Tag Archives: matthew paul turner

A Look Back: Five Star Books

2020 is coming to an end, and for my own curiosity, I thought I would share the books that moved me in the last 12 months. I count December 2019 in this collection since I’m obviously not done with December 2020 yet.

Vicious – The first book in a duology by VE Schwab. All of her books usually garner a four or five star for me. In this book, there are two scientists trying to figure out how to give themselves special powers. And when they finally figure out what it takes, things go horribly wrong.

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern’s most recent book. I love her lyrical writing and fantastical settings. A man finds a scene of his life written in an incredibly old book. Upon further investigation, he finds an entire world of magic that is on the brink of trouble.

The Stationery Shop – I love this book by Marjan Kamali because it addresses pregnancy loss and mental health, though it is not really a part of the main plot. Two lovers get separated during a revolution. Decades later, they are reunited and discover exactly what happened and why it happened on that fateful day in history.

When God Made the World – Any book of Matthew Paul Turner usually gets a five star from me (as you will see on down this list). The illustrations are beautiful. Lovely children’s book that explores God’s creation and how we play a wonderful part in it.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands – One of my absolute favorite nonfiction/self-help books this year. Lysa Terkheurst shares the beauty of boundaries and changes the perspective of saying no to waiting to say the best yes.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle – The other favorite nonfiction/self-help book. Written by sisters Amelia and Emily Nagoski, it explores stress as a study and how to work through it to live a healthier, slightly more sane life.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life – Sweet memoir kind of book from Anne Bogel, who has a blog (Modern Mrs. Darcy) and a podcast (What Should I Read Next). Very appropriate book for this year.

Lovely War – Julie Berry Novel set mostly during World War One. The twist of this book is that the author incorporates Greek Gods who narrate the story. Aphrodite is trying the tell Hephaestus what love is when he finds her in the arms of Ares.

This Tender Land – William Kent Kruger novel that gives both Odyssey and Tom Sawyer vibes. Set during the Great Depression. Odysseus and Albert escape the abusive boarding school in the North and travel along the Mississippi river in hopes to reunite with their aunt.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth abut the American Church’s Complicity in Racism – Jemar Tisby’s excellent look at the history of the American church and slavery. I learned so much about how everything has evolved throughout time and how it has complicated everything today.

A Darker Shade of Magic – One of my hands-down favorite authors, V. E. Schwab. This was probably the series that put her in the spotlight, though I read some of her other novels first. It really does live up to the hype. The story takes place in London but there are four Londons, four worlds, once connected by magic. But when one world fell, it was shut out in hopes of containing the destruction. However, Kell and Lila have stumbled upon something that could change and destroy everything.

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner’s novel. Another historical fiction set in the town of Chawton, England after World War II. The town is known as one of the last places Jane Austen resided, writing some of her last novels there. A group of people connect over her books and seek to preserve her memory when the famous estate her brother owned might get sold off by its owner. TW: There is pregnancy loss in the book, but it is well-handled

All the Colors of Christmas – The second Matthew Paul Turner book on this list. No surprise here. Very beautiful book for Christmas that talks about the different colors that we find during this season, including ourselves as part of the beautiful picture.

How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi’s memoir-esque book about his journey to becoming more antiracist. It includes history and the people who inspired him along the way.

The House in the Cerulean Sea – This absolutely lovely book by TJ Klune is magical, fantastical, sweet, heartbreaking, and the closest thing to a perfect story. Linus Baker is a social worker who observes orphanages of magical creatures to see whether they are appropriately caring for their wards. When he is given a special assignment, his isolated, quiet life is turned upside-down in the most delightful way. Lucy was my favorite character.

Middlegame – A Seanan McGuire alchemical story about two people created as counterparts to each other and how they try to stop the end of the world. Beautiful, hopeful and heartbreaking.

What are some of your 5 star books this year?

Gift Ideas for Christmas

Christmas is coming. I mean, some people have had their decorations out all month. And I know that gift lists are already being shared. If you are looking to add to your list or are looking for a gift idea for someone else, I may be able to help. I have read a lot of books this year (and some in years past) that I think are very noteworthy and would make great gifts

For the kid selections, I will preface this with the fact that these books are based on my own experience of having a toddler. Here are some of our favorites this year.

I try to buy a new Christmas book every year, and this year my favorite children’s book author released one in September called All The Colors of Christmas! In a nutshell, it’s a beautifully illustrated, beautifully written book full of nostalgia and the real meanings of the Christmas season listed by color.

The Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson is a double murder mystery set in an elite boarding school. Each of the three books in the series reveals a little more of the clues of each mystery, one set in the 1930s and one present day. The character growth and inclusion in this series is stellar. I wrote about the first one here.

Neal Shusterman’s The Arc of the Scythe series is a bit more science fiction. It faces the ideas of death, mortality, love, and humanity in a three book series. It also strives to be inclusive as well. While the ending wasn’t what I expected, it was still a fun ride. The first book’s review is here.

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton, which is more of a straight historical fiction based on a hurricane that Florida in 1935. It follows three different women as they are searching for different things within their lives, defining what freedom really is in a post-WW1 America.

For a literature friend, or someone who loves Jane Austen books, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner is an absolute delight. There is the trigger warning of pregnancy loss, but I felt that it was appropriate and well done. I wrote more about it here.

The last three are my favorite authors, so any from them I would recommend, but here are a few ideas.

Deborah Harkness who wrote the All Souls Trilogy. She is a professor and historian which comes across in her books in a beautiful way. I first read Discovery of Witches back in 2014 and wrote this review.

VE Schwab, or Victoria Schwab, is also an amazing author who writes YA, Adult, and Middle Grade. There are so many I could recommend. Most of her books are in paranormal or fantasy genres. Her middle grade series starts with the City of Ghosts which is excellent, and the next (and I think final) book in the series is coming out soon, so it would be a fun series to read straight through!

Erin Morgenstern hasn’t written as many books, but the ones that she has are amazing, lyrical fantasies. I would recommend Night Circus first, though her books are not connected. I just felt like the Night Circus was a little easier to follow for someone who hasn’t read her before.

This year there have been a lot of books about race and racial justice, and a lot of suggestions in this category from years past. I haven’t read nearly as many as I would have like, but if you have someone in your life who is reading these topics, I would recommend How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. It follows his own journey in social justice, people who inspired him and mistakes he made.

Another book in this category that leans more towards history, particularly within the church is The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. I learned a lot about the evolution of the church in America, both white and black.

And finally, Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski has to have been my all time favorite book this year. It changed the way I saw stress and how I was contributing and sabotaging my own life. Game. Changer.

There are so many books that I loved this year, that it was hard to suggest just a few books. What are some books you have enjoyed this year?

All The Colors of Christmas: A Review

All The Colors of Christmas by Matthew Paul Turner
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Since this year has been absolutely crazy, I think reviewing a Christmas book for children in September sounds not only normal, but very much needed. Matthew Paul Turner has again created a beautiful story about all the good things this holiday season brings, giving us something nostalgic and precious to look forward to as we enter into the Fall season.

The book starts with the traditional colors of red and green as they bring up memories of sled rides and decorations of garland. Then, he moves to white and gold, as in the snowfall or star toppers on Christmas trees. He rounds out the colors with brown, like the reindeer (and the skin of baby Jesus) and with the color of You, impressing that we are a vital part to the season, adding our personalities and laughter to the holiday as vibrant as the colors all around us.

It’s a cozy book. It’s a book about beauty. And the pictures are gorgeous. The illustrator is Gillian Gamble who did the last book called, When God Made the World.

Overall, the book is sweet. I read it to my kiddo the day we got it, and he asked for me to read it again immediately, which makes it a winner in our house. We will definitely open it again closer to Christmas. It will also be a nice reinforcement of colors for our toddler which is another plus. This would be a great book to give at Christmas time, especially for new parents of little ones.

The rhyming sequence is different, which threw me off a bit when I first read it outloud. Generally, this author has written in couplets, but this time it was aabba stanzas. It changed the pacing of the book. This was just an observation, not a critique, because the writing still brings you to a beautiful place, even if the pace is slightly different.

I recommend any of this author’s books. Each one is a gorgeous journey of hope and beauty and inclusion into God’s story. This particular one would make a great Christmas gift to anyone, but especially the parents of little ones.

Books of January

In the past, I posted book reviews on Mondays, but I think I might do something different this year.  I realized that there was pressure to post, at least for me, during the months I didn’t have as much reading time or I was in a reading slump.  For now, I’m just going to give a brief overview of the books I read in January.  I did pretty good for January, finishing five books.

The Self-Evolved Leader by Dave McKeown – This was given to me to review by the author.  I’m not sure why I was chosen since I don’t actually lead a team in this season of life, but I still managed to have a few takeaways to incorporate in my own life, particularly the interpersonal relationships.  It was a solid four stars for me.

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali – Read this for book club.  Gave some Romeo and Juliet vibes, but is much more of a story than just that trope.  Set in Iran, mostly in the 1950s, but also some present-day scenes and everything in between.  Roya is a teenager in 1953 and falls in love with a political activist, Bahman.  They get engaged, but then he disappears with no real explanation.  She moves to the states and marries, which is revealed in the first chapter so no spoilers.  It covers so many topics, but specifically it touches on pregnancy and infant loss and mental health surrounding loss. 

When God Made the World by Matthew Paul Turner– This book came out on January 27th,  but I got to be part of the launch team which was super fun.  He is, hands down, my favorite children’s book author, and the artists he gets to illustrate his books are phenomenal.  This book is all about creation and seeing it as part of God’s divine story.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa Terkeurst – Changed my life.  I had come to grips with being a people pleaser at the end of last year, and I knew I wanted to listen to God more than others in the decisions I make in life.  But I had no real way to do that.  Enter this book.  It gives you permission to listen to God without the fear of looking selfish.  It made me see the choices I make in an entirely new light, and this will be a bedside re-read for many years to come, maybe at the beginning of each year but especially making any decisions!

The Toll by Neal Shusterman –  This was my only four-star read.  I really liked the trilogy, but I felt like the end wasn’t as strong as the rest of it, even though I got the special edition from Barnes and Noble that included notes on each chapter.  That really helped me understand just how much of the end was decided at the beginning.  I don’t think I can really get into the issues I had without spoiling it, but there were some characters that I really loved that seemed to just end abruptly (not necessarily died, just didn’t really finish).  Still, it was a good read.  I liked the approaches to power and death and grief that the entire story addressed.

What books did you read and enjoy in January?

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April Favorites

I have had an absolute blast this month. Michael’s busy season is coming to an end, and we celebrated Easter as a family. So many favorite moments, and here are a few more favorites this month.

Book of the Month

I usually don’t like a book with a lot of profanity in it, but this has to be my favorite this month simply for the fact that it challenged me on how I see and operate in the social media realm. Plus, it’s a great story. I wrote more about it here.

Baby

I bought this book for Sam for Easter. I love, love, love Matthew Paul Turner’s books. I have all three of them, and I will probably by any of the future ones he writes. His poetry (because that’s what it is) accurately reflects the love of God and for children so perfectly. You can check out more here.

Beauty and Fashion

I received my new FabFitFun box at the end of March so I have been playing around with a few of the products, like this Tula Purifying Face Cleanser. It’s a gel so it’s a different consistency from the other cleansers I’ve used in the past but it makes my skin oh so soft! I love it!

Like most subscription boxes, I can get you a bit of a discount and they will also give me a discount. The Spring box is going to be shipped next month and I already made my choices, so I’m anticipating some great products. You can still order the Spring box. Here’s the link for the discount.

Entertainment

Another movie from the TBW list, Mary Poppins Returns was absolutely adorable. I also watched Saving Mr. Banks this year on Netflix before I saw this one so the movie was a little different for me.

The plot follows the same formula as the first one. There is a scene with animation, a scene where they end up on the ceiling with a strange relative, and a scene of street workers dancing. There is even a scene at the bank, but I don’t think there was a song this time. Predictable, but cute. And Miranda and Blunt are darling. They do fix the unrequited love that Poppins and Bert seemed to have in the first movie…none of that in this one, but there is still love in the air.

What are some favorites you have been enjoying this month?

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