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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A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill! #bookreview #reading
Reviews

Book Review: The House on Foster Hill

A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill!

A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill! #bookreview #reading

A description of the book from the publisher:

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious demise fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters, resurrecting painful memories and forcing a reunion with the man who broke her heart. Can Ivy unravel the mystery and find a renewed hope before any other lives–including her own–are lost?

As usual, my five point review:

  • Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was so suspenseful and full of mystery that it was hard to put down! Gah. Those are the best (and worst) books to read because you don’t want to do anything else but read! Haha. Unfortunately, that’s not really possible as an adult. Sigh…
  • While reading this story, I connected most with Ivy and her story. Her character was compassionate, compelling, motivated, and sad. But reading about her transformation throughout the novel was wonderful and even though she’s “just” a character in a story, I have high hopes for her future!
  • It was harder for me to connect with Kaine’s story. She, like Ivy, is no stranger to hardship. But–and maybe this is a reflection of our modern life–seemed to have a harder time dealing with her pain. She wasn’t very likable and I just felt there was too much going on with her story for me to feel for her. It was just… complicated.
  • One complaint I had about this novel was that there was SO MUCH going on. Romance. History. Suspense. Mystery. Thriller. Contemporary. Stalker. Murder. Trafficking. Genealogy. There was a lot to keep track of in the moment. Reflecting on the story now… I think it worked, but in the future the author may want to narrow her focus a bit because I could see how that could be off-putting to some.
  • All in all, I highly recommend this book if you like novels that take place in two different time periods and settings, or if you like mysteries/romances/historical fiction/contemporary fiction, etc. The House on Foster Hill is a fast-paced, intriguing read. It does have some Christian elements, but nothing too heavy or religion-focused. I liked that there was a definite creepy/mystery element that is, in my experience, rare in books from the traditional Christian fiction genres. Please check this out, and let me know what you think! 🙂

What are you reading lately?

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: Tell Me About Easter

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick!

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick! #Easter #bookreview

description of the book from the publisher:

Is it Easter yet?

Rhyming text fills this short-and-sweet die-cut board book that helps toddlers celebrate the true message of Easter—Jesus! Plus, foil and flocking will engage little readers’ senses as they spot and pat each fuzzy animal. Welcome, Easter!

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick! #Easter #bookreview

As usual, my five point review:

  • This a short and sweet book about Easter–both sweet spring animals and Jesus. It is absolutely perfect for toddlers! Aside from the content, we’ve been able to use it as we teach our son about colors and animals–asking him questions about what he sees and whatnot.
  • We love the illustrations in this book. It’s not just your average everyday board book–many of the animals (lambs, chicks, bunnies), flowers, and leaves are covered in soft felt flocking. A great tactile way for your kiddo to interact with the book. There is also gorgeous foil in this book as well. Both elements make this book very engaging to young readers. And a pretty book is fun for adults to read, too!
  • The book rhymes, but not in an obnoxious way like other books can. Apologies for using the word obnoxious to talk about books, but please tell me you know what I mean here! 🙂 This rhyming is sweet and sing-songy… it’s precious to see my son nodding and grinning along with the text. He even claps at the end!
  • My husband and I value good theology for books–especially kids’ books. This one is great–very straightforward and simple. You can see the majority of the spiritual content on the page above.
  • All in all, I would highly recommend this book for a way to prepare your kids for Easter, especially for the little crowd (under 3-ish?). It’s simple and sweet. My almost two year old son loves it, either when we read it aloud or when he “reads” it to himself. I could see this book being fun for older siblings to read to their younger siblings as well.

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