Category: Books (Page 1 of 45)

Patrick Ness – A Monster Calls

I really had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up, my friend bought me a Blind Date with a Book voucher for my birthday and this was one of the choices I was sent. The clues were:

  • Heartfelt
  • Profound Fantasy
  • Courage
  • Healing
  • Truth
  • Young Adult

I woke up early yesterday because of the clocks going back, and I had two hours sat reading quietly by myself before anyone else woke up, and it turns out that was just long enough to devour this book in one sitting – the only thing missing was a cup of tea!

The book was moving in so many ways, for the whole last half of the book, I was reading with tears in my eyes and by the end, I just couldn’t hold them in. One of the clues to the book may have been ‘profound’, but I underestimated just how much.

The book deals with grief and anger in such a raw and moving way, I imagine everyone experiences it differently, but for me I found parts of it so hard to read as they triggered emotions in me that I’ve been trying to suppress.

I actually can’t write a proper review because every time I think of what I read, it makes me tear up again. Major warning: this book will make you think of those close to you that you’ve lost, and open the well of grief that you may have thought you’d escaped from. But still, I would 100% recommend it, a truly important book.

My rating: 5/5Average rating: 4.37
237 pages. Published in: 2011
Read in Paperbackon 28th October 2018

Lee Cockerell – The Customer Rules

I bought this book to read as I thought it would give me some insights into providing better service at work. I’m not on the support department, but I think it’s important for everyone to know how best we can help the clients we’re working with.

Unfortunately for me, this book was quite focused around customer service jobs in the retail and hospitality areas, rather than customer service in a technical support capacity. Some of the ideas carry over, but some didn’t feel as relevant. To be expected though, when the book is written by the former Executive Vice President of Operations at Disney World.

To paraphrase a few of the rules in the book:

Customer service is far more than a department name, and great service  is not just about what we do; it’s also about what we are. It’s a personal responsibility. And it’s not the responsibility only of people called customer service reps. Great service is a competitive advantage that costs you little or nothing but adds huge value for your customer. Satisfied customers are the best marketing staff you can possibly have.

This was kind of what I expected when I picked up this book, information about how customer service is a company-wide responsibility. The quote below struck a chord with me as self-learning is something that I’ve lacked in previous years, but I’m trying to improve on now.

Basically, the organizations with the best service are ones that become environments of continuous learning, at every level of the company. But don’t blame your supervisor or your company if you do not have the knowledge and skills you ought to have.

This one also resounded with me too, another thing that I’m trying hard to work on.

Failing to truly listen to others is just a bad habit, and it’s one most of us have to some degree. It’s all too easy to talk too much and listen much too little.

I’m sure we can all relate to the following quote. It’s been 4 years since I worked in direct customer contact, but I can still remember instances where customers drove me to the point of despair with how rude or awkward they were being, and this is definitely something to keep in mind.

Just as we sometimes feel frustrated or infuriated by people in our own families, it’s normal to sometimes get aggravated by our customers. None of it matters. Make each of them feel special anyway. So the louder they get, the quieter you should get. The more agitated they become, the calmer you should become. As the old saying goes, “When you argue with an idiot, there are two idiots.”

I’ll finish with this final quote:

Better is not a destination; it is a journey. You never arrive at better; it is always in the future, because there is always an even better way to serve your customers.

My rating: 3/5Average rating: 4.06
209 pages. Published in: 2013
Read in E-bookon 25th October 2018

Scott Lynch – The Lies of Locke Lamora

I have really mixed feelings about this book which I am finding quite hard to process. Now that I’ve got to the end, if you asked me what I thought, I’d tell you that I absolutely loved it, that it was fast paced and exciting and had so many twists that I just couldn’t guess what was going to happen next.

But if you’d asked me a few days ago while I was still less than half way through the book, I’d tell you that I was struggling with it being quite slow to get in to, and some parts of it seemed quite long and drawn out and I wasn’t really engaged with the plot at all.

Overall for me, I think the latter two-thirds of the book outweight the first, so I will definitely go on to read the second book in the series, I just wish the first part had been a bit more exciting. I understand that there was a lot of back-story to unravel and a lot of setup before we could get to the heart-racing action towards the end, but I did almost give up at one point.

One thing that I think really affected the pacing towards the start of the book was the ‘interludes’, which seemed to come quite often in order to give some back-story about the Gentlemen Bastard’s history, and I could see why they were needed in order for us to understand some of the decisions that were being made, but for me it felt like there were too many of them.

Books like The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson make use of interludes, but there are far fewer of them (although they are longer), and they seem to have less of an effect on the pacing of the overall story.

As I said, now that I’ve finished, I will definitely go on to read the second book in this series, and I’m hoping that it will be a bit more gripping all the way through!

My rating: 4/5Average rating: 4.3
530 pages. Published in: 2006
Read in Paperbackon 17th-25th October 2018

Heydon Pickering – Inclusive Design Patterns

I’ve always found the topic of accessiblity an interesting one, and I this book had so many great ideas that I ended up turning it into the basis of a lightning talk at work.

I really appreciated that each section started off with typical bad practices, then shows you how to change what you’ve done to make it fully inclusive. It also includes the reasons why what you were doing wasn’t the correct way to go about things, and why their suggested way is better.

“The best part is that designing inclusive interfaces, like designing robust data schemas, doesn’t have to be any harder or more complex than making exclusive or otherwise obsolete ones.”

I found the descriptions of inclusive design particulary enlightening. I’d always just assumed that it was for people with sight problems, but being inclusive is about way more than that. Inclusive means including everyone, regardless of ability (physical or mental). But it also means being inclusive of those on slower/more expensive internet connections (as developers we often forget that not everyone is as lucky as we are in terms of access).

“Everybody is a keyboard user when eating with their mouse hand”

I would highly recommend this book to anyone involved in building websites, even if you think you know everything there is to know about inclusive design, I’m sure that this book will still be able to teach you something. And if you’re a complete novice, the HTML examples given throughout are extremely helpful in making you understand what’s going on.


My rating: 5/5Average rating: 4.3
271 pages. Published in: 2016
Read in E-bookon 5th-14th October 2018

Brandon Sanderson – Snapshot

I think at this point, you’re probably fed up of me giving glowing reviews to Brandon Sanderson books, and I’m not sorry to say that this will be another.

Quite a departure from the last Sanderson book I read, this one was only 130 pages long, and far from being a fantasy epic, was a mini sci-fi detective story. It makes me sad that Sanderson can seemingly turn his hand to any genre he likes and write an amazing book, when I don’t have the imagination or skills to write anything.

With it only being such a short book, there’s not much time for back-story or character development, but it’s not many pages before you’re completely aware of the ‘snapshot’ system and invested in Davis and Chaz (a Chas and Dave reference perhaps?)

As you can expect, the drama unfolds pretty quickly and there were some pretty big plot twists at the end. In the prologue, Sanderson explains that he thought they would be obvious to the reader, but I didn’t have a clue, in fact, I had to read the last bits a couple of times to unpick what had happened, but then I could look back and see the clues that had been given.

A world where you can travel into a snapshot of previous events sounds great, when you can go back to the scene of a crime after it happened, you can get further evidence and witnesses that you otherwise might not have found. But as with any time-travel situation, you can also create ‘deviations’ from the true events, and they can be hard to manage. These were central to the story in a big way (no spoilers).

Now that it’s finished, I’m sad that it was such a short book, I’d love to delve into this further and spend more time exploring the technicalites of snapshotting, but I don’t think this will be the case.

My rating: 5/5Average rating: 4.06
129 pages. Published in: 2017
Read in Hardbackon 7th October 2018
Arani Sen - Holy Spirit Radicals

Arani Sen – Holy Spirit Radicals

I ordered this book after we did a group reading plan of the book of Acts with my Church Life Group over the summer, and this popped up as an advert in my Facebook feed: it seemed like it was placed there for a reason!

Written by the vicar of Christchurch in Armley, it’s a great book filled with insight on the book of Acts and how we can apply it to helping the undervalued and underappreciated in our communities.

“Luke asks the question: how can we claim to be in Christ Jesus united by the Spirit, if some of our members suffer because of poverty, lack of opportunity or don’t have food on their plates? How can we see ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ if some are homeless, while others have so much? The early church forfeited their own comfort and ownership of property for the common good.”

Each chapter of the book is centered around one chapter of Acts and filled with challenges to our comfortable lives, giving us plenty to think about what our responses should be.

“The challenge is to bring about change creatively, not being afraid of adapting, being wiling to take risks and move forward in the Holy Spirit’s power. Change is not easy to manage, and congregations often do not like change. It takes time to transform the culture of a church: patience will be needed. Having a clear vision, a mission statement and knowing which direction we are going sets us well on the road to recovery.”

A lot of the book seemed to tie in very well with things we’ve been talking and thinking about at my Church recently, in particular how we can be more outward facing to our community and help those who are feeling broken by life.

“In short, God’s church is for all God’s people. It expresses the kingdom values of justice, mercy and acceptance. It should be a reflection of heaven, where God’s rule has finally broken in. It should be a place where there is no more poverty, pain, suffering, inequality, where all races live together in peace, women and men, there are no marginalised people or groups, no hunger, sickness or depression”.

After feeling like I was ‘meant’ to buy the book on seeing the advert, I truly feel like this book came into my life at a great time. So much of what I was reading felt like a direct challenge to myself, and I have so much to think about. I’m very lucky to worship in a more affluent church, but reading so many stories of great things coming from inner city churches was so inspiring.

“Each of us is called to be Jesus’ agent of grace, to be willing to venture towards the people he draws us to, in order to help them find life-transforming love, acceptance and security”.

I will whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, I feel like if more people read this book and felt compelled to take action from it, we could truly transform the society we live in.

My rating: 5/5Average rating: 5
200 pages. Published in: 2018
Read in Paperbackon 29th September – 7th October 2018

Rebekah Crane – The Infinite Pieces of Us

I consumed this book in one sitting as I found the characters so well described and relatable that I had to know what was going to happen. I actually was on a train that was delayed for over half an hour, but I didn’t mind as I just wanted to finish the book before I had to get off!

The book starts with Esther and her family moving to a place called Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. It’s hinted quite heavily that Esther is the reason they had to move, and I made a guess what I thought the reason would be long before it was actually revealed. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a plot twist or not, but it didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of the book.

The book revolves around Esther, along with her newfound friends, trying to find her way back to the reason she had to leave. It was actually Esther’s friends who I found to be the most interesting characters, Color, Moss, Jesus and Beth all such different characters and each damaged in their own way, but able to help each other find healing.

A great book, very easy to read and a lovely way to lose myself for a few hours.

My rating: 4/5Average rating: 4.02
237 pages. Published in: 2018
Read in E-Bookon 4th October 2018

Ashley & Leslie Saunders – The Rule of One

I thought the premise of this book was so promising. A future America where the world’s resources have been abused to such a point that each family is only allowed one child to try and safeguard the future of the planet (or what’s left of it).

Humankind is everything’s and everyone’s most dangerous predator. Blindly killing its own planet, slowly wounding it over the centuries. Forcing my generation to mop up the blood.

So there lies the problem for Ava and Mira – they’re twins. Their whole lives they’ve spent trying to hide their secret from the Guard, sharing Ava’s official identity and taking it in turns to be the one that leaves the basement and go to school etc.

But when Halton, the Governor’s son, realises that there are two Ava’s and not one, Ava and Mira find themselves on the run while their dad is sent to trial for treason against the government. It seems like their dad may have planned for this moment as he has left them a trail to follow to escape from America and into Canada where they will be safe.

Sounds interesting, right? And mostly it was. But I found myself lacking any kind of connection to the two characters, they seemed flat and emotionless. And because I had no connection to the characters, the excitement and drama was lost for me so I didn’t feel the same sort of peril that they did when they were almost caught again and again.

I would have loved the characters to be a bit deeper. The chapters alternated viewpoints between the two girls, but because they were so flat, I found it hard to figure out which character I was reading and having to jump back to the start of the chapter to read the title and figure it out.

My other problem is that the book just seemed too short so we jumped around quite a lot, I would have liked more descriptions of their travels and the time they spent with other people, but it felt a bit ‘glossed over’. Considering the whole book was about them being ‘on the run’, we didn’t spend much time reading about them actually travelling.

Then we get to the conclusion, and the ‘plot twist’ wasn’t that surprising to me, you could tell through the book that this was setting up to be a series by how slowly it was moving. I think I was about 80% through before the real action began, so the climax of the book felt very rushed and left me feeling disappointed to tell the truth.

My rating: 3/5Average rating: 3.9
258 pages. Published in: 2018
Read in E-Bookon 2nd-4th October 2018
Sheryl Sandberg - Lean In Women, Work and the Will to Lead

Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

The subject of women in the workplace is something that has always interested me, especially coming from a career where for the first 8 years I never worked with another female web developer – all my female colleagues were either PAs/account managers or graphic designers. I’m really lucky now working for a team that is almost 50% women (and really awesome women at that).

This book is written by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg and in it she talks about the struggles she’s had as a woman in a high-powered career. The book is chock-full of statistics to back up the claims that she was making, but also balanced with personal anecdotes. I appreciated the statistics and references as I can imagine that some people would think some of the facts were exaggerated (sadly not).

“How can I do better?” “What am I doing that I don’t know?” “What am I not doing that I don’t see?” These questions can lead to so many benefits. And believe me, the truth hurts. Even when I have solicited feedback, any judgement can feel harsh. But the upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance.

As you can imagine, there were many quotes in this book that stood out as things that should be remembered and repeated until we get to a point where women are treated equally and fairly in all areas of work.

Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding that sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others.

One of the things that bothered me slightly about the book was that it was definitely aimed at people in more high-flying careers. Understandable, since that is the life that Sheryl has lived, but some of it did feel a bit alien to me, and a lot of the tips that she gave for dealing with problems would just be unrealistic for most people.

Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.

Only a short book, I’d recommend this to anyone who finds this topic interesting. Written 5 years ago, sadly I don’t think a huge amount has changed, but if we keep talking about it, we’ll get there eventually.

My rating: 4/5Average rating: 3.95
240 pages. Published in: 2013
Read in E-Bookon 22nd-29th September 2018

Milly Johnson – The Perfectly Imperfect Woman

I will never get tired of reading Milly Johnson’s books. There’s something about them that feels like being wrapped in a warm hug and being surrounded by your best friends. The main characters are always written so beautifully that you feel like you’ve known them forever, and the ‘bad guys’ are always completely relateable to the b*****ds that you’ve known in real life.

I have two favourite things about this book. Firstly, the setting. Wychwell sounded like such a magical place to be, I really wished I could visit. And on a related note, the map of Wychwell included at the end of the book was a lovely touch, it was great to be able to get the village set out in my mind and follow Marnie on her travels around the village.

Secondly, Marnie’s relationships. And I’m not talking about her relationships with cheating dirtbags. Her relationship with the eccentric Lillian was my absolute favourite. And while I appreciated the scandinavian love interest, that relationship felt absolutely secondary compared to Marnie & Lillian. That relationship was so special that it brought me to tears (no spoilers as to why though).

Seeing Marnie gradually grow stronger with the help of other people from the village, and seeing her help mend those characters too made this feel like much more than just a romance, it was a recovery, giving Marnie the family that she never had, but always deserved. And all from a chance meeting on an internet chat room – who’d have thought?!



My rating: 4/5Average rating: 4.4
400 pages. Published in: 2018
Read in Paperbackon 22nd-23rd September 2018

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