Writing Challenging Book Reviews

wp church library

I offered to read two books and review them.

There are many reasons I agree to do this. I like getting free books and I like connecting with new authors. I know how important it is to have a book reviewed.

But it’s not always easy. Sometimes I don’t care for the book, its story or the writing style. I’ve agreed to be honest, but there’s no need to be mean-spirited. Just because the book didn’t do anything for me doesn’t mean it won’t or can’t reach someone else.

Both of the books I read fell into the challenging review category.

jake tanner

The first book, The Chronicles of Jake Tanner, Hell’s Lane is co-authored by someone I respect as an writer and mentor, Kathy Bruin. I jumped at the opportunity to read and review.

The book was dark, contained language and content that might be offensive to some. I was not offended, but I felt this book would not fit most church libraries. How was I going to review it?

The first thing I did was contact Kathy. The thing I needed to know was who was the intended audience. Books don’t always preach to the choir. Sometimes they have to reach people who would be uncomfortable even being around organized religious folks. Kathy assured the goal was to start discussions of the issues of choices and consequences and how those choices can ultimately affect our eternal destiny.

This book could do that. I can and did write a review saying those things.

chasing happy

I was offered the opportunity to read the second book by the author. She was careful to preface her invitation by telling me the subject material was unique and not an easy sell.

The book is well written stylistically and the story is compelling. But the issue is the issue: the main character is attempting to come to terms with his bisexuality. The author has faced a lot of negative feedback from publishers who don’t want to touch the topic. And I think that’s a shame.

This book falls even better into the category of discussion starter, both for those who struggle and those who are trying to understand the struggle. The issue will not go away because we don’t address it, so why not use a well-written source to help those who are looking for answers?

WP open church doors

I have a friend who continually challenges me to get out of the “Christian Ghetto.” She believes there are people outside the comfort of the church who are hungering and thirsting, who need more than the standard fare of Christian-eze. Her sentiments were similar to those of a movie producer I heard speak at a Christian Writers Conference earlier this year.

So maybe these two books wouldn’t be typical of the books on your church library shelf, but maybe they should be somewhere in the church and opened for discussion.

Advent 23: Consequences

It has not been a fun day at my house. The grandson and the Pepa locked horns. And a very stiff penalty was levied. The child didn’t think the adult was serious. The adult was unbending. There were many tears, but no true repentance. How do I know? The child blamed everyone else and continued to try and negotiate.

This did not help his case. In fact, I believe it only encouraged the adult to feel that he was right in his decision.

As long as we have been parents, foster parents, and grandparents, we have taught that actions have consequences.

And had to learn it, too. I tried to explain that to the child, but his heart was hurting to much to hear.

If you want to talk about harsh consequences, pull up a chair and listen to Adam and Eve’s story. It was just an apple. And they were unfairly tempted. At least that’s the way they saw it. One bite and not only were they booted out of the Garden, but then there was all that business about work and pain. Talk about harsh. I mean the rest of us have been paying for their poor choice through the ages.

But it’s not like we haven’t been warned. The Word is full of warning, the clearest being: you will reap what you sow.

Sometimes watching a child deal consequences makes it not much fun to be a mom or mema. It’s hard to not want to swoop in and rescue. It was very hard today.

In more ways than I want to try and explain, I have learned how choices result in consequences. But at the hardest point in facing those consequences, I found this scripture encouragement:
As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
8 Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.
9 I will be patient as the Lord punishes me,
for I have sinned against him.
But after that, he will take up my case
and give me justice for all I have suffered from my enemies.
The Lord will bring me into the light,
and I will see his righteousness.
10 Then my enemies will see that the Lord is on my side. (Micah 7:7-10, NLT)

Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything in the Word that spoke to God removing consequences. I wish, but no. Not there.

What is there is the promise that he will be with me…with you…all the way through.

In the darkest times, he will be there. He will be our light. He hears us. And he will bring us back to the light. And we will see his righteousness again.

And that’s good news to hold onto.

Politically Naive and Prayerful

I’m not a highly political person. I tend to roll with the flow instead of swimming against the tide. I ride the wave, I don’t make them. I don’t share my opinions very often, because I’m not as savvy as those around me, and I’m not a big fan of conflict. But I do have a couple things I want to say now that this election is over.

First, I firmly believe that our system is horrendously flawed. The thing that grated on me the most as this election droned on was the endless impossible promises that were being made. No one can promise anything because as soon as they try to push for their platform and programs their efforts are thwarted by the other party who, responding like a spoiled three year old puts their own interests (read pride) ahead of their opponents. Civil servants. That’s what we need not self-centered, ego-driven, professional systematicians who completely lack civility and have no concept of what it means to be a servant.

And we are no better than they. I was scrolling through my tweets today and I began to unfollow people. I get it that someone might be disappointed that their candidate didn’t win, but to make statements like: freedom and democracy died yesterday does nothing but fuel the fires that are burning and destroying. Are we spoiled children who only know how to take our marbles and go home when we don’t get our way? Or are we adults who know how to work together for the common good? Why does it take tragedy and adversity to blur the political lines so we can work in unity? Why isn’t this modus operandi?

I finally came upon a few tweets that encouraged prayer for our nation, our leaders, and our president. As believers, shouldn’t that be what we are about? If there is one thing I heard, it is this: it is time to move forward. Moving forward doesn’t mean abandoning our values, but it does mean letting go of the thinking that we have to go back in time to something for things to be better. Let’s make things better now.

When I was a therapist working with children, I often used an illustration about making cookies. As anyone who knows me will attest to, I am not a cook, nor a baker. In my life I have burned more cookies than I can count. My cookies also tend to stick to the pan, resulting in more crumbs than cookies. I gave up crying about crumbly cookies long ago because I learned that cookie crumbs are valuable, too. Cookie crumbles go good on ice cream or in oatmeal. They are not something to be wasted, they are to be used and celebrated. Life offers us many opportunities to look for creative solutions and possibilities within situations. I can see oodles of applications of this to our situation today.

One of the things I have found to be critical in my life of faith and in my life as a responsible citizen, is personal accountability. This political climate and situation isn’t an ‘us vs. them’ problem. We all need to be accountable and responsible. We need to be sure that our horizontal relationship with God is right and then work for the same in our vertical relationships with one another. Freedom and democracy didn’t die, but I sure wish animosity would. I wish self-promotion would. Those are the things that are choking out what is good, and true, and Godly.

So how will we respond? Will we whine and put bumper stickers on our cars that inform others we didn’t vote for this leadership and we don’t intend to work with it either? If so, I’m pretty sure it will not be honoring to God or impactful on a world in desperate need of a Savior. Or will we choose to work towards unity? Will we speak up for those who have no voice? Will we endeavor in our words and our actions to do nothing that is not honoring to God? Will learn to agree to disagree without being disagreeable? Will we seek to move forward without beating others over the head with how things used to be and make something good and right out of what we have now?

The balloting may be over, but there are still plenty of choices to be made.

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