The first chapter of Lea Ann Vandygriff’s book, Seasons: Once Upon My Innocence, is entitled “A Quiet Little Town.” That’s exactly what Rhinehart is. Rhinehart is a southern ranching town where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business. It is Mayberry-like and seems picture-perfect until things go a little off the rails. A tornado and a few menacing characters sweep through town wreaking havoc on the townspeople and shaking both their homes and their faith. Especially shaken are the town’s younger citizens who can’t reconcile one question in their young minds. “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”
Vandygriff takes us through a season of disaster, desperation, hope, and forgiveness within this close-knit community. It seems like every time one thing comes together, something else falls apart. We are introduced to a cast of characters that range from sweet, Godly, and endearing to violent, neglectful, and unstable. Fortunately, there are more former than latter. Most of the book seems to center around 8th grader, Aubree, her brother Randy, and their parents, Clyde and Dolores. A large focus is also placed on a trio of brothers who have been dropped into the lap of their elderly grandmother.
Many parts of the book made me long for a time when neighbors were more than the people we wound up living beside. They were family. They were there at a minute’s notice to help with whatever was needed. Whether it was cleaning up after a tornado, helping an old lady with her groceries, or befriending the new kid with a bad reputation at school, the people of Rhinehart stuck together through it all. Being raised in a small, southern town myself, I found myself identifying with the town and the people. I saw myself and my family in the characters.
Vandygriff weaves a lot of scripture into her writing. Those who have suffered tragedies in the book are directed to the Bible for answers. Every meal in Aubree’s house is blessed. Prayer is always the answer. Church is a big part of the community. Aubree and her middle school friends find it so hard to comprehend why God lets bad things happen. They are always directed to the Bible and particular verses for answers, and reminded that forgiveness is a huge part of being a Christian.
One particular scenario did bother me in the book. Without going into too much detail, a man abused a young girl. There were no consequences for him. He was forgiven with hardly a blink. There was no accountabilty and no amends made, yet he was still allowed to be around the girl and her family as usual. I wouldn’t have been as forgiving. It was explained as the Christian thing to do, but I don’t know if readers will be able to reconcile themselves with this part. I couldn’t.
That being said, there are plenty of breaks thrown in to lessen the weighty themes the book contains. Plenty of comedy is exchanged through family dynamics and middle school friendships and drama. Often, situations in the book start out as tense and serious, but end with characters laughing. This eases the calamities and stress that the characters find themselves in.
There are some parts that are left intentionally unresolved. Some problems reintroduce themselves on the last page of the book. It is left open-ended. It definitely begs for a sequel.
I will say that there were several spelling errors that I think could have been caught with another once-over by an editor. I also had trouble, at times, pinpointing the era it is set in. Party line telephone circuits are mentioned, but other things seem much more modern in the story. Otherwise, the story seemed to flow well. The characters and the messes they find themselves in are interesting. I’d love to see what happens to the townspeople of Rhinehart next!
Pages: 274 | ASIN: B079647HZH
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Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of family, love, faith, and war that focuses on Robert Campbell, an American and his love interest, Makiko Asakawa, who is of Japanese descent. The two meet as children when Robert’s family stay with Makiko’s family in Yokohama during the 1920s to 1930s. It’s during this time that a relationship is formed between the two. Robert’s family eventually moves back to the United States while he is still in school, but Robert and Makiko vow to see each other again and maintain their bond by writing letters to each other. It is not until the 1940s, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War II that the two are reunited. The novel delicately pieces together the story of these two individuals living through death and devastation as they fight to get back to each other.
Kirk Raeber does an excellent job of handling the intricate details of the novel. There are a lot of historical components to this piece, and the author weaves his fictional story into American and Japanese history among other components of the novel flawlessly. Firstly, Robert’s father is a preacher; therefore, a lot of his lessons for a young Robert are based on scripture and particular Bible verses. Robert often returns to these Bible verses during trying moments in his life. It’s clear that the author had some knowledge of the Bible and took great care in picking out the right verse during difficult moments in Robert’s life. Secondly, the author seems to be aware of American and Japanese culture during the time period that the novel spans. Also, even though this is a fictional story, there are historical elements weaved into it, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Raeber does not skip over these aspects of history, but rather he weaves them into Robert and Makiko’s story, illustrating not only how these unfortunate events impacted these two fictional characters, but it can also be reasoned that his telling of their story resonates the mood and despair of those that actually lived through the experience. It’s clear that Raeber took care while writing these events to make sure that he handled them with accuracy.
A small note of criticism lies within the secondary characters of the novel, Robert and Makiko’s son and daughter. The whole story begins when the adult children are going through their deceased parents’ belongings and stumble upon the letters that the two lovers exchanged long ago. This then leads into Robert and Makiko’s storyline, and the reader isn’t returned to the characters of the adult children until the end of the novel. While Robert and Makiko’s story is obviously the focus of the novel, it would have been nice to be returned to the adult children periodically throughout the novel. The placing of these two characters at the very beginning and very end of the novel creates a disconnect with them, and it leaves one questioning their purpose overall. It’s very possible that Robert and Makiko’s story can be told without the mention and inclusion of their children as characters.
Overall, Raeber’s Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of love’s triumph over distance, death, and war. This novel is highly recommended to those that might have an interest in World War II, 1940s Japanese culture, or anyone who just enjoys a good love story.
Pages: 406 | ASIN: B01HQFFXYY
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In Search of Truth: A Course in Spiritual Psychology, by Glenville Ashby is a book of selected writings ranging from 2013 to 2018 which seeks to answer those questions that many of us struggle to comprehend. From death and the afterlife to the purpose of life itself, Glenville attempts to develop an insight into such matter using his knowledge. His hunger for awareness coupled with his Ph.D. skill set, make this an intelligent but thought-provoking read which is guaranteed to get the reader not just thinking but, hopefully, starting a conversation and sharing their thoughts on both Glenville’s writing and the subject at hand.
Admittedly, I was initially hesitant about reading this book just because I thought that Glenville was going to, like many others writing on such subjects, ignore those atheists and agnostics amongst us, myself included.
I respect all faiths and believe we are all entitled to develop our own concepts and ideas when it comes to the subject of spirituality. However, from reading similar books like this, atheists and agnostics are almost never included or referred to. Because of this, I tend to avoid such writing.
So, I could not have been happier when Glenville stated in his preface that he believed that all peoples views were equally important, regardless of their beliefs, or lack of.
I thoroughly recommend starting with Love is The Only True Religion. This collection can be referenced and dipped into as the reader deems it necessary, but this one is a tremendous eye-opening piece that should be read by everyone!
Glenville’s drive, passion, and dedication to his subjects allow him to objectively search for what lies behind the choices we make, the way we behave and how we approach such matters.
Each piece of writing is thought-provoking and comes at the subject from a neutral angle. Even though Glenville knows that some readers will not initially agree with his words, he works at posing a what if stance.
The book needs to be read with an open mind because that is precisely how I feel that Glenville has approached it. However, sadly I think this may be harder for some to do than others. Glenville has undoubtedly tackled those somewhat taboo subjects that many prefer to stay away from, with suicide, death and crucifixion controversy amongst them.
However, how Glenville takes on and expands on these subjects is commendable, and this is one of the reasons why I would urge for those uncomfortable about such books to read just one piece themselves before passing any such judgment. I can guarantee most will be pleasantly surprised.
This is a fascinating collection offering something different than your usual books on spiritual psychology. Fully accessible for those who may want to refer to it time and time again for spiritual guidance, if you are looking for an intellectual and stimulating read, with an openness to many different outcomes, then I can’t recommend In Search of Truth enough.
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Is God real? If He is, where he is and why does he allow certain things to happen? Is our current status a result of constant evolving Or a conscious action of an entity granting each individual a choice? I am quite certain that everyone has had the above mentioned questions at some point in their lives.
The book Pandeism: An Anthology edited by Knujon Mapson is one of the few works that could be classified into an intellectual query, or rather a search for one of the fundamental beliefs or belief systems existing in the modern world – Existence of God. Keeping aside what may or may not be my bias for or against such topics, I will give the editor a round of applause for carefully selecting and presenting an interesting collection of essays.
The anthology has been grouped into three sections, The fundamentals of Pandeism, Philosophical implications and Criticism And analysis from other views. The sixteen authors of the essays are by scholars and doctorate holders. These individuals have often, through their pursuit in their field of study, have come into the realm of beliefs and religion. Each of them, in their own way, have tried to provide a logical inference based on their understanding and how they see the supernatural entity or God in other words. The essays themselves are an intellectual search they performed while wondering about the divine, which forms the basic belief. There are four major principles which have been taken as the yardstick, they are: God as the primary cause and the long held beliefs – God being an entity which is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.
In the middle section, the essays describe the philosophical leanings of the Pandeism. This section also contemplates the drive of living things to live, and of intelligent life to better itself, achieving some remarkable conclusions about the desire of non-omnipotent beings to obtain omnipotence — and of an omnipotent being to destroy itself and begin anew.
The last section describes that Pandeism has drawn both a critical and comparative eye from adherents to other theological models. The above can be seen by the conventional practice in organizing comparative religious literature, seems to be to order pieces so that conventional Western world views are given prominence. This is balanced with the comparative study and analysis of the different world religions such as Hinduism. There are also other views which encompass some nontraditional approaches as well.
This book stimulates the mind to ponder over one of the basic queries. This book is for those who would like to indulge their intellectual faculties. Admittedly, the level of comprehension is higher than a run of the mill book, but still makes for a good read.
Pages: 473 | ASIN: B01N0MHK72
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The Fall of Lilith is a dark fantasy novel centered around the anti-heroine, Lilith, and the creation and fall of the angels. What was your inspiration for this imaginative novel?
The Fall of Lilith is a High Fantasy with dark elements. I grew up in a religious home and went to religious private school. Angels always fascinated me, but there isn’t much information in the bible about them, so I always imagined what they were like, both the holy angels and the fallen ones. I also read a great deal of religious books (fiction and Non-fiction), mythology and fairytales growing up. I basically combined all three to create this book. I did a lot of research and used facts from the Bible, Hebrew Bible, and Quran to ground it in reality.
I liked that we got to see Lilith change from good to bad throughout the novel, and how that was portrayed was entertaining. Did her character develop organically as you were writing or was it planned?
I always knew she would be an evil character at some point. That being said, she took it from there and developed organically.
There is heavy use of religion and myth in this book. What kind of research did you undertake for this novel to keep things accurate?
An enormous amount of research went into this novel. I researched animals, natural disasters, food, geography, names, and religious text among other things. Like Tom Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In The Fall of Lilith, Vashti Quiroz-Vega crafts an irresistible new take on heaven and hell that boldly lays bare the passionate, conflicted natures of God’s first creations: the resplendent celestial beings known as angels.
If you think you know their story, think again.
Endowed with every gift of mind, body, and spirit, the angels reside in a paradise bounded by divine laws, chief of which are obedience to God, and celibacy. In all other things, the angels possess free will, that they may add in their own unique ways to God’s unfolding plan.
Lilith, most exquisite of angels, finds the rules arbitrary and stifling. She yearns to follow no plan but her own: a plan that leads to the throne now occupied by God himself. With clever words and forbidden caresses, Lilith sows discontent among the angels. Soon the virus of rebellion has spread to the greatest of them all: Lucifer.
Now, as angel is pitted against angel, old loyalties are betrayed and friendships broken. Lust, envy, pride, and ambition arise to shake the foundations of heaven . . . and beyond. For what begins as a war in paradise invades God’s newest creation, a planet known as Earth. It is there, in the garden called Eden, that Lilith, Lucifer, and the other rebel angels will seek a final desperate victory—or a venomous revenge.
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Fathering the Fatherless tackles the important issue of fatherlessness and how it affects children and society. Do you feel that fatherlessness will become a bigger issue in the future?
Fathering the Fatherless book was and is to shine a light and to spark interest for the reader to go on there own personal journey of looking.
How has your faith helped you come to terms with fatherlessness?
Far as my faith it has helped me realize there prayers and the word of God The Holy Bible that I came to know Him as Abba Fathering now my book is to get you to ask yourself am I doing my very best and does God love me more than anything else and yes he does.
You use many facts and figures in your book. Was there a statistic that you came across that surprised you?
There was a few statistics I feel under and I was surprised.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book should be out this year from Author House Fathering The Fatherless 2nd Edition more information new chapter on psychological aspects of a fatherless home and more details other chapter.
Fathering The Fatherless deals with Fatherless in the home’s & how affects children in the home & what we can do to change. It’s a short read and aimed to open your eyes and heart, to get you asking and thinking.
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Liberating Inner Eve tackles the many perspectives Christians have on the story of Eve. What was your inspiration that made you want to write this book?
What inspired, or more accurately, “compelled” me to write “Liberating Inner Eve” were a couple of influences that crossed their paths during my life’s journey.
One was my ongoing professional dedication to nurturing high levels of confidence and self-love in my clients. Part of this calling always involved being aware of the many factors that restrict their experience of high self-worth, including those less obvious such as layers of historic conditioning (for example those relating to women being less encouraged to pursue self-development outside of their caring roles (than men)).
Another influence that inspired me to write “Liberating Inner Eve” was my journey as a mother. When introducing my son to characters from Bible stories, I found myself being very mindful of the messages that society’s common interpretations of popular Bible stories (like the account of Adam and Eve) continue to send to our future generations. For example, the popular depiction of Eve as Adam’s helper in many of today’s children’s Bibles often falls short of placing enough emphasis on Adam and Eve’s calling towards a complementary, mutually supportive union, as interpreted by JPII.
In every chapter of “Liberating Inner Eve” I decided to explore a theme that I frequently address as a counselor, presenting it as a holistic marriage between cultural, historic, and psychological influences. And pair it with those strategies that I found to be most effective in helping to transform it, so it resonates with the Gospel’s message of inclusion and empowerment.
I wanted to write “Liberating Inner Eve” from the heart, sharing my own journey of transformation with my readers, as well as the lessons I’ve learned from having the privilege to listen to so many female voices.
What do you find is a common misconception people have about the Genesis account of Adam and Eve?
As a counselor I appreciate the power that visualization has in stimulating the various sensory pathways and emotional patterns within our brains. There is much written about the power of visualization and metaphors in influencing our subconscious mind.
What I love about the Bible is the way it abounds in metaphors and analogies that describe not only the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven but also the many aspects of our humanity.
What I find most concerning about the common interpretations of the account of Adam and Eve, that is the ones that imply in some way that Eve is the more inferior of the original pair, is how this emphasis has been represented in art throughout history, as well as how influential it was in the forming of subsequent theological reflections and practices.
I feel that Adam and Eve’s calling towards a complementary, mutually supportive union (as interpreted by JPII) and her release from blame for mankind’s downfall (which I address in “Liberating Inner Eve”) needs a lot of reinforcement. So that in the midst of today’s “movement of equality” we can prevent many women from turning away from the depth and beauty of Christian spirituality, because of these and many other historic/social misconceptions.
I found this to be a soothing book that also serves as a guide to self reflection. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
My aim for “Liberating Inner Eve” is to raise awareness in relation to the many historical/social pressures and restrictions that impact on women’s experience today (as awareness is the first step towards transformation). I would also like to offer tools that empower women to manifest Christian values of equality, freedom, and mutual care in their life’s unique circumstances.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book, on which I am working on with much excitement and enthusiasm, will be another “Reflective Journey for Women, within Christian values” book, about the importance of deepening the experience of our “connection” with ourselves. I hope to make it available within 6 months 🙂
I wrote “Liberating Inner Eve” as a result of my encounters with female clients from a Christian background who struggle to find a sense of personal strength, high self-worth, love, and acceptance.
“Liberating Inner Eve” offers psychological insight around the impact of commonly found interpretations of the teachings of the Old Testament (in particular the Genesis account of Adam and Eve) and New Testament (the lifetime of Jesus), on various themes relevant to women’s daily lives, such as how they experience their identity, self-acceptance, and self-worth.
Every Chapter of this book includes simple exercises, encouraging readers to take time to review their thoughts and feelings, relating to a particular topic.
Through “Liberating Inner Eve” I long to share with others how empowering the Bible can be in helping women find self-love, self-acceptance, and personal strength.
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There are two kinds of fatherlessness. The first kind is where the father is never known to the child. The second, the father lives in the same home as the child but is emotionally unavailable and often physically absent too. Both of these have adverse effects on the child. Children need a special kind of love and nurturing from their father. There is some security that comes from having a father, especially in the formative years. Children cannot understand why other children have their fathers but they do not.
Todd Johnson tells a very intimate and personal story about his childhood. He grew up in a single parent home. He talks about the struggles he went through as a result of not having that special father figure in his life. He outlines all the choices he made as a result of his home situation. He talks about how that situation shaped the man and father he is today.
The most important thing in this book is the role of God in a single parent home. One can ask God to fill that void left behind by an absentee father. A fatherless person can find the love and care they need from God. It urges on the importance of God –lead fatherhood.
This book is centered on a very important subject. Fatherless homes are very common not only in America but on a global scale. In fact, the book starts with some very interesting numbers. Numbers never lie. They indicate the percentage of children affected by lack of a father or having an emotionally unavailable father. The numbers give the book a serious tone. One will understand the true weight of this subject.
Fathering the Fatherless makes proper use of scripture. It conveys the message God has about fatherhood. One will have a better understanding of their role once they have read through the verses given. He will understand that being a father has nothing to do with DNA but everything to do with nurturing, caring and loving. That, the kind of father one has great potential to shape character and identity.
The author is obviously very passionate about the subject and the book feels like a personal endeavor. However, the delivery of the subject matter suffers from broken statements, grammar mistakes, and anemic prose. At one point, the author strings together verses from the Bible and at times repeats verses and his personal story feels incomplete. This book does a fantastic job of starting a very important discussion, but stops short of diving into the deep end of that conversation. If you only pay attention to the intended message you can gain insight into what fatherlessness really is and this book does a great job of getting that conversation started.
Pages: 64 | ASIN: 0692075208
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Liberating Inner Eve: A Reflective Journey for Women, is the brainchild of author Bozena Zawisz, counselor and Christian. Zawisz tackles the many perspectives Christians have had on the story of Eve over the years. She balances her examination of Eve by dissecting Eve’s famed weaknesses while shining a light on her strengths. Zawisz peppers the reading with opportunities for readers to journal, work out thoughts, and respond to introspective questions based on the reading. The author’s work as a counselor is evident throughout the book as she consistently provides helpful hints for women regarding regular reflections and ways to be mindful and find an inner peace.
Zawisz has a soothing way with words. Her writing, geared toward women who are questioning their own situations and facing obstacles within their lives, is a much-needed calm amidst the storm of everyday life. I felt a warmth and genuine concern from Zawisz as I read her descriptions of her own parenting and the way in which women tend to take blame upon themselves. The author’s empathy is clear and appreciated.
Christian readers will welcome Zawisz’s thoughts on women like Saint Faustina. The author’s admiration for Faustina is obvious as she shares the story of her perseverance and strength. In the face of opposition, and with a limited educational background, Faustina leans on her faith to succeed. She is just one of the women offered by Zawisz as a positive example.
I especially appreciated the numerous Bible verses and quotes presented by the author. My grandmother was a devout Christian, and Zawisz’s faith reminds me of her daily devotions. There is a definite peace that comes from reading the author’s favorite verses and the ways in which they have impacted her life. Among the many quotes she includes, readers will find inspiration and support during the most difficult of times.
I was rather taken with the beautiful poetry included in each chapter. Zawisz’s poetry is as eloquent as her narrative is comforting. She closes out each of her chapters with a unique bit of verse based on the topic at hand.
One of the most striking aspects of Liberating Inner Eve is the examination of the story of Adam and Eve. I found this to be most interesting. As a child, I was raised to believe the two were real people who started humanity down a path of sin away from righteousness. I had never been introduced to the many interpretations of the creation story. The notion that Adam and Eve might not have been real but a mere representation of humankind’s evolution was new to me. However, Zawisz emphasizes that the depiction of Eve as being, in many ways, inferior to Adam is woven into almost version of the story.
Zawisz’s work is for any woman seeking a book designed exclusively to uplift, empower, and encourage self-reflection. I would recommend this book to any Christian reader or any woman looking to explore Eve’s story and better understand her own struggles.
Pages: 173 | ASIN: B074HB5Q8Z
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