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Jon Mack (London, UK)

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Zero Option
Zero Option
by Chris Ryan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable storyline, but entertaining enough, 4 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Zero Option (Paperback)
If you can suspend your disbelief, and honestly convince yourself that the powers that be would sanction the mission detailed in the book, becomes an enjoyable enough story. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, but when all's said and done, it's easy enough to guess the ending (which I won't give away).

Ryan doesn't have the same easy storytelling capability as MacNab, but he is a much better writer. That said, there are still some very obvious moments of "thesaurus intervention"...


The Collaborators
The Collaborators
by Reginald Hill
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly recommended, 23 Feb. 2006
This review is from: The Collaborators (Paperback)
This is quite a a departure from the Daziel and Pascoe books we expect from Hill, but I thoroughly enjoyed this novel set in occupied Paris.
It focuses on a young mother who compromises herself with links to an Abwehr agent in order to secure her husband's return to Paris from a German PoW hospital and to ensure safe passage for her young children to Vichy. The book details the utter self-destruction of Parisian society presided over by the Axis, and the revenge of the Parisian mob against collaborators.
This might sound a bit 'heavy', but the book is characteristically well written and moving. Thoroughly recommended.

Drink with the Devil
Drink with the Devil
by Jack Higgins
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars C- for effort...., 21 Dec. 2004
This review is from: Drink with the Devil (Paperback)
The book looks promising, but from the word go, it's plain that Higgins has put very little time into it. The faux-attempted rape at the beginning bears a resounding similarity to the faux-attempted assault near the beginning of Higgins' novella 'The Keys of Hell' - out of print at the time 'Drink with the Devil' was published (since republished by HarperCollins).
Indeed, even the characters seem familiar to anyone who has read Higgins' 'The Eagle has Flown'. Liam Devlin ('The Eagle has Landed'/'The Eagle has Flown') even makes a curious appearance, as an elderly former IRA sharp shooter. And in Kate Ryan, we have another Kate who goes slowly mad (see: 'Midnight Runner'/'The Edge of Danger', etc.).

So what's the net effect? Well, expect plenty of Bushmills whiskey; clichéd Irish phrases; and a rather unconvincing plot, which is so silly you wouldn't even be able to guess the end (until the last fifty pages). Penguin should have been more vigorous in their editing - they couldn't even be bothered to correct the odd spelling mistake here and there. Shame.

A Clergyman's Daughter
A Clergyman's Daughter
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but Orwell was right..., 17 Jun. 2004
This review is from: A Clergyman's Daughter (Paperback)
Orwell wasn't too keen on this book, and it's not difficult to see why. Of course, it's characteristically well written, but there's something missing. And that something is any sense of metanarrative. The three sections to the book read as if they are in reality separate stories, and in truth, that is what they should have been published as. Don't expect this to be up to the high standard of Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four, because it just isn't. It's an interesting read, but, given that nothing really happens, you might find yourself wondering why you started the book in the first place.

A New Land Law
A New Land Law
by Peter Sparkes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £37.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boring subject, but this should ease the pain..., 17 Jun. 2004
This review is from: A New Land Law (Paperback)
Some will be deterred by the sheer size of this book. In length, it's comparable with other standard Land Law texts such as Kevin & Susan Gray's tome, and certainly much more detailed than introductory texts like Cursley & Green's Land Law (Palgrave Law Masters). The second edition is repackaged and updated, with references in the text being to paragraph rather than page numbers.
Having studied under the great man, it is apparent that Professor Sparkes brings a levity to what is traditionally a dull and turgid subject - compulsory for all undergraduate Law degrees in England and Wales. From his comments about red squirrels to his apposite use of diagrams to demonstrate the structure of trusts, overall Sparkes has written a brilliant book on Land Law - and that probably takes some doing. If students take the time to read the relevant parts, they will easily find it a useful tool in their first year studies.

Secret Prey (Lucas Davenport Mysteries)
Secret Prey (Lucas Davenport Mysteries)
by John Sandford
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start, silly names, but becomes a real page-turner, 11 Jun. 2004
If you sat at your Mac trying to write a novel, what names might you give your characters? If you sat there too long, you might name one "Del", and add "Capslock" as a surname. This is perhaps what Sandford has done, but if you can get away from the clunky names, chances are you'll find this an enjoyable book. At times a slow read, it picks up the pace in the second half - although it's not too difficult to guess "whodunit", the question remains how many more characters will be killed off, and why? Sandford leads the reader down a bit of a blind alley in the first few chapeters, but any more than that would give the story away...

Breakthrough #03: A Life God Rewards (Breakthrough (Multnomah Hardcover))
Breakthrough #03: A Life God Rewards (Breakthrough (Multnomah Hardcover))
by Bruce Wilkinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.91

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor offering from Wilkinson, 10 Feb. 2004
This book frankly amazed me. I was amazed at the price for such a small book; and even more surprised by Wilkinson’s central thesis, that what we do here on Earth affects how we are rewarded in Heaven. Having read the book, I felt I must write something, since this book seems to have basked in nothing but positive reviews – which are simply misleading. I know this is popular teaching in the US – less so in the UK. Why write a theological book when you can get to the top of the NY Times Bestsellers list?
Wilkinson organises the book around two “keys”. The first key is belief (chapters seven onwards), and the second is how our works affect our repayment in Heaven (chapters one to six).
The author presents a number of interesting concepts – such as the idea of property ownership in Heaven:
“What is surprising is what Jesus promises a faithful steward of His treasure. It is not, as you might expect, that you’ll steward more treasure in Heaven, but that you will own it.” (p. 86)
Wilkinson’s argument rests upon the verse in Matthew 6: 19-20:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal…”
The problem some might have with this verse is Wilkinson’s literal interpretation of it. Surely the treasure in Heaven is to be able to worship God continually. Without evangelism…?
There are a number of other ideas, which are cause for concern.
For example, in ‘Hell by Degrees’ (p.97), the author ‘demonstrates’ how eternal punishment is related to how bad we have been on Earth. However, I think for me, Wilkinson’s understanding of Hell is woefully inadequate. How would his argument stand up if we begin to conceptualise hell as simply being the eternal absence of God? What worse punishment could there be than that? Would Wilkinson modify his argument along the lines of Very bad=No access to God, Just a bit bad=some access to God? It is submitted that that just does not hold water.
Tough questions such as: “will directing your giving to a high-profile civic fund please Him as much as giving it top your church’s missions fund?” (p.88), miss the mark, and do little to encourage social action.
But then, not completely unexpectedly, Wilkinson seems to spot the problem with his argument, and adds that belief fills the gaps that our good works miss. A bit like Tort fills the gaps in contract. Since, “no amount of good works can save us” (p.97).
So where are we left at the end of the book? Well, I was confused by Wilkinson’s contradictions. I understand the points he sought to make, but the Bible verses and other quotations were shoehorned in, as if to prove his points. God’s grace is almost completely overlooked – something find rather odd. This book comes in no less than seven different English-language editions. Why? It’s more of a door wedge than a doorstop.
Wilkinson’s focus is on Heaven being the goal. I would argue that God’s glory is the goal – Heaven’s the bonus.

Cases and Materials on Equity and Trusts
Cases and Materials on Equity and Trusts
by Paul Todd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 20 Dec. 2003
This is an excellent book. I would advise that it should be used in conjunction with a "heavier-weight" textbook, such as Hanbury & Martin; but as a cases and materials book, it is well worth investigating.

For All the Saints?
For All the Saints?
by Tom Wright
Edition: Paperback

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For All The Saints, 16 Nov. 2003
This review is from: For All the Saints? (Paperback)
This is a very enjoyable, readable, and short book. Wright sets out to discuss what happens to us when we die, and does so naturally from an Anglican perspective. The central theme is 'where are they now', and he examines New Testament, Roman Catholic, and Anglican teachings on death. He discussed whether it's right to pray for the dead, the traditional Catholic teaching on purgatory.
Some might his style and arguments shocking, but I found them refreshing. How many bishops would write in all seriousness:
"...the sort of hymn you are likely to find sung at All Souls' commemorations these days is probably a piece of woolly Victoriana, hinting at purgatory without really coming out and saying it - which is what the entire commemoration, in its current Anglican mode, does at every point."
But Wright doesn't just knock the Anglo-Catholic tradition: "The traditional hope, as articulated in the New Testament, is that if you die today you won't be in a gloomy gathering in some dismal and perhaps painful waiting room [...] You will be with Christ in paradise."
It's a short book, and perhaps the RRP of £9.99 is a little too much. But it's also immensely readable, tightly focussed, and well argued from beginning to end. I didn't find it as controversial as I had expected, but Wright recognises areas of controversy in his own argument.

C. S. Lewis Essay Collection: and other short pieces
C. S. Lewis Essay Collection: and other short pieces
by C. S. Lewis
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting selection, 14 Sept. 2003
Whilst CS Lewis may be best known for his childrens' fiction, such as the Chronicles of Narnia, some of his other works are well worth a read.
This volume of essays is a good place to start. Each essay is short and to the point, resulting in 'bite-sized Lewis', as it were.
The book is organised into several different thematic chapters, but perhaps the most interesting essays are to be found in Chapter 2: The Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers. Here Lewis sets forth his views on why fantasy and fairytale is helpful to a developing child, and his views on his sometime friend J.R.R. Tolkien's writings.
Lewis was no stranger to literary criticism, and many of the essays are written in response to articles or reviews. Even today, Lewis is remains a controversial figure. Archbishop Rowan Williams has written, "...the problem is less, I think, with Lewis's method than with his unmistakeable clumsiness in handling a good many contemporary aspects of the world in plausible fictional terms." (Williams, 2000). This book goes beyond the fiction and fairytales, and finds Lewis attempting to debunk intellectual moral self deception wherever he finds it.

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