Saturday, December 28, 2013

How To Like Paul Again

How to like Paul again

The apostle you never knew

By Conrad Gempf

Published in the UK by Authentic Media, May 2013

St Paul was responsible for writing some of the most memorable passages in the New Testament, and almost every church wedding will contain his words about love.

Most of us  have at least a passing knowledge of him, yet how many of us actually know much about him, his background and the congregations to whom he wrote his letters? Why did he become so influential in the Early Church? And why has he become regarded as a misogynistic, uncharitable, nay-saying killjoy by so many modern people? What did he really say, and why?

Dr Conrad Gempf is a Lecturer in the New Testament at the London School of Theology and is on a quest to make Paul understandable and accessible to our generation, especially people who may not be "church-goers" and may find, when they dip into the Bible, that Paul's writings are nigh on incomprehensible to them.

Why does Paul write in the style he does? Who was he writing to and why?  What authority did he have over these congregations of new Christians ? Does what he wrote and taught have any real relevance for us today, with our very differing viewpoints and understandings of gender issues and status?

This is an immensely readable book covering the letters of St Paul to the Galatians, Philemon and I Corinthians, with many touches of humour and dry wit. I look forward to reading more from Dr Gempf in the future, and thank him for making St Paul more accessible to me through this enlightening book.

Here is a video trailer from the early part of the book:

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Alzheimer's Early Stages

Alzheimer's Early Stages

First Steps for Family, Friends and Caregivers

Third edition

By Daniel Kuhn

Published by Hunter House, December 10th, 2013

Alzheimer's is often a dreaded diagnosis, as feared by family and friends as it is by those people who actually have the illness. Modern Western society places a great deal of emphasis on maintaining one's independence and capacity for caring for one's self, so to be told that you have a progressive disease which will eventually make you incapable of managing your normal activities of daily living without a considerable amount of help is a frightening and distressing situation.

Daniel Kuhn has written a thorough and detailed book about dealing with the early stages of the disease for those who have recently been diagnosed and for their family, friends and caregivers. The diagnostic process, possible helpful medications and considerations about participating in clinical trials are giving full consideration, but enormous weight is giving to discussing what it is actually like to have the disease, using interviews with people who have the disease and also referencing books written about and by people with the disease.

Contrary to popular belief (which is at least partly driven by doom-and-gloom reports in the media), people in the earlier stages of the disease can still lead happy and fulfilling lives with some support from family and friends and it is nice to read about these "success stories" and exactly how they have been achieved; equally, when and how to intervene appropriately to safeguard the person and others as the disease progresses is also thoroughly discussed. Advance planning for the future - with the involvement of the sufferer wherever possible - is essential, in terms of wills, legal powers of attorney, financial planning, end of life/living will directives  etc and there are sections of the book with areas to think about and discuss while it is still possible to make these plans with sufferers.

A large chunk of the book is devoted to taking care of the carers, which is all too often ignored. Those involved in the care of those with impaired cognition can rapidly become stressed, exhausted, depressed and overwhelmed with the task of caring and it is essential that carers set up support networks and stratagems for themselves as well as for those for whom they are providing care. Getting help from outside agencies is also encouraged.

This book contains a much of value which could be used to support anyone with a degree of cognitive impairment and it is a book filled with compassion, care and optimism. Whether you are a child, spouse or a friend of someone with Alzheimer's, this book will be of value.

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Mastering The Art Of French Eating

Mastering The Art Of French Eating

Lessons In Food And Love From A Year In Paris

By Ann Mah

Published by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, September 2013

Ann Mah was looking forward to her version of Heaven - spending several years living in France with her husband, a diplomat who had been assigned to Paris. Things did not turn out quite as she and her husband Calvin had hoped; he was temporarily re-assigned to the Middle East, and she was left alone in Paris for a year.....

She found herself a job, practiced her French and her cooking, and slowly began to make friends and expand her social circle to fill both  her time and loneliness without her husband.

 Passionate about food, she began to explore French cuisine with dogged tenacity, travelling, researching and tasting extensively, gathering recipes and recreating signature dishes from different regions of France. Each chapter covers a region, and recipes are given for the  reader who wishes to sample truly authentic dishes such as Fondue, Beef Borguignon, Steak Frites, Crepes, Andouillete, Salade Lyonnaise, Soupe au Pistou, Cassoulet, Choucroute and Aligot.

She meets some fascinating people on her journeys and her love for her husband and for the food, history and people of France shines through on every single immensely readable page of this very enjoyable book.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

A Simple Christmas Wish

 A Simple Christmas Wish

By Melody Carlson

Published by Revell, September 2013

Rachel Milligan is caring for her young niece whose parents are away on an anniversary trip. The last thing she expects to happen is for them to be killed in a plane crash, leaving her to care for Holly on a permanent basis - or so she thinks.

When Rachel's brother and sister-in-law's wills are read, Rachel is not appointed as Holly's guardian. Holly's mother Miri was born and raised Amish, and her Amish aunt Lydia will be given the full custody, care and responsibility for Holly from now on. Holly has a huge transition to make to Amish life, and Rachel is going to find it very hard to let go of her niece, especially at Christmas time when they both have birthdays......

I've read lots of Melody Carlson's contemporary Christian fiction -which I have always enjoyed - but I have to say that I did not enjoy this anywhere near as much.  Holly is a lovely child who captures the reader's heart immediately, but it took a long while for me to warm up to Rachel. The Amish in the story are not generally depicted as very prepossessing characters and the point where Rachel ponders becoming Amish so as not to be separated from Holly left me incredulous. Her newly-acquired Amish beau, Lydia and Miri's brother Benjamin, whose position in the community seems uncertain, is quick to disabuse her of her notion, but the ending seems very rushed.

 I found the book a rather unsatisfying read, much to my disappointment.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mind Over Medicine

 Mind Over Medicine:

Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself

By Lissa Rankin, M.D.

Published by Hay House Inc, May 2013

Dr Rankin, along with the overwhelming majority of doctors trained in the Western world, was taught at medical school that surgery and mainstream medications mediated via medical professionals cured illnesses, period. Pretty much everything else was dismissed as woo-woo.

Her own stress-filled life as an Ob/Gyn coincided with a period of deteriorating personal health and she left medicine altogether for a while to pursue a less stressful and more contemplative lifestyle.  Medicine never quite left her, though, and gradually she became drawn to researching and studying how the mind can positively or negatively affect one's health quite dramatically, and this immensely readable book is the result of her work in this field

Surprisingly, there is quite a body of medical literature and research about spontaneous remissions/ unexplained cures/miracle cures if one knows where to look. Dr Rankin draws together a seemingly disparate collection of sources and weaves the complex scientific information into a mind-bogglingly yet coherent narrative which covers the medical documentation of miracle cures at Lourdes, the placebo and nocebo effects noted in medical trials and the ability of positive belief and trust to  cure carefully documented  and proven medical conditions under certain circumstances.

This is **not** one of the self-help books which tries to convince the reader that if only you believe fervently enough, you will be cured of anything and everything under the sun; Dr Rankin has no desire to place that sort of guilt-trip burden on anyone with a serious illness. She does, however, want to make people aware that what they think about themselves, their illness and the doctors who care for them can have a definite effect on the curative process and the efficacy of  medications used in specific illnesses.

 The way news is broken and the language used by doctors when giving diagnoses and outlining treatments is also crucial and sometimes, too much information really is a bad thing - it is possible to produce adverse side-effects of medications even when patients in trials have only been given utterly inert substances.

A remarkable book, and a long overdue one.

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Yuletide Blessings

Yuletide Blessings:

Christmas Stories That Warm The Heart

By Nan Corbitt Allen

Published by B&H Publishing Group, October 2013

 Starting with the prophecies of the Old Testament relating to the coming of Christ and the significance of Bethlehem as Christ's birthplace, the Christmas story is unpicked to provide all sorts of fascinating pieces of information about livestock, shepherds, the wise men and their gifts.

The stories behind Christmas poems, songs, carols and Handel's Messiah are related as well as the background to all sorts of traditions and Christmas beliefs, including poinsettias, Christmas cards, "Silent  Night" (given in German and in English!), Christmas-themed popular songs and movies and the ballet "The Nutcracker". True war-time stories and travelling home for Christmas also get a special mention.

The book itself is beautifully produced, with subtle background designs printed on the paper and a very clear, readable and festive green font; appropriate quotations from the Bible are interspersed and a special section at the book for recording your own favourite Christmas traditions is a lovely touch.

A gorgeous little book, ideal as  stocking-filler gift for someone special at Christmas.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Busy Time Of The Year!

I have a few hectic days during this coming week so The Garden Window will be quiet for the next few days, but book reviews will resume by the end of the week :-)
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Annie's Christmas Wish

Annie's Christmas Wish

By Barbara Cameron

Published by Abingdon, October 2013

This installment of the Quilts Of Lancaster County series takes us back to the familiar characters of Matthew and Jenny Bontrager and their family, concentrating especially on their daughter Annie, who has grown to love writing as much as Jenny did in her pre-Amish life as a reporter and war correspondent.

Annie has always wanted to visit New York City and when Jenny is asked to be a special guest at a charity fundraising dinner there, it seems that it would be a perfect time to take the whole family as a special treat.

Their initial plans are thrown into disarray by an accident involving one of Jenny and Matthew's sons, and Annie's friend since their earliest childhood, Aaron, ends up accompanying them while the injured Joshua remains home with his great-grandmother Phoebe. The family meet many of Jenny's old friends and revisit places from her former career and it seems to everyone that Annie is entranced by what New York has to offer on a personal and a professional level. Aaron fears that he will lose his dear Annie to the bright lights and prospects of New York, and both of them have a lot of growing up and soul-searching to do before they can decide where their priorities lie...

A pleasure to read, and it was fascinating to see how Amish visitors to the Big Apple could so easily encounter pitfalls and perils for the unwary; the dangers and problems of life in a big city are handed well and provide a perfect counterpoint to the vividly described Christmas festivities and decorations.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener

The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener:

How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature

By Tammi Hartung

Published by Storey, Dec 11th, 2013

I grow our fruit and limited vegetables in an organic and as wildlife-freindly manner as I can at home, and was so pleased to review this book!

Tammi Hartung and her husband have a small farm in Colorado which they run on organic and wildlife friendly principles; it is also a wildlife and botanical sanctuary, so they have amassed a huge amount of experience in  encouraging biodiversity and productive food growing.

In order to understand the inter-connectedness of plants, animals, birds, insects and humans, it is important to learn how to identify the wildlife in your garden and the composition and inhabitants of your soil in order to enhance your garden's attractiveness to wildlife and minimise problems with pest infestation. Planning and starting a garden, composting and water management are naturally covered early on in the book; companion planting of herbs to deter insect pests is encouraged as well as planting things which will encourage pollinating and predatory insects which will benefit your garden and its crops.

There are occasions when it may sadly be necessary to use an organic pesticide; this is discussed in detail and valuable advice given on how to use these products effectively, safely and with as little collateral damage as possible as well as the judicious use of covers, netting, crop cages, poly-tunnels and scarecrows which can help reduce crop losses due to predation.

There is an enormous amount of information crammed into this excellent book; the principles would be applicable to anywhere in the world although the flora and fauna would likely be very different. The whole book is a pleasure to pick up and read; the illustrations are delightful, the layout is clear and uncluttered and most importantly of all, it is easy to find whatever pieces of information you particularly need as well as being a treat to browse through in a more leisurely fashion!

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The Christmas Quilt

The Christmas Quilt

By Vannetta Chapman

Published by Abingdon Press, October 2013

A sequel to A Simple Amish Christmas, which was the first Amish themed book I ever read (and had me hooked on the genre), I was delighted to have a chance to read and review this.

We revisit Annie and Samuel, now married, as they go about their daily lives. Annie's sister-in-law , Leah, is heavily pregnant with twins and Annie herself is expecting a baby. Annie and Samuel are very happy but Leah and her husband Adam seem much less happy together and are wondering how things could have changed so much in the few years  since their wedding day......

Annie's gift to the warmly anticipated twins is going to be a beautiful quilt; she is convinced that she will  have it finished in time for their birth in about six weeks. Leah, however, develops significant medical problems and ends up having to stay in hospital until the birth of the babies. It does not look like Annie has any chance of finishing her quilt before their birth, but as she spends the next few weeks caring for Leah in the hospital where until recently, she had herself worked, she realises that finishing the quilt has paled into insignificance.

The two women both grow closer to God, to each other and their families as they ponder the significance of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and the number of patterned quilts  pieces they are busily sewing together as they tell each other stories relating to each Fruit to while away the long hours of waiting. Separated from his Fraa, Adam too has chance to think and pray about his marriage and his own insecurities, and the husband and wife manage to move past their problems, forgive each other and rejoice in their new life together as a family.

Heartwarming is a phrase that is often over-used about books, but this book is a sheer delight and truly warmed my heart -  it  is one I will plan on re-reading every Christmas :-)

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Leaves On The Line

Leaves On The Line

By Martin & Simon Toseland

Published by Portico Books, October 2013

Subtitled "What the British say...and what they really mean", this is a priceless, irreverent and quirky look at what makes us British "tick" as well as our lives, language and interests.

From notable expressions relating to politics, work, weather, sport and food through to a favourite national sport -passive/aggressive complaining - this is a concise and very funny guide to understanding the British and their double-speak.

I would however dispute that getting drunk is something that most of us would prefer even more than a nice cup of tea - this is not true of anybody I know, though that may be more due to my age :-)

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An Amish Family Christmas

An Amish Family Christmas

By Murray Pura

Published  by Harvest House, October 2013

Naomi Bachman has lost her parents and her sister in a tragic accident, and her brother Luke is now in a catatonic state with the doctors unsure of if and when he might recover.  There seems to be precious little to look forward to at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Caring for Luke when he comes home is going to be a full-time task for Naomi and her sister in law, Rebecca, but their lives are turned upside down once more when Micah (Naomi's estranged husband and Rebecca's brother) returns home from serving in the armed forces.  He has been given three days to consider his future - whether he will return to active service as a non-combatant medic or whether he will return to their Amish community and re-take his place there as an Amish pacifist and Naomi's husband - or face being placed under the Meidung once more, and be shunned by his wife, family and friends.

Micah and Naomi attempt to rebuild their marriage in the short time left to them, but they have sadness, anger and resentment to deal with as well as how much both they and their lives have changed.  Can they rebuild their lives and their marriage? Can Micah turn his back on what he believes to be a definite calling from God to serve as a medic to the troops?

It seems as if they need a miracle to sort out the whole complex tangle of issues with which they are faced in this remarkable book, which I enjoyed immensely on both my first and second reading.

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Surviving Home

Surviving Home

By A. American

Published by Plume/Penguin, July 2013

Morgan Carter thought that getting home to his wife and daughters after an eventful 250 mile trek was going to mark the end of his immediate problems after modern life as he knew had reached an abrupt and dramatic end. After all, he lived in a nice, close-knit community, he had prepared well for any eventuality that might befall his family and he was hoping that he could just get on with providing for his family and doing his best to re-build their lives in this new world.

What he had not bargained for was the level of  in-fighting, greed, suspicion and downright hatred  from some in his community who had not made any preparations for their own families; when it became obvious that the Nanny State was not coming to help them anytime soon, they decided that they had the right to take whatever anyone else had had the forethought to prepare. The law enforcement officer in their neighbourhood was way out of his depth and unable to effectively secure the locality or dealing with crime and threats of violence.

As if this was not bad enough, the friends and allies Morgan had made on that trek home were facing their own sets of problems and it was becoming horrifyingly clear that  much of the FEMA camp forced relocation and forced labour solution the state was mandating was for a much more sinister purpose than was first believed. The friends reunite for a common cause and mutual help, which is just as well, as individually, their situations were reaching critical points.

Parts of the book are quite graphically gruesome and I nearly "lost my lunch" at one point, but it is a fast-paced and action-packed thriller of a book which kept me compulsively turning every page.  I hope that volume 3 will not be long in appearing as I really do want to find out what happens next!

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Hanukkah In America

Hanukkah In America:

A History

By Dianne Ashton

Published by NYU Press, 14th October 2013

Hanukkah has traditionally always been a relatively minor feast in the Jewish year across most of the world, albeit with a multiplicity of spellings!
In America, however, over a period of almost 200 years, it has been transformed into a major feast, with town menorahs becoming a traditional part of the festive decorations in many parts of America.

How - and why  - did this transformation happen?  Dianne Ashton has created a substantial book which looks at the traditional Jewish history of the events surrounding the beginnings of Hanukkah, how it was celebrated - or relatively ignored - for long periods and then became a  major festival for American Jews of all backgrounds and fervour. Historical sources are closely examined and pondered and rabbinic texts outline the how and why of the celebratory activities. The fact that Jews were never persecuted or forced to live in ghettos by state decree meant that they were free to live, celebrate their festivals and publish books to an appreciative and growing audience; Protestant Christian interest in the history of the early church and its relationship to Judaism of the time meant that many Jewish historical and commentary texts were widely republished and disseminated, even back to mainland Europe via Christian sources and Hanukkah flourished.

The story of the Maccabees heroically resisting assimilation  to the decrees of King Antiochus was meant to encourage Jews to hold fast to their traditions and identity and encourage them not to become assimilated into a non-Jewish lifestyle in America, but paradoxically, it has become  possibly the only Jewish festival which has truly permeated the general American consciousness and been adopted by mainstream America. Hanukkah also became a way for families of Jewish descent but who were not particularly devout or serious about practicing their faith on a daily basis to maintain their Jewish identity and gradually find their way back to a more observant form of Jewish practice and faith.

This is a fascinating, painstaking and incredibly detailed book which covers every aspect - religious, historical, secular, scholastic, musical, ritual, artistic and anthropological  - of Hanukkah and how it has been and is still celebrated now.

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The Christmas Visitor

The Christmas Visitor

An Amish Romance

By Linda Byler

Published by Good Books, September 3rd, 2013

This is the story of Ruth Miller, left widowed when her beloved husband Ben died falling off a roof at a barn raising. Her youngest child, also named Ben after his father, was born several months after his death. 

She had to sell their farm as she was unable to work it herself with her very young family, and she could not afford to employ someone to do it for her; luckily a neighbour, Levi King, allowed her to live rent-free in a house he owned which made it just possible to scrimp by on the little money she had. She was regularly helped and supported by her family and friends in their Amish community, especially by her dear friend Mamie who provided comfort and practical help with the tasks of caring for her family.

Unlike some idealised Amish stories, this one pulls no punches at all about how hard she found it, being both mother and father to her children and desperately trying to make ends meet by herself without being too much of a burden on her extended family or her community. It also vividly portrays the absolute primal rawness of bereavement mixed with the joys of raising children and the sheer unrelenting hard work of  caring for a home  and  raising kids in the Amish tradition.

When John Beiler, a newcomer, who is believed to be courting a girl in the community seems to take a special interest in her, she is torn between being flattered at his courteous and low-key attentions and concerned at his apparent love interest in someone else - what sort of a man is he? When a mysterious benefactor starts leaving cash gifts in her mailbox and then food parcels, she starts to think about whether she should be remarrying, according to her community's tradition.....

 This is a lovely, lovely story, with huge amounts of fascinating detail about the day to day life of an Amish woman. 

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Monday, December 02, 2013

Adventures With The Wife In Space

Adventures With The Wife In Space

Living with Doctor Who

By Neil Perryman

Published by Faber & Faber, November 2013

The only Doctor Who story I clearly remember watching when I was young was "Horror at Fang Rock" in 1977, which frightened the living daylights out of me.

 It was utterly brilliant and I remember it vividly to this day, though I was never a serious fan of the show until it returned with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and my daughters were keen to watch it. They become total addicts and slowly, slowly, I was sucked into it too.

The prospect of reading a book about a Doctor Who fan - Neil Perryman - who managed to persuade his long suffering wife Sue that it would  be a good idea if they sat down together and watched as many of the classic Doctor Who episodes as they could, captured my imagination and I had such a brilliant time reading about their project that as soon as I finished the book, I read it again immediately and enjoyed it just as much the second time.

Sue not only ended up watching the TV shows but also some of the spin offs and reconstructed episodes, and she found their exploit was appearing on Neil's blog - complete with pod-casts - which documented her thoughts and reactions as she threw cushions and sat in disbelief, horror, enjoyment and hysterical laughter when watching the various episodes.  By the time the experiment ended, she had visited a convention and had even spoken to two of the real Doctors, as well as ending up with her very own fans.

Both Sue and Neil are Media Lecturers and it really added to my enjoyment to eavesdrop on their discussions of the technical side of producing Doctor Who as well as their thoughts on the story-lines, characterisations and scripts; Neil's knowledge of the genre in general is extensive and of Doctor Who in particular is almost encyclopaedic, and his enthusiasm is contagious.

This is definitely one of my Top Ten Best Books of 2013 and I have bought a copy for my daughters for Christmas :-)

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Sunday, December 01, 2013

A Stubborn Sweetness

A Stubborn Sweetness And Other Stories For The Christmas Season

By Katherine Paterson

Published by Westminster John Knox Press, August 2013

Don't be misled by the title or by the pretty cover; this is a book of short Christmas stories quite unlike anything you have ever read before.

From the rich woman being befriended by a poor little boy to an illiterate Christian man in revolutionary China becoming secret friends with a young Communist woman,  to a pastor in  Japan enduring bombings and South American Indians who have no priests, as well as plenty of other stories set across America, this anthology of stories by Katherine Paterson managed to make me laugh, cry, sigh and rejoice. It is filled with hope, compassion, love, sadness and grief, but underlying it all is the true message of Christmas and of love.

Definitely a keeper.

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Sizzling Stats!

I checked the statistics for "The Garden Window" this morning and was delighted to see that during November, there were 5, 192 page views!

Thank you to everyone who has visited my book blog :-)

All my personal blogging is now hosted over at "Beyond The Garden Window".
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Friday, November 29, 2013

The Owner's Manual For Driving Your Adolescent Brain

The Owner's Manual For Driving Your Adolescent Brain

By JoAnn and Terence Deak

Published by Little Pickle Press, 25th November 2013

This is a very short book - only 75 pages long - but absolutely crammed to bursting with facts, hints and tips about how the adolescent brain functions and how the owner of an adolescent brain can best take care of it in order to get the very most out of it.
It is in full-colour throughout and profusely illustrated, making it eye-catching and engaging.

When you think of how complex a subject the brain is, I find it amazing that the authors, both of whom have Ph.D.s, have managed to make it understandable, accessible, and most of all interesting and enjoyable.  It is aimed squarely at the adolescents concerned and is written in a down to earth and factual style which has a great deal of humour in it too.

Most  early to mid-teens who are learning biology would find this book interesting and useful in their studies of science as well as on a personal level and it would certainly be helpful for parents to read it too; I particularly like the parts where the importance of getting enough sleep, exercise and limiting the time spent on social media/video games etc are given a factual, biological basis which will be appreciated by teens  rather than being dismissed as just parental nagging......

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A Nantucket Christmas

It's the end of November and time to start reviewing Christmas themed books in earnest!

A Nantucket Christmas

By Nancy Thayer

Published on 29th October by Ballantine Books

Nicole, a recently retired nurse, lives on the wonderful island of Nantucket with her new husband Sebastian. They are blissfully happy and it looks as if nothing could spoil their first Christmas together as a married couple......until Sebastian's adult daughter Kennedy and her family end up spending the whole Christmas week at their house, the same house in which Kennedy grew up.

Kennedy is now married, with a toddler son and another baby on the way, but she is childish,  manipulative and determined and will stop at nothing to try to get her father to re-unite with her mother - even though her mother is in a serious relationship and her father has remarried.

Maddox is a delightful little boy but his mother is struggling to be as perfect as her beautiful and self-obsessed mother Katya, and obviously finding adapting to motherhood to be an overwhelming process. At times I sorely wanted to shake Kennedy and thought that Nicole behaved with admirable self-restraint to her step-daughter, who plots and schemes relentlessly.

 It looks as if the whole week is going to be a catastrophe, especially when there is an unexpected  visitor in the form of  Kennedy's mother Katya.  Young Maddox  manages to find a stray dog and get caught up in an adventure of his very own which throws the whole family into turmoil...

The descriptions of Nantucket and its Christmas festivities are both detailed and wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this novella. It has definitely put me in the Christmas spirit!

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Combat Doctor

Combat Doctor:

Life and Death Stories from Kandahar's Military Hospital

By Marc Dauphin

Published by Dundurn, October 28th, 2013

Marc Dauphin is a Canadian ER physician and Army officer, highly skilled and very experienced indeed, who in 2009 went to Afghanistan and served a full six month tour of duty at the military hospital at Kandahar where he and his team were responsible for treating some of the most severely injured soldiers and civilians. He was the Canadian Officer Commanding and carried an enormous amount of responsibility on his shoulders.

The Role 3 multinational hospital had a superb reputation and produced the most remarkable survival statistics that have ever been recorded in a combat or a civilian hospital; 97% of those injured who were admitted to the hospital with recordable vital signs survived due to the outstanding medical and nursing care they received there.

It was a hard, gruelling tour of duty for all the staff; although there were lighthearted moments, the staff were pushed to their absolute limits - and beyond them - by the constant, almost relentless influx of wounded, and they way they responded is utterly jaw-dropping. Surrounded by  enemies who sent rockets thudding into the grounds at regular intervals and who showed no respect for the Geneva convention guidelines that medical staff should not be attacked or fired upon during the course of their duties, they put their own physical safety on the back burner and concentrated on saving those who were brought to them, regardless of nationality or age, civilian , military or hostile status.

They treated children and adults who had trodden on concealed explosives, Afghan soldiers who had managed to shoot themselves, suspected terrorists as well as soldiers who were  so badly wounded it seemed that it might not be possible to save them; all were treated by the staff with compassion and respect, under the most stressful and dangerous circumstances imaginable. It would be prudent to add that this book contains incredibly evocative and very detailed descriptions of what life was like in the hospital as well as of the medical procedures that were carried out to save people's lives; it makes for compelling albeit sometimes stomach-churning reading.

The last part of the book tells of Dauphin's return to the safety and civilised world of Canada after his tour of duty, and how difficult he found it to adapt. Not surprisingly, he was found to have PTSD after what he had seen and endured, and his recovery took a considerable length of time and he was changed forever by his experiences.

A superb book and one which inspires me with the utmost respect for the medical teams who work in combat zones. Thank you, Dr Dauphin, for sharing your experiences.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Plain Peace

Plain Peace

A Daughters of the Promise Novel

By Beth Wiseman

Published by Thomas Nelson, November 12th 2013

I've read all the previous "Plain" books by Beth Wiseman and enjoyed them, also her crossover books in the Land of Canaan series, so I was certainly poised to love this book, number 6 in the "Plain" sequence, too.

But I didn't love it. Certainly parts of it were very well done; I  was really pleased to get to know the character of of Lucy Turner better and find out her life story, and to catch up with Dr Noah and his family was also a delight, but the actions of some of the main characters simply did not strike me as believable .

Anna, the protagonist, is an Amish girl who has been brought up by her grandparents. Her grandfather is the uber-strict local bishop and has caused some wayes in the community. Her grandmother is universally beloved and a sweet woman who allows her husband to rule the roost....or does she?
 I simply cannot get my head round the dear Marianne deliberately and over a period of many years, sublimating her displeasure at her husband's domineering ways by having a secret basement room where she stores a vast mountain of contraband and very un-Amish goods, which she has spent thousands of dollars buying, all without her husband's knowledge and knowing that he would be very unhappy.

Anna falls for the new boy, Jacob Hostetler, who has moved to Paradise with his family after the death of his sister Leah in an accident in Ohio. Her grandfather does not want her to see Jacob apart from at Church services, so she starts deceiving her family in order to see him, and Jacob's family turn out to be hiding some pretty big secrets of their own too. Jacob's mother, Cora,  initially befriends Lucy Turner but then turns against her when she discovers Lucy's previous affair with Ivan Stoltzfus.

The truth does come out, eventually, and there is a "happy ending" for all the characters, but I just cannot see the stern Bishop Byler rolling over and letting his wife keep her cuckoo clock, crystal glasses, pretty dishes and iPhone etc.  I just can't......

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Thursday, November 14, 2013


Last month, I had 5,059 page views on this blog.  I am thrilled and delighted beyond measure.

To each and very one of my readers, I want to say a heartfelt "Thank You!".

As you can see from the NaNoWriMo  meter in the right sidebar, I am again doing the infamous month long marathon of writing a 50,000 word novel in November. I am on target as I have today reached the 25,000 word mark; I may not be able to post as many book reviews this month as I would do normally, as this year's historically based topic needs a lot of research - so when I am not writing, I am researching rather than reading for pleasure :-(

Normal service and plentiful book reviews should start appearing towards the end of the month.........

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The King's Grave

The King's Grave:

The Discovery Of Richard III's Lost Burial Place And The Clues It Holds

By Philippa Langley & Michael Jones

Published by St Martin's Press, 29 October 2013

Earlier this year, I watched the documentary about the finding of the King Richard III's body with fascination. Reading this book takes that amazing story into minute and incredibly satisfying detail. After all, how often does a long-lost dead king turn up in a council owned car park?

This was a once in a lifetime discovery of enormous historical importance and Philippa Langley had to fight tooth and nail to get the Powers That Be to take any notice of her passionate conviction that she KNEW just where his grave was situated; her ideas were initially treated somewhat dismissively by some experts.

She had to liaise extensively with a wide variety of people at Leicester City Council who were very interested and supportive - but financially limited in what monies they could provide - and she had to find a substantial part of the financial backing herself. She managed to  get a television company interested in making a documentary about the proposed archaeological excavation and it was largely through  funding from the world-wide supporters of the Richard III Society that the initial surveys and then excavation became possible. It's a truly compelling story and Philippa Langley was, of course, proved to be 100% correct;  she would have been perfectly entitled to revel in the discomfiture of those who dismissed her theory but she does not do so, which does her enormous credit. I don't think I would have been quite so charitable!

The chapters alternate between the excavation and its back-story, written by Philippa Langley, and the life of Richard written by the historian Michael Jones; this juxtapositioning really does help to bring Richard to life for the modern reader. Although we already knew what the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth was, and we now know that the body in the car park really was Richard III, the story remains a compelling one and a delight to read. It really does go a very long way to debunking the appalling bad press that King Richard was given by his Tudor successors.

 Definitely a keeper!

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

Got Any Questions About The Funeral Trade?

Ken West, the author of the book "R.I.P. OFF!" which I have just reviewed, has very kindly agreed to take part in a Q & A session on my blog about the funeral business.

 If you have any questions, however bizarre, morbid, mundane or extraordinary they might be, feel free to leave a comment on the original blogpost, on this post or email me with them and I will send them to Ken to answer :-)
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

R.I.P. Off!


Or The British Way Of Death

By Ken West

Published by Matador, October 8th, 2013

First of all, this is not a Mitford-esque, factual expose of the British way of death. This is a novel, but one which is based on the extensive experience of Ken West, who has spent 45 years working in bereavement services and who set up the world's first natural burial site in 1993 in the UK.

It's an unlikely subject for a novel, but it works brilliantly and I read it obsessively from cover to cover, keen to find out what happened next.

 Set in Cumbria, England, it follows the lives, fortunes and misfortunes of local undertakers/funeral directors as they go about their daily work, dealing with bereaved families, struggling with recalcitrant corpses, worrying about making ends meet, greasing the palms of gravediggers and crematorium workers and then, worst of all, dealing with Ben West.

Ben is their worst nightmare: a trend-setting, forward-thinking, environmentally-friendly Bereavement Services Manager for Carlisle County Council, determined to offer people the greatest possible choice when arranging funerals for their departed loved ones.

Graham, Ronson, Brian, Bill, Roger. Willy, Peter and Jack are the undertakers described, covering a large geographical area with a wide variance in the populaces they serve. They deal with sweet little old ladies, crooks, drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally unstable people and those who are prepared to lie about the ownership of a grave plot to get a burial on the cheap, people who want  pop songs at funerals and those who are adamant they will not see their "late lamented" be buried in the wrong denominational section of the graveyard. They deal with it all, but the winds of change are blowing and they will have to decide whether to accept the innovations Ben West is hell-bent on introducing or face their clients choosing options other than the traditional funeral services they provide.

The full panoply involved in collecting, preparing, embalming, burying, cremating and even exhuming the  dead is introduced in this remarkably clever book; it manages to be witty, sarcastic, thoroughly irreverent, thoughtful, funny and gruesome in equal measure, and I read it straight through in one sitting, laughing out loud in places and feeling sad in others.

It is well-characterised and on the whole very well written indeed; I did notice a few typos and would perhaps have preferred less dependence on exclamation marks, but still a clever book which lays the world of the funeral director wide open.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

365 Slow Cooker Suppers

365 Slow Cooker Suppers

By Stephanie O'Dea

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

September 24th, 2013

This substantial book can give you a whole year of convenient, tasty and easy to prepare suppers using your crockpot/slowcooker.

One of the things which makes this book stand out head and shoulders above the rest is that gluten-free options are given for all recipes, making this an ideal book whether you have to cater for people who need a gluten free diet everyday or only for occasional visitors.

What is in it?

  • There is a whole chapter of bean recipes, both vegetarian and meat based.
  • A chapter for soups and stews.
  • Meatless main dishes,
  • Beef, lamb, pork and chicken recipes.
  • A whole chapter devoted to making fillings for sandwiches, subs, wraps, quesadillas and  lettuce wraps, including burgers, hot dogs, sloppy joes and pulled pork.
  •  A  fish and seafood chapter with unusual recipes such as lemony balsamic honey salmon and a more familiar and homely tuna and noodle supper.

There are many vegetarian and some vegan dishes scattered throughout the book as well as in the meatless mains section.

I think possibly my favourite chapter is the one devoted to chicken recipes: honey mustard chicken, lemon chicken, mango chicken, parmesan crusted chicken, barbecue chicken thighs - all mouth-watering recipes with glorious photographs, as if you needed any further tempting to cook them. Never in a million years would I have thought of soaking chicken in a coffee , orange juice, peppercorns cloves and star anise brine before cooking, but it works, giving a really unusual taste which would certainly have guests wondering what all the ingredients are!

Whether you prefer highly spiced curries or more mellow and subtle flavours, there are recipes which can be adapted and used. I do particularly like the "verdict" notes describing what works or does not work, what picky eaters might like or dislike about a recipe, and how to tweak recipes accordingly.

Now she just needs to produce a companion 365 pudding book :-)

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101 Tips For A Happier Marriage

101 Tips for a Happier Marriage

By Jennifer Roback Morse & Betsy Kerekes

Published 28 October 2013 by Ave Maria Press

None of us have a perfect marriage; we are all flawed and imperfect people yet so many of us married couples seem to expect far higher standards from our spouses than we do from ourselves - me included!

This is a simple and short book of 101 effective tips on how to make your marriage stronger and both of you happier, by accepting that only God is perfect and that we all need to cut each other a little slack and communicate better. Marriage is good for us individually and collectively, as a couple, as a family and as a society and we should all be making every effort possible to support, help and encourage each other to make our marriages stronger.

I really like the way the tips have been split into sections, ranging from "Make A Decision To Love" and "Get It Done Without Drama" to "Understand The Physiology Of Fighting",  "Handle Criticism Gracefully" and "Soothe Yourself To Let Go Of Grudges", amongst others. This does make it easier to find things in a hurry when you feel yourself about to launch into meltdown mode!  I was not aware of the fact that female stress hormones after an argument can still be at a high level they day after a spat, and that women can easily be precipitated back into a high stress situation in that time; both partners therefore need to tread carefully after an argument to avoid accidentally falling into further confrontation and upset.

It is a very useful little book which gave me lots of food for thought, and I would certainly benefit from reading one tip a day, every day.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

C.S.Lewis: A Biography Of Friendship


A Biography Of Friendship

By Colin Duriez

Published by Lion Books, June 2013

I was rather sceptical about whether anything new could be said about the much-lauded C S Lewis, and was very pleasantly surprised by this unusual book.

It is not a traditional chronological biography but instead a fairly slim volume which chooses to examine the friendships he had and which he valued greatly. Some were almost lifelong friends, especially his beloved brother Warnie, others were philosophically-akin friends, college friends or academic friends, some were transient but important friends and some were almost soul-mates. His friendship with Tolkien and the other Inklings is described but so are the lesser-known friendships and relationships. His unusual and significant friendship with Jane, the mother of his army colleague Paddy Moore was to last until her death in 1951; he and Paddy had made a pact that if one of them did not survive the horrors of the First World War, the survivor would take care of the other's family, a pact which Lewis took exceptionally seriously, making sure Paddy's mother and sister were provided for, and living with them until Maureen's marriage and then Jane's death. There has been controversy as to the depth of the relationship between them;  he often introduced Jane to others as "Mother", but this is handled in a detached and certainly not prurient fashion. The only jarring note in the whole book is the description of Lewis disclosing his sexual fantasies at a young age in letters, which I felt was unnecessarily intrusive and did not add to my understanding or enjoyment of that segment.

As it is a thematic biography and not a time-line biography, I did find I occasionally had to skip back and forth to check on dates and names as I was reading, but this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book at all.  Lewis' conversion from atheist to agnostic to Theist and finally to Christian is handled very well and  in depth, making for fascinating reading in these days of strident atheism. No-one can doubt Lewis' intellect, having First Class Honours degrees from Oxford in English, Philosophy and Classics, which makes his conversion to Christianity all the more remarkable and heartening. I found it was particularly interesting to read about his science fiction novels, which I have not yet read but intend to do so in the near future, and I feel rather sad to have reached the end of this book....

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A Bead And A Prayer

A Bead And A Prayer:

A Beginner's Guide To Protestant Prayer Beads

By Kristen E Vincent

Published by Upper Room Books, 2013

I was intrigued by the title  - and the sub-title!

 Having started life as an Anglo-Catholic, I was accustomed to praying the traditional Rosary, and as an Orthodox I have my chotki, my long prayer rope on which I pray the "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" prayer. I had heard of the "Anglican Rosary" which was developed in the 1980s but had never seen a set of the distinctive beads or known anyone who prays it.

Kristen Vincent has been intrigued by,  loved and collected Rosary beads and chaplets since her Presbyterian childhood, although she does not use the usual invocations to the Mother of God which constitute the traditional Rosary. She felt a distinct call to make and distribute prayer beads and started a ministry doing just that, wishing to make the usefulness of praying with beads known to many and dispelling the belief that this was a type of prayer restricted to Roman Catholic Christians. This slim book is  based on the four week long workshop sessions she teaches about making and using prayer beads.

She identifies the beads as having a similar function to Jewish Tzitzit, a means of reminding, focusing and concentrating on God and indeed, Christians have been praying with stones or strings of beads since the earliest days of Christianity. The Desert Fathers and Mothers used stones to count where they were in their daily recitation of the Psalter and this practice was followed by many pious laypeople, who if they were unable to read and pray the Psalms, would recite 150 Our Father prayers instead, using a prayer rope. Over time, this developed into the Rosary still prayed by many Catholics throughout the world. Many Protestant Christians would feel uncomfortable asking the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, but Kristen Vincent argues that there is no need for them to miss out on the many benefits and spiritual helps  that praying with beads can give.

The resources section is good, indicating useful books, websites and sources for purchasing the beads etc needed to make a set of prayer beads. Full and very simple instructions are given about making your very own and highly personalised set of beads as well as several different sets of prayers which can be used with the beads, ranging from the Eastern Orthodox Jesus prayer, the Lord's prayer, verses from Scripture to intercessory prayer for others - a versatile tool indeed for any Christian.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Christmas In Apple Ridge

Christmas in Apple Ridge:

Three-in-One Collection

By Cindy Woodsmall

Published by Waterbrook Press, December 2012

This is a 3 in 1 collection of The Sound of Sleigh Bells, The Christmas Singing and The Dawn of Christmas.

The Sound of Sleigh Bells introduces us to  Lizzie and Beth 
an aunt and niece team who run a business. Lizzie has never married and Beth is a young woman who seems unable to shake off either her mourning for her dead fiance or her stark black mourning clothes. When Beth returns from a buying trip where she has discovered the work of a talented Amish sculptor, she enthuses about it to Lizzie; Lizzie does not want Beth to remain lonely for the rest of her life and takes matters into her own hands. She tells a few white lies which means that Beth starts to correspond with Jonah the sculptor, believing him to be an older man and he believes he is corresponding with the older Lizzie...... can deceptions made with good intentions ever bring healing or happiness?

The Christmas Singing tells us about Mattie, a talented baker who runs a cake store - and nurses immense sadness about the breakup with Gideon several years ago. Gideon let her believe that he had found an Englisch girlfriend, and Mattie is slowly building her life back up, having a comfortable yet unexciting relationship with Sol, who is trustworthy, reliable and will never, ever break her heart.  When Mattie's business burns down, she returns to her parents' home for a while to recuperate and she has to deal with Gideon's presence in the community once and for all. Was Gideon lying? Who was the Englisch girl and how did he meet her? Can she trust him ever again? And just who does she love, Sol or Gideon?

The Dawn Of Christmas - This was an unusual story. Sadie calls off her wedding to Daniel when she finds him behaving inappropriately with her cousin, and throws herself into work with an Ohio Mennonite community, telling her family and Church elders that she cannot stay in the same locality as Daniel when her heart is broken. Daniel denies any inappropriate behaviour and many folk do not know who to believe. 

Eventually,Sadie's Daed tells her well, orders her) that she must return home to her Amish community and try to rebuild her life. Sadie is loving her relative independence working for her Mennonite friends in their store as a way to save for her mission trip expenses but as fate would have it, she is catapulted into meeting an eligible young bachelor after a horse-riding accident.  Levi is a cousin of Beth and Mattie from the first two stories, and gradually they build a solid friendship which they think might be manipulated to buy them both time and freedom from constant family pressures to settle down..... and then Daniel starts his sweet-talking lies again and causes chaos once more...

This was a great trilogy and one I will enjoy re-reading.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lady Catherine, The Earl, And The Real Downton Abbey

Lady Catherine, The Earl, And The Real Downton Abbey

By The Countess of Carnarvon

To be published in the US by Crown Publishing/Broadway Books on 29th October 2013

The Countess' s previous book about Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnavon, was interesting and this is an even more riveting volume, dealing with the lives of the 6th Earl and Countess of Carnavon. Before he succeeded to the title, young Lord Porchester - generally known as Porchy - met and fell in love with a lovely American, Catherine Wendell.

The highly popular young couple moved in the highest social circles and seemed destined to live a charmed life, but sadly, the happiness of their fairy-tale wedding did not last.  The tragic death of the 5th Earl meant the end of their life in India with Porchy's regiment and taking up the reigns of the huge Highclere estate; the enormous death duty tax payable to the Government had to be found and then ways sought to make Highclere survive and thrive at a time when the world was changing rapidly and inching slowly to political instability.

 Porchy's "wandering eye" was a major factor in the breakdown of their marriage and after her divorce at the age of 35, Catherine was faced with all the stress and challenges of building a new life for herself and their two children, which she did very successfully. All too soon, however, she was faced with the death of her adored second husband on active duty and then the dreadful anxiety of watching her son also march off to serve in World War II. Porchy's own second marriage sadly proved unsuccessful and he devoted himself to life at Highclere; he and Catherine managed to remain on friendly terms for the rest of their lives.

Sure to appeal to anyone who enjoys Downton Abbey and social history.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Separating The Personal From The Public

"The Garden Window" has become well-established as a book blog now, much to my surprise and delight, so I will continue to use this blog purely for my formal book reviews and book news.

 I have set up another blog entitled "Beyond The Garden Window"which will be for my personal posts and news :-)

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Raising Henry

Raising Henry:

A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, & Discovery

By Rachel Adams

Published by Yale University Press, September 2013

Rachel Adams is an academic, a professor at Columbia University and a literary critic, an intelligent, well-educated woman who prides herself on being an advocate of women's reproductive freedom.  Her world revolves around her husband, her two year old son and her job - but her world is turned upside down and inside out when she finds that her newborn second son, Henry, has Down Syndrome.....

This is not an easy book to read; intertwined with her shock at Henry's diagnosis is her raw grief for the "perfect" second son she will never have and disbelieving anger at the way Henry's tentative diagnosis is handled by the medical staff.who care for her. We learn of her sister's decision to abort her own Trisomy 13 baby, talking of the baby as "it" and castigating the "hostile" anti-abortion protesters outside the clinic where the procedure took place over several distressing visits over successive days - uncomfortable reading to be sure.

Like a mother tigress, Rachel fights to ensure that Henry gets as much help and intervention from dedicated professionals as possible, even while still a tiny baby, determined to give her beautiful and beloved son the best possible start in life; we meet baby nurses, speech therapists, play therapists, physiotherapists, nursery staff, nannies and medical professionals and share their triumphs and joy as Henry develops and thrives.

There is a darker undercurrent, though: Rachel describes her feelings about her amniocentesis with her older son and her decision not to have one when pregnant with Henry; the casual and almost callous attitude of some medical professionals who see Henry as only as a Down baby and not a precious child; society's ambivalent attitude towards people with disabilities, trying to make the world more accessible to disabled people yet simultaneously implementing and refining testing procedures to make sure that "disabled" children like Henry are identified in the womb and prevented from even being born alive. It is a complex world indeed.

Henry has changed the lives of their whole family and this is a positive and hopeful book which has just as much laughter, love and enthusiasm as it has sadness and sobering discussion about the problems of parenting a child with special needs.
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Quiet Kids

Quiet Kids:

Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World

By Christine Fonseca

Published by Prufrock Press/Sourcebooks, October 2013

Introverts generally get a bad press. Regarded as shy, retiring types, unable or unwilling to be good team players or engage wholeheartedly in group work -  modern society has all too many negative synonyms for introversion.

Just because introverts do not necessarily chatter endlessly or engage frenetically with others 24/7 does not mean they are not as equally creative, innovative and intelligent, and this book sets out to dispel many of the myths which surround introversion as well as providing a valuable resource for parents, educators and introverts themselves to use. Parents may be completely nonplussed about how to help their introverted, quiet child to both survive and thrive in a society which does not see the value of introversion; quiet kids are often the target of bullies and do need to be taught stratagems to become more confident and stand up for themselves effectively in a sadly sometimes hostile society.

Personality and temperament are two different things altogether; we never change our basic biologically determined temperament but our environment, interactions and own will can certainly adapt our personality; the author is a typical introvert but has learnt to enjoy public speaking about introversion! Quiet kids are very often the brightest children in a class but this can easily be overlooked because the child  may be reluctant to get involved in group projects or willingly volunteer information or answer questions; teachers are encouraged to look at alternative stratagems for getting the very best from these pupils and making them feel comfortable and valued in a classroom setting. Parents may sometimes feel their child is standing on the margins of family life and a huge part of this book is devoted to helping parents to enable an introverted child to have the solitude he/she craves whilst still being an active and engaged member of a family/social group and being valued for who he/she is.

This is **such** a valuable book, and should certainly be compulsory reading for those learning to be educators!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits

Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits

By Andrew Schloss

Published by Storey Publishing, October 16, 2013

Oh my. What a truly superb book!

If you have ever wondered how liqueurs are made, or wanted to replicate the taste of your particular favourite - or even obscure - "difficult to get hold of" tipple, you will enjoy this book.

Chapters on liqueurs made from Fruits, Nuts, Vegetables, Herbs & Spices, Flowers, Coffee, Chocolate, Tea, Cream, Caramel and Butterscotch are all included as is a chapter on how to make your very own infused spirits, as well as lots of cocktail recipes using the drinks mentioned.

Whether you like rhubarb, licorice, lychee, prickly pear, unripe green walnuts, coffee & honey, ginger, artichoke or even chocolate & blood orange best, there is almost certainly a drink you can make from it at home. The steps are straightforward and clearly explained, many take only five to seven days to prepare and will last for up to a year when stored correctly, although cream based recipes should be used within a month.

I have yet to be convinced of the merits of wasting good alcohol in making a grapefruit liqueur or a horseradish-infused spirit, but with those exceptions, the recipes are superbly varied and it could take a lifetime to exhaust the possibilities outlined in this book.

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How To Pray When You're Pissed At God

How To Pray When You're Pissed At God

Or Anyone Else For That Matter

By Ian Punnett

Published by Harmony Books, 2013

The title caught my eye and I knew this was a book I simply had to read. I've been feeling pretty fed up at God myself about the sudden and tragic death of the young son of a dear friend of mine, and hoped this book might help....and it has.

Ian Punnet is a member of the Episcopal clergy and has worked as a hospital chaplain, experiencing helping people cope with trauma, pain and death; many of the people he meets have no idea that it is actually okay to be sometimes angry at God, to rage and and shout at Him, and that there is ample Biblical precedent for doing so, even Our Lord Himself.  In Jewish tradition there are many rabbis who have remonstrated forcefully with God, following in the tradition of Moses and of Job in the Old Testament, not to mention the imprecatory psalms.

His rewording of Psalm 22  works well at being an angry prayer which will speak clearly to many, using modern imagery which young people - sometime those who feel themselves most distanced from God - will find familiar and to which they can relate. I had absolutely no idea that in Jeremiah  3: 1-3, the language used in anger is intemperate indeed, the Hebrew word used  being equivalent to modern "f-bomb" when talking of Israel's lack of fidelity to God.

Punnett's angry prayers in Chapter Eight are heartfelt and often hard to read, covering a wide variety of human pain and experience in modern life; not all end with the pray-er feeling more reconciled with God but still have elements of hope. It is better to express the anger in prayer, however forcefully, to get it out of one's system and then be able to begin to re-work one's relationship with God.

There are a large variety of prayers from other people who are angry at God, themselves and others, and also a useful section on using the Psalms as a hymnal and a prayer book in this useful and thought-provoking book.

Definitely a Five Star book in my eyes and one I am buying as a hard copy book as well as keeping it on my e-reader.

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Has Brain Research Reached Its Breaking Point?

By James Le Fanu

Published by emBooks, May 2013

I've been a fan of Dr James Le Fanu's incisive, considered critiques of the state of medical science and research for many years, and this is a welcome addition to his published works.

Admittedly this is a very short summary of current research at only 88 pages but each is crammed full of information and often damning critique of the failings of medical research and the sometimes ridiculous extrapolations which have been made from some very flawed work ending up being accepted as mainstream medical gospel.

I live in hope that one day his books will end up being required reading for medical students.....
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Monday, October 14, 2013

The Batsford Book Of Chess For Children

The Batsford Book Of Chess For Children

By Sabrina Chevannes

Published by Anova Books/Batsford, August 2013

Although this title is aimed at children, this is definitely the best introduction to chess which I have ever seen. I do enjoy playing chess but very much at an introductory level and I have learnt a phenomenal amount from reading this book!

From setting up a board correctly to learning what all the pieces actually can do, this book teaches you all the essentials you need to know. It also teaches you how to score points gained or lost and a variety of tactics and moves to make your game better; many have been given fun titles to make them more memorable to younger readers.  It even teaches you how to "read" famous played games of chess and see how these games actually progressed.

It is well-written and profusely illustrated, making it attractive and inviting to look at and fun to use/read. Well worth buying for adults and children alike.
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Eat, Fast, Slim

Eat Fast Slim

By Amanda Hamilton

Published by Duncan Baird Publishers, April 2013

Several of the books I  have previously read about Intermittent Fasting have outlined  several days of 16 hour fasts or two full day fasts with only an evening meal. Amanda Hamilton provides similar information along with what you need to consider if you are adding exercise to your routine and also a variation adding juice fasting to the menu of foods.

The science behind Intermittent Fasting is explained clearly, simply and succinctly along with its proven health benefits apart from simple weight loss/maintenance. I cannot work up any enthusiasm for colonic hydrotherapy which she describes as beneficial to many people, though....

Part Two of the book shows how to tailor IF to work for the reader's own individual circumstances. Men and women also react to fasting differently and women would be better advised to start IF a few days after the beginning of a menstrual period. The chapter on cultivating a "fasting state of mind"  is partly based on the author's predilection for meditation and yogic practices which may not appeal to every reader although the information about the effects of sleep deprivation on appetite I found fascinating.

Part Three tells the reader how to actually put all the theoretical information onto practice and start safely fasting; she outlines eating nutritionally sound meals and  how much exercise can you or should you - take whilst fasting, as well as when you should not fast or when you should stop fasting.

Part Four provides countdowns for easing gently into fasting patterns and a very good selection of suggested menus with their accompanying recipes.

This is a great book, accessible, clear and persuasive even though I did do a "double-take" on p 25 of the ebook where she says "There are a mind-boggling number of faiths and religions that have a version of fasting within their sacred texts. These include but are not limited to Sikhism, Baha’i, Judaism, Jainism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Christianity, Greek Orthodox, Catholicism, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam."

- Does this mean that she does not consider Catholics and Greek Orthodox to be Christians, and if so, why does that not apply to Russian Orthodox too? The Eastern Orthodox family of churches are actually the only ones who do expect their members to fast regularly throughout the year.....

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Explore Everything

Explore Everything

Place-Hacking the City from Tunnels to Skyscrapers

By Bradley L Garrett

Published by Verso Books, October 8th, 2013

I have always been intrigued by the activities of those who explore places the general public is barred from accessing; part of me delights in their determination to truly "explore everything" and document it. There are many websites filled with photographs taken by such explorers and these sites ted to be exuberantly enthusiastic about the perils, joys and thrills of urban exploration; I was hoping this book would be in a very similar vein.

 It describes some of the explorations the author and his comrades have undertaken in a variety of places, but it is more of an academic raison d'etre of why they do what they do, encompassing ethnology, ethics, philosophy and social anthropology among many other disciplines.

 I found it quite heavy going in places, to be honest. It is definitely a book which is better read as a hard copy rather than as an e-book, in my opinion.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Confessions Of a Criminal Lawyer

Confessions Of A Criminal Lawyer

A Memoir

By Seymour Wishman

Published by Open Road, March 2013

No, this is *not* about a lawyer who is a criminal! Seymour Wishman is a lawyer who specialises in defending those accused of crimes and he has written a truly fascinating  account of his career and some of the  people whom he has defended.

I have always wondered  how on earth a lawyer can choose to defend someone whom they suspect might be guilty and still have to present a compelling case in court and found this book very interesting indeed.

 I cannot say it is an enjoyable book when it is dealing with cases such as defending a man who beat a young child to death, but it was an eye-opening look at the American legal system and the effect that being a defence lawyer for cases such as these has on the lawyer concerned.

It is a compelling read, but at times a very distressing one.

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The Sandwich Generation Guide To Eldercare

The Sandwich Generation Guide To Eldercare

By Phillip D. Rumrill, Jr

To be published by Demos Health on 18th October 2013

As medical care improves, people are tending to live longer; many of them will be in reduced health and will need care from others at some time or another. It is increasingly common for families to be simultaneously caring for their young children and aging parents and/or grandparents, hence the phrase "Sandwich Generation". We  ourselves are in this situation, currently providing care for my mother-in-law as well as still having two youngsters living at home and I really wish this book had been available a few years ago!

It covers the full spectrum of caring for older family members, whether their problems are due to mental health issues or physical health issues:

  • What are the practicalities of  providing day to day care for a loved one in her own home or in your home? 
  • When is the right time to call on the help of outside agencies or consider assisted living or a nursing home for your loved one?  
  • What should you do about helping a loved one to manage his finances or health issues? 
  • How can you protect your loved one's well-being without compromising her independence? 
  • How can you explain a loved grandparent's illness to children and maintain a good, loving relationship between grandparent and grandchild?
  • What are the warning signs of Carer burnout and stress?
  • What should you consider and look out for when choosing a nursing home/care facility?
  • How should you manage finances and legal matters on behalf of a parent?
  • What do you need to know to be an effective advocate for your loved one with the medical profession?
  • When, where and how to find help.
Although written for the American market, this book is extremely valuable for carers in other countries too.
I know that when I was caring for my mother, I did not seek help early enough and seriously compromised my own health by doing far too much for far too long; having read this book, my husband and I will be much more careful when providing care for my mother-in-law so that we can do what is best for her and remain healthy ourselves.  

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Southern Italian Desserts

Southern Italian Desserts

Rediscovering the Sweet traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia and Sicily.

By Rosetta Costantino

Published by Ten Speed Press on October 8th, 2013

If you do not have easy access to a pistachio tree, you may regret buying this wonderful, wonderful book, as so many of the recipes call for pistachios :-)

If pressed, most people of my acquaintance can name only two Italian desserts - Zabaglione and Tiramisu - yet this book shows there are so very many luscious desserts from Southern Italy alone.

Cookies, tuiles, cake rolls, watermelon tart, baked ricotta tart, filled sponge cakes, pastries and pies galore will tempt the reader to head straight into the kitchen and start baking. Mousses and gelatos made me wish I had an ice-cream maker of my own..... Saints' Days have traditional dishes such as the wheatberry pudding for St Lucia's Day, St Joseph's Cream Puffs, St Joseph's fried pastries, Carnevale semolina cake, Easter pies and so much more.

The countryside is photographed as beautifully as the recipes, and is just as tempting as the food showcased in the book.
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Storming Home

Storming Home

By Billy Gilvear & Eric Gaudion

Published by Monarch Books / Lion Hudson, June 21st, 2013

From a staunchly Christian missionary home background, Billy Gilvear found it hard to build a good relationship with his father for a variety of reasons and he left home to join the Army at 16, turning his back on Christianity.

Although he did well in the Army, quickly rising through the ranks and passing many courses, it was done in a self-punishing manner and he became a very heavy drinker.  Along with the drinking came the loss of control of his temper, causing him to be involved in brawls and soon his rage was out of control even when he was sober.

When he left the Army, he worked as a bodyguard and got to meet many of the "Rich and Famous", and although he enjoyed his work, he became involved in not only procuring and using drugs, but also in dealing. them. Needless to say, his marriage did not survive and his life was spiralling out of control to the point where he was seriously considering committing suicide.What stopped him from carrying out his plan? The experience he had of God's presence and God's love for him.

Supported by the prayers of his landlady, he started to go to Church and committed his life to God, preaching the Gospel and eventually becoming a pastor in Guernsey. It's a remarkable story, especially when he solves his personal problems and is reunited with his ex-wife too in this new life for and in Christ.

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