Top 5 Books – November 2017

Well hi there! Sorry this post is later in the day than normal… I just got back from my church’s live Nativity play (which went incredibly well!) and so have only now sat down to write out my book reviews… Now if I had been organised, I would’ve written the reviews earlier in the week. But I’ve been down with a heavy cold all week, and besides, I’m rarely organised… 😀 Soooo, I’m writing the reviews now, and if they’re shorter than normal, I apologise and blame it on the fact that I’m exhausted after tramping around a farm in about 20 layers of clothing all afternoon. 😀

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the princess bride

The Princess Bride ~ William Goldman

Good gracious me, I can’t believe I haven’t read this book before!! I was aware of the story for a while, and watched the movie for the first time this year. But I hadn’t really been aware it was a book until recently. And boy, I’m glad I read this book! It’s hilarious. Seriously. The notes that Goldman puts in and how he explains the back story and how he came to abridge it all are fascinating and so witty!

It’s the typical fairytale story of true love and a beautiful maiden in distress and the daring prince that rescues her from the dastardly rogue and it all ends in true love. Or is it? Maybe the daring prince is really a rogue in disguise, and the dastardly rogue is really not what he seems? Let me tell you, this story is SO clever! It turns fairytales on their heads and liberally adds humour and eccentricities to the mix. I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning finishing it – it’s definitely a page turner! I’m giving it a solid 9* out of 10, and recommending it for 12+.

 

out of mormonism

Out of Mormonism ~ Judy Robertson

This was a really interesting read. I have a general knowledge of Mormonism and what their beliefs are, but I’ve never really properly delved into that religion. This book helped change that. I found it randomly on my parents’ bookshelves, I started reading it, and finished it in one sitting!

It’s the true story of how the author was convinced to become a Mormon, and then how 10 years later she became disillusioned with it and left the religion (Spoiler alert, she comes back to Christianity!) Mrs Robertson writes with clarity and insight, and I was gripped by her story. I found it so interesting reading the reasons why she was so attracted to Mormonism in the first place, and then how she gradually had more and more doubts as she got deeper and deeper into the religion. I learnt a lot about the in’s and out’s of the religion, and I feel that I now have a better understanding of Mormonism as a result. (And just for the record, reading this convinced me that I should not become a Mormon!)

If you’re interested in learning more about how Mormonism works or what they believe, this book is definitely for you! (Or if you want to be thoroughly convinced not to become a Mormon, it’s for you too, lol :D) I’m giving Out of Mormonism 8* out of 10 and recommending it for 15+ (due to some mature content in some parts. And it’s just generally written for an adult audience, not a teen one)

 

the giver

The Giver ~ Lois Lowry

Well this is one of those books that you finish and then have to sit silently for ages while you just try to work through the emotions it brings up in you. I’m not even sure how to write about it now.

It’s an incredibly beautiful book – beautiful in a haunting, poignant, aching type of way. It’s a very cleverly written story, with some very beautiful characters in it. It’s that type of book that makes you want to scream with anger and throw it at a wall. And it’s that type of book that makes you want to cry, but you don’t know why. Just the way it’s written and the storyline and the characters and the ending all weave together to form a lump in your throat and a deep ache in your chest.

I made the mistake of starting it late at night. Bad idea. 😀 I then proceeded to read into the early hours of the morning, and then lay awake with the previously described emotions swirling through my head.

No description of mine can do any good, so if you want a good description, just google it. And then go buy it on kindle or Amazon or get it at the library and read it (not late at night though!) I promise you will not be the same afterwards.

I’m giving this book 9* out of 10 and recommending it for ages 14+ (You can probably see why, based on my above review. It’s got a couple pretty disturbing parts in it.)

 

the unquenchable flame

The Unquenchable Flame ~ Michael Reeves

So, in case you didn’t know, I’m a history nerd. I love history of all types – something about the stories of days gone by thrills my imagination and sparks my joy! So this book is great for me. It’s very well-researched, and written by an expert in the topic. The Reformation was a pivotal time in the history of Christianity, and it’s chock full of capturing characters and incidents! I loved getting to delve down deep into that time period, and really get a grip on all the facets of the Reformation. Mr Reeves writes with a humour that is rather surprising for such a “dense” history book. I realise that history is not for everyone, but I’d really recommend giving this book a go. It’s a lot easier than it looks, and you will learn a lot through reading it! I’m rating this book 10* out of 10 and recommending it for ages 13+

 

Girlsavage

The Girl Savage – Katherine Rundell

Katherine Rundell is an incredible writer. She has a way with words that is so beautiful and imagination-inspiring! This is the 3rd book I’ve read by her – and I loved it!!

It’s the story of a girl called Will. She lives in Africa, and loves it. She runs run free in her beloved grassland with her companions – the natives and the animals. Her life is wild, and she loves it. But then tragedy strikes, and she is shipped off to England to boarding school. And Will finds that living in the wilds of London is a lot different than living in the wilds of Africa.

Ahhh, this book is seriously gorgeous. The writing, the story, the characters – everything is woven together into a absolutely delightful story! It might be aimed towards younger readers than I, but I couldn’t put it down! Buy it for yourself, your younger siblings, your friend, your grandchildren, whoever, and it will be a hit! I’m giving it 9* out of 10 and recommending it for ages 12+

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There we are – my top 5 books of November! What about you? What books have you really enjoyed reading in the past month?

Also, I have a special Christmas story that I will be posting in segments from the 20th-25th! Keep your eyes peeled for the first part coming this Wednesday!

 

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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

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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Island-at-the-End-of-Everything-website.jpg

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.jpg

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?

 

Top 2 Books – September 2017

Hi everyone! Today I’m back with a slightly-shorter-than-normal review of my favourite books of the month. I read quite a few books in September, but alas my time is running out today, so 2 is all I have time for right now. 😀

 

Yancey-Bible-Jesus-Read

 

This was (again) a book I read as part of my school work this year, and (again :D) I was very pleasantly surprised by it! Yancy takes the reader on a journey as he delves into the Old Testament – shedding light on the Bible that Jesus would’ve read. The Old Testament is the prequel to the story of Jesus, but so often Christians are put off by the sheer size of it, the dense prophecies, or the depressing stories. But Yancy takes the Old Testament and shines a light on the beauty hidden behind those initial barriers. Writing a chapter each on Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Deuteronomy, and the Prophets, he gives clarity to the story that each book holds.

The thing that I found so captivating about this book is the way that he points out how each book is part of a greater narrative, and how each story is woven into The Story. The Story of the world, and how Jesus has come to save it. This book wasn’t exactly light reading, as it had a lot of historical/theological information in it to process. But Yancy writes in a very clear, compelling and captivating way, and I didn’t find this book hard to get through at all. If you struggle with the Old Testament at all, or are just wanting to learn more about the backgrounds and meanings behind the OT books, then this book is for you! I’m giving this book a solid 9* out of 10, and recommending it for ages 14+.

 

beowulf

Three massive battles with monsters and dragons featuring feats of intense bravery and fortitude – it doesn’t get much better than that. 😀 Throw in that this book was written over 1000 years ago, but is still readable and interesting to a modern reader, and bam, you’ve got a rather interesting book on your hands. Now lest you think that I am an incredible nerd for picking up a 1000+ year old book and actually liking it, let me shed some light onto the situation. You see, I’m only a slight nerd, because I choose to take classes like ‘Middle Ages Literature’ and then actually enjoy the books that I read in that class. 😀 So yes, this is, yet again, another school book. But I enjoyed it so much I figured I’d spotlight it on here. After all, it’s not every month I read an ancient, poetical story full of monsters and daring deeds. 😛

Anyways, where was I…? Oh yes, talking about Beowulf. So yeah, it’s basically what I’ve already said – a really long poem about a guy that fights a monster, then the monster’s mother, and then a dragon. Which in itself doesn’t exactly sound thrilling. But it is! The writing is incredibly beautiful. Seriously, I wish that I could write some of the things that the author of Beowulf comes out with. The history behind it is fascinating. I’ve been learning about it in my class, and finding out so much history behind the story! Learning the history behind all the rituals detailed in the poem, the Scandinavian culture within which it was composed, and how it survived seemingly a million and two fires and finally got translated into English – it’s all so fascinating! Of course, I am a history nerd, so that might bias me a little bit. 😀

And yes, because it was written such a long time ago, the language is hard to follow. The story itself is interesting, but the rabbit trails and side-notes that the author takes are often confusing and slightly tedious. But apart from that, it’s a masterpiece! I’d really recommend going out of your comfort zone, and if not reading this book, then reading something else that you normally wouldn’t read. Because, as I found out when I read Beowulf, sometimes it’s good to stretch yourself out of your normal habits, because you can learn and grow and find gems of literature along the way! I’ve giving Beowulf 8* out of 10, and recommending it to anyone that is brave enough to take the challenge. (but probably 13+ :D)

That’s all for this week! Please feel free to share some of your favourite books you read in the past month. I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

Top 3 Books – August 2017

Wow, can you believe it’s already September? Summer is over and done, and I’m sad about that… 😦 Summer is my favourite time of the year, and if I could I would make it doubly longer! 😀 Alas, I do not possess that power. Let me know if you know of any special trick to stop time from going so fast, I’d like to know about it. 😛

So school has started back up for pretty much everybody school aged by now. I’m going into my Junior year (of high school, for all my American readers) / Year 12 (first year of Sixth Form for all my English readers). It’s kind of scary how old I am now! 😀 And seeing how fast time has gone by recently, it seems very probable that before I know it, I’ll be graduated and done and dusted with school. Yikes! :O

To distract from that scary thought, let me tell you about my top three books that I read in August. There were some good ones!!

 

the westing game

The Westing Game – Ellen Raskin

Sam Westing is dead. He left behind a will. Which is actually a game. A game with the objective of finding out who killed him. He has chosen a random, yet very specific group of 16 people to play this game. And the wild card? One of those 16 people is the murderer. Does it sound interesting? It’s even better than it sounds. 

Seriously, this book is waaaaayyy better than it sounds. And it sounds pretty interesting to begin with! This mystery is incredibly well written – the characters are fresh, believable and unique, and the story line… well it’s SO good. Seriously, Ms. Raskin must be half-genius to come up with the plot line and the crazy twists. And the ending – man it comes out of nowhere and is so clever!! I don’t feel like anything I say can give a true idea of how cool this book is, so my advice to you is – go read it! 😀 This is a solid, most-definite 10* read. (and I’m recommending for about ages 12+)

 

Gods-and-Kings-Lynn-Austin

Gods and Kings – Lynn Austin 

A nation with their backs to God. A King bending to the mighty Assyrians’ dominion. A priest haunted by the deaths he has caused. A Prince angry and bitter against his Father. And a God who refuses to leave them alone. 

Looking back in the archives of my blog, I can’t believe that I haven’t mentioned Lynn Austin before! Apart from L.M. Montgomery, she is my favourite author. She writes historical fiction – some of the best I have ever come across. I’ve read most of her historical fiction, but I have never ventured into her Biblical historical fiction before. Until this month. And as always, she did not disappoint! She tells the story of King Hezekiah’s childhood in godless Jerusalem before he ascended the throne. Surrounded by idol worshipers, with the mighty Assyrian empire breathing down his country’s back,  Hezekiah’s story is one of great tension, but also of great redemption. God is after his people, and he won’t stop at anything until he gets their attention and brings them back to him. He might even us a prophet or two… maybe one called Isaiah? It is very evident that Ms. Austin has done immense amounts of research into every aspect of his historical time period in order to make this story accurate and compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and my only complaint is that it finished and now I have to get my hands on #2 in the series. 😀 I’m giving ‘Gods and Kings’ 9* out of 10 and recommending for ages 14+

 

God's smuggler

God’s Smuggler – Brother Andrew 

God has the power to make seeing eyes blind. Especially when his Word at stake. 

God is a God of miracles. It says so in the Bible, but sometimes it’s hard to believe. But after reading this book, I was struck again by God’s power and sovereignty. This is the story of one young man that had a dream to see Bibles taken behind the Iron curtain. This also the story of how God made that dream come true. There is really no other word to describe the many narrow escapes, perfectly timed meetings, and anonymous monetary gifts that are chronicled in this book other than ‘miraculous’. God’s hand of guidance was so clearly outlined in this story. I came away from the book in awe at how God worked in order to get his Word into the hands of persecuted Christians, and encouraged by the fact that he is still doing that today! I’m giving it 9* out of 10, and recommending it for ages 14+. (due to some explicit scenes)

That’s it for this week! Hope you enjoyed the monthly review of my favourite books.

Lets chat! Have you read any on this list? How’s back to school going for you?

 

Book Review – After the Dancing Days

It’s time for another book review! I have a seemingly endless list of books I’d love to share with you, so I’m slowly hacking away at it, one book review at a time. 😀

after the dancing days

Statistics:

Author: Margaret I. Rostkowski

Published in: 1986

Genre: Children’s/Historical Fiction

PoV: First Person

Number of Pages: 217

 

War is a senseless, horrible thing. And though the Great War was not fought in Annie Metcalf’s home country of America, its influence is visible months after the end. Scarred and broken young men trickle back into normal life, a constant reminder that life will never be normal again. And the absence of her favourite uncle is keenly felt. Her Mother says the best thing to do is to forget. Her Father spends his time working with injured soldiers in an army hospital in town. And Annie? Well, Annie is torn. Torn between the longing to forget the pain and blot out the ugliness of war, but the desire to remember her uncle and his fellow soldiers. The soldiers that are irrevocably scarred by the War and are trying to learn how to live their lives again in the hospital down the road. Strangely drawn to them, Annie is faced with a decision – to either dull the pain with forced forgetfulness, or to remember the pain and confront it in order to eventually overcome it?

I really enjoyed ‘After the Dancing Days’. I believe I read it in one sitting, if my memory serves me correctly. I was fascinated by Annie’s story – of how she learned to live with the scarring, painful aftermath of the Great War. The clear picture that Rostkowski painted of the veteran’s hospital, and the wounded inhabitants who were struggling to remake their lives with life-changing injuries (both physical and mental) was powerful and sobering. I found this story encouraging because it showed, through Annie’s story that pain can and does heal, through the memories that sweeten over time. Because often, the best way to heal the pain, is to remember, to honour, and then to move on, never forgetting what went on before and looking forward to the hope of the future.. This really was a wonderful book, and I’m giving it a solid 7* out of 10 and recommending it for ages 13+.

Thanks for reading! Have a great week! 🙂