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Sue "Sue" (Cyprus)

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Conflict: Understanding, Managing and Growing Through Conflict
Conflict: Understanding, Managing and Growing Through Conflict
by Joyce Huggett
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Dealing with conflict, 18 Jun 2014
This is a helpful volume for anyone wanting to understand what conflict is, from a Christian perspective, with some helpful suggestions for resolution and moving forward. It begins with an overview of situations in the Bible where there was confict, emphasising that it's not always wrong: that conflict WILL happen when people have opposing viewpoints or experiences, or perhaps when they're tired or hungry. What matters is what we do with it.

I slightly skimmed this first part of the book as none of it was new to me, but found the majority both interesting and readable, even though I'm not currently in any real situations of conflict. Joyce Huggett was living in Cyprus when she wrote this, and describes some situations and anecdotes which felt very familiar to me.

Some might find her suggestions too prescriptive; when tempers are raised most people aren't going to sit down with paper and pencil and work through their deepest emotions together. But there are, nonetheless, some helpful suggestions which are relevant to those without faith as much as those who are believers.

Recommended.


Hama 002251 24 x 36mm Negative File Sleeves and Glassine Matt 100 Sheets
Hama 002251 24 x 36mm Negative File Sleeves and Glassine Matt 100 Sheets
Price: 24.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 17 Jun 2014
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These negative holders are ideal for 35mm films; they fit in various kinds of ring binders, and are made from lightweight - but strong - paper. They're easy to use and make it so much easier to find old negatives if I want to scan them for my computer.


The Bell Family (Vintage Childrens Classics)
The Bell Family (Vintage Childrens Classics)
by Noel Streatfeild
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.92

3.0 out of 5 stars Good addition to a Streatfeild collection, 12 Jun 2014
It's always nice to acquire and read another Noel Streatfeild, and this is a nice edition with a brief biography and glossary in the back, intended for modern children who don't know much about the 1950s. This particular novel is a little unusual in that it started out as a series of radio plays.

It features the Bell family, who bear several striking resemblances to the author's own family, as portrayed in her autobiography 'The Vicarage Family'. As ever, there are some talented children: Paul who is highly academic and want to be a doctor, Jane who loves ballet, and Angus who sings well enough to have a place at a choir school but really doesn't want to sing. And then there's Ginnie, who is probably the one closest to Noel Streatfeild in character - kind-hearted but impulsive, bright but rebellious.

The book is a series of incidents through the year, showing the family contrasted with their rich and materialistic relatives, covering day-to-day problems and stresses, and seeing the children make some important decisions. It's far from the best of Noel Streatfeild's work, but it's very readable and I'm pleased to have this in my collection at last.


Me and My Sisters (Penguin Ireland)
Me and My Sisters (Penguin Ireland)
by Sinead Moriarty
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Annoying conversational style but otherwise quite readable, 9 Jun 2014
This is quite a readable book, about an Irish family with three very different sisters, all around forty. They're rather caricatured: one ultra-successful highly intelligent lawyer who likes to be in control, one harassed mother of triplets plus a toddler, and one ex-model who married a millionaire and spends her time shopping and getting beauty treatments. Oh, and a token tree-hugging brother.

Then crises hit them all in different ways and they discover just how important their relationships with each other are. Again it's rather stereotyped; for instance, the sister who likes to be in control finds herself in a situation where she can no longer control her life. And, because it's that kind of book, it's fairly certain that everything will work out fine in the end.

All of which would be fine, and - other things being equal - I would award it four stars despite the stereotypes. It was, for the most part, well written, changing viewpoint each chapter, gradually builing up the story. There are some quite likeable minor characters, and the triplets are so utterly dreadful that they provide a bit of light relief.

But unfortunately a lot of the conversations were unrealistic, peppered with 'she sighed' and 'he noted' and 'she grinned' and other annoying words that jarred. I was also mystified why, every few pages, people 'roared laughing' (I assume an Irish phrase meaning 'roared with laughter') when situations were mildly amusing or ironic and a smile would have been more appropriate.

Worse, I found the youngest sister totally unbelievable when her crisis hit, behaving like a spoilt self-centred brat. Up to that point she had been shallow but likeable; her character change did not work, nor did her eventual acceptance of the situation. I found the level of bad language unpleasantly high, too.

Still, it raises some interesting issues about single parenthood and the importance of having aims in life, and despite the annoying conversational style, it's a very readable book.


The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest
Price: 0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Social Satire, 9 Jun 2014
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This is a well-known classic which I've seen on screen but don't think I had previously read the original play. A free Kindle edition encouraged me to try it, and I was surprised at how easy it was to read despite the stage directions and dramatic format.

The story is a satirical jab at the silliness of society at the end of the 19th century, featuring two men who invent fictitious lives in order to escape from their families for a while. Two girls fall in love with them, but insist that they can only ever love men called Ernest...

I found myself smiling a few times, and irritated at others by the trivialities of upper-class society - but then that's the point of it, really. It's not a long play, and I read it in just a couple of days. Well worth reading, in my view.


The Sea Garden
The Sea Garden
by Marcia Willett
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging but confusing!, 5 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Sea Garden (Paperback)
Jess, who has just finished university, has won a prestigious prize which gives her the opportunity of a year off. In meeting Kate the widow of the prize donor, she finds herself staying in a village in Devon for a while, where she meets a large number of connected people, and feels herself oddly at home.

The elderly Rowena is surprisingly excited at the thought of meeting Jess, who turns out to look remarkably like her grandmother did when she was young... and it seems there may be another connection, too. Meanwhile there are marriage problems for Kate's son Guy and his wife Gemma, who is the daughter of Kate' best friend Cass...

I always enjoy books by Marcia Willett, but sometimes find her huge cast of characters to be rather confusing. Most of the ones in this book are old friends from previous novels; I certainly recognised Kate and Cass, Guy and Gemma, and various others who recur with a new set of problems. But I've read the previous novels over several years and haven't re-read most of them; so there's no way I can keep them all in my head. And this book starts in a frustrating way; other than Jess's story, it seems to be a re-hash of parts of several other books, as different people think about incident - happy and sad - in their pasts.

However, she does tell a good story, and I found myself quickly caught up in Jess's narrative at any rate, and also rooting for Guy and Gemma. I skimmed parts about boats or the navy - these books are set in a world far removed from my own - and tried to ignore the assumptions about boarding schools which always annoy me slightly.

Towards the end it became rather more interesting and I found the ending nicely satisfying, so could almost give this three-and-a-half stars... but not quite.


Our Day Will Come (Midchester Memories (Sally Quilford Pocket Novels))
Our Day Will Come (Midchester Memories (Sally Quilford Pocket Novels))
Price: 0.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Light historical romance, 4 Jun 2014
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This novella, which I read on my Kindle, is part of the Midchester series of light mysteries. It's set in 1944 and begins with the odd disappearance of stockings from people's washing lines. Betty, the pub landlord's daughter, gets into conversation with the elderly Peg who keeps an eye on everyone and is reputed to have been quite a sleuth in her younger days.

There are some recuperating American airmen in a hospital nearby, one of whom finds Betty very attractive. She likes him too, but feels obligated to stay faithful to the memory of Eddie, her best friend from childhood, who asked her to wait for him before he went off to war. He has been missing in action for a couple of years but his parents are convinced he is still alive...

I enjoyed this book very much. Sally Quilford has a gift of characterisation, bringing her people to life so realistically that several of them got right under my skin as I read. There's quite a large cast, and several related subplots; it could have been confusing, but somehow wasn't. The background of a small village during World War II is nicely painted, introducing a bit of social history without making me feel as if I were being educated.

It's more of a light romance in a historical context than a whodunit; the stocking mystery (and related incidents) recurs through the book, but the solution comes as a bit of an anticlimax, although I had not guessed what it would be. It had almost become an irrelevance as I was so much more interested in the various relationships in the book.

Recommended as a light read.


The Black Riders
The Black Riders
by Violet Needham
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Fortitude and loyalty, 2 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Black Riders (Paperback)
The hero of this book is 11-year-old Dick, an orphan in an unnamed empire, presumably somewhere in central Europe in the early part of the 20th century. He befriends a mysterious man who is part of a political uprising against the current governor, and finds himself caught up in an underground resistance movement where he passes on messages, walks many miles, risking his life, and stays strong to some important promises.

It's not really my kind of book, but it's one my mother loved as a child and re-read as an adult; I've only just read it for the first time and found myself enjoying it very much. This was Violet Needham's first novel, but the writing is fast-paced, the characters well-drawn. If the plot is a little confusing - I wasn't entirely sure of the political ramifications, or why the resistance movement had to be so secret - it doesn't actually matter too much, since the story is about adventure with a strong theme of loyalty under pressure.

Undoubtedly there are stereotypes and caricatures; yet the 'good' people have their faults, and the 'bad' ones don't all turn out to be quite so bad after all, even if their motivations are sometimes a bit dubious.

All in all I thought this a good read, which would probably appeal to adventure-loving children from the age of about nine or ten upwards, if they read fluently; it could also make an excellent read-aloud, as adults can enjoy it too.


The Man With Two Left Feet and Other Stories
The Man With Two Left Feet and Other Stories
Price: 2.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Early short story collection, 2 Jun 2014
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Although this is very early Wodehouse, I enjoyed this varied selection of short stories, including one which -I later learned - was the first time he wrote about Bertie Wooster and his manservant Jeeves.

I'm pretty sure I've read some of these stories before, but that didn't matter at all. I particularly enjoyed a two-part tale narrated by a dog where the humour relies on the dog's trust in human nature, and some rather clever writing that lets the reader understand what's really going on. There are also more standard stories of relationships marred by misunderstandings, of mishaps and mistakes that, while naturally seeming a little old fashioned, are still relevant to the modern mind.

The title story - about a man who is unable to dance - is the last one in the book, and one which, like several, was rather predictable; not that this matters with Wodehouse humour, as the gently ironic style and upper-class language are what make the stories so enjoyable. While his brilliant use of language hasn't quite come to the fore in this selection, there were some passages that made me smile; for instance, in describing an area populated with artistes of all kind, from the perspective of a policemen, he writes:

'They assault and batter nothing but pianos, they steal nothing but ides, they murder nobody except Chopin and Beethoven.'

Definitely recommended for any Wodehouse fans who enjoy short stories, but not ideal as an introduction to the great man. Available in paperback or Kindle format.


Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
by Henri J M Nouwen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and inspiring, 26 May 2014
This was originally written by Henri Nouwen for a secular Jewish friend of his. He wanted not to 'convert' him, but to help him understand how much God loved him, to sense that he was a beloved child in a broken world.

The writing is powerful and moving, using as themes for individual chapters the four words: Taken, Blessed, Broken and Given. Nouwen examines what these concepts have meant to him over the years, and how he has - very slowly - come to accept the love of God no matter what his circumstances.

It's honest and often moving, and reads very much like a letter to a friend, although at times I forgot that there was a specific audience. There's a prologue and epilogue which talk more about it, but the bulk of the book - barring a few specific comments about the friendship - are relevant to anyone.

It's a short book, but very thought-provoking, so I didn't want to read too much at one time. I read just a chapter (or less) per day for nearly two weeks. Highly recommended.


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