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Mr. Michael Lumsden (Cambridge, UK)

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Everyday God: The Spirit of Ordinary Time
Everyday God: The Spirit of Ordinary Time
Price: £8.54

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, Relevant and Readable, 4 Aug. 2012
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Firstly I must confess that I have not yet read the whole book. But the first quarter has been so gripping and useful that I felt I should post a recommendation.

The starting point of the book is that in the Christian calendar there are many exciting festivals (such as Easter and Christmas) which we prepare for and celebrate - but the majority of the year is made up of Between or Ordinary Times. Indeed there are usually 33 weeks from Pentecost to Advent. Helping us learn to live to the full in these Ordinary Times is the goal of the book.

The first section is headed up "On Turning Aside". It is hugely relevant to the modern world in which we are often urged to be focused and single minded and spend our lives rushing from one diary entry to the next - too distracted to notice what is going on around us.

This section has six short reflections on busy people who took the time to notice what God was doing around them and responded. It begins with Moses noticing and being curious about the burning bush and taking the time to make the detour and find out what was going on. It has helped me to be more alert and aware that God may be doing something to my right or my left and MY Plan for the day should not be inflexible.

The second section is "Unsung Heroes". Most of us are not well known and never will be - but the writer picks up on "bit part players" from the bible and shows how they had a vital part to play. Starting with Jethro's few words to Moses the theme is developed through Ruth and Rizpah (who I had never heard of). We are shown that although we may not think we are important we all have a vital role to play.

I am looking forward to completing the book over the next few weeks and highly recommend it

The Provocative Church: Third Edition with Study Guide: AND Study Guide
The Provocative Church: Third Edition with Study Guide: AND Study Guide
by Graham Tomlin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provoked to Action?, 9 July 2012
For committed Christians spreading the Good News has to be a high priority - hence there are many books on methods and techniques of evangelism.
This book takes a rather different approach from most I have read, suggesting that people were intrigued by Jesus (what he said and did) and this provoked them to ask questions.
In the same way if Christians today adopt values and practices that are different from normal this will provoke questions and lead to natural evangelism - which is more genuine and effective than any schemes.
The Church must become a Sign of the Kingdom - but this will only happen when the members are prepared to be different and take risks.
The book is an easy read - putting the principles into practice is a great (but exciting) challenge; one that the Church must embrace.

Max's Magical Dream
Max's Magical Dream
by Gillian Overitt
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and thoughtful, 3 July 2012
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This review is from: Max's Magical Dream (Hardcover)
I do not usually read children's books so I have little to compare this with. But I liked it for a number of reasons.
Firstly the Mystery was never explained. It appeared that the dreams were invading "real" life. I was reminded of Harry Potter asking whether something was real, or just in his head, and Dumbledore asking why it should be less real if it was only in his head (but not saying that it was not real).
Secondly the supporting characters had depth and important roles. Max is not the only hero of the story as Tom also has an important role. He does more than just encourage and support.
Finally the book made me think of the genuine mystery that occurs when we dream - and sometimes we appear to receive warnings or encouragements.
This is a gentle book and I'd have no hesitation in giving it to my grandchildren.

On the negative side some of the vocabulary and sentence construction appeared complex. More importantly there is a lack of pictures!

I would give 5 stars to only a couple of the Harry Potter books - so the fact that I give this 4 stars indicates I think very highly of it.

Shackletons Forgotten Men: The Untold Tale of an Antarctic Tragedy
Shackletons Forgotten Men: The Untold Tale of an Antarctic Tragedy
by Lennard Bickel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Epic Tragedy, 5 Jun. 2012
I was familiar with the story of the loss of Endurance at the start of the attempt to cross the Antarctic Continent in 1915. The tale of how Shackleton and his party all escaped the disaster is well known. The story of the other part of the team working from the Ross Sea to lay the depots to the Beardmore Glacier is less well known but no less impressive and inspiring.
Again and again this small team were hit by difficulties that seemed to make their mission impossible; again and again they struggled through, succeeding in meeting all their objectives - if Shackleton had needed the depots they were all in place!
The fight back to safety was heroic as scurvy laid hold of them. But they remained steadfast and committed to each other and to their four dogs who proved to be their salvation. It was the determination of one man to work with the dogs (nurturing them rather than expending them) that gave them the slim chance to survive.
The loss of one man so close to safety was heartbreaking after all the effort that had gone in to saving him; the loss of two more who had been brought to safety was undoubtedly one of the saddest tales I've ever heard.
This is a story that deserves to be more well known.

Wonders of the Universe
Wonders of the Universe
by Brian Cox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars High Quality, 12 Oct. 2011
This is a very good book which does not disappoint and it is a worthy companion to the tv series. The style is appropriate and the book is lavishly illustrated. I particularly liked the sense of wonder and excitement that pervaded the writing The concluding pages were especially good in bringing us back to the amazing situation in which we can (begin to) understand this wonderful universe. It was also good that the sense of mystery remained - in that we do not have all the answers.
Only a couple of points did disappoint.
Firstly the explanation of gravity left me feeling that I am thick or had missed something; "Gravity is simply a curvature of the space-time continuum" That did not feel like an illuminating explanation to me.....
Secondly in the section on the Arrow of Time an attempt was made to predict the future fate of the universe. This was based on the rule of increasing entropy or disorder and seemed very reasonable. However, it was then admitted that the thinking is flawed (because it implies that in the past there must have been a highly ordered universe and we can not imagine how this arose). Given the (admitted) difficulties with the theory I thought that the future fate of the universe should have been stated less dogmatically.
I might have gone with 4 or 5 stars - it only gets 3 because I have the highest regard for the authors and expect perfection from them; perfection was not quite achieved, but they came close.

God's Dangerous Book
God's Dangerous Book
by Page Nick
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sequel required!, 21 Sept. 2011
This review is from: God's Dangerous Book (Paperback)
Other reviewers have reported how the history of the modern bible is set out in an accessible and logical way. I endorse all the positives that have been said on this aspect of the book. I found it interesting and the style appropriate. And I enjoyed the little gems of humour. This aspect is worth 5 stars.

But I was left with the question "So what?"

The title had led me to believe that there would be some consideration of the dangers of the Book. There was some analysis, mainly commenting that tyrants wished to keep the bible out of the hands of the people - the elite could use their access to the bible as a means of controlling the masses.

But such comments were far too limited. I had hoped that the history of the writing of the book would be mirrored by a history of the impact of the book coming into the hands of ordinary people. Comment needed to be made about the religious wars that broke out as a result of some individuals reading the bible and as a result believing that they understood the direction of the Almighty and hence could justify the killing of opponents. Mention should have been made of the evil use to which the bible has been recruited, such as the justification of slavery, war and apartheid - to say nothing of the exploitation of women.

Mention could also be made of the difficulty in conflict resolution when one or both sides claims that the bible gives them certain inalienable rights. The position in the Middle East would be one example of one side claiming that The Book says God gave them the land - therefore there is no scope for negotiation! But another example would be the arguments over allowing women to take the role of Bishops; does the bible actually help or hinder a just solution being reached?

Of course, at the same time the threat to tyrants is real - and the work of Martin Luther King (with his ideas biblically based on the liberation from Egypt) could have been emphasised. And the good work done by thousands of people who have been inspired by their personal bible reading should also be reviewed (Edith Cavell, Bonhoeffer et al).

Knowing the history of the bible is important if one's aim is to pass an exam on the subject; but if one's aim is to use the bible more intelligently and effectively one needs much more.

Nick Page has shown himself well able to carry out historical research and report his findings in an engaging manner. I'd urge him to write the sequel, with the title "THE IMPACT OF GOD'S DANGEROUS BOOK- How to be inspired and avoid the pitfalls".

by Niall Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Plot, 20 Sept. 2011
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This review is from: John (Paperback)
The setting for the book is superbly chosen and acts as a crucible for considering how to hold on to Hope, when our hopes are not being fulfilled.

It seems that the early Christians expected the Return of Jesus to happen before the death of the Apostle John. The story is set in the last years of John's life and the dilemma for his friends and followers is seeking to discern at what point they let go of their hopes and entertain the possibility that they may have been mistaken. In addition to this John is becoming older and frailer and beginning to lose his faculties; at what point should the younger and fitter members of the group strike out on their own? And how much should they defer to the experience of Age? - in this case one who had been with Jesus.

I personally did not like the extent to which the saga was dominated by repeated tragedy; however, this may reflect my 21st century sensibilities - I take modern medicine for granted! However, the story did remind me of Thomas Hardy (if anything can go wrong it probably will).

I felt that the book had a profound weakness in that it had a villain who led a defection in order to seek power for himself. This individual lied and cheated. Although not unrealistic, this was unnecessary and was a distraction from the really important question raised.

When God was a Rabbit
When God was a Rabbit
by Sarah Winman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 29 Aug. 2011
This review is from: When God was a Rabbit (Paperback)
The good thing about the book was the reminder of the importance of preserving and nurturing those relationships formed in childhood, whether with siblings or friends. The early friends and contacts are those who are able to validate early experience which can be so formative. "Who am I?" is closely linked to "What was my early experience?"

But this point (important though it is) was insufficient to redeem the book from mediocrity. Some of the poor things about the book included
* Dependence on sensation (characters kidnapped, winning the pools, murdering and involved in 9/11). This made the book unbelievable
* A childish refusal to give information making the reading frustrating and confusing. For example there is a scene when two lads are throwing something around, and the author takes a page and half to let you know what it is that they are playing with; I found myself re-reading to make sure I'd not overlooked a key clue
* More seriously failing to explain. Was the heroine abused as a child or not?
* And most frustrating of all was the title which led me to expect some depth and exploration of interesting issues (perhaps the difference between childish and adult spirituality). In fact depth and spirituality seemed almost entirely absent!

I finished the book relieved that I could go on to something else which would be more profitable.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 11, 2011 7:06 PM BST

The Film Club: No School. No Work ... Just Three Films a Week
The Film Club: No School. No Work ... Just Three Films a Week
by David Gilmour
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Building Relationship, 15 May 2011
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The basic plot is of a teenager (Jesse) who really struggles with the formality of school. Eventually his father sees that he is wasting time attending and gives him the option of "dropping out" - but on condition that they watch 3 films a week together.

Jesse can not believe his luck - and this shows his genuine despair at the formal education with which he has been force fed.

The story then continues with a catalogue of films - most of which I had not seen or heard of. And this is my one criticism of the book - much of the intimate dialogue is around particular scenes in particular films. If you do not know the film or scene it is a struggle to remain engaged with the story

But what is absolutely brilliant is the way that the films act as a bridge between the generations - that having seen a classic film together they have a shared deep experience and the relevant issues and questions just rise automatically to the surface to be discussed and chewed over. And sometimes it works perfectly - but sometimes not (young Jesse just could not see what was special about the Beatles).

There were some parts of the book where I had to suspend my disbelief that this was a true story; I frankly do not know how much poetic license is used.

So what did I gain from reading this book? Certainly not any inspiration to watch any particular films (the descriptions were too brief for that). What I did gain was the reminder that the younger generation are more than happy to relate to those of us of more mature years - but that it is up to us to think creatively to find the settings in which those relationships can flourish.

The Elephant Keeper
The Elephant Keeper
by Christopher Nicholson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Teamwork!, 5 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Elephant Keeper (Paperback)
I was given this book by a friend - and read it in a couple of days, so must have been quite enthralling!

Good and interesting aspects of the book

* Exploration of the difference (if any) between man and "beast". The example of Elephant and keeper is perhaps a better subject than man and dog or man and horse due to the longevity of the life of the elephant and the closeness of their working relationship. The physical closeness and the fact that the elephant has no bridle (but consents to be ridden) demonstrate that there is a real bond and partnership - perhaps a relationship of equals?
* The link to "Gulliver's Travels" was well made - the same questions are asked as to whether a human should be considered in any way superior to an animal.
* I thought that his isolation in failing to find anyone else who truly cared for the Elephant was well done. However, I think (even for the times in which it is set) it is unlikely that there would have been no one else who would not have recognised the charms of such an excellent beast (particularly when the "master" was keen on them). I thought Lizzie was more likely to see that the way to Tom's heart would be through the Elephant (rather than seeing her as a rival).
* I liked the part when Tom was challenged about not doing anything to save the woman in need. And it was good to see that he responded, taking action to try and avert a further violation. But the death of the perpetrator seemed unnecessary and over dramatic.
* Having lived in Bath I recognised the pub ("the Bear") on the Wells Road.

Difficulties with the book

* I thought that the book lost integrity when Tom portrayed his relating to the Elephant as though they were actually speaking directly with each other. I am sure that deep relationships can form across species but the communication is non verbal and surely never that clear. I seemed to me that he was "putting words into her mouth", and so what appeared as a dialogue was in reality a monologue - Tom arguing with himself (nothing wrong with that of course)
* I was not sure that the accounts of the frequent visits to prostitutes added anything to the book. Was it supposed to show that his relationship with the elephant was second rate because no sexual relationship was possible - and therefore the prostitutes were inevitable?
* I did not like the style. It was very much in the style of "Gulliver's Travels" - and that is how they wrote in the 18th or 19th century. But Jonathan Swift was writing at that time - the Elephant Keeper is written in 2009 and so for me, the style was a distraction.
* Some of the characters appeared a bit wooden and predictable.........

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