Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My latest book reviews (all books are in stock at Unicorn Tree)

This weeks reading and reviews from the bookshop boss here at Unicorn Tree Books!

All these reviews and indeed a geat many more can be found on the excellent Good Book Stall Website www.thegoodbookstall.org.uk - well worth checking out :D

All the books reviewed here (and don't forget to check out the review page we have on here as well!) and those found on www.thegoodbookstall.org.uk can also be found at or ordered from Unicorn Tree Books too, both in the shop and online at either www.lincolnbookshop.co.uk or www.lincolnchristianbookshop.co.uk or at the wonderful www.hive.co.uk (but please do remember to make us your favourite shop when you visit Hive! the online bookshop where every sale supports independent physical bookshops!)

Indeed all these reviews are the property of The Goodbookstall and me - please don't use them without ascribing them to me as the author and also to www.thegoodbookstall.org.uk (who they should also be linked to if used online!) and yes that does include if you cut and paste bits of them and add a few words here and and take a few out there too!


Title – Abiding - The Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book 2013
Author – Ben Quash
Format – Paperback
Price – £10
Publisher – Bloomsbury
Date of Publication – November 2012
ISBN 978-1-4411-5111-7
Reviewer Melanie Carroll

This years 'Archbishop of Canterbury's lent book' (the last one to be chosen by Rowan Williams) is from Kings college london's professor of Christian theology and the arts and it shows through in the book too. Ben Quash has written a book on a subject i think many of us don't really think about very often, if at all - that of Abiding (indeed if honest my first thought when faced with the title and subject was that of the classic hymn, 'Abide with me' because that's about the only context I hear the word used in these days). He puts over his ideas of abiding in a fresh and relevant way by using images of characters taken from film, literature and christian history that can be used as exemplars of how abiding can be seen and understood within context of life, church, etc. These characters reflect back on each other as well as on the particular theme they are used to carry. With seven chapters covering the themes of body, mind, care, relationships, exile, wounds, peace and finally a lovely epilogue (who may abide) that addresses how we can practically carry the idea of abiding forward into our lives and communities, this is an interesting lenten read. Not short on theology but graced with a 'popular' feel to it that makes it more interesting than challenging to read — and this can only be a good thing and something that demonstrates the author 's talent in his field well.

Title – When You Pray - Daily Bible Reflections For lent And Easter On The Lord's Prayer (The BRF Lent Book)
Author – Joanna Collicutt
Format – Paperback
Price – £7.99
Publisher – BRF
Date of Publication – November 2012
ISBN – 978-0-85746-089-9
Reviewer Melanie Carroll

A daily bible reflection throughout lent and easter based on the lords prayer is this years BRF lent book by Joanna Collicutt. Using the lords prayer as the frame of reflection for each days bible reading and reflection certainly rounds out and deepens the lords prayer, and our understanding of how we can in that one prayer see so much of the bible reflected back in it. For each of the five weeks and Holy week collicutt focuses on one line or refrain from the lords prayer for her daily reflections, these break down as:
Father, May Your Name be Holy, Your Kingdom Come, Give Us Each Day Our Daily Bread, And Forgive Us Our Sins For We Ourselves Forgive Each One Who Is In Debt To us, And Do Not Put Us To The Test.
at the end of these on Easter Day she then reflects us back to a previous reading from earlier that reflected on 'Your Kingdom Has Come' - an interesting move, and one I personally like because it reflects the nature of easter and lent, dying and restoring to life, a return to things past but made new by where we are in the cycle.
With each days reading being no more than three pages in total - including the full bible reading for that days reflection and a one line prayer this is not an onerous task to undertake daily for your lenten journey, and the meditative and reflective style of writing adds no burden to the experience.
At the very end of the book there is also a series of questions so that you could if wanted use this book as the basis for a weekly lent course too. Of course though this book is aimed at the lenten journey, with it's emphasis on the lords prayer this book would not be amiss if used at any time of the year and would make for quite a good group study on the lords prayer itself.

Title – Mary Mother Of God
Author – Chris O'Donnell
Format – Paperback
Price – £5.99
Publisher – Columba
Date of Publication – August 2012
ISBN – 978-1-85607-797-2
Reviewer Melanie Carroll

A short book of 40 contemplation's on Mary each starting with a one line quote taken from a variety of church sources and vatican documents as their starting point, and then working on looking at what these really mean and how they help embody Mary in and to the world.
Though this is not a lent book in any way, with it's structure of 40 mostly single page contemplations it almost certainly could be used as one for someone looking to step out a little from the usual studies and instead focus on the mother of Jesus, the woman who bore 'God' and ultimately watched him die as a sacrifice for the world, for us and for her. This could be heady stuff if used in such a way.
However if that is a bit much for you then this is still a good book to look at, if Marian theology is not really your thing this might well be an easy way to gain an understanding of what it is and how it works, and if you already have a devotion to Mary then this book can be a wonderful contemplative aid to looking closer.

Title – The Shape of Living
Author – David F Ford
Format – Paperback
Price – £9.99
Publisher – SCM Press
Date of Publication – October 2012
ISBN 978-1-848-25-247-9
reviewer Melanie Carroll

A new edition of this excellent and classic book that was originally written as an Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book 15 years ago now, and with a new preface in it written by the author that catches us up with some changes since that time and a quick contextualisation for those new to the book.
The Shape of Living really is a book that still works today because even though many things change the things this book talks about really don't, and we still find ourselves standing and staring in the face many of the deeply intense things that we encounter in it. Work, relationships, desires, leisure are all forces that we encounter and must deal with and always have, using strong biblical references and reflection, David Ford shows us that we can deal with these in a creative, energising and spiritual way that help us journey well through our modern lives.


Title – Life Without Limits - Inspiration For A Ridiculously Good Life
Author – Nick Vujicic
Format – Paperback
Price – £9.99
Publisher – Water Brook (imprint of Random House) (Dist. Gardners & Trust Media)
Date of Publication – June 2012
ISBN 978-0-307-58974-3
Reviewer Melanie Carroll

Life without limits by Nick Vujicic (Pronounced Voy-a-chich) is part biography, part testimony and totally motivational. It is written in a chatty, unabashed and totally down to earth way and at times had me sniffing back tears, giggling a little madly and sitting quietly and nodding along and 'listening' as important lessons on faith, acceptance, doubt, achievement and being perfectly who we are meant to be were taught in such clear and understandable ways. Nick not only uses his own life as an exemplar in this book (though not conceitedly – indeed he stresses throughout that others may well have it worse in ways he never has and can't truly comprehend, though he has suffered through depression and of course having been born with no arms or legs does give him some real insight and empathy into hardships and overcoming) but he uses the witness and experience of others he has met with and heard of too to demonstrate how we can all live a life without limits if we want to, after all it's the life God wants for us to lead – of this he is positive and a positive advocate of.
There is at the end of the book a section entitled 'personal action plan' but to be honest it would make a great basis for a group study section too. 
There are so many good quotes and sections in this book that if I'd had a highlighter handy probably a good third of the book would now be fluorescent – I really can't recommend it enough and to be honest when I started it I thought it was probably slightly over hyped – but I was gladly disappointed to find it wasn't!   

Title – Willow Creek To Sacred Heart - Rekindling My Love For Catholicism
Author – Chris Haw
Format – Paperback
Price – £9.99
Publisher – Ave Maria Press
Date of Publication – November 2012
ISBN – 978-1-59471-292-0
Reviewer Melanie Carroll

Can you be an Evangelical and Catholic? Too right you can as Chris Haw so amazingly demonstrates in this book. The first part of the book is Chris Haw's Testimony. A young man that left catholicism early on and joined Willow Creek, that then went on to Eastern University (the university that saw Shane Claiborne and others really start the New Monastic movement afresh - indeed Claiborne provides the forward for this book) and out into the real tough love mission fields of urban poverty. All the while remaining evangelical at heart, even though due to where his mission placed him he was weekly attending a catholic church, along with the mennonites he was sharing community with. Over time and as we discover in the second part of this book he fell in love with the catholic church again, seeing in it a rhythm and call to action, a liturgical response that calls for action to the poor and that see's liberation theology as an active part of it's reach, In this second part of the book he does not shy away from addressing the problems of the catholic faith, but he does so clearly, honestly and without bias, demonstrating the good with the bad and highlighting in many ways how the differences that divide are not so big as we might think. 
Chris Haw is still an Evangelical but he is a catholic evangelical - and that is an important thing to see and understand. This book really is an important work for ecumenical reasons and one I would encourage many people to read to get to see what catholicism really is, opposed to what many tend to think it is. 
This is an excellent and timely book and one that I really do recommend for catholics, evangelicals and any one else as well! 


Title – Kneeling With Giants - Learning To Pray With History's Best Teachers
Author – Gary Neal Hansen
Format – Paperback
Price – £9.99
Publisher – IVP
Date of Publication – June 2012
ISBN – 978-0-8308-3562-1
reviewer Melanie Carroll

Kneeling with giants is an excellent primer on the differing modes and styles of prayer that have arisen from across christian history and tradition. It's an excellent guide to understanding how important it is that we understand that there is not one way to pray for every person but that instead there are styles of prayer that suit each individual or time of life for each individual regardless of their faith tradition and denomination - prayer is not a dormant activity but an active one and as such prayer patterns and needs can change. This book crosses denominational and faith boundaries with it's mix of catholic, reformed protestant, orthodox, etc. prayer styles and traditions generously and insightfully looked at. Each chapter is a wonderful introduction to the practice of prayer as put forward by a leading proponent of it's style and tradition, thus a good small glimpse into it's history but also a good look at how this style works, why it works and how it can best be used. The appendixes at the end and indeed the preface explain how this book can be used either for individuals or better yet for groups, the ten sessions it would take to work through this book would be an excellent experience for any church group and well worth undertaking - particularly wonderful would be if it was done as part of a churches together/ecumenism undertaking I think.
The one criticism I have though is that the ebook version, it informs you from the beginning, has an extra 'reader' or companion volume included with it - I think it a serious injustice that you are expected to also have to buy the ebook version to obtain access to that companion volume - in this day and age there is no reason that online access to that companion volume should not be made accessible to those that have purchased this book in print form - rather than making people have to purchase the ebook volume as well as the print as in this case.
This book on it's own is an excellent read and I do not feel I have missed much by not having access to the companion volume and I will not be paying out extra money to buy the ebook just for this collection of 'reader' material, which with a little effort can largely be found for free on the internet anyway.
Title – A Taste of Hildegard
Author – Elizabeth Ruth Obbard
Format – Paperback
Price – £5.95
Publisher – New City Press
Date of Publication – December 2012
ISBN 978-1-905039-17-3
reviewer Melanie Carroll

For me Hildegard Von Bingen and Elizabeth Ruth Obbard just automatically go together - Obbards beautifully simple line drawings of the nun-contemplative are just the essential companion in my mind to the rich and beautiful complexity that is Hildegard's mysticism and works.
In this lovely little primer 'A Taste of Hildegard' that has come out to celebrate Hildegard being declared a Doctor of the Church we find a selection of passages from Hildegards short work Scivias (Scivias meaning 'know the Way') that have been chosen and illustrated by Obbard, these passages demonstrate her visions and mysticism well with their focus being on salvation. There is also a short and gentle overview at the beginning of the book on Hildegard and a mention of the other women Doctors of the Church.
This really is a lovely little primer and at only £5.95 really does make for a very accessible introduction to Hildegard, or a lovely addition to any collection of those who already have a love of her work.

Title – Obsessed - Breaking Free From The Things That Consume You
Author – Hayley DiMarco
Format – Paperback
Price – £7.99
Publisher – Revell (Baker)
Date of Publication – October 2012
ISBN 978-0-8007-3306-3
reviewer Melanie Carroll

Obsessed is a wonderfully designed book with it's lovely bare branch cover design that is followed throughout the book on every single purple edged page – and the print is in purple too - and then the lovely double page word art quotes throughout, a beautiful book that in it's attention to detail in some way leans a little towards the title and contents subject matter.
It's intentionally aimed at a young female audience (15-30 age range probably) and never more obviously (if the design of the book doesn't give it away) than in the section on 'relief' with it's talk of monthly cramps.
Obsession – something many of us I think are familiar with, whether it be with facebook, fashion, how we look ... there are many types and most of them are ones we need to let go of, put down and instead learn to lean more on God, make God our focus of Obsession and in turn learn to be at ease and peace. That's the intent of this book and it uses a mix of biblical teaching and modern subject matter to relay these thoughts in a style that has a feel of flowing meditation or contemplation to it, helped in part by the Word Arts liberally scattered throughout, thus making it an easy to read book on a theme many young women are challenged by.

Title – God's Words of Comfort - Bible Passages To Clam Your Fears And Feed Your Soul
Author – Compiled: Barbara Kois
Format – Paperback
Price – £3.99
Publisher – Bethany House
Date of Publication – October 2012
ISBN 978-0-7642-1025-9
reviewer Melanie Carroll

A small little book that basically takes eight situations in which God's comfort may be needed - these are: grief, loneliness, illness, guilt, persecution, failure/unmet expectations, fear, and finally Need. At the beginning of each themed chapter it opens with a quote from a christian work looking at the subject at hand, then after this there is a short introduction or contemplation from the compiler to help contextualise the issue, from here it then offers a series of quite large sections or chunks of the bible (various translations are used for these) that are applicable to the theme being dealt with and offers them forward as comfort to the reader that God understands what you are going through and has already offered forward his comfort, after each section of bible passage there is a very short couple of lines interpretation of the passage demonstrating it's relevance and help - and offering forward it's comfort.
it's much more a dip and flick book than a real solace, however as a collection of thematic bible passages and overviews it does it's job,' but I could see it being most helpful to people looking for help in crafting sermons or doing small readings/talks etc on the subjects at hand, as it does collect a number of passages on topical themes together in one small book.

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