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TM "tanya2124" (England)

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Haphazard by Starlight: A Poem a Day from Advent to Epiphany
Haphazard by Starlight: A Poem a Day from Advent to Epiphany
by Janet Morley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful collection of poems, 8 Jan. 2015
This will be going on next year’s advent list: a wonderful collection of classic poems, some Christian, some not, to lead you through the season of Advent through to Epiphany, with a literary commentary on the poem, and a short question to encourage you to think about how it affects you. This is literary and academic, but short, and gently spiritual. It is a wonderful collection of poems, and I really appreciated her guided tour – a great way of doing Advent for poetry-lovers. Highly recommended


The Tomb of the Honey Bee: A Posie Parker Mystery: Volume 2 (The Posie Parker Mystery Series)
The Tomb of the Honey Bee: A Posie Parker Mystery: Volume 2 (The Posie Parker Mystery Series)
by L.B. Hathaway
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new Agatha Christie, 8 Jan. 2015
I can see this will be my new addiction. I loved the first Posie Parker cosy crime mystery, and this was perhaps even better than the first. I really enjoyed the change of scenery – traipsing with Posie around the 1920s English countryside, then Italy and Egypt. It is a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read, the sort where you stay up at night for ‘just one more chapter’. I almost, pretty-much guessed the murderer (which is always satisfying), but the book still had me hanging on every twist and turn right up to the end. I also love reading the historical notes at the end, for more of a sense of the time. I can’t wait for more in this series – L.B. Hathaway is the new Agatha Christie. Highly recommended.


Life After Life
Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully done, 8 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Life After Life (Paperback)
This has a fascinating premise – someone keeps returning to relive their life in order to do it well, sort of a reincarnation idea, but with your own life rather than other people’s. I feared with this premise it might be ‘gimmicky’, but in fact it is literary and sophisticated, well-written and a eye-opening glimpse into life in the Blitz in London in the Second World War. One of those books where you’re immersed into another world, and I found it an intelligent and pleasurable experience. I guessed the twist, but still got a little confused by the very end – but even so, this is one of my favourites of the year. Highly recommended.


The Urchin
The Urchin
by Edith Unnerstad
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A children's classic, 8 Dec. 2014
This review is from: The Urchin (Mass Market Paperback)
There are some times that I just want to hug the Internet. I had a craving for a childhood story, that I just barely remembered from childhood – a character who had a brother called Lars, and a sister who had big clogs, and they lived in some Scandinavian country. From that hazy description, the wonderful Rebecka correctly identified it as the Pip-Larrson family books by Edith Unnerstad. I went on World of Rare books and quickly snapped up an out of print edition of The Urchin, and haven’t looked back. The Urchin is about family life in a family of seven children, from the point of view of the second youngest child, a boy aged five. Edith Unnerstad once said her novels were about ‘childhood’, and for me, she captures perfectly the fearlessness and confusion of childhood, through these witty stories.

My boy was hooked from the first page, and the beautiful line drawings throughout really enhance the story, rather than distracting from it. It makes drama out of the ordinary things of life, (a five-year-old boy going on his first trip alone to the bakers, to buy a coarse spiced rye loaf for his Mum), and the imagination and misunderstandings that children have as they make sense of the world. My little boy will sit for half an hour as I read him a ten-page chapter, and he loves every word. These are cosy, funny, intelligent children’s stories at their best, and I am delighted to be sharing it with another generation.


All the Days And Nights
All the Days And Nights
by Niven Govinden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.46

5.0 out of 5 stars A work of art, 8 Dec. 2014
This is one that will stay with me, not so much for the plot or characters, but for the sheer quality of the writing. Why it hasn’t been nominated for a Booker Prize or similar is beyond me.

The two main characters are a world-class artist, and her muse, who happens to be her husband, who has spent his life being her model, sitting for hours in stillness while she paints. The story opens out with the fact that he has left the house, without saying goodbye, yet the artist intuitively knows that he will not return.

The narrative voice is arresting and unusual, and I would compare it to somewhere between Virginia Woolf, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, and John Williams’ Stoner. I found the ending a bit mysterious, but other than that, it is the kind of book that you read when you want some real literature, when you want to immerse yourself in beauty. It is a fascinating exploration of the life of the artist and the relationship to one’s muse, and as a backdrop, the changing landscape of America in the 1930s, Hypnotic, exquisitely, memorably written – one to indulge in when you crave writing as a work of art.


Live/Dead the Story: 28 Days of Living the Book of Acts with Iranian Believers
Live/Dead the Story: 28 Days of Living the Book of Acts with Iranian Believers
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring true stories from the persecuted church, 8 Dec. 2014
This is a devotional with a difference – each day follows a chapter from the book of Acts,and has a verse from that chapter, along with a true testimony of an Iranian Christian. As well as the stories, they have a photo of the person whose story it is, and a short note at the end of how their story ties into the chapter in Acts, and how it can make a difference to your life.

I was half-fearful that this would be a depressing read, because of the stories I had read in the news about pastors persecuted in Iran, but I was surprised by how full of hope it was. I found it to be a genuinely inspiring and uplifting, full of stories of courage and God’s goodness in dark places. Shawn Smucker is such a talented storyteller, and he faithfully conveys the drama and voice of each individual testimony, so I didn’t want to stop reading. This is a gem of a book – helps you to pray for Iran by rooting it in people’s stories, informs and encourages you about the realities of the persecuted church, and has practical insights for living out. It would be great to read for a month as a devotional, or as a book group together.


Journal of a Solitude: The Journals of May Sarton
Journal of a Solitude: The Journals of May Sarton
by May Sarton
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Some gold nestling amongst the trivia, 8 Dec. 2014
Writer-friends have raved about this book, so I was looking forward to reading this book, but by the end, I felt like I didn’t know what the fuss was about. More of a journal than a memoir, it is a record of a year in the life of an ageing poet, who lives alone, and talks about the discipline of the writing life.

There are fascinating and occasionally brilliant insights on writing and literature, and some interesting thoughts on feminism and depression, but these were buried amongst the trivia of daily gardening, and a list of passing characters who were never mentioned, and then never mentioned again. It felt at times like the confusion of picking up a stranger’s diary, with all the irrelevant trivia still kept in – the focus was often lacking for me.

But there is no doubt that she is a fine writer, and even with these quibbles I was wanting to finish the book, so I’d say it’s worth reading, but if you are looking for a book on the writing life, I prefer When Women Were Birds, or Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. (It’s possibly more enjoyable if you like gardening).


When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages
When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages
by Jon M Sweeney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Busts myths and makes St Francis come alive, 8 Dec. 2014
I decided that I didn’t know enough about the great Christian saints of the past, and so I braced myself for an informative, but dry, academic read, as so many biographies are. I was delighted to discover that not only was it informative, blowing apart the internal picture I had of St Francis as a cloistered monk who spent all his time with animals instead of people, but it was witty, lively and felt like a real page-turner.

Rather than a strictly chronological structure, it highlights several aspects of his unique ministry: his emphasis on people and friendship; embracing the other; his value of poverty; a distinctive spirituality; a love for creation and animals; and embracing death.

The real strength of this book is that the author makes all of the issues that St Francis dealt with sound so current, so it has a prophetic edge. I found it fascinating, for example, to see how many similarities there are between the current Pope and the original St Francis, and why it was so revolutionary for a Pope to name himself after St Francis. The picture that Jon Sweeney paints of St Francis is a fascinating one: a feminist, a subversive and anti-establishment pioneer, a mystic, a medieval troubadour, a popular and charismatic figure, a true disciple of Christ. At times, he does almost slip into gushing about Pope Francis, but as even Time Magazine has become a fan of the Pope, he is to be forgiven for this enthusiasm. By the end of the book I felt as though I knew St Francis, and would have liked to have had him as a friend. I kept on underlining quotes from this book: it is extremely tweetable, with countless pithy insights about St Francis and the church. It is not didactic or sentimental, but is sympathetic to a Christian worldview, and as such is suitable for people of all faiths or none.

This is a book I keep talking about, and I am recommending this to everyone I know as a really fascinating book, not just for busting the myths of the saint, and reclaiming St Francis as a renegade revolutionary, but also for drawing the parallels between then and now in such a readable way.

Some favourite quotes:

“‘Okay, so [this book] is history. But it’s also about how well-meaning Christians almost killed the faith eight hundred years ago.’”
“We may think of saints as aloof or mostly alone with God, but not this one. He became a saint through friendship.”
“He saw the ‘sacred’ in everyone and everything.”
“For Francis there were no ‘others’.”
“Francis has never been Rome’s favourite religious leader. Indeed, he was a threat to the power of the Church.”


Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found
by Cheryl Strayed
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect memoir?, 6 Nov. 2014
This is the story of a twenty-something girl who had several personal tragedies, hit rock bottom, and decided to do something radical to change her life. Despite not being an outdoorsy, hiking sort of girl, she signed up to walk the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), a demanding 1,100 mile hike across several mountain ranges in the West coast of America, and as she walks and is exposed to the wildness of nature, the wildness of her heart begins to heal. One of my friends described it as ‘the perfect memoir’, and I could see why: it has the combination of the best kind of travel writing together with an interesting back story, plus some bears and rattle snakes for good measure. Her tone is smart and funny and almost immediately likeable, and like the trail that she is walking, it is long but thoroughly enjoyable. Highly recommended – read it before you see Reese Witherspoon playing Cheryl Strayed (there is a film).


Americanah
Americanah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable exploration of American immigrant culture, 6 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
I had previously read her novel Half of a yellow sun, about civil war in Nigeria and wept for about a day when reading it, so my initial impression of the book was just profound gratitude that it was a book about ordinary life, and did not make me cry.

It’s a love story, essentially, and follows the life of a Nigerian girl who moves to America, and then returns. The strength of this book was the insight of the culture differences between American Blacks and Non-American blacks. The character is a blogger, and we read her acerbic and insightful observations on racism in America, and I found this fascinating.

Many books about racism are hard to read because of their anger, but this wasn’t an angry book. One of the other characters moves to England and becomes an illegal immigrant, and I found this portrayal profoundly moving. Adichie is a master-craftsman, where you feel the heat of the Nigerian sun, and the squalor of life as an immigrant in the UK because she writes so well, and so this novel is enjoyable as a reading experience, but even so, I found the plot a little lacking, the ending a little tired, and the characters a little cold. It’s also a long book, but I was glad to have read it because of the insights into American immigrant culture (and at under £5 it’s very cheap)

I want to give it 4.5 stars, really, because the ending was a little lack lustre, but she's such a good writer that the experience of reading it is still enjoyable. Highly recommended.


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