Friday, October 24, 2014

For Valour






For Valour

By Andy McNab

Published by Bantam Press, Oct 23rd 2014


It's surprisingly hard to say too much about this book without giving away the ending, so I apologise for the relatively short review :-)

The  Killing House, or to give it its proper title, the Close Quarter Battle Room, is where troops are trained in combat situations  involving hostage rescue, and always using live ammunition.  In theory it is an exceptionally dangerous place, but accidents are rare and fatalities even rarer. When Sam, the son of a deceased friend of Nick Stone's is accused and held on suspicion of causing a death in the CQB, his friends and colleagues are stunned and disbelieving,

When Nick starts to look into what happened, he finds that nothing is as straightforward as it seems on the surface and one by one, people who have been close to Sam - or investigating what happened - are being targeted and killed. Now that he has a baby son of his own, finding out what happened in the CQB and making sure that justice is done becomes even more imperative to Nick and he ends up travelling across Britain and Europe to try to find Sam's girlfriend Ella in a frantic race against time before the killers find her too.

Determined to uncover the truth, Nick finds that one of the very few people he really can trust in this situation just happens to be a priest. Nick is forced to confront some terrifying situations in which his own life is in very serious danger as he gradually uncovers a secret which someone will go to almost any lengths to keep well-hidden.....

Hard-hitting, gritty, frightening and entirely plausible, I was thoroughly gripped by the story and quite literally could not bear to put it down. It looks at what makes the difference between dangerous recklessness and real heroism and gives a remarkable insight into the emotional trauma soldiers can face when dealing with extreme situations in battle conditions, showing just how long a shadow such events can cast.

 I really did enjoy this book immensely, as I discovered more and more about what really makes Nick Stone tick and just how far he will go to protect his family and friends. I've read all the Nick Stone books and enjoyed every one of them, but this, the 16th in the series, is outstanding.


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Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy




The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

By Rachel Joyce

Published by Doubleday/Transworld

7th October, 2014


I have been counting down the days till this book was released for review, having thoroughly enjoyed "The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry". Harold never actually told us a great deal about Queenie, despite his epic walk along the length of England to visit her at the hospice. This isn't a sequel but rather a look at life from Queenie's perspective and we find out how she felt about her life when she was at the very end of it and looking back on the events, both good and bad, which took place. 
It sounds bleak and depressing, but it truly isn't. There are some very sad parts but the nuns, helpers and other patients in the hospice are real and engaging characters.  At  the hospice, Queenie is helped to squeeze as much into - and out of -  her last weeks as humanly possible.

Due to the ravages of her illness, Queenie's speech is no longer clear, so she writes her  letters in shorthand so that the resourceful and kind Sister Mary Inconnue can transcribe and type them  for Harold to read, whether or not he manages to arrive before her imminent death. From the sad circumstances surrounding her move down to Devon in the first place, her struggle to find a job and her respect and undeclared yet passionate love for Harold, Queenie embarks on a heroic and epic journey of discovery of her very own, without leaving the confines of the hospice, a place where she is bravely facing death and learning how to live life to its fullest.

Slowly, we learn the reason why she chose to exile herself to a Northern coast, where she laboriously creates a sea garden at her beach house in expiation of what she perceived as her wrongdoing; eventually she manages to confess a horrifying truth which she has concealed for so many years.......

This is a superb and memorable book, and a fitting companion to "The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry".








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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Behind The Scenes At The Museum Of Baked Beans


Behind The Scenes At The Museum Of Baked Beans

By Hunter Davies

Published by Virgin Books, 2010


I have absolutely no idea how on earth I managed to miss the release of this book in 2010 as it is exactly the type of quirky and slightly obscure book which I would enjoy.

Hunter Davies is himself a collector and at the back of his mind had been the niggling thought that perhaps he should start his own museum in order to display his collected items.
It seemed an eminently logical step to go round Britain looking at the most unusual museums he could find, to find out what made their founders start to collect and then open the collections to the public, how they function and what makes them tick....

When I looked at the contents, I did wonder if there were going to be large swathes of the book I would end up skipping as I wasn't particularly interested  in money, lawnmowers or vintage wirelesses. At least I thought I wasn't interested, until I started to read those chapters and found them just as enjoyable as the ones about the fan museum, the Witney Teddy bear museum, the Old Operating Theatre and the Baked Bean museum.

All told, he visited 18 museums and interviewed their founders or those who currently run them; not all were financially successful or even viable now, but all have a human interest story as well as the story of the collectable items they display.  So did Hunter Davies decide to go ahead and set up his own museum? No, but other museums are - or will be - the recipients of his own collections for posterity.

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

The American Catholic Almanac





The American Catholic Almanac

A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States

By Brian Burch & Emily Stimpson

Published by Crown Publishing, September 30th, 2014


Considering America's reputation as a country of freedom, it is surprising to realise how many groups were disenfranchised due to their race or religion. Catholics were no exception, and at first, found it difficult living in the US. Eventually things improved, they were able to hold public office and practice their Faith freely.

The almanac gives a daily entry about Catholic people or events which were directly affected or influenced by Catholics, and I found it an absorbing and enlightening read indeed. I already knew about  some famous Catholics such as Venerable Fulton Sheen, the renowned TV evangelist, St Elizabeth Seton, President Kennedy and Al Capone. I had no idea that the first immigrant to set foot on the newly opened Ellis Island was Annie Moore, a young Catholic girl from Ireland in 1892, nor that Buffalo Bill chose to be baptised into that Church and was Catholic for only a day..

From the great and the good to the humble and the lawbreakers, this book looks at saints and sinners alike who all have one thing in common - they were baptised Catholics, although some of them certainly chose not to live as good Catholics, even if they chose to be reconciled with the Church on their deathbeds and hence died as good Catholics :-)


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