Saturday, April 07, 2018

Just Read: The Flag




The Flag:
The Story of Revd David Railton MC and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
by Andrew Richards
Casemate Publishers, 2017


Most people will say they know about the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, particularly as we are in the centenary commemorations of World War One, but not many know about the man who had the idea of bringing an unknown soldier home to Britain and was a war hero himself. 

David Railton was a Chaplain to British Forces on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross for his own bravery in rescuing others in the gravest of danger with no thought to his own safety. Throughout his war service, his primary concern was always for the physical, mental and spiritual welfare of the troops with whom he served and he was adamant that every gallant lad who died would have a respectful funeral, his body draped with a Union Jack flag which Padre Railton carried everywhere with him.

When his idea of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior finally came to fruition, it was his flag which hung on a pillar in Westminster Abbey very close to the Tomb, and for the first time, the full story of the life and work of David Railton has been depicted in this book. I found it really interesting indeed, but desperately sad in places, and I am really glad that Revd David Railton has finally had the recognition he deserves.




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Just Read: Slow Train to Switzerland






Slow Train to Switzerland
By Diccon Bewes
Published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2015

A chance encounter with a book's footnote detailing the published journal of a young British girl who visited Switzerland 150 years ago on a mountain climbing trip led Diccon Bewes to track down a copy of her journal. Fascinated, he then developed a plan to take his mother with him as they attempt to recreate the journey of Miss Jemima Morrell on the first ever Thomas Cook "Tour of Switzerland".

They use public transport, following the route as exactly as possible and attempting to stay in the same hotels, visit the same tourist sites, climb the same mountains and visit the same glacier. It isn't always possible to follow the itinerary slavishly, but they do their best and the differences between the oft-desperately poor and isolated inhabitants of the rural Switzerland of 150 years ago stand in stark contrast to the prosperous, healthy and health-giving tourist destination it is today.

Lots of old photographs of places Miss Jemima visited and excerpts from her journal give a lovely picture of this enterprising and rather brave young lady as she travels with her Junior United Alpine Club across some really quite dangerous terrain even for the modern well-equipped climber, let alone a lady wearing full Victorian dress.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I savoured slowly over a period of weeks and was very sad to reach the end, though there is a most interesting twist there too!





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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

REVIEW: Anaesthesia








Anaesthesia:

The Gift Of Oblivion And The Mystery Of Consciousness

By Kate Cole-Adams

Text Publishing, February 2018 (in UK)


If you have any worries about needing an anaesthetic in the near future, this is definitely NOT a book you want to read. Modern anaesthesia is generally very safe and very effective, but what frightened me most was the fact that nobody, not even the anesthetists who use these medications every working day, is entirely certain how they actually work...... and why, sometimes, they don't. 

What exact part of our brain do they affect? Do they affect the entire brain and make it utterly impossible for your brain and body to retain any sort of awareness of trauma inflicted in surgery?  
Does anaesthetic awareness happen more often than we think? 
Does the lack of hard knowledge unduly worry some anaesthetists? Surprisingly not.
What constitutes consciousness anyway, and what makes us remember things? (And that really is a can of worms!)

Kate Cole-Adams is an Australian journalist with a long-term interest in anesthesia and its problems, who needed to undergo major surgery herself, and this book is the result of her researches and her own experiences. It is an interesting book, with lots of fascinating medical research introduced and referenced,  but the large amount of speculation as to the nature of consciousness could perhaps have been more tightly edited as parts of the book did tend to ramble somewhat, making it a lengthy read indeed.









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REVIEW: Pilgrimage


Pilgrimage:

The Great Pilgrim Routes Of Britain And Europe

By Derry Brabbs

Frances Lincoln/ Quarto, October 2017

One might be forgiven for thinking there is a plethora of books about pilgrimages, and indeed there are, mainly concentrating on brief glimpses of many pilgrimages or in-depth travelogues of one major route.

This, however, is quite different and concentrates on the lesser known pilgrim routes for long-distance walkers, even those keen enough to tackle the Great St Bernard  Pass!


You will find the new pilgrim route of St Cuthbert leading to Holy Island, the route to St Thomas a Becket at Canterbury, the route to St Winefride's shrine at Holywell in Wales,  the French leg of the Camino to Compostela, the route from Cologne to Trier in Germany, Rouen to Mont St Michel, which graces the front cover, Seville to Astorga, Munich to Lindau,  La Verna to Assisi, and the longest route, Calais to Rome.

It is a fairly short book, only 256 pages, but it manages to pack in plenty of historical detail, pointers on what not to miss and best of all, the most glorious photographs of the lovely scenery. There really are not enough words to describe how beautiful this book is; it has earned a place in my library and inspired a burning desire to follow some of these paths for myself one day.

My only quibble may be that it did not include the modern Cistercian Way pilgrimage across Wales too, but perhaps that may follow in a subsequent volume :-)












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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Just Read: Under The Knife



Under The Knife: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations
By Arnold van de Laar
Published by John Murray, 2018.



Somewhat of a misnomer as I have actually listened to this as an audiobook via Audible :-)

The author has picked 28 operations, some mundane and some utterly amazing to us nowadays, which have changed the history of surgery.

From Abraham performing circumcisions using a stone knife to the most high-tech equipment imaginable in the 21st century, from alcohol as an analgesic to the complexities of modern anaesthesia, this remarkable book covers the ever-evolving understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body and the evolution of surgery into what we are familiar with today.

 It covers Kings and Queens, Popes, Presidents and astronauts, as well as the brave ordinary folk who experimented on themselves or allowed others to experiment on them. This really was absorbing to listen to and the book would undoubtedly be just as enjoyable to read.


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Just Read: Swiss School



Swiss School

By Mabel Esther Allen

Girls Gone By Publishers, Radstock, 2017


I am slowly collecting as many school stories by Mabel Esther Allan as I can find, and this is a shiny new reprint produced by  Girls Gone By which I received as a birthday present from my family in the US.

I was especially thrilled to find this was not a stand-alone story but introduced an old friend from "Three Go To Switzerland", Hanni Werter, who befriends the newly arrived Felicity and introduces her to a way of life vastly different from that of her previous co-educational and very progressive school in the Welsh mountains.

There are trials and tribulations, misunderstandings and spats between girls, as you would expect in a school story, but Felicity is a nicely-drawn character and is is a pleasure to read how she settles in the new school and manages to cram in adventures too.
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Just Read: To Raise the Fallen





To Raise the Fallen: 
A Selection of the War Letters, Prayers and Spiritual Writings of Fr Willie Doyle S.J.
Complied and Edited by Patrick Kenny.
Published by Veritas Publications, 2017


I enjoy reading about WW1 in general, and was delighted to know this book had been published. There is a wonderful website by the same author about the heroic and saintly Fr Willie Doyle, covering his life and exploits in the First World War, but this book is rather more sober in content and repays slow and careful reading.

How a pious young lad who loved practical jokes but suffered ill-health ended up being accepted at seminary, being ordained and then saving many physical lives as well as countless spiritual ones by his priestly ministrations is inspirational indeed, and to read his own words about his spiritual life and how he tried to emulate Christ so closely is a privilege.
Many thanks to Patrick Kenny for the website and for this lovely little volume!
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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

With the End in Mind




With the End in Mind:

Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial

By Katherine Mannix

Published by William Collins, December 2017


Katherine Mannix is superbly qualified to write this book, having spent a huge part of her long and distinguished medical career in palliative care, working with people who are dying.

From her first encounters with death as a medical student, then as a junior doctor, she has experienced dealing with patients, their often troubling physical problems as their health deteriorates, their families and all that the dying process entails. Familiarity does not breed contempt, however; rather it breeds sensitivity, compassion, respect, kindness and a respect for those about to undertake the final journey towards death.

Just as no two births or lives are the same, neither are any two deaths identical. They all may share similarities, but dealing with the dying and their loved ones can still produce surprises. Some people are in absolute denial that they are actively dying right up to the point where they lapse into unconsciousness; others request to be kept fully apprised of any changes in their medical conditions in order to plan ahead and prepare themselves and their loved ones.

There is no "right" way of dying and Dr Mannix discusses in some detail how different diseases influence the dying process and stresses that symptoms can almost always be successfully controlled to allow the patient to live as positively as possible until death supervenes.

I cannot find enough words to praise this magnificent book, but simply wish to echo her advice to discuss all these things with your own loved ones, make them aware of your thoughts and wishes and document your wishes. It will make life so much easier for you and for your loved ones when the time comes.

"In sharing the stories of so many ordinary people as they reached
their final days, I hope that I have shown that, in the end, none
of us is ordinary, that each unique individual is extraordinary in
their own way. As we approach the ends of our lives, we experience
a shift in perspective that allows us to focus on the most important
things in our own domain. This shift is both poignant and
freeing, as these stories illustrate. Living is precious, and is perhaps
best appreciated when we live with the end in mind.
It’s time to talk about dying.
I have. Thank you for listening. Now it’s your turn to talk."








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Thursday, February 01, 2018

JUST READ Adopted By The Amish





Adopted By The Amish:

A Family's Pilgrimage Back In Time

By Bob Brawley

Published by LifeRich Publishing, 2017


When I first started to read this book, I foolishly allowed myself to flip to the end and discovered that the family did not remain Amish. I was a bit disappointed and laid the book aside for a while, thinking it was not what I had hoped to be reading.

Yesterday I picked the book up again and just read it straight through, and what a good read it was!  Bob had a very chequered past despite his Christian upbringing, and a precipitate second marriage started well but he and Shelly soon developed problems. A chance newspaper article mentioning the Amish piqued their interest and they went to Missouri to visit the Amish community. They were made very welcome and after their return, they kept thinking about the family they had met. It was not long before they decided to sell up and move back to Missouri with the aim of becoming Amish, and this book tells of many of their experiences as they started to become familiar with the Ordnung of the strict Old Order Amish community the Bishop allowed them to live in.

Unfortunately, things did not work out as they had hoped and ill-health and  accidents saw them making the hard decision to leave the community and rejoin the English world again. That too was an equally hard transition and led to heartbreak before an eventual happy ending.

It is a really interesting read and gives insights not often found in other books. It still left many of my  questions unanswered, but is an enjoyable read.



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Saturday, January 27, 2018

REVIEW Hortense And The Shadow





Hortense And The Shadow
By Natalia and Lauren O'Hara
Published by Puffin Books, 2017


Hortense is sweet, sassy, brave and clever. However, she really, really hates her own shadow and to her annoyance, no matter how hard she tries, she can never escape it - until one day, she somehow manages to cut off her shadow.

Overjoyed to be free at last, she is so very happy... but one night, she falls into mortal danger, and the only thing that saves her is her shadow and she realises how mistaken she has been all along.

This is a short but delightfully illustrated young children's book, deliciously scary in parts, and very reminiscent of an Eastern European type of folk story. It can be read on multiple levels and is an interesting story to read out loud and discuss with children; I liked it very much.


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Friday, January 05, 2018

JUST READ - Take Good Care Of The Garden And The Dogs








Take Good Care Of The Garden And The Dogs:
Family, Friendships, And Faith In Small-Town Alaska

By Heather Lende
Published by Algonquin Books, 2010


I have always found Alaska an intriguing place and thoroughly enjoyed this book by Heather Lende, who lives in the very small town of Haines in Alaska. It is a completely different way of life in Haines, where food is either hunted, trapped, fished or home-grown in an extremely short growing season, or shipped in from long distances. Food plays a large part in the book, and she relates how in her home, the rule is "you kill it, you eat it"; she discusses bear hunting, salmon fishing, harvesting wild produce and how Lasagne can even be considered an exotic treat.

Much of the book revolves around a major cycling accident she was involved in and her lengthy recuperation, how it affected her, her family, her faith, her friends and indeed her whole life. The accident brought her up short and made her reconsider anew the brevity of life and how life can be changed in a heartbeat; her occupation as obituary writer for the local newspaper makes her keenly aware of how every death in a small community affects everyone on some level and what each person brings to the life of their community.

A thoughtful read, with many touches of humour, and crammed full of information about native Alaskan customs, traditions and ways of looking at life.




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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

JUST READ White Silence



White Silence
By Jodi Taylor
Published by Accent Press 2017


Having read and loved all of Jodi Taylor's other books,  I was keen to see what she would produce with the start of this very different supernatural type thriller series starring Elizabeth Cage. This is a huge sea-change from her Frogmorton Farm contemporary fiction and her Chronicles of St Mary's  series about time travel investigating historical events in contemporary time.

As a child, Elizabeth rapidly learns that she can do things other people cannot, and that even when she does what she thinks is right and for the best, other people see her abilities very differently and see her as a threat to their wellbeing. Her ability to "read" people becomes something she suppresses, and she makes a determined effort to lead a dull, blameless ordinary life, never attracting attention to herself. 

It almost works. Almost. A "chance" encounter with a flasher in a park leads her to meet and fall in love with Ted Cage, and after a quick courtship, they marry, leaving her to lead a normal suburban housewife life until Ted takes a new job at the Sorensen Clinic. It isn't long before she is invited to accompany Ted to a function at the Clinic and she meets his boss, the unsettling and rather creepy Dr Sorensen, and one of Ted's colleagues, Michael Jones, who has an intriguing aura and nurses a mystery of his own.

Ted's sudden death and her enforced stay at the Clinic lead her to team up with Michael Jones and together they face a entity involved in the death of one of the other patients, travel back into the past, though we never quite find out how that was accomplished, and then escape the Clinic to hide in a remote castle which turns out to have secrets and dangers of its own and places both of their lives in danger...... and that's just for starters.

This is jam-packed with action, adventure, adrenaline, tears and fears and beautifully written scenes; I was absolutely hooked and read it compulsively as fast as I was able.  The story ends abruptly with Elizabeth fleeing for her life, not knowing who she can trust or which version of recent events is actually real; this quite literally stopped me dead in my tracks, simultaneously outraged at the cliffhanger and desperate to discover what happens next to both Cage and Jones. Subsequent more careful re-reading did reveal additional clues about what may have happened but I would not dare to regard them as cast in tablets of stone as Jodi is perfectly capable of leading us up the garden path and then springing the unexpected on us, as she has done a few times in the Chronicles of St Mary's.
Really looking forward to the next installment :-)





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Happy New Year!




Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

I think this year I will head  new posts either as REVIEW  which will generally be for books I get via NetGalley unless I state otherwise, or as JUST READ for my general day to day reading :-)

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Plain Christmas





Plain Christmas

A Plain Fame novel #6

By Sarah Price

Published by Waterfall Press, 2016



This is part of the "Plain Fame" series, and although I had not previously read any of the other books, I found I was able to just jump straight in and enjoy this title with no problem at all.

A Cuban-heritage music star husband named Alejandro, his devout Catholic mother Alecia, his Amish-brought up wife Amanda and their very modern children. This is an unlikely combination, to be sure, but with huge amounts of love, tolerance and respect, Alejandro Diaz (better known as "Viper" in the music industry) and Amanda  have managed to build a stable marriage, a loving family life for their children and she does her level best to keep her kids grounded and focused on what really matters in life, regardless of how wealthy and famous their Dad is.

When  Amanda  receives a rather cryptic letter from her mother in Lancaster County, she is concerned and feels a burning need to take her family back to spend time in her childhood home for a real  Amish Christmas with her extended family. Is there more to her mother's letter than meets the eye? How will her children cope without their technology and all the trappings of an Englisch Christmas? There is going to be an understandable major collision of worlds, culture and heritage. Will the visit be a disaster or a triumph under these circumstances?

This book should not work, but it does work extremely well and the protagonists have very real personalities. The superstar lifestyle of the Diaz family might be a wealthy one, but it carries responsibilities and obligations, and burdens too, especially that of being constantly in the media and public eye. It certainly is not a lifestyle I would ever want for myself or for my children, and the Diaz family's stay with Amanda's family brings new insights into their individual hopes and expectations from life, as well as some unexpected twists and blessings. It is a surprisingly deep and thoughtful book, but one I enjoyed greatly and now I need to go back to the beginning of the series to find out what I have missed out on!





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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Light for a Dark Season





Light for a Dark Season:  

Treasuring God's Faithfulness as the Year Ends

By Ruth J. Leamy with Mark J. Leamy

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, October 2017



When the nights draw in, it is all too easy to become a little sad or despondent with the prospect of a long, dark winter ahead. This devotional is a great way to dispel those feelings, turning our hearts and minds to the blessings we have received and the preparation for the greatest joy, Christmas, when Christ came into the world for our salvation. It is also ideal for those for whom  2017 may have been a hard year emotionally or spiritually, as it focuses on the faithfulness of God throughout history, those people in the Bible who have trusted in God and the passages of Scripture which point to God's promises and His faithfulness.

Designed to start on the sixth Sunday before Christmas, this devotional is in a large A4 workbook format, with space for notes and annotations. It covers the festal season of Thanksgiving, the traditional western Christian season of Advent and the Christmas period right up to Epiphany, allowing us to start with giving thanks and ending with giving thanks, as well as looking forward to the blessings of a fresh New Year.

Poetry, hymns, lyrics, psalms, bible readings, discussions, prayers and points to ponder combine beautifully to bring light to dispel the darkness and remind us always of the Light of Christ. This inexpensive book, only £3.77 on Amazon.co.uk,  has a clean, simple and basic layout; it may lack glitz, bells and whistles and a huge advertising/marketing campaign for its recent launch but do not be deceived  - it packs some real punches and has great depths within its covers.  Definitely a keeper!



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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Their Pretend Amish Courtship




Their Pretend Amish Courtship

By Patricia Davids

Love Inspired/Harlequin, 2017



It seemed like such a brilliantly inspired idea which would help them both, but the best-laid plans can go wildly astray, as Fannie Erb and her childhood friend Noah Bowman find out all too quickly.

Fannie is a dedicated and talented horsewoman, determined to help her Englisch friend Connie save her horse-breeding and training business from potential ruin. Her parents want her to settle down and get married; they feel the only way she will find a suitable husband will be to go outside her church area to visit her grandparents in Florida.

Fannie is appalled by the idea and approaches her old friend Noah to ask him to agree to a fake courtship which will convince their families to leave them in peace to pursue their apparent courtship. Fannie could then continue to help Connie with her horses and  Noah could pursue his dream of competing in baseball tournaments without being hounded by his parents to give up his worldly pursuit in favour of settling down with a nice Amish girl.

Their plan was simple and fool-proof. Or so they thought, until it becomes obvious that a number of other people will be affected by their decision, and hearts will be broken and feelings hurt. Can such a deception ever lead to happiness? Will they be able to walk away from their faked relationship at the end of the allotted time, or will they each come to terms with truly seeking and following God's Will for their lives, no matter where or with whom that might be? Their childhood friendship and constant teasing of each other leads to misunderstandings and assumptions which need to be clarified and put right, and Fannie's faith is tested to the limit towards the end of the book when tragedy strikes and their plans fall apart at the seams.

This is a charming book with episodes which made me laugh out loud in several places. Both Fannie and Noah are real and lovable characters who grow throughout the story and I finished the book with a satisfied sigh.
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Friday, November 10, 2017

Opening My Heart






Opening My Heart

By Tilda Shalof

Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd, 2011

I have no idea how I missed this great book, or indeed the many others Tilda Shalof has written about her nursing experiences, but I am glad to have finally discovered her as an author.

Tilda is an ICU Nurse, working with some of the sickest patients in the hospital. She is active, busy, constantly on the go, combining her life as a nurse with her family life, pushing into the background that her own long-term heart valve problem is getting worse and her cardiac health is deteriorating. Eventually she is forced to confront reality and is advised that her only option is open-heart surgery to replace the defective valve.

She is now on the other side of the bed-sheets, having to adjust to the thought of having a serious albeit relatively routine operation, and she is afraid, despite of  - or more likely because of - her knowledge and experience. How she comes to terms with that fear, documents her thoughts and wishes should things go wrong, informs her family and friends of her impending operation and prepares for surgery makes fascinating reading.

Even more fascinating is her experiences as a post-operative patient, seeing things very differently now that she is ill, dependent and helpless, and how frightening this can be. She skilfully interweaves her current thoughts with reminisences of experiences, patients and colleagues from her nursing past and has created an absorbing diary of this turbulent and traumatic time in her life.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Christmas Is Coming! But Waiting Is Hard!








Christmas Is Coming!
But Waiting Is Hard!


Family Activities and Devotions for Advent

By Karen Whiting

Abingdon Press, 2016


Unfortunately I was too late to review this last year, but liked it so much that I was determined I would review it for this coming Advent!

 From the highly appealing cover to the very last page, this book is crammed full of wonderful activities, ideas, hymns, songs, prayers, points to ponder, bible verses to study, Christmas facts and ideas on how to implement the Christmas message into everyday life in Advent.

The very first activity is to make your own Advent wreath from scratch. This does involve some finicky work on the part of a helpful adult/parent/godparent, but very complete instructions are given, and this wreath then sets the scene for the rest of Advent.

This is an ideal book for families with young children, but there is no reason at all why the ideas and activities could not be slightly adapted for older children too, and if I am absolutely honest, this is the sort of book I would be perfectly happy to buy and use just for myself.  

There are lots of craft activities to make and do, with reproducible templates to be photocopied and then cut up, coloured in etc. Make garlands, snowflakes, Christmas gift tags, Jesse tree ornaments, cards, quick Christmas breads and so much more, all with Christian symbolism and messages to enjoy.

This is a most welcome addition to my Christmas collection.






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Return of the Magi



Return of the Magi
By P.J. Tracy
Published by Penguin UK/Michael Joseph
15th November 2017


We first meet Emil Rice as a delightful, kind and very sweet little boy in the prologue, gently sharing his blanket with Baby Jesus at an outdoor Nativity scene. 

This delightful family vignette is shattered when we fast-forward and meet Emil again as an adult. He is up before the court yet again in another episode of petty crime and he cannot manage to wriggle his way out of punishment this time. Even his long-suffering probation officer has given up and joined the "book" among his colleagues as to how soon Emil will be in trouble yet again...

But Emil is not sent to a correctional facility this time; he is sent to spend time working at a mental health care facility, much to his horror. He has no idea how to deal with the inmates, who have a variety of psychiatric problems , some more serious and complex than others. 

Gradually, Emil begins to see them as individuals, to help them, to care for them and not actively fear them. He is still a petty crook, out to feather his own nest, but gradually we see glimpses of the sweet and loving Emil begin to reappear. Emil finds two sisters take a special shine to him, absolutely convinced that he and they have a major role to play in the Biblical tale of the Nativity, and when they engineer a jailbreak, he goes with them. His life will never be the same again....but neither will the lives of a whole group of people Emil and his companion Magi encounter.

This is an absolute gem of a Christmas read - and I loved every page.



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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Amish Christmas Twins







Amish Christmas Twins

By Patricia Davids

Published by Love Inspired/Harlequin, September 2017

With the death of her Englisch husband, Willa Chase returns to her Amish roots to see if her grandfather will shelter her, her young twin daughters and her soon-to-arrive infant. He will not do so and encourages her to seek out other family members.

 An encounter with the kindly but introspective and grieving blacksmith John Miller seems destined never to be repeated, but as chance would have it, their paths cross again in a dramatic fashion and soon John Miller finds his life changing as the energetic and curious twins encounter farm animals and Amish ways for the very first time as the family seeks shelter at his home.

Willa is convinced she is being followed and that her daughters will be taken away from her because of her past medical history, which is slowly revealed as the story unfolds. Will she let John help her? Or will John and his loving and lovable mother Vera have to stand by and watch Willa lose her children?

It's always a delight to read the first Christmas-themed books each year, and I have a real soft spot for the immensely talented Patricia Davids and her Amish stories. As always, she delivers the goods - well-crafted, filled with humour, some clever twists and quirks and characters that I would dearly love to meet, especially these precious little girls, Megan and Lucy!










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Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Catholic Hipster Handbook





The Catholic Hipster Handbook
By Tommy Tighe
Published by Ave Maria Press, September 2017

Christianity as a whole is not often regarded as cool or trendy by modern young people, but this book aims to make a dent in Catholicism's un-cool image by looking at alternative but still very traditionally Catholic attitudes, prayers and practices which have gradually fallen into disuse and attempting to popularise them again amongst youngsters and young adults. Topic chapters come from a variety of contributors ranging from clergy and religious to bloggers, parents, musicians and more.

Many topics work extremely well -  looking at beards biblically and historically, cultivating an appropriate sense of humour, looking at both ancient and modern saints in a new light and including prayers many people may not have heard of (including me!) What shoes would a Catholic Hipster wear?  The ensuing discussion about Vans or sandals leads to mention of a religious community then quite naturally to the life of St Teresa of Avila and the Discalced Carmelites. Neat and clever.

Beer, music, beards, clothing, music, people to follow on Twitter and the value of modern media give way to chapters discussing discovering the Rosary and the Scapular, valuable prayer apps for your mobile phone and ascetic practices. Coming from an Orthodox Christian background, I cannot get to grips with or enjoy Ignatian meditation. so the chapter in which Melissa Keating described imagining herself at the Last Supper struck a discordant chord for me, but that is always a potential problem reading books from differing religious traditions to one's own and does not detract from the undoubted value of the book as a whole.

Some of the activities relating to each topic covered are not quite so effective, such as making up Catholic slang and decorating the outline of a crown, which seemed to be aimed at a very much younger age group than those who would be sporting beards, but these are minor grouses and don't detract from what it is a clever and enjoyable book for anyone looking at learning more about Catholicism and how relevant it still can be in the modern world while still using its ancient traditions.










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Praying The Rosary Like Never Before




Praying The Rosary Like Never Before
By Edward Sri
Published by Franciscan Media, July 2017

 Many Christians - and not just Catholics -  like the Rosary, love the Rosary, want to pray it more often or for longer, but worry that they are somehow doing it "wrong" and that they are not getting as much out of the spiritual practice as they would have hoped.

 In this easily readable and surprisingly deep book, Dr Sri tells us he feels that two and a half minutes is enough time to pray a single decade, and that there are very, very few people who are so truly incredibly busy that they cannot give God that length of time in the course of a day.

He urges us not to fret if we struggle with praying a five decade rosary as many saintly people have found that they can only manage a few decades at a time, and that too is fine. There is no single "right way" to pray the Rosary and different people  may need different techniques or need to change techniques at different times in their lives or spiritual journeys. The Rosary has proven to be eminently adaptable to individual  and contemporary needs, but Dr Sri is careful to point out that it is important to remember not to gabble and to show reverence and due respect to the Holy Name of Jesus whenever it occurs in prayers.

He provides very nice meditations and selections from Scripture for meditative pondering which can be used before, during and/or after each Mystery, for those who find it easiest to pray in this way.
A particular problem for Orthodox Western Rite Christians would be the use of the traditional Ignatian method of using the imagination to picture scenes relating to the Mysteries, but I do know devout Western Rite Orthodox who happily use  the Scriptural Rosary technique.  I really like the sometimes unusual scripture verses for meditation and prayer using this technique at the end of the book.

This was a most interesting read, and is a useful and informative book which could be used and adapted for Anglicans, Catholics and Western Rite Orthodox alike.




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Saturday, September 09, 2017

Shtum
















 



Shtum
By Jem Lester
An Orion paperback, 2017



This is an incredibly difficult book to review without giving away enormous chunks of the plot, which I always hate doing.

Ben and Emma Jewell are the parents of Jonah, who is ten and profoundly autistic. Ben and Emma appear to be just about coping with the rigid complexities of dealing with Jonah's daily needs, their work committments and their marriage, but when the question arises as to what school Jonah will attend when he leaves his current school, absolutely everything falls apart, quite literally.

 In one fell swoop, Ben finds himself wifeless, homeless and sole parent to Jonah, and in despair, he turns to his father, Georg, for help. It seems that Ben's descent into alcoholism is racing unchecked, and it is only when he discovers that somehow Jonah is unlocking the secrets of his family's past from his grandfather Georg that Ben begins to tentatively repair his relationship with his father......

For a book which deals with the Holocaust and the issues which surround the care of children with severely complex autism, this is a book with great touches of humour with scenes which made me laugh out loud and all too many scenes which made me cry. Jonah may not be able to talk, but he speaks to his family in many different ways and on many different levels, and they all talk back to him in their own ways too. But will they all ever learn to talk to each other?

This is a profoundly moving book about life, marriage, love, families and the struggles which the parents of every disabled child face in their determination to get their children the very best care they possibly can, and the battles which they face in doing so.

A troubling yet hopeful book, very well worth the read.
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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Traybakes


                                                



Traybakes: 40 Brilliant One-Tin Bakes For Enjoying, Giving And Selling

By Hannah Miles

Lorenz Books, March 2017



I found this book in my local library and simply had to check it out and bring it home! 

 My daughter very kindly offered to do a test bake of one of the recipes, so she made the Apple Shortcake bars, which were absolutely delicious. 

The only downside was that these really are large traybakes, and we ended up eating the bars quite literally for days. 

An absolutely wonderful book if you need to cater on a large scale for school/parish events, bake sales, parties etc, but otherwise the recipes really do need to be scaled down dramatically for normal domestic use which I did not feel confident doing.
 Recipes were varied and fun,  including Brownies, Blondies, a variety of Flapjacks, some appropriately Healthy Eating recipes and some gluten-free recipes too.




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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Silent Weapon




Silent Weapon
By Andy McNab
Published by Doubleday, August 2017


This is the second in the "Street Soldier" Young Adult series about Sean Harker, former gang lad and petty criminal, who gets recruited into the Army in the first book.

Sean has made good, turned his life around and created a whole new life for himself in the Army, after an admittedly pretty rocky start. Fresh from a tour of duty abroad, he is expecting to arrive safely back in Britain and then prepare for some holiday leave in sunny Tenerife, but things do not go according to plan. Their civilian plane is diverted and then the airport is attacked by terrorists.

Caught right in the middle of it all, Sean and his companions fight back....but this is not the end of the problem, in fact it is just the very beginning of a desperate search against time to track down the terrorists and disable their deadly biological weapon hidden on Sean's own home turf by people he knows from his past.

This made utterly compelling  and eye-opening reading; I found I was rapidly sharing Harker's concern, anger, disbelief and fear that radicalisation and terrorism could take place on his estate in London, among the people he knows and has grown up with. Everything he has believed about terrorism until now is turned on its head and he has very limited time to use his local knowledge of places and people to find those responsible and discover exactly what the weapon is before it is too late and a pandemic is unleashed.

An excellent story, which I ended up reading in one sitting and couldn't put it down. How on earth he is going to top this particular book, I have no idea, but I am equally sure that he will manage it.




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