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Ray Ellis (Nr Reading)

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The Poisonwood Bible
The Poisonwood Bible
Price: £5.69

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, 22 Jun. 2011
Based on most of the reviews that I read, I seriously expected to hate this book. Some people seemed to be giving it 1 star, because of its politics and the fact that it slagged off missionaries. Others seemed to be giving it 5 stars, because of its politics and the fact that it slagged off missionaries. And Nathan Price seemed from their descriptions to be little more than a two-dimensional ogre.

In fact I didn't find any of those things to be true. There is a strong political element its true, but only comes explicitly to the fore in the later writings of the character of Leah Price Ngemba - but then, she is a political activist, so that's kind of understandable.

The 'message' seems to be that forcing western solutions onto Africa is wrong and that if westerners want to be a part of Africa they should immerse themselves in the culture. That is the political message: Leah and Anatole seek to work inside the system. It is the cultural message: e.g. the gardening solitions that the Price family bring with them don't work, because they don't understand the environment. And it is the religious message: Missionaries per se are not bad, just those who force a western style Christianity into an African culture. By comparison, Brother Fowles is a very positive character. Not because he is a liberal who has given up his beliefs as some have suggested, because his beliefs still seem very strong. But he has contextualised them to the African culture.

As for the 'ogre' Nathan Price: I actually found myself feeling sorry for him. He is certainly a flawed character and I would not condone many (if any) of his actions. But there are reasons why he behaves as he does and ultimately, he is brought down by his arrogance. He is the Willy Loman of the missionary world. Not a two dimensional character then, but a very flawed and well-realised three dimensional one.

Actually, I had less sympathy with Orleanna Price, the mother. I think I was supposed to sympathise with her because she was a product of her times (a 1950s housewife). But I just found her annoyingly spineless, blaming all of her problems on her bullying husband, because she hadn't had the gumption to stand up to him or marry somebody else.

Other than that, my only quibble with the book was Nathan's fatal flaw of wanting to baptise the children in crocodile-infested waters - which is his eventual undoing. The problem is that he is a Baptist (or Southern Baptist) preacher. Baptists don't baptise children. They baptise adults. Thats where the name baptist comes from (a derivation of "re-baptiser" - because of their early habit of re-baptising people as adults, because they didn't believe in infant baptism).

I read The Poisonwood Bible because I had to for a book group. And I was pleasantly surprised and delighted. Anybody who can write about 400 pages of enthralling literature set entirely within a small African village has clearly got a gift for storytelling.

Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (New Testament for Everyone)
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (New Testament for Everyone)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informal & Friendly, 15 Jun. 2011
This is a part of Tom Wright's "For Everyone" series of New Testament commentaries (there is an accompanying series of Old Testament commentaries "For Everyone" written by John Goldingay). Specifically it is part of the "Paul For Everyone" subset.

Here, Wright pulls together the apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians and links it to the two letters to the Thessalonians. The rational for this (since they don't sit next to each other in the New Testament) is that they are the three earliest of Paul's letters and so, presumably are coming from a similar theological place. The commentaries on Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, which sit between Galatians & Thessalonians in the New Testament, appear in a separate volume of "Prison Letters".

The "For Everyone" tag line, as well as the informal author name (Tom Wright rather than N T Wright), tells you who this is aimed at. Although he is a respected theologian who has contributed much to New Testament thought, here Tom Wright is writing for the ordinary reader, for those who don't have a theology qualification.

The style is friendly and informal includes a complete translation of the letters (written in a similarly friendly and informal style). After each section, Wright then comments and looks at the issues raised, usually beginning with a sermon illustration-type story.

For me, the style is almost too informal and slangy. Not that I think it should be overly ponderous and respectful, but just that it would probably sound better being read out loud than written down. The overall impression is of a friendly vicar paraphrasing the reading before launching into a short homily on it. But that, I suppose, is the point.

Vulcan's Forge (Star Trek)
Vulcan's Forge (Star Trek)
by Josepha Sherman
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Actually quite good, 14 Jun. 2011
Another single character Star Trek novel, focussing on the iconic Vulcan, written by two Spock-obsessed female writers. There was a lot to be wary of here. But actually I quite enjoyed it. The parallel storylines, one from Spock's adolescence and one from his adulthood, after the Enterprise years, work well. There is only a limited amount of new material that you can bring to a franchised character, but this novel does a good job of finding and filling in the few gaps left in Spock's biography (e.g. the circumstances around his decision to join Starfleet and his career change in later life).

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Product update, 27 July 2009
Despite the photo, this product does not include a safety net. It is still reasonably priced, but not the fantastic bargain that it might otherwise look.

Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World (After Christendom)
Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World (After Christendom)
by Stuart Murray
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Start of an important new series, 26 Aug. 2008
Post-Christendom is the first in the After Christendom series, looking at the the inevitable collapse of Christendom (the link between church and state that has defined Western civilisation for most of the last 2000 years) and its implications for the church.

Writing out of the Anabaptist tradition, Murray views this as a wholly good thing. For him (as for many Christians), Constantine's endorsement of the church at the beginning of the 4th century was where it all went horribly wrong. Corruption was not necessarily inevitable, but compromise certainly was. It is on the margins (and often under persecution) that the church has historically modelled a more authentic witness.

In the first half of his book, Murray gives us an historical overview of the growing comprise leading from the early church leaders' decision. He then focuses on specific issues, including the way that the Bible was read (Old Testament rather than Gospels) and the pushing of Jesus from the centre to the margins (as the church made the opposite journey).

He ends with a look at how the church can function (is already beginning to function) as Christendom breaks down. After a strong start, the book begins to fray a little here, with some points being repeated several times. This is a minor quibble as the point of the series is that these themes will be developed in the following volumes. Post-Christendom is a strong start to an important new series. It is followed by: Church After Christendom, Faith and Politics After Christendom: The Church as a Movement for Anarchy (After Christendom) and Youth Work After Christendom (After Christendom)

h1900 Leather Belt Case
h1900 Leather Belt Case
Offered by GadgetsGizmos
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay - but not brilliant, 5 Jan. 2008
Bought this after the plastic one that came with my iPAQ hw6515 phone finally snapped. The hp website says they are compatible and they are. Sort of. Spent the first day inadvertently making phone calls, because the way that I would naturally fit it into this sideways hanging pouch was clearly the wrong way. In the absence of any instructions, I eventually worked out that positioning the iPAQ with the buttons facing outward and the SD card pointing upwards would mean that the buttons wouldn't get pressed by mistake (because the outer side of the case sits proud of them). The hp site and others also claim that the case includes a credit card holder. It doesn't. But there is a bit where you can stick two SD mini cards. The whole thing isn't stylish as claimed, but a bit blocky & ugly. But it does the job after a fashion. Oh yes and the belt clip is quite rigid and tight (like a big metal clip really). But don't be fooled - it will still fall off your belt at inopportune moments.

Doctor Who - The Dalek Invasion Of Earth [DVD] [1964]
Doctor Who - The Dalek Invasion Of Earth [DVD] [1964]
Dvd ~ William Hartnell
Price: £5.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb release with extras to match, 28 July 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When the daleks first appeared in the second Doctor Who serial, at the end of 1963, they were an instant success. And so the first Doctor Who sequel was commissioned, and this - screened one year later - was the result. Again written by dalek creator Terry Nation, this story transports the metal baddies to the familiar setting of a future England.

Despite the very low budget, the whole 6 episodes have an epic feel, making good use of location filming and a huge number of sets (mostly crammed into one small studio), in a way that was almost unheard of in the days of early sixties television. Most of the London exterior scenes were shot in a single morning, enabling wide shots of daleks roaming a deserted capital.

As well as a credible departure for the doctor's grand-daughter, Susan (with a romance built up over the 6 episodes), there are also several iconic moments (daleks over westminster bridge, dalek emerging from the Thames, Barbara crashing through daleks in a dustcart, etc).

In places it gets over ambitious and there is an unnecessary extra monster, the slyther, which looks laughable today (but was quite popular in 1964). Also the dalek saucers don't really work - but there is an option to watch a new cgi version of those, which slips seamlessly into the existing footage.

As well as a great commentary with two of the shows stars, plus producer and director crammed into the studio, plus the usual information text running along the bottom of all episodes, giving insights and trivia about the making of each scene. Disc one also includes the original trailers from 1964 and those new cgi clips as a separate show.

Disc two features over two hours of additional features. There is a 20 minute interview with designer Spencer Chapman, a 10 minute featurette on the dalek voices and 45 minutesof memories from the supporting cast. These are a bit talking headish, but there is more to come:

Other gems include a radio play from the 90s, in which Jane Asher plays the grown up Susan looking back, and a Blue Peter clip from the height of dalekmania, with Valerie Singleton showing us how to make some distinctly unstable dalek cakes. A great little feature is a 6 minute extract from episode 6, superimposed over a plan of the studio showing the accompanying camera moves and the accompanying shooting script.

All in all, a superb release with extras to match. Impossible to fault.

Goth Opera (Doctor Who Missing Adventures)
Goth Opera (Doctor Who Missing Adventures)
by Paul Cornell
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The first and one of the best, 23 July 2007
From 1994, until their license expired in 1997, Virgin published 33 'Missing Adventures' - original Doctor Who novels to slot in between the adventures that had appeared on TV. Less experimental than the 'New Adventures', they were intended to reflect the Doctor Who era in which they were set. This one, the first to be published, features the Fifth Doctor, with Nyssa and Tegan. It was designed to fit in between the TV adventures Snakedance and Mawdryn Undead. It is also a sequel to the Seventh Doctor New Adventures novel Blood Harvest.

The story concerns the vampire Yarven and the Time Lady Ruath's desire to turn the Earth into a vampire planet that will go on to conquer space and time. Although one of the shortest of the Missing Adventures it is fast-paced and features a number of clever twists. There is quite a large cast of characters for so short a novel, but Cornell handles them well and deftly gives us access to the vampire world and its motivations.

Less convincing is the sub-plot featuring an American evangelist and his followers, who are convinced that the vampires are satanic cultists. Religious belief rarely fares well in Doctor Who fiction, but their portrayal is reasonably sympathetic if rather caricatured. Of course the evangelist is not allowed to be perfect, nor even reasonably flawed. He of course has a massive wodge of SIN in his past that does nothing to advance the plot and just makes it look clumsy and fannish.

On the whole though, a good novel by Paul Cornell that neatly sets the standard for the Missing Adventures.

Doctor Who - Circular Time (Big Finish)
Doctor Who - Circular Time (Big Finish)
by Paul Cornell
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £14.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something for everyone?, 22 July 2007
As has already been noted, Circular Time is not a single four-part story, but four half-hour plays, featuring the 5th Doctor and Nyssa, loosely linked by a common theme.

The common theme is that there is a kind of time that is circular, that things do not necessarily move lineally from birth to death, but that events can be cyclical, returning to the beginning and repeating themselves rather like the seasons. This is not entirely clear in the first two stories, but is more explicit in the final two.

The writers have tried to give us 4 different types of Doctor Who story: 'alien planet, pure historical, social realism and shameless fan service'.

"Spring" features a renegade Time Lord trying to create an avian empire. It has a clever plot, but doesn't really resolve anything by the end.

"Summer" is a pure historical, set in the 17th century, in which Isaac Newton extrapolates the future history of the Earth from a handful of coins that Nyssa has handed over. A new spin on an historical character that we thought we knew.

"Autumn" returns us to Stockbridge, where the fifth Doctor's comic strip adventures were set (as featured in "Doctor Who Monthly" and now collected as "Doctor Who Graphic Novel #3 - The Tides of Time"). The Doctor's fifth incarnation returns here every few years, just to play cricket with the village team. A charming tale with no monsters and no sci-fi elements at all, but a romantic encounter for Nyssa.

By contrast "Winter" is for the nerds amongst us. Where the earlier stories featured Nyssa and the Doctor whilst they were travelling together somewhere between series 19 & 20 ("Time Flight" and "Arc Of Infinity") this one features an older Nyssa whose dreams are being invaded by the Doctor as he subconsciously seeks the support of his former companions before regenerating. Full of zero rooms, technobabble and symbolism. Definitely one for the fans.

An eclectic mix, stylishly presented and entertaining.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) [Children's Edition]
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) [Children's Edition]
by J. K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snape is Harry's Father?!?!, 21 July 2007
Well, no he isn't. But the real revelations are worth the wait.

There was, I guess, a certain amount of nervousness as to whether Rowling could really deliver a final instalment that would live up to all the hype and expectation. But for me, she certainly came through. the whole thing is a fast moving page turner from the start. From Harry's initial escape from Privet drive to the epic Battle of Hogwarts that takes up most of the final 100 pages.

In previous books, it has usually been the last few chapters that are the most exciting, as Rowling reveals what has really been happening. But this book is the climax to the series and so the whole thing is one big reveal, that just gets more and more exciting as it accelerates towards the conclusion. Some new ideas are introduced in this novel (like Dumbledore's murky past); others revisit past events - like the fact that the Order accidentally threw away a Horcrux in book 5, and some revelations about Harry's cloak that he's had since book 1.

I can't really think of a bad thing to say about it. Deathly Hallows has replaced Prisoner of Azkaban as my favourite in the series. The fact that so many people can read a 600 page book in a single day and still be enthusiastic about it says much for J K Rowling's skills as a writer.

What's she going to do next?

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