Paul Williams & Barry Cooper – If You Could Ask God One Question

If You Could Ask God One Question

I’ve had this book on my Amazon wishlist for ages, and my lovely sister bought it for me for Christmas. It’s something that I’ve been asked a few times this year on the various courses I’ve done at Church – If you could ask God one question, what would it be? I always struggle with this to find a question that doesn’t sound stupid, but a lot of the questions I think of are included in this book.

The questions include things like ‘If you are there, why don’t you just prove it?’ and ‘What about people who believe in other religions?’.

The book is intended to be read as a book, not just to skip to your particular question and then leave it, as some answers refer to previous questions in order to be answered fully.

All the questions were answered with a strong grounding in the Bible, with references provided for all the points that the authors made, which I loved as it felt like they’d properly researched the book and weren’t just making it up as they went along, which is always a worry when buying a book like this from authors you’ve never heard of.

I did feel like some of the questions weren’t answered fully; if I was coming to this as a brand new Christian, or even someone with no faith at all, I might have felt a little disappointed by a couple of the answers. But most questions were answered very sufficiently, and I did find myself nodding my head and saying ‘ahhhhh yes’ at certain points.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who has questions about their faith that they haven’t been able to find the answer to, as this could definitely help. You can pick up a copy very cheaply on Amazon – just check out the links at the right!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2007
Number of Pages: 128
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 27th December 2016 – 28th December 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.78
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Tom Fletcher – The Christmasaurus

The Christmasaurus

Following Tom Fletcher on Instagram and Twitter, I’ve heard a lot about this book in the run up to its release and the subsequent praise that it received, so when I saw it on offer at Costco, I just couldn’t resist. I love reading Christmassy books in the run up to Christmas, and this one was perfect.

Although it’s a kids book, I didn’t find that it was written in a childish tone, although there were quite a few silly jokes and made up words which made me giggle, and I can imagine that a child would find them hilarious. When I’d been hearing about it, I assumed it would be a short book, but it was a 384 page novel. Saying that, I did finish it in two sittings, I just couldn’t stop turning the pages, and obviously the writing was a bit larger than a normal novel.

I loved Fletcher’s imagination in creating the characters and plot of this book, I was transfixed the whole way through, it was completely magical. I’d definitely recommend this as an ideal Christmas book for children and adults alike.

P.s. I know that my book reviews have been a bit lacklustre lately, and it’s taking me ages after I finish reading the book to actually post the review, which means I lose a bit of my excitement when I write the review. It’s my new years resolution to be a better blogger next year, so keep reading!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 384
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 15th December 2016 – 16th December 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.43
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Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

I can’t believe I’m so far behind the trend on this book. I heard everyone raving about it when it first came out, and I was in the middle of other books so I didn’t read it. Then the film came out, and I still didn’t read it. And by the time I finally got around to reading it, the only covers they had left for the book were the movie-tie-in covers, which I always hate to buy!

But cover snobbery aside, I LOVED this book. It took me quite a while to read as I was only reading it on my commute, and the whole time I was scared someone was going to give me a spoiler since it’s so old now!

I think this is the first book in absolutely ages where I have been completely unable to guess the ‘whodunnit’. I was wavering rapidly back and forth between two of the characters, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!

When the mystery started to come together, my heart was racing and I turned the pages greedily, desperate to reach the conclusion. And wow, I definitely didn’t expect the conclusion to be as bloody as it was!

But skipping back to the start of the book, I couldn’t help but feel an instant connection to Rachel. She’s an alcoholic, but she knows that she’s an alcoholic and she’s desperately trying (and repeatedly failing) to change. For this reason, you can’t help but feel sorry for her. And as the story starts to unfold, you begin to understand what brought her to her current sad situation. The other women are equally pitiable and it’s quite hard to start with to decide which side you should be on!

I won’t say much more as I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t yet read it either, but I would really recommend this book, and would love to know if you were as unable to guess the culprit as I was!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 1st December 2016 – 8th December 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.87
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Veronica Henry – How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

It’s my ultimate dream, to run my own bookshop. So when Emilia’s father dies and she returns home to the Cotswolds to take over the running of his little bookshop, and she can’t decide whether she should keep it running or not, I was screaming at the book for her to make the right decision!

I adored Emilia, as soon as I started reading I felt like she could be one of my best friends, she’s going through such a tough time that I just wanted to give her a hug.

But I would have enjoyed the book much more if it had focused more closely on Emilia, but there were a few other storylines intermingled into Emilia’s – some of which were closely related, some not so much. For me personally, there was just a bit too much going on, which is why I couldn’t give the book five out of five.

I could tell that I hadn’t loved the book as I didn’t feel that urge to keep picking it up and reading it like I do when I truly love a book. I just wasn’t engrossed in it like I have been with my favourite books in the past.

My Rating: 3/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 20th November 2016 – 6th December 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.05
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Emma Jane Kirby – The Optician of Lampedusa

The Optician of Lampedusa

For all those people who think that ‘immigrants are coming over here to get our benefits and our jobs’. For all those people who say that they are stupid to risk their lives coming over here. For all those people who think the migrant crisis can be ignored. For all those people who couldn’t care less. This book is for you. And it is essential reading.

For this book is not an easy read. It’s not a nice fluffy bedtime story that is going to leave you feeling warm and cosy inside. It’s a harrowing tale of one man’s experience with a group of migrants. A single group out of the many who have endured the same fate.

The optician has been looking forward to the summer boat trip with his friends for ages, and as he wakes up after the first night at sea, he curses the seagulls who are shrieking all too loud. But as he gets out of bed and drinks his first cup of coffee, he realises that those sounds are not seagulls, but the shrieks of dying people screaming for help. And so the optician’s nightmare begins.

We’ve all heard on the news about the sinking of migrant boats, but it can feel distant and hard to understand the true horror. But Kirby has done an excellent job of telling the opticians story in a way that is impossible to forget. I sat on the bus openly weeping for an hour yesterday morning because I just couldn’t believe what I was reading, but I also couldn’t forget that this isn’t fiction. It’s real. It’s still happening.

I don’t know what drew me to buying this book, I think it was partially due to the fact that Waterstones are donating £5 to Oxfam for every copy sold, so I thought I’d have nothing to lose. But I can honestly say that this book will haunt me. It’s impossible not to be affected by the beautifully written prose, and I will recommend this book to everyone.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 117
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 16th November 2016 – 18th November 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.28
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Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams – She Reads Truth

She Reads Truth

The anticipation for this book was immense. I heard about the book when it was first announced on the She Reads Truth website, I eventually got around to pre-ordering it a month before it came out, but Amazon made me wait until an entire month after the release date before I actually got my hands on it! I don’t know why it took so long, but when it arrived I was dying to read it!!

And like the She Reads Truth reading plans I’ve been following for the past year, it did not disappoint. The subtitle for the book is ‘Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away‘, and (as I interpreted it), it was all about making sure that you anchor your life on the things that matter (i.e. God), and not on the things that are unimportant; all those things we make such a fuss about, but that in the end, we can’t take with us.

Threaded through the book are very personal narratives from the two authors. In the book, they’ve laid themselves completely bare, and it made me feel totally connected to them in a way I haven’t in a book for a long time.

In thinking about what quotes I wanted to pull in here from the book, I was left with way too many to list all my favourites. But what I will leave you with is my absolute favourite quote, which I read on the bus on the way home from work. It spoke to me so deeply, and I read it over and over again on that journey thinking that the book was speaking directly to my heart.

“In God’s Word I’m reminded that I don’t secure my standing before him by any guarantees I make, or even those I manage to keep. I am secure because He holds me in the safety of His covenant, the same covenant he has kept for generations past and will keep for generations to come.

The promises I make to God don’t impress him. They don’t score bonus points in some heavenly account. Ultimately only one promise is necessary, only one guarantee is required: The promise he’s made to me. And that promise has already been kept, sealed, for eternity. I can rest in it. I can stop making my own.”

Every Christian woman should read this book. It was the best read I’ve had in ages, and spoke so many truths to my heart about His Truth.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 200
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 12th November 2016 – 16th November 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.45
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Denise Grover Swank – The Substitute

The Substitute

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I decided to read it on a whim while I was stuck in traffic on a bus and I’d forgotten to bring my paperback with me, so I quickly loaded up the top free books list on the Kindle app, and the cover for this one jumped out at me as I’m currently preparing for my wedding next year.

In many ways, this was the perfect romantic story. But the cynical part of me just couldn’t help scoffing that everything seemed to fall into place way too perfectly.

I found Megan’s character a little spineless. I mean, if you’ve split up with your fiance, you should probably tell your parents instead of just flying home for your wedding without a clue what you’re going to do. And going along with the story that a complete stranger is your fiance is completely bonkers.

But although the story was ‘too good to be true’, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by it. There was something so magical about the way that the book had been written that I couldn’t help but keep reading and rooting for Megan and Josh to somehow work things out and end up together.

I’d say if you’re looking for a deep and meaningful story, this probably isn’t the book for you, but as a light-hearted feel-good romance, it was perfect.

My Rating: 3/5
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 350
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 29th September 2016 – 12th October 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.9
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Jennifer Niven – All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

I don’t know if I even have the words within me to describe how beautifully this book was written, and how much it left my emotions tied in knots after being repeatedly wrung through a wringer.

Finch and Violet meet at the top of the school bell tower, both perilously close to the edge, both physically and mentally. And after Finch talks Violet down from the railings, it seems like he might be her lifeline and the only one capable of bringing her back to (relative) normality.

You see, Violet’s sister Eleanor was recently killed in a car crash, an accident that Violet feels responsible for, and ever since then, it’s like she’s been living in a black hole. And if anyone knows about black holes, it’s Finch. Unwilling to accept a label for his mental health problems (since everyone knows what happens when you get a label), he teeters wildly on the edge of a cliff, waiting to fall at any time.

It seems like they each may have found the perfect person to help with their problems and enable them to move forward, even though Violet may need a bit of persuading that Finch isn’t completely insane.

I don’t want to go any further into the plot from here as I don’t think I can without risking any major spoilers, but let’s just say the ending wasn’t quite what I expected.

Kudos to Niven for being able to write the book in such a way that I wasn’t able to predict the future of either character. And major kudos to Niven for tackling such sensitive subjects with tact and care. It’s obvious that Niven has taken the time to make sure she doesn’t just run to the typical stereotypes of the mental health problems dealt with, and the characters are first and foremost human, not just a caricature of a problem.

If I could read this book again straight away, I would, but this time I’d read it so much more slowly and luxuriate in Finch and Violet’s wanderings around Indiana and their blossoming relationship.

Captivating and beautiful, I can see why the Guardian review snippet on the cover calls it ‘the next Fault in Our Stars’.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 388
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 12th September 2016 – 13th September 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.20
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Lisa Williamson – The Art of Being Normal

The Art of Being Normal

After such a terrible last book, I needed something to perk me up. And this book was brilliant. Not the kind of book I usually read, but something about it just made me pick it up in the supermarket and I’m so glad I did.

The book runs from two parallel perspectives; David, who longs to be a girl; and Leo, who longs to be invisible. They’re both hiding secrets from their families and the world in general, but may have more in common than they think.

When Leo sticks up for David when he’s being picked on yet again (‘Oi, Freakshow’ is a familiar theme tune to his school life), they strike up what seems to be an unlikely (and reluctant) friendship.

But as the story evolves, it turns out that their friendship is not quite so unlikely after all, and each of them could be just what the other needs to achieve what they want in life (even if what they get is not exactly what they originally thought they wanted).

If you’re looking for an easy read, this isn’t it. It packed an emotional punch, heart warming yet jarring. The book was gripping the entire way through, evidenced by the fact I read it in one sitting, sat on the sofa for four hours unable to let Leo and David go and with a powerful need to know how their lives would turn out.

Williamson did a great job of creating characters who you could instantly relate to, even if their situation is not relatable to you. The topic of gender binaries is not something that I’ve had much to do with, and I’m still not sure where I stand with it, but Williamson has done a great job of handling the subject matter with sensitivity and kindness.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 353
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 11th September 2016 – 11th September 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.24
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Logan Byrne – Banded

Banded

Wow. Seriously, just wow.

It’s not often that I give a book a 1 star rating as I’m usually quite a good judge of what books I will enjoy reading, but I judged this one way off.

I just cringed most of the way through as it was so blatantly a rip-off of other books, most obviously Divergent. Oh, it’s a society where everyone lives in different zones depending on their abilities and contribution to society? Stalwart (strength), Astute (intelligence), Collusive (greed), Radiant (beauty), Quixotic (no life direction), and the Altruistic (willingness to help others). Hmmmmm, that sounds familiar!

And how do you get sorted into these zones, I hear you ask? Well let me tell you, you put on a hat and it listens to your thoughts and makes a decision. A ‘sorting hat’ if you like. Sounds familiar does it?

Honestly, I struggled to get through this book. So many times I just wanted to stop, but I hate giving up on a book without giving it a chance to redeem itself, but this book had gone too far the wrong way for redemption in my eyes.

I really hope this book was self-published, because if this concept got through an editor to publishing, I’m not sure how they didn’t have thoughts of plagiarism running through their heads.

Sorry to be so negative, but I just really really couldn’t find anything I liked about this book, and as much as I hate to give a book a 1-star review, I just can’t give it anything other.

My Rating: 1/5
Year Published: 2014
Number of Pages: 343
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 8th August 2016 – 8th September 2016
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.58
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