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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Monday, February 01, 2016

An Amish Market





An Amish Market

Four novellas:
Love Birds by Amy Clipston
A Bid for Love by Kathleen Fuller
Sweeter than Honey by Kelly Irvin
Love in Store by Vannetta Chapman

Published by Thomas Nelson on Feb 2nd 2016


I have every one of these Amish novella collections in paperback and for my e-reader, and this volume uses the setting of either an Amish store or an Amish market as the focus for each individual story. 

Being Amish certainly does not mean being perfect and the characters exhibit their flaws and foibles as well as their faith. It is an enjoyable and pleasant read for anyone who enjoys Amish-themed stories, with intrigue, mystery and a few surprises mixed up with the challenges of Christian living.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Chickpeas







Chickpeas: Sweet and Savory Recipes from Hummus to Dessert
By Einat Mazor
Published by Charlesbridge/Imagine, Feb 2nd, 2016


Exactly as it says on the cover, this is a recipe book to gladden the heart of anyone who loves chickpeas and is looking for something a little more adventurous than Hummus yet again!

The majority of recipes are Vegetarian-friendly and a significant number are also Vegan-friendly and Gluten-Free, making this an ideal cookbook for people looking to reduce their meat and dairy content for medical reasons or religious fasting or due to gluten intolerance.

There are hummus recipes, of course, but with a twist - I was particularly taken with the beetroot flavoured one - and recipes are taken from a myriad of Mediterranean cultures as well as Indian sub-continent recipes, and some have a Japanese influence too.

Whether you are looking for soups, casseroles, burgers, main courses, salads, cakes or desserts, this little book is brilliant.


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Friday, January 29, 2016

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend



The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

By Katarina Bivald

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, January 2016


Sara Lindqvist lives in Sweden, is a bona fide bookworm and has an elderly penfriend named Amy, united by their shared love of literature.

Amy lives in a remote small town in Iowa with the wonderful name of Broken Wheel, and when Sara takes up Amy's offer to visit, she arrives to find that Amy's funeral is underway and she is utterly at a loss to know what she should do now. The consensus of opinion among Amy's friends and her nephew Tom is that Sara should stay in Amy's house exactly as Amy had planned, but as Sara explores the tiny town, she finds it hard to reconcile the quirky, vibrant place and people so lovingly described in Amy's letters with the moribund town and seemingly very ordinary people she encounters.

There is much more to Broken Wheel and its inhabitants than she first perceives, and when she decided to open a bookstore using Amy's extensive collection of books, the town begins to come to life and the people start to show hidden depths and strengths.  The lives of Sara and of the inhabitants of Broken Wheel will never be the same again now that their lives have been touched and transformed by books...

This is a book to be savoured - an enchanting read.


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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Life in the Third Reich






Life in the Third Reich: Daily Life in Nazi Germany 1933-45
By Paul Roland
Arcturus Publishing 2015 (2016 in UK)


This is a reasonably good illustrated introduction to what life was like in Nazi Germany, but it does only skip across the surface of the topic. My daughter is studying Nazi Germany at A level and is able to go into much, much greater detail than this book, which does then beg the question as to its intended audience. I think it would work well as an introduction for younger schoolchildren just starting to study Nazi Germany for GCSE, but any adult with an interest in history would probably be aware of  a lot of the content anyway.

I would have liked to have seen much greater use of contemporaneous or immediately post-war source material  and less stress placed  on websites as potential resources, but that means I am probably showing my age :-)
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