Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Sundown Kid







:
The Sundown Kid:
A Southwestern Shabbat
By Barbara Bietz, illustrated by John Kanzler
Published by August House Inc, July 2016

When a Jewish family emigrated to the West, they knew some things would be very different. They kept their traditional Jewish customs - the mezzuzah on the front door and the Shabbat meal, but they missed their family and friends from back home.  “Too much soup,” Mama said. “Not enough family.”

As they settle in, the young boy makes friends in their small town and invites them to share their Shabbat hospitality, finally making Mama happy at having a full table to rejoice in the blessings they have received.

This is a gorgeous little book for children, beautifully illustrated, explaining the concepts of hospitality and sharing the blessings of Shabbat in a simple and fun way. 
Reading it was a delight :-)



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Friday, August 19, 2016

An Amish Harvest







An Amish Harvest:
Four Amish Novellas by Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller & Vannetta Chapman
Published by Thomas Nelson, 16th August 2016


Another installment in a perenially popular Amish novella collection of books, this one dealing with stories relating to harvest-time.

Under the Harvest Moon by Beth Wiseman deals with some difficult themes.
 Naomi Dienner is newly widowed and pregnant with another child her late husband never knew she was carrying. Stephen was often loving but sometimes both physically and verbally abusive to her, though never to their children. She is anxious about the success of this pregnancy, having already lost one baby, and when an older lady turns up at her house seeming to have all sorts of knowledge about things she should not have known, and claiming to be able to provide protective herbs and charms to help Naomi carry her baby safely to full term, Naomi falls prey, much to the dismay of her father's Englisch friend Brock, who has come to help Naomi harvest the crops on her farm.
Can Brock persuade Naomi to abandon her trust in such charms and have faith in God's goodness and will for her, and indeed for them both? And can Naomi learn to trust a man again after her bad experience with Stephen?


Love & Buggy Rides by Amy Clipston

When Janie Lantz witnesses an accident between a car and a buggy giving tours to tourists being driven by Jonathan Stoltzfus, she feels compelled to help those injured and to protect Jonathan's job by witnessing to the truth of what she saw. A quiet friendship springs up between the two, to the dismay of her father, who feels that  the age gap between his daughter and Jonathan is too great to make a successful relationship - and also the fact that Jonathan is only a temporary visitor to the area. Janie is torn between respect for her father's wishes and the desire to see justice being done and a good man's name being cleared. Is there any way she can reconcile the two?


A Quiet Love by Kathleen Fuller

 Dinah Keim is initially upset when her mother arranges for her to go and stay with her Aunt Judith for a few weeks. She is self-conscious about her stammer and prefers to stay out of the public eye. She is catapulted into the midst of a family catastrophe when Judith's husband David is injured during an accident on the farm and Dinah lays an important role in saving her step-uncle's life. She is thrown into the company of the handsome Amos Mullet, David's son, whose unusual ways and demeanour help to bring her out of her shell and forget about her stammer. She in turn supports and encourages this young man whose family have done their level best to protect him from harm and help him come to terms with his being on the autistic spectrum, but she feels they have in some ways over-protected him. Their friendship blossoms into love, and some surprising secrets are revealed as time goes by.


Mischief In The Autumn Air by Vannetta Chapman

Martha Beiler is widowed, lives with her sometimes cantankerous aunt and she works for Eli Wittmer in his auction house. The unusual behaviour of a young couple inspecting some furniture at the pre-auction viewing raises her suspicions;  her suspicions convince her boss and their combined sleuthing uncovers a detective story involving  a treasure map, furniture and the history of her adoptive Amish community, as well as paving the way for a new romance....





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Monday, August 15, 2016

Street Soldier








Street Soldier
By Andy McNab
Published by Penguin Random House, August 2016


Sean Harker is a Londoner from Walthamstow's Littern Mills estate. He's a street kid, a member of the Littern Guyz gang; when a theft goes wrong, he takes the rap and ends up in a Young Offenders Institute. When he is offered a chance to leave the YOI early and join the Army instead, he is torn between his loyalty to his gang, some of whom are already at the Institute, and the chance to make something of his life - rather than be  always looking over his shoulder, waiting for another crime to go wrong and ending up in prison for a very long time.

He chooses the Army after witnessing the suicide of a friend in the Institute and vows to make something of his life. Everything is on track, he is settling down well ...until he becomes mates with Corporal Heaton, who has a flash car, a flash pad and a flash lifestyle. Sean is persuaded to help "liberate" some firearms from the Army, allegedly to help protect the general public from terrorist attacks and those who would subvert the British way of life. That, and a chance of ready cash in return seems like a good idea until he discovers that  Heaton is working for a very unsavoury group of people who claim to be good guys but are no better than those they despise. 

Sean has to make some hard decisions abut whom he can trust, whom he should trust and where his true loyalties lie - with his mum, his street gang mates or the Army. How far could he or should he go to serve and protect his country?

This is a hard and gritty story indeed. Definitely not for the faint-hearted or squeamish, it portrays the harsh mindset and activities of street gang life, crime, violence and the criminal justice system as experienced by juveniles in detail as well as Sean's Army training and experiences. Targeted at older teens/the YA market, I found it a really gripping read with a definite message that even if you mess up your life, you can always find a way to turn things around.



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Thursday, August 04, 2016

Bretherton







Bretherton: Khaki or Field Grey?

By W.F. Morris

Published by Casemate/Open Road, August 2016

A classic, happily now re-published after its debut in 1930 and regarded as a founding giant in the field of espionage/thriller fiction; this is a brilliant read for fans of the genre or for those who simply enjoy fiction about the Great War.

It's November 1918. The Germans are being chased into their final retreat and Captain Gurney takes part in clearing the area of hostile troops. Imagine his shock and bewilderment when he finds, in a chateau, the body of a man whom he recognises instantly, for he knows him well, but now he is dead and dressed in the uniform of a German soldier....what on earth has been happening?

His fellow officer Gerard Bretherton had been listed as missing after being seen to be injured. Why was now he here in the chateau impersonating a German officer?  Or has a German officer been playing a game of double-cross and impersonating him? Who is the woman found dead without a mark on her?

This is just the start of a truly gripping story, graphically describing the horror, physical and emotional trauma of war and the devastation it causes to those fighting in it and their loved ones.. Narrated initially from the viewpoint of Captain Gurney, then jumping back a little chronologically to recount events from Bretherton's viewpoint, I found this to be a compelling story indeed, and well worth reading.

Full marks to the publisher for making this title available once again for a new generation of readers.


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Saturday, July 23, 2016

House Calls and Hitching Posts








House Calls and Hitching Posts
Stories from Dr. Elton Lehman's career among the Amish
as told to Dorcas Sharp Hoover
Published by Good Books, 2004


I found out  about this book by accident; when browsing for a related book on an internet site, this popped up as a suggestion, and I am so glad that I did buy it!

Dr Elton Lehman was from a Swiss Mennonite background himself, and shortly after qualifying, he and his wife Phyllis made their home  and his general medical practice in the small town of  Mount Eaton, Wayne County, Ohio in the 1960s. They were soon to count many Amish among their patients and later their friends, and this is a dignified, affectionate and fascinating account of the life and work of this remarkable and devoted physician - and of his long-suffering wife and family. 

Dealing with amputated fingers, impalings, traffic and farm accidents, broken bones and serious  illnesses, as well as assisting at the births of many, many babies (6, 300 by the time he retired in 1993) kept him constantly busy and later he was to become assistant coroner for the area too, which was the least enjoyable - but still important - part of his work. He also helped to make medical history when one of his patients proved to have an incredibly rare blood group, which nearly cost her her life.

His constant love and concern for the well-being of his Amish patients greatly endeared him to them, and he was determined to do everything he could to help them maintain their Plain lifestyle, caring for them from cradle to grave.  On a few very sad occasions, he saved lives only to see them snatched away again a few years later, and his own deep  Christian faith as well as that of the Amish families helped them all to come to terms with their losses.

This certainly ranks as one of my favourite books about the Amish *and* about traditional doctoring. It is very good to know that Dr Lehman's son, Brent, has followed in his father's footsteps and continues to serve the people of the area.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Dare To Be Different!


This is why I try not to review the more "mainstream" books, 
mainly because everyone else is reading and reviewing them :-)

I like to read quirky, unusual and interesting things, 
and this is how I can end up reviewing both pacifist Amish books
 and SAS army fiction in the space of a very few weeks of each other!

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Teacher Misery



Teacher Misery 
By Jane Morris
Truth Be Told Publishing, May 2016


Exactly what it says on the cover: a collection of real-life anecdotes about events endured by a new teacher and her colleagues. Hilarious in a few places, terrifying and utterly, utterly appalling in equal measure in others, it is enough to make any responsible parent think twice about putting their child through mainstream schooling in the USA. If you are a responsible, thoughtful, caring parent, the events in this book will be of concern to you.

I simply cannot imagine any halfway decent parent complaining that their child has not actually broken any published school rules by being stark naked and having sexual intercourse on a school staircase, but I can certainly believe that some parents would think their child was being unfairly picked on for such behaviour. The apple rarely falls far from the tree, after all. On the other hand are the obsessive, manipulative and highly ambitious helicopter parents, who make their children just as miserable as the parents who do not care about what happens to their children.

 Drug dealing, aggression, poor hygiene, vile language and activities, sexual activity, overdoses and majorly psychotic behaviour on the part of some youngsters feature in the book, so reader beware.
Needless to say, the author's name is a nom de plume to protect both herself and her job, (and the names of all the persons involved have been changed) but despite everything, she has gritted her teeth and carried on teaching, helping youngsters to the best of her ability - whether they want it or not, and with or without the support of their parents.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Simple Pleasures



Simple Pleasures
By Marianne Jantzi
Published 29 March 2016 by Herald Press.

The writer is a Canadian columnist for "Connection" magazine, widely read by Plain folk, and the stories she shares with us abut her family life and community life are very readable and enjoyable vignettes. From her daily life as a busy wife and mother to four young children, to tending her garden, raising chickens and running a shoe business, she shows many different aspects of Amish life in general and Canadian Amish in detail. Underpinning everything is her deep faith and desire to honour God by living an authentically Christian, honest and ethical life.

This is a book for dipping into and reading a small portion at a time rather than reading right through; the vignettes are individually very enjoyable but did not really flow well enough for me to read large chunks in one sitting. Just like the Amish, this is a book written simply, plainly and from the heart.


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Monday, July 11, 2016

Catching Up

It's been an action-packed few weeks here, what with the run-up to the Referendum over whether or not Britain should leave the EU, then the aftermath of the Referendum vote and then the centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme.

Lots of WW1 book have been devoured.

Normal book-reviewing will resume soon :-)

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Burning Angels




Burning Angels

By Bear Grylls

Orion, June 2016


This is the second book to feature Will Jaeger, and the tension so evident in the first book is kept to an even greater intensity in this sequel.

The first few chapters deal with the gruesome discovery of an ancient  ice-entombed female corpse  - displaying all the signs of a haemorrhagic disease - by Nazi troops. I have to admit, this part did turn my stomach, but the story soon moves into modern but no less frightening times.

Will is still desperately searching for his kidnapped wife and son, captured by unknown enemies for unknown reasons, and the regular photos he is sent of them in captivity are having their emotional toll on him. After completing a mission in Cuba,  a few clues emerge which suggest that Africa may hold the answers he is seeking and Will is persuaded by his colleague Narov to join the mysterious 'outfit' which employs her.

Will finds that family ties with the last war are deep and more complex than he had ever realised, and that he is faced with an enemy who will stop at nothing - not even biological terrorism - to achieve his goals, leaving Will Jaeger's wife and son in terrible danger....

This was a fast-paced, action-packed book which I found to be really enjoyable on the whole, though the ending seemed rather rushed and the science a little superficial. I find it very hard to believe that people who had endured torture and captivity would have slipped effortlessly and seamlessly back into everyday and family life as depicted here, but other than that, it was a cleverly plotted book.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Roman Quests1: Escape From Rome






The Roman Quests 1: Escape From Rome

By Caroline Lawrence

Published by Orion Children's Books, May 2016




Wow. Just wow.

If you liked Caroline Lawrence's wonderful "The Roman Mysteries" series, you certainly won't want to miss the start of this new series, set in the times of the evil Emperor Domitian. Domitian encouraged the  activities of delators, who denounced people they believed to have been undertaking activities treasonous to the Emperor. The accused's possessions, home and money would be confiscated and divided between the Emperor and the delator; the Emperor therefore gained easy money and delators had a convenient way to punish people who offended them and gain monetarily too.

When Juba's mother wakes him in the middle of the night to prepare him to flee with his siblings to their uncle, who lives in far-away Britannia, she ensures they have enough valuables to be able to pay their way, but nothing goes according to plan. Disaster follows disaster, and Juba has to make a  heartbreaking decision about his baby sister Dora in order to physically protect Fronto and Ursula, as well as keeping a dreadful secret from them.

Adventure follows adventure, and when they eventually arrive in cold and wet Britannia, they are older and wiser but find to their horror that their troubles are very far from over. With the help of unexpected and welcome allies, they have to face treachery, betrayal and danger once more. Have they escaped one dreadful fate only to fall into yet another?

This is a fast-paced, nail-biting adventure story  aimed at Key Stage 2 children aged between 7 and 11, though it would certainly be enjoyed by older readers too; I stayed up ridiculously late last night to finish this book because I simply could NOT bear to go to bed without finding out the ending :-)

I didn't simply "read" this story, I felt that I was actually there with Juba and his family. I found it absolutely spell-binding and chockablock with accurate historical detail, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.













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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dinner With Edward







Dinner With Edward
By Isabel Vincent
Published by Algonquin Books, 24th May 2016

Isabel Vincent's life was frenetic, frantic and her marriage was launching into a catastrophic free-fall. A casual conversation with a friend led her to agree to keep an eye on Edward, her friend's recently bereaved elderly father, who seemed to have lost his zest for life with the death of his adored Paula. It seems a recipe for disaster, throwing strangers together at such an unpropitious moment in their lives, but quite the opposite happens.

Isabel and Edward agree to have dinner together occasionally, with Edward cooking exquisite meals despite his ninety-odd years, dispensing his wisdom along with his culinary secrets, and a deep and abiding friendship begins between these two unlikely characters. Each of them brings solace, comfort and inspiration to the other, transforming each other's lives and helping each other to pick up the pieces of their lives and adapt to the new normal.

The food is exquisite, the company delightful, and I  urge you to read this book. Definitely my favourite book of 2016 so far.

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Saturday, May 07, 2016

Outback Midwife



Outback Midwife

By Beth McRae

Audio book released by Bolinda Publishing

Narrated by Caroline Lee



I found this purely by chance when browsing on the Audible.co.uk website, and knowing comparatively little about Australia, I decided to give it a go. I am so very glad that I did, as after a bit of a slow start, I found listening to this book to be a thoroughly enjoyable and quite compelling experience.

Beth McRae's story begins with her life as a country girl in Victoria, then moving to train as a nurse and a midwife, falling in love along the way with an Army man to whom her parents did not warm for quite a long time. Much as it broke her heart, Beth made it plain that she intended to marry Ian, with or without her parents' blessing, and they did come round to the idea.

With her husband's postings meaning they had to move quite often, she acquired a lot of hospital experience as she moved jobs too, but eventually they decided to put down some roots and Ian left the army. Life was not plain sailing for them; the extremely premature birth of their first daughter was a tragedy which took much time for them to recover from, but happier times did follow.

After over thirty years  as a midwife, in which she saw so many changes, the majority for the better, with her children grown up and leading their own independent lives, Beth plunges headlong into a long-held dream, of working in the outback in a primarily aboriginal community in Arnhem Land in the northernmost part of Australia. Just when many women would be starting to slow down and prepare for retirement, she finds that she has much to learn here, despite all her vast experience as a midwife, and has to draw on her own resources with comparatively little back-up compared to when  she was working in more populous urban areas. Being accepted by the community takes time and effort, but she quickly learns to love the area and its people.

I found this a fascinating and absorbing account of midwifery in an environment quite different from what I have been used to; Britain is a small place compared to Australia and the thought of women with complicated pregnancies being separated from their families for many weeks as they have to travel sometimes several hundreds of kilometres to get to and stay at a specialist hospital is quite heartbreaking.

The narrator is enthusiastic and engaging, with a lovely reading voice,  though I did feel she struggled a little with reproducing Scottish accents.

If you have an interest in midwifery or Australian life, this is well worth listening to. Apparently a paperback version of the book is due for publication in the UK later this year, but otherwise availability seems to be restricted to the Antipodes unless you purchase the audio book version as I did.

I  really hope another volume will be forthcoming in due course :-)


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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Seasons In My Garden






Seasons In My Garden
Meditations from a Hermit
By Sister Elizabeth Wagner
Ave Maria Press, March 2016



Elizabeth felt called to monasticism even before she was sure she believed in God; once she knew she believed, she tried out her vocation with the Carmelites before eventually settling in a semi-eremitical community in Maine which follows the Rule of St Benedict.

These are her meditations, starting with  the bitter chill of Winter, the joys of Christmas, snippets from the Breviary and the hazards of living  in an area with so many trees along the roads mingling seamlessly with descriptions of decorating the tiny Chapel and making fruit cakes. Each chapter can be read as a stand -alone meditation or you can simply follow her thoughts and descriptions of her life sequentially as presented; I tried both methods and thoroughly enjoyed both! 

Sr Elizabeth is a keen observer both of the human condition and the religious life; the glories of God's creation which she sees all around her - especially in her beloved garden where she delights in growing herbs - are vividly described.  This is a deep, deep, book which bears careful reading, yet it is so joyously, beautifully written that it simply captivates and entrances the reader, feeding mind and soul alike with challenges, beauty and faith.

A Must-Read!



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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Esther The Wonder Pig





Esther The Wonder Pig:

Changing the World One Heart at a Time

By Steve Jenkins & Derek Walter with Caprice Crane

Grand Central Publishing, May 31st, 2016


I first found out about Esther via a casual link on Facebook. Intrigued, I ended up visiting her page and soon  I was following her page every day, reading about her life on her farm with her Dads. There was absolutely no way I was going to pass up on reading this book and learning even more about Esther's story :-)

Esther was allegedly a mini-pig when Steve met her, fell in love with her and adopted her, but she proved that she most manifestly was not a mini-pig when she grew - and grew - and GREW, weighing in now at some 600 pounds.  Derek was initially an extremely unwilling partner in raising Esther,but soon grew to love her dearly as well. Raising a small piglet was enough of an issue, but as she grew and then outgrew their small suburban home, what on earth were they going to do? They could not bear to part with her, yet the challenges and stresses of raising a pig, however gorgeous and lovable she might be, should never, ever be underestimated. Even the simplest practicalities such as the vast amount she drinks inevitably needing to be excreted in due course made me gulp.  House-training Esther was a challenge!

Setting up a Facebook page for family and close friends to keep in touch with how Esther was doing seemed a logical step and Steve and Derek were shocked by how great an interest people were taking in their pig. Soon, Esther's page went viral, she appeared in newspaper articles and everything just snowballed. People could not get enough of reading about Esther's antics and soon it became obvious that this unusual family needed to move to somewhere where Esther could roam free but still be a house pig too. And not to mention that they were illegally keeping her as a pet, according to the zoning ordinances of their neighbourhood....

This is the story of how a snap decision changed lives, altered behaviours and changed people's minds. How could Steve and Derek continue to eat pork when they cared for a pig in their home? Could they continue to eat any meat at all? Should they eschew all animal based products completely, and how would they manage this?  They were faced with lots of ethical quandaries and no matter what they did, people would - and did - unfairly criticise their point of view.  They are at pains to show that Esther is funny, charming, shrewd, entertaining, clever and above all, lovable and that far too many factory farmed pigs just like her lead a truly horrific life, which should be a matter of ethical and moral concern to us all. There are a few F-bombs in the book, FYI.

Well worth reading, and highly enjoyable too. Long may Esther and her family flourish!


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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When My Baba Died



When My Baba Died

By Marjorie Kunch

Foreword by Fr Milos Vesin

Published by Pascha Press, 2015

www.paschapress.com



Dealing with death and grief is hard enough for an adult. Trying to explain it to a child and then help the child to deal with the grieving process in a sensitive and loving manner is  particularly difficult, especially when the majority of books written on the subject may not include Christian traditions in general or the burial customs of the Orthodox Church in particular.

In response to this need, a fine book has been written by Marjorie Kunch entitled "When My Baba Died". Marjorie Kunch is an American Serbian Orthodox Christian, a mother and also a mortician, so she writes in an appropriate, informed and sensitive manner; Fr Milos Vesin, who wrote the foreword, is an experienced Priest and Professor at St Sava Theological Seminary, ensuring it is theologically and pastorally sound. 

This small book is gently, clearly and sweetly written for children and can be read out loud to much younger children.  The traditions described and illustrated are described in Serbian terms but will be familiar to all Slavic Orthodox, yet the book is of course suitable for all Eastern Orthodox Christians or even also for Eastern-Rite Catholic families. There is a helpful and extensive glossary at the book to explain any terms which might be unfamiliar to the reader.

We learn of the death of a young girl's beloved Baba (Grandmother) and how that made her feel, before discovering what happens at the funeral home, some of the general work the funeral staff do and how they all prepare Baba for the Visitation by family and friends and the prayers of the Pomen ceremony. The second part of the book deals with the funeral service at the church and the final part outlines the procession to the graveside and the burial of the coffin, as well as the forty day Memorial.

I especially love the profuse colour illustrations; they are all based on photographs shot on location at the Bocken Funeral Home and the Elmwood Cemetery in Hammond, Indiana, and at the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Archangel Michael at Lansing, Indiana. The photographs have been carefully re-rendered with an artistic painted effect to be clear yet not overly-stark or frightening to a small child; they illustrate the funeral process beautifully, including the Last Kiss, without causing fear or distress. Excerpts from the prayers of the funeral service are included too.

I really cannot praise this book too highly, and recommend it to all Orthodox families. At some point, we will all be faced with a funeral in our lives and this is an excellent book to explain Orthodox funeral traditions to our children.  The only caveat for UK readers is that formal Visitation services are not commonly held here, though many families do informally visit their reposed loved ones in the funeral home prior to the funeral.

There is a valuable accompanying Activity Workbook to this title, allowing children to write stories or poems about their feelings, information about grief as well as providing prayers for the departed, Bible verses about death and bereavement etc. Instructions on how to make Koliva are given, as well as suggestions for making a memory table and ideas for writing letters to be placed in the coffin of the departed relative. There are word searches, ideas for drawing pictures, suggestions about people who may be able to talk to you about how you feel and support you, and so much more. Details of organisations which can help support grieving children and families are also given. This workbook is an excellent resource and extension of the work of the initial book and is well worth purchasing.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

The Murder Of Mary Russell




The Murder Of Mary Russell

By Laurie R. King

Published by Allison & Busby, April 2016


I am a keen long-term fan of this engaging series, and was so very excited to buy this latest installment in the saga of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. I really wish now that I had not bothered, then I could have just enjoyed re-reading all the previous cleverly-crafted books every year.

So what was wrong with this book? There were quite a few gaping plot holes and inconsistencies which annoyed me intensely. I cannot imagine the intelligent and astute Mary Russell could possibly have been so dim in her initial encounter with her Antipodean visitor, for starters.  Not to mention that considering she had contacted Mycroft Holmes about the encounter and its unfortunate aftermath, why was the omniscient and omnipotent Mycroft suddenly incapable of finding Sherlock and getting a message to him about Mary without it taking a ridiculous length of time? These were the days when you could post a letter in London in the morning and have it arrive at its destination the selfsame day, after all! Even if the Holmes' telephone line was tapped, someone in the village whom they trust could have been contacted somehow, even if Mycroft would have had to send a physical envoy. It just did not make sense, and this was not the only instance.

Mrs Hudson is certainly not the character whom we think she is, and sadly this then has coloured my view of her retrospectively throughout the entire series. Her back-story occupies an inordinate length of time and  I found it overly long and tedious, neither did I find myself having any sort of real sympathy for her or any of her dysfunctional family.

This is one of the rare books I really wish I could un-read and expunge from my memory, in the same way I wish I could un-watch the dreadful "The Abominable Bride" Christmas special episode of Sherlock.

Will I ever read this book again? No.
Do I even want to have it on my bookshelf with all the others in this series? No.
And that breaks my heart.

Caveat Lector - let the reader beware!









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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Exciting News For Orthodox Christian Book Lovers!

Do you like reading Orthodox books, whether fiction, theology, history, devotional or travel? Do you want to buy books but get frustrated at the heavy shipping costs if you live far away from an Orthodox bookseller? Are you fed up with not being easily able to get Orthodox books for your e-reader?

I have answered yes to all of these at various points in the past, but no longer :-)

Ancient Faith Ministries now have an up-and-running e-bookstore with a superb selection of books which can be purchased and delivered immediately to your e-reader no matter where in the world you might be. Books are available in a variety of formats - mobi, epub or pdf, (though not all titles will have every format available at the moment) so the books will generally be suitable for Kindle, Nook, Kobo or generic e-readers. Purchasing and downloading books is simple and straightforward, and if you have any problems, staff  running the site will do their very best to assist you to resolve them quickly. I was able to navigate the site, purchase and download my book with no problem at all.

Currently, the 55 books in the e-book catalogue are available for $8.99 per title. I'm reading and thoroughly enjoying "The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Women's Monastery" by Constantine R. Palmer at the moment and have spent quite a while looking at the titles to see which one I will read next.

I am particularly impressed by the fact that once you have purchased and downloaded your book, you can lend it to someone or even sell it once you have read it, provided that you do not retain a copy for yourself as well. (http://www.orthodoxchristianebooks.com/copyrights-and-usage/)

We really are spoilt for choice now, and all I can say to Ancient Faith Ministries is a huge "Thank You!" for making this possible.

If you want to see which books are available or want to know more, simply click here. And enjoy!


http://www.orthodoxchristianebooks.com



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Saturday, April 02, 2016

Anatomy Of A Soldier





Anatomy Of A Soldier

By Harry Parker

Published by Faber & Faber, March 2016






To say this is a remarkable book is something of an understatement. How on earth is it possible to write a new book about war, injuries and the realities of combat without ending up simply repeating chunks of what so many other books have said before?  Harry Parker has managed it and this book is very special indeed.

Our soldier is identified at the beginning simply by his army ID:  BA5799. We know nothing about him, really, other than that he has been very badly wounded indeed.  Each short chapter focuses on an aspect of his life as a soldier, from the tag which identifies him and his blood group, the fertiliser which is used by native inhabitants of the country to make the explosive device which changes his life forever, to the instruments used in operations and the wheelchair he uses at the start of his lengthy rehabilitation process.

In each chapter, we learn  a little more about BA5799,  Captain Tom Barnes, his life, his family, his hopes, his determination to do his job to the best of his ability and to treat the native people of the region with respect and decency, his comrades, the circumstances around his injuries and how his life falls apart and is slowly rebuilt. Running concurrently with this is the story of some of the inhabitants whom he meets and interacts with; what pressures are placed upon them and how they too do their best to cope with what fate has dealt them.

It can at times be a little challenging to work out what item is telling the story in the chapter; these can range from boots to surgical items, but it generally becomes obvious pretty quickly what they are.

Tough, gritty, emotional and succinct, I found this to be moving, enlightening and a terrific read.


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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Joshua's Mission


Joshua's Mission

By Vannetta Chapman

Published by Harvest House, February 2016



We meet Joshua Kline and his wayward brother Alton, and follow their travels from their family farm in Oklahoma to Texas, to join a Mennonite  disaster relief mission to a town devastated by a major hurricane. Joshua, his family and his Bishop all hope that a change of environment, a busy work schedule and helping those less well off than themselves will provide Alton with an outlet for his energies and less time to get into trouble again.

 The Amish contingent find that the Englisch folk also have problems, and that they can be thoroughly decent people - and troubled people too. Both Amish and Englisch are forced to abandon their preconceptions and look at each other with fresh  eyes and a fresh appreciation for the insight and blessings they each bring to the other. As the wise Amish Bishop suspected, a total change of scenery and way of life helps the two brothers begin to heal their fragmented and complex relationship with each other as well as discovering possible romantic interests in their female co-workers .

The Englisch folk we encounter re-learn to trust God and each other more deeply and build closer bonds, making the most of each and every day and counting their blessings; friendships are formed between the helpers and the helped. Charlie Everman is a delightful character from beginning to end of the story.

Fresh, funny, and by far the most "Englisch" of Vannetta Chapman's stories, to my mind, "Joshua's Mission" ranks as one of her very best and most enjoyable books to date.




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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Internet - What Internet?


It's been crazy here - we have changed Internet Service Providers and as part of the new contract involved having a new line fitted (by a different company again) we have been without telephone or internet access for several weeks, hence my absence!

I had only brief occasional access at the local library, but all seems to be up and working well again.

Several book reviews to post in the next few days, and news of an exciting new e-book service for Orthodox Christian readers :-)
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Friday, February 26, 2016

Lord of the World





Lord of the World

By Robert Hugh Benson

Published by Ave Maria Press, Feb 26th 2016



This is a re-publication of a book which was originally written in 1907 and it is set in a dystopian future, close to our own chronological time.

Christianity has all but been abandoned in favour of a secular humanism which embraces euthanasia as a kindness to those suffering from severe injuries, mental or physical illness, or for those who simply wish to end their existence. Religious faith is barely tolerated and most Protestant denominations in England have gone the way of the  established church and adopted humanism  as the guiding star of belief and praxis. Only the Roman Catholic Church has held steadfast, although people and priests are leaving even that church in droves as faith becomes less and less socially acceptable amongst all classes of society.

The story was a little slow to start, but I quickly found that I simply had to keep reading. The age of the book is shown in its mention of the use of asbestos in construction and the use of airships (volors) for rapid transcontinental transportation, for instance. This did not detract from the story and the book generally has a remarkably contemporary feel, with the loss of sovereignty of nation states in favour of a European, then world, confederation of states, which ultimately becomes the fiefdom of the mysterious yet all-powerful and mesmerising Julian Felsenburgh,

Everyone dreams of world peace and when Felsenburgh  promises he can actually deliver this, he is hailed as a hero, the Saviour of the world, and the world rushes to pledge allegiance to him and his ideas, with horrifying results. Soon, he becomes one before whom all must bow, pledge allegiance and even worship, or face severe punishment.

One British priest, Fr Percy Franklin has held firm to his Christian beliefs, despite all the difficulties, dangers and trials which beset him, and it falls to him to be eventually elected Pope and to keep the tiny remnant of faithful Christians worldwide trusting in God as the world edges ever closer to the Apocalypse.....

Remarkably prescient and almost prophetic, I found it well worth reading. In this edition, there is an introduction by Mark Bosco, S.J. and a particularly interesting  "Theological Reflection" by Michael Murphy.  The story behind the author's conversion from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism and why he wrote this book is covered by Martyn Sampson, so there is plenty of food for thought in these chapters as well as in the "Lord of the World" itself.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

High Hats And Harps




High Hats And Harps: The Life And Times Of Lord And Lady Llanover

By Helen Forder

Published by TallyBerry, 2012


I was made aware of this privately-published book by chance, via a friend who knows the authoress, Helen Forder, and I was able to purchase a signed copy via the book's Facebook page.

Helen Forder was tracing her family tree and investigating her own family's connections to the Llanover estate when she became intrigued by the life, times and work of Augusta, Lady Llanover, and this book is the happy result.

 Lady Llanover  was a passionate and devoted fan of all things Welsh and made it her long life's  work to preserve and propagate the Welsh culture and language in any way she could.  She adopted the Welsh language name of "Gwenynen Gwent" - "Bee of Gwent" when she entered the Cardiff Eisteddfod of 1834 and it was an appropriate name indeed for her industrious nature and care for her tenants, neighbours, friends and countrymen during her very long life.

The book has many lovely photographs, including one of a magnificent triple harp, and has been written with a beautifully fluid style and plentiful footnotes for those wanting to delve further into specific topics or events. It really has been a reading delight and anyone with an interest in Welsh culture or history will certainly want to read this.

The book can be purchased by visiting: http://augustaladyllanover.coffeecup.com/
or www.facebook.com/augustaladyllanover/?fref=ts
.





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Thursday, February 04, 2016

52 Original Wisdom Stories







52 Original Wisdom Stories: Short Lively Pieces for The Christian Year

By Penelope Wilcock

Published by Monarch Books, 2015


If I was considering buying this book "sight unseen", I really would not know what to expect based on the title alone. It's surprisingly difficult to classify this book as a purely devotional one when so much of it centres around the relationship of Sid and Rosie (a fictional late middle-aged couple for both of whom this is their second marriage)  rather than solely on religious themes. 


Both Sid and Rosie have chequered religious backgrounds. Sid was originally a Roman Catholic who grew away from that church and now finds the silence of Quaker meetings more to his taste. Rosie is something of a church tourist, visiting various churches as and when she feels inclined to go to services, and also has an interest in other cultures.  Although they both firmly believe in God, their past experiences have rather put them off organised religion and they fall into the large number of people in the UK who profess belief but do not feel that they need to go to church particularly regularly or that churchgoing is particularly fulfilling for them. 

I am not entirely sure whether this book will be useful primarily to those who are respectful agnostics who wish they knew more, believers who have doubts and concerns, believers who have more firmly held beliefs but no longer attend church for one reason or another but wish to read about such things, or for those who are churchgoers who are struggling to understand what non-churchgoers may think or believe and why they do so. At different points in the book, all of the above seem to apply, which makes it a very interesting and thought-provoking read.

However, I don't always agree with the points of view pondered by Sid or deeply held by Rosie. I believe that the development of Church Tradition is rooted in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and I feel somewhat uncomfortable with aspects of it being dismissed and others selected.  I am mindful of the fact that there are many unchurched folk who struggle with religious doctrines and traditions and that Sid and Rosie will undoubtedly speak for many of their views, however surprising these may be to those from rather more traditional denominations, for whom the right understanding of  the totality of Christian doctrine underpins both their worship and belief systems.

Do I like the characters of Sid and Rosie, and find them engaging, humorous, thoughtful people doing their level best to make sense of the world and of Christianity, and to live their lives in accordance with Christian beliefs, as they understand them? Yes, I most certainly do, and hope they will re-appear in a future book. Would I enjoy having Sid and Rosie as friends and neighbours? Most certainly - we would have some lively discussions indeed :-)

Did I enjoy the basic theme of each chapter? Yes.  I may not have fully agreed with the expositions given, but they certainly made me think hard about what - and why - I personally believe as a member of the Orthodox Church. Being challenged to think about these things is important.

I love the fact that we see Sid and Rosie go about their everyday lives, cooking, cleaning, reminiscing about their respective individual pasts, having visits from family members - weaving in their Christianity into their everyday lives, as it should be, and not just reserved for an outing to Church on a Sunday and then put back in a box for the rest of the week. I also love the fact that the book is centred around the themes and festivals of the traditional liturgical year and agricultural calendar, rooting and grounding us firmly in our historical and cultural heritage. People may be being exposed to the lives and teachings of St Francis, St Clare, St Benedict, St Martin of Tours and St Teresa of Avila for the first time.

There are so many people who believe - or want to believe - for whom the standard Christian churches are a bit of a mystery. Even the church buildings are rather intimidating places to venture into if you are not already familiar with what goes on inside. Those of us who are churchgoers, familiar with the services, ritual and the cycle of the liturgical year, would do well to bear all this in mind, and it can be a surprising salutary experience to see ourselves as "outsiders" see us.


Thank you to Monarch Books for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for a full and frank review.




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What Goes Around





What Goes Around

By Emily Chappell

Published by Faber & Faber, January 2016

If someone said to me that I would find a book about the life of a London bicycle courier an absorbing read, I might have raised a quizzical eyebrow, but I found this book interesting indeed.

Emily Chappell worked at Reception and often saw bicycle couriers arrive to collect or deliver documents, and wondered what their working life was actually like. A keen cyclist herself, she decided to give the work a try and found that she enjoyed it - apart from the sometimes viciously inclement weather, traffic hazards and absolute exhaustion, that is......yet she found new friends, an exhaustive knowledge of London geography, surprisingly exquisite parts of London, hidden gems of history and culture, including a bronze statue of Doctor Johnson's cat and an appreciation of the sights, sounds and smells of the city which she might not have gained without the time she spent as a courier.

Much of the book was fascinating reading but the author divulged rather more of her relationship with her female partner than I wished to read.



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