BOOK REVIEW: Help for the Fractured Soul, by Candyce Roberts

Thinking I was about to read a typical book on emotional healing, I picked up Help for the Fractured Soul: Experiencing Healing and Deliverance from Deep Trauma, by Candyce Roberts.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The book is a gutsy advocate for therapeutic intervention of those who have experienced trauma at the hands of others – often thru ritual and repeated abuse.  It speaks to those dealing with multiple personalities, and related disorders caused by such abuse.  This book is not for the faint of heart, although I thought the author’s portrayal of such true scenarios was gracious and tender.  A simple approach of prayer, coupled with quiet compassion and the expression of trust, are key elements of this author’s healing process. I ended the book in respect for the humility and love this author has shown to some really tough patients/clients.  I would highly recommend it to any pastor seeking knowledge and hope in this area of ministry to a small but tortured (and often hidden) set of members of any congregation.

This review was in return for my receipt of an advance copy of this book from Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group, thru Bethany House Publishers. My thoughts are my own.

 

Resources:

Candyce Roberts

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BOOK REVIEW: Short-Straw Bride, by Karen Witemeyer

An enjoyable addition to the Christian chick-lit category, Short-Straw Bride, by Karen Witemeyer, brings a gentle romance into life.  Meredith Hayes finds herself in a marriage to save her propriety, in a houseful of angry Archer men.  Despite an earlier encounter with her trumped-up husband Travis, for whom she has had childhood fancies, she discovers that a new marriage, especially under duress, will put her faith to the test.  Travis is honorable, yet fiercely protective of his property – will he allow her to truly be his helpmeet?

Karen Witemeyer has written her fourth novel, and I enjoyed every page of it.  Sure, the typical farm setting was in place, and the drama of a trumped-up marriage to put doubt and sizzle into everyday encounters, but yet Karen infuses it with humor, strength and drama.  The characters are all believable, likeable, and some are memorable.  The plot is simple yet drew me in, and the Biblical references seemed appropriate, not pat.

I enjoyed this book, and would read more by this author.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, for the receipt of my copy of this book, which is my only remittance for my candid review.

Resources:

Karen Witemeyer

video for book trailer

freedmen’s schoolhouse (an interesting detail of the story…I wondered how accurate)

BOOK REVIEW: Chasing the Sun, by Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson’s latest novel (of more than 90), Chasing the Sun, is based on a remote Texas ranch during the Civil War.  Beautiful Hannah Dandridge is orphaned on a large ranch with two younger siblings to care for, when she discovers that the ranch may not legally be hers.  Conveniently, the guaranteed-handsome William, (son of the previous owner) returns, and initiates flying sparks and fluttering lashes, and a generous slap of Baptist belief and pat Scripture application.  Complete with Comanche warriors, a smattering of Spanish phrases, and a growling geezer as William’s rival, it competes with a Pop-Tart for my attention.

If this is as good as it gets after writing 90-plus novels, it proves that anyone can write.  Thank you, Tracie, for dispelling my fears.

The plot was predictable, the characters uninspired, (yet quoting Scripture right and left), and the ending so pat I expected to hear the echo of “Ole’!” in the background.

One scene gave me the desire to respond with a “ROTFL”: Hannah has just approached  a Comanche warrior to make the gesture of peace, which is granted due to her recent display of excellent nursing skills on the son of the Chief, when William interrupts her.

“She tried not to notice how his rather disheveled appearance only served to draw her attention.  His brown hair seemed a little more wavy than usual, and the top of his bib shirt was unbuttoned and folded back to reveal a hint of dark chest hair.  She looked away quickly, lest her thoughts betray her.”

The few women I have known who would have been capable of presenting the Gospel to a Comanche warrior in full battle dress (Mother Theresa?  Corrie Ten Boom?), would not have had the slightest interest in chest hairs, attached or otherwise.  I also found it irritating that Hannah is not the least bit attracted to the son of the Chief, but perhaps he was lacking in chest hair.

I give this paperback one star: for being written in passable English, and assisting in bonfire-production (the cover makes pretty colors!)  If this is what sentimental Christian women are choosing to read, then the Enemy has already won.  On a more serious note: for a commendable alternative, with edgy plot and insightful characters, I would suggest any work by Francine Rivers, or Lois Henderson.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, for kindling: I enjoyed my roast.  (Translation: my  unvarnished, uninhibited and generally negative review is in trade for the receipt of this book).

Resources:

Tracie Peterson

Tracie’s writing tips (oh, goody!)

Texas (just thought you might need a little of the real thing)

BOOK REVIEW: My Own Worst Enemy: How to Stop Holding Yourself Back, by Janet Davis

Weaving a vulnerable re-telling of her personal story with ancient Biblical examples, Janet Davis brings a fresh and optimistic perspective to the struggle of self-sabotage.  My Own Worst Enemy is a daring look into our darker areas of shame, unworth, sadness, and fear, while exuding hope on each page.  Such a juxtaposition deserves praise, but the writer is not self-seeking, one rather senses she would be just as happy to have you sit down for coffee with her, and tell your story of growth and healing.  I love stories, and the successful weaving of old favorites with new provides much to glean from.  Janet summarizes the need for this book: “the dynamic of being our own worst enemies carries with it an inherent self-containment and great temptation for isolation.”  This, I easily resonated with.  Each chapter (and even the titles cause one to ponder) begins with a “consideration question,” which stirs the thoughts well before she has delved into her topic.  Loosely arranged around 3 examples of self-sabotage: the unimagined life, the unworthy life, and the unlived life, she follows quickly with our phases of healing and our choices to obtain wholeness.   This book is meant for savoring, for slow-growth, and is excellently suited for a deep Bible study or personal growth exercises.  From the title, I would not have thought this book would have so much to offer me, but any woman struggling with worth, worthiness, or place will find wisdom to draw from.

My thanks to Janet for writing such a tender book, and to Bethany House, for providing the advance copy in return for my review.

For Further Reading:

Janet Davis

bio

website

other works:  The Feminine Soul; Sacred Healing

BOOK REVIEW: The Exceptional Life, by Stephen Arterburn

In sync with my glowing review of Stephen Arterbur’s previous work, Healing is a Choice, his current book  The Exceptional Life felt like a natural extension of the message: change is possible for anyone.

I was anticipating a continuation of healing principles thoroughly explained, and was not disappointed.  Stephen asks “Want to upgrade to the Exceptional Life?” and it would be a moldy person who did not answer in the affirmative.  In each of his 8 chapters, he gives practical help for recovery from guilt, shame, resentment, fear, anger, instant gratification, learned helplessness, isolation, and addiction, in order to gain the exceptional life, of God’s design.

Stephen doesn’t candy-coat our issues, nor the work needed to regain God’s best for us.  In each chapter, stories are woven to bring into focus each trait – of need for change, and the steps that will accomplish it.  In stark contrast to the superficial life advertised everywhere we look, Arterburn’s book will delve into the pain of alcoholism, overeating, adultery, and less-notable traits like shame and anger.  Few Christian authors dare to say clearly that there is more work to living the life of Christ after reading and praying, but Arterburn is one, and I thank him for his continual stand for growth and change.  Still fewer will stud their theories with personal stories and humility, but Stephen is also of this camp.

If you are looking for change, but do not want the hubris of an Oprah book, I encourage this read – it will become a journey into life!

This review was written for Bethany House Publishers, in return for my advance copy.  You are welcome to join also!

Resources:

Stephen Arterburn’s online radio presence : New Life Live Show

Christianbook.com’s listing of his written works

Amazon’s page: Stephen Arterburn

BOOK REVIEW: Pattern of Wounds, by J. Mark Bertrand

In his second novel about the homicide detective Roland March, author Mark Bertrand brings the oxymoronic Christian murder-mystery to life in Pattern of Wounds.  Rushing through the Christmas season in a noose-tightening suspense and breakneck pace, the detective hardly pauses for sleep.  The gentle process of his spiritual questioning fits the few moments allotted for reflection.  Bertrand winds the story through gritty patches of current crime scene investigations, a deepening trail that looks suspicious for serial murder, and his past experiences with an unsolved family crime.

There was no putting this book down: it had all the raw detail of a CSI episode, while improving plot variations and character development, and minimizing repetitive visual trauma.  The crime remained reprehensible, but no nightmares resulted.  I found Bertrand’s alliterations clever: (describing a walk in downtown Houston), “…passing one, two, three abstract sculptures nestled in among the corporate logo, I feel like an ant in a redwood forest, awed by the imbalance of scale.”  His character sketches bring into piercing detail their subjects and solidify his detective’s evaluating eye:  “…a familiar looking stranger with a Fu Manchu mustache and a nickel-plated barbecue gun on his hip,” or my favorite: “Tammy stands there in a glittering red short-sleeved jacket, a cheap sequined wrapper for the squarish lump of her body.  She holds her hands toward me, her knuckles concealed behind a row of mismatched cocktail rings.”  I can just see her shopping at Ross.  And fitting in the word “zydeco“?  Pure vocabulary brilliance. Yes, you will have to look it up yourself.

While I revelled in the tight pace, authentic prose, I will note that those looking for an Amish romance or ‘Christianese‘ conversion will be disappointed.  This is simply well-written fiction about a tough work environment, with a heady pace.  God is mentioned briefly, faith is touched on gently, but no great leaps of change are made.

I was pleased to complete this book review for Bethany House Publishers, in return for my complimentary copy (which I will be keeping, though it deviates from my usual fare).  I give it 5 stars, and look forward to Mr. Bertrand’s next work.

Further Resources:

prior book, Back on Murder

 

J. Mark Bertrand

 

Book Review: Earthen Vessels: Why our Bodies Matter to our Faith, by Matthew Lee Anderson

 

 

The notion of actually considering my physical frame in light of Scripture was a new one to me.  Despite, or perhaps because of an evangelical understanding that my mortal body harbors sin, I suppose I spend very little time thinking about it.  To such as I am, Matthew Anderson writes Earthen Vessels, a theological exposition of the relevance of our physical spheres to our spirit, and thus our faith.  He argues that we cannot disregard it – in light of the Creator’s genius (which could occupy yet another tome), and His obvious plan for just such a frame to aid us in our spiritual walk.  Touching on tough issues such as homosexuality, lust, tattoos, abuses, and the place of spiritual disciplines towards the body, Anderson delves deep into a very personal relationship with our Savior.  But this is not a book for self-help, but rather reflection, for ponderings, for an awakening of subjects not thought on.  I expect to re-read it, and keep it as a reference point – some of his points are startling, some expected, but none are mundane.  This would make a good gift to deeper theologians, to anyone in ministry, or to spark a great discussion.

Matthew Lee Anderson also blogs on the site MereOrthodoxy.com, and is found on Twitter and Facebook, where he invites comments.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, who provided this copy in exchange for my review.   You may join also! click here.

Book Review: Hidden Affections, by Delia Parr

Annabelle Tyler is rifle-butted into a marriage with the local rake, Harrison Graymoor, in this Christian Romance quick-read Hidden Affections, by Delia Parr.  Despite its rough beginning, she manages to maintain her faith, and pursue godliness within a farce of a relationship, until reality begins to change.  Although this is not my preferred fiction, Delia Parr (beautiful website, too) has quickly become my favorite author of this genre, with her pleasing blend of light romance, character development, and true Christian faith within a gripping storyline.  I loved Annabelle, with her spunky speech and caring actions, while Harrison slowly won me over, and the gritty housekeeper Irene ‘had me at hello’.  Even minor characters found depth, and the story concludes delightfully.  I was left wanting more of Parr’s fiction, if not more of these characters.  If you have read Janette Oke, or Francine Rivers, (my ultimate contemporary favorites), you will find a favorite here.

I received a beautiful copy I will be keeping for myself, in exchange for this review completed for Bethany House Publishers.  You may join also! click here.