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Tony Hill

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Andoer Car LED Parking Reverse Backup Radar System with Backlight Display + 4 Sensors (White/Blue/Grey/Red/Silver/Black Optional) (Blue)
Andoer Car LED Parking Reverse Backup Radar System with Backlight Display + 4 Sensors (White/Blue/Grey/Red/Silver/Black Optional) (Blue)

3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for the price, 19 Aug. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
OK, does the job - fitting it is a sod, though, and instructions as reliable and pointless as a political manifesto.

The Da Vinci Code: (Robert Langdon Book 2)
The Da Vinci Code: (Robert Langdon Book 2)
by Dan Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Bother, 19 Aug. 2016
If pushed to find a positive about this book's existence I would struggle - were my table to have a wonky leg in need of propping up I'd probably find this useful; it's a sturdy enough size given that there are hundreds of pages filled up with complete tosh, poorly written dialogue, characters so weak a kitten's fart would blow them over and a colander plot so ridiculously juvenile in its conspiracy theory leanings which doesn't even have the decency to be constructed of anything resembling well-written prose - "Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop's ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué" (those large diamonds must be tricky for the non-keen of vision).
Complete bilge.

Fifty Shades Trilogy Boxed Set
Fifty Shades Trilogy Boxed Set
by E L James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An insult to the printed word, 19 Aug. 2016
Absolutely appalling. The literary equivalent of a mouldy Stilton sandwich covered in horse semen

Jihadi: A Love Story
Jihadi: A Love Story
by Yusuf Toropov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and important novel, 11 Aug. 2016
This review is from: Jihadi: A Love Story (Paperback)
Every now and then that rare thing will come along – a book that is so unarguably great that you find yourself telling everyone they should read it regardless of their usual choice of paperback writer. Jihadi; A Love Story by Yusuf Toropov is just such a book.

Thelonious Liddell is an American intelligence operative captured, tortured and imprisoned by local authorities after a mission gone wrong in Islamic City. Fatima A is the young interpreter sent, initially, to assist in translation as he’s interrogated and, later, question Thelonious directly.

Jihadi: A Love Story is Liddell’s confession / memoir as written during his final months on paper smuggled to him in his cell at The Beige Motel – a Federal Prison in Virginia. We know it doesn’t end well for Liddell but how he got to the point we find him as Ali Liddell is a hell of a story. It’s the story of how he went from senior agent to suspected terrorist, the story of Fatima and her family (how I wish I’d never learnt of flechettes), the actions of US Marine Mike Mazzoni, of the complex local information supply to the Directorate from shadowy sources, the weight of the past, marital and mental breakdowns, the rise of a new fundamentalist sect and how it all, piece by glorious piece, comes together in a gripping and though-provoking novel. The main text is accompanied by notations from R.L Firestone, the agent responsible for Liddell’s interrogation – one of the biggest questions the reader must face is who to believe, though as events unfold one version becomes increasingly unhinged while the other strives for clarity.

This is a book which raises some big questions. Questions about faith and love and, on a more pertinent and timely issue; questions on the West’s foreign policy and habits of wading into countries and cultures without any real awareness or consideration.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been gripped so completely by such a multi-faceted novel and I simply cannot recommend Jihadi: A Love Story enough. I’ve seen references to Homeland and yes, there are echoes of such tight covert intelligence plots here, there are echoes of le Carré and even Vonnegut. But they’re only echoes, the loudest voice here is that of Toporov; a compelling new author with a style of his own delivering an exhilaratingly fresh, important and powerful novel so very much of its time.

How To Be Brave
How To Be Brave
Price: £4.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and rewarding multi-story novel, 2 Dec. 2015
This review is from: How To Be Brave (Kindle Edition)
One big shift when becoming a parent is that of self-concern giving way to an all-consuming focus and worry your child's well-being; what if something were to go wrong? What if they were to become ill?
It's very hard to put this into words in a manner that truly captures the feeling let alone one that does so in a way that others might want to read. Louise Beech, however, does just that. In How To Be Brave she vividly evokes the sensations of panic and dread that accompany being a parent when a child falls ill and perfectly captures the feeling of isolation from the rest of the world that occurs at such times. Not that it's a 'dark' book, far, far from it.
Natalie's nine-year-old daughter Rose collapses in the kitchen one Halloween. Following an ambulance trip to the hospital and a little diagnostic testing, Rose is confirmed as having Type 1 diabetes and will require finger-prick tests and insulin injections for the rest of her life. An extremely daunting concept to cope with.
What follows is a great story of a mother and daughter coming to terms with the illness and its ramifications. Louise Beech does a cracking job of portraying the "shut out the world", "nation of us" feelings that pervade at times of crisis in a family with a tight bond.
It's also the story of Natalie coming to terms with her daughter's growing independence and realising that - as much as she or any parent would like to - she doesn't have to hold her child's hand all the time anymore.
But that's not all. For within this story another two are interwoven with Natalie's attempts to reconnect with her daughter and keep alive her love of books which, in the resultant, insulin-driven emotional fall-out of her diabetes diagnosis had threatened to vanish completely.
First is the mystical presence / visitation of Natalie's grandfather who appears to both Natalie and Rose and how it leads them to finding another story and a way to connect by leading them to his diary and, in it, the next; his tale of being lost at sea for fifty days following the torpedoing of his merchant ship in World War Two.
(Grandad) Colin's story is told - via Natalie - in exchange for finger-prick test and insulin injection cooperation from Rose. Through this storytelling we travel to a small boat adrift on the Atlantic Ocean where Colin and the remaining survivors fight to stay alive in their wait to sight land or rescue.
The story of Colin and his plight is told brilliantly and the reader is kept on tenterhooks between instalments and there are times you feel as much eagerness to get back to the men on the boat as Rose does.
Beech artfully weaves the two narratives together with times of crisis for Natalie and Rose mirrored by those times of peril on the lifeboat. As Colin and the survivors are literally cut off from the world and their loved ones Natalie is cut off by the changes in her life, distanced from her daughter by the changes diabetes has on Rose's personality and seperated from her husband, Jake, by his unit's tour in Afghanistan. Indeed as Colin's salvation arrives it's clear that Natalie and Rose, too, have turned a chapter and have navigated the worst. Rose is now back to her old self and both mother and daughter are at peace with her diabetes, their relationship is restored just as Jake returns, belatedly, home (quietly matching the time at sea spreading beyond the previously calculated 30 days from land).
How To Brave is two wonderful stories wrapped into one compelling and thorougly movingread. Louise Beech is adept at both narratives and styles and writes with a confidence and trueness of voice that can only come from experience and yet manages to turn what must have been a truly testing time in her life into a great, gripping and rewarding read for all. She's clearly an author to keep an eye on.

Tannis Root Sonic Youth Goo Men's T-Shirt White Large
Tannis Root Sonic Youth Goo Men's T-Shirt White Large
Price: £12.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best quality and not 'official', 15 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Not the best quality; sleeves a tighter fit than body size (like Size M arms slapped on a Size L trunk) and material not too great either. Not a 'genuine' or 'official' product, clearly, and - given the little variation in prices - you're better off getting one that is if you want it to last.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship
Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship
by Robert Kurson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real (and more exciting) Look at Pirates and The Hunt for Treasure, 27 July 2015
I can’t stand Johnny Depp. Thoroughly disliked the part of Pirates of the Caribbean film I saw and found no inclination to watch any more. I grew up with numerous pirate films on tv in the background, Errol Flynn prancing around with his skinny sword flailing in another “swashbuckling” adventure, enough to get bored with what Hollywood told us “pirates” were.

Now, though, now I find myself browsing for more information on pirates, particularly on one pirate – Joseph Bannister, captain of the Golden Fleece.

Why? Because I just read Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson – the story of two men’s fight to find just that ship and it’s told with such a contagious delight and reverence for the period that it’s impossible not to be caught up in the thrill of the hunt and the enthusiasm. Pirates, real Pirates, have, like so many, been done a massive disservice by technicolor.

Let’s rewind, a little, to the late seventeenth century – the Golden Age of Piracy. Pirates operating out of Port Royal in Jamaica are in their prime – silver pieces of eight are bank rolling a city that would give Sodom and Gomarrah a run for their money. A time populated by those pirates whose names now echo down through the years. Enter into this one of history’s all-but forgotten Pirate greats – Joseph Bannister.

During an age where Pirates such as Henry Morgan, William Kidd and “Black Sam” Bellamy and even Blackbeard himself roved the seas, plundering the English and Spanish galleons for all their worth, you’d have to do something pretty balls-out brave and audacious to stand out. How about stealing the very-well-armed merchant ship you’d captained for years, recruiting a crew of pirates and embarking on a new career of piracy? How about robbing Spanish ships, getting caught, convincing the jury (made up of locals that benefited profusely from the local Pirates) to find you not-guilty and, while awaiting re-trail, get your ship re-sailed and sneak it out of Port Royal under the noses and huge gun batteries of the governor and go straight back into piracy? How about then being cornered by two massive Royal Navy frigates tasked with destroying you and, instead of surrendering, careen your ship, mount your guns on the land and engage them in a massive two-day battle that leaves them with many dead, out of ammunition and, in an event never-heard of, force the Royal Navy to slink away in retreat?

Well that’s what Bannister did. All that an more. While Bannister survived the encounter and made his getaway The Golden Fleece was essentially destroyed in the battle and sunk, never to be found.

Never, that is, until a pair of modern-day treasure hunters John Chatterton and John Mattera took on the task of locating the wreck and, in so doing, discover only the second pirate ship ever found and positively identified.

Robert Kurson’s Pirate Hunters is the story of that quest. It’s a story of two men consumed by one goal, pretty much at the cost (financial and otherwise) of all else.

I’d given little thought to such adventures. Never watched any Discovery Channel-style documentary on it, never really realised just how much was involved – how much dedication, expertise and strength both physical and mental was needed to prise relics from their resting places. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think you’d pull up a 17th Century ship by paddling off the beach with a scuba mask on, but the events portrayed in Pirate Hunters are intense. Along with what must be mind-numbing and frustrating days of combing the depths with a sonar and diving on every blip, there’s painstaking research in Spanish historical vaults, consultations with legendary modern-day treasure hunters and risking it all on hunches and gut-feelings. At one point Mattera finds himself ambushed by opportunistic robbers while driving down the wrong dirt-road and, later, both he and Chatterton are pursued by yet-another would-be-robber on a motorbike. There’s also the competition from other treasure hunters looking to get in first, fraying personal relationships and a ticking clock as political changes threaten to scupper Chatterton and Mattera’s pursuit for the wreck.

Kurson relays the events that lead to the discovery of The Golden Fleece as though they’re that of a thriller novel – there’s no reason the quote on the cover comes from Lee Child. The pace maintains a driving momentum and avoids lingering on the slower elements of the chase. It doesn’t hurt that Johns Chatterton and Mattera are practically the stuff of legend in their own rights – both of whose biographies would provide a gripping read – and Joseph Bannister and his history provide a thrilling back story. There’s a whopping of amount of insight into the world of pirates and discoveries of more than just shipwrecks – the motivation behind Bannister turning Pirate is a revelation into a world that Hollywood has practically rendered dull.

In Pirate Hunters, Kurson not only injects excitement and enthusiasm into the pursuit of The Golden Fleece but re-injects a sense of passion and true adventure into a period of history so easily nullified by over-exposure. As is so often the case, reality can be so much more interesting than fiction and no amount of Hollywood script writers can do justice to the era in such a way as Kurson has done in just a few hundred pages. As an account of a search for sunken wonder, Pirate Hunters is both compelling and factual – a well balanced mix of fact and gripping narrative. As a taster, an introduction to the fascinations of the Golden Age of Piracy… it’s even better.

The Abrupt Physics of Dying (Claymore Straker)
The Abrupt Physics of Dying (Claymore Straker)
Price: £3.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When the sky is torn..., 21 Jan. 2015
Claymore Straker is a man on the edge. A civilian in a dangerous land at a dangerous time. Kidnapped, held at gunpoint and lead into the depths of Yemen to be given an ultimatum by a man believed to be behind a number of terrorist acts including one which resulted in the death of Straker's colleague. The tension is palpable and it's only a matter of time before the inevitable eruption as Straker makes his break...

"Before the old man could react, Clay bought his left knee up hard, smashing the old guy's pelvis. The Arab's mouth opened, the first note of a groan hanging in space, truncated an instant later as Clay's right fist smashed into his face. Clay felt the key go in, the give as a membrane flexed, heard the slight pop as it broke, then the sucking sound as he pulled back his fist, the key with it."

Lovely, right?

This is the start of The Abrupt Physics of Dying by Paul E Hardisty. It's also the point at which you realise you haven't put this book down for four chapters and probably won't until you've reached the last page.

Having worked around the world for 25 years as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist, Hardisty survived a bomb blast in a cafe in Sana'a and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. This should come as no surprise having read Abrupt Physics... as Hardisty details Yemen, the political climate and the science with an authority that's never questionable and with a delivery that's polished enough to make you wonder whether he hasn't secretly been publishing thrillers under a different name for years.

Clay Straker is trying to forget a violent past, working as a contractor for an oil company as it seeks to expand it's grip and presence in Yemen. His job is simple - complete the environmental surveys in a manner that gets approval for Petro-Tex and pay off any locals that need their palms greasing to remain calm. Until he's kidnapped, of course.

Held at gunpoint and with his friend / driver taken as hostage by a terrorist organsiation, Clay is tasked with finding out what's causing a widespread illness among the local children.

Of course we know it's got to be something to do with the oil company but the hows and whys lead us into a world of political and corporate corruption and greed, violence and conspiracy - all set in a country on the verge of being torn apart by terrorism and civil war.

As events unravel the plot is dotted with twists and people with questionable allegiances that will leave you guessing until the end all the while rooted in strong, compelling characters and attention to culture - with dialogue liberally sprinkled with local and Afrikaans phrases to add further to the sense of immersion.

Everything you look for in a good thriller is here in abundance: a brooding hero with a troubled past, faraway locations, shady characters with even shadier motives, a love-interest, taught dialogue, corporate and moral deceit, the underdog risking it all with potentially disastrous ramifications, plot twists and counter twists and, of course, a bit of action.

The violence comes hard, fast and often. Straker takes so many and so severe a beating at times it's hard not to wince while reading and wonder just how much one man can take. However, unlike so many thrillers which rely purely on such violence and action, The Abrupt Physics of Dying is driven instead by a compelling plot and well-crafted story telling, with near-poetic descriptions in some of the most unlikely of places:

"A tendril of blood trickled from the dead soldier's neck, a thread unravelling, scrawling a strange calligraphy onto the sand."

That being said, I do think it could find itself with an honourable mention in the Literary Review's Bad Sex In Fiction Awards for the line "She was as slick as a tidal flat in a flood tide".

This isn't a no-brain, thirst-for revenge type thriller. At the heart of The Abrupt Physics of Dying lies an exploration of just how far corporate greed will go in its neglect of morals. As Clay questions his own morals and values its hard not to do the same. The atrocities and body count not celebrated but lamented and the concern for the damage being wrought on the local population reads as genuine.

So: Thriller? Thriller with a conscience? Eco-thriller? Geo-political thriller? How about bloody good book? It's all of these.

In his first book Hardisty has created a thriller as assured, gripping, well paced and finely detailed as they come. There's a sequel in the works, The Evolution of Fear. Judging by the first chapter included in 'Abrupt Physics', it can't come soon enough. 2016 seems a long way off now.

by Jaume Cabre
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 9 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Confessions (Hardcover)
I've hemmed and hawed over this review for some weeks now. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book. Far from it. I loved every single word of it. It's nothing short of a masterpiece. My procrastination was due more to wondering just what I could add to the no doubt miles of column inches that already sing its praises.

While Confessions has been compared - and rightly so - to books such as The Shadow of The Wind, The Name of the Rose and The Reader - I can't recall the last time I read a novel as affecting as this. While it does contain similarities to the aforementioned - neither they or any book I've read for some time has made me run the gamut of emotions in such a way as Juame Cabré does within these seven hundred or so pages.

At sixty years old Adrià Ardèvol, an immensely intelligent man who is now rapidly losing his mind to an aggressively advancing form of dementia. Following an abrupt realisation on his own loneliness, he decides to set down his life in words. But it's more than the story of one man. It's the story of Vial, a prized Storioni violin around which the lives and misfortunes of so many are wrapped. It's also their stories and and it is in the telling of these stories that Cabre also explores the nature of evil in mankind and the power of obsession. Not to mention a certain pendant...

Within the opening pages Adrià ponders where to start, perhaps 500 years ago "when a tormented man decided to request entry into the monastery of Sant Pere del Burgal". Instead he starts with his own childhood. Adrià's father is a man obsessed with possessing ancient treasures and manuscripts and is an authoritarian dictator in his home. Toward his son Felix Ardèvol shows no affection. Adrià's mother is equally aloof and cold: "Mother, on the other hand, was just Mother. It's a shame she didn't love me". Alone in his own home and childhood, Adrià occupies himself by spying on his parents - a network of hiding places and peep holes - and confessing in his only companions, Black Eagle and Sheriff Carson; two small toys. Even these he has to keep hidden from his father, How.

It's a master-stroke. Starting the narrative though the eyes of a young boy, starved of demonstrative love and driven hard by his all-controlling father, I read the entirety of the events as though seen through such innocent eyes, making all that unfurls as the stories emerge and intertwine all the more affecting.

At first the structure of the narrative can be a little hard to grasp but following the realisation that our narrator is writing as the dementia takes a grip the reasoning becomes clear - stick with it, it all soon flows together beautifully and when the links between each narrative thread are revealed it's akin to magic - from rivalry in a medieval village and the fate of Jachiam of the Muredas after he commits murder, back further to the Inquisition and it horrors, through to the crafting of Vial and on to the 18th century and on to the wave of darkness that Nazi rule threw over Europe and the stomach-churning experiments at Birkenau.

I've read a number of accounts from this particular nadir of humanity both fictional and non. I don't think any of those have hit me as hard as those in Confessions. I don't mind admitting that I had to put the book down and stop reading at one or two points. While I'm at it I don't mind confessing that it also bought me to tears in a number of places. Like I said: no other book has made me run the gamut of emotions in such a way.

Yes this book has its dark points but it's also shot through with light. It's bound by merriment and humour just as much as it's haunted by tragedy and steered by mystery.

The various narrative threads all link together and all contain enough plot twists and revelations to drop the jaw. The characters are rich, the plots enthralling and reading Confessions feels like absorbing the most detailed and resplendent of artworks.

It is a big book but it's an important one, every word is essential, rich and rewarding. Much like Storioni's Vial, Confessions is the work of a true master and contains every element in perfect balance. That it's sold over a million copies and ranked as an instant best seller in 20 languages already is no surprise. If it had sold ten times that it wouldn't surprise either.

Mara Feye Letham most certainly had her work cut out in translating this novel and keeping its unique narrative and style yet it doesn't show; the novel flows beautifully through her translation.

Confessions gave me something I hadn't experienced in a while; a book hangover. It was a few days before I could do more than scan a paragraph of another book. Juame Cabré has crafted a monumental novel in Confessions, one that will linger and continue to deliver long after turning the final pages.

by Danny Rhodes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than football..., 1 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Fan (Paperback)
Twisted crowd barriers. Lads lugging makeshift stretchers across a pitch strewn with the injured and bewildered. The dead lined up in rows on the turf. Twisted minutes. Twisted metal. Twisted news reports. Everything twisted.

Fan has been described as a must-read for anyone that started watching football after Hillsborough. I've not watched football before or after. It's not my cup of coffee. Good literature, though, is. And Fan most definitely is good literature.

With some books of late I've felt that some holes in my knowledge have hampered my full understanding and enjoyment of a book. Most particularly this is down to certain Russian novels and my knowing barely anything of that country's revolution. With Fan, this is not the case. While I have only the vaguest of idea who Brian Clough was, Danny Rhodes writes with such informed and heart-felt passion that I understood. I didn't feel the need to stumble to the internet to look him up. I may not have known who or what he did before, but after being immersed in Rhodes' narrative I understand what he meant to the many this book speaks for. The same is true for football fandom. It's something that I've never grasped, a spell I've never been under. Yet Fan expresses the love felt for the game by its protagonist - John Finch - and so many with a clarity and firmness of belief anyone with a passion for something would understand and get on board with.

I knew little of Hillsborough before reading Fan, only what was occasionally mentioned in the news since. Danny Rhodes was there. He writes of it with an alarming clarity, bringing the horror into full focus as is his right. Fan's protagonist John Finch was also there. He never really left. To say it screwed him up would be an understatement.

Finch cannot move forward. He's moved away but he can't move forward. He's moved from Grantham and its bleak oppression to the South where he finds himself equally oppressed - by the pressures of his relationship and the pressure of the past, reaching forward and pulling him under. Unable to operate in any gear other than neutral for the fear of his terror - the black mares - pulverising him. He's gotten to the point of no return, clearly already pulverised by PTSD, his job is now on the line and his relationship is crumbling around him.

When word reaches him that one of those friends with him at Hillsborough has "gone and done himself", Finch realises the only way he can break free, prevent the same fate befalling himself and move forward is to go back. Back to Grantham, back to his old stomping ground, his old circle of friends and find closure.

Jumping between 2004 and the past, Rhodes deals masterfully with the portrayal of a man hunting for closure, wanting to do the right thing but left helpless and weak by his demons. It's both immediate and raw and told with an increasing sense of urgency underwritten by the unnerving sensation that we're dealing with a whole lot of fact in this fiction.

Tackling the effects of trauma, social injustice, the pain and cost of change - both personal and sociological, and, of course, the devotion of football fans, Fan works well both taken at face value and when looking at the subtext.

While football is at the heart of the story, Fan is about more, much more than the game. The subjects tackled will resonate with a much wider audience than any one team's fans. Danny Rhodes has delivered a compelling read, full of brilliant narrative and insights.

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