Tuesday, 29 December 2015

HADES by Candice Fox

Hades (An Archer & Bennett Thriller)Hades by Candice Fox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A dark, compelling and original thriller that will have you spellbound from its atmospheric opening pages to its shocking climax. Hades is the debut of a stunning new talent in crime fiction.

Hades Archer, the man they call the Lord of the Underworld, surrounds himself with the things others leave behind. Their trash becomes the twisted sculptures that line his junkyard. The bodies they want disposed of become his problem for a fee. Then one night a man arrives on his doorstep, clutching a small bundle that he wants 'lost'. And Hades makes a decision that will change everything...

Twenty years later, homicide detective Frank Bennett feels like the luckiest man on the force when he meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. But there's something strange about Eden and her brother, Eric. Something he can't quite put his finger on. When the two detectives are called to the scene of an attempted drowning, they find a traumatised victim telling a story that's hard to believe - until the divers start bringing up bodies.

Frank is now on the hunt for a very different kind of serial killer: one who offers the sick and dying hope at murderous cost. At first, his partner's sharp instincts come in handy. Soon, he's wondering if she's as dangerous as the man they hunt.

MY REVIEW: I thought this book had great potential that was never realised. It was very disjointed with all of the varying time changes and perspectives that seemed to occur without much structure. It all felt a bit familiar having seen the Dexter TV series — as others have noted. It was ok but I was glad to get to the rather abrupt ending. In my opinion, the story could have had more depth of character development and a slower, richer narrative arc to the climax. It will be interesting to see how this author develops. But this one doesn’t really inspire me to read the next in the series. All a bit superficial and done before.

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Monday, 21 December 2015


Everybody Is Wrong About GodEverybody Is Wrong About God by James A. Lindsay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A call to action to address people’s psychological and social motives for a belief in God, rather than debate the existence of God. With every argument for theism long since discredited, the result is that atheism has become little more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. Thus, engaging in interminable debate with religious believers about the existence of God has become exactly the wrong way for nonbelievers to try to deal with misguided—and often dangerous—belief in a higher power. The key, author James Lindsay argues, is to stop that particular conversation. He demonstrates that whenever people say they believe in “God,” they are really telling us that they have certain psychological and social needs that they do not know how to meet. Lindsay then provides more productive avenues of discussion and action. Once nonbelievers understand this simple point, and drop the very label of atheist, will they be able to change the way we all think about, talk about, and act upon the troublesome notion called “God.”

MY REVIEW: A refreshing book that explores the psychosocial needs that are met by a belief in a deity. The book assumes that the debate over God’s existence is over and that it is demonstrably false — a contentious assumption despite the assertion by the author that it is no longer worthy of any further discussion and could perhaps be seen as a somewhat arrogant assertion. However, if one is prepared to accept this starting point for the sake of argument, Lindsay provides a rich and complex analysis of the function that a belief in “God” (as opposed to God without scare quotes) serves in those who believe and what it would mean to construct a truly secular society where those same needs are met.

The book argues for a post-theistic society where atheism as a label is not needed because it is no longer defining itself in terms of theism. Apart from being a bit repetitive, Lindsay’s perspective is well articulated with respect for those who believe in “God” (notice the scare quotes) and the purpose it serves — although his communication is sometimes bordering on the aggressive (then again, this might be needed given the trenchant criticisms that fundamentalist Christians make about atheism and atheists).

The last part of the book is particularly useful as the author attempts a very general articulation of how the ‘… primary needs “God” exists to address relate\[d] to meaning making, control, and esteem, which manifest in terms of attribution, control, and sociality in various complicated and overlapping ways’ might be addressed in a post-theistic society. One group of individuals who really need to read this book (apart from atheists themselves) are those theists who persistently claim that atheists cannot live a full or ethical life.

In my view, this book is essential reading as it moves the debate beyond circular arguments about the existence of God and seriously deals with the way forward for a secular society that is not grounded in a belief in a supernatural god. It should provoke in-depth discussion by anyone who has any views about God, “God”, gods or none of these. Whether theist, atheist, or post-atheist, this is a significant read.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

SAY YOU'RE SORRY by Michael Robotham

Say You're Sorry (Joe O'Loughlin #6)Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: When pretty and popular teenagers Piper Hadley and Tash McBain disappear one Sunday morning, the investigation captivates a nation but the girls are never found. Three years later, during the worst blizzard in a century, a husband and wife are brutally killed in the farmhouse where Tash McBain once lived. A suspect is in custody, a troubled young man who can hear voices and claims that he saw a girl that night being chased by a snowman. Convinced that Piper or Tash might still be alive, clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin and ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, persuade the police to re-open the investigation. But they are racing against time to save the girls from someone with an evil, calculating and twisted mind...

MY REVIEW: I really enjoyed this crime novel — especially the clinical psychologist character, Joe O’laughlin. The book is written from two perspectives — notes from one of the teenagers in captivity and the other from the clinical psychologist’s perspective — which, inevitably, converge at some point. The writing moves along at a good pace, is easy to read, with intriguing psychological dimensions. This is #6 in the Joseph O’Loughlin series and the first I have read. I’ll be reading the series from the beginning!

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Saturday, 28 November 2015


God Sent Me: A textbook case on evolution vs. creationGod Sent Me: A textbook case on evolution vs. creation by Jeffrey Selman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: God Sent Me is the account of one citizen making himself heard and taking action to preserve constitutional protections in the context of the conflict between evolution science and religion-based creationism. When the public school board in Cobb County, Georgia, glued a disclaimer against evolution into the county’s new science textbooks, the implications were clear — separation of church and state and accurate education were at risk. Author Jeffrey Selman, along with several other like-minded citizens and the ACLU, marched into battle with a lawsuit against the forces undermining science education. This narrative shines a light on just what it takes to protect freedom and reminds the average citizen to “Wake up and get to work!” 

MY REVIEW: There is no doubt that fighting against the undermining of science in schools by religious zealots is an important fight to have. And it's great that individuals like Jeffrey Selman fight on the frontline. This book describes one such battle in extraordinary detail. And that detail is a major problem with this book. There is so much detail that after about a third of the book I chose to skim the rest. The book needs a good editor who can transform all the minutiae into a riveting story. We don't need to know that at exactly 5:45 he drove somewhere. We don't need transcripts of every conversation, interview and trial. The excessive detail detracts from the power of the story. That's disappointing because these stories do need to be told.

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Friday, 20 November 2015


You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding YourselfYou Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself by David McRaney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: How many of your Facebook friends do you think you know? Do you think you’d rush to a stranger’s help when no one else would? Do you think you choose which product to buy based on whether you like it? Do you think you know why you procrastinate? The truth is, you are not so smart. In fact, you’re pretty irrational, just like everyone else. But that’s OK – because that’s all part of being human. In this pithy celebration of self-delusion, David McRaney explores in 48 short chapters, the assorted ways we mislead ourselves everyday. Based on the popular blog, prepare for a whirlwind tour of the latest research in psychology, and to finally discover why we never get round to our New Year resolutions.

MY REVIEW: This book is essential reading for everyone — that is, everyone who considers themselves a flawed human. Those who don’t probably wouldn’t want to read it in case their delusions are shattered. It’s a wonderfully playful look at the ways our brains delude and deceive us. Each chapter starts with a brief statement of a misconception followed by the truth. Then the author provides a simple, fascinating account of the scientific and psychological research that shows how the misconception and the truth are produced by our brains. It’s a very enjoyable read and highly relevant in our contemporary society when there is so much our brains have to work with in deluding us. If you are looking to improve your intellectual humility, this is the book to do it. By the end of the 48 chapters, you won’t trust what your brain is telling you, you’ll be more cautious about what you think you know, and marvel at the highly sophisticated organ you have inside your head. Don’t miss this intriguing, enlightening, easy-to-read book!

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Thursday, 19 November 2015


Not In God's Name: Confronting Religious ViolenceNot In God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Jonathan Sacks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: In this powerful and timely book, one of the most admired and authoritative religious leaders of our time tackles the phenomenon of religious extremism and violence committed in the name of God. If religion is perceived as being part of the problem, Rabbi Sacks argues, then it must also form part of the solution. When religion becomes a zero-sum conceit—that is, my religion is the only right path to God, therefore your religion is by definition wrong—and individuals are motivated by what Rabbi Sacks calls “altruistic evil,” violence between peoples of different beliefs appears to be the only natural outcome.

MY REVIEW: NOT IN GOD’S NAME is one of the most profound books I have ever read. Jonathan Sacks provides an incisive analysis of the roots of religious violence and hopeful direction on the way that humanity may move forward in dealing with it. As recent events in France have demonstrated, none of us are immune or protected against the possibility of religious violence. This makes this book relevant to every one of us. Sacks asks in which direction we want to go — the will to power or the will to life? While Sacks is clearly passionate about this global problem, he writes with extraordinary depth and objectivity with a simple power that is difficult to ignore. Sacks calls all people — and particularly those of the Abrahamic religions — to let go of hate and the grasping for power. As Sacks so eloquently observes, No soul was ever saved by hate. No truth was ever proved by violence. No redemption was ever brought by holy war. No religion won the admiration of the world by its capacity to inflict suffering on its enemies. Despite the fact that these things have been endorsed in their time by sincere religious believers, they are a travesty of faith, and until we learn this, religion will remain one of the greatest threats to the peace of the world. NOT IN GOD’S NAME is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand religious violence (better called “altruistic evil”) — and more importantly, what we can do about it.

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Sunday, 1 November 2015

THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson

The GargoyleThe Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: The mesmerising story of one man's descent into personal hell and his quest for salvation. On a dark road in the middle of the night, a car plunges into a ravine. The driver survives the crash, but his injuries confine him to a hospital burn unit. There the mysterious Marianne Engel, a sculptress of grotesques, enters his life. She insists they were lovers in medieval Germany, when he was a mercenary and she was a scribe in the monastery of Engelthal. As she spins the story of their past lives together, the man's disbelief falters; soon, even the impossible can no longer be dismissed.

MY REVIEW: Brilliant! I was gripped from the first page right through to the end. The two main characters of the story are intriguing and we grow to know them as the story progresses. The two time dimensions are constructed with richness and detail by the author and the psychological dimensions of both characters is superbly developed. The author uses language evocatively. Embedded in the story are deep themes of grief, religion, philosophy, history, love and many more. They are integrated into the story almost seamlessly and never detract from the story. The story is fresh and unpredictable. A great read!

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Friday, 16 October 2015

THE SILENT ONES by William Brodrick

The Silent Ones by William Brodrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Find out why Harry is prepared to blame an innocent man. That's the thread. Follow it. You'll reach the Silent Ones.
Eleven-year-old Harry Brandwell, obviously in great distress, refuses to talk. What, or who, is holding him back?
When a homeless man arrives unexpectedly at Larkwood Priory, the community welcomes him with open arms. But he isn't what he seems: he knows why Harry won't speak.
Father Anselm finds himself on the trail of an impostor, unaware that he is being drawn into the shadows of a mysterious conspiracy, his reputation for integrity exploited by those closest to him. With his attempts to pursue justice thwarted at every turn, it is clear that there are those who eagerly await his downfall. As he is lured into the courtroom to defend a man he believes to be innocent, Anselm begins to doubt his own judgment.
Meanwhile Harry Brandwell, abandoned and betrayed, has decided to take matters into his own hands. But Anselm is completely unsuspecting. He's in the dark, seeking the Silent Ones . . .

MY REVIEW: The topic is contemporary and disturbing but the story handles the issue gently and sensitively. I liked the story and the clerical detective, but it wasn't riveting. I'm thinking of going back to the beginning of this author's series (The Father Anselm series) to see what the early stories were like -- so this one at least made me interested to pursue Brodrick's work further. Intriguingly, Brodrick was an Augustinian Friar before becoming a barrister - religion and crime make a good combination for dealing with contemporary themes.

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Wednesday, 30 September 2015


The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy's New Challenge to Belief in GodThe Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy's New Challenge to Belief in God by J L Schellenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: In many places and times, and for many people, God's existence has been rather less than a clear fact. According to the hiddenness argument, this is actually a reason to suppose that it is not a fact at all.

The hiddenness argument is a new argument for atheism that has come to prominence in philosophy over the past two decades. J. L. Schellenberg first developed the argument in 1993, and this book offers a short and vigorous statement of its central claims and ideas. Logically sharp but so clear that anyone can understand, the book addresses little-discussed issues such as why it took so long for hiddenness reasoning to emerge in philosophy, and how the hiddenness problem is distinct from the
problem of evil. It concludes with the fascinating thought that retiring the last of the personal gods might leave us nearer the beginning of religion than the end.

Though an atheist, Schellenberg writes sensitively and with a nuanced insider's grasp of the religious life. Pertinent aspects of his experience as a believer and as a nonbeliever, and of his own engagement with hiddenness issues, are included. Set in this personal context, and against an authoritative background on relevant logical, conceptual, and historical matters, The Hiddenness Argument's careful but provocative reasoning makes crystal clear just what this new argument is and why
it matters.

MY REVIEW: This is one of the freshest, innovative books from an atheist perspective I have read for a long time. Most atheist apologetics rehash the same tired (but no less important) arguments against theism with little new to say. But THE HIDDENNESS ARGUMENT offers a what seems to be a very compelling new argument agains the existence of God. In addition to the presentation of the argument itself, Schellenberg also discusses the nature of good reasoning and logic, providing this important background to readers who may not already know about it. While the book description above suggests that the argument is crystal clear, it will take some readers considerable effort to follow it. But it is worth it. There has also been a plethora of responses from theists critiquing the argument — which I am yet to follow up. If you are interested in the atheist/theist debate, and don’t mind a challenging, provocative read, then check out THE HIDDENNESS ARGUMENT.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

THE LOCKET by Adell Harvey

The Locket (Escape from Deseret, #1)The Locket by Adell Harvey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: In the late 1850's, thousands of poverty-stricken Scandinavians were lured to America by missionaries of the Latter-day Saints with promises of great prosperity. Ingrid Thirkelsen’s marriage to Brother Rasmussen is as surprising to her as the hope he stirs within. Assigned to the Martin Party of immigrants, she sets out after him, encountering for the first time the horrors of polygamy, blood atonement and blind obedience to cult leaders. As she makes the handcart trek across the Plains and Rocky Mountains, a locket she has promised to deliver in Zion and her Ma's Bible are the only items that give her comfort and the strength to endure the unendurable.

MY REVIEW: The themes in the LOCKET are interesting. Particularly so, given the author has served as a counter-cult missionary in southeast Idaho to Mormons for over 20 years. Some of the former Mormons she has worked with gave her access to their families' genealogical records, diaries and other materials which led to the writing for this book. It's an enjoyable read and the author is clearly committed to accurately portraying the historical events within which her main character, Ingrid, is placed. The problem I have with the book is that it isn't horrifying enough. It seems to me that a lot of Christian writers, because they are writing for Christians (I assume), pull back from making their stories as raw and gritty as they need to be to come across as authentic. When I started the book, I was looking forward to a hard-hitting narrative. But, while it does describe some of the hardships of the immigrants and the cultic doctrines and practices of Mormonism in its early history, it reads too much like a "nice" romance more than anything else. As I read, I couldn't help feeling that the author wasn't quite hitting the right style for material that intends to enlighten the reader on the incredible suffering, particularly of women, during this period of history. So, if you are looking for a light read about some very serious issues, this piece historical fiction might be for you.

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Philosophy: Key ThemesPhilosophy: Key Themes by Julian Baggini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Philosophy: Key Themes is a beginner's guide to understanding and critiquing philosophical arguments. Each chapter introduces one of the five major themes covered on philosophy courses: Theory of Knowledge, Moral Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Mind, and Political Philosophy. Baggini's approach combines explanation with summary while encouraging the reader to question the arguments and positions presented. This text can be used either independently of, or together with, its companion volume Philosophy: Key Texts.

MY REVIEW: Overall, an excellent introduction to thinking philosophically and the major arguments in the five themes covered. Easy to read and encourages the reader to think critically about ideas and their historical development.

The one disappointing chapter was that on the philosophy of religion. The tone was quite different in this chapter and focused on critiquing the beliefs of Christianity rather than taking a broad approach to the topic like other chapters. The philosophy of religion covers topics like '... alternative beliefs about God, the varieties of religious experience, the interplay between science and religion, the nature and scope of good and evil, and religious treatments of birth, history, and death. The field also includes the ethical implications of religious commitments, the relation between faith, reason, experience and tradition, concepts of the miraculous, the sacred revelation, mysticism, power, and salvation.' (Philosophy of Religion. (n.d.). Philosophy of Religion. Retrieved September 2, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philoso...) However, Baggini doesn't convey this richness and depth in the chapter.

Apart from the chapter on philosophy of religion, this is a very satisfying read. Baggini is an excellent philosopher who is adept at conveying philosophical ideas in language that is accessible to the average educated person. Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

SOUL MATES by John R Little

Soul MatesSoul Mates by John R. Little
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Identical twins share a connection that even modern science doesn’t fully understand. Closer than mere blood can bind, deeper than any sibling bond, one cell, one mind, one beginning.

Alannah Clark has found the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. A magician – but magicians have secrets – secrets that might outweigh Alannah’s own dark corners. But nothing remains hidden forever.

Magic, thrills, romance, suspense, and sorrow are the emotions of John R. Little’s newest and darkest thoughts. Fans are sure to get a thrill ride as he unleashes his newest adventure.

MY REVIEW: I have just realised that the author of SOUL MATES is also the author of another book I have read - DARKNET - which was excellent! SOUL MATES is also a great read with an intriguing plot - although I worked out what was going on pretty early on in the story. The story is concise, fast-paced, twists and turns and is a great read if you want something light and entertaining. And, if you want to, you can have a bit of a think about some of the ethical questions - which I can't tell you without giving the plot away. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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Thursday, 13 August 2015

GUNNING FOR GOD by John C Lennox

Gunning for GodGunning for God by John C. Lennox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Atheism is on the march in the western world, and its enemy is God. Religion, the "New Atheists" claim, "is dangerous", it "kills" or "poisons everything". And if religion is the problem with the world, their answer is simple: get rid of it. But are things really so straightforward? Tackling the likes of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett head on, John Lennox highlights the fallacies in the their approach, arguing that their irrational and unscientific methodology leaves them guilty of the same obstinate foolishness of which they accuse dogmatic religious folks. Erudite and wide-ranging, Gunning for God packs some debilitating punches. It also puts forward new ideas about the nature of God and Christianity that will give the New Atheists' best friends and worst enemies alike some stimulating food for thought.

MY REVIEW: There is much to like about this book. But there are also some significant problems which means it doesn't really pack the 'debilitating punches' that the description on the book suggests. Firstly, I love a fiery debate. And, while GUNNING FOR GOD does not contain contributions by the so-called "New Atheists", John Lennox has been involved in debates with a number of them. And Lennox's rhetoric in the book is fiery and witty. I enjoyed that aspect of the book. Secondly, many of the points the author makes about the arguments of some of the atheists he is responding to are good. Polemicists like Richard Dawkins and (the late) Christopher Hitchens often offer arguments that are not evidence-based and, particularly in Dawkins' case, appear ignorant of some of the nuances, range and complexity of some Christian beliefs.

There are areas, however, where the book is inadequate. One of these is in the chapter entitled "Can we be good without God?". The answer is obviously "yes". Millions of people live ethical lives without believing in the Christian god (which is what Lennox is debating). The problem with Lennox's approach is that he argues over whether it is possible to have ABSOLUTE moral standards without God. The focus on absolute morality is really a straw man argument because no atheist I know of wants to argue for absolute morality. Most atheist arguments around morality promote the idea of a more pragmatic approach to morality, suggesting that ethical guidelines are required for humanity to live together in ways that promote their well being. So, in some ways, Lennox's focus on absolute moral standards misses the point.

The last third or so of the book becomes an apologetic for miracles and Christ's resurrection. The best part of this section is Lennox's critique of Hume's arguments against miracles. Very insightful and worthy of consideration. The chapter on the reliability of the New Testament text, the historical reliability of the New Testament Gospels, and the evidence for the resurrection of Christ are pretty much traditional arguments offered by most Christian apologetics and not entirely convincing.

So GUNNING FOR GOD is uneven in its quality from my perspective. It's worth reading for those interested in the contemporary debates going on between high-profile atheists and high-profile Christian apologetics. But the average reader who is unaware of, or doesn't much care for this debate, probably won't find it of much value.

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Friday, 7 August 2015


Shunning Within the Seventh-day Adventist ChurchShunning Within the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Nikki Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Do Seventh-day Adventists, when leaving the religion, encounter shunning? Unfortunately yes, many do. These compelling true stories of women relate their leaving and what happened in the aftermath.

MY REVIEW: More of an essay than a book. Shunning is overtly required in many sects. Obviously, at times, it can be more subtle and informal. These few anecdotes point to the need for a more rigorous piece of research to be carried out within Seventh-day Adventism.

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Thursday, 6 August 2015

THE VAMPIRE DEFANGED by Susannah Clements

Vampire Defanged, The: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic HeroVampire Defanged, The: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero by Susannah Clements
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Vampires first entered the pop culture arena with Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula. Today, vampires are everywhere. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Twilight Saga to HBO's True Blood series, pop culture can't get enough of the vampire phenomenon.

Bringing her literary expertise to this timely subject, Susannah Clements reveals the roots of the vampire myth and shows how it was originally immersed in Christian values and symbolism. Over time, however, vampires have been "defanged" as their spiritual significance has waned, and what was once the embodiment of evil has turned into a teen idol and the ultimate romantic hero. Clements offers a close reading of selected vampire texts, explaining how this transformation occurred and helping readers discern between the variety of vampire stories presented in movies, TV shows, and novels. Her probing engagement of the vampire metaphor enables readers to make Christian sense of this popular obsession.

MY REVIEW: As the book description indicates, Susannah Clements is writing from a Christian perspective. However, apart from the conclusion, where the author writes explicitly to Christians, the book is a scholarly analysis of the vampire literature from Bram Stoker to Twilight. The religious themes of the book are rooted in the fact that Bram Stoker's 1897 novel was written by a Christian and saturated in Christian themes. The argument that the vampire myth has become increasingly secularised in each of its reworking is a fascinating and persuasive perspective. However, it would have been good if Clements could have discussed alternative views of the vampire literature and responded to any criticisms of her perspective.

The book reads like a scholarly essay and doesn't have the features of what might be called a popular book. It is written with an objective voice with little (if any) rhetorical strategies that modern lay readers might expect to make the read an enjoyable one. The author, however, writes very clearly and articulately. The analysis is intriguing and, for those familiar with any of the vampire literature (book or film), the subject matter will be fascinating. For those who have not read or watched vampire stories, the book may not hold the same interest.

One explicit aim of the author is to convince Christians to be more comfortable with the vampire myth rather than avoid it. That may or may not be worth it if the author's thesis is correct - that the myth has become entirely secularised.

Christian or not, this book is a fascinating perspective worthy of the attention of anyone interested in the contemporary fascination with vampire mythology. THE VAMPIRE DEFANGED is a good introduction to the role the mythology has played, and continues to play, in society and culture.

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Tuesday, 28 July 2015


In Silent Graves: The Cedar Hills SeriesIn Silent Graves: The Cedar Hills Series by Gary A. Braunbeck
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: One moment, Robert Londrigan is a rising-star newscaster, devoted husband, and expectant father; the next, he's a widower in a morgue, staring at gaping holes in his daughter’s body where surgeons have harvested every useful scrap of her organs and tissue. The rock-bottom falls out from under his life when a disfigured man knocks Robert out and steals what’s left of her tiny corpse out from under his nose, and leaves a gruesome surprise waiting for him back home.

Robert’s search for the disfigured man leads him through a rapidly-fragmenting reality into a chiaroscuro world and the discovery that neither his wife nor his daughter are who he thought they were.

Gary A. Braunbeck’s work has earned, 7 Bram Stoker Awards, an International Horror Guild Award, 3 Shocker Awards, a Black Quill Award, and a World Fantasy Award nomination.

MY REVIEW: I read the first half of this book and skimmed the second half. The writing is good and the author surveys a range of themes, but the pace was just too slow for me to stick with it.

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Monday, 20 July 2015

CHILDREN OF TIME by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of TimeChildren of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A race for survival among the stars... Humanity's last survivors escaped earth's ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome it's dangers?


The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

MY REVIEW: What a fascinating read this was! An intriguing combination of fantasy, sci-fi, thriller. The writing is beautiful, the story is complex and genuinely surprising as it unfolds. And the whole thing is based on what comes across as authentic science - the author had a science advisor, which shows. The complex movement across time and space is epic. Brilliant!

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Wednesday, 15 July 2015


A Manual for Creating AtheistsA Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: For thousands of years, the faithful have honed proselytizing strategies and talked people into believing the truth of one holy book or another. Indeed, the faithful often view converting others as an obligation of their faith—and are trained from an early age to spread their unique brand of religion. The result is a world broken in large part by unquestioned faith. As an urgently needed counter to this tried-and-true tradition of religious evangelism, A Manual for Creating Atheists offers the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith—but for talking them out of it. Peter Boghossian draws on the tools he has developed and used for more than twenty years as a philosopher and educator to teach how to engage the faithful in conversations that will help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their religious beliefs, mistrust their faith, abandon superstition, and irrationality, and ultimately embrace reason.

MY REVIEW: This is a great book for so many reasons. Firstly, it is empathic. Boghassian treats those he is trying to rescue, from what he describes as a "faith virus", with respect, a willingness to listen, and a genuine concern for the welfare of those he writes about and for. Secondly, Boghossian speaks from experience. He clearly has had in-depth conversations with believers, listened to them, and responded to them with targeted "interventions" that fit the person, rather than using blunt instruments to beat people over the head. Thirdly, his approach is philosophically rigorous and rational. So much of what the author says makes sense and resonates with what we know from our own experiences. Fourthly, his suggestion that people move away from discussing conclusions/beliefs to exploring the way we arrive at beliefs, is profound and powerful. Finally (at least for this list - there is so much more that could be said), the book is easy to read. Boghossian is articulate and, despite his expertise in philosophy, speaks in language that is down-to-earth and entirely understandable. Atheists need this book so they can move on from angry rhetoric to respectful conversation.

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Saturday, 11 July 2015


The Facts of Life and DeathThe Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: 'Call your mother.'
'What do I say?'
'Say goodbye.'

This is how it begins.

Lone women terrorised and their helpless families forced to watch - in a sick game where only one player knows the rules. And when those rules change, the new game is Murder.

Living with her parents in the dank beach community of Limeburn, ten-year-old Ruby Trick has her own fears. Bullies on the school bus, the forest crowding her house into the sea, and the threat of divorce.

Helping her Daddy to catch the killer might be the key to keeping him close.

As long as the killer doesn't catch her first...

MY REVIEW: A thoroughly good read! Told through the eyes of Ruby and done with authenticity. The evocation of the community in which Ruby lives is superb. Very atmospheric. There's palpable tension as the story unfolds and the killer is revealed ... With even more tension after that! Well written at a great pace. If you like reading crime fiction, give this one a go. I'll be reading more of this author.

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Sunday, 21 June 2015

Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. Wielenberg

Value and Virtue in a Godless UniverseValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. Wielenberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


BOOK DESCRIPTION: Suppose there is no God. This supposition implies that human life is meaningless, that there are no moral obligations and hence people can do whatever they want, and that the notions of virtue and vice, right and wrong, and good and evil have no place in the universe. Erik J. Wielenberg believes this view to be utterly erroneous and, in this thought-provoking book, he explains the reasons why. He argues that, even if God does not exist, human life can still have meaning, humans do have moral obligations, and human virtue is still possible. Wielenberg offers readers a cognent [sic] explanation of the ethical implications of naturalism--a view that denies the existence of the supernatural in human life. In his view virtue exists in a godless universe but it is significantly different from virtue in a Christian universe, and he develops naturalistic accounts of humility, charity, and hope. The overarching theme of Virtue and Value in a Godless Universe is what ethics might look like without God. Erik Wielenberg takes readers on an extraordinary tour of some of the central landmarks of this under-explored territory.

MY REVIEW: A very thought-provoking book and a robust attempt to develop a framework for ethics on the assumption that God does not exist. The author presents some interesting, fresh arguments. In the first part of the book, the he critiques common arguments for the existence of God. In the second part of the book, arguments are presented for a moral framework from a naturalistic perspective. I wasn't entirely convinced by some of them but, as a whole, this book is worth reading for those who already have some background in philosophical thinking - it could be a difficult read for some as it is quite scholarly. It certainly demonstrates that it is possible for atheists to develop grounds for ethics without the need for a god as the foundational starting point. It is good to see rigorous thinking being done around this topic. A good contribution to the conversation around humanist ethics.

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Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins DebateThe Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: In this astute mix of cultural critique and biblical studies, John H. Walton presents and defends twenty propositions supporting a literary and theological understanding of Genesis 1 within the context of the ancient Near Eastern world and unpacks its implications for our modern scientific understanding of origins.
Ideal for students, professors, pastors and lay readers with an interest in the intelligent design controversy and creation-evolution debates, Walton's thoughtful analysis unpacks seldom appreciated aspects of the biblical text and sets Bible-believing scientists free to investigate the question of origins.

MY REVIEW: A brilliant book for anyone interested in the relationship between science and the Genesis 1 creation story in the Hebrew Bible. The idea that the first chapter of the Bible must line up with science is completely undermined once this ancient text is read on its own terms in its historical and cultural context. The author works through a series of propositions solidly based in scholarship about the ancient world and its cosmology. Written with clarity and rigorous logic. Highly recommended for those interested in the subject.

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Monday, 25 May 2015


Red Flags: How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers, and Toxic People in Your LifeRed Flags: How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers, and Toxic People in Your Life by Wendy L. Patrick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Are you a good judge of character? Can you identify a manipulative or dangerous person when they cross your path? What if they are charming, successful and good-looking? Can you recognise a wolf in sheep's clothing? In Red Flags, Dr Wendy L. Patrick draws on her extensive professional experience to demonstrate that these people rarely look or seem as we expect. She offers simple strategies for identifying and guarding yourself against deceptive or potentially damaging relationships.  With Red Flags, learn empowerment, exercise assertion, and cultivate the defences you need to protect yourself and others from being undermined, manipulated or victimized.

MY REVIEW: An excellent, practical book on a very important subject. I give this one 5 stars for the following reasons: 1) Well written, easy to read, and engaging; 2) Great examples from the author's professional career which gives it a credibility; 3) There's a lot of books written on communication - all mostly saying the same things. This one has something fresh to say. 4) The FLAG framework (Focus Lifestyle Associations Goals) is easy to remember. 5) The framework is not only useful for thinking about others. It is also an interesting framework for thinking about one's own life and the effect is may have on others; 6) The author draws on an incredible range of research literature in support of her assertions. A important book for everyone.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2015


Beyond the Myth of Self-Esteem: Finding FulfilmentBeyond the Myth of Self-Esteem: Finding Fulfilment by John Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Enticing yet potentially damaging ‘myths’ about self-esteem have become so deeply entrenched in pop culture that many accept them as truth. They have infiltrated parenting, teaching, the media, celebrity culture, advertising and even religion. Drawing on a wide range of resources and insights from his extraordinary experiences, John Smith uncovers common myths about self-esteem and explores their effects on individuals and society. To those who have come under the influence of these myths, he offers a fresh perspective on self-esteem and personal identity and the possibility of a more meaningful and fulfilling life. Beyond the Myth of Self-Esteem is essential reading if you are looking for a deeper understanding of your world. It will be of particular interest to those who have encountered unexpected obstacles along the path to living their dreams or have a lurking suspicion that there must be more to life than chasing success and spending money.

MY REVIEW: I'm giving this book four stars for its critique of self-esteem "mythology". However, in my view, the positive case for finding fulfilment is not strong enough. Smith clearly comes from a Christian perspective. His answer to the problems he raises about self-esteem is self-surrender to a higher power. This book needed to have as in-depth a treatment of how to find identity and meaning as that of the critique of self-esteem. A slightly longer book that drew on the research literature around identity and meaning and extended the discussion beyond the Christian perspective would have made this book more valuable. However, if one is looking for a critical view of the concept of self-esteem and its application, this is a good place to start.

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Monday, 20 April 2015


A Life Teaching Thinking: An AutobiographyA Life Teaching Thinking: An Autobiography by Matthew Lipman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: This is a book for both believers and skeptics. True believers in the idea of philosophy for children will certainly want to learn the life story of Matthew Lipman, who is the modern father of that revolutionary idea. True skeptics may be curious to learn how a conventionally trained philosopher could leave a tenured professorship at Columbia to establish the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. Both believers and skeptics are in for a good read. - Gareth B. Matthews, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Amherst

MY REVIEW: I was disappointed with this book. As an autobiography, it is average (at least for me). It is probably not until two-thirds of the way through that the author begins to develop a specific interest in philosophy and philosophy for children. Most of this period of his life story describes the various formalising strategies for the approach (eg, institutes, writing some books, media appearances, conference presentations, and academic work) with little in-depth discussion of the philosophy and his own personal engagement with the children that his approach was designed for (I'm not sure whether he taught children philosophy himself or merely developed the approach that others implemented). There's no doubt that this educational movement is important. I was just hoping for more narrative about Lipman himself worked with children in teaching philosophy himself.

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Saturday, 14 March 2015

EYES OF THE DEAD by Adam Netherlund

Eyes of the Dead: A Crime and Suspense Thriller (The Gardens Book 1)Eyes of the Dead: A Crime and Suspense Thriller by Adam Netherlund
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Detective Joseph Berlin’s life is a mess. He drinks too much, he dreams of his dead wife, and he’s been off the job for the last three months. After receiving a transfer to the Gardens Police Department, they waste no time in assigning his first case: the murder of one of their own, Undercover officer Tim Scott.

There's just one problem. No one in the department is talking. Not even Tim Scott's so-called "buddies" in the department are willing to help out. When Berlin and his new partner are nearly run off the road, and a number of strange occurrences start developing, he knows he's getting closer to the truth.

But how far can one man go before he breaks? Before he loses control and begins to lose sight of what he was meant to do?

Someone is desperately trying to keep their secret buried and Berlin is a man with nothing to lose.

The clock is ticking and time is running out...

In a city fueled by greed, corruption and deceit, Berlin will come to face face with his greatest fear in this exhilarating first book in the police procedural series, The Gardens. -- GOODREADS

MY REVIEW: This is the first book in a crime series by Adam Netherlund which I probably won't continue to read. The writing is uneven. In some places I felt a degree of tension and the ending is a great cliffhanger. But, overall, it feels rather amateurish with the attempt at stream of conscious writing (every so often, we have italicised thoughts from the characters) is distracting and redundant. I found the occasional colloquialisms of language (eg, nothin', what yah doing?) to be unnecessary and inconsistent (not sure why they were used in some places and not others). It may be that a good editor is required to do something with this book (and subsequent books in the series) to meet its/their potential. The plot is pretty basic and, when compared to the best crime writing available, falls short in my opinion.

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Innovations in NLP for Challenging Times by L Michael Hall & Shelle Rose Carvet (eds)

Innovations in NLP for Challenging TimesInnovations in NLP for Challenging Times by L. Michael Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: This long awaited book brings together some of the most recent innovations and applications of the traditional NLP model. Each chapter describes a new model or application and contains step by step instructions or a case study on how and when to apply it. For NLP practitioners it provides an outstanding collection of new tools and ideas to take their practice forward.

The book also includes chapters on some of the most innovative IT projects and communities where developments and advances continue to be made, including the Clean Language community and the NLP Research and Recognition Project. More than anything, this book represents a collaboration of some of the best innovators in the field of NLP to push the boundaries of the traditional NLP model and create some solutions for the problems created by the increasingly troubled world in which we live.

MY REVIEW: Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) has been around since the '70s and has had its fair share of critics and supporters. One of its weaknesses has been the lack of peer reviewed research supporting its claims along with increasing factions developing (which is ironic given how focused the approach is on understanding others' maps of reality). This book is a welcome addition to the literature on NLP with its call to the NLP community to genuinely collaborate, more robust research and the description of some of the contemporary adaptations and applications of NLP to today's global problems. It is probably not suitable for those who are not familiar with NLP. But for those with a reasonable knowledge of the approach, it will be of great interest.

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Monday, 9 March 2015


Radical Integrity: The Story of Dietrich BonhoefferRadical Integrity: The Story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Michael Van Dyke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: You’ll be inspired by this story of a German pastor and theologian who gave his life to oppose Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. Born into a prominent German family, Dietrich Bonhoeffer died in a Nazi prison camp, hanged for his plot against the man who’d plunged the world into war. Find out what made Dietrich Bonhoeffer the man he was—compassionate minister, brilliant thinker, opponent of the heresies of Nazism and Aryan superiority. This easy-to-read biography details both Bonhoeffer’s life and his powerful theology—of “cheap” versus “costly” grace.

MY REVIEW: Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my heroes. Perhaps most famously known as a man of deep Christian faith involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he is also well known for the letters he wrote from prison until he was finally hung for his alleged role in undermining the Nazi regime. Van Dyke's book is brief and to the point mostly in a style of a novel. It's a great introduction to the man, his thought, his faith and his commitments that ended in his death. He left a great legacy worthy of consideration by anyone. An inspirational read.

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Saturday, 28 February 2015


The Fault in Our PantsThe Fault in Our Pants by Steve Lookner
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

As I was approaching the mall exit, this cute
little girl with barretted braids appeared in front of me and said,
"What's that in your nose?"
"They're called cannula," I said. "These tubes give me oxygen, which helps me breathe."
"Would they help me breathe, too?" she asked.
"I dunno, wanna try?"
"Nah," she replied, "I don't wanna look like a weirdo."
"Wanna know a secret?" I asked.
I licked my finger and rubbed it on her arm. "I just gave you cancer," I whispered.

MY REVIEW: The fault with THE FAULT IN OUR PANTS is the fault of the author who has written what I consider to be a very weak parody of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green - at least, that is what I thought after reading about 30% of the book and giving up on it. I like a good parody. The best parodies are of those that are about things that, in reality, are pretty awful. The problem, of course, is that I liked the book THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. So parodying something that is good just doesn't work for me. Maybe if the parodying was clever it might have worked. But what I read of the FAULT IN OUR PANTS is quite pathetic humour which essentially follows the storyline of the book and inserts what might be called schoolboy jokes every few lines. Not worth reading.

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Saturday, 7 February 2015


Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with GodComforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God by Greta Christina
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: If you don't believe in God or an afterlife -- how do you cope with death? Accepting death is never easy. But we don't need religion to find peace, comfort, and solace in the face of death. In this mini-book collection of essays, prominent atheist author Greta Christina offers secular ways to handle your own mortality and the death of those you love. Blending intensely personal experience with compassionate, down-to-earth wisdom, Christina ("Coming Out Atheist" and "Why Are You Atheists So Angry?") explores a variety of natural philosophies of death. She shows how reality can be more comforting than illusion, shatters the myth that there are no atheists in foxholes -- and tells how humanism got her through one of the grimmest times of her life.

MY REVIEW: Despite the title, there is a good deal of talk about God in this book! One of the issues I have with a lot of atheist books is that they seem to continually define their perspective contra theism. So while there are quite a few interesting (and comforting, depending on who you are) thoughts about death in this book, too much of it is arguing against theistic ideas or criticising the way theists may communicate with atheists about death and grieving. What I'd like to see is a book that makes no reference to religion but provides a discussion about death, grieving and journeying through toward and/or through these experiences that is comforting. Having said that, the book is worth reading to get a sense of what options there may be for approaching death and grieving from a secular perspective. Christina rights with sensitivity and warmth and it is timely that a calm conversation begins amongst secularists about one of the great certainties of life -- death.

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Sunday, 1 February 2015


Psychoanalysis and Zen BuddhismPsychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism by Erich Fromm
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: The essential point of this book is Fromm's opinion that psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism subscribe to the same aim. For the author, 'The aim of Zen is enlightenment: the immediate, unreflected grasp of reality, without affective contamination and intellectualization, the realization of the relation of myself to the Universe.' For Fromm, this is precisely what psychoanalysis aims to do.

I'm not completely convinced of the 1:1 relationship between the two systems of thought and practice. However, I am not an expert in either field. The book is brief and does not include any in-depth discussion of critiques of the ideas Fromm presents. The language of the author is often unnecessarily complex making it difficult to read at times.

If you have some knowledge of psychoanalysis or Zen Buddhism, you will probably find this book of interest. It's probably not a good place to start before a basic introduction to each.

MY REVIEW: The essential point of this book is Fromm's opinion that psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism subscribe to the same aim. For the author, 'The aim of Zen is enlightenment: the immediate, unreflected grasp of reality, without affective contamination and intellectualization, the realization of the relation of myself to the Universe.' For Fromm, this is precisely what psychoanalysis aims to do.

I'm not completely convinced of the 1:1 relationship between the two systems of thought and practice. However, I am not an expert in either field. The book is brief and does not include any in-depth discussion of critiques of the ideas Fromm presents. The language of the author is often unnecessarily complex making it difficult to read at times.

If you have some knowledge of psychoanalysis or Zen Buddhism, you will probably find this book of interest. It's probably not a good place to start before a basic introduction to each.

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

A BRIEF ETERNITY by Paul Beaumont

A Brief EternityA Brief Eternity by Paul Beaumont
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: One glorious spring day in London, Jesus Christ rudely interrupts the morning rush hour by returning to Earth. The Second Coming has begun and Jerry, hitherto oblivious to Jesus and all of his friends, finds himself transported to Heaven to live a new life in Paradise. And that's when his troubles really begin...

Witty, provocative, subversive and surprising, A Brief Eternity examines mankind's fondest wishes for love, redemption, happiness, immortality and, paradoxically, for death. Along the way it provides answers to the most important questions about the afterlife: what's the food like; who cleans the toilets; and how will the Islamic suicide bombers react when they realise they're all condemned to Hell, forever?

A Brief Eternity is best read soon, while there's still time. Just in case...

MY REVIEW: Because of my lifetime conditioning in relation to the Christian Jesus there were times when I felt very uncomfortable, particularly when the author had him swearing using very coarse language - but then the point of the book is to make the reader uncomfortable! This novel is wickedly incisive in its satirical critique of Christian fundamentalist, literalistic readings of the Hebrew and Christian bibles on salvation, heaven, hell and other related matters. Parts of it are laugh-out-loud funny and Beaumont presents genuine surprises in the plot. The writing is mature and easy to read - I couldn’t put it down. The ending of the book is brilliant! For those willing to read with an open mind and not easily offended, there is much to think about.

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

DARKNET by John R Little

DarkNetDarkNet by John R. Little
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Cindy McKay is Seattle’s beloved radio personality. She has fifty thousand friends she talks to every day, but the one secret she can never share is the horror of her personal life. There seems to be no escape, until she finds the hidden wonders on the dark side of the Internet. Maybe there is freedom from the daily suffering she faithfully endures. But, when everything is anonymous, who can Cindy really trust? She quickly finds that nothing is what it seems, and the solution she had hoped for makes her current problems seem like passing dreams. Cindy has opened the door to DarkNet, and in doing so has unleashed a true nightmare.

MY REVIEW: A short, punchy, fast-paced, sometimes shocking story that draws on contemporary anxieties related to the internet. Unsophisticated but a good read. Had me unwilling to put it down until I had finished. Good escapist entertainment.

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Sunday, 11 January 2015


Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don't Know About ThemJesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don't Know About Them by Bart D. Ehrman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Picking up where Bible expert Bart Ehrman's New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus left off, Jesus, Interrupted addresses the larger issue of what the New Testament actually teaches—and it's not what most people think. Here Ehrman reveals what scholars have unearthed:
  • The authors of the New Testament have diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works
  • The New Testament contains books that were forged in the names of the apostles by Christian writers who lived decades later
  • Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented fundamentally different religions
  • Established Christian doctrines—such as the suffering messiah, the divinity of Jesus, and the trinity—were the inventions of still later theologians

These are not idiosyncratic perspectives of just one modern scholar. As Ehrman skillfully demonstrates, they have been the standard and widespread views of critical scholars across a full spectrum of denominations and traditions. Why is it most people have never heard such things? This is the book that pastors, educators, and anyone interested in the Bible have been waiting for—a clear and compelling account of the central challenges we face when attempting to reconstruct the life and message of Jesus. — back cover of book

MY REVIEW: An excellent, plain language survey of critical scholarship on the nature and development of the New Testament documents of the Christian bible. As the author points out, scholars have known the information presented in this book for many, many decades - it’s just that the person in the street is not told about it. The information will be a bombshell for those who are not aware of this information - and a brilliant summary and discussion for those who already do. The author is an agnostic and is often asked why he continues to study the Bible. His answer, provided near the end of this book, is that ‘The Bible is the most important book in the history of Western civilization. It is the most widely purchased, the most thoroughly studied, the most highly revered, and the most completely misunderstood book—ever! Why wouldn’t I want to study it?’ Bart Ehrman is clearly an expert in his field. But he has the ability to make his area simple to understand without dumbing down the material. For anyone interested in the Bible - atheist, agnostic, or believer - this is a must read.

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015


The Agony of the Gods: Softly Falls the SnowThe Agony of the Gods: Softly Falls the Snow by Tom Wolosz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Who is killing the Gods? Man created The Machine. The Machine gave to each man or woman a world of their own design, to do with as they pleased. They became Gods – omnipotent, absolute rulers; but also vain, arrogant, hedonistic and brutal. Now someone is killing them. The enforcer, a servant of the Gods, is tasked with finding the killer, but first he must train a new apprentice. Given a list of worlds to investigate, they set out trying to find a key to the identity of a killer they cannot hope to overcome. In their travels they come across worlds dedicated to the study of butterflies, to the perfection of music, to eternal war, and to a magical storybook existence where animals talk and act like characters from a children’s story; and on each world they find a brutal disregard for the people who serve the Gods. As the death toll mounts, and the pressure from their masters to find the killer increases, they learn more and more about the strange universe of The Machine, and about themselves. But soon they face the ultimate question: is the killer a monster…or a hero? 

MY REVIEW: A fascinating, though difficult, read. I got about a third of the way through and found I was really struggling to find the motivation to continue. It seemed slow and lacked tension - except for the relationship between the enforcer and the apprentice. But after reading all the glowing reviews of the book, I decided to push on - and am glad I did. THE AGONY OF THE GODS is a very different read to the usual fare - and so achieves the purpose of the publishers of the book to produce books that different. The story is actually pretty intriguing and delves into all sorts of issues in a very subtle way. The investigation of who is killing the “Gods” almost recedes into the background at times and focuses more on each of the worlds that the enforcer and apprentice visits and the issues going on there. Once I shifted my focus within the narrative, the book actually became quite enjoyable and I started wondering just where the author was going to take me. I don’t think this book will be for everyone. But if you are looking for something more sophisticated and “literary”, but with a tinge of mystery, then this might be for you. I’m looking forward, now, to the next book this author gifts us with.

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