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: 36 Islands by Robert Twigger

When I borrowed Wild Places and The Lost Chapter, I also picked up from the display at the front of the library 36 Islands by Robert Twigger. The front cover also carries the words, ‘In search of the Hidden Wonders of the Lake District …and a few Other Things Too’.

Cover of 36 Islands

I hadn’t heard of Robert Twigger before, but he has written eleven other non-fiction books and a novel, according to the list in this book published recently. Early in the text he introduced himself as a travel writer.

In 36 Islands he describes his quest to visit uninhabited islands on the Lakes in Cumbria. Mostly he travelled alone, but sometimes he was joined by a friend. His writing includes far more than a report of his adventures. Literary characters and authors are discussed and philosophical ideas. After reading three lists – Contents, The Lakes and The Islands – closely followed by the first of many hand-drawn maps with little pictures and amusing captions, I was captivated.

Swallows and Amazons and its author Arthur Ransome feature a great deal along with other less familiar books in the series. The films of Swallows and Amazons are also discussed and particularly the character of Titty (renamed in the later film) and played by Sophie Neville [1] in the earlier one.

Robert Twigger also wrote about attending the Wigtown Book Festival and staying at Shaun Bythell’s bookshop[2].

I rarely read passages from books to hubby, but several times I found a section too good not to share.

This is a fascinating book for anyone with an interest in the Lake District, adventure or literature. There was some danger involved. Being somewhat risk-averse myself, I’d say, ‘Don’t try this yourself!’ It is also important not to introduce any ‘foreign’ species into lakes by using the same boat without cleaning it thoroughly after each use.

The only reason I needed to renew this book was to be able to refer to it while writing this review. I read it in less than a week.

36 Islands is available in Hardback, Paperback, Kindle and audiobook.

[1] I have heard Sophie Neville speak briefly at a Writers’ day I attended and also attend some of the same online writers’ meetings as she does.

[2] I reviewed two of Bythell’s books, The Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller previously.


March round-up

With the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge not far ahead I have plenty to write about today. This post is in 3 sections: Blogging and The A to Z Challenge, reviews of The Lost Chapter, and of Wild Places.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Eagle-eyed readers of this blog will have noticed a new page has appeared for the A to Z Challenge 2023. So far there is a link to my theme reveal post, but new links should appear during April, with the page being complete with links to my whole challenge some time in May (after the A to Z reflections post).

This year I have attempted to do the challenge in a less time-consuming way. As a result there are lots of links, which I’d be very pleased if my readers were to right click on and look at other posts and particularly passages from the Bible.

My theme reveal post explains what I have been doing. (I started early in the year and my posts are more or less ready.)

I find the A to Z Challenge enjoyable to take part in and have found some very interesting blogs by other participants.

Because I have 26 posts on the days recommended for the challenge, a few extra posts may also appear on Sundays in April. I can promise at least one book review.

After a short spell of knitting rather than reading, I am enjoying reading again and have two books to tell you about in this post.

Book review: The Lost Chapter by Caroline Bishop

Cover of The Lost Chapter

When I returned The Book of Longings to the library I found The Lost Chapter by Caroline Bishop in the fiction section. Her debut novel was The Other Daughter. I began reading The Lost Chapter almost immediately and finished it the next day. The tagline is It’s never too late to start writing a different story…

The story is about an unlikely friendship between a troubled 18-year-old, Alice, and an octogenarian artist, Florence. A book Florence is reading makes her face her past and leads to unexpected events. It was interesting to read this immediately after The Dangerous Dance of Emma JJ, which is intended for younger readers, but deals with some similar issues.

The Lost Chapter is available as a paperback, an ebook and an audiobook.

Book Review: Wild Places by Sarah Baxter illustrated by Amy Grimes

Cover of Wild Places

This beautiful Inspired Travellers Guide almost jumped into my hand from the New books display at the library the day I borrowed The Book of Longings and another book I am still reading. While I have no intention to visit any of the Wild Places apart from one not far from where I live, I enjoyed Sarah Baxter’s wonderful descriptions and the beautiful art. Her writing is concise, painting vivid pictures with details of wildlife, landscape, geology and human activity in each place. I could only read a couple of chapters at a time as they needed to be absorbed slowly. Amy Grimes’ illustrations are also spectacular.

One of the places featured is the Carmargue. It reminded me of a poem I had loved in my teens and not thought about for a long time. Horses on the Carmargue by Roy Campbell proved difficult to learn by heart, but is beautiful all the same. I found it in The Oxford Book of Animal Poems, which seems to be out of print now.

The Wild Places described are from almost all the continents and some islands. Many are difficult to visit. I enjoyed it as an armchair traveller!