New Read: What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?

Whats So Great About the Doctrines of Grace

Mid-way through September I found my anxiety heightened; probably from a combination of darker weather, illness and a change in routine. I sought comfort in What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard D Phillips.

In six short chapters the Reverend Richard D Phillips explains the doctrines of grace; also known as the five points of Calvinism. These are Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints (TULIP). This is not really what I thought this book would be about, as Calvinism is not something I have heard or read anything about before. However I found this to be a good, short introduction to Calvinism and the theology.

I went into this book looking for comfort and inspiration. I did find some inspiration but less comfort. At first the terminology, i.e. total depravity and unconditional election, seemed a little daunting, and the book is heavy on theology. I think Phillips described the doctrines of grace really well but often cross referenced other theology I knew nothing about. I found the theology interesting yet it wasn’t as relatable as other Christian non-fiction I have read this year; which had more anecdotes and personal experience in them.

What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? was a quick and interesting read for me. If you are looking for a clear and concise explanation of the Doctrines of Grace/the five points of Calvinism this could be good for you. Not quite what I was looking for. Okay read.

Have you read this? Have you read about the Doctrines of Grace?

New Read: The Raven’s Head

The Raven's Head

The night’s are drawing in and the weather has cooled, quite dramatically. The perfect time to continue my R.I.P reading with The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland. A historical tale with a supernatural twist.

France 1224 – apprentice librarian Vincent stumbles across a powerful secret about Philippe, le Comte de Lingones, and his family. After a botched blackmail attempt Vincent finds himself on the run, with no home or friends, in possession of a mysterious carved silver raven’s head. Vincent is an arrogant, ambitious and foolish teenager. I didn’t really like him to be honest, but he is an interesting character to read about and it was his sections of the story that had the real pace for me. Vincent makes his way by selling elaborate stories to solve problems and hide secrets. Subconsciously though the raven’s head is bending him to its will.

England 1224 – Gisa the apothecary’s niece finds herself the source of interest for Lord Sylvain, a dark mage and alchemist, who seems to have a sinister plan. While little Wilky, renamed Regulus, finds himself torn from his family as Father Arthmael and his fearful White Canons take a keen interest in him. Poor Gisa and Wilky! By no fault of their own they find themselves in the centre of some peculiar and dangerous plans. While I preferred and sympathised with Gisa, Wilky and the other boys their sections of the story were a little slow; perhaps because they didn’t journey like Vincent did. By the end of the novel they were all brought together for a dark, magical, dramatic and tragic climax.

This is the first novel I have read by Karen Maitland, after hearing lots of interesting things about her work. I thought The Raven’s Head was well-written, with intricate detail, and well researched and believable historical setting. I could picture perfectly Vincent’s cramped little turret room, the organised and interesting apothecary shop, and Lord Sylvain’s jumbled and mysterious tower where he prepares and performs his dark magic. I also had a pervading sense throughout the book of poverty, death, grime and fear. It was so strong I could really feel it. I think however this book was just a little too dark for me to love it. In hindsight I can’t remember one moment of humour, peace or hope which made it a little depressing.

The Raven’s Head was a dark and atmospheric read, perfect for the R.I.P event, but I think I might need a more upbeat book next to balance it out. Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Have you read anything else by Karen Maitland?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X – 2/4

Re-Read: Wyrd Sisters

Wyrd Sisters

At the end of last year I started to work my way through, from the beginning, books from the epic Discworld series by Terry Pratchett; which between us my father and I own. Next up was a re-read, of one of my favourites, Wyrd Sisters.

In Wyrd Sisters we return to Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld on a dark and stormy night in the kingdom of Lancre. Three witches have met on a wet and wind swept hill. When they are disturbed by a charging carriage. Turns out that King Verence I of Lancre has been murdered this night. Now one loyal servant is bringing fate and the late king’s only son and heir into the witches hands. Generally witches feel they should remain neutral and not meddle in the politics of the land. However they are now to be irrevocably intertwined with the monarchy and the natural order of things.

A murdered king and a meeting of three witches? Yes, you can definitely be forgiven for thinking this seems familiar. Throw into the mix the new ruler Duke Felmet, his domineering wife, the late king’s ghost, the court fool, and a troupe of actors. Then you have Pratchett’s madcap and hilarious take on Macbeth. I had very fond memories of this book and a lot of that had to do with the witches. I think they are my favourite set of characters so far; particularly Granny Weatherwax. Granny is a weather worn, practical and stubborn old woman. Who doesn’t allow anything to put her off. That includes fate and impossibility! She is joined by the equally endearing and hilarious Nanny Ogg and young Magrat.

Terry Pratchett is a well loved author of mine and I was very sad to hear of his passing earlier this year. To me the best way to do him tribute is to read and share all his wonderful books. Wyrd Sisters is the 7th Discworld novel I have read, the 6th published, although I haven’t read them in any particular order before. I don’t believe this is a series you necessarily have to read in order. The stories often follow various different characters; in this case the witches. A fellow Pratchett fan once recommended, to help new readers daunted by the size of the series, to read by characters; which I thought was a great idea. I look forward to continuing to read this series. The next instalment we own is Pyramids.

Wyrd Sisters was a wonderfully theatrical, fun and hilarious adventure; and a really comforting re-read. Great read.

Have you read this? Which is your favourite Discworld adventures?

New Read: The Faith of a Mockingbird

The Faith of a Mockingbird

This year saw the release of Go Set a Watchman, a prequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I enjoyed studying this modern classic at secondary school, but I am not sure I’m interested in the sequel. However I did spot this, The Faith of a Mockingbird by Matt Rawle, Christian non-fiction with links to Harper Lee’s novel and characters. It seemed the perfect year to read it.

Pastor and author Matt Rawle’s aim, through this series of Bible studies, is to show how he sees Christ all around him in books, movies, TV shows, music and pop culture. In this instalment Rawle’s is focusing on the characters, storylines and themes present in Harper Lee’s classic novel; To Kill a Mockingbird. Other instalments include Hollywood Jesus and The Salvation of Doctor Who; the latter of which I also have a copy of.

This book is broken down into chapters focused on Harper Lee’s characters Scout Finch, Atticus Finch, Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson. Through these beloved characters Rawle’s explores Christian faith, theology, and ethics. These are supported with scripture, discussion questions and life experiences. I enjoyed looking at the Christian elements of the characters and their storylines and actions. Sadly being from the UK I don’t think I am the target audience for this book. With To Kill a Mockingbird being an American classic much of the cultural, social and historical background was wasted on me, and needed more explanation than was given. Such a shame as I think this could be a fun and interesting Bible study for small church groups.

Although I was perhaps not the best audience for The Faith of a Mockingbird it was a quick and interesting read. I look forward to reading The Salvation of Doctor Who. As I LOVE Doctor Who and it is British, so it will hopefully be better suited to me. Okay read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Noticed any Christian themes in books, movies, TV shows, music and pop culture?

The Classics Club: The Valley of Fear

The Valley of Fear

My result for The Classics Club’s last Spin feature was The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle; the fourth Sherlock Holmes novel. I was pleased with this result, as I have really enjoyed previous Holmes stories. Plus with Autumn setting in, here in the UK, I thought it is the perfect time to be reading this.

This tale is broken down into two parts, like A Study in Scarlet. In the first part the famous, private detective Sherlock Holmes is still on the trail of criminal mastermind, Professor James Moriarty. During his investigations Holmes receives a coded message, that leads him to the murder of John Douglas at Birlstone Manor House. Holmes and his faithful companion Dr Watson set off at once to investigate further. Then in the second part we are taken back 20 years. To Vermissa Valley, USA to see the events that led to this murder.

As in previous Holmes stories I just loved delving into Doyle’s intricate mystery and witnessing the chemistry between his two protagonists.  As much as I find the workings of Holmes’s mind and eccentricities fascinating. It is Holmes’s companion Dr Watson I am most drawn to. The down-to-earth narration of Watson is what makes these stories more relatable for me. In this mystery it was good to see Watson play an integral part and get a chance to uncover evidence for himself.

Through The Classics Club I have enjoyed all five Holmes short-story collections. Years before the club I read A Study in Scarlet; the only other Holmes novel I have read. I have preferred the short-story format, because I was able to read a whole story in one go. Easily keeping the thread of the mystery, and all the twists and turns. However now having read this I feel I might have been a bit hard on the novel format. Doyle has very cleverly broken the mystery into two parts. The first part is very similar to his short-story; it contains just the mystery. The difference being that then part two gives you the history and background to the mystery. I thought it helped the reader to get to know the victims and criminals of the mystery too. By the end of this I found I enjoyed it as much, if not a bit more than some of the short-stories.

The Valley of Fear was another fascinating mystery, which I flew through. Perfect for Autumn. I highly recommend to fans of Sherlock Holmes and those who enjoy classic crime. I look forward to reading The Sign of the Four and The Hound of the BaskervillesGreat read.

Have you read this? What is your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

The Classics Club – 34/50
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X – 1/4

New Read: The Medea Complex

The Medea Complex

I started August with a historical fiction, and I decided to end the month with another. Summer has ended and Autumn has arrived quite dramatically here in the UK. It felt like a good time for Victorian, mystery The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts.

We are taken back to 1885. Where we awake with Lady Anne. Who is shocked to find herself upon a straw mattress, covered by a thin blanket, in a small cell like room. Far from the usual luxury of her family’s country estate. Anne believes she must have been kidnapped. In fact she has been committed to Bethlem Royal Hospital, an asylum, to receive treatment after the horrific death of her baby son.

Anne begins to receive treatment and is supported by hospital staff and family. More details and secrets are exposed as we see the story from different perspectives. These include Anne, her father, her husband Edgar, her lady’s maid Beatrix, and Dr Savage. A more dislikeable group of characters I don’t believe I have ever met. They are rude, selfish, misogynistic and lie all the time! They even lie in their own thoughts which only the reader is party to. Of course this meant the mystery and tension was built for me, because I never knew what to believe. Rather surreal technique though.

Rachel Florence Roberts is a new author for me. I have to acknowledge that Roberts has tried hard to research and use facts to help create the Victorian world her characters inhabit. Going as far as reading notes from a doctor of the period to base Dr Savages work on. I liked the setting and while we were in the asylum I totally believed in this world. Outside of the asylum though there were several times where words, phrases and objects were included which I didn’t think were appropriate for the time period. This jarred me out of the story. Fortunately the mystery, pace and shocking revelations were enough to keep me reading.

The Medea Complex was a quick and shocking read for me. You might enjoy it if you like psychological mysteries. Okay read.

Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Read any other books set in an asylum?

New Read: George Washington

George Washington

In 2013 I collected twenty-one and read six of Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series; while I have enjoyed these I sadly only read one in 2014. I decide to remedy this in 2015. George Washington is my 3rd from this series, this year.

Before reading this I knew George Washington was an American president, and well, that was pretty much it! So while this was only a brief history. I actually found myself learning a lot! Black does discuss a bit of Washington’s education, marriage and plantation. However the bulk of the history was his military and later his political career. His military career began as a British officer in a local militia in the French and Indian War . Later after British laws harmed his business he became the Commander-in-Chief  to the Continental army fighting his former British colleagues in the American Revolution. With his military background you could be forgiven for thinking he would have been an aggressive president. Instead he was keen to keep the newly forming country out of war. Working hard to keep peace with the French, British and Spanish.

I am glad I discovered Mark Black and his A Very Brief History series back in 2013; because I’m not sure I would have picked up a full history of Washington. This was a good, clear and concise introduction for me which is broken down into easy bite-size chapters. On Washington’s family history, education, military career, life outside the army, the American Revolution and war, his time as president, his resignation, and finally his death and funeral. I warn you now though if you already know something of Washington or American history I doubt you will learn anything from this. I recommend to those, like me, who know little to nothing.

George Washington was another quick, easy read for me. I polished a couple of chapters off each night before bed. I have eleven more editions from this series still to go. Okay read.

Have you read any book about George Washington?