Reviews

Book Review: What We See in the Stars

If you like mythology, science, or history, this book is for you!

If you like mythology, science, or history, this book is for you!
description of the book from the publisher:

A richly illustrated guide to the myths, histories, and science of the celestial bodies of our solar system, with stories and information about constellations, planets, comets, the northern lights, and more. 

Combining art, mythology, and science, What We See in the Stars gives readers a tour of the night sky through more than 100 magical pieces of original art, all accompanied by text that weaves related legends and lore with scientific facts.

This beautifully packaged book covers the night sky’s most brilliant features–such as the constellations, the moon, the bright stars, and the visible planets–as well as less familiar celestial phenomena like the outer planets, nebulae, and deep space. Adults seeking to recapture the magic of youthful stargazing, younger readers interested in learning about natural history and outer space, and those who appreciate beautiful, hand-painted art will all delight in this charming book.

As usual, my five point review:

  • I requested this book to review because my husband loves mythology and science, and I thought it would be fun to look at together… and equally enjoyable for him to be able to take to use in his classroom at school. He teaches eighth grade science, and this book is just perfect! When you open it up, it’s immediately obvious that it’s a very high quality book. The artwork is gorgeous, the paper is thick, and it just feels nice in your hands, almost like a gift book.
  • The book is well organized, with chapters dedicated to various constellations, the Milky Way, the moon, the sun, the planets, asteroids, and deep space. The organization makes sense, especially for science-focused readers. It is so comprehensive, yet very manageable.
  • I appreciated the layout of the book–a good mix of text and (beautiful) images. The author, Kelsey Oseid, seamlessly integrated history, science, and mythology in an approachable fashion. Sometimes discussions of mythology can seem outdated with science and present-day knowledge, but it did not appear that way in this book which was awesome.
  • Oseid’s writing and content was approachable for a variety of ages and knowledge levels. Reading this book made me reminisce about Star Lab in my fourth grade classroom–the first time science was really interesting to me. I think this book would be great for kids interested in any of the subjects mentioned in this book (mythology, science, and history), especially if they want to learn more about another field. Younger kids may need help understanding some of the words and concepts, but it’s accessible for middle school and up.
  • Whether you’re looking for an actually interesting coffee table book that your guests will want to flip through, a gift for a young scientist, a book to use alongside homeschool curriculum, or just an accessible book about the stars (and so much more), give this book a shot! I know you’ll like it too.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Blogging for Books for the chance to read this book!

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Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.
Reviews

Book Review: Sacred Rest

Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.

Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.

description of the book from the publisher:

Staying busy is easy. Staying well rested- there’s a challenge.

How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life? In Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, reveals why rest can no longer remain optional.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she has found lacking in the lives of those she encounters in her clinical practice and research-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, creative-and why a deficiency in any one of these types of rest can have unfavorable effects on your health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. Sacred Rest combines the science of rest, the spirituality of rest, the gifts of rest, and the resulting fruit of rest. It shows rest as something sacred, valuable, and worthy of our respect.

By combining scientific research with personal stories, spiritual insight, and practical next steps, Sacred Rest gives the weary permission to embrace rest, set boundaries, and seek sanctuary without any guilt, shame, or fear. Learn more about the author and the book.

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As usual, my five point review:

  • This book is so practical in our day and age. We are all busy, and in need of rest in so many ways. The author, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, is no different. She set out to write this book as a way for her to address the need for rest in her own life, both from a perspective worthy of her Christian faith as well as her medical background (read: lots of research went into this book!).
  • The author divided rest into seven categories: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, and creative. Though I’ve never thought of rest as needing to be some of those categories (sensory, for example), it makes perfect sense. The wide variety of categories do not really overlap, as I feared they would. As I was reading this book, that lack of overlap allowed me to zero in on areas in my life where I would appreciate (or need) more margin and more rest. That is so helpful!
  • Since this book aims to target the busy, the burned out, and the frenzied among us, the chapters are short, sweet, and concise. The majority of chapters contain practical advice on how to reset and rest so you can “recover your life, renew your energy, and restore your sanity.” This is very compelling! Though I read this book from cover to cover for the purposes of this review, the author encourages savoring the chapters to get the most out of them. Additionally, she gives an option of starting the book partway in (which I thought was very interesting!) so that the desperate can get practical tips, now.
  • There were two issues I must address with this book. The first is the lack of Christian content. Depending on your side of the coin, you may appreciate this (or you may not). There is some scripture in this book and you can definitely tell the author is a woman of faith. There wasn’t as much of a spiritual basis for the author’s beliefs and arguments for why we should rest. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and maybe my perspective would be different if I savored the book rather than read it straight through. This leads to my second point to address: part of the book, like most self-care/self-help/psychology based books, definitely had a me me me feel to it… a selfish feel. Maybe that was hard for me to read because, like most women, I want to take care of others, particularly my family. I didn’t get a good sense of the author’s why for rest besides just a healthy self. I think I was looking for something more here… I may not be articulating it well, and perhaps that isn’t even the point of the book. It’s just something I want to mention.
  • All in all, this is a good book. The practical tips for rest are great. Nothing earth shattering, but breaking it down by areas is a unique approach. Additionally, there is a quiz in the book to help us self-diagnose where we need to pursue rest. Though the Christian content is lacking and may not align entirely with my beliefs, there are parts that I still appreciate.

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Litfuse for the chance to read this book!

Elizabeth Camden's From This Moment is a fun, enjoyable read. Hope you enjoy this book review, and check out the book too!
Reviews

Book Review: From This Moment

Elizabeth Camden’s From This Moment is a fun, enjoyable read. Hope you enjoy this book review, and check out the book too!

Elizabeth Camden's From This Moment is a fun, enjoyable read. Hope you enjoy this book review, and check out the book too!

description of the book from the publisher:

Stella West’s artistic talent made her the toast of London, but when her beloved sister dies under mysterious circumstances she abandons everything and heads for Boston. With single-minded determination she fights to pierce the ring of secrecy surrounding her sister’s death. Upon meeting Romulus White, a publisher with connections into every important power circle in the city, she quickly realizes he could be a valuable ally in navigating Boston society.

Romulus has been pursuing Stella for years to create art for his magazine. Her luminous illustrations are the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry, and he will stop at nothing to get her on board.

Sparks fly the instant they join forces, but Romulus is unsettled by the unwelcome attraction he feels toward Stella, fearing she might be the one woman who could disrupt his hard-won independence. He may have finally met his match in Stella, but is helping her solve the mystery of her sister’s death worth the risk to his publishing empire?

As usual, my five point review:

  • absolutely loved Stella, our heroine. Though the book takes place in 1897 Boston, Stella is a woman beyond her time. She is a hard worker (outside the home, no less), spunky, opinionated, and determined. Without her perseverance, the mystery surrounding her sister’s tragic death would have never been explored. Or uncovered? You’ll have to read the book to find out! 🙂
  • Next I suppose I should talk about Romulus. Honestly, this guy annoyed me so. much. until the end. Then at the end, he won my affection just a bit. He’s confident but afraid of failure. He is endearingly loyal though, a trait that did help him get on my good side.
  • As you can guess by the synopsis, there is a great deal of romance between Stella and Romulus. If you’re a regular reader of these sort of books, you can probably guess the ending. What I appreciated about this romance though was that it wasn’t quite as straightforward or predictable as many. The two had to learn to work together and sacrifice their desires and needs in order to help each other… this is the substance of good relationships, is it not? So for that aspect, their relationship was precious.
  • There was one other romance that I really appreciated in this book… and that is one between estranged spouses Evelyn and Clyde. I would love to read more about their story–I was certainly rooting for them to succeed. Evelyn, just as a note, is another example of a strong, modern woman. She is Romulus’ partner at the magazine and is the reason for his professional success. I hope their story is shared more in the future!
  • All in all, this is a smart, compelling book. There’s so much this brief review hasn’t touched on–from the level of detail the author gives about science-y things, to the murder mystery aspect of this book, to the smart dialogue between the characters… this is a book you don’t want to miss!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

Reviews

Book Review: Refresh

Today I am reviewing Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona & David Murray.

Today I am reviewing Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona & David Murray.

description of the book from the publisher:

Life can be overwhelming. Sometimes it feels as if everything and everyone demands all of our time, our resources, our energy, and our very lives. Writing to women in the midst of this busy, do-it-all culture, husband-and-wife team Shona and David Murray offer practical tips for living at a more sustainable pace and avoiding exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Sharing personal stories of their own struggles with overwhelming demands, they give counsel on everything from sleep to social media, relationships to recreation, and exercise to eating. This book encourages women to cultivate a healthy approach to life motivated and moderated by Christ’s transforming grace.

As usual, my five point review:

The premise of Refresh focuses on evaluating our lives through various lenses such as rest, relaxation, reduction, etc. Each of the ten chapters begins with the letter R and is called a “station” at the Refresh Gym. If you read the introduction, you’ll note that Refresh is a feminized adaption (by Shona, presumably) of of a book that David Murray wrote for men, Reset. I found the gym analogy a bit cheesy and did wonder how many women that imagery would appeal to. That aside, I would recommend the book. It began with Shona’s story, detailing her journey towards burn out. The trajectory introduced by the book argues that most (Christian) women are somewhere on this spectrum: stressed –> anxious –> overwhelmed –> burned out –> sad –> depressed –> suicidal (p. 24). I would agree with that notion; I think in our culture it is tough to not fit into one of those categories. I wasn’t clear if that trajectory was research based or not, because I would perhaps organize the spectrum differently, but for the sake of this review: I don’t think it matters.

Though I did not find the majority of this book to be “new” information, what I did wholeheartedly appreciate was the balance between psychological/medical research, self-help tips and tricks, and Gospel truth throughout this book. This was particularly poignant in discussions of physical and mental health, areas that the church doesn’t often address.

The Bible … guides us to care for both the body and the soul. The apostle Paul presents his theology of the body in 1 Corinthians 6:9–20. He starts by admitting that the human body has been damaged by sin (vv. 9–10). However, that doesn’t mean we just forget the body. No, Paul says Christ’s redemption is not just for the soul but also for the body. It’s a full-body and a full-soul salvation. “The body is . . . for the Lord,” insists Paul, “and the Lord for the body” (v. 13). He made it, saved it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. (p. 68)

One of the aspects of the book that I did not like was the approach to relaxation. There was great conversation about the Sabbath, but otherwise the application of annual vacations and daily personal times was a bit too privileged, specific, and (in my opinion) did not give room for factors such as family preferences, finances, and circumstances that do not allow for this. For instance, staycations were not encouraged because “being home” and “not doing anything” was not restful enough. I love vacations and I love personal time, but I know many people who logistically and financially cannot make things like that work, so the chapter seemed a bit exclusionary.

The number one thing I appreciated about this book was the recurring theme about vocation and work. This is so rare in Christian books written for women! Again, there was some privileged discussion here–a “choice” to work (not reality for all women, I know). Priorities in the workplace, balancing family and ministry and personal faith and work, and also accepting imperfection are all addressed at length. Other chapters addressed friendship, family matters, raising children in the faith, and our own personal relationships with God.

In general, I found Refresh to be thought provoking and helpful, a good analysis of how we can deal with life in our busy culture in a healthy, Christ-centered manner. The book closed with some thoughts for living the grace-paced life. So encouraging!

But God has taught me that, no, the grace-paced life is not only his will but more honoring to him. For me, to pace myself means less of my efforts and more of God’s grace. I have had to learn to fight hard against unbiblical, false guilt and personal expectations. I have learned to look up to God before looking across to people and ask: “What does God want me to do right now?” The key is to grasp that pacing ourselves is biblical, whereas living the fast, frantic life is not. It takes faith to believe that and to follow through with it. To live it is in fact a dying to self—a dying to our self-will, our self-sufficiency, and our self image. Have you understood frantic living versus grace-paced living in that way before? (p. 173-174)

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Crossway Blog Review Program for the chance to read this great book!

Reviews

Book Review: The Sound of Rain

In search of a wonderful book to read during the upcoming holiday season? The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas is just what you’re looking for! 

In search of a wonderful book to read during the upcoming holiday season? The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas is just what you're looking for!

description of the book from the publisher:

After a terrible mine accident in 1954, Judd Markley abandons his poor Appalachian town for Myrtle Beach. There he meets the beautiful and privileged Larkin Heyward, who dreams of helping people like those he left behind. Drawn together amid a hurricane, they wonder what tomorrow will bring—and realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

As usual, my five point review:

  • From the opening pages, you will be pulling for the main characters–Judd and Larkin alike. Both characters, though remarkably different, with various goals and motivations, are passionate through and through. They are likable and you will be rooting for them to succeed. The romance element is sweet, believable, and present in the story without being the sole focus.
  • The secondary characters are also incredible. Granny Jane, Ben, George… though each has their own strengths (and weaknesses!), their role in the story was instrumental to its conclusion. I wish there was space for their motivations to be shared more! Especially George’s. Maybe a space for a sequel?
  • Christian fiction as a whole has changed substantially over the past few years (maybe longer?). I appreciated this book and the author for crafting a story where the characters’ faith did play a role in their life via convictions, priorities, and decisions but the telling of the story did not at all appear preachy.
  • I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a side of drama and romance. Larkin is a strong female lead and her struggles epitomize the challenges women have faced throughout history, so I think her character would be a great influence for many.
  • All in all, I just have to say: what a beautiful book. From the gorgeous cover to the lyrical writing to the great sense of place (1950s Myrtle Beach and Appalachian West Virginia and Kentucky), this book is unmatched. The author is also a wonderful storyteller, dedicated to the craft of writing and not just churning out the next book. I can’t wait to read more by Sarah Loudin Thomas!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!