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5.0 out of 5 stars The modern billhook is the best, 31 Dec 2012
I was using one of these this morning to strim down large bits of hawthorn and blackthorn removed from a hedge which was being managed. I looked it up under 'modern billhook' for a YouTube video I am making. It's an excellent piece of work, much more ergonomic than the heavier old fashioned billhooks. Its easier to sharpen being thinner, the extra length and radical curved end make it easier to pick wood up without bending over so much. The leather handle won't split like the wooden handles of other billhooks I have used did. The hand guard greatly reduces the risk of the tool flying away from the hand as it is swung. All round just plain better for hedging and wood trimming work. I have bought a spare one. My only 'complaint' is that I wish they made a smaller one as well, but this is a great tool.


Diagnostic Dermoscopy: The Illustrated Guide
Diagnostic Dermoscopy: The Illustrated Guide
by Jonathan Bowling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £44.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth owning for the learner of dermoscopy., 7 July 2012
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I have learned a huge amount over the last half decade from the teaching of Jonathan Bowling and was delighted to get my hands on his long awaited book. Dr Bowling is the acknowledged top UK expert on dermoscopy and has done much more than anyone else in Britain to popularise and teach this invaluable technique, first by the London meetings he arranged with international experts Giuseppe Argenziano and Peter Soyer and then by his own lecturing with the PCDS and others. The dermoscopy sceptics are being won over by the growing evidence plus hands on experience and this useful addition to the literature will be of great value particulary to beginners.

As well as a comprehensive and practical look at the range of skin lesions, the author also looks at some rashes and hair conditions where the 'scope can help.

Only four stars as the images aren't as big, crisp and bright as in the Johr, Soyer, Argenziano et al book 'Dermoscopy the Essentials', but that's no reason not to own both books. There is advantage for beginners and improvers in dermoscopy in learning from many teachers, due to the inevitably subjective element in dermoscopy. No two lesions are exactly alike and as another reviewer wrote, one needs to see many examples. The blogs (notably Dr Eric Erhsam's excellent dermoscopic blogspot) and free on line resources like the International Dermoscopy Society, dermnetnz, and YouTube can greatly assist, but there is nothing like having a book to keep going back to, and this is a good and affordable one.

Declaration of interest: I know Dr Bowling (although I have not discussed this review with him!) am a trustee of the PCDS, have my own dermoscopy blog and teach dermoscopy for reward.


From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany
From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany
by Richard Weikart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.99

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The criticism is no surprise, 5 Feb 2012
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I cannot say I enjoyed this book but found it very helpful. It is meticulously referenced and does not overstate its case.

It is interesting to note that Weikart has found it necessary to rebut unjust criticisms on line which he already anticipated and rebutted in the introduction to the book. Having read the book carefully (I have also read Mein Kampf and Origin Of Species, which I keep together next to the Koran in my research library) I have an open mind on whether all of the negative reviewers here have read any one of these three books, let alone all three. Passages in Mein Kampf could easily have been copied verbatim from Darwin. Hitler makes numerous references to Darwinian ideas about breeding, competition, race and 'progress'

Weikart does not assert that Darwin inevitably led to Hitler or that it was the sole inspiration for the Nazis or cause of WW2. He demonstrates with very many references that German and particularly Nazi philosophy was suffused with Darwinian thinking, which had displace Christianity as a source of morals.

Ideas have consequences.

I wish this book was easier to obtain.


World Turned Upside Down
World Turned Upside Down
by Melanie Phillips
Edition: Hardcover

20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Openly biased in favour of Judaeo Christian heritage, 8 Nov 2011
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I have just finished reading this book and was particularly interested to read a social comentator who describes herself as 'an agnostic Jew' coming to similar conclusions to myself from my Evangelical Christian perspective. Having said that, she seems to be arguing that there is some virtue in the ideas in the Hebrew Torah which are beneficient and society-building in themselves without quite coming to terms with the idea of the BSG (Big Scary God)who must be obeyed. This is a bit of a stretch.

Her main thesis is, essentially, that the Western civilisation (formerly known as Christendom) of which we enjoy the benefits is deeply threatened because our leaders and key opinion formers and leaders-including the heirarchy of the Church of England- have misled us into neglecting and denying the foundational beliefs and values upon which it was based. These are found in or arise from the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish people, and have been proved and tested by the remarkable survival of the Jews despite persecution for millenia. She argues that the so called 'Enlightenment' divorced from the Judaeo-Christian background in which it arose, became the Terror of the French revolution and various other godless Utopias since.

She says, science, rationality and Western civilisation arose from a world view that was shaped by the Bible and will not flourish in a world from which Biblical values, specifically for Phillips Old Testament values, have vanished. This view is at odds with the 'we do not need God in order to be good' school of thought as articulated by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Chris Hitchens, A C Grayling etc.

In a chapter called 'the green/black/red/Islamic alliance' Philips offers an explanation as to why various Utopian creeds (the 'Deep Green' environmentalist movement, Islam and Socialism) have formed a kind of alliance against Jewish and Christian beliefs. The strange thing about this alliance is that the 'Green' and Liberal-Left movements fail to appreciate that Islam with its non-negotiable global ambitions will devour them, 'Enlightenment', modernity, liberal sexual values and all, once they have helped Islam to devour Judaism and Christianity.

Phillips' attempt to explain this strange blindness is in terms of a broad based and deep loathing of Jews and Israel based on their obstinately standing in the way of the realisation of global Utopias, whether secular or Islamic. Her arguments are more complex than I can satisfactorily set out in a brief review. I find them partly convincing and certainly worth considering. Her bias in favour of Israel does limit the book's value, but at least she is open and honest about her bias unlike many others who hide their equally strong opposite bias under a cloak of pretended objectivity and balance. Philips offers historical evidence for her claims, I confess I am not enough of a history scholar to evaluate them, but they at least deserve to be heard given her claims of anti-Israel bias especially in the BBC.

4 stars only as I feel it is too Jewish-centred, but a challenging read. For those who can see Britain in particular going to hell in slow motion and wonder why nobody who is worried about Islamification, the intolerant PC culture, creeping overregulation and intellectual tyranny seems to be sufficiently concerned or engaged to do something about it, this may be of some interest. Recommended reading for disenchanted conservatives, and to be read alongside Peter Hitchens 'The Cameron delusion'.

She also touches on the pathological God-hatred of the Dawkinists and, while disavowing young earth creationism, asks why the intelligent design hypothesis is demonised, lampooned, misrepresented and denied a hearing but never seriously engaged with, when it offers realistic and rational scientific arguments that at least deserve a hearing and which many think severely challenge Darwinian orthodoxy. But that's another story
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2012 10:11 PM BST


The Rage Against God: Why Faith is the Foundation of Civilisation
The Rage Against God: Why Faith is the Foundation of Civilisation
by Peter Hitchens
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.95

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Hitchen's most important book to date, 27 Sep 2011
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Re-reading this, the warnings ring more true. A devastating critique of the similarities betwen the old Soviet anti-theism (and in particular their efforts to inflict compulsory atheism on children) and what we are seeing in Britain today.

P Hitchens describes the appalling effect of the de-Christianisation of Russia, and sees us heading for the same dismal results.

As he has remarked elsewhere, anti-theism in Britain today is in effect anti-Christianity. Islam sneers, exploits our suicidal rejection of the values we built our civilisation on, and grows exponentially.

This book is about the end of western civilisation (formerly known as Christendom).

there may, possibly, just be time to avert the greatest catastrophe in our history since the Roman invasion. If the catastrophe is averted, Peter Hitchens will go down in history as a great prophet, if not, he will be written out of history altogether.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 15, 2013 11:29 AM BST


A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel: The Second Chronicle of Hugh De Singleton, Surgeon (The Chronicles of Hugh De Singleton, Surgeon)
A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel: The Second Chronicle of Hugh De Singleton, Surgeon (The Chronicles of Hugh De Singleton, Surgeon)
by Mel Starr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying mediaeval murder mystery with medical and religious flavour, 23 Aug 2011
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I have just finished the second of these books and will no doubt read the others. It reminds me a bit of the G C Samsom Matthew Shaldrake novels set during Reformation England. I thought the Shaldrake novels were marginally better written murder mysteries, the Hugh de Singleton books are, without being offensive, not quite so professional. They are good though. The period detail is better if the plot is not so cleverly done.

As a doctor I was interested to read about the medical and surgical aspects of these books. There is some cunningly writen medical details which as far as I can tell is spot on. Honest too. The writer's credentials as a historian come through, lots of fascinating details form another time-and one we may return to when the oil runs out.

The hero reflects a lot on matters of Christian faith (as does Shaldrake in Sansom's books). This might put some people off but is thoughtfully done, authentic and not in my view overdone.

A good page turning read if not a masterpiece. I shall complete the series.


Light Blue/Argyle Coolnotes Journal
Light Blue/Argyle Coolnotes Journal

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love it!, 13 April 2011
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I have a complex life and flights of ideas which I need to write down when they hit me. I use a PDA but its a bit slow. I bought a couple of these notebooks on a trip to Oxford which fit perfectly in my jacket or shirt pocket and am now much better able to write down thoughts, snatches of poems, ideas for my novel, sermon notes and all kinds of stuff. Envelopes as in 'written on the back of' get lost, these are too nice to get chucked away, store conveniently and will build up into a thought diary over the years. Recently I pulled a page out and did a diagram on it to advise a colleague I met at a conference about fruit tree pruning. Very nice, I've come here to order half a dozen while they'e still available. Much better value and thinner paper than Moleskine, also love the colours.


Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism
Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism
by Alister McGrath
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gracious, incisive examination of the 'New' atheism., 23 Mar 2011
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This book really cheered me up. Its just under 100 pages bar the index, but McGrath writes so well and with such insight and clarity that I felt I'd read a much longer book. I'll re-read it before putting it in the church library. His customary very broad background study has taken in a lot of time on the New Atheist blogs. He must have needed a few showers after that-he quotes examples of the routine use of abuse and shouting as a substitute for argument which is so characteristic of these places where like minded people meet to affirm each other's beliefs by expressing anger and hatred against Christianity.

Always the scholar, the author has studied the works of Harris, Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Dawkins and their admirers carefully so others don't have to. Despite the personal abuse he has encountered, he remains objective and gracious, stressing that most atheists he knows are far more tolerant and reasonable then the ones this book is about.

Some of the quotes are disturbing. I knew that C Hitchens disliked Mother Theresa but hadn't realised he said he wished there was a hell for 'the b***h' to go to. Nor had I realised that Sam Harris has written in his book 'The End of Faith' that some beliefs were so dangerous it might be ethical to kill people for holding them. Harris has just written a book 'The Moral Landscape' to tell us why we don't need God to be good.

Detailed examination of the arguments and tactics of the subjects of the book exposes their lack of balance and intellectual rigour. Also there are interesting snippets of information, such as the very low turnout (average about 14) at the meetings of the London 'Brights' as some new atheists tried to title themselves. The attempt to re-brand the negative term 'atheist' as the positive 'Bright' has apparently fizzled out. Goings on at Richard Dawkins web site are considered, guaranteed to raise a smile. I won't spoil it for readers.

On the last page he mentions a young man who asked him to sign one of his theology books after a lecture. McGrath asked what had led him to study theology. He had been sailing through life completely uninterested in God, but after reading Dawkins 'The God Delusion' was so struck by its unfairness and lack of balance that he had started going to church to hear the other side, and, like former atheist Alister McGrath, found the reality so much more interesting than the parody that he became a Christian.

McGrath notes that the Dawkinists have punched above their weight by tactical use of the worldwide web, something I had noticed, but numerically they are still dwarfed by Christians, with (for example) Rick Warren's devotional book 'The Purpose Driven Life' outselling 'The God Delusion' by thirty to one.

'Why God won't go away' is well worth a read by anyone, Christian or not, who is fed up with the self-satisfied hectoring of the anti-God brigade and would like to see their claims to own the freehold on logic, reason and science critically examined. This is accomplished here by a powerful intellect who is as well qualified a scientist as Dawkins and has also seriously studied philosophy and Christianity.

McGrath is shaping up as a worthy successor to that other Oxford don who responded with informed and reasoned argument to the Christian-baiters of his day, C S Lewis. Like McGrath, Lewis was a former athiest and a well-read scholar with a brilliant mind, who became convinced by the evidence that Christianity was not merely the best way to live, but was actually true and indeed was supported by the best available evidence. Of course, people are not always persuaded by evidence, however good, and this is the sort of argument McGrath considers and gently but firmly turns against the Dawkinists.

This is not a book of Christian apologetics (see Lee Strobel for that) but a critical examination of the arguments and tactics of the New Atheists to expose their weaknesses. Job done.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 12, 2014 9:58 PM BST


Last Light
Last Light
by Alex Scarrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying, 26 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Last Light (Paperback)
edited by SH 31.12.2010

This book gave me a bad dream and made me depressed for weeks. Hopefully that's partly what the author intended? I am writing a post-oil apocalyptic novel myself (isn't everybody?) and read this for research. I did not enjoy it, but it rings largely true. There are similarities, I thought, with the plot, style and characterisation of the last such novel I read, 'Retrieved from the Future' by John Seymour which I read earlier this year. I won't spoil the plots of either book by saying too much, beyond saying that Seymour's post-oil breakdown story is set in the country (Scarrow's action is in the city) and is incompetence rather than conspiracy, and also that Seymour, although he had been a soldier as well as a farmer was more matter of fact and distant about the violence and terror whereas Scarrow's violence is described in detail in the modern style, and of course lots and lots of swearing. Look, I KNOW chavs and soldiers swear like schoolboys, but do modern writers ALWAYS have to rub our faces in it? Scarrow is very pessimistic, I regreat to say that my views of the real coming SHTF situation are nearer to Scarrow's than Seymour's. As I edit this review on New Year's Eve 2010, there is trouble in Northern Ireland where 40,000 homes are without running water due to bad weather and underinventment (itself a legacy of the Troubles), a tiny, tiny microcosm of the breakdown Scarrow envisages here.

The bits from Iraq were I thought the best written, totally believable fight sequences, the soldiers and particularly the part of the Iraqi interpreter were written very movingly and felt true. Heartbreaking.

That's about all I can bring myself to write about this ghastly book. It puts me in mind of the prophets Cassandra of Troy (I think) and the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, who consistently prophesied uncomfortable truth but nobody would listen to them, preferring to hear something comforting instead, and so necessary action was not taken and the coming tragedy was not averted.

not a nice read, but 4 stars for telling the ugly truth. Part of it anyway.


A Hideous Beauty (Kingdom Wars Series #1) (The Kingdom Wars)
A Hideous Beauty (Kingdom Wars Series #1) (The Kingdom Wars)
by Jack Cavanaugh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.46

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent attempt, but dissapointing spiritual thriller., 9 Oct 2010
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I thought I posted a review earlier but it hasn't come up. I bought this as I am into C S Lewis' theological thrillers, but this fell far short. It read more like Raymond Chandler meets Dan Brown with too many co-incidences in the plot (like his ex girlfriends knowing each other and one also being tangled with the main antagonist) and rather too much irritating and repetitive monologue from the main protagonist (the novel is mainly written in the first person).

Its no plot spoiler (since this much is on the blurb) to say that the plot concerns interactions between men and supernatural beings (demons and angels). Also, I believe that the author has borrowed a good deal from C S Lewis's book of a similar title (That Hideous Strength) which has several character and plot similarities I could detail. No shame in borrowing from a master.

There is a major plot spoiler by the publisher in the small print on the front inside cover of the book which annoyed me.

Parts of this story were quite good. Given that we cannot know what it would be like to interact directly with spiritual beings, Cavanaugh uses his imagination effectively with a few notable well written scenes. The basic premise of the novel-the conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories, that certain developments in geopolitics are best explained by evil supernatural personalities influencing politicians and writers-is a challenging one which will appeal to Bible believing Christians and some others. This theme was IMO better developed in 'That Hideous Strength' and I managed to keep reading to the (slightly ludicrous) end, but I don't think I'll read the others in the series. Lewis's demons were I thought better for being underwritten, Cavanaugh's are overwritten and I thought not very believable.

3 stars, 2.5 would be more like it. Anyone who likes the 'Left Behind' series of apocalyptic end-time novels might like this. I didn't.


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