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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Review: Alastair Reynolds – Slow Bullets

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WP_20150520_07_36_05_ProDisclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Wow, I’ve never been as impressed with a sci-fi book as I was with this one. I blasted through it in one night because I just couldn’t bear to put it down! My only complaint with the book was that I’d have liked it to be a full length book rather than a novella, as I felt that certain parts were rushed and would have been more enjoyable if they had more development.

Imagine being a soldier in a war, a woman that was never supposed to be in the war in the first place. The war is over and a ceasefire has been declared, but we start the book with Scur being tortured with an explosive slow bullet slowly working its way through her body.

The war that Scur is fighting in has stark resemblances to certain wars being fought in our world right now. A war about ‘The Book’ and how it is interpreted, each side believing unequivocally that they are right.

Imagine that after being captured and tortured, you wake up on a spaceship with no idea where you are or how long you’ve been asleep. So is life for Scur, who finds herself on a disabled spaceship far in the future, waking up surrounded by prisoners from the war and with the ship slowly eating it’s own memory. Civilisation has fallen and there’s no-one to rescue them on this ship which is drift in orbit of a strange planet.

The ship is a prisoner transport with prisoners from both sides of the war, along with civilians who happened to be placed here. Also on the ship is Orvin, the man who was so cruelly torturing Scur before she found herself here, and she wants revenge. But along with revenge, Scur needs to bring peace to the ship and figure out how to deal with this situation.

At times, I found Scur’s decisions hard to understand, her desperate need for revenge overtaking a need for survival in the first place. But you quickly learn to feel complete empathy for her, and when you realise that what you’re reading has been etched into the metal of the ship, you can’t help but admire her dedication to record her life, just in case there’s no way out.

The book definitely made you think and ask yourself some difficult questions. Like if the only way you could record anything for prosperity was to etch it into the ship itself, what of your memories and knowledge would you choose to record in the limited time you had?

And if the only way to save important knowledge was to overwrite all written history of your past, would you be able to do it?

Like I said before, my only problem with this book was the fact that it was so short!! I’ve read on Goodreads that Scur appeared in another of Reynold’s books, so I may have to seek this out and read it very soon!

I think due to the fact that I felt some parts were hurried through and would have been improved by more detail, I can’t give this book a full 5/5, but it’s definitely a very solid 4.

4/5

Review: Thomas Hardy – Far From The Madding Crowd

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I decided to read this book mainly because I saw that the film was starting to be advertised in the cinema and I wanted to try and read it before I saw it. The book had been on my Kindle for probably about 2 years and I’d just never got around to it before.

And although I did start reading it before the film came out, it was very slow going to start with and I ended up going to see the film about half way through, so that I didn’t miss it before it disappeared from the big screen, like I have done with many books before (Jane Eyre, for example).

But seeing the film on the big screen definitely kickstarted my love for the story and the characters and I read the second half much quicker than the first.

*WARNING: Major spoilers below*

Although written by a man, you’d be hard pressed to tell at times.  The book is a definite beautiful romance, revolving around a young woman called Bathsheba Everdeen (what a name, right?!). As a young woman living with her aunt, she receives a marriage proposal from a farmer named Gabriel Oak, but turns him down for what seems like no apparent reason. I mean, his proposal wasn’t the most romantic in the world, but when you’re not particularly well off and the prosperous farmer next door asks for your hand, you should probably give it some thought. And if someone tells you that:

“I shall do one thing in this life—one thing certain—that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die.”

You can’t really ask for much more, can you? That’s quite romantic enough for me.

After the knock-back from Bathsheba, Gabriel’s life is turned further upside down when his enthusiastic young sheep-dog accidentally sheep-dogs his flock off the side of a cliff and Gabriel is left with nothing, forced to look for work on someone else’s farm.

But lo and behold, young Bathsheba’s uncle has died and she is now in charge of her very own farm, and young and experienced as she is, she could do with his help. I guess the fact that he saved her crops from incineration before she even offered him a job probably didn’t do any harm.

But although Bathsheba is now a farm owner, she’s still immature when it comes to love. As a joke, she sends a ‘Marry Me’ Valentine to a neighbouring farmer (Boldwood), which turns him into a semi-obsessed stalker who is convinced that they should be married.

But rather than marry him and join together their two prosperous farms, she decides (in yet another show of poor judgement) to marry a soldier (Troy) who only wants her for her money. And when Troy’s true love dies carrying his child, he spends a huge chunk of Bathsheba’s money to buy a huge headstone for her grave, and then fakes his own death to get away from her.

Bathsheba then spends the next 2 years (!) grieving for her lost husband, even though he was a money-grabbing brute when he was alive, and simultaneously trying to avoid the affections of poor Boldwood, who is still convinced that he’s madly in love with her.

And just as Boldwood thinks he’s about to get the promise of engagement that he’s wanted so badly, Troy returns on the scene, and is promptly shot by Boldwood who ends up in jail (narrowly avoiding a death sentence).

All this leaving Bathsheba free to marry Gabriel Oak, her constant rock through all these ridiculous troubles, just like she should have done back in the first 30 pages of the book and save everyone all this heartache.

I’ll just leave you with my favourite quote from the book, when Boldwood confronts Bathsheba and asks her if she loves him, or if she just respects him. Her response:

“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”

I like this, we can’t all express our feelings in words, especially if like Bathsheba, we’re afraid to admit the truth.

I’d definitely recommend this book, if you’re prepared to push past the first half which seemed to be at a slower pace than the second. And the film was simply wonderful, so I’d really really recommend you watch that too (but read the book first!).

4/5

Review: Rachael Chadwick – 60 Postcards

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WP_20150504_10_13_20_ProThis was a beautifully written book about a young woman’s struggle with the grief of losing her mother after a very short battle with cancer. The book was so well written that at times I became lost in the story and it was easy to forget that the book was non-fiction, that this was about real heartache and loss.

After Rachael’s mum died, she decided to leave 60 postcards around Paris in honour of her mum, leaving a note on each postcard about why she was doing it, and asking people to get in touch. The replies she received connected her to a multitude of new people and interesting stories, and helped her keep going when the grief threatened to take over.

Because it was so easy to forget that this book was based on a true story, I did find myself waiting at times for something big to happen, especially towards the end, where in a typical chick-lit book, the girl would find a boy and live happily ever after. But alas, the book was more about coming out of the other side of a black hole of grief than boy meets girl etc etc. Not that I’m saying this is a bad thing, but I did finish the book with a sense of wanting something slightly more.

A heart-warming book full of emotion and love, a fitting tribute to a lovely lady. If you’ve ever dealt with losing someone close to you, I’m sure you’ll be able to connect to Rachael and her wonderful story.

3/5

Perfect way to start the day!

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Started my day with a walk around Yeadon Tarn, with a stop half way around for a rest to enjoy the view and read. Perfect way to thank God for the beauty of nature and that we get to enjoy it so freely.

Verse of the day:

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 5:13, KJV)

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So welcomed!

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I went to Pudsey Parish Church this morning for the first time, and never before have I felt so welcomed into Church. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never felt ‘unwelcome’, I’ve just usually been left to my own devices. But within 5 minutes of sitting down with Cameron, a lovely lady called Naomi climbed over the chairs in front of us to come and say hi because she didn’t recognise us and thought we might be new. Which was absolutely lovely. She asked us all about ourselves and made us feel right at home.

And she caught us again after the service had finished to have a chat with us about what we thought and very strongly encouraged us to stay for cake after too (it worked, it was delicious). We also had a lovely chat with the Vicar who offered to talk to us about any questions we had (and even mentioned that he’d seen the blog from last week about my turning point at the evening with Archbishop John Sentamu).

The main theme running through the service (or at least it how it resonated with me) was that God loves everyone equally, whether you’ve been in the Church consistently, or whether you’ve just returned). And that you should live a life fully with God, rather than just being a spectator or a commentator, God wants us to love him and live with him completely, like he does with us.

After such a lovely welcome, there’s no doubt that I’ll be back again next week.

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Feeling very inspired right now…

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A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post from Pudsey Parish Church on Facebook about the start of their Believe in Pudsey week, which was kicking off with ‘An Evening with John Sentamu’. It sounded interesting and it was only £4, so I booked tickets to go with my boyfriend and my best friend. It turns out that it was exactly what I needed right now, and I left the room with an overwhelming sense of inspiration and feeling completely uplifted.

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Picture courtesy of Pudsey Parish Church on Facebook

You’d be forgiven for not realising that I was a Christian. When I was at school, being a Christian or even mentioning the J word would have people rounding on you like nobody’s business. It didn’t change my beliefs, but it did make me very quiet and reluctant to express them. And even though I left school 8 years ago, I still carry that feeling around with me.

But Archbishop John Sentamu flicked a switch in me last night. Why should I be ashamed to be a Christian? No matter how many people try to say that this is a secular country, it’s not. We’re a Christian country and we have a right to be proud of that. I realised last night that I’ve become one of the ‘floppy handed’ Christians that the Archbishop talked about. This is something that I’m not pleased with, and I’m ready to change.

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Halfway through last night, a couple of booklets were given out. One for those who wanted to start a new life with God and one for those who wanted to be filled with the spirit, with the option for people to choose both, which I did. I haven’t yet read them, but I feel like they’ll contain what I need to refresh my life and help me to kick out the bad things so that (in the words of last night), I can get my torch working again, in other words, I can let my light shine through Jesus and in his name, and can be proud to be doing so.

I haven’t been to Church for quite some time, making excuses like I’ve got other things to do, and it doesn’t matter if I go because I know that I still believe, but I think that now’s the time for me to return. That feeling of being in a group of fellow believers who are all sharing the same experience with you and feeling the love of God in the room was something that I had lost sight of until last night. And I want it back.

Standing in a room full of 200-300 people singing Amazing Grace gave me chills like I’ve never felt before.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

So thank you to Pudsey Parish Church for giving me an experience I’ll never forget, and bringing me to a turning point in my life.

Review: Chris Hadfield – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

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WP_20150504_10_11_26_ProI’ve been very intrigued by this book since I first saw it in hardback on one of my many trips to Waterstones, but with my ever-growing pile of books to read, I’ve never got around to buying it. But I figured it was about time to learn a little more about space and what it’s like to be an astronaut.

It’s something you think about when you’re a child; how cool it would be to go to space. But as an adult (or at least me as an adult), you just think about how scary it must be to do something like that. But you never really think about how hard it is to actually become an astronaut, how much training and dedication is involved before you even get remotely close to being able to go into space.

But Chris Hadfield knows all too well, and in this brilliantly written book, he gives us an insight into his world. He’s flown on both the American space shuttle and the Russian Soyuz capsule and even helped to build the ISS. Pretty cool, right?

I learnt many things while reading this book, like I didn’t realise how ‘new’ the International Space Station was, less than 20 years. I’d always figured it had been up there for ages. And of course, we learn the things that everyone wonders, like how do you pee in space?

If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I definitely would. Funny, insightful and inspiring, I’d recommend this to absolutely everyone, in fact, I’ve just given it to Cameron so that he can read it straight away!

5/5

Review: C.S. Lewis – The Horse and His Boy

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WP_20150504_10_11_33_ProIt’s been about a week since I finished reading this book, and I just haven’t got around to reviewing it, probably because of the same reason it took me over a month on and off to actually read it; I just didn’t find it exciting.

The start of the book seemed very slow, and the fact that the start didn’t seem to relate in any way to the previous two books just left me feeling cold and I didn’t feel any impetus to pick the book up. And when I did, I could manage about 15-20 pages before I put it down out of sheer lack of interest.

But anyway, I did finally persevere through to the end, but I think I can safely say that this book was definitely not my favourite! In fact, it’s slightly put me off moving on to Narnia book 4 for the moment, I think I need a break to clear my head before I start up again. I’m just hoping that when I get back to it, it pulls me in with a bit more oomph!

1/5