Tag Archives: Book review

Disney Readalong Wrap Up

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about taking part in the Disney Readalong from 6th-12thMay. There were five challenges:

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I allowed myself to extend the challenge into Sunday 13thMay, as most of the Saturday evening was taken up with the Eurovision Song Contest. Work was really busy that week as well, meaning I didn’t get as much time for reading as I would have liked due to being super tired when I got home each evening. But I did complete three of the prompts!

 

1) Frozen – a book set in winter: I read Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf. This book was brilliant if a little hard to follow when reading in a tired state of mind. It felt like it was semi-autobiographical, I’m not sure if it was or not. The book follows Alicia as she navigates adulthood with divorced parents and an autistic sibling – the eponymous brother, whom she feels is trapped as if in an ice block – and tries to make her way both in work and relationships. This narrative is interspersed with research into polar exploration, anecdotes about successful and unsuccessful attempts to reach the North and South poles and related scientific discoveries. These are woven into the storyline so Alicia’s story as she applies her research to her own life. I really enjoyed this book, I’ve never read anything else like it. I will definitely be rereading it when I am more awake so I can take more in and appreciate the writing more.

 

3) Aurora’s Dress – a book with pink and blue on the cover: I read The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley. I am a big fan of the webseries The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, the accompanying novel, last year. I loved this spin-off/sequel which follows Lydia as she tries to recover from the fallout of the scandal that occurred during Lizzie’s vlog series (it is a bit different from the Pride and Prejudice storyline as it is modernised so I won’t give away any spoilers). One of my favourite things about the series is the exploration of the relationship between the sisters. As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, Lydia in the book feels like a plot device used to bring Lizzy and Darcy together, and is quite caricatured. In the webseries and accompanying novels, Lydia is very much her own character, with agency and real, deep emotions. It was great to catch up with these characters again and get a glimpse of what comes next in their stories.

 

5) Cinderella – read the Grimm fairytale and watch the Disney movie. I used to watch this film in French all the time so it felt weird that I opted to watch it in English this time. I had forgotten how sappy and instalove-y the film is, but it has good music and I love the little animal creatures (especially Lucifer the cat who is one of the better Disney villains). I was surprised how different the fairytale is, there are three balls for one thing. I’m looking forward to reading more of the Grimm fairytales as I only recognise a few of the titles.

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So that was my first prompted readathon! I enjoyed the experience but will maybe check out my work schedule before taking part in another one.

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Book Review: Those Who Wait by Tanya Marlow

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I picked up this book based on the review of another blogger. When I ordered the book I was impatiently and anxiously awaiting my dissertation results – waiting isn’t something I’m very good at. Although by the time I started the book I had received my results, I still found myself in a sort of limbo. I had spent the last three years of my life working towards this big goal of getting my Masters, and when it was all over I felt a little bit lost. I’m still figuring out what I want to do next – I kind of have an idea but I’m not really sure how to get there – so I am still waiting on God, His timing and his answers to my questions. All of which to say, this book came at exactly the right time for me.

I started reading in the middle of November, and was soon overtaken by the season of Advent, which was perfect as Advent is all about waiting. Although you can read this book at any time of year, it is set out for daily reading through the Advent season, and has an appendix at the end for group study.

The book retells the stories of four Bible characters from their own perspective. These are based around the four Advent candles (one version of this) – the first section is Sarah (wife of Abraham) representing the Patriarchs; the second is Isaiah, for the prophets; the third is John the Baptist and the fourth Mary. Each section is broken down into five chapters, and at the end of each the biblical reference is given to provide the context for the story. There are also questions for reflection. The final (sixth) chapter of each section gives more questions and also a couple of creative reflection activities. There are also prayers and Benedictions, and suggestions for music to listen to, to help you reflect further on the story. Some of these activities are included in the Group Study guide in the final appendix. The first appendix also gives theological and historical context in which Marlow explains some of the narrative choices she has made.

I really needed and loved this book. Marlow’s prose is beautiful, and really brought the characters to life in a new way for me. I loved Sarah’s story, mainly because I spent a good part of the summer reflecting on her story from Hagar’s perspective and it was helpful for me to be reminded of how much of a victim Sarah is as well (Abraham was not a great husband, really. It’s also good to be reminded of just how flawed our biblical heroes really were, and how greatly God used them in spite of their serious flaws. Gives me hope!) But I think my favourite section was Isaiah’s story, as I have rarely thought of Isaiah the person. There are so many memorable and powerful prophecies in the book of Isaiah that I have never really thought about how it would have felt for Isaiah as an ordinary man, to speak these amazing words from God but yet not see their fulfilment. I found the prayers and creative reflections to be useful tools for working through some of my own issues. I only flicked through the group study section, but will be recommending the book to my homegroup for next Advent.

I said at the start that I am not very good at waiting. This book highlights that waiting is not easy and it is often painful, but that it is worth it and that God is in it – He is working even when we can’t see it. I highly recommend it to anyone who is waiting on God to fulfil His promises, whether large or small. I certainly will reread it many times as I think it is a lesson I will need to keep learning.

One song was going through my head much of the time I was reading this book, as it ties in so closely with the theme. It has become one of my favourites of the last year. I hope it speaks to you too.

Book Review: Izevel, Queen of Darkness by Kate Chamberlayne

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I picked this book up a couple of years ago at a youth camp, mainly out of intrigue. It is from a series called Dark Chapters, which is aiming to provide an alternative for teenagers and young adults to the more horror based YA fiction that is out there, and get them to look to the Bible and consider how God views those things.

First of all, I really admire what the books are trying to achieve. I have read a fair amount of young adult fiction – although I lean more towards the dystopian and fantasy genres rather than the supernatural/horror ones – and they can get quite dark. As I have a teaching/youthwork background, I do sometimes worry about books, TV shows, and films that romanticise the occult, however, the vast majority that I have read/seen do present a battle of good vs evil – with the good generally winning, but also showing the shades of grey. But I do think that a series like this is needed. I dislike when Christians criticise what they see in popular culture without offering alternatives.

So to the book itself. It is a retelling of the story of Elijah taken from 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 9. The narrative is well constructed, and all the main points that I remember from the biblical account are there, but with some artistic flourishes, of course.

My main question mark about this book is down to perspective. The story is told (in third person narrative) almost entirely from the perspective of Jezebel (who is renamed Izevel in the book). This did make sense as she is the title character, but actually as the novel progressed it left me feeling rather confused. First, the story covers her childhood – the distant, unloving relationship with her father, the loss of her younger brother etc – all of which evokes sympathy for her. But as the story goes on and she becomes Queen of Israel and starts to do all the horrible things she is remembered for I found it hard to dislike her because of the way she had been introduced. Generally when a book focuses on a central character, it is because the author wants you to see the world from their perspective and understand them, which this book did do, but at the same time it felt like the author was trying to push me really hard into disliking her, which left me feeling conflicted. At the end of the novel, I didn’t know whether I was meant to feel relieved or upset that she got her comeuppance. Maybe I just dislike novels when the protagonist is not meant to be likeable.

Also, because the story is told from Jezebel’s perspective, the prophet Elijah is presented as the antagonist and does not come across as very likeable, which also seems counterintuitive as he is the hero of the biblical account. In fact, most of the characters you feel you should like are presented unsympathetically, or are underdeveloped.

So, generally I feel that the concept of this book and series is good and needed, but I’m not entirely sure it has been carried out successfully in this edition. Although if it encourages a teenager to pick up the Bible then it has done well. I would be interested to read the other books in the series to see if they are executed in a similar way, and I would also like to hear the opinions of some young people who have read the series, although I’m not convinced it is one I would rush to recommend.

Book Review: ‘Everyday Isn’t Perfect’ by Dr K.L. Register

 

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I have been following KL’s blog  ‘The Ninth Life‘ for some time now, and I always get a little excited when bloggers I like announce book releases. Unfortunately, I have a strict rule in place about buying books at the moment, so this volume was languishing on my Amazon wishlist for a while until a kind friend spotted it there and bought it for me for my birthday.

If you read KL’s blog, you will probably recognise some of the stories as they have appeared there, but I like having them all in one cute little book that I can refer back to.

My first favourite thing about this book is the title. I didn’t get together with my friends to celebrate my birthday until a few days later. On the way to the restaurant, several of us had been complaining about how upsetting and stressful our work days had been. So a little bit later when I was opening my presents after dinner, and I pulled this book out of the giftwrap, we all had a laugh at the appropriateness of the title on that day. In itself, it is a good reminder that we don’t have to be discouraged when things go wrong, we can just shrug, and say ‘Everyday isn’t perfect!’ knowing that we have a new opportunity the next day.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a collection of short stories, essays and poems, each one no more than a couple of pages long. Some are accounts from her own life, some are entertaining encounters with her patients (she is a dentist), some are more general thoughts on life. I choose to read a couple of ‘chapters’ each evening to make me smile before going to bed, but you could just as easily read one at the start of each day to help put you in a good mood for the day – something I will probably do the next time I read it.

KL writes with honesty, wit and humour. Part of the reason I enjoyed this book is probably because we have a similar outlook on life. Although we have had very different experiences, her writing is very relatable and is full of encouragement to be brave, have faith, and to love yourself. Heartily recommended for anyone who needs a bit of a boost.

(To get yourself a copy, head over to The Ninth Life and follow the links)

Book Review – ‘Girls With Swords’ by Lisa Bevere


I finished reading this book this week, and I must confess I read it a bit too quickly. I intend to read it again more slowly and thoroughly in the future and I’m sure I will get a lot more from it.

I’m just starting my research for my Masters dissertation, for which I have picked the topic of Feminist Theology. As I have had a bit of a break from studying over the summer, I picked up this book to try to give myself a gentler reintroduction to academic reading, which may be why I rushed it as I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t reading something meatier…

I loved the imagery of the sword used throughout, especially the word play of God Sword/God’s Word. Most of the time it was helpful, although occasionally I lost the thread of the point Bevere was trying to make in between all of the fencing terms. I also struggled to find the practical take-aways in what she was saying, but both of these things may have been where I was rushing a bit to read it.

It did make me reflect on my reasons for writing about feminist theology. My starting point for research is that some of the traditional teaching of the church has been a factor in the oppression, or at the very least, the marginalisation of women both within the church and in wider society. We have been told that only certain types of women are pleasing to God, i.e. the silent submissive kind. This has left women open to attack in all sorts of ways, and ill-prepared to defend themselves. But there are so many examples in the Bible and in church history of women taking the lead, making a stand, teaching, preaching and bringing people closer to God. (One small criticism of the book is that Bevere mainly uses male biblical characters as examples to make her points. Though I understand why given the points she is making, and I’m happy to have male role models, I can’t help feeling that the awesome women of God in the Bible should be getting more airtime, especially from female writers).

Girls With Swords is a call to women to equip themselves with the Word of God and to speak out, in love, mercy, forgiveness and against injustice. It is a reminder that we are daughters of the King, and he has entrusted each of us with a mission. I know my rushed reading didn’t do it justice, and I intend to reread it, and also to recommend it to women everywhere who need to recognise that they are people of power too.

My favourite chapter was about the flame-bladed sword, or the sword of song. Last week a friend a church prayed that I would find a new song, and this chapter was about how when we sing praise to God it strengthens us and brings His kingdom that bit closer. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17, which tells us that God delights in us and sings with joy over us. The day after I read the chapter about the singing sword, I was half listening to a song on the radio when I felt suddenly sure that I needed to note the name of the band and look the song up when I got home. I don’t know if the songwriters have a faith or what the song means to them, but for me it is the song God is singing over me, and, honestly, it just makes me feel epic. It’s called Warrior Daughter and the band is Wildwood Kin, please use the link below to see the video (I’m typing this on the iPad so I’m not sure how to embed the video, sorry! I promise it is worth the click!)

https://youtu.be/SPjWuQBaUNo