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Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth

by and

Sometimes I really wish it was possible to give a book two star ratings.What I appreciated about this book was the practical, evidence based exercises for how to develop your body so that you can run barefoot safely and quickly. Down to earth and sensible advice, including the dangers of transitioning to barefoot too quickly and a frank warning against barefoot absolutism and an acknowledgement of the healthiness of a mixed economy of barefoot, shod, and barely shod running. What I found frustrating about this book was the non-evidence based pseudo-spiritual hooey that went with the practical stuff.
Shadow Pass: A Novel of Suspense

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I received a trade paperback of this book for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.I was pretty unimpressed. The mystery the detective (Pekkala) was meant to be solving wasn't very mysterious, and would have been solved with a basic application of common sense early in the piece. The characterisation is weak and inconsistent. At one moment he is so aware of potential danger that he assaults his colleague, at another he is so blind to it that he walks into an obvious trap. Pekkala's personal history is beyond belief. This wouldn't matter if there was any sense of the fantastic in the writing, but it is just banal and beyond credibility. All in all, it felt like the whole book was an insult to the intelligence of the reader. This extended to the use of italic type for sections in which Pekkala has slipped into reminiscence. Any book that assumes that its readers cannot spot a twenty year jump through time without some help is not for me.
Soul Clothes

by and

I don't read poetry often so this book was very difficult for me to review as I have few reference points for comparison. So, subjectively, I feel that the poet communicates very clearly her anger, her hope, and her frustrations. I found "Lover, I can't make You" particularly evocative of the tensions in the relationships between men and women. I was unsure about the off set type setting. I think I would have found it more effective as a technique if it had been utilised with more restraint.
Faith and Doubt

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I found this book very helpful. Written with humour, honesty, and wit; this book engages and wrestles with the deep questions of life. It doesn't pretend to have all the answers to these questions but does unashamedly assert that the most satisfying way of living with them is found in following Jesus. With an author who is not afraid to tell stories against himself there is a humility and wisdom to this book that I found liberating. Ortberg argues that faith and doubt are not necessarily opposed, but that doubt, rightfully understood, can allow faith space to grow. Having said that, he also acknowledges that doubt can go bad, and shows how it can lead to unhealthy scepticism and cynicism. Further, he argues that faith can also go bad if it is understood to require dogmatism and certainty. I am frustrated in writing this, because I feel that I am not doing the book good service. Go and read it, he writes about it better than I can!
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived

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Once again Rob Bell delivers an imaginative and refreshingly honest take on some of the big questions that people have about some of the ways in which followers of Jesus tell the story of their faith.This is a book that is not afraid of questions, and which presents a range of answers from different orthodox Christian viewpoints. These viewpoints are presented accessibly and with vigour, and usually with a generous balance.Bell's knowledge and presentation of Biblical themes is generally compelling and helpful, however in some areas I felt that Bell was inconsistent in his approach to scripture, especially the Old Testament. At times he is keen to emphasis the literary and historical context of verses, and at others seems to skate over it. For instance he cites examples of OT verses which refer to God restoring Israel (a category) and seems to apply them to all individuals within that category.I was glad to read this book, as it gave me some imaginative ways to engage with the concept of hell, and reinforced for me the reality of the Kingdom that is breaking through, a Kingdom that I love and want to see more and more of. It also challenged me to consider God more carefully that I may represent God more truly and love God more deeply.
I Shall Wear Midnight: (Discworld Novel 38)

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Not many laugh out loud moments in this latest installment in the Discworld corpus, which is really quite dark. This book raised an interesting paradox for me. On the one hand, as a young parish priest, I identified strongly with the feeling of being slightly set apart from normal folk experienced by the lead character of the book, a young witch called Tiffany. I also appreciated Pratchett's analysis of the evils of unthinking bigotry and prejudice against the "other". On the other hand, as a parish priest, I have experienced at first hand the damage that witchcraft does to people's lives in the world that we actually live in. The walls between this world and the Discworld seem to have got very thin in places, and this causes me some disquiet.
Café Theology

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This is a well written, systematic, presentation of Christian theology written from a western European, evangelical perspective. As the title suggests it is intended to be accessible and engaging and it succeeds on both counts. If I had a quibble it would be that a tone that is intended to be engaging and passionate occasionally drifts into polemic, and at these times the otherwise balanced treatment of different orthodox points of view slips a bit. Overall a good read that I would be happy to recommend to anybody wanting to find out more about what Christians think about God, and as a strong foundation for ongoing conversations.
Foucault's Pendulum

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Sometimes I read a book that I just don't get. This was one of them. There are two possible reasons for this. Either it's a bit rubbish or it's so good that it's beyond me. I'm really not sure which it is in this case. By the normal criteria for judging novels, things like plot and characterisation it is a bit rubbish. I found it difficult to get a handle on the characters and didn't end up caring about them. I'm not sure there really is a plot, and if there is it is so deeply buried amidst fairly inaccessible vocabulary and flashbacks that it might as well be absent. On the other hand, I did keep reading. The middle section about the development of a conspiracy theory, spun from air and rumour is a fascinating insight into the psychology of the human need for mystery. The vocabulary is wide and varied, and occasionally slips into other languages, only some of which I understand. It may be that this playing with language is a deliberate element of the air of mystery that is the theme of the book. All in all, I can't see me reading it again, and in the end I only finished it because I wanted to know if anything happened.
Book of Days

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I received this book as part of the LT Early Reviewers scheme. There is a really interesting idea at the centre of this novel. The idea is that God knows each of our stories, and guards them for us, even if we cannot remember them. As this idea, and its implications, are explored other themes surface. Themes such as forgiveness, the power that comes from knowledge, love, grief, relationships, suicide, and the possibility of something being real without it being physical.That is a lot of heavy themes, but somehow the novel doesn't seem to be weighed down by them, despite not taking them lightly. It achieves this by telling a story. I found the characters in the story well enough portrayed for me to identify with and care about them. The plot was probably the weakest element, but the lively pace kept me turning the pages to find out what the resolution would be. Some aspects of this resolution disappointed me, and some I applauded. I won't spoil the read for you by saying more.
The Grand Design

by and

I was so disappointed with this book. I read "A Brief History of Time" when I was 17 and loved it. The science was mind opening and exciting. I ordered this book hoping that it would fill me again with the wonder of the universe. Once again the physics and majesty of the intellectual imagination that loom above you as you contemplate the ideas presented is phenomenal. What is so heart wrenchingly depressing are the childish and sub-schoolboy side swipes at modern philosophy and at theistic belief systems. If you are a convinced atheist looking for polemical ammunition then this will provide it, as long as you don't have too much self respect. If you are a convinced theist I suspect that this book will just be bad for your blood pressure. If you are a seeker after truth then the physics is great and exciting, the rest is pretty paltry.
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