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Gerard Kelly (Caen)

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Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace
Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace
Price: 2.42

3.0 out of 5 stars Theological Reflection and Personal Off-loading..., 27 July 2014
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As a long-time reader of Francis Schaeffer's work, I found this insight into the private world of his family fascinating. Frank Schaeffer speaks on behalf of a generation who have parted company with their Evangelical roots, and as such offers us significant insight into the reasons why. If the book has a weakness, for me it is the overlap of theological / philosophical reflections with personal therapy. At tiems I couldn't tell if Schaeffer was airing his considered views or just venting his anger. It's legitiamte to do both, but I felt at times that he had lost sight of the distinction. A recommended read for all those wanting to better understand the current 'post-evangelical' movement.


The First Horseman: Number 1 in series (Thomas Treviot)
The First Horseman: Number 1 in series (Thomas Treviot)
Price: 3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars If only all history could be taught this way!, 27 July 2014
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Derek Wilson is a top-class historian with proven expertise in the Tudor era and a string of books and TV shows to his credit. He is also an excellent storyteller, and the two skills come joyously together in this reformation romp. Readers of C J Samson will recognise the landscape here: the techniques of a modern-day murder mystery applied to a bygone age. Wilson handles the territory well and brings two particularities that lift The First Horseman above the ordinary. The first is that the crime at the centre of the book is an actual event from history. A mystery as yet unsolved in the real world is given a fictional solution. The second is that the characters in this Reformation-era adventure are wonderfully well-rounded. Wilson knows enough of history to recognise that stories in which white-suited heroes do battle with black-hatted villains simply don't work in the real world. His characters are an ambiguous mix of high moral aspiration and base worldly ambition; of faith and commerce; of personal choices and political manoeuvrings. The result is a portrait of Tudor England that rings true, and offers not only a good read but at the same time an excellent history lesson... Highly recommended.


Archbishop: A novel
Archbishop: A novel
Price: 8.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Anglican Expereince from the Inside, 21 Mar 2014
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Archbishop is a 'big' book in several senses. It is long, it goes deep, and it is not afraid to tackle some very significant themes. Michelle Guinness takes her intriguing central premise - the appointment of our first female Archbishop of Canterbury - and sets it in the context of a church engaged with its culture and rocked by political currents within and without. Not for her the tedious cycle of mumbled liturgies read from dusty prayer books. This is very definitely a contemporary portrait.

The strength of 'Archbishop' is that Guinness knows her stuff. She has lived the vicarage experience from the inside, and has been both a champion and an observer of the empowerment of women over several decades. As a history of that process, exploring the inner machinations of the Anglican Communion, the book is unparalleled. These are the soundings of an authentic and reliable witness.

The weaknesses of the book are in the writing. The technique of building the plot through back-story is sustained throughout, with a constant switching between present events and remembered episodes. If this approach works for you, you'll be sustained in your reading: for me it became quite quickly wearing, and I lost track of the timeline more than once. In the always difficult balance of show vs tell, there is more tell than show, and this slows what could have been a rivetting read.

In a market flooded with plot-driven page-turners that care little for authenticity and will do anything to keep you reading, it is refreshing to find a novel so evidently determined to tell the truth. For readers who need a strong plot to keep their attention alive, though, Archbishop may just be too slow and meandering a journey.

Gerard Kelly, author of 'The Whole Sky'


Out of the Silent Planet (Cosmic Trilogy)
Out of the Silent Planet (Cosmic Trilogy)
Price: 2.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Lewis at his bristling best, 13 Mar 2014
There are many highlights tontine writing of C S Lewis, but in fiction the space trilogy tops all. There is a sophistication in the storytelling here that seriously outstrips the Narnia Chronicles, timeless as they may be for children. Great ideas developed through strong characters. You have to accept the "old English" of the language and ethos, but that's part of Lewis's charm: if you want contemporary Californian, you're unlikely to be dallying with the Don. There are few writers who can make faith so central to a story without in any way detracting from its depth and credibility. Lewis is the best of the best. Out of the Silent Planet is. Master class in allegorical fiction.

Gerard Kelly, author of The Whole Sky


Hungry for Home
Hungry for Home
by Cole Moreton
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterclass in Positive Journalism, 23 April 2013
This review is from: Hungry for Home (Paperback)
I read this several years ago and genuinely loved it. I'm Irish and no longer living there, which helps, but in the end it was the writing that really gripped me. Moreton has discovered the art of writing non-fiction with the delicacy and beauty of fiction. He pursues his 'quarry' - here the ultimate fate of West Ireland's displaced island-dwellers - with the passion of a Colin Dexter and the pace of a john Grisham. He seems to genuinely care about the people he meets, and by the end of the book so do we. Not only an intriguing read about a little-known history, it is also a master class in positive journalism. Reccomended.


Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense
Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense
by Francis Spufford
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.32

5.0 out of 5 stars God for Those Who Don't Do God, 26 Mar 2013
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This is an extraordinary book. Alive; wriggling; surprising, it seems to come from a place no book has ever come from. Spufford writes as one who knows atheism from the inside; grasps its inner logic; is not unsympathetic to its causes, but who also now has the same insider knowledge of faith.

His claim, in a nutshell, is that the one is no less emotionally viable than the other. Intellectually, it is impossible to come to a final ruling on the central questions posed in the atheism vs faith conflicts. Even in the closing pages of this faith-soaked book, Spufford is prepared to admit that he doesn't know if there is a God: that such a thing is unknowable. But emotionally, it is possible to decide whether faith makes sense; whether the Christian story `fits' the picture of who we are as human beings. And here Spufford excels as a guide and essayist. He relentlessly exposes the inner workings of his own emotional journey, to tell us how it feels to have faith, and why it is that no bus-borne atheist propaganda can erase that feeling. The feeling is real, it is emotionally true. It matters. It all makes - as the book's sub-title suggests, surprising emotional sense.

What is unusual and powerful about this book is the language it is written in. Not just because of Spufford's game-changing use of the `F' word, but because he writes from the heart of contemporary culture. He out-Dawkinses Dawkins and out-Hitchenses Hitchens, describing faith in words that those who don't have faith can readily appropriate. This is hugely refreshing. How often are `defenses' of faith written in such a way that only those who already have faith can appreciate them? What's the point of that? Nobody gets points for self-congratulation. But to face the challenge of describing faith for those who don't believe; who, perhaps for very good reasons, cannot, that is something new.

You won't agree with every opinion Spufford expresses - why would you? He writes with a acerbic wit that occasionally polarises, and some in his own faith community will argue that he has gone too far in re-negotiating faith to make it palatable. Some will question the logic of his views on sexuality; or the adequacy of his doctrine of the cross; or his stark lack of interest in life after death. There may well be conversations to be had in these areas. But these considerations shouldn't distract from the immense achievement at the heart of this book. At it's core, it relates - beautifully and eloquently - the meaning of grace, and argues powerfully for the continued place of Christianity in our world and its future.


Me Before You
Me Before You
Price: 3.32

4.0 out of 5 stars A highly unusual romance, 17 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Me Before You (Kindle Edition)
I bought this for two reasons: because Amazon recommended it and because the black and white screen of my old-school Kindle hid the garish colours of the chick-lit cover.

It is, at heart, a girly romance: frumpy girl-from-nowhere falls in love with local princeling. But it is also much more, and by tackling very serious life-issues Ms Moyes has traded-up to make it a genuinely good novel. It is also well-written and in places very funny. If you are completely allergic to romantic fiction, don't even think about it, but if you can cope with chick-lit as long as it aspires to be something more, this is a good read.


Practise Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Spiritual Theology 5)
Practise Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Spiritual Theology 5)
by Eugene Peterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Rooted and Relevant, 5 Mar 2013
Having recently read 'The word Made flesh' and 'Eat This Book', and finding both extremely helpful, I came to 'Practising Resurrection' as a Peterson fan. He is one of a rare breed of Christian writers, in my view, who is able to combine the timelessness of a confident orthodoxy with relevance to a changing culture. His feet, as far as I can tell, are firmly planted on planet Earth.. This volume does not disappoint. It considers Paul's letter to the Ephesian church and using Peterson's habitual combination of biblical insight, cultural analysis and personal anecdote, unpacks it for our day. There is a scholarly undertone to the writing that lends the book credibility, but it remains accessible and readable. Highly recommended.

It also bears mentioning that the design work that Hodder Faith have done on the UK version is excellent. We are consistently told not to judge a book by its cover, but the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that we do. The shift from print to e-book has changed nothing: a thumbnail on Amazon can be as decisive as a printed cover on a shelf. In this case Hodders have done a remarkable job of capturing both the rootedness and the relevance of Peterson's writing. However they came to the process, they need to do more of it and perhaps encourage others down the same road...


The Secrets of Pain (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
The Secrets of Pain (Merrily Watkins Mysteries)
by Phil Rickman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Serial Writer Who Gets Better and Better, 4 Mar 2013
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I've blogged before about Phil Rickman - I find in his writing a strong balance of plot, character and setting. He writes very movingly of the strange communities that straddle the Welsh / English border, and his idiosyncratic vicar and deliverance consultant Merrily Watkins must be one of the most intriguing central characters in contemporary crome fiction.

Rickman's 2012 offering ,The Secrets of Pain is, in my view, one of his best. He has chosen here to develop a police procedural thread alongside the more familiar 'spiritual' adventures of Merrily. The effect is a positive one. The book is rounded and balanced, with significant attention given to the cast of characters around Ms Watkins.

There is a great danger with 'serial' crime fiction that the books, over time, will become predictable and repetitive. Having created a great central character, the author simply writes the same book several times over. Kathy Reichs, for example, falls into this trap in my view. Temperance Brennan is a remarkable literary creation, but her adventures follow so closely to the same repeated pattern that the later books add little to her depth and become less and less convincing. Phil Rickman has served his readers well in avoiding this pitfall. He has worked to develop his characters and stories, so that no single pattern dominates Merrily Watkins' adventures. This is a significant achievement, and a masterclass in serial writing.

Rickman continues, too, to explore questions of faith and belief. Without claiming any orthodox high ground of his own, he examines the beliefs people hold and the extremes they will go to, and continually asks us to consider whethr some spiritual paths are more dangerous than others: and some so dangerous that they are better avoided altogether.

Highly recommended.


Mirror, Mirror: A Reflected Life
Mirror, Mirror: A Reflected Life
Price: 5.86

5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey Into Overwhelming Love, 4 Mar 2013
Reprinted from my foreword to Mirror Mirror:

There are a small number of people in my life who seem to me to be possessed of some great secret. Some have discovered how to be successful. Some are rich. Some are so effective in their chosen careers that achievements stick to them like baubles to a Christmas tree. And a few - all too few - have discovered how to see God for who he is and to see themselves as he sees them. Given the choice, this is the secret I would die for. It is the secret, I believe, that Carolyn Ros has found. Carolyn's confidence in her faith is infectious, and I have seen its impact on those around her, as she gently urges them to find and trust this God.

This candidly told autobiography, flowing from the exotic beginnings of a childhood in Japan, reveals just how Carolyn came to this confidence: and how often she has wondered if her life might unfold differently. She has been shaped by the way the world has treated her and by her own struggles to come to terms with her heritage and calling. Experiencing many cultures but fully belonging in none, she has wrestled with issues of identity and self-image. Here is a woman who has been disappointed with herself, disapproving of herself and dismissive of herself, and has finally found the power to accept herself by tapping into the deepest source of all - the knowledge that she herself has been accepted.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann has looked extensively into the lives of a much earlier generation of third culture kids - the Hebrew exiles in Babylon. In danger of losing their identity, the generation exemplified in the story of Daniel had to find ways to hold onto their culture and their God. The key, Brueggemann suggests, is the call to remember who you are by remembering whose you are. It is in discovering who owns you that you realise how loved you are. You are valuable because you are valued. This is the tone of Carolyn's journey. Discovering who she is by re-discovering who she belongs to, she learns to trust in the faithfulness of her maker. I found the story compelling because I know Carolyn and I know that every one of these lessons has been hard-won and doggedly held onto.

Woven into her memories, Carolyn presents us with her own reflections on scripture and the powerful truths she has come to treasure through the years. These meditations give depth and texture to her story, and will prove invaluable to all those seeking to love themselves more deeply by discovering that God loves them.

None of us can truly know that we are beautiful without being told. All too often, we stand before the wrong mirrors, crying out to our peers; to the media; to our culture to tell us `who's the fairest?' But if we will address the question in the right direction, to the One who created and cares for us, we will hear a voice so affirming, so authentic and so true that we cannot but know that we are loved. And if we know that we are loved we can perhaps begin to face the greater challenge: to know that we are lovable. Join Carolyn on her journey from self-doubt to overwhelming love, and learn with her that your maker is the only mirror you need look to.


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