Search
Close this search box.

Last Child in the Woods

Gray jay bird on a tree branch in the woods

Last Child in the Woods dives deep into the reasons why we’re spending less time in nature–and what the future might look like if we don’t go back outside.

Called to Create

Book Review: Called to Create by Jordan Raynor | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Called to Create Author: Jordan Raynor Genre: Religion/Entrepreneurship Blurb We were created by an infinitely creative God to reflect his love and character to the world. One way we do that is by continuing his creative work. In this energizing book, serial entrepreneur and bestselling author Jordan Raynor helps artists, entrepreneurs, writers, and other creatives reimagine our work as service to God and others… Perfectly poised to reach today’s growing creative class, this unique work restores God’s position as the first entrepreneur, helping readers see the eternal value in the work they do today. – Goodreads My Thoughts I was worried that this was going to be cheesy—one of those “beat you over the head with the moral” kind of books. But it wasn’t. The gospel principles are sound, the insights are profound and thought-provoking, and the stories were inspiring. Raynor uses famous entrepreneurs and creatives to illustrate his points, including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the founders of various charities and corporations. I enjoyed reading their stories and learning from their examples. I also really loved the concept that God was the first entrepreneur, and that by being creative and entrepreneurial, we can become like Him. That is especially true as we run our creative endeavors with certain Christlike attitudes, including a desire to bless the lives of others, attention to detail and quality, following divine inspiration, and focusing more on giving than taking. I’ve mentioned before that I feel called to create this blog. I want to glorify God and serve His children with all I do. With that in mind, Called to Create was an endless source of inspiration and enlightenment. I wish I owned a copy so that I could highlight everything that I found particularly useful, but chances are, that would be most of the book. If you are a creative person—whether professionally or not—this book is an excellent treatise on the ways we can use our God-given talents to glorify Him and to do His work on the earth. Score: [clear] And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Horse Stories from the Man Who Played with Sticks

Book Review: Horse Stories from the Man Who Played with Sticks | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Horse Stories from the Man Who Played with Sticks Author: Johnny Ruhl Genre: Religious Books Blurb Author Johnny Ruhl is an experienced horse trainer. When working with horses, he often thought of the parallels between training horses and the important lessons we need to learn to live a fulfilled, God-honoring life. That is how this collection of artfully crafted horse stories came to be. The stories are fascinating in themselves, but more importantly, each story teaches a valuable Christian principle. The teaching is on two levels. As children read or listen to the stories, they will catch something they can understand. Adults will see additional truths at a deeper level that apply to their own lives. Great stories for children—life-changing Biblical principles for adults, with instructions at the end for making a gee haw whimmydiddle stick! – Goodreads My Thoughts My mother, a fellow horse lover, recommended this to me and let me borrow her copy. The writing is a bit simplistic and the book is very short, so it’s an easy afternoon read. But despite the simplicity, I thought the stories were very good. I loved reading about the different horses and appreciated that the gospel messages hidden in each story were subtle. Ruhl doesn’t spell out the morals for you, rather he lets you sit with the children in his fictional audience and figure them out for yourself. This excellent set of modern parables was both thought-provoking and refreshing. Score: [clear] And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Author: Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir Blurb Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat. – Goodreads My Thoughts Who knew a book about a meal plan could be so engaging? Barbara Kingsolver is an absolute master. Her writing is tight yet evocative. I fell in love with her family, her friends, her farm, her animals, and her journey. She spoke to my heart, answered my burning questions, and treated every living creature with respect and dignity. I was inspired. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will appeal to fans of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food, Inc., or farmer’s markets. For those keen on trying their own hand at eating local, Barbara’s daughter, Camille, includes their family’s favorite recipes based on locally-sourced produce. Kingsolver’s husband, Steven Hopp, includes highly informative asides about many issues surrounding our modern food system, as well as handy resources for those who wish to learn more. I loved every page, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Score: [clear] And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Carried: How One Mother’s Trust in God Helped Her through the Unthinkable

Review of Carried by Michelle Schmidt and Angie Taylor | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Carried: How One Mother’s Trust in God Helped Her through the Unthinkable Author: Michelle Schmidt and Angie Taylor Genre: Memoir/Spiritual Blurb On October 19, 2016, Michelle Schmidt’s plane landed in Oregon, where she was meeting her daughter, Annie, for a camping trip. But Annie didn’t show up at the airport to pick up her mother as planned. Thus began a season of searching and coming up short, of miracles and frustrations, of love poured out and faith tested, until Annie’s body was finally discovered more than three weeks later in the Columbia River Gorge, where she had fallen while hiking. As Annie’s mother opens her heart to tell her story, her husband’s story (Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys), and Annie’s story, she writes: “It is my hope that my journey of being tutored by God to trust Him more—not only through the loss of Annie but through some of my most vulnerable and personal past experiences—will be the means of bringing strength and hope to anyone suffering at this time.” When the unthinkable happened, Michelle Schmidt made a choice: to trust in God. This remarkable book will give readers the courage and inspiration to make that same choice. – Goodreads My Thoughts I remember when Annie Schmidt, daughter of John Schmidt of Piano Guys fame, went missing. My heart broke for their family, and I prayed that they would find Annie safe and sound. I will admit, I was quite surprised and confused when Michelle Schmidt stated rather early on that she believed Annie was dead. I knew there had to be more than the media was telling us, because there is no way a loving mother would give up on finding her daughter alive unless she had a ridiculously good reason. So when I was given the opportunity to read Carried before its release, I jumped at the opportunity to get the whole story. And boy, did it open my eyes. This book is a very raw, honest account of the horrifying experience of realizing that Annie was missing, and of the clear and obvious ways the Spirit sustained her family through their search. I won’t divulge the details of how Michelle came to believe that Annie was deceased—partly because I am morally opposed to spoilers, and partly because the telling of it is so heartbreakingly beautiful that I could never do it justice. Suffice it to say that the influence of the Spirit was very much a part of those dark days. But Carried is more than just a book about finding Annie. In it, Michelle also shares past experiences that helped build her faith and gave her the peace she would so desperately need when Annie disappeared. She tells of health issues, career decisions, and family experiences that shaped her testimony of a loving Heavenly Father who guides and directs His children, even when things are really hard. As a professional creative, the stories she tells of the early days of John’s music career were both relatable and encouraging. He is so well loved, and his music touches hearts all over the world. I can only hope that someday, Jest Kept Secret will have such a positive influence. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Carried. It is a surprisingly sweet and uplifting story, despite what it’s about, and it provided a much-appreciated spiritual boost over the last week as I reflected on the ways God has sustained me in my own trials. Score: Available At [clear] [clear] And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks! Disclosure: While I did not receive monetary compensation in exchange for this post, I did receive a complementary copy of the book to read so that I could write an honest review. All opinions are mine, based on my own experience, and were not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or distributors of this book.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Book Review: The Soul of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: The Soul of an Octopus Author: Sy Montgomery Genre: Non-Fiction Blurb In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food. Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds. – Goodreads My Thoughts I will never look at octopodes[1] the same way again. This book chronicles the surprising relationships Montgomery forms with a series of octopus friends, as well as the human friends that join her on her journey of discovery. Montgomery provides thought-provoking insights into the meaning of intelligence, desire, consciousness, and mortality as she tries to comprehend the reality of a perspective so completely different from our own own—and yet, it is a perspective which doesn’t seem altogether unfamiliar. Told with the same loving, respectful, and curious voice that I came to love in The Good, Good Pig, The Soul of an Octopus was an instant favorite. With Montgomery’s record sitting at 2 for 2, I think I really need to read more of her work. Score: An emphatic [clear]   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks! [1] I learned recently that the plural form of “octopus” is not actually octopi, as most people believe. It’s octopodes because the word “octopus” is Greek. Pluralizing with an “-i” suffix is a Latin rule.

We Bought a Zoo

Book Review: We Bought a Zoo | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  I think the timing of this book review is pretty appropriate considering today is a double post day, and the other post is the beginning of this month’s Battle of the Zoos series. Be sure to check that out while you’re here! Title: We Bought a Zoo Author: Benjamin Mee Genre: Memoir Content Warning: Scattered strong language Blurb In the tradition of “Marley & Me” comes an unforgettable memoir about the mysteries of the animal kingdom, the power of family, and the triumph of hope over tragedy in this chronicle of the Mee family’s purchase of the Dartmoor Wildlife Park, a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. – Goodreads My Thoughts I LOVED this book! It was fascinating to learn about the day-to-day operations of a zoo and the world of zookeeping. The writing was tight, the voice was well-developed, and the humor was so British. I fell in love with all of the characters (human and animal) and it made me miss England so badly. I could do with a few less F-words, though. No need for any of that. Score: [clear]   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Even This: Getting to the Place Where You Can Trust God with Anything

Book Review: Even This | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Even This: Getting to the Place Where You Can Trust God with Anything Author: Emily Belle Freeman Genre: Religion (LDS) Blurb Even This invites readers to make room for daily personal experiences with God. From the very first page readers will walk down a spiritual path meant to remind each of us that God will meet us in the unexpected, bringing His goodness, giving us cause to trust, reminding us of His capacity. Filled with deeply personal stories about holding onto belief, daring to trust, and longing for understanding, Even This chronicles one woman’s quest to find God in the everyday moments-with one of the most powerful experiences taking place as she searches for sea shells while walking on the beach-and provides many opportunities for individual introspection. “Yes, God is good and He can be trusted,” Freeman concludes, “and it is the daily discovery of these truths that has the potential to become the greatest journey of a life and lead us closer to Him.” Ultimately, the author hopes Even This will encourage and motivate readers to: Stop letting fear dictate the depth of your belief through simple daily reflections that will restore your confidence in God. Let go of your need to control by discovering what is holding you back from being completely vulnerable in your relationship with God. Diminish the power of doubt by coming to understand why the place of deepest asking is where the believing begins. Learn how to trust that God may have something entirely different in mind than you could ever anticipate–something better. – Goodreads My Thoughts I borrowed this from the library, but it’s officially on my list of books that I need to own. Even This is a series of anecdotes that taught the author an important lesson or gave her insight into her relationship with God. The stories are moving and truly brought the Spirit, and I felt both my mind and my heart growing with new understanding. I laughed. I cried. I felt close to my Heavenly Father. And not only is Freeman incredibly insightful, she’s also a masterful writer. Her prose was lovely and evocative, an absolute pleasure to listen to on a Sunday drive. It reads like a novel, but touches hearts like a General Conference talk. I highly recommend this one. Score: Available at And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking Author: Susan Cain Genre: Non-Fiction Content Warning: Brief mild swearing Blurb At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer. Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts. Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts–from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a “pretend extrovert.” This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves. – Goodreads My Thoughts This book has changed my life. It has given me a better understanding of who I am and a greater appreciation for my strengths as an introvert. I have long thought that something was wrong with me because I was too chicken to comment during discussions at school, or because I’d beg off parties, or because I’d have panic attacks when expected to converse with strangers. But now I know it’s a product of my personality, and I feel like I have permission to be me. I also feel like I have tools to better deal with situations that typically cause me anxiety. I understand extroverts better, too, and why I could seem extroverted as a child but grow into a full-fledged introvert as an adult. This is a must read for anyone who is an introvert, works with an introvert, or loves an introvert. (And that should pretty well cover everybody, so that shows you how I feel about this book. HA!) Score:   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Personally, we're big fans of good ol' chocolate chip, but we do use digital cookies to improve your experience with Jest Kept Secret and help the website function smoothly. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our privacy policy.