I love to read books, so I will be passing along my reviews of books that have inspired me, strengthened my faith, encouraged me as a mom, or fueled my creative sparks. I will also be honest about the ones that I think you should skip. Check back here for more book reviews soon!
Advanced Review of The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good on You by Lisa-Jo Baker (Coming in July 2019)
First of all, before I even opened the book, I really liked the cover. I was picturing a launch party where ladies get to wear t-shirts like the one Lisa Jo is rocking on the cover (bonus points for the tutu as well). Inside, I truly enjoyed the short essays on life at age 40 — the middle of parenting, marriage, and womanhood. I HIGHLY recommend this when it comes out, even though you will have to wait several months for it. I am not 40 yet, but I found myself identifying with a lot of what Lisa Jo wrote. I am not too far from “over the hill,” so it is interesting and comforting to hear from someone who has hit that milestone. This book seems to be a way to express thanks to God for a life well-lived and to honor the experiences that have made up a beautiful life. Looking at life in the middle is a time to cherish everything that others might see as “imperfect” and to realize how it’s all a gift to enjoy and steward. Her description of the 100th day of school milestones were hitting close to home for me because my son is in that stage now. Above all, the book is beautifully written.
Advanced Review of The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay: Coming in March 2019
I am a huge fan of books by Katherine Reay, so I was beyond thrilled when NetGalley approved an advanced reader’s copy for me to check out and review here. My top three favorite books that Reay has written, in order of how much I adored them, were The Bronte Plot, The Austen Escape, and A Portrait of Emily Price. What drew me to those three the most were the literary connections, travel, and the author’s vivid writing. She is very good at finding the nuances of human relationships; she also writes about aesthetic experiences, art, and history with a great sense of detail. As a creative and bookish person, I appreciate how she weaves art and literature into a lot of her stories. Her latest book, The Printed Letter Bookshop, is my fourth favorite of hers; Lizzy and Jane is at the bottom of my list, but even that book is great. I definitely recommend The Printed Letter Bookshop because it has a strong story line that is based in wisdom (without thumping you over the head with it), well-drawn female characters from a range of ages, plenty of bookish references for those of us who love literature, references to art, and a setting that is easy to imagine. Something that Reay did in this book that I absolutely adored was that she subtly brought in Sid McKenna Antiques and Design — a setting and character that were carried over from The Bronte Plot. I thought that was a pretty clever little wink to the readers who follow her books. I smiled when I read that! It’s hard to beat The Bronte Plot, but this is still a book that I highly recommend. The only book of hers that I have not read yet is Dear Mr. Knightley, and it’s only a matter of time until that one is checked off my list too.
The Jesus Who Surprises by Dee Brestin
I read Dee Brestin’s He Calls You Beautiful book about the Song of Solomon when it came out, and it provided some beautiful devotional times for me. Once again, Dee Brestin has written a book that is filled with spiritual depth. I highly recommend it as a book for your own quiet time.
I can never get enough mixed media art ideas, especially when it comes to Bible Journaling or the art that I make to hang around my house. The Painted Word: Mixed Media Lettering Techniques gave me some great ideas (Feb. 2019). I highlighted and bookmarked a lot of sections on my digital copy of the book. Hand-lettering combined with mixed media art is definitely having its moment right now, and as a person who likes the written word and art, it definitely appeals to me.
Whispers and Wildflowers is my current devotional (Feb. 2019). God has been speaking to me about my need for rest because I have to multitask A LOT in my day. I feel like this devotional made its way to me at the right time, and it relates spiritual truths that I can say “amen” to because God has brought them to my attention as well. Each devotional is short, but each one has several scripture references and depth. I recommend it! My only negative is that I’m reading it on a plain Kindle, and I am guessing that this book is probably pretty in a printed version. Here is the publisher’s description:
Do you feel constantly busy but, deep down, constantly soul-weary? In this inspiring and practical book, Sarah Beth Marr helps you develop a regular practice of withdrawing from busyness to realign and refresh your heart, mind, and soul. She helps you discover Scripture that will lead you to peace, connect with God on a deeper level, run to God rather than to other things that do not satisfy, experience less stress and more contentment, and be fully present in your life. If you feel distracted, burnt out, depleted, or overwhelmed, let Sarah Beth be your gentle and uplifting guide to greater personal peace and simplicity.
I have a strong curiosity about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. This isn’t the first time I have recommended a book that talks about Jewish traditions or Israel, and it probably will not be the last time! I truly am fascinated by it. If you would like to have a better understanding of the Bible through the lens of Jewish tradition, this is another book that I would encourage you to consider.
I used this journal to keep track of our Christmas experiences and traditions for the first time this past Christmas in 2018. It felt like a great way to honor the season and savor the traditions that we are creating. On This Christmas: A Five-Year Journal is a pretty neat keepsake journal that can be passed down to future generations. I wrote in this beautiful journal daily; I was surprised I was able to do it during the busy holiday season, but it is something I looked forward to each evening. Taking care of some of the baking and shopping early created the space for a reflective journaling time. It will be really neat to look back at next year. The other thing we did for Advent as a family is read a special devotional each evening and light an Advent candle. If you did not grow up in a church tradition that celebrated Advent throughout the month of December, it’s something you might want to consider. It brings a lot of personal meaning to the entire season rather than focusing on just one day.
Praying the Promises: Anchor Your Life to Unshakable Hope by Max and Andrea Lucado At first glance, I thought this would be a nice book to give as a gift because of how pretty it is; however, once I opened it and started reading, I realized I like this book so much that I am going to keep it and re-read it often. It is filled with encouraging promises and Bible verses. It’s not the “name it, claim it” type of promises that Christians have become wary of either (As I understand it, the “name it, claim it” philosophy is based in the attitude that God “has to” do something, and it is also connected with the false thinking that God’s blessing is always shown in health and wealth). Instead, this book is filled with real promises for believers that we can pray in agreement with, such as “you will know God,” “God will guide you,” “your prayers have power,” and “the Holy Spirit empowers you.” The book itself is visually beautiful, and the chapters are short enough that they could easily be read as a daily devotional. Many Bible verses are referenced in each section, which I liked. This book could easily be a starting point for a lot of Bible Journaling.
I will make the knowledge of God my highest pursuit. I will stand firmly upon God’s promise that all (believers) will know him. And as one who seeks him, I will trust that he will make himself known to me through the beauty of nature, relationships, and everything around me. He is not hidden from me.” — excerpt from Praying the Promises
This is a beautiful and fascinating book filled with quality photography. It combines biblical prophecy, historic photos of Israel from the 1880s to the 1940s, and modern photos taken from exactly the same vantage point as the historic photos to show how the locations have grown in development, population, and vegetation. I am very curious about Israel and would love to visit the sites that are so meaningful for Christ-followers; I feel like viewing photos of Israel brings me a little closer to the land, if only from the comfort of my couch. Thousands of years ago, the prophet Ezekiel foretold a future time in which the arid land of Israel would come alive for its people; Hershey believes that his photos document that vision. It is pretty compelling to look at the difference 100 or so years makes in the land, and it seems that the establishment of Israel 70 years ago has been connected to the land’s growth. I am not a Bible scholar, so I do not feel qualified to comment on the direct connection between the photos and biblical prophecy; however, I will wholeheartedly recommend this book, and I am convinced that Hershey’s observations of growth are not at all a coincidence. Israel was the land of God’s chosen people of the Old Testament and the place where prophecy was spoken and will be fulfilled. If you are curious about Israel too, I would recommend checking out the photos in book’s website to see a video and some photos.along with Kathie Lee Gifford’s recent book which really brought the landscape and culture alive for me. I cannot recommend enough! I feel like looking through after reading Kathie Lee’s book brought a whole new, rich layer to what I am discovering. A description from Kensington Publishing Corps says, “From the hills of Shiloh where shepherds once roamed, to the booming city of Tel Aviv, founded on sand dunes, to the stellar beaches of Caesarea, transformed from a small village into one of Israel’s most stunning coastal cities and finally Jerusalem, the Eternal City of Peace, where in ancient times the power of worship resounded from the Temple — this sumptuously illustrated photography book transports, educates illuminates, and celebrates the legacy of Israel.” Kensington Publishing Corp reached out to ask if I would like to review this book. I highly recommend it for a photographic experience that I do not believe you will find in any other book; seeing a side-by-side comparison was a neat experience. Even though it’s not Christmas time, this coffee table sized book would make a pretty amazing present. Check out the
*These books were sent to me by Book Look Bloggers or NetGalley in return for my honest review.