Book reviews: He Taught in Parables, and A Rabbit for Half a Rupee

I am catching up with writing reviews of books I read during March and April. The two books in this post are ones I heard about through the local writers’ group, which meets in Carlisle. I recommend them both.

He Taught in Parables

He Taught in Parables
Musing and Reflections for Lent
Julian Frost and Margaret Ives 
Picture of an open Bible with Gothic script, 'He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching'. Mark 4:2
My photo of the book

He taught in parables: Musing and Reflections for Lent by Julian Frost and Margaret Ives contains an introduction and seven studies suitable for individual or group use. I used this booklet on Wednesdays during Lent 2023. The late Reverend Canon Julian Frost wrote the musings, which are described as poems, although some of them seem more poetical than others to me. They all paint a picture in words. Margaret Ives has edited the poems, which he was still working on, and added the reflections, based on Julian Frost’s notes and conversations with him. Bible references are given so that the passage may be read ahead of the musings and reflections.

I found He taught in Parables thought-provoking. There is some information about words and possible translations, clarifying what Jesus’ hearers might have understood, which were new to me. Mark 4:2 appears on the cover, which is printed on white card. It is really intended for group study and would provide very good discussion points.

The booklet is well-produced. It is available from Margaret Ives at £3.50 per copy plus postage. If you’d like to order any copies, please contact me so that I can pass your email address and details to Margaret. Any proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support Christ Church, Over Wyresdale and St Paul’s Church, Scotforth.

I am hoping that a small collection of my own poems will be available in a few months’ time in a similar booklet to He Taught in Parables and Margaret Ives’ more recent publication: The Orchard of God’s Garden, which I have not yet read. The Orchard of God’s Garden is about the Fruit of the Spirit.

A Rabbit for Half a Rupee

Cover picture of A Rabbit for Half a Rupee
Barbara Collier's name appears above the title.
The picture is a view of a snow-capped mountain with a small girl in the foreground

A Rabbit for Half a Rupee by Barbara Collier was compiled from letters written in the early 1970s. Barbara, Philip and their young family were living in Nepal, where Philip worked as an accountant for the Leprosy Mission. Both Barbara’s and Philip’s letters were well-written and informative, debunking myths about leprosy and giving details about their daily lives, surroundings and people they met. Philip’s work took him on a long journey, which is also described. Barbara has provided background information to the letters, making this a seamless story. The layout is good, with the extracts from letters easily distinguishable from the rest of the text. There are black and white photographs of some of the scenery and people mentioned in the book.

This book transported me to an earlier time in another continent. The ‘Look inside’ on Amazon and this quote from a letter in the introduction give a flavour of what follows:

In reality, of course, missionary life is no more romantic than any other kind of existence, even if it is full of unexpected things (not always pleasant.) I have not changed a lot of lives, but simply carried on being a housewife and mother in different circumstances, learning a lot in the process.

A Rabbit for Half a Rupee was published in 2013 and is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition. A paperback copy is also available at a high price on the UK Amazon site! By buying a copy from the author, I was able to support The Leprosy Mission. In the US it is available for Kindle and as a hardback or paperback.


Book Review and author interview: Friend of God

This post consists of a book review of Friend of God, an interview with the author, Rachel Yarworth, details of where to buy the book and links to other reviews of Friend of God.

Review of Friend of God

Cover depicts a woman on a mountain and purplish sky.
Text reads 'Poetic, authentic lines... touching you with the love of Jesus. ' Anne Calver, Unleashed Church
Friend of God
The miraculous life of an ordinary person
Rachel Yarworth

My attention was drawn to this book in a Facebook group. I almost didn’t accept the offer of a review copy, but I am really glad that I did. I read a digital copy on my phone the evening I received it.

Friend of God by Rachel Yarworth has the tagline The miraculous life of an ordinary person. It is a memoir, which emphasises God’s leading and friendship in Rachel’s life from childhood onwards. The chapters are short ending with a sentence about Rachel (or people in general) and continuing ‘BUT God…’

This drew me on to the next chapter every time (although I actually read it in two sittings). There are footnotes explaining terms which may be unfamiliar to a general readership. The writing is good and the book has been edited well.

Many people (especially women) will find that Rachel’s experiences resonate with their own in some way. I found this an encouraging and challenging book.

In these uncertain times Rachel Yarworth’s message that the God of love wants our friendship is a reason to hope.

Interview with Rachel Yarworth

Rachel Yarworth drinking from a china cup decorated with baby owls
Rachel Yarworth

In Friend of God you focus on the way God has influenced the course of your life. There are some aspects of your ministry you only mention in passing. One of these is music. Would you like to tell me and my readers about your musical activities? Are you a singer or an instrumentalist, or both?

I am – or was – a singer (I don’t do much any more, other than on my own at home).  When I was younger I flirted with various instruments (e.g. drums, clarinet, piano), but never really stuck with anything for long enough to get good at it, because I preferred just singing; I could do it anywhere, without any extra equipment.  I sang in school choirs and informal worship groups, as a backing singer for amateur bands, as an alto in a 4-person chamber choir and eventually as a worship leader in several churches.  I’m not keen on singing solo or lead though: I much prefer harmonising with others, especially when it’s spontaneous. There’s something about the blend of voices all singing different but complementary notes, that feels to me like we’re touching Heaven.

On your blog you mention that you are writing more books. What can we look forward to seeing from you? Are you working on one book or do you have more than one work in progress?

Hmm, I’d love to know the answer to that too!  I have a variety of works in progress and am itching to get writing again – I’d love to get stuck into any of them – but I’m not sure which one is right for now.  I know writing is partly about the discipline: sometimes you just have to sit down and write, even if it turns out to be drivel.  But writing Friend of God flowed so naturally (at least the initial draft did, before I started the slog of editing and rewriting), there is a real part of me that is waiting for that kind of divine inspiration again.  So I might be completing my children’s novel, my Advent devotional, my study guide on friendship with God, or starting something new. It really depends on where I feel God wants to focus.  I get quickly bored of my own work if He’s not in it, but writing with Him is much more interesting.

Did you enjoy writing from an early age?

Yes and no.  I was a very early reader – I have always loved words, and read copiously – but it was at secondary school that I really started to enjoy creative writing, especially poetry and the occasional short story.  My creative writing tutor at college was very encouraging about the possibility of publication, but after I left college and got married, it just became less of a priority for quite a while.  Then when I started home educating my children in my early forties I felt the urge to start blogging about our journey… and I have continued writing in some form or another ever since.  I like the Isaac Asimov quote that’s on my website: “writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers”.  Writing is how I process my thoughts – a way of pouring my most complex subconscious thoughts onto paper in order to make sense of them. I can’t imagine not writing now.

Who is your ideal reader for Friend of God?

Ooh, there’s a question!  Contrary to current writerly wisdom, I never managed to pin down a proper target audience.  With God in the book’s title I figured it would generate most interest among Christians, but the whole time I was writing I felt strongly that I didn’t want it to be exclusively for that audience – I wanted non-Christians to be able to access it too, and that’s why I use footnotes to explain terms that will be obvious to most regular church-goers. 

As I was writing I did keep a few specific friends in mind (an atheist, a young new-ager, and an older religious church-goer with no concept of God as friend), in the hope that if I could speak to them, anyone would be able to access the book  But they weren’t so much an ideal or target reader as just representatives of the kinds of people I wanted to include.  And the lovely thing that has happened since publication is that yes, Christians are easily my most prolific customers, and they are a generous bunch, buying copies to give to non-Christian friends who they believe will enjoy it.  That has made me really happy, that they believe my book is accessible.

Ultimately I suppose if I did have a target reader, they would be someone – anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or anything else – who is interested in simply getting to know God as a friend.  And I hope that my book can encourage them in getting to know Him more.

Thank you, Rachel. I wish you well with your writing.

Book details

The paperback edition of Friend of God may be ordered from bookshops, the ISBN is  978-1739257705, or from Amazon where it is also available as a Kindle edition.

Other reviews of Friend of God

Alex Banwell

Maressa Mortimer

Liz Carter

Rachel Yarworth’s guest post for Claire Musters

Ruth Leigh’s Q & A with Rachel Yarworth

Natasha Woodcraft

Three library books I read recently

As I didn’t review any books in April due to the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge, and I am hoping to take part in some blog tours over the next few weeks, I have decided to catch up by posting three short reviews today.

Racing the wind by Patricia Nolan

Cover of Racing the wind

In Racing the wind: A Cumbrian Childhood Patricia Nolan recounts the story of three memorable years from her childhood in a remote village in Cumbria. I borrowed this book from the library and found it well-written and very interesting. As well as descriptions of many diverse characters, the way of life for country folk without access to most of the modern conveniences available in towns and cities is the backdrop for this memoir of a 20th century childhood.

This hardback book is published by Merlin Unwin Books and includes photographs.

The Pavilion in the Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith

Cover of The Pavilion in the Clouds

This novel by the popular and prolific author Alexander McCall Smith is not part of any of his earlier series. The Pavilion in the Clouds is set in Ceylon as Sri Lanka was known at the time of the story. It is a historical novel set in the 20th century. The twists in the story surprised me. There is mystery, deception and all the loose ends are tied up.

This book is also available as an audiobook and for Kindle.

Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Cover of Confessions of a bookseller

Like Shaun Bythell’s earlier book, The Diary of a Bookseller, Confessions of a Bookseller is in diary form. It covers the year 2015. Although I couldn’t keep track of the numerous characters, I found this book entertaining and informative. It is available in paperback, audiobook and Kindle.