December Book Reviews

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston ☆ (audiobook)
Sophie is a high-school senior, semi-neurotically applying to all the colleges and prepping for the future when she overhears her boyfriend mention she's become boring and uptight. She dumps him, days before Christmas. She heads to her grandparents' home to spend her winter break since her parents are helping her pregnant sister deal with pre-eclampsia symptoms in a different town. Her huge family all try to console her after her breakup and devise a hilarious plan to set her up for ten dates with guys from their town to get her mind off of her ex-boyfriend. Some of the guys are sweet, some are way too young and obnoxious, and the results are fun to read. All the while, a childhood guy friend reappears in her life and she starts to wonder if there could ever be more to their friendship. The book is set in Louisiana, so the southern cousins, accents (expertly executed by the narrator), and references to southern traditions was enjoyable. It is light overall, though has a serious note with Sophie's sister's serious diagnosis and possible problems with birth. Definitely out of my typical genre since I don't read rom-com, but this was a fun experience.

Rating: PG (I think 1-2 cuss words)

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (audiobook and physical copy) 
It is easy to lump God's holiness within a list of other attributes of God, such as His love, faithfulness, eternal nature, omnipresence, etc. But Sproul argues that God's holiness is central to His being. So, His love is perfectly holy, His faithfulness is perfectly holy, and so forth. He defines God's holiness as not only set-apartness and pure (which is how I always understood it), but a third quality of transcendence (so far above anything else in His creation that it cannot even compare). He explores different areas of His holiness, including His justice (and how it doesn't negate that He is also loving), how His holiness ought to inspire awe and a healthy fear/respect, the dangers of downplaying His holiness when we feel uncomfortable with it (and with ideas like God's anger, and what the Bible verses truly mean to be holy because God is holy. Journal/discussion questions at the end of the book help to meditate and further work through what each chapter highlighted and to take action by worshiping God for His holiness. This was a thought-provoking and eye-opening book that challenged and encouraged me to appreciate God's holiness in a whole new, deeper way. I would recommend this fantastic book to any and every Christian.

Rating: G

The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus by Daniel Darling 
This was my third year reading this book in December and I still love it! Each chapter of this thought-provoking book focuses on a different person surrounding the story of Jesus' birth, from the obvious (Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the Wise Men, the angels, the shepherds) to the more obscure (Simeon and Anna) and even "the monster of Christmas", King Herod. Great insight that brought these pivotal characters of Christmas alive to me in fresh ways. Disussion questions at the end of each chapter dig deeper and help to extrapolate even more practical application. This is a great book to read during Advent, especially if you want a fresh understanding on the people who witnessed, either in awe or in fury, the birth of Christ.

Rating: G

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp 
This devotional was a perfect way to savor the Advent season. The thought-provoking daily devotions were deep and sometimes even challenging (in the sense that it revealed things in me I felt I needed to pray through). I absolutely loved that Tripp included a short section at the end of each daily reading that was for parents and children. It had a simplified explanation of the devotion and a great way of explaining it and discussing it with children through metaphors. I look forward to using that portion with Elliot when he is older because there were really great ways Tripp explained themes such as what it means that Jesus is the Way, how God's peace is different that the world's peace, the promises God has given us in His Word, Songs we sing at Christmas, self-righteousness, and hope (among many others). I definitely recommend it for anyone who wants a daily devotional for the  Christmas season. The devotions are each four to five pages, so it is not very time-consuming, but is succinct, very well-written, and pointed me towards Jesus every day in December 

Rating: G

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu 
What a better way to celebrate Advent than to focus on the names of the Jesus. This five-week devotional is a great resource to deepen your knowledge and press you towards worshipping Jesus as you grow in understanding of what certain names signify, including Son of Man, Lamb of God, Light of the World, and the Vine. There were great questions for each daily devotional as well as a prayer. Every Saturday has activities to do rather than a devotional, which I liked because it gave me good ideas to celebrate the coming of Christmas in new ways that pointed me to Jesus and served others around me. 

Rating: G

A Thrill of Hope: Advent 2019 by She Reads Truth 
I love this Advent study from She Reads Truth as well as the 2017 and 2014 studies. The booklets are gorgeous with beautiful photography in between the 4 weeks of Scripture readings and space for journaling. Every year, I read through the Scriptures as well as my notes from the devotionals. This one goes through the Christmas story, but leading up to it are devotionals with prophesies regarding Jesus' birth as well as other passages about the importance of Jesus coming to earth. 
Rating: G

1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas Phelan, PhD 
I’ve heard several pediatricians recommend this book to parents to help with discipline. I have been curious about it and finally got around to reading it. This is the 3rd edition, published in 2003, so it was a bit dated and I can only speak to this edition since I don’t know if there are newer, improved versions. Dr. Phelan is a clinical psychologist, author, and lecturer on child discipline and ADHD. In this book he breaks down  two types of behaviors parents encounter with kids: difficult behaviors they want to STOP (fighting with sibling, taking back to parent, throwing food, etc) and good behaviors they want to START (completing homework, cleaning a messy room, wake up and get ready for school on time, etc). For stop behaviors, he recommends counting the child while keeping quiet and not overly emotional (as opposed to screaming at the child). This looks like counting to 3 slowly, and then using a time out. For start behaviors, he has seven techniques to try for different situations to motivate the child. These include positive reinforcement (praising when noticing good things), simple requests (matter-of-fact instead of nagging or pleading, timers, docking allowance until desired behavior starts, natural consequences, charting desired behaviors and rewarding once they’re doing it for a while, and a modified counting. I could see myself using a few of these, and I appreciate him warning parents of trying to teach, use too many words in the heat of the moment because they’re just not listening or in the right head space. I also like that he finishes the book with discussing ways to strengthen your relationship with your child through affection and praise, active listening, one-on-one fun experiences, and avoiding over-parenting. But there was also plenty that I felt I’d need to tweak to fit my parenting style, which would mostly fall under gentle parenting/positive discipline. There wasn’t a lot of discussion about validating emotions, particularly in the section about temper tantrums. I totally disregarded that section because I don’t think counting to three and putting my child in time-out is going to encourage them to stop a tantrum that their body can take a lot longer to calm down and to be in a room by himself while dealing with scary emotions is not the right option for me. But counting and then having a “time-in” (I’m in the room, but not talking, no play time, just quiet and low-stimulation to help him calm down) is my way to tweak it. So, while this book isn’t revolutionary, nor will it be a go-to parenting for me, there were a few things I took away that I could tailor to my parenting style.

Rating: G

The Reading Life: The Joy of Seeing New Worlds Through Others Eyes by C.S. Lewis 
Essays, articles, and letters written by C.S. Lewis on the topic of reading are compiled in this collection that is sure to make any book-loving C.S. Lewis fan very happy. It was fun to read about Lewis' love for books, from his penchant for re-reading his favorite books over and over, to his high view of children's classics, to his glowing reviews of his BFF J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy, this was just a delight. The first half was more enjoyable than the second half, which was a bit harder to follow and more scholarly. 
Rating: G

Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
After reading Eight Cousins earlier this year, and not being overly impressed, I was encouraged by some people to continue on to this sequel, which several ladies have loved. So I finally listened to it on audiobook. Rose is now twenty years old and becoming quite the philanthropist, volunteering at a children's hospital, donating money to have a home built for poor women, and remaining best friends with Phoebe, who was previously a poor young maid before Rose "adopted" her.  Now everyone seems to be interested in who she will agree to marry, since the  wealthy relatives want to keep all the money in the  family. Marrying cousins, though I realize it was a strategic move and very common back then, still weirds me out, so it was hard to root for any of the older of the original eight cousins to win her heart. But the ending was very sweet, both Rose's romance as well as Phoebe's.  
Rating: G
'Classics Club' Reading Challenge:  - 34th book (out of 75). See my whole list HERE