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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Teenage Resistance Fighter with the Maquisards in Occupied France by Hubert Verneret

When Hitler invades Poland, 14-year old Hubert Verneret watches the French soldiers leaving South Morvan to fight, thinking that they will soon be marching victoriously through German cities. How little the Boy Scout knows! As the Germans march through France instead, he sees hordes of refugees fleeing their approach and he tries to help them. He also sees the French soldiers in a complete rout.

The brave young boy joins the Maquis and his adventures begin as he learns to shoot, attempts to prevent Germans retreating to the Rhine and looks for soldiers to take prisoner.  Much of his war, to his disappointment, consists of watching and waiting, and there is a nasty episode where he almost shoots one of his own.

This was written in the middle of the war and it provides a vivid picture of the suffering of the French and the courage of the Maquis and Resistance.  Some of the writing is quite beautiful and makes one wish that Verneret had written more books.  There are interviews with some of the major characters in his group at the back to provide more background. It's certainly worth reading if you are interested in the French Resistance. And as Catholics are often criticised for their role in the war, I was glad to see that an Abbott was involved in Verneret's group.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

EDITION  Hardcover
ISBN         9781612005508
PRICE      $24.95 (USD)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

To Light A Fire On The Earth. Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age. Bishop Robert Barron in conversation with John L. Allen, Jr.

When I went into a Catholic cathedral overseas a long time ago, someone started muttering about 'superstition and ignorance'. Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common view of Christianity and Catholicism in particular.  As Allen writes, Catholics 'have to cope with an elite snobbery that says religion is backward, benighted, superstitious, and dangerous...'  It's good, then, that Barron can actually stand up to the cleverest people of our increasingly secular world and argue about his beliefs in depth.

This book provides an interesting look at how Barron sees the Catholic faith, what he thinks about the Pope, and how to bring Catholics back into the fold.  He especially emphasizes showing someone the beauty of the Catholic world. He thinks that many people today find too much talk about 'truth' a turn-off.  Instead, it's more important to get them to look at the glorious Chartres Cathedral or Sainte Chapelle. Bishop Barron certainly has a wonderful point here. No doubt, there are many who just see these buildings as examples of great architecture, but others will be inspired by their radiance and begin to wonder whether there is something more...

Allen also talks to Barron about the Catholic Church's teachings on sex. This is an important part of the book but Barron's explanations may not convince a lot of people.  However, it is the clearest exposition that I have read.  Barron also argues that the Church's over-emphasis on sexuality has probably turned many people away, and it's a good idea to place more importance on different aspects of its teachings.

He also looks at other controversies, such as the scandals, and dealing with aggressive atheism.  This all becomes quite theological.  Barron discusses Aquinas's arguments for the existence of God, for example.  I may read this part of the book again, although by chance I read AJ Cronin's anecdote much simpler!

This is a good book to read if you are interested in Bishop Barron and Catholicism.

I received this free ebook from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay Thomas Nelson--FICTION

When Mary Davies is offered the chance to go to a luxurious Jane Austen escape in a manor house near Bath by her best friend Isabel, she is reluctant to leave.  However, her father persuades her and she is having problems at work and with the man to whom she is attracted, so she seizes the opportunity after all.

Although the manor is beautiful and they like the other people, the 'sharp edges' of their friendship start to get in the way. Isabel's troubled childhood led Mary's parents to help her, and Mary has often felt jealous.  She also envies Isabel's attraction for men. Isabel even reminds her of the vain, sly and amoral Isabella in Northanger Abbey - not an ideal person to have for a friend! During the holiday, she discovers even more about the real Isabel, leading her to re-examine her life, her values, and what is truly important.

This is a moving and charming love story, but although I loved the way that Katherine Reay cleverly references Jane Austen stories and uses Jane Austen quotes in the novel, I didn't like it as much as some of her other books.  I am not sure whether I would read it again.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Return to Shepherd Avenue by Charlie Carillo

Crowds gathered to watch the crazy man high up on Brooklyn Bridge. The police were called and people were terrified that he was going to jump.  Luckily, Joey Ambrosio just wanted to scatter his father's ashes, but the police still worried that he was mad.

People on Shepherd Avenue also thought that sixty-year old Joey was nuts when he bought his childhood home for too big a price, left his door unlocked and took the bars off the windows in a poor and crime-ridden neighbourhood.  However, after a troubled and peripatetic adolescence and an estrangement from his daughter, Joey feels the urge to return to the home where he lived with his uncle and grand-mother.

In this moving story, he finds old childhood friends, falls in love with a beautiful laundress and slowly starts to rebuild his life...

I enjoyed this very New York story by Charlie Carillo, but I wasn't sure about the author's attitude to age differences in romances.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.