All things bookish!

The Back of the Book (from Amazon):  From commoner to queen, the women in this book embraced the freedom and the power of the Gospel in making their unique contributions to the unfolding of history. Wherever possible, the women here speak for themselves, from their letters, diaries or published works. The true story of women in Christian history inspires, challenges and demonstrates the grace of God producing much fruit throughout time.

Diana Severance (PhD, Rice University) is a historian with broad experience teaching in universities and seminaries.

NotJustLaura’s Review:  I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time.  In fact, I’ve nearly bought it on at least three occasions but walked away because it looked kind of dense in the paperback edition and, well, sometimes I have a sneaking suspicion that I have too many books!  I finally bought the Kindle edition about a week ago when I was feeling depressed and needed something wholesome to pick me up, dust me down and set me back on my feet.  The denseness I’d rejected previously now seemed like a welcoming blanket of words in which I could lose myself with the Kindle taking a lot of the effort out of the reading.

Getting lost in a book is my fall-back position when I’m unwell but it only works when the writing’s good.  Trying to get lost in poor writing when you’re already feeling low is not recommended.  Fortunately, Ms Severance is a master.  In this book, she gives a comprehensive but concise  survey of Christian women’s history from New Testament times right up to the present day.  I found that she gave enough context to each of the movements or individuals mentioned that I never felt lost within the text and, indeed, have usefully filled several gaps in my knowledge.

Ms Severance is writing from a Western, Protestant, non-feminist perspective and makes that very clear in her opening statements.  I’m Western and non-feminist so we were on the same page a good deal of the time.  However, I’m also a Roman Catholic convert and found that some of her statements about the Roman Catholic Church didn’t match with my experience of it.  That said, I fear these views are prevalent in Protestant circles and this can only be due to a failure to communicate on the part of Roman Catholic Church herself.

I received a free digital edition of this book via the BookSneeze website run by Thomas Nelson.  This was quite some time ago and I hope they will accept my apologies for the late nature of this review!

We’re all tightening our belts in the UK as, I think, people are everywhere.  I don’t think we’ve any Amish though and that’s a pity as it seems they could teach us a lot about living well on comparatively little.  When Ms Craker found her family nipped by the credit crunch she looked around and noticed that the Amish were buying farms – not having them repossessed.  How does a farmer with fourteen children save $400,000 to buy his own land?  She decided to find out and Money Secrets of the Amish holds the answer.

Ms Craker’s voice is a breath of fresh air throughout this book.  In each section she looks at the way the Amish live out one of their financial values.  Then she shows how her family applied that value to their situation and gives practical suggestions that would work for any ‘fancy’ family.  Some of the advice is USA-centric – I’m pretty sure my credit card works slightly differently – but most of it has travelled well to this side of the Atlantic and I’ve already put some of it into practice.

I didn’t pay to read this book but if I had I’d say it was money well spent.

Well, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  I don’t really know why I stopped blogging about the books I read.  2012 was the year of the re-read and I think that had a lot to do with it.  And I was knitting a lot.  And I wasn’t so well.  Whatever the reason I’d like to get back to it now, please.  I have more books than ever before but the same 24 hours in a day (lots of which seem to be claimed by entities other than books!)  I’m telling myself it’s all just a question of balance but really I’d like to borrow some time.  So if you know anyone with a glut of time please do point them my way!

Now all good intentions begin with a plan, don’t they?  So here are my (very tenuous) reading plans for the week ahead.

I’m working my way through Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible Book by Book and reading through the New Living Translation as I do so.  I’m in the middle of the Psalms just now and looking forward to Proverbs.  Those pithy little statements always speak to me.  I’ve been working on this since the autumn and am content just to work slowly through it till I come to Revelation.  I’ve never read the whole Bible before – I’ve tried several different reading plans but get frustrated when I miss a day and fall behind.  Reading it this way – like any other chunkster (is that blasphemous?) – is working well and I’m confident that I will get there in the end.  I’m counting these as two of my week’s books even though I’m obviously not going to finish them this week or read them to the exclusion of other material.

The third book project type thing I have is Priscilla Shirer’s The Resolution for Women.  I’m very taken with this book and have decided to just read a tiny bit at a time and make the changes I think will be helpful before moving on to the next bit.  This is pretty much what Ms Shirer suggests in her introduction so everybody’s happy.  At the moment, I’m working on not napping during the day.  This is especially hard in the mornings (a fun side-effect of medication) so if you’ve time and inclination please whisper a prayer for me!  When staying up is more of a habit than slinking back under the covers I’ll move on to the next bite.

Book four for this week is one that I will be reading right through, hopefully over the next couple of days.  It’s a reread and one I’m looking forward to even though I know there’s one bit that will make me cry.  Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is Nina Sankovitch’s account of the year she spent reading (and reviewing) one book every day.  Now that’s way beyond my capabilities but I can’t think of a better book with which to encourage myself back into reading and reviewing.

I’ve already started book five – John Jakes’ Heaven and Hell.  I read the first two parts of the trilogy towards the end of last year and am looking forward to this conclusion.  It’s another chunkster but an easy read which should take two or three days to complete.

Following on from Tolstoy, I’m lining up another book about books with How to Read a Book.  Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren wrote this years ago – I think it was first published in the year I was born – so I’m concerned it may be very dated.  But I’ve been meaning to read it for ages and now is a good time to give it a whirl.  It’s book six and I’m not sure I’ll get to it this week (apparently the cats expect me to feed them and my mother would like to me to speak to her at some point) but it should at least move up the list.

The final book I’ve chosen for this week (and, again, I may well slip into next) is a review copy of The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien.  This will be published by Mira in March 2013.  I know I have another of Ms O’Brien’s books on my shelves so when I saw this book on NetGalley I thought I’d give it a try.  I’ve planned a lot of rather heavy reading for this week so if I do make it to book seven I’ll have earned something restful and, with its beautiful cover, this book promises to be that.

Now – It’s Monday!  What are you reading?

At last the numbers are going in the right direction!  I have three reviews for you this week and no incoming books.  How unusual is that?

Read & Reviewed:

  1. Carys Matthews - The Vegetarian Pocket Bible - 2012/012
  2. Tom Wright - Luke for Everyone - 2012/013
  3. Elisabeth Elliot - Let me be a Woman - 2012/014

* * *

It’s Monday!  What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by BookJourney.  Mailbox Monday is another weekly meme hosted in April 2012 by Cindy’s Love of Books.

The Back of the Book (from Amazon):  An enlightening and entertaining social history of how we have tried (and failed) to battle the bulge over two millennia.

NotJustLaura’s Review:  Louise Foxcroft is a feminist has written this history of dieting from a strongly feminist view-point.  Although it’s clear that she’d done her homework before writing this book – and bits of it are fascinating as a result – I felt the line between historical fact and her personal opinions was too blurred and the book therefore lacked objectivity.  It’s still an enjoyable read but not a book I think I’ll go back to.

The Back of the Book (from Amazon):  1913: Suffragette throws herself under the King’s horse

1970: Feminists storm Miss World

Now: Caitlin Moran rewrites The Female Eunach from a bar stool and demands to know why pants are getting smaller

There’s never been a better time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain…

Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should you get Botox? Do men secretly hate us? What should you call your vagina? Why does your bra hurt? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?

Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin Moran answers these questions and more in How To Be A Woman - following her from her terrible 13th birthday (‘I am 13 stone, have no friends, and boys throw gravel at me when they see me’) through adolescence, the workplace, strip-clubs, love, fat, abortion, Topshop, motherhood and beyond.

‘Ever since I was eighteen I’ve wanted to be as cool as Caitlin Moran. Now this book has shown me how’ Lauren Laverne

NotJustLaura’s Review:  Although I was intrigued by this book, I resisted getting a copy until a friend read it and shared her thoughts, asking if anyone else had read it too?  So I gave in and downloaded it to the Kindle.

The narrative of this book  really divides into three parts and they reflect the adolescent and adult phases of Ms Moran’s life and then move on to her, very personal, take on feminism.

The adolescent thread had me laughing out loud (on the bus!) as I also grew up in the ’70s and ’80s.  I could have written it from my own experience – but not nearly as wittily as Ms Moran!  Of course, she and I have both grown up and our paths have diverged so I found the adult thread very … adult.  It’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll with a dose of motherhood and an abortion thrown in.  I found this thread to still be persuasive and readable, if disturbing.  I kept thinking ‘If I’d chosen B instead of A … that could be me!’  And that’s not a road I want to travel.

The third strand of this book is Ms Moran’s interpretation of feminism.  She is practical.  She is blunt.  She is sometimes angry and sometimes funny.  Whether you agree with her or not (and I was surprised to find that I often did) I don’t think anyone could question the passion with which she holds her beliefs and puts them into practice in daily life.

I realise I’m writing as though the three strands were three separate sections of the book – they’re not.  They’re as skillfully interwoven as the layers of any good work of fiction.  This isn’t fiction though – this is life.  And I’m grateful to Ms Moran for sharing some of her life with me.

The Back of the Book (from Amazon):  Making use of his true scholar’s understanding, yet writing in an approachable and anecdotal style, Tom Wright manages to convey the simplicity, and helps to unravel the great complexity, of this extraordinary gospel. He describes it as “one of the great books in the literature of the world; and part of its greatness is the way it reveals its secrets not just to high-flown learning, but to those who come to it with humility and hope.” These volumes complete the Gospels in the For Everyone series.

NotJustLaura’s Review:  Am I alone in finding John’s Gospel the most difficult of the four?  Certainly, it asks questions of the reader and in this book Mr Wright has provided some of the answers.  I found this a very lucid walk through the first half of the Gospel although it was harder going than the previous volumes.  Am I up for Part 2?  Of course!

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