New Read: D-Day (A Very Brief History)

For the last two years, I had a bit of an US politics theme going on in my reading through Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series. However, in March last year, I read my last US instalment which was about Ronald Reagan. I really enjoyed reading the instalments with a common theme. So, this year, I decided to jump back into the series with a World War II theme in mind, starting with the D-Day instalment I had.

Before reading this, I already knew a fair bit about the D-Day landings of the Allied forces on the French Normandy coast, which was decisive in the liberation of France and in ending the war. In fact I didn’t really learn anything new from this book. However I did appreciate reading about a subject, I have learnt about in bits and pieces from various TV documentaries, in one short, concise format. Which helped me to better understand the basic facts and the sheer number of people, boats, weapons and logistics involved.

This clear, fast paced and concise history is broken down into bite-size chapters on: the background to D-Day; the planning of the invasion; the deception plans employed; the use of double agents, the Fortitude Operations (designed to throw the Nazis off where the real landings would be); the build-up to the assault, how D-Day went and the aftermath of it. This style made this a very easy read and would be even more helpful for a reader, who knew little to nothing to learn quickly the main events and essential facts; but if, like me, you have read or know a fair bit about World Ward II and D-Day then I doubt you will learn anything new from this.

Overall, even though I didn’t learn anything new, I thought D-Day: A Very Brief History was another quick and interesting read on a lazy Sunday morning. I will continue with my World War II theme with either the instalment on The Berlin War or Stalin, which are subjects I know less about so could potentially be even better for me. Okay read.

Have you read this? Have you read any other books about WWII and the D-Day landings? 

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Goodbye June, Hello July 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Well June has been a month of extreme weather: from week long rain to a mini-Saharan heatwave! It has also been another busy month attending to a local Film and Comic Con; celebrating Father’s Day; a theatre trip to see The Lady Vanishes and going to a local, street food and music event. With all that going on, here is what I managed to read:

Fiction: 2          Non-Fiction: 1

In July, I had quite a ‘classic’ month of reading. First, I finished reading the classic, science fiction The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, which I carried over from June and was my result for the last Classic Club’s Spin event. Then being eager to see what happened next to Aunt Jo and her boys after Little Men, I picked up the charming, children’s classic, Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott, off of my 10 Books of Summer 2019 reading list. Two gentle, classic reads, that were easy for me to dip in and out of when I found time.

As well as these fictions, I also read, one lazy Sunday morning, the short non-fiction D-Day: A Very Brief History by Mark Black, a super quick bite of World War II history. I’m afraid I am behind on my reviews, so you will have to wait for my thoughts on all three of these.

Pick of the Month: Jo’s Boys

Altogether that is three books read – a perfectly reasonable amount for me, however I can’t help but feel a little disappointed because I feel I was reading more than that. As, through out the month, I was also reading the Norse mythological fantasy, Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris and the memoir Undivided by Christian worship leader, Vicky Beeching.

In July, I look forward to a church ‘fun day’; a joint work’s retirement and leaving do; breaking up for the summer and my holiday to the Amalfi Coast. Also, hopefully, more reading!

What did you do and read in June? What are your plans for July?

New Read: Jane Austen at Home

Being a big fan of the wonderfully eccentric and colourful historian, Lucy Worsley, I was thrilled to snap up a bargain copy of her 2017 biography, Jane Austen at Home from Amazon for my kindle; especially as I had already enjoyed the accompanying TV series on the BBC. I started reading it back in January and enjoyed dipping in and out of it over the following months.

Seeing as homes or acquiring a home is so very central to many of Austen’s novels, in this biography, Worsley takes the reader on an in-depth journey through the homes Jane herself lived in. From her childhood at the Steventon Rectory; to her skittish homes in Bath and Southampton; to more settled years in Chawton Cottage; and finally to where she spent her last few weeks in Winchester. As well as the many great houses and country estates of friends and relations she went to visit. Taking us into the very rooms from which this beloved novelist quietly changed the literary world.

Marking the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, this new, refreshing look into the story of Jane’s life focuses on how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces, not just the people, that mattered to her. Sadly it wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but instead a life that was often a painful struggle: as an unmarried woman in Georgian England, Jane was beholden to her male relations to provide for her a home, and it was horrible to learn that wealthier Austen relations were not necessarily as generous as they could or should have been.

It is famously said that Jane lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Worsley cleverly peels back the rosy-coloured image of Jane – constructed later by the Austen family for their slightly problematic famous relation – to reveal a passionate woman who remained fiercely independent, earnt her own money, and who had a sparkling wit and sharp tongue. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end perhaps refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

All in all I thought Jane Austen at Home was a fascinating look into one of my favourite author’s life, through the places and spaces that mattered to her; and all done in Worsley’s marvellously enthusiastic style. I read some of this alongside my comforting re-read of Emma and on finishing this all I want to do is re-read all of Austen’s wonderful novels! Great read.

Have you read this? Have you read any other Jane Austen biographies?

Goodbye May, Hello June 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? May has absolutely flown by for me in a blur of four friends and family birthdays (including my baby brother’s 21st!), a lovely bank holiday weekend, buying a new car, and a short term at work which led to another week break. Even though it flew by, it was a quieter, more relaxing month, which left me plenty of time for some great reading. Here’s what I read:

Fiction: 3          Non-Fiction: 1

First, I finished reading the engaging, turn-of-the-century classic, Howards End by E. M. Forster off of my Classics Club list, which I was inspired to add to my list after watching the BBC’s delightful 2017 adaptation. I found the book to be an equal delight and the perfect spring read as I had hoped. Then I travelled further back to 16th century Scotland and France, in By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea, the gripping and eagerly anticipated conclusion to Skea’s brilliant Munro Scottish Saga trilogy. It was great to catch up with well loved characters and see some conclusions for them… although I think teasingly left open enough for the possibility of more.

Finally, for something completely different, I indulged in a short, fun read of Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M. C. Beaton, the sixth full-length mystery from Beaton’s long-running cosy crime series. The premise for which was so familiar I thought this was a re-read, but the further I got into the twists and turns I had no idea what was coming, so either my memory is worse than I thought or I never actually read/finished this before.

Alongside these fictions, I also finished my continued read of the fascinating biography, Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley. Started back in January, I took my time over this in-depth and enthusiastic look into this beloved author’s life through the places and spaces that mattered to her.

Pick of the Month: I can’t choose!

Altogether that is a brilliant four books read – not only does that make this my best month numbers wise this year, it was all top-notch quality too. At the end of the month, I also started reading my first book off my 10 Books of Summer 2019 Reading Challenge: Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris; my book club‘s next read, Undivided by Vicky Beeching; and my Classics Club Spin result: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.

In June, I look forward to a trip to a local Film and Comic Con; a special ‘Vision Evening’ at my church; celebrating Father’s Day and a trip to the theatre to see The Lady Vanishes. It is shaping up to be a busy month – Here’s hoping there is still plenty of time for reading!

What did you do and read in May? What are your plans for June?

New Read: Love Wins

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. In April, we read The Death of Western Christianity by Patrick Sookhdeo, although I was unable to make the club’s meeting to discuss it, it was still an important read for me. Next up to read was Love Wins by megachurch pastor Rob Bell.

In Love Wins, Bell ambitiously addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith: hell and the afterlife. In doing so he challenges many long-held beliefs and tries to answer some big, troubling questions, which have long troubled millions of Christians – troubled so deeply that in many cases they have lost their faith. For example, would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever? I would say no and so does Bell, who with searing insight, puts hell on trial with the hopeful message of eternal life doesn’t start when we die, it starts right now and that ultimately, love wins.

Bell, as an author, pastor, and innovative teacher, uses his considerable bible knowledge and charisma to present his distinctive thoughts on heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. Personally, while I didn’t agree with everything, I did find Bell’s arguments refreshing and thought-provoking, but I could also see how his ideas have courted controversy in more orthodox Christian quarters. In particular, his thoughts on no fiery pit of hell or heaven in the clouds, and instead we can start building heaven right here on Earth and there are people living in hells of their own making right now, rang very true to me.

There were other ideas that I found difficult to get my head around completely. Now the reason for this was two-fold: 1. Bell is offering up some pretty big, radical ideas, but also 2. the style Bell uses isn’t always the easiest follow. In his passion, he loses himself in longer, racing sweeps of detail, which gives us swathes of ideas and evidence to process. While – in stark contrast – he also uses bullet point style lists of short, sharp words and phrases, which hit home his key ideas. Both are great techniques if you are on board and keeping up with him, sometimes though I got a little lost in it all and found I needed to go back and re-read sections.

Overall, I thought Love Wins was an in-depth, insightful examination of some of the more challenging aspects of the Christian faith. Many of Bell’s ideas chimed with my own inklings and others really got me thinking! My group will be meeting later this month and I think this is shaping up to be a very interesting discussion. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read anything else by Rob Bell?

Goodbye April, Hello May 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? April has been another super busy month with a rainy school residential trip, an Agape Meal on Maundy Thursday, a gloriously sunny Easter Sunday, a St George’s Day extravaganza in our castle grounds and a lovely trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Where did my two weeks off go?! Even with all that though, I enjoyed some great reading, especially in my garden in the mini-heatwave we had. Here’s what I read:

Fiction: 2          Non-Fiction: 1

First, I lost myself in the historical fiction The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson, which continues Hickson’s War of the Roses story from the brilliant The First of the Tudors. I didn’t love it as much as the first book, however it was still a fascinating glimpse into the lost history of Henry Tudor’s exile. Then I moved on to the riotous fantasy Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, the eighth instalment in Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series and the first book following Captain Vimes and his ramshackle Night’s Watch. With magic, a secret society, mysterious goings-on, incompetent policing and dragons, what is not to love?!

Alongside these fictions, I also read the Christian non-fiction Love Wins by Rob Bell, which challenges the old presumptions of heaven and hell, and offers courageous, provocative alternative answers. My church’s book club will meet to discuss this at the end of May.

Pick of the Month: Guards! Guards!

Altogether that is three books read. During the month, I also read a little more of Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley  and the turn-of-the-century classic Howards End by E. M. Forster. I also started reading historical fiction By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea: the eagerly anticipated conclusion to her Munro Scottish trilogy.

In May, I look forward to celebrating my brother’s special birthday and to a short term and so another week off very soon! A quieter month, with hopefully even more time for reading.

What did you do and read in April? What are your plans for May?

New Read: The Death of Western Christianity

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. In February, we met to discuss The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl. Next up was non-fiction The Death of Western Christianity by Patrick Sookhdeo, which the group met to discuss at the beginning of the month. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend as I was away on a school residential trip.

As the title suggests, The Death of Western Christianity is quite a stark look into how the Church in the West has gone from being the backbone of Western society, morals and laws, and being a vast missionary movement that once went out across the world, to now being in a state of terminal decline. Ironically abroad, where once Western missionaries worked, there is still a living, thriving Christian faith, but other than pockets overall the fire of Western faith is sadly growing dim. Not only that but in Western society, Christianity is increasingly despised, marginalised and coming under attack.

Fortunately, for me, I am in a warm, welcoming, multi-aged church that is growing. However in my wider community, I am in the minority with my faith and I have witnessed the deploring lack of knowledge of Christianity, with a depressingly, growing number of children that do not even know that Christmas and Easter are Christian festivals. And while I know that the church is increasingly being ignored, marginalised and mocked, thankfully my friends and myself have never been targeted or persecuted for our faith. Unlike some of the terribly sad cases that Sookhdeo shares from across Europe and the USA.

Matter-of-factly and succinctly Sookhdeo surveys in-depth the current state of Christianity in the West, looking in particular at how Western culture has influenced and weakened the Church, with the growth in materialism, different faiths and worldviews, and a change in morality. He also discusses the loss of Christian identity, which he sees as the heart of the problem. You may be thinking this sounds a depressing read and in many respects it is. On the other hand, Sookhdeo does advise and offer means to how Christians should go forward. And if the Church in the West could start to fix itself, then maybe it could be a force for good in society again in the future.

Overall The Death of Western Christianity is not the sort of book you enjoy reading, instead I think for a practising Christian in the West it is an important book to read. Sadly I wasn’t able to attend the meeting of my church’s book club to discuss this. Nevertheless this was a very relevant read for me, as my church is currently undertaking a year of exploration into what our vision should be for the next five years – There are nuggets of advice from this that will be of value for me with this in mind. Our club’s next read is Love Wins by Rob Bell. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any other books on the decline of Christianity?