Through the Dark Woods by Joanna Swinney


Synopsis from Amazon:

This book is based on the author’s own experience of wrestling with depression, and her story carries the book along. Using this structure, she discusses the stigma associated with depression. She talks of the importance of correct diagnosis, and the challenges of day to day survival. She takes an honest look at the temptation to suicide, and how depression affects one’s prayer life and relationship to God. Where are the sources of comfort and healing? Jo Swinney considers biblical characters subject to depression, and argues for the importance of sharing stories. Finally she asks, what does her depression teach her?

As someone who battles with depression I was given this book by a friend to help me, and I will certainly be passing it on to others, especially those who have never suffered with depression. This is a really useful book about depression, based around Swinney’s own experience. She is honest and writes in a fluid way which is easy to follow and understand. All the chapters are short and easily accessible. She explains depression and the different ways it can affect people, and she gives tips on how to cope and how to battle out of it.

What I found most helpful was seeing how I feel in writing, but written by someone else. I will be passing this book so people can gain an insight into how I feel a lot of the time. I also liked how she recommened books, books on depression and fiction books!

Swinney is a Christian, and she does talk about God and her depression, and some focus of the book is on relationship with God, but don’t let that put you off. There is no preaching and it is not overwhelming at all. As a Christian I found it useful, but not overbearing at all.

This is a really useful book and I recommend it to everyone, people who have suffered and those who haven’t.



Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman


Synopsis from Amazon:

Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought – a ‘colourless’ member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Crosses schools…Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts unable to accept the injustices any longer, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…

This is one of the best books I have read all year. Blackman writes about race and the trials faced in an unequal society. She writes magnificantly. The story follows Sephy, a black girl whose father holds a lot of power, and Callum, a white boy, 18 months older, whose family have no rights. The reader watches them grow up in this unfair, prejudice society where race is everything and the whites form a militant group, a terrorist group, in hopes to gain some equality. This is an incredibly tough subject to write about, and Blackman does it so well. In some ways it is a horror story, in others a sad tale. Noughts and Crosses has made me stop and think about why people turn to violence, how blessed we are that for the most part we live in a civilised, equal society and ultimately, what I would do in either of their positions.

I loved both characters, Sephy and Callum. I found myself willing them on, hoping for the best, despairing for them, grieving for them. I felt so many emotions during the book, and the ending, well I could cry.

I don’t think I have a critism. Yes sometimes the storyline was a touch predictible, but did that spoil the story? No. Will I be reading the rest of the series? Yes. This is an amazing book, and it is has touched me in many ways.


The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

Synopsis from Amazon:

‘What shall we do?’ said Twoflower.
‘Panic?’ said Rincewind hopefully. He always held that panic was the best means of survival. When the very fabric of time and space are about to be put through the wringer – in this instance by the imminent arrival of a very large and determinedly oncoming meteorite – circumstances require a very particular type of hero. Sadly what the situation does not need is a singularly inept wizard, still recovering from the trauma of falling off the edge of the world. Equally it does not need one well-meaning tourist and his luggage which has a mind of its own. Which is a shame because that’s all there is…

This is a funny fantasy book which follows The Colour of Magic in the Discworld Series by Pratchett, and is possibly better! There were fights, crazy characters and some extremely funny one-liners. Although the second book in the series I think it is written in a way that means you could read it as a stand-alone book and still understand and follow the storyline, and still enjoy the book.

I love the way Pratchett writes, drawing you in and he is so descriptive and clever that you feel like you are really there. I had no trouble imagining the red star, the trolls or the luggage. He is a fascinating writer and I have found myself just wanting to read more of his work.

In this book my favourite character was either Cohan the Barbarian or the Luggage. Both were hunourous, the former with his attitude and one-liners and the latter with his presence and response to events.

My only complaint was that Death did not feature enough! I thought the ending was a bit sad but realistic. I just really enjoyed this book.


Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman

Synopsis from Amazon:

Ethan and Jorie, the perfect couple, have been married for 13 years, and are still very much in love. But 13 years ago, Ethan committed a brutal rape and murder. A young girl’s phone call exposes him, and nothing will ever be the same for them again.

Well, to be honest, I didn’t enjoy this book. I found myself wanting more and this book just didn’t satisfy me.

The Ethan story was believable, but other strands I found myself disbelieving, such as the journey to Maryland. It was an interesting look at how a family and a small town deal with something like what Ethan did, taking sides in such a matter, but is that what would really happen? I don’t know.  However, I think Hoffman explores people’s characters well.

What I wanted out the book was to find out what happened to Ethan and his family, and the family of the girl, but it was a bit ambiguous. There were other storylines running along side the main story, which added depth to the book but I didn’t think were finished either.

My favourite character was Charlotte. I enjoyed watching her fall in love and stand by her best friend even through the challenges she was facing. There was something lovely about her.

Overall, this book did keep my attention right up to the last page, but I was not satisfied with this book.


The Shack by William P. Young


Synopsis from Amazon:

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his great sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question, ‘Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?’ The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!

Well, what a brave thing to do, and a very unique way of portraying the Gospel message. This is a deep book, which I think I’m going to have to read again.

The story follows Mack, who experiences a horrendous event in his life when his daughter is abducted, presumed murdered. With sadness and guilt all around, Mack struggles through life, wondering about God and His role to play in all this. When Mack heads back to the shack he has a truely amazing experience with God, and he receives many answers from God.

Well, I loved it. I was gripped right from the start. I loved how God was portrayed and the way the Christian message is written. I thought there were a lot of unexpected answers to these seemingly impossible questions, such as “where is God in suffering”? But Young addresses these questions and gives very clear answers.

I guess the only problem was there is so much to take in, but I am looking forward to reading it again. This book has made me want to enter a deeper relationship with God.

I think people will find this book completely unrealistic and not be satisfied with God or the answers Young gives in this book, and that is a shame. I think people need to read this book with an open mind and think about what has been written before forming an opinion on the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, what a good read.


A Woman’s Place: The Changing Picture of Women in Britain by Diana Souhami

This is not a long book, only 160 pages, which takes you on a journey through women’s history in Britain from the turn of the twentieth century to the 1980s. It is a pictorial history, with many images portraying the changes in women’s lifestyle but there is written history too, which is easily accessible and very informative. Souhami is definitely biased; it is clear from her writing she believes women have been mis-treated and are capable of much more than they have been given credit for and if given a chance would maybe prove themselves to be better than men. She covers topics ranging from women in the home, to work, to image/stereotypes.

I found this an extremely useful book, with cleverly selected images and writing which is easy and enjoyable to read.


Digging to America by Anne Tyler


Synopsis from Amazon:

Friday August 15th, 1997. Two tiny Korean babies are delivered to Baltimore to two families with nothing in common. First there are the Donaldsons, decent Brad and homespun Bitsy and a host of relatives, taking delivery with characteristic American razzmatazz. Then there are the Yazdans, pretty, nervous Ziba and carefully assimilated Sami, with his elegant Iranian-born widowed mother Maryam, receiving their little bundle with wondering discretion.

Every year, on the anniversary of ‘Arrival Day’ the two families celebrate together, with increasingly elaborately competitive parties, as tiny, delicate Susan and wholesome, stocky Jin-ho, take roots and become American…

Full of achingly hilarious moments and toe-curling misunderstandings, Digging to America is about insiders and outsiders, pride and prejudice, young love and unexpected old love, families and the impossibility of ever getting it right…

I finished this book last night and still don’t really know what to make of it. I enjoyed the book but there were times when it was dull and because it centres mostly around the “Arrival Day Parties” a lot of time was skipped over and events missed out – like the death of a family member, and by the end I didn’t even know how old the girls were.

However, Tyler covers a lot of issues in the book, such as adoption, parenting, death, nationality and what links people and forms friendships. It was interesting to see the girl’s friendship develop over the years, and to see how that turned out, as well as the parents. I think Tyler successfully addressed the issue of nationality, and whether an immigrant can feel a citizen in a new country. She also seems to ask why people adopt and why they do it from foreign countries, and whether this makes them saviours in some ways. I think she writes in a way that this would be a good discussion book.

Another problem I had was there were too many characters, and a predictable storyline. When romance blossomed I wasn’t surprised and I struggled to remember who was who. Because of the book spanning so long and many events being missed out I felt no connection to the characters unfortunately and there isn’t a particular one that stands out in my mind as my favourite.

Overall it was a good read with a lot of depth in key issues such as nationality and adoption, but it isn’t my favourite book of the year.