10 clean books for girls starting high school

Diary of a teenage girl series

  1. Diary of a Teenage Girl series
    Author: Melody Carlson

    This is one that can really be read any time during high school because it follows the main character Caitlin O’Connor through the struggles and triumphs of her teenage years. The diary format sucks you in immediately and keeps your attention, like when your best friend comes up to you bursting with a story and their first words are, “You will not believe what just happened…!” This series is about finding true faith in God for yourself, and not just going through the motions of church or being a ‘good girl’. Carlson uses a diary to be quite frank with the reader and I found that it helped give me some perspective as it covers most of the common issues that teens either go through, or witness in their friends’/classmates’ lives (including family conflict, crushes/dating, teen pregnancy, friendship changes, puberty, faith, mental health and eating disorders). I often came away from reading this feeling convicted to address certain areas in my life and really connected with Caitlin because of how relatable she is.

 

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pride-prejudice-book

  1. Pride and Prejudice
    Author: Jane Austen

**BIAS ALERT**
This one had to make it into one of my book lists sometime. Those who know me well are probably rolling their eyes right now. I’ll never forget telling one of my guy friends that Jane Austen was my favourite author and his reply was, “Oh cool. She wrote the Twilight series, right?” He was being totally serious, bless him. Pride and Prejudice I have read five times and counting. This book is the bomb. Love, betrayal, friendship, family relationships, drama, humour—it’s got it all. Elizabeth Bennet is such a quirky, strong, kind character who doesn’t let 19th century etiquette rules stop her from standing up for herself and speaking her mind. The best thing about Jane Austen’s writing is that someone can be getting totally insulted but not even realise because the person has phrased it sounding like a compliment. A lot of people write off Jane Austen as just a lady who used a pseudonym to write a bunch of sappy romance novels, but what stands out most to me is her witty social commentary, peeling back the layers of Regency England.

 

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hawk and jewel

  1. The Hawk and the Jewel
    Author: Lori Wick

This one we bought for a dollar at our school’s fair before it sat on the coffee table unopened for months—until my sister picked it up and then we didn’t hear from her for two days straight, and then she told us we all had to read it. It may not quite a classic but if you like historical novels (can you tell that I do?) with fascinating family, social and cultural dynamics, then this will interest you. The Hawk and the Jewel is the first in a four book series but in my opinion is by far the best. It depicts the story of a girl who thinks she is an Arabian princess until she travels to England to discover a family she never knew she had.

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number the stars

  1. Number the Stars
    Author: Lois Lowry

This book really tugs at the heart strings. It is an amazing fictional work of something that could have happened during World War II, and likely did happen, hundreds of times in a hundred different scenarios—fill in the details yourself. Ten year old Annemarie is best friends with Ellen, a Danish Jew, in Copenhagen in 1943. She is given the opportunity to save Ellen’s life, but it may cost her own. This is a beautiful story of friendship and the strength of the human spirit in times of history’s greatest turmoil.

 

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hunger-games-trilogy-cover-logos

  1. The Hunger Games series
    Author: Suzanne Collins

This one features a bit of violence, with some more hectic themes, but Katniss really comes alive as she struggles against a system in a futurist America that is stacked against her in every way. Most people have probably seen the movie but as someone who read the book afterwards, it is still worth it. Because the threat of the evil ‘Capitol’ restricts what Katniss can say without fear of being killed, the movie can’t give you all her inner monologue and struggle which, in my opinion, is the highlight of the novel. The series also highlights the dangers of where Western society is headed by being desensitised to violence.

 

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little-women-book

  1. Little Women
    Author: Louisa May Alcott

Another all-time favourite, among the March sisters everyone can find someone to relate to. It shows sisterly relationships and what it’s like to grow up in a house full of females. Little Women is a classic for a reason, showing the girls grow up, navigate love and relationships in a world that has the ripple effect of war stamped all over it. It deals with themes of class, wealth, gender expectations, dreams and male/female barriers of the time period.
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Sisterhood_of_the_traveling_pants

  1. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
    Author: Ann Brashares

From Bethesda, to Mexico, to North Carolina, to Greece, following a pair of magic pants around the world is a really interesting experience. I liked this book because the girls all have such different ways of seeing the world and as you watch their various approaches, your mind is opened and you see the importance of spending time with people who are unlike you. This book is funny and relatable, and was a quick, easy read because it is written in a very conversational tone.
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lion _ a long way hoem

  1. Lion/A Long Way Home (the young readers edition)
    Author: Saroo Brierley

Ever imagined what it would be like to survive alone on the streets of a dangerous city at the age of five? Enter the mind of little lost boy Saroo as he accidentally travels thousands of miles away from his home town and is unable to get back because he doesn’t even know what it is called. This tale of survival and resilience is so compelling that at several points you want to check the front cover again to make sure that it really is a true story. It gave me a snapshot of what some people’s lives are like simply because unlucky things happen to them, and that none of us should underestimate the value of home and family.

 

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bridge to terabithia

  1. Bridge to Terabithia
    Author: Katherine Paterson

I read this novel with my Year 7 classmates (one of whom ruined the ending for me) and remembered it for its purity. It explores innocent friendship and the transforming power of imagination. Jesse’s world is changed when he meets Leslie, and they create a magical land together. Terabithia: a place where they are free to be themselves—isolated from bullies, home’s pressures and anything else they don’t want to think about. This novel for any young person who looks at the world and realises, in one way or another, that is not quite what it should be.
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Ella_enchanted_(book_cover)

  1. Ella Enchanted
    Author: Gail Carson Levine

This novel is very different to the movie version, and definitely worth a read. Full of quotes that you feel like writing out and putting on your bedroom walls, the language is beautiful and shows a separated young couple’s longing for each other. It also shows how Ella responds to difficult circumstances and chooses to overcome with kindness.

 

Hope this list was helpful, now happy reading!

Sincerely
Lil

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Images (all sourced 17 August 2017):
http://booksofthebible.com/p4644.html

https://magicoficecream.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/pride-and-prejudice-book-review/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/389688.The_Hawk_and_the_Jewel

https://www.amazon.com/Number-Stars-Lois-Lowry/dp/0547577095

http://www.thelogofactory.com/logos-of-the-hunger-games/

https://bizarrevictoria.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/bad-little-women-book-covers/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sisterhood_of_the_Traveling_Pants_(film)

http://penguin.co.nz/books/lion-a-long-way-home-young-readers-edition-9780143784760

https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/bridge-to-terabithia/author/katherine-paterson/first-edition/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_EnchantedDiary of a teenage girl series

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Book Review: Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

 

‘’Why does God create Adam? What is a man for? If you know what something is designed to do, then you know its purpose in life. A retriever loves water, a lion loves the hunt, a hawk loves to soar. It’s what they’re made for. Desire reveals design, and design reveals destiny’’ – John Eldredge

Often, I notice how men in all spheres of life are seemingly floating away like a lost buoy swayed by high vicious seas, lacking a sense of purpose due to a loss in support or poor foundations. Whatever floats your boat is the term most applicable to modern day men, pursuing those things that appeal most to their own desires – which isn’t wrong, not in the slightest.

What is it that makes your heart race? Tell me… does working a 9-5 truly satisfy your soul?

I love how John Eldredge relates the relevant beasts of the land to their purpose and what appeals to their inner most being; ‘’Desire reveals design, and design reveals destiny.’’ I am a firm believer in this statement, speak to anyone for longer than 10 minutes and you’ll understand what it is that they’re most passionate about, you’ll notice how their pupils dilate, how their engagement in the conversations begins to heighten. It is not wrong to want to pursue that. I certainly would find little joy in working a 9-5 that steals all my joy and happiness.

‘’For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’’ (Romans 6:10-11).

If we are being continuously transformed and pursuing Christ, our desires will be for his Kingdom. Let’s face it, our hearts are corrupted, we were born into sin, but Christ provided an option, we can either seek to benefit ourselves in and through our desires, or benefit the kingdom, each will bear its own fruit. You cannot choose to benefit God’s Kingdom and continue to pursue unrighteousness. The point I’m trying to make is: we were created with personality and individuality.

‘’You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!’’ (Psalm 139:13-14).

I truly believe that God has fashioned us in the most beautiful and diverse way possible. But how is the mandate of the kingdom applicable to my individuality?

‘’For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell’’ (Philippians 1:21-22).

Paul’s single objective was to pursue a life that brought fruit to God’s Kingdom, regardless of his personality, he made his personal desires that of furthering the Kingdom, and so should we. All else will inevitably correlate when we pursue Christ first.

Men, your purpose is not to float away. Your purpose is to pursue a life that involves every bit of Christ in it as possible. Take courage, stand strong.

Jacques.

+ + +

 

As a woman, it didn’t occur to me at first to read Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I had read Captivating by John and his wife, Stasi, and it had had a profound impact on me. It was only when my dad suggested that I read Wild at Heart in order to understand the men in my life better. Even before I met my man, it gave me some valuable insights into men and from that time on I started practising.

Let me explain. A lot of concepts that work in romantic relationships also work in any male/female relationship. I could try out these new revelations on my dad, brother, guy friends . . . the list was endless. Why not form good habits early?

The core of a man’s heart is undomesticated and that is good.
– John Eldredge, p. 4

One of the biggest things Wild at Heart taught me as a woman was create space for your man. Allow him to be who he is: wild, strong, deeply masculine, capable, wanting to rescue and provide. True masculinity is not something to be afraid of or annoyed by.

Society at large can’t make it up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men.
– John Eldredge, p. 7

Men were created to reflect aspects of God’s heart in a unique way.  They reflect his strength, his desire to pursue, his eyes of fire (spoken about in Revelation 1), and his rescuing, protective, cherishing heart.

“Where are all the real men?” is the regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say. The result is a gender confusion never experienced at such a wide level in the history of the world.
-John Eldredge, p. 7

But what do we do as women that squash men, make them shrink back? Those were the things that I was paying attention to as I read. And how could I not do them?

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul. They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be. I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself. They may be misplaced, forgotten or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.
– John Eldredge, p. 9

I want the men around me to be free to be who they were created to be. The kind of men that make heaven rejoice and the world a better replace. Because just as much as it needs women, the world needs men. True, godly, strong men with lion hearts.
Lil.

Where to buy . . .

 

Sincerely,

Jacques and Lil

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Image: http://www.livewithpurposecoaching.com/blog/review-wild-at-heart/

Book recommendation: Captivating

Do you ever feel that you are “too much” and “not what you should be”?

The non-fiction book that has probably impacted me the most is this book Captivating, written by a Christian married couple, John and Stasi Eldredge. The introduction alone had me in tears.

It began to answer the question: “What does it mean to be a woman?” As someone with identity issues, this text spoke to me in a way that I had never experienced before.

This book, written from the perspective of both husband and wife, is not mainly a book about marriage. It is a book about being a woman – and for me has been anointed. The best way to describe it is that it tore me down and then built me back up, from the very foundations.

Captivating has brought me to tears (eye-swelling, gut-wrenching, soul tears) where wounds so deep—some I didn’t even know existed—got brought into the spotlight. Reading it was very painful at times but I finished the last page a different woman because God used these words to minister to my soul.

I don’t like sounding so dramatic, because people often say about books and movies, “This will change your life!” And I promise I am receiving no money to promote this book. But the fact that I have bought or recommended it for close to 10 people already shows how relevant I find it. If you’ve talked to me about self-esteem or identity issues you’ve probably already heard me mention it.

I know I am not alone in this nagging sense of failing to measure up, a feeling of not being good enough as a woman. Every woman I’ve ever met feels it—something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does. An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is.  I am not enough, and I am too much at the same time. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough … But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong … The result is Shame, the universal companion of women. It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.
– Stasi Eldredge, pp. 230-131 (Wild at Heart and Captivating, 2005)

Why does this get to us? Because we have believed some lies in our lives, some at a very young age. And they have poisoned our hearts. Jesus wants to draw the poison out of us, the things that paralyse us, and bring us out into his glorious freedom. Because we were created for wide open spaces, for beauty and intimacy, not for shame, and self-loathing and fear.

Trust me I have lived on the one side, and am learning to live on the other. And I am so thankful to a couple who were obedient to God when he surely said, “I want to bring some freedom to some of my precious daughters through you.”

What is at the core of a woman’s heart? What are her desires? What did we long for as little girls? What do we still long for as women? And, how does a woman begin to be healed from the wounds and tragedies of her life?
– Stasi Eldredge, p. 224 (Wild at Heart and Captivating, 2005)

John and Stasi don’t claim to answer every question, but they have grasped something true and powerful in the heart of a woman that has often been lost, hidden or crushed. And it is something that the world desperately needs.

~~~

From a man’s perspective:
Q: Would you say it’s beneficial at all to read Captivating as a man? If yes, how so?
A: I’d say yes. Captivating reassured me of a lot of things I had been told about women – growing up with two women in the house, I had never fully noticed things that Captivating spoke about. I think it’s beneficial because it helps you understand just how important a man’s role is, and how it is in a woman’s core to be loved and desired.
– Jacques

Where to buy . . .

Sincerely,
Lil and Jacques

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Image: http://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1442893930i/11413._UY500_SS500_.jpg

Thievery schools, boxing with Hitler and writing to strangers: World War II books to read

I thought to broaden my scope in writing I could review and recommend some books, because any writer, accomplished or aspiring, must as a prerequisite be obsessed with reading. The two undoubtedly go hand in hand.

At the moment I am finishing Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction but have challenged myself to branch out lately. After a months long journey through the ‘survival, resilience and redemption’ (front cover) of a Prisoner of War in Japan during World War II, I have a new level of respect for veterans. As well as an ache in my heart for those who walked away from their tormentors in the war, and then went on to spend every night afterwards with them, still at their mercy in their dreams.

After reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak earlier this year (another brilliant read and now one of my favourite novels), I am starting to get a rounder view of the second World War. Depending on what country you’re from, and go to school in, you tend to a get a certain version or ‘side’ to the story, and while The Book Thief made me realise that so many Germans were also just victims, innocents caught in the middle, Unbroken opened my eyes to what was happening behind closed doors to our men while the rest of the world seemed to have their eyes glued on Nazi Germany.

Hailed as an international bestseller–I can see why–my copy’s blurb says:

In 1943, a bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Against all odds, one young lieutenant survived. Louis Zamperini had already transformed himself from child delinquent to prodigious athlete, running in the Berlin Olympics. Now he must embark on one of the Second World War’s most extraordinary odysseys. Zamperini faced thousands of miles of open ocean on a failing raft. Beyond, lay only greater trials in Japan’s prisoner-of-war camps.

Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini’s fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would depend on the strength of his will . . .

(Fourth Estate Paperback edition published 2014)

This book is gripping and you can’t believe the odds Zamperini comes up against, although as you read you’re hoping that it’s not a true story once you get attached to Louis and see what he has to endure.

The Book Thief is all about an obsession with words, and how guns didn’t start a war, words did. Tanks and soldiers didn’t kill the main character Liesel’s father, words did. It shows how Germans were forced to support the Nazis if they wanted to survive. They were punished for even showing sympathy to Jews.

The descriptions are like I’ve never heard, but not out of place in an effort to be obscure and the format of the book, whilst still in chapters, is creative and humorous, despite the heavy topic.

My favourite books combine heartbreaking, serious subjects with the very lightheartedness and wry humour that is necessary in order to survive them. Along those lines, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows) is another World War II book (an epistolary novel) that combines these elements beautifully, but I would probably only recommend that one to people who like quirky humour.

If you’re looking for a good read on World War II, check out one of the above. Happy reading!

Sincerely,
Lil

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Image 1: http://www.flickeringmyth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/unbroken_australian_poster.jpg, sourced 12 June 2016.
Image 2: https://trailers.apple.com/trailers/fox/thebookthief/, sourced 12 June 2016.
Image 3: http://assets.allenandunwin.com.s3.amazonaws.com/images/original/9781741758955.jpg, sourced 12 June 2016.