Brandon Sanderson – Words of Radiance (part 1)

Words of Radiance (part 1)

I’m not sure I can find words grand enough to describe my feelings for this book, I could gush about it for days. I’d love to know how Brandon Sanderson manages to write books with such complex worlds and characters, that are so fast paced and yet still sooooo long! This particular book, for instance, was so long they had to publish the paperback in two parts. You’d think that there’d be parts where you’d be bored, but not at all!

What I’m loving is that in this book, the characters that seemed so distant to each other in the first book are now all meeting or coming close to meeting and those stories that didn’t seem like they could be related at all are now building into something much more epic!

I have to say, my favourite character is still Kaladin, although Shallan is playing a much greater part now and I’m liking that we get to see much more of her back story and her powers and influence are growing. She’s definitely going to be a character to watch.

I still can’t quite figure out Dalinar/Adolin, they seem like good guys, but I’m not 100% sold on that. We finish this book with Adolin saying “I’ll see it done”, in reference to winning shardplates from those Highprinces who are opposing Dalinar and siding with Sadeas, but I’m not convinced that he will be successful, and if that happens, I don’t know what that will mean for the kingdom. As much as I’m unsure about Dalinar and Adolin right now, I know for sure that I don’t want Sadeas anywhere near the crown.

I can’t wait to move on to part 2, and then Oathbringer after that. I can’t even predict what is going to happen, but I know it will be epic!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 653
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 31st July 2018 – 21st August 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.76
See this book...

Gemma Willis & Emma Randall – Diary of a Disciple: Luke’s Story

Diary of a Disciple: Luke's Story

I bought this book thinking I was just reading it to check if it would be okay for our Sunday School/Youth Group kids, but actually I ended up loving it for myself too!

This beautifully designed hardback book is a re-telling of Luke’s Gospel, aimed at children and perfect for them to read either by themselves or with their parent or in a group.

I really liked the informal style of the writing which made it feel really relatable, it was kind of like being read a bedtime story by Luke himself. I think that the style of writing would make it really easy for children to get to grips with and for them to memorise parts of it too.

The text on the pages is well spaced out so that the pages are not overwhelming, which does make the book feel thicker that it might otherwise be, but it was a quick read for me, I read the whole thing in 2 sittings. For a child it would obviously take longer, but it’s a book that they could treasure.

I loved how the author/illustrator drew attention to certain words within the text by drawing them larger or illustrating around them, there were many times when that little detail really changed the way I felt about the sentence I was reading in a way that I have never got from a Bible.

That probably shows me that I need to slow down when reading my Bible and see what happens when I place focus on different words, but this style really helped.

I would really recommend this for any children’s groups. It was written so that you could just pick out a specific part for reading within the group if the whole book is too much, and I’ll definitely be thinking of ways to incorporate it into my groups.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 352
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 28th July 2018 – 29th July 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.2
See this book...

Brandon Sanderson – Mitosis

Mitosis

Unfortunately, I think my opinion of this book may be clouded by the fact that I paid £8.99 for a book that was ultimately only 45 pages long. I bought it as a physical book rather than an ebook because I wanted to complete my Brandon Sanderson collection, but when I looked online, it said that it was 96 pages long. Turns out that half those pages are the start of the next book in the series.

But apart from that obvious disappointment, the novella itself was great, as you would expect from a Sanderson book (even if they’re usually 20x longer!). Taking place in between Steelheart and Firefight, it was a nice little filler story, and a great way of introducing us to a new Epic. I’m not sure if reading this was really necessary before starting Firefight, but at least I won’t be feeling like I’ve missed out.

After starting the book talking about what sounded like a delicious hot dog, we’re introduced to a new Epic called Mitosis, who can split himself into unlimited cloned copies of himself. Unfortunately, the more clones he makes, the more unstable he becomes.

But he’s returned to the city to find the Steelslayer and demand the truth about how Steelheart died. Can David and his team find out his weaknesses before it’s too late?

Well all I will say is that it won’t take you long to find out! It probably only took me 25 minutes to finish the story, which was finished off with some new artwork of Epics who I assume will feature heavily in the next book. Can’t wait to meet them properly!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2013
Number of Pages: 96
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 28th July 2018 – 28th July 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.87
See this book...

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

How to be Champion

Sarah Millican has been one of my role models for a long time. Unashamedly proud of who she is, I look up to her for so many reasons.

I would whole-heartedly recommend you go and buy this book now while it’s still 99p on Kindle, it was a fantastic read.

Part autobiography, part advice, I found it so hard to put this book down. I loved the style it was written in, short chapters and lots of bullet points and lists made it so easy to read, and I swear I read the whole thing with Sarah’s voice narrating in my head.

It was great to get a glimpse of Sarah’s childhood growing up in the North East, then learning more about how she got into comedy (turns out divorce was great for her).

“I often think it’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you handle it.”

If you’ve ever watched Millican do standup (I saw her at a warm-up gig in Preston which was fantastic), the book is filled with the kind of anecdotes you would expect. Not afraid to mince her words and say what she feels, there were actually times I was shocked at what was written, it seems more ‘out there’ in print than as a joke in a stand-up routine.

The thing I loved most was that the book was honest and raw at times, not afraid to hide anything.

“I didn’t mind the rest of the office knowing I was having counselling. I’ve always been pretty open about it to pals. The way I see it, I get my car checked regularly, why wouldn’t I do the same for my brain?”

The little ‘helpful tips’ at the end of each chapter were great too, I wish I could print them off and hand them out to people as handy reminders!

Don’t be mean to people you know and don’t be mean to people you don’t. You have no idea what someone is dealing with at the time. Be nice or be quiet.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 320
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 24th July 2018 – 28th July 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.28
See this book...

Giovanna & Tom Fletcher – Eve of Man

Eve of Man

Imagine if all of a sudden, all the babies being born were boys. If that happened for a single day, you’d think it was a bit weird, but what would happen if that carried on for years?

Well it turns out that if there are no girls being born, people start to feel there’s no hope left for humanity, and the world starts being destroyed at an alarming rate.

But then a miracle, a girl is born. She’s taken into care by the government so they can make sure she’s safe from all the men in the world who have never seen a woman younger than their own mothers.

But it appears like not all is as it seems, and Eve starts to feel like maybe they don’t have her best interests at heart. What if she doesn’t want to become a baby factory, a vessel for the government to try to produce another girl?

Enter Bram. He’s spent most of his life acting as Anna’s virtual holographic best friend, but he has fallen in love with her, and he feels like the feeling could be reciprocated. Now he wants to get out, and he wants to take Eve with him.

I LOVED the idea behind this book and it kept me completely gripped throughout. When I got to the end and realised that this book was the first part of a trilogy, I was absolutely gutted that I now have to wait for them to write the second book!

The one thing that I missed was a proper world-building. In other books I’ve read in this genre area, I’ve felt completely immersed in the location, but I felt a bit disconnected if I’m honest. I could completely imagine the dome where Eve lives, but I found it harder to visualise the wider world. I would have loved that to be described more.

Saying that, I can’t wait for book two, I’m hoping that it builds on what we’ve seen in the first book and takes us deeper towards being fully immersed in Eve and Bram’s futures.

 

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2018
Number of Pages: 400
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 10th July 2018 – 22nd July 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.26
See this book...

Eliyahu M. Goldratt – The Goal

The Goal

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages after reading The Phoenix Project last year, and I finally got around to it after spotting it on the shelf at my local library (sidenote: libraries are awesome).

I think the thing I appreciated the most about this book was that it felt so easy to read. The fact that it’s written like a story really helps the facts sink in without it feeling dry or boring. I also love the fact that you come to the same realisations as the main character just at the same time as he does, so you really feel invested in the success of his efforts.

I wish I’d read this book a year ago when we started implementing these practices within our team at work as it would have made those practices seem much more intuitive from the get go.

I actually can’t believe this book was written 24 years ago as it still seems so completely relevant. The industry may have changed, but the techniques mentioned are applicable to so many industries that it doesn’t matter.

I would really recommend this book to anyone working in any kind of job that involves delivering a product to a customer, whether that product be physical or virtual, it may well just change the way you think!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 1984
Number of Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 3rd July 2018 – 10th July 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.02
See this book...

Kent Beck – Test Driven Development By Example

Test Driven Development By Example

As my first real dive into test driven development, this book was a great introduction into the practices and the habits that are involved. The one thing that I wish I had done when I started reading is actually trying to implement the examples that are in the book, as I think the practical side would have helped the examples sink in a little bit more.

Saying that, I learn really well from books, and I had no trouble following the code examples from one to another and having the changes written in such small steps certainly helped.

Beck’s explanations were great to help the concepts really solidify and he had a writing style that made the book much more fun to read than I expected it to be.

“Write the tests you wish you had. If you don’t, you will eventually break something while refactoring. Then you’ll get bad feelings about refactoring and stop doing it so much. Then your designs will deteriorate. You’ll be fired. Your dog will leave you. You will stop paying attention to your nutrition. Your teeth will go bad. So, to keep your teeth healthy, retroactively test before refactoring.”

I understand that to most people, TDD is not complicated, it’s just habit, but having never done it before and not having come from an environment where time is given to testing, this book was a great way to learn what I should have been doing all along. And being able to put some of the techniques into practice at work has been great, I think that’s what will really cement the knowledge for me.

 

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2002
Number of Pages: 216
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 12th October 2017 – 3rd July 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.06
See this book...

Charlie N. Holmberg – The Fifth Doll

The Fifth Doll

Having read the Paper Magician series by this author, I was enticed to buy the rest of Holmberg’s books on a train journey home from London when an offer popped up on my Instagram feed saying that they were all 50% off on Amazon until the end of the night. It may have been train-based delirium, but I decided to buy all her books at once.

But I think I made a good decision. Having loved the Paper Magician so much, I was a little worried that they may have been one-offs like some authors I’ve read who have one really great series and then never quite live up to it with their others. I was wrong about Holmberg, I was enticed from the first page to the last, and I loved the lead character of Matrona.

A strong woman, feeling trapped by her parents and about to enter into a marriage with a man who doesn’t even seem to notice her, she finds herself drawn into this strange world of Russian dolls created by a mysterious man named Slava. He tells her he needs to pass down the secrets of the dolls to her so that there is someone to carry on when he is gone.

But Matrona is shocked to find that the dolls all represent one of the villagers, and when things happen to the dolls, things happen in real life too. Slava wants her to open her doll, and things start happening that Matrona can’t control.

I was on tenterhooks as I approached the last few chapters, I just wasn’t sure that Matrona was making the right decisions and because I was so enthralled with the story, the peril felt so real. I’ve never read a story like this so far, so I just had nothing to gauge it on, no idea whether we’d get a happy ending or not.

The only thing that stopped me from giving this book 5 stars is that I felt like the world-building could have been a bit stronger. I was completely enthralled by the story, but I had a hard time picturing the location, and I would have loved to have felt like I could put myself in Matrona’s place. Russia is a great setting for a book, but I wasn’t quite transported there unfortunately.

But the fact that I read this book in two sittings shows my true feelings really. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump recently, and books like this make me remember why I love reading so much.

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 252
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 17th June 2018 – 1st July 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.85
See this book...

Claire Harman: Jane’s Fame

Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World

I want to start this review by saying that although I was slightly disappointed with this book, that’s more due to me thinking it was going to be something different based on the blurb I read on Goodreads, so don’t necessarily be swayed by the fact that I only gave the book 3 out of 5 stars.

If you’re looking for a detailed biography of Jane Austen and how her books came to be published and then well known, this book would be perfect, however I had thought that I was going to be reading more about Austen’s influence on the world so I was a bit disappointed when I was halfway through and it was still just a straight biography.

Saying that, however, I actually found the book fascinating and incredibly well researched. I love Jane Austen’s books, but I didn’t really know much about her history. Living so close to the Brontë museum means that I know a lot about the Brontë sisters, but I’ve never really read much about Jane Austen (preferring to read her books repeatedly instead).

Maybe it was fate that I checked this book out from the e-library so that I could read more about a woman who was clearly strong-willed and knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to put herself out there and do it. It’s such a shame that she didn’t receive the fame that she deserved during her lifetime, but this book does well at explaining the reasons behind that, and the meteoric rise in popularity of Austen in the last 150 years.

Her work was not without detractors, and one of the quotes from the book that stood out to me (for probably obvious reasons) was from Mark Twain:

“I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

I mean, come on Mark, don’t mince your words or anything!

The book was filled with quotes from admirers and detractors alike, and also quotes from Austen books and other biographies, adding to the feel that it was incredibly well researched and written by someone with a genuine appreciation for the author.

Towards the end of the book, we get more into what I was expecting from the book as a whole, showing Jane’s influence on modern day society and I genuinely did find it fascinating. I would probably have given this book more stars if it had been what I had expected, but it just dampened my opinion of it, but I would definitely recommend to any Janeites wanting to learn more about their beloved Austen!

My Rating: 3/5
Year Published: 2009
Number of Pages: 352
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 26th June 2018 – 30th June 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.65
See this book...

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
See this book...