Book and Beer


Having a stab at doing something a bit different on the much ignored Instagram account, and thought I would put this mildly interesting effort on here, also. There are other things I could be doing but this seems like the most important when the day tops 21 degrees.

Having had a walk around the neighbourhood, and avoiding the main roads, it’s been lovely just appreciating the bright blue skies against the surprisingly many cherry blossom trees. Waving at dogs and horses and walking up steep pot-holed streets has also been a pleasure today.

A tasty beer and a great book in this glorious weather is the other perfect pastime. Washing down Irène Némirovsky’s words with a grapefruit infused IPA helps this reader appreciate the peace of the day, contrasting perfectly with those days in France as World War Two started to take its toll as superbly depicted by one of my favourite authors.

Both book and beer are highly recommended in any weather. Plant sold seperately. As per usual for a bank holiday weekend, the weather is expected to turn miserable so shall enjoy all this whilst it lasts.

Systematic and Philosophical Theology – William Nicholls

Theology today can mean anything from reverence for the living God to the proposition that God is dead.  How has the ‘science of thinking about God’ reached this dilemma?

In modern times theology has run into that same crisis which has been induced in the whole of civilized culture by the direction of science.  The volume outlines the directions in of thought adopted by such modern theologians as Barth, Bultmann, Bonhoeffer and Tillich in the face of scientific challenge.  it reveals a liveliness and openness in modern religious thought which suggests that, whatever it may become in the future, theology is not dying.

Over the last year I have been paying attention to some famous American apologists and have come to the conclusion that they are very much like politicians in their answers to questions.  Finding Systematic and Philosophical Theology at the back of my bookcase has allowed for some more meaty theological thought instead.

The theology in question is focused on German protestantism of the first half of the 20th century, although there is some mention of Catholicism as well, when ideas converge.  All this is actually a lot more interesting than it may sound, believe it or not.

For laypeople who are reading out of general curiosity, such as myself, the first chapter is handy in summing up theology of the church upto the 19th century, before dealing in a more detailed way with 19th century German belief. Continue reading “Systematic and Philosophical Theology – William Nicholls”

Literature Binge

After my Charles Dickens birthday binge chronicled in the last post, a bit more variety was needed in my reading collection, and what better place to turn to for inspiration than book bloggers.  After hunting around for a short time I came up with three books that would add depth to my collection.

Again thanks to Crissy for the classy book shots.

First port of call was Claire over at Word By Word, for those of you who haven’t discovered this blog yet please be warned you will end up wanting to spend all your money on a variety of books, all of which are wonderfully reviewed.  Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat caught my eye with short stories of a Haitian flavour.

Next up was Asha’s recommendation for Twilight in Delhi which sounds like an atmospheric historical fiction novel that will captivate the senses.  Ever since finishing A Suitable Boy, I have hankered for an Indian novel to read, although I have Rohinton Mistry’s  A FIne Balance still to read, I had to have this book too. Continue reading “Literature Binge”

What the…?

Being given some cash for my birthday (last December, this was) my eyes lit up at all the infinite options of what to spend it on.  It just so happened we had decided to take a Christmas Eve jaunt to Newstead Abbey, home of Lord Byron, so we were guaranteed a book section in the gift shop.

From previous visits I knew all the Wordsworth classics would be £2.50 so I blew some of the money on the below books, completely ignoring Byron in favour of a massive chunk of Charles Dickens, on a whim.

Fancy arrangement and photograph done by Crissy as my photos have a long history of looking awful.

As I was sorting which ones I wanted, it called to mind that episode of Doctor Who, where they meet Dickens and he ends up exclaiming, ‘What the Shakespeare!’, ending all the speculation on what people used to say before the well known phrase, ‘what the dickens?’.

I did get more books at a later date – and by other authors – but will leave that for the next post as I haven’t gotten around to badgering the wife to take an arty photo yet.

Prehistoric Times and the Men of the Channel Islands – Joseph Sinel

On a whim I decided that this would be a good book to read, purely for the joys of random knowledge,  and the title told me exactly what I would be learning about.

Just from the cover alone I was already conjuring up vast tracts of time, movements of people and water, as well as all the associated bits of bone, tools and burn marks on rocks.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The reader is treated to a short preface where Sinel   romantises over epochs and the long journey taken by both humans and landscape.  He does this in a pleasingly poetic fashion by tracing the history of a  humble tree.

Being written in the early part of the 20th century a few terms are explained for the lay person, these terms I believe will be generally understood, or at least familiar to the modern reader.  Clarifications are all well and good if the rest of the text is up to it, and Sinel’s writing is clear and always interesting, he is both knowledgeable and enthuisastic about his subjects and it makes the book a joy to read.

Our journey goes all the way back to the land bridge,  the subsequent flooding and retreating of waters, a look at the wildlife and plants over time, a breakdown of classifications of different eras and sub eras of ages, and the occupations of the islands. Continue reading “Prehistoric Times and the Men of the Channel Islands – Joseph Sinel”

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – Lewis Buzbee

In The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Buzbee, a former bookseller and sales representative, celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore–the smell and touch of books, getting lost in the deep canyons of shelves, and the silent community of readers. He shares his passion for books, which began with ordering through The Weekly Reader in grade school. Interwoven throughout is an historical account of the bookseller’s trade–from the great Alexandria library with an estimated one million papyrus scrolls to Sylvia Beach’s famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which led to the effort to publish and sell James Joyce’s Ulysses during the 1920s.

The allure of books that encourage us to shipwreck, or more accurately beach, ourselves on the shores of our local bookshops, are always welcome and it was with great excitement I managed to borrow a copy of this one.

The front cover of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is an encouragement to indulge the text in a relaxing environment.  The most eye-catching thing about it though, is the subtitle, a memoir, a history, which doubles the anticipation, whilst also appearing a little odd to find both genres fitted into one tome.  Thankfully, the combination manages to work, even if, at times, the results make for an uneven reading experience.

Depending on how much of an interest you have in the enterprising beginning of the sellers, and the subsequent shops, there will likely be quite a bit of familiar ground that is covered – the library of Alexandria being notable – but as the centuries tick by there is still enough obscure information to delight and inform.  Being a short summary of the ages, it has the added bonus of encouraging the curious to hunt out more books on the subject.

The memoir was what I came for, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Nothing beats the reminiscences of a book lover; A Pound of Paper is an excellent case in point. It’s something the reader can both appreciate and on occasion commiserate with and also allows a chance of finding and adding reams of new titles to the ever-growing lists of ‘need to be reads’. Continue reading “The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – Lewis Buzbee”

Knight in Paper Armor – Nicholas Conley

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

Regular readers of this humble blog will no doubt have read a review – or four – of Nick’s previous books or most likely have viewed his blog. Knight in Paper Armor is his latest novel and, in my opinion, is not only the most ambitious but also the maturest of his work to date.

Night in Paper Armor is a multi-layered work, its sinister overtones are pitched perfectly for a dystopia, which has plenty of the real world feel – both past and present – and chillingly explores a logical conclusion to which the world could find itself moving towards if it stays on its current trajectory. Adding in a bit of the psychic spices up an already interesting science fiction premise and adds more speculations for the reader to muse upon.

From an early glimpse of a child’s creepy drawings to the ethics of science and the horrors it can inflict in its quest to help people – and be profitable – the real and those things unseen come together perfectly to ooze a strong sense of unease.  It is a great start, and maintains that subtle intensity throughout, whilst slowly building on those ideas and themes and adding in a strong dose of the human, the personal and potential. Continue reading “Knight in Paper Armor – Nicholas Conley”

Bookending (the right one)

The other week I ended up in Scarthin bookshop, again in Derbyshire but this time in Cromford.  It’s been a long time since my last visit and a lot of new books seem to be creeping onto the shelves, taking over from the second hand variety, so that is something of a concern but there were bargains to be had, of course

Another Émile Zola book was first grabbed because it matched the two from last post, and L’Assommoir according to the introduction of La Bête Humaine,  is supposed to be the best novel of the twenty Rougon-Macquart novels.

A Fine Balance was one that hadn’t really come into my sphere of reading much but as Jilanne was enthusiastic about it, and for a couple of quid its certainly worth it.

Irene Nemirovsky is my favourite female author and finally finding The Misunderstanding after such a long time seeking it, meant I had to splurge on it, after years of hunting for it in various shops and countries. Continue reading “Bookending (the right one)”

Channel Islands Water-Colours – Henry B. Wimbush

Recently I decided that I needed to know more about the Channel Islands, why?  Why not, is my default answer and there are probably few better reasons than that.  Having since hunted down a couple of books – as well as finding some obscure titles about other subjects in the process, more of which in the future – this is the first of two books I have to share with you.

Rather than concentrating on the stories and histories thereof first, this offering is a simply a series of watercolour scenes from the islands.  These are mainly from Jersey and Guernsey, as well as a token one each from both Alderney and Sark.

Strangely the cover doesn’t really give the inquisitive viewer any clue to the quality or style of the work, so throwing myself into the subjective world of art, I couldn’t help but be taken by this collection. Not only does it inspire travel with its attention to nature, but it also adds in a touch of the human encroachment and how this can be pleasant but also less palatable.

There is much to appreciate with these watercolours, whether it be a ferocious sea, a peaceful scene of boats around a harbour, or the impressive towering cliffs that adorn a few of the pieces.  The sea features in all of the photos, which makes sense for the subject of islands but the scope for the interiors now interests me and leaves me seeking art that is more inward looking. Continue reading “Channel Islands Water-Colours – Henry B. Wimbush”

Irmina – Barbara Yelin

In the mid-1930s, Irmina, an ambitious young German, moves to London. At a cocktail party, she meets Howard Green, one of the first black students at Oxford, who, like Irmina, is working towards an independent existence. However, their relationship comes to an abrupt end when Irmina, constrained by the political situation in Hitler’s Germany, is forced to return home. As war approaches and her contact with Howard is broken, it becomes clear to Irmina that prosperity will only be possible through the betrayal of her ideals.

When it comes to World War II and graphic novels, the book that seems to be most referenced is Maus, which is a good read although is not without its flaws.  Irmina on the other hand is much more mature and rewarding, it should be a required read for everybody.

Based around the diaries and letters of Barbara Yelin’s grandmother, this story is a well-researched and deeply layered examination of ordinary lives torn apart by the war.  |it’s a worth inquest and goes much further than most books do in getting to the route of the psychological impacts of the Nazi regime.

Irmina and Howard are both looked down on socially and distained, the outcasts shared loneliness becomes a strong bond, the tenuousness of which is soon shown as the war approaches.  As the book shifts towards life in Germany for Irmina, the reader witnesses her slow change through adversity – and choice – in her decisions and attitude towards all that she stands for holds dear.

Our protagonist is written in a believable and balanced way, she makes mistakes and the changes in her are gradual sometimes imperceptible, allowing the reader is left to decide whether Irmina is aware of all of her choices or not. Continue reading “Irmina – Barbara Yelin”