C.S. Lewis is famous for The Chronicles of Narnia, but what might not be so well known is he is the author of many Christian books. A Grief Observed was written a few weeks after the death of his wife. It is a collection of notes he has jotted down to help him through the mourning process. It is very short, only 60 pages, and I read it in a day. However, I did not find it an easy read. As it is just notes, it is a bit jumbled as we follow his train of thought. He talks about himself, his wife and God. We see his heart and attitude change as he heals and understands he will always miss his wife but it doesn’t have to be so painful. I felt I was intruding a bit in his mind and found the book hard to follow.

5/10

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When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper is a Christian book for those suffering with depression, or people aiding those who are suffering. It was an Amazon recommendation when I purchased another Christian book on depression.

Here is the Amazon synopsis:

John Piper offers insight into depression and spiritual darkness, and the Christian response to them. For sufferers and carers, he provides reason for hope that God will lift them out of despair and into the light.

This is not a long book, only 79 pages. However, it did take me quite a while to read this book. Piper has some very helpful things to say, and he includes lots of quotes from famous people, such as John Newton and C.S. Lewis as well as many quotations from the Bible. Some comments I found related to me personally, such as the fighting to get out of bed when feeling down. It was also interesting to learn that sometimes in order to help ourselves we need to help others, that way we will experience God’s grace.

However, some of the quotes used were written in very old fashioned English so I struggled with some of the meanings. I don’t like Piper’s writing style either. I find it does not flow easily and sometimes his sentence structure throws me.

All in all, this was a bit of a tough read but with some very helpful advice.

7/10

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Like Roald Dahl, these are books which are not just for children. The Chronicles of Narnia are beautifully written with the Christian message throughout.

The Magician’s Nephew
is the first in the trilogy and is the creation of Narnia. Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Polly’s hand went out to touch one of the rings. Immediately, without a flash or a noise, she vanished. When horrible Uncle Andrew starts experimenting with magic, Digory and Polly find themselves in another world, and at the beginning of an incredible adventure, as the doorway to the magical land of Narnia opens…This is the first adventure in the exciting Chronicles of Narnia.

It took about half the book to get to Narnia, but honestly, that was not a problem. This gives time for character development, the meeting of the witch and the exploration of other worlds, which I would not have none existed had I not read this one.

My favourite character, like most others, is Aslan the lion. He seems to intimidating but has such a soft heart, what an amazing creature. The description of him is stunning.

As mentioned, the Chronicles of Narnia are based around the Christian story – but do not be put off by this. The Magician’s Nephew replays the Creation Story with Aslan creating Narnia and breathing life into the characters and the Tree of Life and how Diggory was not to eat from it or steal from it.

There is a stark warning at the end to not let our world fall into evil and decline.

I enjoyed this book, and would recommend you read it even if you are an adult. Lewis writes in a fluent and entertaining way, it is easy to follow and very enjoyable.

8/10

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Oh my word, what an incredibly moving story. It is only 212 pages long, such a quick and easy read. But you must read it.

Amazon synopsis:

Nine year old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no-one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas. Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

The book is narrated by Bruno, who is 9, so the language is very simple. He refers to Hitler as the Fury and Auschwitz as Out-With because he doesn’t know how to pronounce the words correctly.

I loved this book. I loved Bruno’s naivety and his sense of always wanting to do the right thing. He frequently says things like (para-phrasing here):
“I try and tell the truth, as that is what I have been told to do.”
He is a complete angel, with no idea what is going on just across the fence.

His friendship with Shmuel is beautiful. Honestly, the only word I have to describe their relationship is beautiful. One is suffering hardships, the other thinks he is, but the way they chat and support each other is amazing. He tries to help him and although all they do is chat, a special bond is formed, a bond for life – a bond until death.

There are some comical lines in the book too, such as referring to his older sister as The Hopeless Case because that is what he has heard her called! These innocent comments make the book that much lighter to read.

The end was so sad. I did see it coming, but that did not spoil the story at all. It was heart-breaking how this little 9 year old who didn’t understand what was going on came face-to-face with the horrors of the concentration camps and what Hitler was doing. I don’t want to give the ending away, but it suited the book, however sad it was.

The Holocaust is such a horrible time in history, but Boyne has addressed the issue with sensitivity and care. I don’t think anyone can be insulted by this book or the issue. It seems well researched and I think Boyne has taken great care to reflect the horror in a delicate way.

This book is actually a Year 8 (age 12-13) text at the school Mum works at, so from that point of view it is not a hard read, but raises questions and topics to talk about.

I loved this book, and am touched by it. This is a must-read.

10/10

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The cover for A Lifetime Burning is a woman’s face in different colours, very eye-catching and chaotic, which is in a sense how the family in this book is. And the recommended quote on the front cover said:
“Disturbing themes, sensitively explored”
I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. As it happens, although the themes were not something I would have picked usually, this was an incredibly good book.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Greedy for experience but determined to be good, Flora Dunbar spends a lifetime seeking love, trying to build a future out of the wreckage of her past – an eccentric childhood spent in the shadow of her musical twin, Rory; early marriage to Hugh, a clergyman twice her age; motherhood, which brings her Theo, the son she cannot love; middle-age, when she finds brief happiness in a scandalous affair with her nephew, Colin.
“If you asked my sister-in-law why she hated me, she’d say it was because I seduced her precious firstborn then tossed him onto the sizeable scrap-heap marked Flora’s ex-lovers. But she’d be lying. That isn’t why Grace hated me. Ask my brother Rory…”

This was a complete page-turner. Gillard talks about love, religion, family, incest, homelessness and gardens. All these themes were sensitively explored, and extremely well written about.

As I was reading I wasn’t sure what I was going to write in the review. This book captured me. It spoke of forbidden and immoral love, yet it made my heart grieve a little. In these circumstances, the love that was felt was definitely wrong, but heart-breaking to read about the passion, pain and sorrow. It was written so well that I did catch a bit of the pain felt.

Maybe it was a little unrealistic with all the love-triangles in one family, but then maybe if it a close unit, why would this not happen?

My favourite characters changed as the story progressed. This would be because Gillard writes in a style where you jumped from different times and events. This didn’t bother me at all. In my opinion this allowed the characters and story to progress and grow, and was a very good tool for explaining later events and the characters themselves. I guess my favourite character was Hugh in the end. This was because even with everything going on he was hard to fault. He took the moral high ground and looked after everyone and everything. He was a true gentleman.

I recommend this book. It only took a few days to read. Gillard’s writing style flows and is very engaging. This is a must-read.

9/10

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Although this is not one of his more famous book, is a thoroughly good read.
Here is the synopsis from Amazon:


With old friends like these, who needs enemies? It’s a question short, mild mannered detective Edward Newson is forced to ask himself having in romantic desperation logged on to the Friends Reunited website searching for the girlfriends of his youth. Newson is not the only member of the Class of ’86 who has been raking over the ashes of the past. As his old class begins to reassemble in cyberspace, the years slip away and old feuds and passions burn hot once more. Meanwhile, back in the present, Newson’s life is no less complicated. He is secretly in love with Natasha, his lovely but very attached sergeant, while comprehensively failing to solve a series of baffling and peculiarly gruesome murders. A school reunion is planned and as history begins to repeat itself, the past crashes headlong into the present. Neither will ever be the same again. In Past Mortem, Ben Elton – previous winner of The Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award for Popcorn – delivers both a heart-stopping thriller and a killer comic romance.

This was a great book, a proper page turner. I felt connected to the characters, and was wondering about their lives all the way through the book. It was an easy and entertaining read, much like his other books. Elton touches on the issue of bullying and the effects it has on people in a startling way. Although I was aware of bullying, having experienced a bit of it myself, he certainly enlightened me as to what it could do to someone’s life in the long run. I read this book in a matter of days, and was gripped until the end, although I had worked out who the murderer was.

However, as much as I enjoyed this book, along with the gruesome and detailed murders, which did not bother me, there were graphic sex scenes which I did not like, and which mean I won’t be passing this book on to my Mum to read.

7/10 – would be higher if the sex was not so detailed and sometimes scary

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This is the synopsis from Amazon:
“‘There is a wonderful plan for your life. You can hold your head up high and be filled with confidence about yourself and your future. You can be bold and step out to do new things – even things no man or woman has done before.’ ‘You have what it takes!'”. The “Confident Woman” will enable you to live with purpose and fulfil your true potential. Joyce Meyer’s number one “New York Times” bestselling book: Gives you the keys to living a life of confidence and independence. It shows why you can live without fear, and helps you overcome the barriers of the world’s false expectations and the emotional damage of abuse. It identifies the ‘Seven Secrets of a Confident Woman’ Joyce writes with the benefit of over three decades ministering to women. The message in this book is based on her personal journey from insecurity and self-hatred – caused by childhood abuse – to a life characterised by inspiring confidence and realising her full potential.

I enjoyed this book and found it very helpful. It uses Scripture and real life stories to motivate and to explain how to get out depression, fear, lack of confidence etc.. Through the truth expressed in her words and the Bible passages I have found I am able to go out when I feel panicky, and when I’m dreading something to just go ahead and do it.
I recommend this book, even if you don’t feel low or anything, because everyone feels scared or shy at some point in their life and this has had a profound affect on my life, I feel better for having read it.

9/10

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Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again …Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers …Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

My Mum recommended this book to me and I had tried it before. This time I actually got to the end! I found it quite a chilling book, which included murder, suicide and fire. I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up but I did enjoy it. I was gripped from the beginning and was surprised by the twist. I was a bit saddened by the fact Rebecca was painted as a mean, cheating woman but never mind. The character I loved was Ben, who we saw down the beach. I found the new Mrs de Winter to be a pushover and weak, although she did come out of herself a bit by the end. I would recommend this book.

8/10

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Amazon synopsis:

To rescue her family from poverty and avoid marrying her slope-shouldered cousin, seventeen-year-old Orchid competes to be one of the Emperor’s wives. When she is chosen as a lower-ranking concubine she enters the erotically charged and ritualised Forbidden City. But beneath its immaculate facade lie whispers of murders and ghosts, and the thousands of concubines will stoop to any lengths to bear the Emperor’s son. Orchid trains herself in the art of pleasuring a man, bribes her way into the royal bed, and seduces the monarch, drawing the attention of dangerous foes. Little does she know that China will collapse around her, and that she will be its last Empress.

This is a historical fiction book set in China in the 1800s.

Like I said, I loved this book. Min’s writing style was descriptive but flowed beautifully. At no point did I find myself bored. I loved the characters. I admired Orchid’s determination and the way she stood up for herself, even though that went against all tradition. This book had love, death, tradition, passion and history running all the way through it. It had quite a sad ending but it was realistic. I loved her companions and the way they dedicated themselves to her and were loyal. Even now I am reflecting on the story, thinking about the difference she made, even when her life was at stake. What an amazing woman in my opinion. She is certainly one of my favourite characters from a book.

I have no idea if the history of this book is correct, but the way it was written was so gripping that I am now planning on going and researching this time of Chinese history.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I can’t think of anything bad to say about it. I didn’t take me long to read at all because I enjoyed every word of it.

10/10

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This is a book I read and loved as a child, and recently decided to re-read my Roald Dahl books. I have to say, I think I found The Twits funnier this time round!

This is a very short children’s book. The main characters are Mr and Mrs Twit, the monkey family and their friend the Roly-Poly bird.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon.co.uk

Mr and Mrs Twit are extremely nasty, so the Muggle-Wump monkeys and the Roly-Poly bird hatch an ingenious plan to give them just the ghastly surprise they deserve!

I just adored this book. Roald Dahl has such an amazing imagination. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is a predominantly children’s book, but actually I was pleasantly surprised. Although I would not call this book particularly politically correct – having been written some years ago – the book had me laughing all the way through. Some of the nasty tricks Dahl thinks up are incredible. How he has come up with ideas is just beyond me!

My favourite character was the Roly-Poly bird. He definitely had the the funniest one-liners, which were relevant even to our society today. It was these lines which make this an excellent book for adults as well as children.

If you are looking for a book to enjoy with your children, or just a humorous light read, The Twits is certainly a good contender. There are some books we will just never be too old for!

10/10

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