Nick Page – A Nearly Infallible History of the Reformation

A Nearly Infallible History of the Reformation

I started reading two books about the reformation at a similar time, and they are very very different books. The other (which I’m still reading) is very dry and serious and hard to get into, but Nick Page manages to take a topic (like Church history) which could be quite boring or unexciting and make it a joy to read.

Filled with amusing little sketches and footnotes which frequently made me laugh out loud and interrupt my husband to make him read them too, Page really brought the history to life and made me eager continue learning.

I also really enjoyed the fact-files of major ‘characters’ of the reformation, styled like top-trump cards (if you remember those), they really helped to reinforce the people in my mind, so many names that I’d never heard of but are central to shaping the way that we worship in our Church now.

Starting this book, I am ashamed to say that I knew absolutely nothing of the reformation, I had always thought that the protestant/catholic split was instigated by Henry VIII, but the history of it starts much before that and doesn’t even originate in England. I received a really worthwhile history lesson from this book, and it was way more fun than high-school history lessons!

As much as I was sad for the book to be over, I liked this quote that Page used in his wrapping up chapter:

“One of the key lessons to be learned from the reformation is this: if you ask people to think for themselves, don’t be surprised when they do exactly that”

At 464 pages, it’s a lengthy book, but because of the writing style, it felt like it was over all too soon. I would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about the reformation and I’m very glad I’ve got 2 other Nick Page books to move onto next!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 464
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 29th June 2017 – 30th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.44
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Adrian Plass – Blind Spots in the Bible

Blind Spots in the Bible

Please don’t judge this book by how long it took me to read it! It lends itself really well to being read in small chunks so I’ve been reading it a small part at a time while waiting for the shower to get hot, which means it’s take a long time, but it’s also prolonged the enjoyment and given me time to mull over each snippet I’ve read.

The book takes what are mostly familiar passages from the Bible and points out small parts of it that either we don’t tend to notice, or that we notice and tend to avoid. Maybe because the sentence is unobtrusive, or maybe because thinking about it in too much depth would be difficult.

Each one starts with the Bible reading, then Adrian’s commentary of it, followed by a short prayer. Adrian’s commentary (as is the case in his other books) was insightful but relatable, using his own life experiences to add context to the readings. At times full of humour, sometimes satire or just downright honest, I really enjoy Adrian’s style of writing.

It was a great way to dive deeper into passages which I have read many times before and felt like I understood, the different perspectives were eye-opening. It has definitely made me want to go back to other passages that I am maybe too familiar with and try and read them more critically/analyse them a bit deeper to see if I have truly understood what is being said.

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2006
Number of Pages: 160
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 8th April 2017 – 27th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.94
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Timothy Keller – The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

“The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints”

I was persuaded into buying this book when someone posted it on Facebook as it’s currently only 99p on Kindle. A couple of days before, I’d had a really awkward 30 minute train journey sat next to an ardent (and argumentative) atheist who spent the entire journey trying to pick holes in my faith. All I can say is I really wish I’d read this book before that encounter and not after.

The book is compiled of two parts; a list of commonly held doubts or questions about the Christian faith, and refutations for those doubts, followed by a list of reasons why we believe. It was written in a really accessible and straightforward way, so it would be perfect for non-believers as well as those who just want to know how to speak to them.

I highlighted so many key verses while I was reading this book that it’s hard to pick out just one or two, but I think these are the ones that stuck with me the most:

“C.S. Lewis gives us another metaphor for knowing the truth about God when he writes that he believes in God ‘as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else’.”

I’ve heard this quote a few times in the past, but it’s a perfect explanation to give to someone when they ask you to explain why you believe.

“Sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God”

I’ve never really thought about it like this before. The word “sin” to me always brings to mind being ‘naughty’ or disobeying commands, but putting things like money, possessions, fame or popularity in the place of God and worshipping them is exactly the same.

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time”.

As a Christian reading this sentence, it just reminded me of how loved I am as a child of God and how no matter what I may feel, I can be confident in this identity.

As I said before, this book is still 99p on Kindle at the moment, so I’d highly recommend it if like me, you’d like a bit more ‘oomph’ behind you when you’re talking to people who don’t believe, especially those as forceful as my lovely train companion!

 

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2007
Number of Pages: 332
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 17th June 2018 – 27th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.18
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Joanna Hickson – Red Rose, White Rose

Red Rose, White Rose

I’m torn with my opinion on this book, I really am. For huge parts of the book the plot was fast paced and kept me engrossed, but then there were times when it felt like a huge slog to keep turning the pages, and in the end it took me over a month to finish reading because I just didn’t feel that ‘urge’ to pick the book up and keep reading.

I’ve not read much historical fiction like this, so I’m not sure if it’s the genre I don’t get on with or just this book, so don’t take my 3 star review too seriously as it might just not be the genre for me.

Personally, I found the main character Cicely a tad unrelatable, and for the other point of view, Cuthbert, I spent most of the book wondering why we needed his perspective. If the book needed a split perspective, I would have rather had a Cicely/Richard split, so we could have some more action included. Since most of the book centered around Cicely’s marriage, it would have been good to see her husband’s point of view too.

The other thing that really bothered me is that the book jumped huge amounts of time with hardly a mention, and I found it really hard to keep up with what year we were moving from and to, which was slightly disconcerting.

On the plus side, I did really enjoy reading a different type of book to my normal young adult/fantasy books. And although I know that it was fiction, I did like the fact that it was based in history and you could get a sense of life 500 years ago. I’ve never really known much about the war of the roses, so it was nice to learn a bit more (although I’m not sure how much to take as fact!).

I have a few Philippa Gregory books that have been sat on my shelf for ages, so I think I will have to read these soon to try and gauge my opinion on the historical fiction genre in general, maybe trying a few different authors will help!

My Rating: 3/5
Year Published: 2014
Number of Pages: 400
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 19th May 2018 – 25th May 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.73
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Roald Dahl – Matilda

Matilda

One of my ‘Book Bingo’ challenges this year is to re-read a childhood favourite, and how could it be anything other than Matilda? I read this book so many times as a child that my copy is falling to pieces (as you can probably tell from the picture), and I’ve watched the film more times than I can count.

What I had forgotten since last time I read this book was how many beautiful illustrations were in it.

As I was reading, my husband said to me ‘Do you think they’ll ever re-print Roald Dahl books without Quentin Blake illustrations?’, and I think the answer is honestly no. His illustrations are so perfect for the story and they evoke very particular emotions as you look at them. And I think this one may have been drawn specifically for me:

In fact, when I was younger, I used to think this book had been written just for me, as I loved to read just as much as Matilda did (although not quite as young as she was).

Reading the book again was a great way to reminisce on my childhood, and relive the story without all the americanisation of the film. Trying to pick a favourite part of the story is really quite hard, but it probably has to be the end.

When Mrs Trunchbull finally gets her come-uppance, Mrs Honey finally gets her life back, and Matilda gets a guardian who truly cares for her.

This book definitely is (and probably always will be) my favourite Roald Dahl book, it’s just perfect.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 1988
Number of Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 16th June 2018 – 16th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.29
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Anthony Horowitz – Stormbreaker

Stormbreaker

It’s been a while since I listened to an audio-book, but since I’ve been spending so long going out walking or on public transport, I thought that getting back into audio-books would be a good way of getting through more books this year.

I saw the Stormbreaker film when it was released ages ago, but have never read any of the book series, and since the audio book was less than 6 hours long, it seemed like a good fit to get back into it again.

The narrator (Oliver Chris) had a great speaking voice, although his ‘Prime Minister’ voice sounded suspiciously like a bad Tony Blair impression! He kept me engaged through the book and never grated on me like some readers have done in the past.

I think it helped that I had already seen the film of this book as I had visualisations for the characters in my head, but I have to admit that I’d forgotten a lot of the plot!

I thought the book was well paced and the action was well spaced out so it wasn’t non-stop, but likewise it was never boring either. The pace picked up towards the end, to the point where I was so engrossed that I ended up staying in the bath far longer than I should have because I didn’t want to get out until it had finished.

I’m just disappointed that book 2 of this series is reserved on my library app until mid-July, so it might be a while until I can continue on in the series!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2000
Number of Pages: 256
Format: Audiobook
Date Read: 2nd May 2018 – 15th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.97
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Robert C. Martin – The Clean Coder

The Clean Coder

A book about how to be a ‘professional programmer’. I was a bit worried that this book would be a bit ‘dry’ like other techy books I’ve read, but it was written in a way that kept me really engaged. The author added lots of personal anecdotes in his writing which made it easy to relate to, and I’m really glad I was lent/recommended it by my colleagues.

I felt like I learnt quite a lot from this book – even though most of it felt like common sense after I’d read it, some of it I’d never even considered before.  Things like how you should tailor your language when you speak to people to make sure you’re actually on the same page and not just assuming that they know what you mean – saying “I’ll try” for instance means two different things to the sayer and the listener. I’m definitely guilty of using that phrase a little too much in the past.

The book gives tips on how to manage your time, how to deal with conflict, how to avoid burnout, and how to create ‘thriving’ teams. I found the chapter about estimating quite fascinating, I’ve never even considered some of the techniques for estimating that he discussed – much better than a finger in the air!

I’m a little torn between giving this book 4 or 5 stars. For me, the book seemed to end quite abruptly which left me feeling a bit disappointed. One minute I was reading about the authors current choice of ‘tools’, and then I turned the page and it was over. I kind of expected some sort of conclusion perhaps.

At points, some of the recommendations the author makes seem a bit ambitious, but with the way that processes have changed for me at work in the last year or so, the sky is the limit!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 210
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 24th May 2018 – 12th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.27
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Angie Thomas – The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

Beautifully written, raw, passionate and hard-hitting, and heart-breaking that this book is inspired by real experiences, far too many real experiences.

“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, Starr. It means you go on even though you’re scared.”

I don’t even know how to go about reviewing this book, as I’m so far removed from the realities of this story that I would feel kind of like an interloper. I feel this book is (and already has been) such an important book in terms of drawing more attention to these injustices.

When you hear about it on the news, it feels so matter of fact and so distant that it doesn’t always hit you in the way it should, but this book was so full of emotion that I felt like I was with Starr every step of the way and feeling every feeling with her. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried multiple times reading this book.

There’s been so much hype given to this book in the press and in the awards, and usually that would make me reticent to pick it up, but I really feel like this book needs to be read by as many people as possible. I’m not saying it can change the world, but it sure can make people think differently and be less quick to judge.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 438
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 6th June 2018 – 6th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.56
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Milly Johnson – The Birds and The Bees

The Birds and The Bees

I read a blog post that Milly wrote this week about how so-called ‘chick-lit’ is always overlooked by celebrity book clubs, in favour of ‘proper literature’. And I really don’t know why. I love Milly Johnson for the fact that you can completely lose yourself in the story and it becomes a movie in your mind.

Yes, you can pretty much always tell how the story is going to end, but I honestly don’t care, because for me it’s all about the journey of how you get there, and Milly’s books are never predictable.

I loved the characters of Stevie and Adam, and Jo and Matthew were so well written that it was really easy to hate them. Milly definitely has a knack for writing characters that are so up themselves that they just can’t see how horrible they’re being to the people around them.

I was on tenterhooks for the entire book waiting to see if Adam and Stevie would see through the lies that they had been fed by their delightful ex-partners and see how perfect they were for each other.

I binged this book in one day, the first day of our holiday. I was up 3 hours before anyone else so enjoyed the peace and quiet and binged almost the whole thing before breakfast. Another book really well written by Milly, I’m just disappointed that I’ve almost read them all now – good job there’s a new one coming out just before my birthday!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 440
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 3rd June 2018 – 3rd June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.16
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Liz Flanagan – Eden Summer

Liz Flanagan

So first of all, Eden Summer was maybe not the best name to choose for a book – I just searched on Waterstones website to get a link to the book and it turns out Eden Summer is the name of an erotic fiction writer – so if you tell people you’re reading Eden Summer and they give you a funny look, you know why!

I picked this book because it was set in Hebden Bridge and I like reading ‘local’ books. I’ve been going through a bit of a Young Adult spell at the moment so this kind of appealed to me for that reason too.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t really get on with the book, the style of writing was just not for me. The book starts off with Eden going missing, and then most of the rest of the book is told via flashbacks, and sometimes flashbacks from within flashbacks. I felt like it really affected the pace of the story for me – we were getting so much information of the history of the book, but none of the drama of Eden actually being missing.

I got to the end of the book and I was a little bit disappointed that nothing more happened, it just felt like a complete anti-climax at the end. Probably more a fault of it being aimed at teenagers rather than more dramatic novels I’ve read like The Girl on the Train, but I was expecting more.

I’m not going to say don’t read it as I can see how other people would enjoy it, but it just wasn’t for me.

My Rating: 2/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 289
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 13th May 2018 – 19th May 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.68
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