Top 5 Books – October 2015

Hi there! It’s time for another favourite books of the month post. I seem to do a lot of these, but that’s because time keeps marching on, and I keep reading lots of good books. 😀 I read a lot of good books in October, and I actually have 5 to review today! So without further ado, let’s get on to the reviews!

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Betsy and the Emperor – Staton Rabin 

A monster has descended upon Betsy Balcombe’s small island home. Her family are being forced to put him up in their house until his quarters are finished being constructed. So she’s got the terror of her childhood stories, the boogie man of her dreams, living in her house. Not only that, he is the terror of all Europe, the nightmare of all who get in his way. And what is this monster’s name? Napoleon Bonaparte.

But as the weeks wear on, this monster-man does not really live up to his reputation. Instead of the frightening killing machine that Betsy expected, she finds a short, eccentric man that misses his family. As she gets to know him, she finds that she has met her match in wit, daring, and spirit. And this discovery does not just have the potential to change her life and Napoleon’s life, but indeed, to change all of history.

‘Betsy and the Emperor’ painted a vivid picture of the last years of Napoleon’s life, as well as the lives of other characters that surrounded him. It was so fascinating to learn about another side of Napoleon than the one you normally hear in the history books – to learn about the man who loved children, who loved matching wits with opponents, and who loved certain people very deeply. The story was engaging, partly because of the fact that it was recounting a little known side to Napoleon’s character, and partly because of the new, vibrant characters it introduced. Betsy was a relatable and fascinating character, and I loved watching how she changed during the course of the book. Overall, this book was very informative, as well as engaging and funny! I learnt a lot through reading it, and feel that I have a much more rounded picture of Napoleon than I had beforehand. I’m giving this book 8* out of 10 (no higher because some of the things the characters did I did not agree with morally, and there were some adult topics covered in a slightly raunchy way) and recommending it for ages 12+.

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The Island at the End of Everything – Kiran Millwood Hargrave 

Amihan’s worst nightmare has come true. She has been torn away from her nanay, and taken to an orphanage. Why? Because her nanay is Touched. And Amihan is not. She is now separated from everything she’s ever known, surrounded by strange children, and kept captive by fear and the cruel Mr Zamora. It is only by the strength of love and new friendships that she is able to protect the flame of hope that burns inside her. She must get back to her nanay before it is too late and she will do everything in her power to do so. The island at the end of everything is waiting for her.

The Island at the End of Everything is a really beautiful book. The themes of love and hope and of the strength of family and friends are very prevalent in this story. The writing was whimsical and imaginative, it fit the story perfectly (if that makes any sense :D). The story itself was very unique and captivating. I’ve never really come across anything like it, and that was a really positive quality about it! (I love unique-ness in books) I really, really enjoyed reading this book – it was beautiful both in the story and in the way it was written, and I loved seeing how it unfolded. I’m giving it a solid 8* out of 10, and recommending it for ages 12+.

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Where Dandelions Grow – Lydia Howe 

Destiny longs to mend the broken relationships within her family. But she needs to find out where her family went first. Her first step towards forgiveness and reconciliation with them is also step of hope when she moves back to the town where she grew up. Through some surprising friendships and a job at a whimsical coffee shop (btw, if I were to find this place actually existed I would go there in a heartbeat because it sounds AMAZING. Seriously, a bookshop combined coffee shop where you can write = pure happiness in my books :D), Destiny will soon find out that life is never quite how you imagined it, but that forgiveness and hope have surprising power.

‘Where Dandelions Grow’ was such a charming book. I bought it because I’ve had previous interaction with the author, Lydia Howe. I’ve followed her blog for years (and loved it! It’s such a great resource for writers and readers alike), and recently had the privilege of beta reading one of her books. I really like her writing, and this book was no exception! The setting, the characters, and the story all melded together into one really sweet book. I loved the character of Destiny – I related to her love for writing so much! The town of Swallow Ridge is described so wonderfully (I wouldn’t mind living there one day! :D), and, like I said before, this coffeebookshop called Noveltea sounds SO cool! ❤ 😀 I loved seeing how Destiny grew throughout the course of the story, and the themes of family and forgiveness were really beautiful and encouraging. I’m giving this book a solid 9* out of 10, and recommending it for ages 13+

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Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes

Johnny Tremain has it all – the apprenticeship he’s been dreaming of, a position of authority among his peers, and a comfortable house to live in. He’s got his life stretched before him, full of possibilities and dreams. But then disaster strikes, and with the cracking of a crucible, everything shatters around him. Unable to continue his apprenticeship, pitied and bullied in turn by his peers, his position replaced in his house, life seems very dark. Alone, unemployed and crippled, Johnny is alone in the wide world, and the world isn’t a very comforting place to be at that moment. Boston in the early 1770s is a hotbed of political unrest, foreign soldiers, and whispers of rebellion. Not exactly the place you’d want to be with nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. But some surprising turning of events will soon give Jonny a role in Boston that he never could’ve dreamed of. His life will never be the same after he is swept away in the turning tide of the Revolution….

‘Johnny Tremain’ is an absolutely beautiful, fascinating book. Esther Forbes brings the world of Johnny to life in incredible detail. You can tell that there has been an immense amount of research and time put into making it as historically accurate as possible. And the story itself is stunning. It’s a coming of age story about a boy who has to find who he really is when his identity is stripped away in a tragic accident. It’s an adventure story about a boy who gets caught up in the very heart of the American Revolution. It’s a friendship story showing how relationships can spring out of unlikely places and grow into a bond that ties many hearts together despite differences, distance and death. It’s a historical story, detailing the exciting events that led up to the explosion of shots in Lexington that were heard around the world. It’s a story about perseverance, about healing, about hope, and about freedom. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was my second time reading it. I’m giving it a very solid 9* out of 10 for the historical accuracy and beautifully touching storyline. I’m recommending it for ages 12+.

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Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi 

A devout Muslim sets out to prove Christianity wrong, and has his life transformed by the person he least expected – Jesus.

I picked this book up because I had been studying Islam in school and was interested in learning more detail. I literally read it in less than 24 hours, and goodness gracious, this book is amazing! Seriously, it’s one of the most informative, helpful and fascinating books I’ve read in a very long time. It chronicles the true story of the author on his journey from being a dedicated Muslim to a convinced Christian. Mr Qureshi writes in a very clear, readable manner, but he also manages to convey a very large amount of information within the 300 odd pages of the book. He provides a vivid picture of what it was like growing up in a devout Muslim family, as well as a window into the Islamic culture and beliefs. He gave a clear introduction to the basics of Islam, as well as answering many different questions of why Muslims do the things they do.

Not only that, but he tells the story of how he became a Christian in very intricate detail. His story begins with intense questioning of Christianity, leads to many doubts of Islam, and ends with finding truth in the person of Jesus Christ. He shared the arguments his Christian friend gave for Christianity and how he responded to them as a Muslim, and he gave the reasons why he began to doubt Islam, and the reasons why Christianity began to attract him. His testimony of how he eventually became a Christian is absolutely fascinating (hint: it involves some really amazing dreams!). I came away from this book really encouraged for two reasons:

  1. – This book really bolstered my own faith as I read how Christianity can stand up against intense questioning and is able to convince even the most antagonistic to it. God is at work, and it was so wonderful to read the testimony of how he transformed Mr Qureshi’s life!
  2.  I found that I had a much more rounded picture of Islam and had learnt ways to relate to Muslims more. In this day and age it’s very easy to vilify Muslims without learning the facts about them and what they believe, and I found it really helpful to learn about Islam from someone who had been there himself.

I would really recommend that everyone read this book. For people that know Muslims personally, for people who want to learn more about how Islam relates to Christianity, for people that are searching for the truth themselves, this book is a powerful and educative tool. I’m giving it a very solid 10 out of 10*, and recommending it for anyone and everyone above the ages of about 14. If you go out and buy any book after reading my reviews, this is the one for you to buy!

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There we are – my top 5 books I read in October! Let’s chat! Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favourite books you read last month?

 

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