Month in Books: August 2015

And we’re just about caught up! Here’s my reading wrap-up for August.

75 Uplifting Poems for Christians – AJ Barlow – 5 stars I loved this! It’s an accessible, thoughtful collection of lovely poetry. I wrote a review here!

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back – Todd Burpo – 5 stars This is an autobiographical account of a father whose three year old son nearly dies, and then returns to consciousness with wild tales of heaven that are spookily accurate to Biblical prophecies. It’s a quick read, but a moving one. Fab book!

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself – Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert – 5 stars This is such a great resource, and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s really challenging, but also very practical and hopeful. It’s quite heavy on allegories, which I found very helpful!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain – 4 stars It took me a while to get into this, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down! This book is sweet and funny and action-packed and all the things I could want from it.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy – Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke A. Allen – 4 stars I bought this because I loved Noelle Stevenson’s ‘Nimona’, and I was hoping this would be a similar thing. It is a very good comic, and I enjoyed the whole six pages that I bought for 99p. Not impressed. I can buy the whole of Sense and Sensibility for half that price.

Paper Towns – John Green – 4 stars I think I would have enjoyed this more if it was my first John Green book. I had to read it in order to go and see the new movie though – I wrote a post about that here!

The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh – 5 stars I am SO in love with this book, and it physically hurts me that the sequel is so far away. It’s a YA romance, beautifully written, and in a gorgeous Arabian setting. I wrote a review here!

Sabriel – Garth Nix – 5 stars This is another YA book, although this one was written a bit longer ago! It’s a crazy fantasy adventure that is just so much fun to read – it’s creative and scary and wonderful. It’s the first book in the Abhorsen trilogy, and – I know this sounds weird – I don’t think I’ll be reading any of the other books. It feels a bit like Philip Pullmans Dark Materials books – I loved the first one, but I’m sensing the later books will be a lot darker and will spoil the series for me.

The Heir – Kiera Cass – 4 stars Oh look, more YA. This one is the fourth book in The Selection series which is a full-on Princess romance sort of deal. I kind of liked it. Here’s my review!

Selp Helf – Miranda Sings – 5 stars I received this book as a gift from an aunt who knows how much I love Miranda Sings. For those of you don’t know, she’s a comedy character on YouTube, and I think she’s brilliant. This book was, of course, a masterpiece, and I read the whole thing in one sitting.

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter – Stacy King – 5 stars This is a manga adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, and I thought it was fantastic! It was my first time reading actual manga, but I wrote a review anyway.

Manga Messiah – Hidenori Kumai – 5 stars This is a slightly more amateur-friendly manga book, but I still loved it! It’s the story of Jesus….but manga. I thought it was clever, creative, and just great in general.

God’s Eagles, Athletes and Pilgrims – Haide Sanchez – 5 stars This is a book of weekly devotions, and I loved it! My review is here.

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari – 5 stars Written by the famous comedian, this book is a non-fiction book that explores…well, modern romance. It focuses on USA, France, Japan and Argentina, and just studies the way romance has changed. It was actually really interesting, and I loved the chatty way all the research was presented. There are a lot of anecdotes that make the whole book more interesting. I really enjoyed it!

Apologies for the slightly longer post – some months you just have to keep reading, you know?

If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

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Month in Books: June 2015

Let’s talk about June.(And yes, I did already post July’s wrap-up. I get mixed up, ok?)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Ian Fleming – 5 stars Did you know that the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie is based off a series written by the same author as James Bond? And did you know that the two have very very little in common? I just loved this book: it’s delightful. But view it as completely different from the film.

Songs of Innocence and Experience – William Blake – 4 stars A book of romantic poetry by the famous rebel, William Blake. I really liked it! A lot of very weird stuff going on though, especially in the illustrations.

Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas – 4 stars Everyone talked about this book so much that in the end I just had to buy it. Don’t you hate it when ebooks are like £7? I thought they were meant to be the cheaper option? 😦 (I did like the book, despite the exorbitant price)

Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault – Stephen R.C. Hicks – 3 stars This non fiction book talks about a lot of different issues; it’s very well researched, pretty broad in it’s explanations and reasonably accessible. I still don’t understand postmodernism though, so I felt like this could only get a three star rating.

Living Mission – Miriam Swaffield and Rich Wilson – 5 stars Written by two leaders in student evangelism, this is such a great book for people involved in their Christian Unions, but also for any Christian student ever. It’s full of really practical, really sound advice, and I thought it was great.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Judi Barrett – 4 stars This is a tiny children’s book, but I read it anyway because of the movie. Again, they’re not really similar at all, but it was still quite a nice read.

Selected Jokes from Past Chinese Dynasties – Chien-t’ing Liu – 4 stars I think at this point I knew I was going to be separated from my university library over the summer, and was just making the most of every book I could get my hands on. I didn’t find a lot of the jokes funny, just because we have a very different sense of humour! But it was a lovely book: illustrated, and bilingual (Chinese and English.)

The Clocks – Agatha Christie – 4 stars It’s ALWAYS a good time for Agatha Christie. This is a Hercule Poirot mystery, and it’s wonderful.

The Body in the Library – Agatha Christie – 4 stars Once you start reading Agatha Christie, it’s really hard to stop. This one is about Miss Marple and libraries – how could I say no?

A Pocket Full of Rye – Agatha Christie – 4 stars Aaand another Miss Marple mystery. I just love it, ok?

A Perfect Spy – John le Carre – 4 stars This book is a brutally honest portrayal of the life of a spy during the World War 2/Cold War period. It’s gritty and solemn and really really sad, but it’s a really important angle on what spying really is. Especially if you’re like me, and have copious amounts of Alex Rider, Cherub, and James Bond stories in your head.

After Tomorrow – Gillian Cross – 3 stars This is a really interesting ‘Middle Grade’ novel, because it’s about a situation where the Brits are the refugees, forced to leave the country. I think especially in the current refugee crisis, it’s a really thoughtful and touching story. Told from the point of a child, it’s a pretty well-written and well thought-through story. Not my favourite Gillian Cross novel, though.

Scarlet – Marissa Meyer – 3 stars This is the second book in the Cinder series. It’s such a clever concept: re-tellings of fairy tales in a Sci-fi, post apocalyptic setting. I’m not 100% sold on the actual rendering of these themes, but I’m kind of hesitantly following the series at my own pace. I did like the character of Scarlet a lot more than that of Cinder.

And that’s all I read in June! If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Review: The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux – 3 stars 

The Phantom of the Opera

I recently just finished reading ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Gaston Leroux. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, because I’ve been completely enamoured with the musical for years now. It was a really exciting concept: I was envisioning the musical’s story beautifully rendered in magical, dancing prose. In my head, this book was a masterpiece, and I think that’s why I’m a bit disappointed with it.

If you’re not familiar with the story, ‘the phantom’ referred to in the title is the rumoured Opera Ghost abiding in the Paris Opera House. He asks for money, and for Box Five to be left vacant for him every showing. No one has ever seen him, until he falls in love with one of the singers. It’s a big story: dramatic and exciting, and I think it’s crafted with great flair.

It did bother me that I was reading a book so similarly written to Dracula, though. Obviously this in itself is not a bad thing, but I thought this was another class of book, you know? I was expecting poetry, and all I got was a nosy narrator joining up a series of diary entries and letters from participating characters. Again, there’s nothing bad about that; only there wasn’t really anything good about it either. I felt like the structure was a bit limp beside the grandeur of the story.

Also, ‘the phantom’ is so much creepier in the book. It makes me slightly more worried about my Meyer’s Briggs results. (if that makes no sense to you, see this post.)

The plot is – in general – beautifully and romantically creepy: I love the setting of a Parisian opera house, and there is a lot of mystery built up around the story. Kudos to Mr Leroux: it’s an amazing concept.

There’s one scene that stands out to me: when the Persian and Raoul are trapped in Erik’s torture chamber. To me, as a modern reader, it seemed so out of place, and far too James Bond for the story. It felt like an anticlimax, and I can understand why they changed it so much for the stage version. It’s not worth the effort.

Having said all of that, the book’s ending is quite perfect, and I put the book down feeling satisfied, if not blown away.

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Review: The Heir – Kiera Cass

The Heir – Keira Cass – 4 stars

The Heir

This book is the fourth in a series called the Selection, and I think it’s time for me to accept that these books don’t bother me as much as I think they do. The characters are clumsy and clear-cut, the plot is slow and the politics are juvenile….but I CAN’T STOP READING THEM.

I liked this book more than the earlier three – partly because the narrator is really not likable. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out – it is the most annoying thing in the world when the main character is obviously someone the writer has fallen madly in love with, and even when they’re flawed, they can do no wrong (*cough* America Singer). This Princess is spoiled and misguided and although it’s really obvious, I don’t think it’s over-done. This character has space to grow in the books to come, and that’s cool.

I also loved the female-led Selection, mostly for how awkward it is, and how the dynamics change so drastically from Maxon’s one. My favourite thing, though, was seeing America and Maxon together. 20 years later, they’re still cute! I also liked seeing people from the books all grown up, and the living arrangements in the Palace – it’s all very satisfying to know that people are still friends, and still devoted to each other.

Some of the issues that Princess Eadlyn faced in this book did seem, from the reader’s point of view, easily resolved, but I actually really liked that she wasn’t on the ball. It was honestly pretty true to life.

I feel like I always complain about the simplicity and occasional laziness in the writing, but I did sense an improvement with this book. I’m happy to accept that I’m possibly not the target demographic.

I have two major qualms with this book: 1) WHY DIDN’T IT FINISH? just marry Kyle already, I don’t need to be forced to read another book. 2) Eadlyn sounds a little bit like a witch’s name, and I kind of hate it.

That said, I did give this book four stars. Keira Cass, what is your secret?

If you’ve read this book too, or plan to, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

My Top 5 Literary OTPs

For the uninitiated, ‘OTP’ stands for One True Pairing; this post is basically going to be outlining my five favourite romantic pairings in literature!

  1. Aravis and Shasta from The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis – This is probably an obscure one, because their story is not explicit: we’re told that they fight and make up, and get married “so as to do it more conveniently.” Firstly, that’s hilarious, and secondly really really cute! I love these guys.
  2. Alex and Rosie from Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern – Need I say more? If you’ve read this, you know that they are the loveliest, and you can’t help but root for them.
  3. Jane Bennett and Mr Bingley from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I know this isn’t the most popular couple from this book, but these two really are my favourite. There’s none of this impractial ‘proposal in the rain and admitting stuff in really long letters’ drama, just pure cuteness. I would happily read a book just about these guys; I don’t give a toss about the Darcys. (I do really, but I wanted to leave that sentence in because it sounds like I know what I’m talking about.)
  4. Leisel and Rudy from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I can’t talk too much about this because of spoilers, so let’s just say they’re so sweet it hurts and leave it at that.
  5. Day and June from Legend by Marie Lu – Again, I can’t say too much, but these two are so perfect (together, not in general) and they just had to go on the list somewhere. They’re opposites in terms of social standing, but their personalities just click. They’re great characters in a really great story.

I’m assuming this is some sort of tag somewhere, so if you fancy taking up the ‘challenge’, consider yourself tagged.

Let me know your favourite pairings – do you agree/disagree with any of my picks?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Month in Books: November 2014

It’s December! Where has the year gone?

Anyway, I’m putting my excitement for Christmas on hold just long enough to write up my November wrap-up – here it is!

The Body – Stephen King – 4 stars This is a really interesting autobiography; it centres around one main event in King’s childhood, and builds up everything around it. With emphasis on writing techniques and routes, this book makes for a really interesting read.

Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal – J.K. Rowling – 5 stars I thought it was time to read a whole novel in Spanish, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone seemed like a good place to start! I’d forgotten how much fun this book was.

Northern Lights – Philip Pullman – 4 stars My second re-read of the month! I love this story and setting so much, and the protagonist, Lyra, is just fantastic. I’m glad I read this one, but I don’t plan to go back to the other two; I felt like the shift into a second world and the concentrated antitheism let the series down for me.

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter – 4 stars This is actually one of my set texts for later on in my course, so I’ll probably have to go back to it again next year. It’s a collection of Ms. Carter’s takes on popular fairy tales and folklore, all beautifully written and most pretty dark. It’s really interesting to see the famous stories re-interpreted, and to understand what someone else views as the important components of the classic tales.

How to Train Your Dragon – Cressida Cowell – 4 stars I reviewed this here! I really enjoyed this little children’s book: set in the dark ages, vikings and dragons wrestle for superiority in a series of comedic and touching events. Not to be compared with the movie.

The Red Necklace – Sally Gardner – 4 stars I must have been feeling nostalgic this month, because this is my third re-read of a book I loved when I was younger. This is set in Revolution-era France, and is just fantastic. Scary, romantic and a little bit weird, I absolutely recommend this. Also the audiobook is read by Tom Hiddleston, so…

The Pursuit of God – A.W. Tozer – 5 stars This was my first time reading a proper theological book, and I really loved this one! It was both practical and inspiring, and really well written. I’ll be picking this one up again!

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Timothy Keller – 5 stars This is a tiny little book, but it’s full of really solid advice. Insecurity is loud and confidence is knowing you’re loved as-is. Highly recommended read!

The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis – 5 stars  I read more Christian non-fiction this month than I have in my LIFE, but I really enjoyed it! This one is more in the realms of apologetics: why does suffering happen, and how can an all-loving God condone it? Eloquently presented and thoroughly explored, this book taught me that C.S. Lewis is well-respected and over-quoted for a reason.

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend – Kody Keplinger – 4 stars I heard a movie adaptation was on its way, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and pick up the e-book. I read it in one sitting. I think I’d call it a YA romance, but it did feel like it was considering some much more profound issues. I didn’t agree with everything implied, or particularly appreciate the emotional sparsity, but on the whole the book kept me hooked and I managed to get really invested in the characters. A fun, quick read.

Divine Healing: A Scriptural Approach to Sickness, Faith and Healing – Andrew Murray – 4 stars I was a bit unsure about this book at first: the first few chapters felt a bit repetitive and I wondered whether the great points Mr. Murray was putting across actually needed to be a whole book. About halfway through I felt a shift, and there was suddenly a lot more fresh and diverse material to get my teeth into. Because the subject of this book is something I haven’t read a lot about, I really appreciated the frequent Bible references, so I could go and look up evidence for myself. It’s important not to accept everything you read, even if it is a ‘Christian’ book! I did walk away feeling inspired and empowered, so I’d recommend this!

Eleven books! I’m quite pleased with that, considering I’ve been flooded with passages to read for my course. Have you read any of the books on the list? What was your favourite read of November?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Review: Love, Rosie – Cecelia Ahern

Love, Rosie – Cecelia Ahern – 5 stars

Love, Rosie

When I realised that almost the entirety of the book was fragmented into letters and emails, I wasn’t sure I’d make it all the way through. As it turns out, I devoured it in a day!

This novel follows the life of Irish girl Rosie. It’s a raw and honest portrayal of her loves and losses, and all of the things that didn’t exactly go to plan. It’s a contemporary romance, but the originality and the willingness to think outside of the box makes this story really special.

Despite the sparsity of description and flowing prose that is necessitated by the structure, I found myself sucked into the story and completely enraptured by the lives of such lovely characters. I rooted for Rosie, Alex, Katie and all the rest as though they were my own friends; that’s how well Ms Ahern pulls off this venture.

What makes this novel so ambitious is that it’s a bildungsroman: it spans over fifty years, and it is easily one of my favourite ‘coming-of-age’ novels. All of the ups and downs of this completely credible life are gripping and well-handled; the plot is sharp and works fantastically. For those of you worried that any poignancy will be lost to the quirky lay-out, I assure you that I literally laughed, cried, and grinned my way through the whole book.

Each character had a unique and believable voice, and the developments and changes were so satisfying. The ending was just perfect. I can’t wait to re-read this book – and I don’t say that often!

Also, I’ve just stumbled across the fact that this is going to be a movie – I’ll link you up to the IMDb page. It’s starring Lily Collins and Sam Claflin, and I am so excited!

If you’ve read this too, let me know what you thought! Are you looking forward to the movie?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Month in Books: July 2014

July’s wrap-up is here! And it’s kind of on time!

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd – 5 stars Set in the USA, 1964, we follow a young girl who is exposed to racism and her own troubled past as she runs away from home. It’s really quite magical.

The Road to Yesterday – Randy Mixter – 4 stars I reviewed this here! When a horrible tragedy strikes, our protagonist struggles to live with the guilt of surviving. Surely there’s nothing he can do to change the past? Fantastic little novella.

First Love – Ivan Turgenev – 4 stars This is also a short story; set in Russia, this is the story of a young man living through his first love.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – 3 stars The classic everyone’s heard of! It took me a while to get through, but it’s a great story with some lovely characters.

Twilight’s Indian Princess:Book 1 – Margaret Jean Langstaff – 4 stars I reviewed this here. The first novel installment from Ms. Langstaff, this is a contemporary story full of psychological tricks and scarily relateable characters.

The Twits – Roald Dahl – 4 stars I reviewed this here! A children’s illustrated book that follows two elderly people in their ‘prank warfare’.

Never Fade – Alexandra Bracken – 4 stars I reviewed this too! The second book in Bracken’s The Darkest Minds trilogy, this action-packed dystopian doesn’t disappoint. A great balance between relational and action development – it’s fun and exciting.

Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher – 4 stars Oh look, another review. This is a YA contemporary novel that deals with a girl who has committed suicide and left a series of tapes behind, on which she has recorded her story.

Moon Whispers – G. Michael Vasey – 4 stars Find my review here. An anthology of poetry that is modern and very very relevant.

The Unicorn Girl – M.L. LeGette – 4 stars Yep – I reviewed this too! YA Fantasy, this is a romp of a story and is pure magic.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han – 5 stars To be honest, the title made me think this wasn’t going to be my kind of book. The premise, however, is pretty much a novelisation of my childhood fears: a girl writes secret goodbye letters to the boys she has crushed on in order to purge her heart of the forbidden affections…and then the letters get sent out. It’s a bit cliché and cutsie and I loved every second of it.

Cover Reveal: Reunion of the Heart by Elaine Jeremiah

Reunion of the Heart

I’m so excited to be a part of this cover reveal! I’m loving this design – the colours are gorgeous, and it sounds like the book is going to be just as sweet.

Here’s the blurb:

After a messy breakup with her boyfriend, Anna is feeling fragile. So when her best friend Melissa suggests the two of them go to their school reunion, she’s reluctant as Anna’s school days weren’t her happiest. The evening is going well until she meets the boy who made her school life hell.

But the grown up Will is different and Anna is surprised by the direction her life takes. The reunion sets in motion a series of events that lead Anna to realise things will never be the same again.

And here’s a little about the author:

Elaine Jeremiah has always enjoyed writing, but it’s only in recent years that she’s begun to devote serious time to it. She’s written lots of short stories, one previous novel that will never see the light of day and a novel which has seen the light of day: ‘The Inheritance’ which she published last year. ‘The Inheritance’ is available on Amazon.

You can make contact with Elaine via her blog: elainejeremiah.co.uk and Twitter: @ElaineJeremiah

The book should be published by the end of August, so make sure to look out for that – I know I will be!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Month in Books: May 2014

Here’s May’s wrap-up. We’re catching up!

Attachments – Rainbow Rowell – 4 stars This little romance, set at the dawn of the internet, is cute and hilarious and 100% gripping. Rainbow writes such winning characters and the plot is lovely.

Allegiant – Veronica Roth – 3 stars The third and final book in the Divergent trilogy. A big finale that completely rips your heart out. It took me a while to get to grips with the pacing, though.

I Am Legend – Richard Matheson – 5 stars Now THIS is a vampire novel! Also a movie starring Will Smith, this is the story of the last (known) human left in a world being taken over by people suffering from the illness…that turns them into vampires. Fantastic book!

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe – 3 stars Set in a fictional Nigerian tribe, Achebe introduces us to a completely different way of life. The story is set around the time Western influences start seeping in, so it makes for a very harrowing read.

Rebel Belle – Rachel Hawkins – 4 stars I kind of hated myself for liking this so much. It’s an urban fantasy/romance YA novel that is quick and funny and cute. Oh alright, I recommend it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky – 5 stars This is such a great book! (and movie, with Emma Watson and Logan Lerman, directed by the author himself) Follow main character Charlie as he works through his loves and losses during his high school years. Beautifully told and such great characters!

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald – 5 stars This was my Book of the Month! I loved this classic (and yes, there’s a movie with Leo DiCaprio) for its accessibility, timeless relevance and gorgeous characters.

I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You – Ally Carter – 2 stars Follow a member of an all-girls spy school who speaks 12 languages and yet resorts to ‘OMG’ to express her feelings. I mean, it’s cute and fun and I’m sure it’s somebody’s thing…it just wasn’t for me.

As The Crow Flies – Damien Boyd – 4 stars I reviewed this here! A crime novel with a rock-climbing backdrop, this story will whisk you away and surprise you throughout.

Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear – Andy Stanton – 4 stars While not my favourite Mr Gum book, this one is still fantastic. Lovely illustrations and hilarious text, it’s a children’s novel that is suitable for anyone. I laugh out loud every time.

A House Somewhere – Don George, Anthony Sattin – 2 stars A collection of extracts from travel writings. I’m sure many people will love this book, but it bored me a little! Probably part of the problem was the fact that I had to study it for school.

A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin – 5 stars This book is so long! And yet…worth it. This epic high fantasy has a mind-blowing scope. It’s told from lots of character’s points of view, but Mr Martin makes it all work, juggling threads of stories masterfully.

 

So that was May! If you liked the sound of any of those books, or have read them, let me know! I’m always open to recommendations, too!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani