April Book Reviews

Memory Making Mom: Building Traditions That Breathe Life Into Your Home by Jessica Smartt 
This is a great book for any mom who is interested in creating new traditions in her family to foster more adventure, meaning, and celebration in the day-to-day. It's brimming with more than two-hundred memory-making ideas, but don't let that discourage or intimidate you; I simply approached it as a resource for ideas, knowing some of them can be applied now, some later, and some can just be ignored. In this way, I didn't get overwhelmed by all the different traditions, but instead, I became excited for the handful I wanted to try out in the next year or two. Smartt organizes the book into twelve chapters, with the first two focused on the frantic busyness that she experienced as a young mom before intentionally becoming a "memory-making mom", which is basically just her way of talking about traditions that bring her family closer together. The following ten chapters break up the different areas of creating traditions, from spontaneous adventures, to noticing beauty together, "food memories that stick to your ribs" (the actual title! haha), holidays, memories around learning (for both homeschool and traditionally-schooled kids), one-on-one ideas with kids, making chores a bit more fun, rest (taking a Sabbath), and fostering faith in the family. Smartt has an engaging, casual, and humorous tone, so it was an easy read and got me thinking about what rhythms, traditions, and adventures I want to try out for our little family. 

Rating: G

Honey For A Child's Heart: The imaginative Use of Books in Family Life (Fourth Edition) by Gladys Hunt 
I kept hearing about this book the past few months from different mom authors I have been reading, so I finally checked it out from the library. What a gift!  I wholeheartedly recommend this book for any mom who wants her children to develop a love for reading. Part One is all about how parents can use books to help their children grow. She talks about what makes a good book, how reading aloud is a shared adventure, how teaching the Bible to children is so life-transforming for Christian families (and practical ideas of how to do it), a challenge to look at who influences your children (she doesn't totally rip of TV/media, but she definitely has a lot of valid warnings and complaints), her thoughts on the value of fantasy literature and poetry, and how parents can make decisions about books they'll bring into their home. Part Two is comprised fully of book list after book list: a reader's paradise :)  She starts with a book list for babies and toddlers, then moves on to preschoolers, elementary, and early teen readers. I heard great things about these book lists from the aforementioned sources, and I was not disappointed! I loved Gladys' heart for quality literature and how it can impact children, encourage creativity, wonder, and adventure, and how Bible time as a family can be a beautiful and enriching time together. 

Rating: G

TruthFilled: The Practice of Preaching to Yourself Through Every Season by Ruth Chou Simons 

I love everything Ruth writes, from her previous devotionals (my favorite is Beholding & Becoming) to her insightful Instagram posts. Now she has written her first Bible study, which is a seven-week deep dive into Colossians, which she uses to teach readers how to preach God's truth to yourself in any circumstance. This study has video accompaniments that can be rented or purchased from the publisher, and I rented the first few, but stopped after I felt most of what was in the videos was already mentioned in the book. She breaks down Colossians in the first five weeks, then uses the last weeks for putting it all into practice. She outlines Colossians into five parts: an introduction (Col. 1:1-14) resting in God's character (Col. 1:15-2:3), rehearsing who you are (Col. 2:4-23), responding in faith (Col.3), and remembering God's provision (Col. 4).  I did it on my own, but it would probably have been even more fruitful if done as a group because of all the discussion questions (that I discussed with myself, lol). Her explanations of the verses were really solid and her application sections were incredibly helpful to me. It was mainly comprised of studying a verse or section of scripture (mostly psalms) and then following a three-part model, in which you 1) identify the care (what's the issue you're currently struggling with?), 2) Tell your soul what to do (put your hope in God through the specific verses being studied), and 3) embracing gospel hope (preaching to yourself by applying the truths of the Scripture you read to your specific situation). It was a powerful practice that I plan on continuing regularly since it has been so calming and encouraging for my often weary and anxious heart to take my worries to Him and grasp onto His hope, truth, and love of His Word. Lest I forget, the Bible study, as all her other books, are full of her masterful watercolor paintings and calligraphy, which just adds such beauty to the study. 

Rating: G

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (audiobook) 
This book absolutely intimidated me, but I was curious about it, so I added it to my Classics Club list last summer. After discovering a podcast called The Literary Life Podcast that is co-hosted by Cindy Rollins (the author of a homeschooling-focused book called Mere Motherhood that  I read in February), I saw that they have a seven-part discussion on this classic and I decided to dig into the book alongside the helpful podcasts. I am so glad I read this book this way because a majority of the symbolism and Greek mythology would have been over my head. It could still have been a great story, but I would have missed a lot of depth since my knowledge of Greek myths is paltry at best, plus C.S. Lewis is just far too brilliant for my brain to understand, so any help with the majority of his books is very well appreciated! In this re-telling of the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche, the focus is on Psyche's oldest sister, Orual. Never loved by her father (the king) and very ugly in appearance (her dear old dad calls her a goblin on many occasions!), she is incredibly possessive and selfish in her "love" for her baby sister, Psyche, as well as the two mentor figures in her life, a Greek servant nicknamed Fox who becomes her teacher and the captain of the kingdom's army, Bardia. The reader sees Orual sink deeper and deeper in her misery as she tries to control and manipulate those she believes she loves and how this is destructive and only brings more pain to herself and to them. There is just so much that C.S. Lewis digs into with this tale, and it reminded me of The Great Divorce (specifically the part about the mom who has a similarly selfish love for her son). 

Rating: PG 
Classics Club: 21st book (out of 75). See my whole list HERE

The Language of Kindness: A Nurse's Story by Christie Watson (audiobook) 
Christie was a nurse for twenty-years in London. This is her memoir of the early years, from nursing school to the first years as a nurse, extending to her later years and many of her experiences and lessons learned. She mentions specific patients who left an imprint on her life, mistakes she made, and many insightful and thought-provoking takeaways from her nursing career. She worked in a variety of hospital units, so she has stories about childbirth, administering chemotherapy, traumatic injuries, life-altering diagnoses, and end-of-life care. There are some heartbreaking stories, but understandably, that is the nature of a nurse's role as they come alongside people who are suffering. I was a nurse and a nurse practitioner until I became a stay-at-home-mom a year and a half ago, so I related to a lot of what she said and was reminded of some of my own experiences in a difficult but important career.

Rating: PG-13 (mild language, some references drug use, and detailed explanations of injuries, surgeries, etc. which may make some people squeamish) 

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar (audiobook) 
Tessa's Biblical novels are the only ones I read in this genre because I feel like other authors over-romanticize or add details that do not fall in line with the Biblical narrative, which irks me. But hers stick to the original characterization and overall plot found in the Bible with her own creative and believable unfolding of the story. In this case, she is digging into the story of Ruth. A woman who was grafted into the lineage of King David and eventually, the King of Kings (Jesus), she was originally from Moab, an enemy nation of the Israelites. Ruth's courage to leave everything familiar to her in Moab and cling to not only her widowed mother-in-law (Naomi), but also her God as they relocated to Bethlehem, is admirable. Her willingness to humble herself and glean (pick the leftovers) from the fields of Boaz, which exposed her as a needy foreigner, showed her loyalty and love for Naomi as well as her hard-working, diligent character. So it is no wonder that Boaz takes notice of Ruth. Their relationship is fleshed out, with Tessa taking creative license to add depth to Boaz's character (as a widower) and hints of their legacy leading to King David. The writing was strong and beautiful, with plenty of powerful statements about the redemption that Ruth experienced at the hands of Boaz and how it is a foreshadowing of our redemption by Jesus. 

Rating: G

How to Raise A Gentleman: A Civilized Guide to Helping Your Son Through His Uncivilized Childhood by Kay West 
A book on manners and comportment, this book goes into various topics such as teaching the basics (please, thank you, excuse me; using Sir, Miss, etc) to proper introductions, greetings, and leavings, to respectful behavior while in public areas, the ins and outs of playdates, sleepover, and birthday party manners, dining out, traveling, telephone manners, good sportsmanship, written correspondence (thank you cards), and temper tantrums. There are some helpful tips and overall good recommendations for training your son to be a respectful gentleman. I didn't get way too much out of it because most of the book included topics addressed in a similar book I read last fall (that I preferred to this one) called Connoisseur  Kids by Jennifer Scott.  I felt like that book was a bit more practical for the younger years that I find myself with my son and included a ton of fun activities to help teach the manners whereas this book just felt like a long, tedious list of dos and don'ts with a bit of a snobbish feel to it that rubbed me the wrong way at times. 

Rating: G

75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories Behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film by Terry Glaspey 
I am not a fan of the title (I get annoyed with gimmicky titles), nor do I agree that every Christian would necessarily benefit from or be interested in being exposed to all these masterpieces, and that is okay. But for those who appreciate art history, especially from a Christian perspective, this is an excellent read. I enjoyed reading about the majority of the masterpieces, with a few being a bit too modern and abstract for my taste.  Masterpieces I enjoyed reading about (along with the short biographies about the artists) include the hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" by Martin Luther, the painting The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio, The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, the choral piece popular around Christmastime, Messiah, by Handel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton (read it a few months ago and enjoyed it!), The Annunciation painting by Henry Ossowa Tanner, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, At Folsom Prison album by Jonny Cash, and The Joshua Tree album by U2. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers Newsroom in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Rating: G 

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon (audiobook) 
This is the the twelfth book in the Mitford series and I am still as in love with the characters and idyllic small town as ever. Father Kavanagh is still retired, though you wouldn't think so with his busy schedule of volunteering as a bookseller twice a week when the pregnant owner is on bedrest, plus working on a big landscaping project at his old church. He has his hands full, trying to show God's fatherly love to a teenager who is learning to trust after growing up abandoned  by his mom and ill-treated by his father. And as always, a ton of other projects and problems always find their way to his doorstep since he is so dependable and caring to his community. With humor, heartwarming relationships, and also a good dose of gritty real-life problems that are dealt with grace and a hope for redemption, this continues to be a beloved series that leaves me continually encouraged.  

Rating: G


What did you read in April? Any books you think I would love? I love chatting about books!