Book Review: There’s Something I’ve Been Dying To Tell You – By Lynda Bellingham 


The Blurb:

“The brave story from a much missed star who has brought comfort to millions. 

Lynda Bellingham was a tremendously gifted storyteller with a rich collection of tales of love, loss and laughter and this memoir brings her kind heart, courage and emotion to the page in vivid detail.

There’s Something I’ve Been Dying To Tell You is a brave and brutally honest memoir about Lynda’s own battle with cancer, written in what turned out to be her final months. Her story is an affecting and at times heart-breaking one but it is so often laugh-out-loud too and ultimately the way Lynda told her life story serves as a great inspiration to us all. 

This edition includes a brand new chapter written by Lynda’s husband Michael about his love for her, her love of life, and her glorious final send-off.” 

Why did I choose to read this book?

Firstly, I had watched her on Calendar Girls (the movie) and thought she was incredible and hilarious. I watched her on a well-known British lunchtime chat show called Loose Women (the American equivalent is The View) and thought she was quite feisty. She frequently said things which were straight to the point, regardless of whether people wanted to hear it or not.

Secondly, I genuinely thought the book would be a combination of the above when I bought it. Also I wanted to find out what life is like from the perspective those who are suffering with the disease, so I could understand how to better accomodate their needs.

What do I think of this book?

Firstly, this book is a really quick read. If you’re interested in reading a book that is quite conversational, over the top in the way that it is written, and full of details about her charity committments involving the British Royal Family then this is the book for you. I’ll be openly honest and tell you that it wasn’t my cup of tea. However, having said that, it is important to remember that those who have suffered from chemo-brain aren’t likely to think logically or systematically when it comes to thinking or writing. Lots of tea and sympathy are required for getting through this book.

Secondly, there are some really quite funny bits, for example, the name of her cancer treatment is also what Bellingham christens her cancer. I would write it here but my blog might get reported for offensive language and might get taken down, but if you buy the book you’ll find out.

To conclude, Bellingham lays her last few months bare, even the parts you might not ever expect to read in a memoir.

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Book Review: His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra – By Kitty Kelley


The blurb:

“Frank Sinatra has dominated the entertainment industry for more than fifty years. Even now, he continues to excite interest in his music, his women, his politics, and – most of all – his Mafia connections. 

Kitty Kelley, a celebrated investigative journalist, spent years researching her subject – interviewing hundreds of people, gaining access to never-before-published government documents, including Mafia-related material. 

Here for the first time ever, is the story of the real Frank Sinatra.”

Why did I choose to read this book?

Firstly, my parents had it on their bookshelf and I couldn’t believe they had bought a copy about him. My parents are quite liberal minded so I thought it was quite odd for them to own a copy since they weren’t fans of Sinatra’s either.

Secondly, I had heard Sinatra’s name bounded about but never really knew much about him.

What do I think about this book?

The best and worst parts of this book are quite venomous in equal measure. For someone like Sinatra and all of his misogyny, his cuddling up to politians, his ego-fuelled desire to be the best singer on the planet and have millions of girls swooning at every show, and his obvious mafia links, it is easy to paint him one-sided as a stereotypical villain. What most have to remember is that everyone isn’t one-sided. However, the above-mentionned are probably some of the most attractive qualities to a reader when they pick up this book because they want an exciting read. I understand why it could be, but for me it is venomous from start to finish and I doubted myself as to why I first picked it up to start reading it. My dad once read the first hundred pages and had to put it down because he thought it was so vile.

To conclude, I think Sinatra is a bit like Marmite: you either love him or loathe him.

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Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird – By Harper Lee

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The blurb:

“The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of confidence that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird  became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into ten languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.”

Why did I choose to read this book?

Firstly, my mates kept banging on and on and on about it. They said it was their favourite book they had ever read and that it made them cry tears by the bucket-load. I’m so glad they did tell me about it because now it is one of my all-time favourite books (this is coming from someone who comes from a family where favouritism is banned).

Secondly, after her death nearly a week ago, what better way to celebrate Harper Lee’s life than to carry on the conversation her book started.

What do I think about this book?

The message is simple. It is a love story. It is also a book on how to be a good human being through the eyes of a mature 5 to 8 year old girl. This book’s relevance is just as clear today as it was in 1960 when it was first published. It can happen anywhere and not just about the civil rights movement. These days you could see it as a book about any form of rights’ movement taking place anywhere and everywhere all over the globe.

My favourite bit in the book if I had to pick one is in Chapter 3 (p.39), and believe it or not has become the number one rule I’ve chosen to live by for the rest of my life:

“‘First of all’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along better with all kinds of folks. You’ll never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-‘

‘Sir?’

‘-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'”

Cheers Ms Lee, for showing millions how to be better humans through the medium of literature.

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Book Review: Spycatcher – By Peter Wright

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From the inside front and back flaps of the book.

“Mr. Wright’s testimony can only be described as convincing. His first-hand description of illegality and incompetence within the Security Service is deeply shocking.” – From The Independent, a British newspaper, after having read a stolen copy of the manuscript of this book.

“Peter Wright was a key figure in British intelligence for nearly a quarter of a century. This book, which the British government has gone to great lengths to keep from being published, is a memoir that recounts his extraordinary career in that wilderness of mirrors, the world of espionage. It is uncensored, remarkably candid, and enormously revealing about the real spy business that most of us know principally from fiction.

Peter Wright initially joined Britain’s Secret Service, known as MI5, in 1955 in the capacity of the organization’s principal scientist, and devoted himself in the early years to the invention of various gadgets for use in the espionage trade. Along the way, he demonstrated a flair for the art of counter-intelligence. He went on to become, for nearly two decades, the central figure in Britain’s relentless and sometimes humiliating efforts to detect and expose Soviet espionage. From that vantage point, the reader is treated to a unique perspective on the likes of Philby, Maclean, Burgess, Blunt, and a host of other exposed spies and alleged defectors.

The identity of the so-called Fifth Man Soviet spy has puzzled and fascinated many for decades. In Spycatcher, Peter Wright shares his conviction that the Fifth Man was none other than Sir Roger Hollis, long the head of MI5 itself! The story of how he and many of his MI5 colleagues came to this conclusion makes for some of the best reading found anywhere in this vast literature on espionage.

As a result of a great many trips Peter Wright made to the United States in his capacity as Britain’s principal liaison with American intelligence officials, his book is replete with sharply etched and sometimes humorous anecdotes about such notables as J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Helms, Billi Sullivan, William Harvey, and, above all, James Jesus Angleton. Wright’s insights about the CIA and the FBI, their relationships with each other, with the rest of the US government, and with America’s allies is riveting stuff.

American interest ought to be especially aroused by Peter Wright’s charge that there was a conspiracy within MI5 to overthrow the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the mid-1970s, and that it was instigated from within the CIA.

Wright’s memoir is also of interest because it is a first-hand account of the bugging of embassies (of friend and foe alike), as well as other aspects of electronic eavesdropping, codebreaking, and “wet” affairs (assassinations). But the most important aspect of this book is that it offers a rare inside glimpse of the real day-by-day going-on within the intelligence world over a long period of time from a very high level, authoritative voice.”

Why did I choose to read this book?

Firstly, I have a great uncle who goes by the same name and whom I know little about, since he upped sticks and moved Down Under a long time ago. Stupidly I thought it must have been written by him. Mind you, from the first glance, they look remarkably similar, it’s just this one is a lot older than my great uncle.

Secondly, I was writing a space spy type of story for my portfolio at university in my third year. This was one of my starting points in my research in which reading ALWAYS plays a vital part.

What do I think about this book?

Bearing in mind there is very little information about these security government organizations because of the potential risk to our national security, and the very nature of discretion, I have not much to go on and the book cover’s flaps do the book justice.

From a book structure point of view, the book is written in a free-flowing thought process which sometimes fails to make the information written make any logical sense. I imagine this is has been written from the paranoid perspective of someone who has been searching for a leak, has never found it and still haunts him even in retirement. He makes various good points and elaborates on them, just at different points in the book when they should have been put together. I’m not keen on ruining the read for you, as it would be better if you bought a copy and discovered it yourself.

What I find admirable about Wright is his determination to try and make technological updates within the organization, it’s a problem that most organizations find difficult even today. They get comfortable with what they find is normal and refuse to accept change. Even though Wright is no longer around, most of the advice he writes in his book could be applied to any organization, but can be implemented at a faster rate than it was when he  was at MI5.

 

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