Tuesday, 27 January 2009

7. Steven Galloway - The Cellist of Sarajevo

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book nearly as much as I did. Mr Galloway paints us a picture of Sarajevo during the siege of the 1990s. We see the city through the eyes of three very different people each of whom gives a subtly different perspective. The result is an incredibly atmospheric book which really made me think about war and how it effects ordinary people.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

6. Beverley Shepherd - Created as a Woman

This short book is based on Ms Shepherd’s series of Inspiring Women Bible notes of the same name. In it, she expands on her themes of creation, the Fall, redemption, predestination, transformation and glory. The text is a very easy read although there are questions at the end of each chapter for further study.

5. Beverly Lewis - The Shunning

I’ve read some Beverly Lewis before and was pleased that in this one she has kept to ‘normal’ English except in the dialogue between the Amish characters. I really don’t like to read colloquial language and have set aside some of her other books because of this.

This book is the first in the ‘Heritage of Lancaster County’ trilogy and tells the story of Katie who is all set to marry the Bishop when she discovers a secret about her birth. What happens next is devastating and will lead to big changes for Katie and her family.

In this book, I suppose Ms Lewis is asking questions about the role of nature or nurture in the way people live. She seems to side with nature whereas I would favour nurture and so there were elements of the story that didn’t sit well with me. That said, this is the opening of a trilogy so who knows where we’ll end up?

Katie and her family are engaging characters, although I did sometimes feel a little exasperated by them, and I will look forward to reading the next instalment.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

4. Joyce Meyer - Start Your New Life Today

I saw this book some time ago and eventually bought a copy when I was at a particularly low ebb. I have previously resisted Meyer’s approach of managing negative emotions and thought that, perhaps, I was now willing to hear her. Well, I’ve read this book from cover to cover so I can now honestly say that I’ve tried. Her premise is basically that one can manage one’s emotions by a mix of positive thinking and willpower. I suspect she would deny this but that’s what it sounded like to me. If only it were that easy!

The book is divided into short chapters (each only three pages, at most) and that made the narrative choppy and difficult to follow although it did facilitate reading on the run. Each chapter followed essentially the same pattern – Ms Meyer would introduce the topic, give examples from her own life and then exhort the reader to do as she had done to gain victory over whatever.

For me, the most interesting and motivational chapters were those at the end of the book which dealt with the physical self and therefore addressed sleeping, eating, exercising and drinking water. As Ms Meyer has already produced a very good book on physical health they seemed ancillary to the main text but at least their inclusion meant I got something from my reading!

All in all, I was very disappointed with this book although I’m glad I persevered and finished it. I’ve now heard Ms Meyer on the subject of emotions and know that her approach is not for me.

Monday, 19 January 2009

3. Laura Ingalls Wilder - These Happy Golden Years

I am so enjoying my re-read of this series. In this volume, Ms Wilder covers the years in which she starts to teach school (at 15) until her marriage to Almanzo (at 18). Simply told, the stories of everyday life in town and in the country are wholesome and healthy. Each character, place or event is richly and honestly described and I find myself, once again, regretting that I am nearly at the end of the series.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

2. Fr Michael Seed - Thinking of Becoming a Catholic?

This is a very friendly little book in which Fr Seed briefly outlines the process of becoming a Roman Catholic.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

1. Audrey Niffenegger - The Time Traveler's Wife

Track book at

I was charmed by this book when I first listened to it as an abridged audio book and have now read the unabridged, print version for the Glasgow Women’s Library book club even though I will be unable to attend the meeting. My first encounter with it was long enough ago that I remembered the gist of it but not the salient points (like the ending) and, if anything, I enjoyed it more this time around. I remember feeling a bit lost the first time until I had a feel for how the book works.

This is the story of Henry and Clare. Henry is a time-traveler and first meets Clare near her home when she is six and he is an adult. Ms Niffenegger allows both characters to tell their own stories, writing always in the first person but switching perspectives. Thankfully, each change is clearly signalled in the text and the reader is advised in each section of the date and the age of the person speaking.

I usually avoid sci-fi and fantasy books and so was not much attracted to this tale of time-travel when I first heard about it. I also had some concerns about child abuse. However, Ms Niffenegger is not writing so much about time-travel as about love, death, childlessness, growing up, friendship, truth and loyalty. She deals with each of these large, difficult issues with great compassion and sometimes with humour.

Henry and Clare are the most fully developed characters. Neither is all good or all bad and they, therefore, seem very human and real to me. Other characters, such as Gomez, are painted with strong, bold brushstrokes which avoid caricature. The scenes are richly described and emotions run high throughout the book. There were times when I could really picture what was happening to such an extent that I nearly forgot the world around me – that hasn’t happened since I was reading as a child.

This book made a deep impression on me. I hope Ms Niffenegger writes more but this book will be a very hard act to follow.