Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Anna's Healing

Anna's Healing

By Vannetta Chapman

Published by Harvest House, October 1st 2015

Anna Schwartz has struggled to find her place within her own community and has moved to Cody's Creek, Oklahoma, to spend time with her Mammi, uncle and aunt.  While minding their family produce stall, she makes the acquaintance of a reporter named Chloe Roberts and the two women quickly strike up a lively and interesting friendship.

Jacob Graber is a wandering labourer, a hard worker, who never stays long anywhere. Chance and the harvest bring him to Anna's family's farm, and he is there on the fateful day when a tornado strikes and causes the accident which renders Anna paraplegic.

It is traumatic and life-changing for all of them, but just when things are starting to settle and everyone is adjusting to this new life, Anna is suddenly healed. Completely, utterly healed - yet life  does not return to normal but instead changes dramatically for all of them once again, to their surprise and dismay....

One of the things I like so much about Vannetta Chapman's characters is that they are memorable. Some writers of Amish fiction produce characters which are of a remarkable "sameness" and that certainly cannot be said about the people in this book, who are lively, loving and utterly memorable, especially Anna's beloved grandmother.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

At War with the 16th Irish Division 1914-1918

At War with the 16th Irish Division 1914-1918  

By J.H.M.Staniforth, edited by Richard S. Grayson

Published in 2012 by Pen & Sword Military in association with the Imperial War Museums

I'm currently reading quite a few WW1 books to provide me with a fuller picture of the life of my great-grandfather during the Great War, and I was truly  delighted to find this book because 'Max' Staniforth also enlisted in the 6th Connaught Rangers and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he might have encountered my great-grandfather.
Max left his Oxford college to enlist as a private in 1914 and by the time he returned to civilian life in 1918, he had achieved the rank of Major in the 16th Irish Division. In the interim, he had endured hunger, cold, lice, scabies and war wounds; he had been shelled, shot at and gassed. He and his companions had crawled through decaying human body parts, watched men around them being machine-gunned, seen soldiers go mad and endured enormous privations in the service of King and Country. All of this he faithfully relates in his weekly letters home to his parents, in a calm, lucid and collected manner which gives an indication of why he rose through the ranks so quickly.

It paints a vivid picture of an almost unimaginable experience and this book has been my faithful vade-mecum for several weeks now. I have had to really resist the temptation to race through it, mainly because it is one of those exceptionally rare non-fiction triumphs, a book which you enjoy so much that you really cannot bear to reach the last page. Despite the subject matter, it is not a depressing book; Max Staniforth manages to relate plenty of tales of humour, courage, kindness and comradeship in the midst of the war, and the details of his daily life show what a brave and thoroughly decent man he was.

The editor, Richard Grayson, gives some tantalising information about Max's adventures after the war, and I really do hope that at some point a biography is written about of this fascinating man who held the posts of soldier, salesman, train driver, broadcast announcer and clergyman as well as husband and father.

Most definitely a book I shall both keep and re-read.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Brain Fog Fix

The Brain Fog Fix
By Mike Dow
Published by Hay House, September 2015

The title of this book grabbed my attention immediately; in our house, two of us have different chronic illnesses, but each produces "brain fog". This is an insidious, debilitating problem, adversely affecting short-term memory, concentration and mood and having a major effect on everyday living. It affects many people, yet it is apparently both preventable and treatable. 

Re-balancing the brain's levels of serotonin, dopamine and cortisol, improving sleep, making real-life connections with people, developing a routine of meditation and/or prayer, starting a sensible and sustainable amount of gentle exercise and managing stress can apparently result in a rapid lessening or reversal of the distressing brain fog symptoms in three weeks. These are not all to be done at once, but introduced in groups over three one week periods. Diet plays a huge part, and some dietary tweaks will be necessary, but they need not be overwhelmingly difficult and they certainly do not rule out all possibility of further treats and occasional indulgences.  

Well worth a read, and I have ordered my own hard copy of this book after reviewing this digital copy via NetGalley!

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Monday, September 14, 2015

The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Latin Edition

Commentarii de Inepto Puero

(Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, Latin edition)

By Jeff Kinney

Translated by Monsignor Daniel B. Gallagher

Published by Amulet Books, 15 September 2015

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books are immensely and perennially popular and yes, we have them all at our home! I was excited to see that someone has had the brainwave of producing a Latin edition of the first book so that Latin students can have something very contemporary to study, and hopefully enjoy themselves as they do so.

Although several of the Harry Potter stories have been translated into Latin, their full pages of dense text with no illustrations makes even flicking through one of them a daunting prospect for adult Latin students, let alone youngsters. With this book, the frequent - and very funny - cartoons not only add clarity to understanding the story, they break up the text into more easily digested and rather less intimidating chunks.

Having said that, it is not a book for absolute beginners; even after studying Latin at school for two years many moons ago, and belonging to a U3A Latin study group for the last three years, I still found myself needing to refer to either my Latin dictionary and/or my Grammar text for clarification, and was tempted to borrow my daughter's English text for help.

The Latin translation has been done by Monsignor Daniel B. Gallagher who is currently working at the Office of Latin Letters at the Vatican and the author has written an appreciative foreword to this Latin edition.

Highly recommended!

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Geometry Of Love

The Geometry Of Love:

Space, Time, Mystery, and Meaning in an Ordinary Church

By Margaret Visser

Open Road, June 2015


The concept is clever: by studying, in minute and gratifying detail, the history, architecture, adaptation, structure, decoration and liturgical use of the ancient church of  St Agnes in Rome, it acts as a guidebook to the structure and meaning of a huge number of other traditional churches too, and by and large, it works exceptionally well.

When reading this book, I vacillated between thinking that it was a really good piece of scholarly research, which the author has managed to make humorous, lucid and thoroughly enjoyable as well as enlightening, and then falling into stunned speechlessness at some of the comments made.

Having been familiar with the Western liturgy of Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil since I was a small child, and having read reasonably widely around the subject myself, I was more than a little disconcerted to read:

"The priest may plunge the paschal candle’s base into the font: fire uniting with water, vertical intersecting with horizontal, Christ entering the waters of Jordan at his baptism, the fiery Spirit “making the water fruitful.” The gesture insists on the conjunction of opposites, and creates an image decidedly sexual."

Really? Of all the things that spring to my mind when thinking of the symbolism of this ceremony, sexual imagery relating to this solemn act is really and truly the farthest thing from my mind and certainly would be looked at askance by my Catholic, Anglo-Catholic and Western-Rite Orthodox friends who share essentially the same ritual as described above.

The subject of relics also makes for interesting reading:

"The bones of saints, for instance, were often believed to have intrinsic power (in other words they could work magic), and were kept like fetishes."

This may indeed have been the case on occasion, but there is no satisfactory mention of the actual official theology behind the cult of relics, that due to the grace of holy baptism, the body has become the temple of the Holy Spirit and that the relics of those saints who through martyrdom for Christ or by leading lives of exemplary sanctity, retain undimmed the grace and power bestowed.

There are other issues too, but I must stress that by and large, I greatly enjoyed the book and appreciate the huge amount of hard work which has been put into it. Pictures truly do not always do such subjects justice, but I do think it would have been nice to have had some illustrations included.

This book has certainly whetted my appetite to visit this remarkable church.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Lopsided Christmas Cake

The Lopsided Christmas Cake
By Wanda E. Brunstetter & Jean Brunstetter
Published by Shiloh Run Press, Sept 1st, 2015

The Hochstetler twins are both single, in their thirties, living at home and content helping their parents run the family store. The tragic deaths of their grandparents brings the surprising news that they have inherited both their grandparents' house and their store business. Despite some initial hesitation, they embark on a whole new life of independence, fending for themselves in the run-down old house and learning how to become businesswomen and how to value each other's very different personalities and gifts.

When Thelma and Elma decide to enter an Amish baking competition to raise money for a family's medical bills, they find themselves baking live on-stage with two confirmed bachelors, and without giving too much away, this explains the unusual title :-) Can they each find love, or will either of them stand in the other's way?

This is an endearing and sweet Christmas-themed book co-authored by the well-known Wanda Brunstetter and her daughter-in-law Jean,who is a welcome addition to the writers of Amish fiction.

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