January 2024 Book Reviews

January has been a long month is some ways. It's cold & dark. We've been not eating sweets. But on the other hand, it feels short because I have 2 birthdays to plan for at the beginning of February. Our baby will be 5 & our sweet daughter is turning 9!

Picking up where I left off last year, I'm planning to continue these monthly posts of what I'm reading. I'm trying to start off the year strong since I have quite a few books I'd like to get through this year.


Just Be Honest: How to Worship Through Tears & Pray Without Pretending by Clint Watkins

Drawing from his experience of deep sorrow, Clint Watkins brings a call for a more consistent habit of lament. Lament isn't just for those walking through personal tragedy. It's for all of God's people all the time. It should be part of our regular spiritual disciplines. It should be a part of our worship services. In regular practice of lament, we gain a vocabulary for walking alongside those who are grieving. We can do better to welcome those who are hurting to walk through that range of emotions without having to hide behind what is deemed OK by our society. This was a tremendously heartfelt book & I would highly recommend it.

More to the Story: Deep Answers to Real Questions on Attraction, Identity, and Relationships by Jennifer M. Kvamme

A Gospel-rich, grace-filled explanation of what the Bible has to say about sex, singleness, orientation, & so much more, More to the Story is geared toward teenagers & young adults. If a young person is truly seeking what God has to say about these topics, this is the book to read with them. It's not a book to hand to your teen & hope the truths stick. It's built for discussion in community. It would be a perfect opportunity to work through these topics with your child. I could also see a youth group using this book in a smaller group/discipling group setting. The author doesn't shy away from addressing the hard questions. She takes the readers right through the Gospel story, starting all the way back at creation, & points out how each question points us back to God. Definitely a must-read if you're parenting or mentoring young people.

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation by Wendy Speake

Our family has been saying "no" to sweets this month of January. It's not a weight-loss plan so much as an attempt to reset our brains & bodies after the overindulgence of the holiday season. We have birthdays that start the month of February, so we saw January as a good chance to do that. I've heard of this book before, so I went ahead & listened to it while in the midst of this month of no sugar. Wendy does a great job of drawing out Biblical principles of self-control, fleeing idolatry, etc. & applying them to how we think about food. It was really helpful to read through & hear someone else's thought processes behind a fast from sugar.

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

This Christian fiction was meh. I almost didn't finish it, but I slugged through. The premise is that a woman, Ottilie, from India (born to a English father & a Eurasian mother) struggles to make ends meet after losing her parents & all of her siblings but one little brother. Then, they find out that her little brother is actually the heir to a title & great estate back in England. They go there because it's their best chance at survival. They encounter racism (both overt & more hidden) & must overcome many challenges to make their own way in a less-than-friendly society. It's an interesting time period & the main character's talent at beetle-wing embroidery is a unique aspect of that era that I had never heard of. But, can I get all the authors of historical fiction to listen up? JUST USE REGULAR NAMES PLEASE. These names y'all find are so distracting. Just because you give your heroine a unique name, doesn't make your writing any better. (Side note to the people naming male characters in action stories - there are other names than JACK.) OK - off my soapbox now.

The Family under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

This was a read aloud with my kids for the Christmas/winter season. It came highly recommended, but I wasn't a huge fan. Neither were my kids. I mean, they let me forget to read some days & this book stretched way longer than it should have. If they like a book, they're reminding me constantly! The characters are charming if somewhat stereotypical. The author is dancing around some very deep topics in a very short, elementary-grade novel--homelessness, racism, classism, etc. It's definitely a conversation starter, if you let it be that. I hope it helped humanize the people in need that we see around us.

Futureproof: How to Live for Jesus in a Culture that Keeps on Changing by Stephen McAlpine

Another timely read from The Good Book Company! The author starts out with reminding us that God's church will stand. No matter what this broken, sinful world throws at it, the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus will never change. God has always been & will always be. With those truths as our firm foundation, how then should we live? As believers, we know our purpose on this earth & can live as wise stewards in Gospel community with other believers. We can also relate to those who don't believe with love & humility instead of hatred & polarizing pride. This book is so helpful in framing our thoughts & attitudes as we live in what seems to be an anti-God or even post-God society. We have a living hope that never fades away no matter what future we face here on earth.

How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family's Story of Hope and Survival in the American South by Esau McCaulley

I came away from this book with an honest appreciation that the author cared enough to share his story. He didn't shy away from the parts of his family's story that weren't pretty or flattering. And in doing so, he gives the reader a layered, complex portrait of an American family. It wasn't simply a story of racism, although you see that clearly weaving itself throughout his story. It was full of pride in how his mother was always there for him. It's the story of friendships that grew & changed as he got older. Of forgiveness & redemption. McCaulley's story shows the hope of Christ just like every human story does. This is a definite recommendation.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Quite the change of pace, but this was really a good one! It's set in Russia & pulls in threads of the rich folklore & legends along with the complex landscape & history. It follows a family, particularly one of the daughters, & the people that orbit around them. They are a well-respected family with family connections at the Kremlin. It also follows the supernatural beings that care for this family, from the little creature that tends their cookfire to the less-than-trustworthy beings living in the brooks. I know it sounds a little strange, but it's really an interesting book! I've already starting the second book in the trilogy.


A little bit of a mixture to start off the year, but that's what I tend to do! I really hope you find something that you'd like to read, too!

Cheering you on!


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