously researched and well written. 9/10
Peter Ackroyd's "The Fall of Troy" - one of his few books that does not jump between past and present. Easy reading. 6/10
"Fever Pitch" - Nick Hornby's 40 years of Arsenal obsession and parallels with life. 7/10
David Marr's dash for cash "The Henson Case". When does art cross the line? 7/10
"Rendevous at Kamakura Inn" by ex banker Marshall Browne. Atmospheric and well written. 7/10
"Chef" by Jaspreet Singh...adored by the critics...6/10 from me!
Three books by ex MI5 head Stella Rimington - At Risk, Illegal Action and Secret Asset. Very formulaic, though Liz Carlyle is a good heroine. 6/10
"Alentejo Blue" by Monica Ali. Good writing but unlovable characters. 6/10
Carrie Tiffany's second novel "Mateship with Birds" - nicely written though not enjoyable. 6/10
de Krester's "The Rose Grower" - good first novel and can see where she developed to The Lost Dog. 7/10
"The City of Djinns" - a year in Delhi by Indiaphile Dalrymple and as good as ever. 7/10
"The Lost Dog" by Michelle de Kretser. This is oh, so close to a perfect novel! 9/10
"Eaarth" by Bill McKibben. The end of the earth is nigh etc etc - a confronting book. Read it now!! 8/10
"Vertigo" by Amanda Lohrey. Wow, she can write!! This is short and fabulous. 9/10
"MoebiusTrip" by Giti Thadani. The title is the best thing about this curious travelogue. 6/10
"Cooking with Fernet Branca" by James Hamilton-Paterson. All the reviewers loved it. I found it dreadfully written and observed. 4/10
"Will it be funny tomorrow, Billy?" - misadventures in music by Stephen Cummings. Very, very good. 8/10
Tim Parks' "Mimi's Ghost" Dark and comic in parts. Not as good as his books on Italy and Verona. 5/10
"Yoga School Drop Out" by Lucy Edge. Quite funny travelogue. 6/10
"The Portrait" by Ian Pears - vengeance is an art. This is such a good book it deserves to be read! 8/10
Camilleri's two newest Montalbano stories "Track of Sand" and "The Potter's Field", As good as ever...short but sweet. 8/10
Caldwell and Thomason wrote "The Rule of Four" as a thinking man's Da Vinci Code. It is almost as bad but better paced. 6/10
"Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer - Fabulous reading and the movie is just as good. 8/10
J-C Somoza's "Athenian Murders" - Okay detective novel within a detective novel. 6/10.
"Mrs P's Journey" is the story of Phyllis Pearsall who 'invented' the A to Z guides. Shame the book is not as concise as the guides. 6/10
The delightful "A Boy of Good Breeding" by Canadian Miriam Toews. 8/10
"Eating for England" by food critic and TV chef Nigel Slater. Starts well and then plummets badly into repetition. 6/10
"Three Bags Full" - the sheep flock are the detectives in this animal fable by Leonie Swann. Better than it sounds. 7/10
"Arctic Chill" Iceland's Arnaldur Indiadason with another Scandinavian depressing tale. 6/10
"Eating up Italy" - Matthew Fort's travels on a Vespa. Really good! 8/10
"The Taint of Midas" by Anne Zouroudi. One of 7 Greek detective stories...may read one other but 5/10.
Raj Kamal Jha's "Fireproof" about the Muslim-Hindi race riots in Gujurat in 2002 when over 1,000 people died. This is deeply disturbing on many levels but also not his best work. Too many borrowed and copied ideas and the last half is terrible! 5/10
"The World from Italy" by George Negus - a little repetitive but a great insight into Italia and la Dolce Vita. 6/10
Musician Steve Earle's first collection of short stories "Doghouse Roses" described by one critic as "A provocative collection from a renegade of letters". Actually very very good. 8/10
"Penguins Stopped Play", Harry Thompson's irreverent and very funny account of 11 village cricketers playing on all 7 continents 7/10
"Nudist on the Late Shift", a very good account of Silicon Valley during its peak of hype by Po Bronson. 7/10
Theresa Maggio's "The Stone Boudoir" in search of the hidden villages of Sicily. Very evocative - when can I go?? 7/10
"All she was worth", a very readable Japanese detective novel by Miyuki Miyabe. 7/10
"Quirky QWERTY" by Torbjörn Lundmark – an orthographer's gem. Not just the story of the keyboard but the story of all the characters too. 7/10
"Ryanland", a travelogue by Irish journo Philip Nolan. A delight and had me belly laughing on the train. 8/10
Jo Nesbo's "Nemesis" - another Scandinavian crime writer and another dark and dreary tale full of twists and turn. They really should find a way of turning the lights out in midsummer...6/10
"White Bicycles", Joe Boyd's book about the sixties music scene - a book so good it made Brian Eno miss his tube stop! Great read especially the parts about Nick Drake. 7/10
"Cider with Roadies" by Stuart Maconie who also wrote "Pies and Prejudice". Funny and humble. Read this now! 8/10
"The Piano Shop on the Left Bank" by TE Carhart - one for the pianophiles. Interesting look at Paris, pianos and life. 6/10
"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by French philosopher Muriel Barbery. Wow! What a fabulous book about life, death and social etiquette. Read it!! 9/10
"Linger Awhile" by the ever inventive Russell Hoban. Good read in a day. 6/10
David Crystal's "Journey in Search of English". The travel guide stuff is pretty awful but the linguistic observations are interesting. 5/10
"Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?" by Lorrie Moore. Sad, poignant, funny and beautifully written observations. Fab author. 8/10
GDR's epic "Shantaram" - oh, dear. At over 930 pages this is at times compelling, at times dreadful with its purple prose and mix of encyclopaedic facts and pure fantasy. 6/10
"Three ways to capsize a boat" by Chris Stewart who wrote the fabulous Driving over Lemons trilogy. 3 Ways is a grab for cash and less interesting. 5/10
Raphael Cardetti's "Death in the Latin Quarter". Good crime novel obviously inspired by The Da Vinci Code (an absolutely appalling book despite its popularity and status) and Reverte-Perez (a fabulous writer apart from the Captain Alatriste rubbish). 7/10
Ben F-Torres bio of Gram Parsons "Hickory Wind" - what a shame that GP lived hard, died young....yet influenced the Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello. 6/10
"The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - the Spanish gothic bestseller. Nicely done though the 'denouement' is telegraphed early. 7/10
"Love etc" Julian Barnes' sequel to Talking it Over. What a beautiful writer he is!! 9/10
"Blood Vendetta", the latest in Marshall Browne's Inspector Anders series. Not a bad read in a day book. 7/10
"Sea Glass" by Anita Shreve. In the Studs Terkel style this is a gentle and elegant story set in 1930 as Wall Street crashes and the mill workers strike. 7/10
"Italian Journeys" by Jonathan Keates. Patchy travelogue, over wordy and written with a thesaurus to hand unfortunately. 6/10
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt, almost the first of its factional genre and 4 years on the NY Times bestsellers. Worth the read. 8/10
"The Grand Hotel", the third in the Mangowak trilogy by Gregory Day. Beautifully written as always though "Patron Saint of Eels" still the best. 7/10
"States of Mind" by Brad Herzog. An 18 city search for Love, Faith, Hope, Pride etc. Intelligent and reflective view of America and Gen X. Written well enough but editor was asleep at the page. 7/10
Pollan's "A Place of my own" - the power of building your own house and place. 8/10
"In Defence of Food" by Michael Pollan. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Good stuff. 8/10.
"The Girl who Kicked a Hornet's Nest" - finally the last of Larsson's trilogy. Still formulaic but better than the second, not as good as the first. 7/10
Camilleri's Montalbano detective stories "August Heat" and "Sign of the Sphinx", As good as ever...short stories but rich in detail and enjoyment. 8/10
Larsson's sequel, "The Girl who Played with Fire", in parts disappointingly slow, formulaic and unbelievable. 6/10
"The Sleepwalker's Introduction to Flight" by Sion Scott Wilson published in 2008. A curate's egg of a book. Better to read Mark Haddon or Jasper Fforde. 6/10
Jonathan Safran Foer's 2002 debut "Everything is Illuminated". Funny, sad and very very good but laboured in parts. 7/10
"Strangers" a 2003 ghost story by Taichi Yamada. Unsettling but not as scary as The Ring. 6/10
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" - Larsson's first book. Waited a long time to read it..and it is excellent. Better than film. 8/10
P.D.James' "Death in Holy Orders"...wait for the TV version...5/10.
"Holy the Firm" by Pulitzer winner Annie Dillard. 76 pages of tight, magical and inspiring words. 8/10
"Camille's Bread" by Amanda Lohrey. Absolutely fantastic!! 9/10
Paul Torday's "Irrestible Inheritance of Wilberforce". Cleverly written and enjoyable. 7/10
"Birds of America" by Lorrie Moore. Beautifully crafted short stories about loss and yearning, spirit and hope. 7/10
"The Pages" by Murray Bail, a favourite author. This book is beautifully written yet feels unfinished. Still good though. 7/10.
Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity". Very funny and dry - Rob could have been any one of my friends from university, even down to the autobiographical ordering of their record collection!! The film with John Cusack is great too. 8/10
"Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living" by Carrie Tiffany - quirky, almost surreal and very poignant. Good read! 8/10
Bruce Chatwin's biography by Nicholas Shakespeare. Honest and somewhat harrowing.7/10
"Nine Lives" (In search of sacred modern India) by William Dalrymple. Fascinating but only 6/10.
The Silver Screenings
Borgen on SBS - a Danish political thriller (like a West Wing/House of Cards only better filmed and acted). 8/10
Lincoln - beautifully acted and filmed but unenjoyable all the same. Too much homage and glorification for a President who was not all he seemed to be. 6/10
"Jane Eyre" - Beautifully filmed and acted. I wished I had read the book first....7/10
Tree of Life. Oh, dear. This is the most self indulgent, pretentious load of twaddle I have ever seen. I hope the director made lots of money so he never feels the need to get behind a camera again. Shame on you, Margaret, for giving it 5 stars.
L'Age de Raison - Poignant and well made. 8/10
Flying to and from Europe is a good opportunity to catch up on recent releases - Avatar (awful 5/10), Shanghai (dark 5/10), Solitary Man (surprising 7/10), La Tete en Friche (gentle 7/10), The Social Network (very good 8/10), Matrimoni e Altri Disastri (very funny 8/10)
"The King's Speech" - Firth and Rush are fabulous and this amazing story is beautifully realised. 8/10
"The girl who played with fire" - part 2 was always going to be harder and this is baffling unless you have already read the book. 6/10
"Inception" - great special effects and direction. Still confused me though!! 7/10
"Le pere de mes enfants", definitely moving and beautifully realised. Could only be French though as pace is slow and restrained. 7/10
"Welcome", the 2010 Philippe Loiret film about a swimming instructor from Calais helping a Kurdish refugee. Powerful and moving. 8/10
From 2007, "Garbage Warrior" about Taos architect Mike Reynolds. Fantastic doco about sustainability. 8/10
"Cold Prey II", a 2008 Norwegian 'slasher horror flick' with Ingrid Bolso Berdal. Not bad and really scary in parts. 7/10
"Il Divo". Paolo Sorrentino's 2008 biopic of Guilio Andreotti. Tense and captivating. Part political thriller and part expose. Toni Servillo is fabulous and the Teho Teardo score is great. 7/10
2010 "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". Lives up to all the hype though what is it with Nordic crime writers? All that cold and dark makes for violent disturbed psyches. 7/10
2009's "The Boat that Rocked" about Pirate Radio. Amusing and light - great 1960's soundtrack (of course) and Bill Nighy always good. 8/10
2009 Oscar Winner "Departures" is a "delightful and sensitive journey into the heartland of Japan and an astonishingly beautiful look at a sacred part of Japan's cultural heritage." Surprising and fabulous film! 9/10