Reviews

Book Review: How to Be a Perfect Christian

Read on to learn more about the NEW book from The Babylon BeeHow to Be a Perfect Christian.

Read on to learn more about the NEW book from The Babylon Bee--How to Be a Perfect Christian.

A description of the book from the publisher:

With a biting, satirical style reminiscent of The OnionHow to Be a Perfect Christian takes a humorous look at the quirks of cultural Christianity while subtly challenging the reader to search for more than a cultural faith.

Written in the trademark style of The Babylon Bee, this book humorously satirizes cultural Christianity while peppering in subtle challenges to the reader. Through humor and sarcasm (and a handy meter to rank your “holiness” as you progress through the book), readers will be called to find a more biblical understanding of the Christian faith, all while poking fun at the quirks of the modern, American Christian community.

As usual, my five point review:

  • Alright, let’s make sure we have this straight: THIS BOOK IS SATIRE. So, don’t get all cray cray on me thinking we can really be “perfect Christians.” You and I know that isn’t exactly true (or possible). But now that we’re clear… this book is hilarious–it is a must read if you enjoy The Babylon Bee. I have to admit I picked up this book for my husband. He LOVES The Babylon Bee, and I love watching him chuckle while reading their amusing articles. Ben and I don’t exactly have the same sense of humor, but I can appreciate some good sarcasm and satire every now and again, so I like some of The Babylon Bee’s stuff too.
  • How to Be a Perfect Christian is such a clever book but you have to read with a critical thinking mindset… and also realize that they are trying to make a subtle point about our faith practices through humor and satire. Each chapter analyzes a different aspect of American Christianity and pokes fun at everything in the modern church, from how Christians do devotions (i.e. social media images of your Bible and coffee) to worship (choosing the holiest place to sit) to spiritual growth practices (of all types). Prepare to be slightly offended, and maybe a little convicted too.
  • On the vein of being “slightly offended,” there’s lots in this book that could offend. So just be aware of that. I highly doubt that they’re intentionally trying to offend (or maybe that’s the point? I don’t know!). I think most of that is harmless, but depending on your views about language there could be some offending points. Also (and this is just a note), they are sort of casual when talking about Jesus, calling him “our homeboy” and mentioning things about “breathing down Jesus’ neck” in relation to holiness. I would have to reread and consider this more, but considering who we believe Jesus is (God), this is potentially a little too much. Yes, it’s satire, but it may go too far at times. Maybe that’s just me though. I’ve seen similar things on their site in the past. The last chapter shares the gospel much in the same way… so again, your appreciation of this book may vary based on your ability to separate satire and truth.
  • One great thing about this book is its ability to make you question your motives as you practice faith. Are you doing something because it’s Biblical or because it “feels” holy? This book, though funny, has the potential to be so much more… to challenge Christians to consider why they believe or do things, and not just do whatever the modern church tells them to.
  • Overall, I recommend this book. You’ll laugh and cringe, and hopefully come away with a better understanding of you as a Christian as well as how the world perceives you. Maybe you’ll also make changes in your life as a result, or at least examine your motives. As for audience, it would be enjoyed by high school-aged students on up. It could be a great gift to a college grad as they embark into the “real world” and learn how to be a Christian outside of a protective bubble of childhood and the college campus. If you regularly read The Babylon Bee, you may recognize some content or themes, but there is a lot of new material too.

Interested in this book? It releases on May 1, 2018 but for now you can read an excerpt here

What are you reading lately?

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 great book!

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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!

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: 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!

Do you know how to make rest a reality? For Christians, Sabbath rest is what God calls us to and what He wants for us... but it's hard. This book is a great read on Sabbath rest--it is practical, encouraging, and challenging all in one! I highly recommend it! Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller
Reviews

Book Review: Rhythms of Rest

Do you know how to make rest a reality? For Christians, Sabbath rest is what God calls us to and what He wants for us… but it’s hard. This book, Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller, is a great read on Sabbath rest–it is practical, encouraging, and challenging all in one! I highly recommend it!

Do you know how to make rest a reality? For Christians, Sabbath rest is what God calls us to and what He wants for us... but it's hard. This book is a great read on Sabbath rest--it is practical, encouraging, and challenging all in one! I highly recommend it! Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller

description of the book from the publisher:

“This book breaks all your preconceived notions about Sabbath.”–Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker

This book is for anyone who is weary–who longs for rest but doesn’t know how to make it a reality. Shelly Miller, a sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping, shows how even busy people can implement a rhythm of rest into their lives–from small windows of time to a whole morning or day. With encouraging stories from people in different stages in life, Miller shares practical advice for not only finding physical refreshment but also restoring your soul. You will learn:

· Simple ways to be intentional about rest
· Ideas for tuning out distractions and tuning in to God
· How meals and other times with friends and family can be Sabbath experiences

Sabbath is a gift from God to be embraced, not a spiritual hoop to jump through. Discover how genuine rest is possible today.

“Shelly Miller writes from her soul–one that has been seekingrest in the midst of heavy transition and the busyness of life. What you learn will help you love God more deeply.”–Margaret Feinberg, author of Live Loved and Fight Back With Joy

As usual, my five point review:

  • When you think about the concept of Sabbath, what are your initial reactions? I don’t think American Christians practice Sabbath very well. I know I don’t–though I have tried to change routines of my week so that things like grocery shopping and cleaning don’t get pushed to Sundays after church. When I’ve talked to my friends about Sabbath, words that come up often include legalistic, difficult, rigid. What I love about Rhythms of Rest is that Shelly Miller encourages us, as Christians, to push back against these notions and embrace the rest of Sabbath through grace.
  • What exactly does that mean, embracing the rest of Sabbath through grace? Miller encourages flexibility and grace with the hows of Sabbath in your life. She doesn’t read the Bible as saying that we need to do x, y, and z to experience and practice Sabbath rest. As I am rereading that, I realize that could look to some as a misinterpretation of scripture… but I don’t think it is. The timing of your Sabbath can vary depending on your profession, family life, and weekly schedule. God isn’t legalistic and His call to rest may vary depending on your stage of life: caring for babies can’t stop on Sundays, after all. Those in ministry work on Sundays, so their day of rest should be a different day. The author gives lots of great examples of how you can rest in Sabbath, and also encourages you to seek God to see how He is calling you to do so.
  • The examples are one of the best parts of this book. Each chapter includes various stories and situations (many gleaned from the author’s Sabbath Society) about Sabbath rest, challenges, and suggestions. The suggestions are simple (move your chores to Saturday, make soup on Saturday to eat on Sunday, etc.) but they are powerful: great illustrations of how one act can set the stage for rest.
  • The end of the book has a section with questions for each chapter. I think these questions could be used in a variety of ways: a Bible study or small group (maybe even read some of the scripture passages in each chapter to enhance your discussion), personal journaling, family conversation… lots of options! Though Miller provides simple suggestions for change, these questions are not simple–many are deep and thought-provoking.
  • My one caution with the book has to do with how the author interprets the hows and whys of hard life situations, like miscarriage and illness. She shares so many personal stories from her own life (like her desire to move to London) and from her friends, acquaintances, and participants in her Sabbath Society. Her understanding and explanation of the situations can be a little harsh and perhaps(!) not entirely Biblical. At the very least, her views, to me, are not theologically sound and could be discouraging, triggering, or offensive to some people. I’m not saying she’s right or wrong–it’s hard to know without more information. But putting them in print seems a little iffy to me, and was my one hang up with the book. Overall though, I found Rhyhms of Rest to be encouraging and challenging. I would definitely recommend it to others.

To sum it up…

Following God’s call to Sabbath has become something I have felt more convicted about in recent years, especially since the birth of my son. My husband and I work full time so it’s hard to get everything done around the house AND spend quality time as a family on the weekend AND carve out space for the Lord. I’ve especially been thinking about how I want to model my faith for my son. I think practicing Sabbath and teaching rest is so important.

Recently I read an article about Sabbath that has GREAT suggestions for celebrating the Sabbath with kids. Many of them will have to wait until my son is older, but some are still doable now. I’m going to close with a quote included in that article that has really stuck with me.

“Did it ever occur to you, as a parent that between the birth and the age of twenty-one years there are three solid years of Sundays — an amount of time almost equal to the number of years given to an entire course of college training? The Creator has not laid upon parents the responsibilities of parenthood without giving them ample time and opportunity to discharge these obligations to Him, to themselves, and to their children.” 

— Sylvanus Stall, D.D.

Things to think about! Even though the reality of implementing rest is challenging, it is so important! I’d love to hear your thoughts about Sabbath in the comments.

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!