Thursday, March 9, 2017

(Review) The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron with Leslie Wilson

Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 320
Source: Complimentary copy provided by Tyndale House Publishers
Rating: Excellent


First Chapter Excerpt

Anna LeBaron website
Anna LeBaron Twitter and on Facebook

About the Author: One of more than fifty children of infamous, polygamist cult leader, Ervil LeBaron, Anna LeBaron endured abandonment, horrific living conditions, child labor, and sexual grooming. At age thirteen, she escaped the violent cult, gave her life to Christ, and sought healing. A gifted communicator and personal growth activist, she's passionate about helping others walk in freedom. Anna lives in the DFW Metroplex and loves being Mom to five grown children.

“At age nine, I had forty-nine siblings.”

So begins the haunting memoir of Anna LeBaron, daughter of the notorious polygamist and murderer Ervil LeBaron. With her father wanted by the FBI for killing anyone who tried to leave his cult—a radical branch of Mormonism—Anna and her siblings were constantly on the run with the other sister-wives. Often starving and always desperate, the children lived in terror. Even though there were dozens of them together, Anna always felt alone.

She escaped when she was thirteen . . . but the nightmare was far from over.

A shocking true story of murder, fear, and betrayal, The Polygamist’s Daughter is also the heart-cry of a fatherless girl and her search for love, faith, and a safe place to call home.

My Thoughts:
Anna Keturah LeBaron. Anna is pronounced Ah-nah.

The Polygamist's Daughter is an amazing but troubling story. From the first page I was drawn in. One reason it is amazing is I've not read a book with this subject before. Secondly, places Anna lived is near where I grew up, the northwest side of Houston. It is troubling, because I felt concern for Anna's outcome. Her life is chaotic, messy, unpredictable, and frustrating.
The book is not a complete study of her life, some parts are left out. For example, the book does not go into detail about her marriage and break-up. She surmises this part. A brief explanation is given in the back of the book in an interview.
The phases of Anna's life that is given the greatest focus is childhood through to the 4 O'Clock Murders. These murders happened in 1988.
The 4 O'clock Murders, the events, and its affects on Anna and her family are recreated.
Anna's father was Ervil LeBaron. He led "The Church of the Lamb of God, a radical offshoot of the Mormon Church." Anna's relationship with her father was minimal. The impact in her life was not from his physical presence, but from his rules, regulations, and heavy hand in the cult. She was a victim of his actions. Anna and the other members were treated as pawns to be moved and dealt with at random, without humanity and feeling. This was fascinating to me. Human nature is fascinating to me, and LeBaron (the father) was an enigma.
The Polygamist's Daughter does not share a list of the beliefs and regulations of the cult. Its affects on Anna's life is the emphasis.
Anna explains, while writing this book, she interviewed other members when her memory was sketchy. I appreciated her candor.
After the book was written, Anna shared the content with her mother. Her mother's response is priceless.
The Polygamist's Daughter is a strong chronicle of a child's life in a cult.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

(Review) Nothing To Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen

Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: WaterBrook, an imprint of Crown, and a division of Penguin Random House
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian living
Edition: Advanced Reader Copy, Paperback
Pages: 244
Source: I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books for this review.
Rating: Excellent


About Jennie Allen

Jennie Allen is a recovering achiever who is passionate about Jesus. She is the best-selling author of Anything and Restless, as well as the founder and visionary for the million-strong IF:Gathering, which exists to gather, equip, and unleash the next generation to live out their purpose.

Jennie speaks frequently at conferences such as Catalyst and Q. She holds a master’s degree in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Zac, and their four children.

Twitter: @JennieAllen
Instagram: @JennieSAllen
Jennie Allen's website

About Nothing to Prove

No More Pretending. No More Performing. No More Fighting to Prove Yourself.

Are you trying your best to measure up—yet you still feel as if you’re losing ground?

You are not alone.

Jennie Allen understands the daily struggle so many of us face with the fear that we are not enough. And she invites us into a different experience, one in which our souls overflow with contentment and joy. In Nothing to Prove she calls us to…

* Find freedom from self-induced pressure by admitting we’re not enough—but Jesus is.
* Admit our greatest needs and watch them be filled by the only One who can meet them.
* Make it our goal to know and love Jesus, then watch what He does in and through us.

As you wade into the refreshing truth of the more-than-enough life Jesus offers, you’ll experience the joyous freedom that comes to those who are determined to discover what God can do through a soul completely in love with Him.

Discover the answer to your soul-deep thirst

Too many of us have bought into the lie that our cravings will be satisfied if we are enough and if we have enough. So we chase image, answers, things, and people—and we wonder all the while, Why am I still thirsty?

My single goal with this book is to lead your thirsty soul to the only source of lasting fulfillment: Jesus. He is the living water, a limitless supply that will not only quench your thirst but will fill you and then come pouring out of you into a thirsty world.

Because of Him, you are loved. You are known. You can take a deep breath.

Because you have nothing to prove.


My Thoughts:
I've just finished reading two books with similar themes: The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, and Nothing To Prove by Jennie Allen. In the book The Broken Way, I also read the study guide and took part in the study group on Facebook. I had the opportunity to watch the video series on this book by Ann Voskamp. I will review the book and study guide in another post.
Both Allen and Voskamp's books talk about being transparent, broken, leaning into suffering, and sharing our stories through community. They use different words and analogies, but both authors are similar in topics.
In my parents generation, people did not willingly talk about hardships. They did not share the private and broken areas of their lives. I was born in the last year of the Baby Boomer generation. My generation is a mix, a mix of not talking and sharing about life, and then out of actually more rebellion than intention, we talk too much. I feel the intention part is the most important. Why we share. Who we share with. And who gets the glory. The generations after me has sorted through the information age; and Christian authors have placed an emphasis on making an impact on the world through our love of Christ. Jesus commanded us to love one another as He has loved us. We are to go out into the world to share the love of Christ, and apart of this sharing is our own stories of hardships, brokenness, and how the Lord Jesus Christ has allowed suffering in order to develop us and minister to others.
"Part One: Our Desert of Striving"
Jennie Allen begins by "exposing the enemies lies." The enemy is Satan. He is the prince of this world. The lie is measuring up in this world to its standards. Another lie is our striving to accomplish whatever that measuring up looks like to us.
"Unrealistic expectations we impose on ourselves are set in motion from nearly the moment we come into the world." Page 29.
A reaction on our part is to be numb. I have been guilty of this for most of my life. This is a reaction and a learned behavior because of child abuse and sexual abuse. I'm not numb anymore. I want to feel. Whether angry or sad, joyful or at peace. I want to feel.
For so long, earlier in my life, I immaturely thought life was largely about finding my comfort and my happiness. Then as God moved me in deeper with Him, I saw rightly that life is really all about loving God and people wildly. Page 56
Part Two: God's Streams of Enoughness"
The chapters in this section are from the Gospel and letters of John.
Allen begins by stating, "The old cheap wine of measuring up and stale religion is gone. But the new wine answers our deepest craving-and it never runs out." Page 88.
The pleasures of this life: money, shopping, and entertainment are temporary fixes. Jesus is better.
In chapter six I read something profound.
Here's what I believe is happening: we are so lonely and we do not feel known, we do not feel understood. We do not feel connected to people in a really deep way because we are expecting them to fill something only God can fill. Page 106.
How often I've looked for something in people that only God can fill.
We are made for dependency on God. We were built for that. Because God is invisible we put our neediness on people, and that becomes unhealthy 100 percent of the time. It's called co-dependency. If we connect with people and we don't connect with God, we end up asking people to be our enough. People will always eventually disappoint you. Don't be surprised. They aren't enough either. Page 107.
My favorite chapter is nine: "No Longer Afraid." "Based on John 11." This chapter is on suffering.
"We try to avoid suffering-suffering that we need to face. Romans 5 directs us to lean into suffering so that we learn to persevere, so that we are filled with hope, so that we find joy." Page 172.
Allen states "Jesus has a plan for our suffering." Page 175. We focus on the suffering more than Jesus and His plan for our lives. We have to "lean in to suffering." Go with it. For me, this means we become humble before Him and surrender into the suffering. This is tough words for those of us who are independent minded. Like me. I want to fight. I want to dig-in my heels for the battle.
The last chapters are on transparency about our sins, following Jesus, and bearing fruit.

Scripture links courtesy of Bible Gateway.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

(Review) Child of the River by Irma Joubert

Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 395
Source: Self-purchase
Rating: Excellent

It has become rare for me to read Christian fiction books. I came across this book while browsing through the book display at Target. What caught my attention is the front cover. Most Christian fiction covers feature a beautiful young woman. No matter the time period, her hair will be sculpted to perfection, and she will have an airbrushed made face. Child of the River features a girl in a simple dress. Her hair is pulled back loosely. The emphasis is not on how lovely she looks, but on where she is walking-her environment. I recognized the publishing company, Thomas Nelson. I'm glad Target features their books.
Persomi is the main character. She is a young white girl living in the South African Bushveld. Her family is dirt poor. They are sharecroppers on the Fourie farm. Persomi is an intelligent girl who loves school, but she lives in a family that would prefer her to become employed so they will have a dependable paycheck. She has an older brother, Gerbrand. They have two brothers and two sisters. Their parents are a sad tragic couple. Boelie Fourie is a friend of Persomi and Gerbrand. He will inherit the farm. World War II begins and the men of South Africa are called to serve. There are opposing views on the war, not all South African people are in favor of fighting in the war.
Child of the River begins in 1938. The story ends in 1968. This time period will begin at pre-World War II.  It will cover the actions of the National Party: the Asiatic Land Treaty, Immorality Act, and other apartheid ideologies and actions. The main character, Persomi, has a role in the political operations of South Africa. The story will cover her personal life: schooling, and relationships.
I love this story and read the book cover to cover in a couple of days.
I was drawn into the world of Persomi out of the desperation of her life. She is a character who I felt an immediate investment in her welfare. She is intelligent and independent minded. I love her resilient nature. I love her tenacity.
South African history, in regards to politics, I knew almost nothing about. Through secondary characters I learned what life was like for people living in South Africa who were not white. I also learned about the men who fought in World War II. I did not know there were South African's who resented battling Hitler.
Persomi's character deals with grief. I can relate. Grief is a hard experience to endure.
Persomi's mother is probably one of the saddest characters I've read in a fiction book.
Irma Joubert is an expert of drawing me in with strong characters. Characters who are not necessarily battle ready, but they have scars to prove they have withstood life's battles.
Even though this is a Christian fiction story, it did not have Bible verses. I've heard the term preachy used for Christian fiction books. No preachiness in this story.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

(Review) Oswiu: King of Kings,The Northumbrian Thrones III by Edoardo Albert

Publication Date: January 27, 2017
Publisher: Kregel
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction, early part of the middle ages
Pages: 560
Edition: Paperback
Source: Free copy from Kregel
Rating: Excellent

Kregel link for more information


Links for further information on the historical Oswiu:
Early British Kingdoms

Edoardo Albert's website

My previous reviews of books one and two:
Edwin: High King of Britain
Oswald: Return of the King

Supplement information included in the book includes an introduction to the characters. An explanation is given for those characters who are historical and those who are fiction. A glossary of Anglo-Saxon terms. A Pronunciation key of the language. A four page synopsis of the previous books in The Northumbrian Thrones.

The story is divided into four parts.
"Part I: Raid
Part II: Family
Part III: Strife
Part IV: Reckoning"

When the story begins it has only been one season since Oswald's death. Oswald had been the king, and older brother to Oswiu. Oswiu is now king of Bernicia and king of Northumbria.
Oswiu and his men approach a town asking to be let in. They are refused. An awkward situation arises for this new king. He has been disrespected and rebuffed. The town of York has been told there is a different king, and Oswiu is not their king. They believe the king, determined by the witan, is Oswine, son of Osric, the Godfriend.
Later, the two kings have a tense conversation. The scene ends with Oswiu being reminded of the resemblance between Oswine and Oswald.
This first scene grabbed my attention. It is not a predictable scene for a king. It is a scene filled with the errors of humanity. I wondered how the new king, Oswiu, would handle this situation. I wondered if he would learn anything from this encounter. I wondered if this situation was a dark cloud that would hang over Oswiu the rest of his life: his worthiness to be a king.
Oswiu's grieving mother asked him to retrieve the remains of Oswald. The journey to retrieve the remains is dangerous. The synopsis on the back cover of the book explains this mission.
The book is filled with other missions, dangers, battles, marriage problems, betrayal, disunity in families, and disunity among the people.
Oswiu has inherited a realm fraught with tension and peril. His anxiety is apparent. This is just one of the reasons I love his character. He is a dimensional person. I see his positive and negative character traits. He makes mistakes. He wrestles over these mistakes. And hovering over Oswiu and the story is the memory and spirit of Oswald.
Several additional reasons of why I loved Oswiu:
  • The prickly marriage alignments. They do not always work out. How the women felt, as political pawns, are explored through the story.
  • Dialogue. I loved the dialogue between mother and son, between wives and husbands, between children and fathers, and between the kings and their men at arms.
  • Scene descriptions. I was given just enough information to form my own picture of the scene in my mind. The scenes are crisp, clear, and vibrant.
  • Oswiu's love for his brother. He idolized Oswald. He wished to be like him but fell short. He wrestles with the strong memory of Oswald. He wrestles with his grief.
  • England is not a united nation. Several domains align and then break. Intermarrying does not always work. The battles always come. It was a way of life. Bleak. However, it is an unspoken way of life.
  • The two religions. One is Christianity. The other is pagan. The styles of worship is portrayed. The people depend on a higher power for everything, from domestic to war.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

(Review) The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis

Publication Date: 60th anniversary edition 2002-
Originally published 1942
Publisher: HarperOne
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 209
Source: Self-purchase
Rating: 4 stars for very good

There are several edition choices at Amazon for this book. The link above provides a 2015, paperback choice. It's possible to find a free ebook copy online.

The following link, C.S. Lewis, is an excellent site for  biography and book selections.

The Screwtape Letters is considered to be a satirical story about a demon named Screwtape, and his letters to a nephew named Wormwood. Screwtape, encourages Wormwood, to interfere and destroy the life of a human.
The human is referred to as "the patient."
They are written with cynicism, apathy, and coldness.
The goal is to hurt humans and alienate them from God.

My Thoughts:
Not every reader likes C.S. Lewis nonfiction books. Is it an acquired taste? Maybe. Does it require different thinking skills? Yes. Does C.S. Lewis use a different writing method to reach his audience? A definite yes.
The Screwtape Letters is considered satire. The book is not meant to be a comedy. It is not meant to make fun of or minimize demons. It is meant to provoke the reader to think and make changes.

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement.[1] Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

In The Screwtape Letters, the 31 letters have one purpose: Screwtape encourages and advices Wormwood, in various ways to destroy the "patient."
Some examples of these ploys and plots:
  • In prayer, focus on what is made and not the Creator
  • Focus on material objects and possessions
  • A person who prays for their family yet is abusive
  • Worry
  • Focus on the current state of mind and not God
  • Absorb with the things of earth
  • Regret
  • Fear of future
  • Lust
The number one ploy that I found disturbing is the subtleness of temptation. Temptation is not necessarily a one time big moment, but is instead a slow moving and slippery enticement.
Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human to live in the Past...It is far better to make them live in the future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time-for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Page 76.
I am so glad I read, The Screwtape Letters!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bible Reading Update

My first Bible reading update for 2017!
The Bible I am reading through the Bible this year for daily readings is the NKJV Chronological Study Bible.

This link will give you the ability to see several pages.

Since January 1, I've read:
Genesis chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.

Links of interest:
9 Tips for Studying the Bible, from Lifeway Women
References for Scripture Engagement, from Bible Gateway
Daily Bible Reading Plans, from Bible Gateway
One Year Bible Online
My Favorite Bible Reading Plan by Tim Challies
Olive Tree Blog, Bible Reading Plans
Ligonier, Bible Reading Plans---This link shows a long list of various choices in plans
Resolutions for the New Year, from Blue Letter Bible

Are you interested in a new journaling Bible. I hear good things about this one.
The One Year Chronological Bible Expressions

A free Bible study on The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp is on Facebook. The Bible study group, Faith Gateway, is offering the study series. The ability to watch the video sessions is free. You will need to purchase the work book. The Amazon price is cheaper than what the study group offers. The study group provides a link and code for $4.00 off, but the price on Amazon is cheaper at $7.39.

Bible links courtesy of Bible Gateway.

Are you reading your Bible?