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”

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.

Interrogation of Author Nicholas Conley (Part One)

Nothing beats the feel of a solid, weighty book in one’s hands, and recently reviewed Knight in Paper Armor is just such a book, both hefty in your desired unit of measurement, and also in message.

Getting a much needed , and rare, bit of Vitamin D, whilst rereading selected passages of the book.

Having enjoyed the book immensely, I was interested to dig deeper into the book and the mind of author, Nick, himself, who kindly agreed to answer some questions, a taster of two are below, and the the others will follow in an upcoming post:

Knight in Paper Armor has been with you for a long time, how long has this story been formulating in your writerly mind and what were the specific inspirations?

The first inklings of the concept – and the title – came to me all the way back in 2010, actually, before my first book even saw print. It took me a long time to figure out how to write it, however. Every time I tried to draft it, it felt like I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t crack the code. Most of these drafts had very little in
common with the finished novel, but there was always one core element that remained—the idea that, basically, there’s something wrong with the world, and there’s this boy—Billy—who, through his strange powers, feels the pain of everyone out there, and wants to help.

Here’s the thing. What is this “pain of others,” exactly? As a writer, with a concept like that, you have to decide whether you’re going to be vague, for the sake of not polarizing readers, or if you’re going to be upfront, honest, and forthright about the brutality, inequalities, and unfairness of the real world. Explicit parallels felt necessary, but back then, I don’t think I had yet gained the maturity and life experience to tackle these sorts of complex, heavy subjects, yet. Writing Pale Highway, which came out in 2015, was the book that really propelled my skills and confidence forward, in that regard. Continue reading “Interrogation of Author Nicholas Conley (Part One)”

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”

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”

Geographically Challenged

Back in the day I used to go a local pub that had  ‘award winning’ bangers and mash on the menu,  even the staff didn’t know anything about this award, and the meal wasn’t up to much anyway.

The day was sunny, but I was sulky.  This had to do with my usual reading table being occupied, as well as my back up reading table.  Making do with a different view and some less than satisfactory light and shooing away a work colleague who wanted to chat on a day off, I settled down to my book, accompanied by a pint of mediocre bitter.

The book in question was Hugh Thomas‘, The Conquest of Mexico. This is a weighty tome detailing how the Spanish came to the Americas and into great depth on the titular conquest itself.

I slowly became aware of a chap in my peripheral vision who seemed to be bobbing up and down whilst facing my direction.  In the end I made the mistake of looking. He was stood up but was contorting his body in an uncomfortable manner in an attempt to read the title on the spine of my book.

Making eye contact – a big mistake – he decided this was an invitation to join me.  Amiable as I was back in the day, I was happy to chat with someone who showed an interest in books.  The conversation started well as he commented not many people read in pubs, especially in our town. Continue reading “Geographically Challenged”

Morning Light Readings

Having various body parts hanging over the edge of the bed and being poked mercilessly for hours by a restless baby, not yet ready to settle in her own sleeping space, I finally gave up and shuffled wearily downstairs at 4am to read Émile Zola’s, La Bête Humaine.

Claude Monet, Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877,

Admittedly, that time of the morning is always pleasing once the mood improves enough to observe surroundings and to be in a position to appreciate the quiet, the chill that settles on bare arms, and, this morning, the fog, illuminated in the glow of the streetlamp, swirling in beguiling patterns.

There are white roses edging along our garden gate, some petals are strewn over the ground at the foot of the fence. This felt symbolic as the book I start is a tale of jealousy, passion, and murder. As the reading light illuminated the pages, I ventured to the soot covered French railways of the late 1800’s…

The unexpected joys of having a baby can prove to be a real bonus, although sleep would be satisfying one of these days.

Get Yourself A Free Book

Everyone loves free stuff, and what can be better than a good book bargain to take your mind off whatever is on currently on it?

I have been informed by my good friend Estelle – who runs a blog for the books of Indrajit Garai – that The Bridge of Little Jeremy, is currently on a free giveway on Amazon, which you can find at the link here.

I have also read and reviewed Indrajit’s two short story volumes, The Sacrifice,  and The Eye Opener, which I enjoyed immensely. Both of which I can happily recommend to you.

Here’s the blurb for The Bridge of Little Jeremy, check it out and indulge yourself in a story about family, the changing face of Paris, and the meaning of beauty, for absolutely no pennies.

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast.

Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris.

This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work.

Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

The Flight of the Falcon – Daphne Du Maurier

Armino Fabbio leads a pleasant, if humdrum life — until he becomes circumstantially involved in the murder of an old peasant woman in Rome. The woman, he gradually comes to realise, was his family’s beloved servant many years ago, in his native town of Ruffano.

Over five hundred years before, the sinister Duke Claudio, known as The Falcon, lived his twisted, brutal life, preying on the people of Ruffano. Now it is the twentieth century, and the town seems to have forgotten its violent history. But have things really changed?

This is the first novel I’ve read by Daphne Du Maurier, which, considering they have been sat on my mum’s bookshelf for ages is some feat.  The Flight of the Falcon was a good choice for a starting point, whilst not an amazing literary work, and with a few too many coincidences for my liking (although not half as many as a Charles Dickens novel), it kept me interested to the end.

Part crime novel – although this is somewhat played down as the plot progresses – and part suspenseful thriller, Armino’s adventures are very arts focused.  As revelations are uncovered, rivalries seem to echo through history and reverberate around the town of Ruffano. It becomes clear the town is a stage for an encounter more intricate amd terrifying than Armino could have imagined.

The reader is treated to a story that oozes atmosphere, there is murder, secrets, obsession, a dark history, religious and mythical imagery and fervour, all of which is played out to a background tension that constantly ratchets up. Pleasingly and predictably all these plot points are woven around plenty of alcohol and food consumption. Continue reading “The Flight of the Falcon – Daphne Du Maurier”

Renaissance Books

Wandering around the websites of various publishers, I was delighted and a little surprised to find one of my reviews was featured on the website of Renaissance Books, hereRenaissance Books are academic publishers offering a new, robust and independent platform for peer-reviewed scholarship on Asia Pacific, in particular East Asian Studies – principally in the Humanities and Social Sciences

From the website:

Renaissance Books was established in 1996 to promote gifted, aspiring authors and books of general interest. Later, its focus moved to East-West themes relating to people, culture and way of life.

In 2015, the imprint was re-launched in order to concentrate on scholarly reference in the Humanities and Social Sciences, publishing especially in the field of East Asian Studies, notably Japan and Korea, as well as Central Asian Studies. To this end, we have launched a new peer-reviewed Renaissance Books Asia Pacific Series drawing on recognized authorities from within the region and beyond, offering a platform for comparative and interdisciplinary works on historical and cultural themes as well as those relating to contemporary issues, especially in Politics & Economics, Conflict Resolution, Globalization, NGOs, Security, Human Rights and Media Studies.

As someone interested in learning, especially in light of the proximity to the subject area in my adopted home of the Philippines (where I look forward to being later in the year again), it is a publisher that deserves a lot more attention for the body of work that they are putting out.