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Susan Frances (Walton-on-Thames, England)

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1415: Henry V's Year of Glory
1415: Henry V's Year of Glory
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ... unusual and intriguing book on Henry V - a good appetiser or introductory book, 29 July 2014
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An unusual and intriguing book on Henry V - a good appetiser or introductory book, if it inspires readers to look at other biographies of this king.

I am grateful for Ian Mortimer's writing as he has made history so accessible and fascinating for ordinary people while being scholarly and true to historical sources at the same time. His book on Edward III and especially his excellent book on Henry IV have truly opened my eyes to medieval history in an inspiring and even life changing way. In his hands, the personalities and events really come alive and I am totally drawn in.

The negatives. I was a bit disappointed with one aspect of this book. In my view Ian Mortimer sometimes tends to judge Henry V in an anachronistic way. To be fair, perhaps this is a genuine attempt to look beyond the propaganda and the traditional tendency to put this king on a hero's pedestal. But at times, rather than providing a refreshing and new angle on our understanding of the man, he assesses Henry V on grounds that come across to me as just his personal judgement, or just a judgement based rather too much on contemporary thinking. I would have preferred him to consider a wider context before making these judgements, because he has shown the ability to do this so well in other books. Perhaps the task of wading through the source documents took so much time and energy that he only had time for a quick analysis, or perhaps it is just fashionable to revise conventional views of the past, I don't know.

The positives. What this book did do for me is simple. It got me curious about Henry V and resulted in me buying other books in order to understand something of this enigmatic man. I had tended to overlook him before because I am not primarily interested in battle history and I saw him as the famous warrior king - I'm afraid I heard the word 'Agincourt' and my ears closed and my eyes glazed over. Ian Mortimer's technique of analysing just a year of the king's life is an interesting one if you keep in mind that it gives a limited view of the man and the time. In Mortimer's hands the technique is very well done and reveals a surprising amount of insight and intriguing data (as usual Mortimer's committed scholarship, use of primary documents and sources, and lively and well crafted writing style brings the past truly alive). It's fair to say that it reveals aspects of the king's life and the times he lived in that that might not come out from a more conventional biography. These intriguing glimmers are like sunlit trails in a dense wood, they never quite lead you to the bright open clearing where you can stand back and see where you are - they just lead to other sunlit trails deeper in the wood - but you can enjoy the journey they take you on.

I am not against finding a new or revised view of Henry V than the image of him as England's best known warrior king and the great hero of Agincourt, but I hoped for a better argued case from such a fine writer and historian. In the end, I suspect Henry V's good qualities outweigh his flaws. For me, he remains a very enigmatic man and one I would love to know better.


Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Redemption and Renewal
Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Redemption and Renewal
by Gregory R Erlandson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Read this if you want to find out what Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church has done about sexual abuse, 9 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A few years ago I took the time to find out what Pope Benedict actually said when media across the world criticised him for inflammatory 'anti-Islam' comments in the Regensberg speech. I found a copy of his full speech on the internet and read it for myself. I was surprised to find what he said did not match what the press was saying. They had taken a phrase from the speech out of context and hyped it in a sensationalist and misleading way. I felt sad that the insightful comments of an extremely intelligent man could be reduced to such a travesty. A close friend warned me in the 1990s that our society was dumbing down - how right she was.

Feeling shocked and horrified by the sexual and child abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, and disturbed by recent accusations that Pope Benedict has been implicated in a cover up of abusing priests, I searched for a book that would give a factual account of what he has actually done about these crimes.

I highly recommend that anyone, Catholic, Christian, of any faith or none, reads this book to find out what Pope Benedict has actually done about the sexual abuse by Catholic priests and religious. You will not find this account in the press. The book sets out what the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has done, and explains what type of abuse cases were, and were not, its direct responsibility, and when the prime responsibility for taking action is the bishop of the diocese where the abuse took place. I found it useful to understand how the Catholic Church is structured and what its laws and policies are, to try to get a clear picture of where it failed and where it has tried hard.

The book gives some clear and fascinating statistics about the numbers of priests against whom allegations have been made - mainly in America as this is where it is well documented and researched. It contains brief helpful information about the relevant Catholic Church canon law which explicitly categorises the sexual abuse of children and young people as a crime and sets out clear penalties that the Church can impose. It looks into some of the misunderstandings about actions the Church has taken. This was fascinating and very different to what I thought - I had the impression from the media that the church had done nothing and just buried its head in the sand. A sobering read, as the sexual abuse of children is clearly not just a problem of the Catholic Church or any religious institution, but a problem that is prevalent in societies across the world. In fact singling out any one group can be a way of avoiding coming together to really address this grave and serious crime.

I feel encouraged by learning how the CDF and Pope Benedict worked to fast track how the church dealt with abusing priests once it had the authority to do so and had woken up to the gravity of the abuse - it's easy to forget how my own society in Britain has only recently started to understand the nature and problem of abuse, after it started coming to light in the press in the 1980s. I am grateful to the press for bringing this crisis to our attention - we all owe the press a great debt - but recently I have started to think that press coverage has lost all objectivity, and is just witch hunting, adding to a climate of anxiety and fear. It has become hard to even talk about the real facts and the hard evidence with my friends and colleagues, because the press encourages us to jump to false conclusions based on our own personal prejudice about religious people.

If celibacy or priesthood were trigger factors for child abuse - as some irresponsible people in the press are saying - then how do we explain the fact that the majority of child abusers are relatives or family friends? I wish we would wake up to the fact that every one of us has a role and a part to play in protecting children.

This is a small book which does not take long to read. It is an overview and a starting point - it cannot be comprehensive as it is simply not big enough. But if you want to understand what the Catholic Church has done and is doing about child abuse, read this book.


No Work Garden
No Work Garden
by Bob Flowerdew
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit too smug for me, 30 Jun. 2011
This review is from: No Work Garden (Paperback)
This was so very nearly a great book but the writer's attempts at funny banter soon became smug and wearing. Shame, because a bit less of the righteous putting down of everyone else in order to make his point and it would have been an enjoyable read. The approach and principles were great, but the book lacked any detail. Eg the advice of growing an evergreen shrub border for low maintenance could have done with a short list of plants, eg suggestions of native plants, or plants that encourage bees or birds and so on just to give a starting point. I liked the anecdotes that came from his experience and trials, and the pictures were nice except for the ones with him in which became an irritating reminder of the unfunny banter. A book for those looking for initial inspiration to get started.


Immortal Queen
Immortal Queen
by Elizabeth Byrd
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The best historical novel I have ever read, 3 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Immortal Queen (Paperback)
Many historical novels are full of action and drama with superficial, one-dimensional characters, or well researched but written in a mediocre way. This one is different. It is simply the best historical novel I have ever read and nothing else comes close. It is hard to put down, and lovingly researched - Mary truly comes alive in these pages. Beautifully written, haunting, it stayed with me for ages afterwards.

I only wish Elizabeth Byrd had written other books. A little-known jewel of a book.


Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper
by Brant Pitre
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.31

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 5 May 2011
I found this book a relevation. Even though some of what he writes may not be completely new to people properly educated in Catholic teaching, I have rarely met such people to be honest. The way the subject is presented here is beautifully set out, well informed and carefully referenced, so it came fully alive and three dimensional for me in a way that was inspiring and stayed with me for a long time.

Sadly, all too often, Christian principles are presented as a list of precepts repeated by rote, seemingly by believers who are just repeating what they have heard and do not seem to have questioned their beliefs, thought about them deeply, or managed to integrate them properly, so they cannot explain them clearly and this rich body of knowledge ends up lacking depth and real meaning. Or theology just gets trotted out as a intellectual exercise or a display of good memory. It is one thing to describe beliefs from the head, and another to live them from the heart. When we engage the heart (in the scriptural, Jewish sense, ie the deepest self, not the physical organ or emotional centre), there are often more questions than answers. It's living the questions that takes us on the way. I am a Christian yet I often find Christian theology and teachings quite difficult. It's not because the beliefs are complex, but the theology can seem so abstract, and I have the nagging feeling that something gets lost in translation. I want to understand why - why did Christ have to suffer this terrible way, and why did it take his descent into hell after the Crucifixion and his ascension into heaven to lead to the sending of the Holy Spirit to humanity and the birth of the Church? When people have repeated the answers, I often feel none the wiser. With this book, I experienced insights and glimmers of light that were deeply inspirational. To set Christ in his Jewish context both historically and liturgically as the author has done was a profound learning for me. I am grateful to the author and highly recommend this book to anyone seeking insight into why Christ did what he did for humanity. A jewel of a book.


Dancing The Dream
Dancing The Dream
by Michael Jackson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Straight from the horse's mouth, 5 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Dancing The Dream (Hardcover)
I often like to hear a person's story in their own words and not just rely on what other people say about them. With Michael Jackson, it seems more important to do this because he was subject to intense and often distorted media scrutiny. It is hard to know the truth when there is a question with every story published, who was trying to make money from this? What were they paid for their story?

This is a simple book with a coffee table feel. The photographs are beautiful, the whole book is glossy, with good production quality and well presented. So it has the quality of being positive public relations.

But Michael Jackson was a perfectionist who honed and honed his work and craft until he got it right, so this book gives some insight into his thoughts, beliefs, ideas and principles, and what mattered to him. Its very simplicity makes a strong impression. He was, and presented himself, as a dancer, dancing his dream, with all the loneliness and risks of daring to surrender to the flow of the Spirit.

This is worth buying to read and look at Michael Jackson in his own words.


On Michael Jackson (Vintage)
On Michael Jackson (Vintage)
by Margo Jefferson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.82

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and finely written, 5 Sept. 2009
A refreshing change from the more sensationalist extremes of writing about Michael Jackson and his life.

This is a thoughtful and insightful book. It is worth a read to understand why Michael Jackson's life and talent spoke so strongly to so many people from different cultures and nations across the world, though it focusses more on the culture of American in which he lived his life.

Occasionally the book veers a little too much to the kind of clever, armchair academic view of life, removed from the nuances and complexities of Michael Jackson's all too human life where reality is often messy and has too many loose ends and contradictons to make a such a nice neat story. I felt this the most when the author talks about his parents and his mother, as whatever their faults as parents, had they not worked so hard to help their children develop careers in the music industry they would probably be equally criticised for allowing them to go down the road of poor prospects, gangs or drugs. We have all benefited from Michael Jackson's enormous gifts,so if they can be blamed then we should take some share of blame.

Still, ultimately the writer showed compassion and a willingness to learn from the life of this gifted, complicated and all too human being, a person whose presence in life I will miss greatly, and whose death reminded me to appreciate others while they are here with us, rather than after they have gone.


Catholic Prayer Book
Catholic Prayer Book
by Anthony Francis Bullen
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten jewel of a prayer book, 7 May 2009
This review is from: Catholic Prayer Book (Paperback)
I came across an old well thumbed copy of this prayer book in my local church, left for people to use when they come for prayer vigil and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was like finding a hidden jewel.

The introductions and commentaries on well known familiar prayers, and the prayers in the Eucharist, are well written, interesting, easy to understand, and appear doctrinally and theologically sound. Most of all, the commentaries reveal simple but profound insghts into the depth of familiar prayers, and helped me to come to these prayers as if for the first time. It was like opening a window and letting bright light come in, revealing glimpses of the richness of Catholic and Christian spiritual life through its long history, and helping me understand why we say these prayers today, and how alive and relevant and vibrant they are. The insights on the prayers in the Mass were invaluable.

I highly recommend this exquisite little book, which does not appear to be in print any more, so make the most of second hand copies while they are still around.


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