Tuesday, March 31, 2009

'Stakes & Stilettos' by Michelle Rowen

Since I started reading romance fiction I have realized that there truly is an abundance of different sub-genres within the romance category. And I have also been lucky to read romances that I really like. Every time I read one, I exclaim at the end, “That’s my favorite!”. I indulge myself in the hot, steamy ones and I love them but then I read a book like Stakes & Stilettos by Michelle Rowen which is the opposite of hot and steamy, and I love it too! Go figure.

Stakes & Stilettos is a paranormal romance. The heroine, Sarah Dearly, is a new vamp on the block with an honor of having drunk the blood of not one but two master vampires. She really wants to be a normal vampire girl, lead a love-filled life with her 600-year-old boyfriend Thierry, find a job that’ll allow her to be financially independent, and besides the fact that she is now immortal, be the cute, happy-go-lucky girl she’s always been. You know, it’s pretty much the regular, realistic dreams we girls have at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, all these plans will have to be put on hold when it turns out Sarah inadvertently made an enemy in high-school. This enemy is now an evil witch with a vengeance. And she is really bent on hurting Sarah, so much so that she turns her into a nightwalker, the most evil of the evil vampires that used to be blood-thirsty (pun intended), cold and ruthless killers. Oh, and there’s also the mysterious, Zorro-like vampire, who calls himself Red Devil, is a legend among vampires and seems to be saving Sarah’s life time and again. We soon find out that there’s a catch to it as well.

I absolutely adored Sarah Dearly. As her name implies, she really is a darling. She is very funny, sometimes quirky, a girl I would want to be my friend. All and all, Sarah is a vampire-next-door type of girl. She is also devoted to Thierry, despite the fact that others find him detached, cold and over-protective. The romance between the two is actually very tasteful (oh, those vampire puns), no overly hot sex scenes here, but that makes the book so much more relatable and just right. Ms. Rowen really knows how to balance the romance, the paranormal and the mystery elements. Not to mention, she is quite skilled at making readers laugh. Stakes & Stilettos is, in my opinion, a perfect romance book to entertain a reader at any time of the day. It’s light, funny, with endearing characters and a just-right touch of mystery.

Special Thanks to Hachette Book Group for providing me with a copy of this book.

Makes sure you visit Michelle Rowen's website for more paranormal fun.

Monday, March 30, 2009

'King's Fool' by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Many books have been written about the Tudor England, especially about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, but King's Fool is a special one. I write 'special' because it is written from the perspective of Will Somers, the Court Jester. The story starts with young Will leaving his widowed father to work for his uncle. It soon becomes clear that Will is a clever young man, who may not have much skill in farming but soon, through his wit and talent for clever jokes, finds favor with King Henry. And so the real story of the King's Fool begins. He lives through Henry's six marriages, witnesses the cruelties, harsh politics and injustices performed during the Tudor king's reign. He also becomes the most constant companion of Henry's and a confidant of young Princess Mary.
King's Fool is a wonderful book. It has everything a historical fiction should have. Ms. Barnes introduces us, in a very skilled and convincing way, to the whirl of the court life, the intrigue, all the dangerous scheming, and to England in the midst of religious and political change of never before known proportions: the separation of the country from the Catholic Church and Pope. With Henry's six marriages, two of them ending in the wives' beheading, the book reads like a first class action novel despite the fact that King Henry VIII's life is no mystery.
Probably the best part of the book is that Will Somers is really no fool. His life is no easy one and he really has to be a skilled diplomat in order to survive the intrigues others paid for with their lives. Many times he finds himself balancing on a thin rope but he, the court jester, of all people survives. I think the main reason for this is that Will has a compassionate heart and his judgement of character is not clouded by the need to entertain the court and the King at all costs.
Thanks to Ms.Barnes, we see the King's fool, not as an accessory, a mere clown, but as a loving, non-judgemental human being, who has his share of misery and misfortune. He is loved by King Henry VIII, princess Mary and his wife Joanna because they see in him a true and pure heart, and not simply a jester, who provides fun at the cost of other people's mishaps.
Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks for providing me with a copy of this book.

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

I have heard the first verse of the following quote too many times to remember. What I do remember, is that a lot of those times, people who repeated these words weren't even aware of who they were quoting. Today I give you the words borrowed from the greatest bard in history of literature, William Shakespeare (Hamlet):

"This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

'The Plague' by Albert Camus

How does one review a classic? I have always had major issues with doing that. I do enjoy reading classic literature, probably more than any other genre, but when it comes to actually reviewing it, I get anxious. Classic literature is, after all, art. And I do not consider myself an art connoisseur or an art critic in any way. Therefore, I struggled with an idea of writing a review of The Plague by Albert Camus. My inclinations were to dive instantly into analyzing, interpreting and playing that torturous game of ‘what the author wanted to say’. In the end, I realized that such approach was not going to work unless I would be writing a thesis on Camus, which I have no desire to do.
The action of The Plague takes place in the ‘40s, in the town of Oran. It is a town just like any other all over the Western world. The inhabitants are busy living their materialistic lives consumed with careers, successes, money and goods that can be bought for it. The lives they lead are, in short, industrial lives with no place for emotions, existential thoughts and spiritual insights. Until, one day the rats start coming out and dying right in the open. The reader already has an idea of what’s to come but not the residents of Oran. They are still preoccupied with their orderly lives and the phenomenon of dying rats is nothing more than an inconvenience and an annoying intrusion upon their ‘in the box’ reality. However, slowly, but surely Oran drowns in the plague, people, instead of rats are dying by hundreds every week and those who are not infected yet find themselves imprisoned in their own homes, their own town, having no choice but to look on their lives from a different, emotional perspective.
Camus tells the story through the eyes of an objective narrator, intertwining it with accounts of personal experiences of major characters: Tarrou, Dr. Rieux, Cottard, Rambert, Grand and Father Paneloux. They are all very different people, who would otherwise never have met and gotten close, but the disease devouring the town brings them together in many, sometimes unpredictable, ways. As it goes with almost all classics, there are various ways The Plague can be looked upon. And not one single opinion will be the correct one. My thoughts on it are many. But the most important one is that it has to be read. Whether one likes it or not, whether the writing seems tedious or there is not enough action going on, and whether it seems difficult to comprehend or not deep enough, it is a novel that is worth the time and effort. Besides Camus’s word artistry, the universal theme is what everyone should have the time to ponder upon at least once in their lifetime. The plague is not just a medical affliction, it is a phenomenon which, in its cruelty and indifference, cuts those afflicted with it off from the rest of the world, from their own families even and leaves them utterly alone with their individual suffering. Now, with death glaring at them and coming ever so closely, they question their lives, their morals, they ask who brought it upon them and why, and they never really get one satisfactory answer. How many plagues have afflicted our world since The Plague was written? I think that every misery that brings death, isolation and suffering of the innocents is that plague.

Favorite quote:

“Doubtless today many of our fellow citizens are apt to yield to the temptation of exaggerating the services they rendered. But the narrator is inclined to think that by attributing overimportance to praiseworthy actions one may, by implication, be paying indirect but potent homage to the worse side of human nature. For this attitude implies that such actions shine out as rare exceptions, while callousness and apathy are the general rule. The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding…men are more good than bad…but they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

Weekly Geeks - historical fiction.

I know that I'm a little late with the Weekly Geeks' post but better late than never. Do you have a favorite book that really pulled you back in time, or perhaps gave you a special interest in that period? Include a link to a review of it on another book blog if you can find one (doesn't have to be a Weekly Geek participant).

Here’s the thing: I love historical fiction, but I do not read nearly as much of it as I probably should. Reasons for that are many. However, the main one is I love other genres just as much and I want to share my time equally with all of them. Here’s another thing: every time I do read historical fiction, I acquire a special interest in the period the book I’m reading is about or set in. That’s where my belief stems from that no matter how entertaining a book is, it can always be treated as a source of new knowledge. Every time I read anything set in a certain period of time or about a historical figure, I simultaneously check the facts on the Internet (oh, the blessings of the modern age!).
The first historical fiction book had tremendous impact on me in a sense that I was instantly pulled back into that time and that I wanted to know more. So much more that I actually wrote my Master’s thesis on it. The book was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and the period in question was the British Empire’s colonization of Nigeria. I had known very little about that period before I read the book. My knowledge had been very general and quite superficial really. Things Fall Apart made me acquainted with the Igbo tribe, their customs, their religion and beliefs. My ignorance of that period of time started glaring at me from the pages of this book until colonization period became my obsession. I probably could write another hundred pages on this book alone but I will stop here and say only that it is one of those books that absolutely have to be read, no question about it.

The next book didn’t come along until years later. I picked it up at library exclusively because of the size. I am a freak when it comes to the size of books, the more chunky the better. Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George was tremendously thick and I swear it was inviting me to open it, start reading and get lost in it (talk about weird). And so I did. And I absolutely loved it. Ms. George is a master at writing historical fiction and all of her books I read after the first one were just as good, but as it always goes with the firsts, Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles holds a special place in my heart. Mary Stuart was a truly tragic figure and I think is still one of the least understood rulers. I fell in love with her and experienced every injustice done to her and every madness she put herself through as if they were my own. Now, that is a mark of a truly great writer who creates a book that has the capability to pierce right through a reader’s heart.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge - summary

Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge hosted by Melissa from Book Nut was the first one I finished first this year for two reasons: it was the shortest (three books) and the titles I chose were the ones I wanted to read the most. Here’s the list:

1. Chocolat by Joanne Harris (food name in the title)

2. Andorra by Peter Cameron (place name in the title

3. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (about a specific culture and/or author whose ethnicity is different from mine)

As you can see, there were specific instructions on what exactly I could read and I have to say it was a separate challenge to put together the list. That’s why I loved it so much! The idea that not only do I have to think about a specific group of books but think through every single book I included in the challenge was what appealed to me and encouraged me to join it. All three books were actually very good reads but my favorite one was Reading Lolita in Tehran. I reviewed it a few weeks back and there I listed all the reasons why I liked it so much. Let me just say that for an addict reader like me, the deep and insightful thoughts on why exactly reading literature is so very important and why it’s not about having a good time only but about life itself were what sold me on Reading Lolita in Tehran as my favorite.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

Today I decided to give you something that is very dear to me and every time I read these words I get reminded of how often random acts of kindness do go unnoticed but how often these are also the only things that matter. If there is anything that can pull me out of an emotional or spiritual slump it is the words borrowed from Mother Theresa:

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your
best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

'Passion Unleashed' by Larissa Ione

First of all, Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione was my first ever paranormal romance, and a Demonica novel, I might add. I was always wary of reading these types of books and now I am just kicking myself and asking, “Why?”. All I have to say, I have a lot of catching up to do and Passion Unleashed was just the perfect novel to introduce me to this genre.
The heroine, Serena Kelley, is an archaeologist and a woman with a powerful secret. When she was a child, she was granted immortality which would only be in effect if Serena stayed a virgin. It is all nice and dandy until she meets Wraith, a cruel and devoid of any morals Seminus demon. Wraith just found out that he is going to die and the only way he can stay alive is by seducing Serena, taking her virginity and ultimately causing her death. When things could not possibly get any more complicated, this heartless demon realizes that he is falling in love with the woman he has to kill to save himself.
Okay, here it goes: this book is hot, hot, hot! And I mean it. As I mentioned at the beginning, Passion Unleashed made me a romance convert and this is coming from a person who all her life had been wholeheartedly opposed to reading anything with "romance" stamped on it. I literally could not tear myself away from this book until it was finished. I spent a whole day reading it, while ignoring a sink full of dirty dishes, a laundry basket full of clothes to be washed and a grumbling stomach. There is, of course, a lot of sex scenes, which strangely (or maybe not so strangely, hhmm?) did not bother me one bit. Most importantly, Larissa is one heck of a paranormal romance writer. She has a skill for creating the most twisted demonic characters and for writing a book that is actually very touching because amidst all heaven breaking loose, the whole evil world going at it, there is still enough space for a very human feeling called love. I know that it sounds a little tacky, but I can’t help it. I have to give credit where credit’s due and Passion Unleashed is a perfect book to get completely lost in and forget about the world outside, if only for a few hours.


Special Thanks to Hachette Book Group for providing me with a copy of this book.

And don't forget to visit Larissa Ione's website for more Demonica fun and beyond.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I am in absolute heaven!

This is simply incredible! I have been given two awards in the past week and it is beyond my wildest dreams that such a thing could happen.

The first award came from Cathy at Kittling:Books. It's called a Sisterhood Award and the name says it all. Cathy is a wonderful person and blogger, who's supported me from the very beginning, she was one of the very first followers of my blog. If that's not sisterhood, then I don't know what is. Here are the rules to spread the sisterhood spirit:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!

3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

The people I'm nominating are a mixed bunch of bloggers who stuck with me and supported me like Cathy from the beginning and bloggers who are new to me but I already feel a great connection with them and know that they're here for a long run (and since I was never one for following the rules, I nominated 11 bloggers):

1. J. Kaye from J. Kaye's Book Blog
3. Amy from My Friend Amy
5. Bev from Merry Weather
6. Dorte from DJ's krimiblog
7. Drey from drey's library
8. Jo-Jo from Jo-Jo Loves to Read
9. Irish from Ticket To Anywhere
10. Epic Rat at the epic rat
11. DeSeRt RoSe at DeSeRt RoSe BoOkLoGuE

The second award is Proximidade Award I have received from DeSeRt RoSe at DeSeRt RoSe BoOkLoGuE (I love her blog, by the way, you should all go and check it out). It's the second time I've been awarded with this one and it means so much to me. I thank you DeSeRtRoSe.

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'For Women Only' by Shaunti Feldhahn

I picked up this book because at this point I’m grasping at straws. I really wanted to find out what the deal was with successful relationships and why I can’t seem to make it work. (Okay, so I’m feeling sorry for myself, don’t we all sometimes?). The subtitle to it is: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. I am not sure what’s gotten into me that I actually decided I wanted to know anything about the inner lives of men. All kidding aside, Shaunti had a good purpose in mind. The book was written based on surveys among about a thousand men. Out of these surveys and interviews and informal conversations, some supposedly universal to men truths were discovered. I’ll get to those truths in a moment but let me first say that this book may work only in a fairly healthy relationship, where you and your husband are not on the brink of divorce and you simply notice that something might not be quite right and you desire to make your marriage/relationship work better. For Women Only is not a counseling manual for severe cases of abuse, cheating, major lapses in judgment and so forth. Most importantly, this book will work only if you make your husbands/partners read For Men Only so that you don’t create a situation where you are trying to do your darnedest to understand men, yet they give nothing in return and live their lives blissfully unaware of what your needs are.
Now, some points in For Women Only are valid, such as men need our respect more than they need love, that the burden to constantly provide for their families is weighing them down but is also ingrained in them or that they are romantic but don’t really know how to show it and we have to help them with that. Other points are quite infuriating and I still am having a hard time accepting them. The points I’m speaking of are that men are extremely visual and will pay attention to every attractive woman that walks by or is on TV and, worst of all, they probably will instantly feel the pull to imagine her naked. We as women just have to accept it and live with it because that doesn’t mean they are really cheating on us or not appreciating how we look. Men simply savor good looking women as a connoisseur might enjoy a piece of art. Well…I don’t know how this can help women enrich their relationships with their partners, but I cannot accept that the man I’m spending a nice stroll through town with really is thinking about having sex with that drop-dead gorgeous girl that just walked by and if he forces himself to not look at her, I should be eternally grateful to him for making an effort. I guess I’d just rather be single.
All and all, it is definitely not a book for me. Maybe I am just not ready to accept certain things without expecting some rewards. Ah well, call me selfish. But, like I said, if you feel that your relationship is quite all right and just needs a few improvements, then by all means you can reach out for this book and it might be just what you need.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Borrowed Words

I have decided to introduce a weekly post to my blog. It is called "Borrowed Words" because I will be posting words said or written by other people, some famous, and some not so much. What they all will have in common is that they will be words of encouragement, inspiration, spirituality or life wisdom. I have embarked on a kind of spiritual journey this year and I think that this will be a fun part of it. I will post new ones on Mondays, but there was no particular thought process behind picking a day. It simply occurred to me today, today is Monday, and so Monday it is. I hope you'll enjoy it and maybe think it fun enough along the way to post your own on your blogs.

Today, I give you words of Nelson Mandela, borrowed from his 1994 Inaugural Speech.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?"

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is withing us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to be the same.

As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Winter Challenge Summary

First the list of all the books I managed to read for this great challenge hosted by My Two Blessings.

1. King's Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes
2. Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson
3. What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
4. With Violets by Elizabeth Robards
5. The Testament by David Morrell
6. Blessings by Anna Quindlen
7. The Book of Air & Shadows by Michael Gruber
8. The Book Thief by Michael Zusak
9. The Hellfire Club by Peter Straub
10. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
11. Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz
12. Mr. X by Peter Straub
13. The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

Winter is always a very difficult time for me. As some of you might know, I suffer from clinical depression and I unfortunately get to be visited by it more often during the cold, dreary, mostly sunless days of winter. This year it actually was quite worse since on top of my usual struggles, I was also struggling in my personal life, my professional career wasn’t going anywhere and many days, even weeks, I had to live on a very limited budget. Of course books have always been my rescue and not having been aware of what was ahead of me, I put up the Winter Challenge list with books that were perfect for helping me get outside of myself and somehow survive this season that is thankfully coming to an end.

I honestly enjoyed all of the thirteen books, but if I had to pick my most favorite and most ‘life-saving’ it would be The Book of Air & Shadows. The main reasons are that it was very funny, very clever and utterly entertaining. I truly believe that sometimes laughter is the best medicine and this book proved that well known theory to me yet again. What I like about this challenge though is that it didn’t have any particular theme so I could pick any books I wanted. And I did my best to make it genre-wise diversified. I have there horror, mystery, chick lit, memoir, action thriller, popular and historical fiction. It’s almost like a little bit of everything. I will certainly be looking for a second helping next winter around.

'Jane Austen Ruined My Life' by Beth Patillo

Let me just come straight out and say that I am not a die-hard fan of Jane Austen or chick lit. Not that I hate either of them, I simply would pass on books by this author or in this genre if given an option to read something else. However, this year is a year of challenges and I decided to read more out of my comfort zone. That’s why I decided to read Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo.
This is a book that meets both requirements of stepping “outside of the box”: the main character is a major sucker for Jane Austen and I would classify the book as chick lit. The story is about Emma Grant, an American professor, recently divorced from her husband and let go in disgrace from her university. Coincidentally with the divorce, Emma is contacted by Mrs. Parrot, who claims to be in possession of never- before- heard- of private correspondence of Jane Austen. In hopes of retrieving the letters and redeeming herself professionally, Emma packs what little she has and gets on the plane to London. And so her adventure with her beloved writer and mysterious Mrs. Potter begins.
Not very often am I so conflicted about a book as I was with Jane Austen Ruined My Life. The whole premise of the book is very interesting. Here we have a broken-hearted woman going in search of something that will help her mend the wrongs done to her. However, I got disappointed with the Emma character, which could have been developed a little more. Considering what Emma went through, there isn’t all that much emotional depth to her, maybe besides quite a few, slightly annoying crying fits. The male characters fall rather flat as well, with the exception of Edward, Emma’s ex, responsible for her ruination. Being a villain in this book, he at least evokes somewhat stronger, if naturally negative, emotions. All and all, the book sometimes gave off an impression that Emma and her adventures are probably quite engaging, it’s just that they are hidden from a reader who knows there’s more there but can’t quite gain access.
Now, I wrote that I was conflicted with the novel, which means that I had some good feelings about it as well. Ms. Patillo is very knowledgeable in Jane Austen field and it becomes nicely apparent in the book. Also, the supposed missing letters are very interesting and add the element of mystery to the story. It was quite entertaining to imagine what Austen really was like, why she wrote the books she wrote and what caused her to remain a spinster to the end. Most importantly, Emma does redeem herself towards the end of the book and manages to stir sympathy and understanding in my stone-cold heart. Overall, I think that Jane Austen Ruined My Life is an okay read, somewhat entertaining with glimpses of Beth Patillo’s true writing skills but because it had a potential for not only a good read but a fantastic one, the book was a tad disappointing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

'The Day After Tomorrow' by Sandee Sgarlata

Being a mother of a 10-year-old girl I am often tormented by constantly lowered standards teenage girls live by in today’s world. My girl’s puberty approaches fast, faster than I would like to and I find myself concerned about what direction she’ll move towards when the time comes. That’s why I already read YA books as a kind of motherly censorship. I want to know what will be appropriate for her to read and at what age she should read certain books. This is not to say that I will put restraints on her reading choices, merely that I want to be aware of what is out there in a reading world and what attitude she might want to take on while picking up certain books. For this reason I decided to read Sandee Sgarlata’s The Day After Tomorrow.
The Day After Tomorrow is a short book, a novella of sorts, in which a 15-year-old Julia Monroe goes through what might seem normal trials and tribulations of teenagers. She is starting junior high troubled by fear of rejection by her peers, anxious about her relationship with a first boyfriend and conflicted about her feelings towards her parents, especially her mom. All these issues come to a halt when she is involved in an accident. What happens next changes Julia’s outlook on her life, people around her and things that are truly important.
I liked the idea of the book. The author nicely portrays what teenage girls go through nowadays. Julia is a very self-conscious girl who finds fault in everything about her, her self-esteem is starting to falter and she seems to have problems finding her own identity. It pretty much is what I imagine teenagers to experience and it is not something any mother wants her kids to go through. Ms. Sgarlata offers girls a way out, an antidote to their society’s demands. Julia learns that forgiveness is important, especially towards herself, that she does not have to feel misunderstood and that acceptance and appreciation of who she is are the tools designed to help her in the confusing world of adolescence.
There were some slight discrepancies in the story, like Julia's age being 15 for the first half of the book and 14 for the second, while the action takes place entirely in the present. The language is simple, sometimes maybe a little too simple. I understand that it is a book for teenagers but if reading is supposed to teach them anything, I should think that they have a right to a little bit more elaborate writing. Having written that, I think that The Day After Tomorrow is a good and important book for girls to get acquainted with and Ms. Sgarlata should be applauded for giving them the option of reading something other than books perpetuating the unreal image of a perfect Barbie doll.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I am a happy clam today!

Yes, I am happy. I got an award. And what an award too! I had seen my most favorite blogs proudly (and rightly so) displaying this one and I was daydreaming about the day I would get it too. Yes, that was my aspiration: to create a blog that will be liked by other bloggers. Lo' and behold! Lovely Bev from Merry Weather awarded me with this honor and she really made my day!

I know that I am supposed to give this award to seven other bloggers but honestly I love so many more and it would be unjust to award some but skip others. All the blogs that I have listed under "Smart People Read" are truly my favorites that I visit often to get my daily dose of entertainment, intellectual brain activity, humor and knowledge.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Book Giveaway Carnival March 2-8 - RESULTS!!!

It is that time. I have picked four winners for the Book Giveaway Carnival, one for each book offered. The system of drawing was my daughter, blindfolded stirring all the names in a plastic pot and picking one out of all the people who entered . The action was repeated four times.

Anyway, I love all the books. The ones I own hold a special place. However, I decided that it's time to share them with others, who love reading just as much as I do. Winners please take good care of the books and enjoy them! Those who didn't win, I will be having more giveaways to come so make sure to check my blog often. I would like to thank all who commented and participated in the Carnival. I have met many new bloggers, whose blogs I will in turn visit regularly.

And now for the results:

Plan B by Anne Lamott goes to: velocibadgergirl

Pirate by Ted Bell goes to : teg

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Suzanna Clarke goes to:

The Invitation by Oriah goes to: Blodeuedd

Friday, March 6, 2009

February Reads

Considering that February only had 28 days and I still managed to read as many books as I did in January, I am quite satisfied. Of course I wish I could read as fast as some people (already having over 50 books read) but that will never happen and I am happy with how much I read.

1. King’s Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes (out in the stores in April; a super read about Will Somers, Henry VIII’s court jester)

2. Medallions by Zofia Nalkowska (one of my favorites, a short compilation of documentaries from the Nazi regime)

3. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (a wonderful memoir on living under the Islamist regime; I posted a review a couple of weeks back)

4. A Child’s Journey out of Autism by Leeann Whiffen (another memoir, this time of a mother’s struggles to get her son back from autism; a very touching story, also with my review)

5. Gauntlet by Richard Aaron (a great, fact-paced techno-thriller)

6. Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz (I love Koontz but I was a little disappointed with this one)

7. The Hellfire Club by Peter Straub (it’s my second book by Straub and I’m really starting to warm up to him; it’s horror mixed in with thriller elements)

8. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy (a memoir of a woman who had to grow up with a deformed face due to cancer; very absorbing and a sad as well; I actually have mixed feelings about this one)

9. Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs (I’m gonna have to give this woman another try because I’ve heard a lot of good things about this author but this particular forensic thriller did not reflect all the praise)

10. Slip & Fall by Nick Santora (a legal thriller with very interesting characters and some good writing)

Audio Books:

1. Hard Truth by Nevada Barr (I think I’m going to like Ms. Barr, the book was humorous, with fast action and a great main character, ranger Anna Pidgeon).

Looks like February was a month of memoirs and thrillers. Only a couple of books were not so great and the rest I really enjoyed. I am still looking for the ‘Wow!’ book. Maybe in March. These kind of books are hard to find.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Book Giveaway Carnival March 2-8 - Last Giveaway

Today I am giving away the final book in Book Giveaway Carnival. As a reminder, the winners of all four giveaways will be announced on my blog on Sunday, March 8th at 1pm EST. The winners will also be notified by email so make sure you leave me one. If you are a lucky winner but I have no way of contacting you, someone else will take your spot.

For the last book I am offering The Invitation by Oriah. It is a New Age metaphysical book. This genre and a different spin on the popular self-help genre seem to be growing quite extensively for the past few years. My copy is paperback and pretty much like new. There are no signs of the book having been read and no creases on the spine.

"Shared by word of mouth, e-mailed from reader to reader, recited over the radio, and read aloud at thousands of retreats and conferences, The Invitation has changed the lives of people everywhere. In this bestselling book, Oriah expands on wisdom found within her beloved prose poem, which presents a powerful challenge to all who long to live an authentic life.
In a world of endless small talk, constant traffic jams, and overburned schedules, The Invitation opens the door to a new way of life - a way of intimacy, honesty, and peace with ourselves, others, and the world around us."

All you have to do is leave a comment with your email (email is very important, as it saves me a lot of time trying to look for one when the winner is picked). I will randomly pick one winner and the name will be announced on Sunday, March 8th. Have fun!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Giveaway Carnival March 2-8 - Third Giveaway

Next one up for the Book Giveaway Carnival! Only one more left, so don't forget to stop by tomorrow too.

Today's book is Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. it is a hardcover copy, very gently used. I only read it once and, as I mentioned before, I do try to treat my books with respect. It is a fantasy book and all fans of this genre should be delighted to read it. I certainly was.


"The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and it is hundreds of years since practical magic faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history suddenly discover that one practicing magician still remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell of Hurtfew Abbey. Challenged to demonstrate his powers, Norrell causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and sing, and sends a thrill through the country...Yet Norrell is soon challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange...As Strange's powers grow, so do his ambitions. He becomes obsessed with the founder of English magic, a shadowy twelfth-century figure known as the Raven King. In his increasingly reckless pursuit of the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, Strange risks sacrificing not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything else that he holds dear."

All you have to do is leave a comment with your email (email is very important, as it saves me a lot of time trying to look for one when the winner is picked). I will randomly pick one winner and the name will be announced on Sunday, March 8th. Have fun!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book Giveaway Carnival March 2-8 - Second Giveaway

It's time for the second day in the Book Giveaway Carnival. Today I am giving away a hardcover copy of Ted Bell's Pirate. Ted Bell writes great books with Alex Hawke as a main character. Pirate is a really fast-paced thriller, can easily be read in two or three sittings.


"Aboard the Star of Shanghai in the south of France, an American spy is held captive. He possesses vital, explosive intelligence linking two nations and one horrifying plot. If he is not rescued, he faces certain torture and inevitable death. Nearby, in a seaside hotel, a man still haunted by the loss of his wife two years earlier finds comfort in the arms of a beautiful Chinese actress - but is she to be trusted? So begins Pirate, an electrifying thriller marking the return of international counterterrorist Alex Hawke."

All you have to do is leave a comment with your email (email is very important, as it saves me a lot of time trying to look for one when the winner is picked). I will randomly pick one winner and the name will be announced on Sunday, March 8th. Have fun!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Book Giveaway Carnival March 2-8 - First Giveaway

Welcome everybody!

I am happy to participate in the Book Giveaway Carnival! hosted by Tracy from Book Room Reviews.

The first book I will be giving away is Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. My copy is hardcover and it is brand new. Anne Lamott is hysterical and if you read her Bird by Bird and liked it, you'll love this one as well.

Excerpt from the book cover:

"...there are greater personal demands on Lamott's faith as well: turning fifty; her mother's Alzheimer's; her son, sam's adolescence; and the passing of friends and time...With her trademark humor, wisdom, and honesty, Lamott tell us stories of daily life...She watches the seasons come and go, and shares with us the comfort and insights that she draws from life around her even as she continues to panic and despair - and also to struggle as all of us must, to make the world a safer, and more loving, place to live."

All you have to do is leave a comment with you email. I will randomly pick one winner and the name will be announced on Sunday, March 8th. Have fun!

Proximidade Award

I have been honored by Amy from Passages to the Past with this wonderful award. Thank you Amy. I really am very happy that you thought of me.

Here's what this award stands for:

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."
And now is the time to announce eight recipients of this award:
Julie from Joyful Days
Beth F. from Beth Fish Reads
Cathy from Kittling: Books
Dorte from DJs krimiblog
Softdrink from Fizzy Thoughts


It's time for the FIRST Wild Card Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Shame Lifter: Replacing Your Fears and Tears with Forgiveness, Truth, and Hope

Tyndale House Publishers (February 5, 2009)


Marilyn Hontz is a popular conference speaker and has been a guest on Focus on the Family’s daily radio broadcast. Marilyn is active at Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, Michigan, where her husband, Paul, is senior pastor. She and Paul have five children.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (February 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414318960
ISBN-13: 978-1414318967



The Seeds of Shame

Shame is a prevailing sense of worthlessness that leads to the false belief I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless.

—Robert S. McGee, The Search for Significance

A vague feeling of uneasiness had been nagging at me all summer. I had been asked to speak at a fund-raising event for a Christian conference center, but even after I’d prepared my talk, the discomfort remained. The committee was hoping my talk would inspire people to give financially to their camp. I felt that pressure, but there was something else too.

Not only was I feeling nervous about speaking, I was already dreading how I would feel after I spoke. I knew that as soon as I finished, negative voices would bombard me; not from the audience; no, much worse—negative declarations from my very own self. Why did I say that? Oh, why didn’t I remember to say this? I hope the committee wasn’t disappointed. They probably didn’t reach their fund-raising goal because I wasn’t good enough to inspire the audience to give. I was all too familiar with these kinds of berating thoughts. They would continue long after the speaking event until I had buried myself under a pile of self-loathing verbal garbage.

Actually, this critical self-talk was nothing new. When I first started speaking to groups, I tried to explain it away as adrenaline letdown. It was true to a degree; adrenaline always goes way up when you stand before a crowd of people. It’s also true that it can come crashing down afterward.

Yet I suspected something else was wrong, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I knew that even if I heard only positive feedback from the audience, the inner pain would not go away. For some reason, I didn’t think I could ever measure up to what I thought an audience wanted from me. But I also wondered if I would ever measure up to whom I thought I should be.

The speaking event arrived on a sunny Michigan day in August. The spacious dining room was filled to capacity with women seated at round tables, each brightened by floral centerpieces taken from late summer gardens. The numerous large windows gave a panoramic view of the serene waters of Lake Michigan. A deep calmness prevailed on the surface of the big lake. It was a calmness I longed for.

Several of my friends had driven a distance to hear me speak, but even their supportive presence did not still my apprehension. After we were seated, servers set beautifully arranged salads and baskets of warm, fragrant rolls before us. I was hungry but couldn’t eat. It was then I realized I was surrounded by happy, chattering women who had no clue of my inward turmoil. Outwardly I appeared confident and totally put together. Just like the lake, my surface appeared calm and peaceful.

I watched the clock as the women ate. The program was running longer than expected. I’m going to be late getting up to speak, I bemoaned quietly to myself. I knew the lady sitting next to me was getting ready to take off for a trip to Florida the minute I was through speaking—she had made that perfectly clear. “My husband is already waiting in the car for me,” she had informed me. I felt pressure and very responsible that she be able to leave on time.

Finally I was introduced, and the emcee mentioned I would be speaking on “Learning to Listen for God throughout Your Day.” As I walked to the podium I thought, How strange: here I am talking about God’s voice, yet my own thoughts seem to drown out His voice after I finish speaking at events. I knew as soon as I was done I would internally hear these kinds of things: Marilyn, you forgot to mention a certain illustration. Or, Why did you tell the audience about that?

Even as I spoke, I kept remembering that a man was waiting in his car for his wife to get out of the luncheon so they could leave for Florida. You’d better hurry up, Marilyn! You don’t want to keep someone waiting. Don’t be a bother. I finally concluded my talk and noted that I was only a couple of minutes over the time limit. Good, I thought, now that woman can get out to her car and leave for Florida.

As I walked back from the podium to my seat and sat down, unexpected applause erupted from the women. The emcee quickly grabbed the microphone. “Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing with us today; you’ve given us some things to think about. It was very meaningful.” I stood up again to speak with the women who lined up near my table to talk to me. One by one, the women graciously affirmed my talk. I was a bit overwhelmed, as I was not feeling comfortable or worthy of their compliments.

Something happened, however, that was forever to change the direction of my life and the way I viewed myself. The very last woman in line said, “Thank you for your teaching today. That was the best presentation on listening for God I have heard, and I’ve heard several messages on that subject.”

I didn’t know what to say. I knew I was supposed to say thank you, but it would seem too prideful if I just said that. So as I looked at the floor I said, “Thank you,” and then added, “It was nothing.” At that point, the woman gently took hold of my arm. Her touch immediately made me jerk up my head and look into her blue eyes.

“Did you hear what I just said?”

“Yes,” I replied rather sheepishly.

“Well,” she continued, “I mean my compliments when I give them. Marilyn, do you know what your response reveals to me?”

I shook my head no as I waited for her to continue.

“Your response tells me that you live with a shame-based perspective of life.”

Shame. I don’t remember anything else she said or, for that matter, what anybody else said that afternoon. The word shame lodged in my throat like a vitamin pill that was stuck for lack of enough water.

Shame. I thought about that word as I made the hour-long trip home.

Shame. Was it true? Did I have a shame-based perspective of life? Driving home from that luncheon, I tried to sort through the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt, as I understood it, meant “I have done something wrong, and I feel terrible about it.” I knew I had not done anything wrong at the speaking event, yet I still felt awful.

I then went on a deep soul-searching journey, asking God if shame existed in my life because of a breach between Him and me. God, is there anything I need to make right with You? Did I do something wrong? Nothing came to mind. Silence.

Hey, can’t shame be a good thing? I asked myself. If used appropriately, couldn’t shame reveal something that needs to be corrected? Maybe it was okay that I had this “shame-based perspective of life,” whatever that meant.

At that point I didn’t understand the difference between guilt and shame. I had often heard people use the two words interchangeably. Guilt nails you on what you have done; shame, on the other hand, hits at the core of a person—who you are. Guilt says, “You made a mistake.” Shame says, “You are the mistake.” I wasn’t dealing with something I had done wrong at the luncheon (guilt). I was battling my own thoughts: I am not a good speaker; I am not adequate (shame). Healthy guilt has an element of hope attached—an error has been revealed, yet you are hopeful that a positive change will take place as you address your shortcoming. Shame often leaves you feeling helpless—after all, it tells you that something at the very core of your being is defective.

Just as I did not understand the distinction between guilt and shame, I did not realize that there are two kinds of shame. The first, healthy shame, prompts you to correct—or prevent—sinful behavior. Good shame reveals that you are not perfect and that you are not God. Healthy shame reminds you that you have limits and that you will make mistakes. It can act like the warning light on your car’s dashboard that reads “Maintenance Required.” It can help alert you that something is wrong under

your hood. So you stop, pay attention to the warning, deal with it, and move on.

For example, when I was six, I started taking accordion lessons. Not long after, my teacher explained that I would be expected to play “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes” from memory at my first recital. For some reason (probably because of the title of the song), I procrastinated and hadn’t memorized the piece by the time the recital rolled around. Not surprisingly, when I got up to play, I messed up big time. I kept playing the same measure over and over until finally I just stopped playing. There was dead silence. I was very embarrassed. I knew I was supposed to have had that piece memorized, but I had not done it. Thankfully, neither my parents nor my piano teacher berated me after the recital. In fact, my teacher even gave me a little prize at the end of the evening! Still, the good shame I felt pushed me to be sure I worked hard before my next recital.

While my illustration of good shame was from a silly example of childhood, I am concerned about a lack of good shame in our culture. The number of babies born outside of marriage, marital affairs, and cheating—whether on tax forms or in the classroom—are all increasing. Unfortunately our culture has a growing tolerance toward these practices. Thousands of years ago the prophet Jeremiah gave a sad commentary on his culture: “They have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” ( Jeremiah 6:15). We are losing our ability to blush as well. Healthy shame ought to lead us toward repentance and restoration, healing and forgiveness. Good shame, then, does have its place.

What I’m talking about in this book, however, is another type of shame. It’s an unhealthy, destructive form that author John Bradshaw calls toxic: “Toxic shame gives you a sense of worthlessness, a sense of failing and falling short as a human being.”

The results of toxic shame are serious and long lasting. “People affected by it judge themselves, rather than judging their actions. If they make a mistake or do something wrong, they judge themselves as bad, rather than judging their actions as imperfect. They live in terror of unexpected exposure—of others seeing them as they see themselves.”

These were the vague feelings of inner torment I experienced not only every time I got through speaking but in other situations as well. Unfortunately, toxic shame lingers and eventually becomes a part of who you are and what you do and don’t do. It paralyzes you so you don’t think you can move on.

When I returned home from the luncheon that day, I ran upstairs to the solitude of my bedroom and fell on my face before the Lord. “Please, God, show me if there is shame in my life.” Instantly a painful memory surfaced—one I had never shared with anyone except, in part, with my husband.

An unpleasant memory from when I was five; a memory I had buried but couldn’t forget. It was a secret I had carefully hidden behind a heavy door in my heart for many years. I was still pushing against that door with all my weight to keep it closed.

God came that afternoon, so to speak, and slowly pulled me away from that closet door and gently took me into His arms. I was so tired of trying to keep it closed. I didn’t want that door opened, but I couldn’t bear putting my weight against it any longer.

He was reassuring and tender as He held me and spoke very clearly to my heart.

Marilyn, it is hard for you to receive compliments. You do not feel like you are ever good enough. You act as though you are “affirmationdeficient”; no amount of affirmation fills you up. You are afraid you’ll be abandoned. You feel overly responsible for other people.

At that precise moment, I knew—my outlook on life was shame-based. Toxic shame was the reason for my continual vague feelings of uneasiness and inadequacy. The Lord began to reveal to me the secret stash of shame I had carried for many years. He invited me to remove the tinted glasses of shame that blurred and darkened my vision of whom He had called me to be. Gently, the Lord helped me crack open the door of a carefully covered secret memory I did not want to deal with. . . .

Can you relate? Do you ever have a vague, bogged-down feeling that something is wrong with you? Do you ever feel that while you’ve been told God loves you, He certainly must love others more than you? Do you sense that you can’t measure up to what people or God want from you? Do fears torment you and keep you from being a confident person?

Perhaps you feel a rush of anger whenever you feel put down so you lash out at the person closest to you. Or you might down an entire half gallon of ice cream after listening to your boss go on and on about how you should improve your time-management skills. Maybe you berate yourself for minor mishaps. Say you accidentally back into a neighbor’s mailbox. Even after paying to have it replaced, you continue to feel bad about it and indulge in self-berating thoughts. Why wasn’t I paying more attention when I backed out of the driveway? How could I have been so dumb? And every time you drive by that now-repaired mailbox you wonder how you could have been so brainless to make such an obvious mistake. By way of contrast, people who do not view life through the lens of toxic shame may back into a neighbor’s mailbox and while they feel bad, they can fix the mailbox and then move on. They do not continue to degrade themselves.

Toxic shame can take an outward event (like hearing a critical comment or backing into a mailbox) and turn it inward. It causes you to focus on yourself in a negative way. Instead of recognizing that you accidentally hit a mailbox, toxic shame can make you believe that you are a mailbox hitter and always will be. If you make a mistake while presenting a workshop for your company or church, you tell yourself, I’m not a good presenter. I’ll never be able to speak again. You believe the internal message and refuse to give another presentation—even though you are very capable.

Shame is bound up in who we are and not so much with what we do. Author Stephen Seamands writes, “Shame, though it may be triggered by something we have said or done, is about our being.”3

Many avenues lead to this destructive kind of shame. If you struggle with it, you may have had parents who were shut down emotionally and could not affirm you as a child. You may have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. Perhaps you experienced an extremely humiliating and embarrassing situation and were teased about it. Or someone made fun of your body and to this day you can still hear their hurtful comments. These types of experiences breed shame. When this type of

shame is stuffed deep inside rather than addressed, it becomes internalized.

Once this toxic shame is internalized, it runs on autopilot. It can be triggered without anyone doing anything to you. Your own thoughts set it off! This toxic shame expresses itself as inner torment. Continual negative self-talk can be a dead giveaway that toxic shame is present in your soul.

Just as shame has many sources, it also manifests itself in different ways. Some people will try to dull the pain through addictions or eating disorders. Others will fly into uncontrollable rage over the smallest slight. Some will sink into depression and withdraw from others. Then there will be those who are so afraid of making a mistake that they fall into the pit of perfectionism.

Sadly, “some studies have determined that shame can be a key factor in suicide attempts.”4

If you struggle with feelings of inadequacy, perhaps, like me, you were not aware of or able to identify the root of these problems as shame. Until now! Dear reader, I long for you to recognize unhealthy, toxic shame in your life. Why? Shame seeks to paralyze you. Shame shuts down your insides. Shame cuts you off from truly giving to and receiving from others. But there is good news. Once you are aware of shame, you can reverse the atrophy. There is a cure! Perhaps you don’t struggle with shame but know someone who seems in bondage to an addiction or seeks to live as a perfectionist or is at an emotional standstill in life. Now, maybe, their struggle has a name—toxic shame.

The story that follows shows how shame can take root early in life and then, if left alone, grows effortlessly and stubbornly as a weed. Like a weed, it grows inconspicuously at first until later, when it stands taller than the life around it. In my own life, this harvest of shame produced bitterness and negative self-talk. Its most beguiling fruit, however, was that of lies—internal lies. Shame set me up to believe lies about myself—lies from the enemy of my soul. It can do the same to you.

If you or someone you love is struggling with shame, I hope my story serves as a helpful illustration. Obviously, your circumstances will be different than mine. Your shame may have very different roots, and it may not produce the perfectionism or inadequacy that mine did. Yet I suspect that the fear, anger, and disappointment we often feel inside is similar.

This is also a story of what I’ve learned about pulling out the root of shame and allowing forgiveness, truth, grace, and hope to grow in its place. In fact, I’ve included “How about You?” questions and action steps, called “Shame Lifters,” at the end of each chapter to enable you to identify the ways shame shows up in your life and then take steps to resolve it. Even if you decide not to do the questions and Shame Lifters, I encourage you to at least read through them since other illustrations of shame and hope are scattered through them.

If you’re not battling shame personally, these exercises may enable you to be a shame lifter and foster healing in a friend’s or family member’s life. In addition, turn to the appendixes on pages 189–197, which will help you recognize whether shame is a problem for you or someone you know.

While writing my story was often painful, my hope is that you will see some aspect of your story in mine and then draw even closer to the God who longs to be your ultimate Shame Lifter.


Fears and Tears

Human beings are born with just two basic fears. One is the fear of loud noises. The other is the fear of falling. All other fears must be learned.

—Ronald Rood, American naturalist

Fear took hold early in my life. It clung to me like maple syrup sticks to your hands after you eat pancakes. I tried over and over again to wash away the fear with my tears, but it didn’t work.

“You’re always crying. Quit being a crybaby,” my father would often say impatiently. “What is the matter with you, anyway?”

I was dubbed “Crybaby” early on and lived up to my title. I found the more I cried, however, the more my father distanced himself from me both physically and emotionally. Crying never really achieved what I had hoped for, but I couldn’t stop myself.

One night when I was four years old, I awoke in my bed and was immediately consumed with a fear of the darkness. I went to my parents’ room, stood by their bed, and cried. Nothing they said calmed my fears. “Marilyn, go back to bed,” my dad said more than once. Finally, he threw back the covers on his side of the bed and started toward me. I felt a firm grip on my upper arm. My dad pulled me down the hallway to our bathroom and snapped on the light. He shoved me toward the sink. The cream tile counter with its dark brown, spotted markings came sharply into focus. The ribbed, frosted windows on either side of the sink glowed from an outdoor light that cast distorted, prism-like patterns on the counter.

“If you are going to keep crying, I’ll give you something to really cry about,” my dad said. As he pushed my head over the sink, he grabbed a bar of soap and shoved it in my mouth. Over and over he washed my mouth out with the soap. The biting taste repelled me, and I cried harder than ever. I do not remember what happened next, but I do remember this: I was very frightened of my father. Just as the frosted bathroom windows contorted the outside light that was reflected onto the bathroom counter, so my father’s actions that night distorted my view of him even more.

I knew deep down my father probably loved me. After all, didn’t all daddies love their children? But I didn’t feel close to him. In spite of my fear of him, however, something in me longed to please him, and I desperately wanted his approval.

My dad faced huge pressures during my early years. He was a pastor and was gone from home a lot. At the time he washed my mouth out with soap, he was planting a new independent church without receiving an income. He was also working in the early morning hours at our local post office to provide for my mom, older brother, and me as best he could on his meager income.

About this time my parents decided that taking a vacation to visit relatives in Michigan would provide a break from all the stress of church planting. I was five and my brother was thirteen the summer we took that trip from our home in Southern California to Battle Creek, Michigan. By the time we neared the desert town of Barstow, California, I was crying. There were no seat belt laws in that day, so I stood up in the car and leaned over the front seat.

“I want to ride up front,” I announced through my tears.

“No, Marilyn,” my dad said. “You need to sit back down in your seat.”

“But I want to sit up by Mommy,” I explained.

“No,” was his firm response.

I melted into more tears. My crying continued until the car abruptly stopped on the right shoulder of the road. At that point my crying abruptly stopped as well. What was happening? I wondered. The next thing I knew, my dad had gotten out of the car, walked around to my side, and opened the door.

“Get out!” he ordered.

I hesitantly got out and stepped onto a very deserted desert road. My dad reached in the car and pulled out my little suitcase and set it on the road next to me. He then walked back to his car door, got in, slammed the door, and drove off. I watched in utter disbelief as I saw our car getting smaller and smaller on the road until I could no longer see it. I wailed uncontrollably. I was so frightened! I truly felt like he would never come back and get me. I don’t know how long I was left there, but I was certain there was no hope of seeing my family again. Sometime later my dad returned for me.

Thankfully, I don’t remember any other cars passing by, and I was probably not left there for long. Still, the memory lingers. My dad may have come back for me physically, but emotionally he had left me alongside that desert road.

A new level of fear began to grow in me, and I would wake up crying in the night for my mother even more often. While I could not express it at that time, what I was feeling was fear of abandonment. What will happen to me if I get left again?

My fears continued to increase after our trip and into the fall when I started kindergarten. I was so fearful of getting left again that my mother needed to reassure me over and over again that my dad would remember to pick me up from kindergarten. (My mother didn’t have a driver’s license.) It was at that point I developed my biggest fear of all—that my mother would die and leave me. She was my stabilizer in life, and I clung to her as much as possible.

Shame, mixed with fear, was beginning to send down new and stubborn roots into the soil of my very being. I felt shamed for being called crybaby and a fraidy cat by family members and others. Shame had the incredible power of taking those two phrases and weaving them into the fabric of my life. I believed and internalized those phrases until they became me. Instead of “shame on you,” I picked up the mantle of shame and it became “shame on me.”

Something was making me cry. I was carrying a deep, dark secret. It left me fearful, overly sensitive, and worried. Also, the fear of being left alone followed me just like my shadow did.

What was the matter? I couldn’t talk about it. So I cried instead. It seemed the more I cried, however, the less it helped; but still I couldn’t quit. Tears were somewhat like a comfortable addiction—crying felt good and temporarily relieved some of my anxiety, but it never quenched my soul pain.

My kindergarten teacher observed my tears as well. She informed my mother that I was fearful, lacked confidence, and cried easily. I overheard her tell my mom this as I sat nearby playing on the rug in her classroom during a parent-teacher conference. Later I asked my mom what the teacher meant by her words about me.

“Well, honey, your teacher said you are capable of doing the schoolwork, but many times you don’t think you can. You need to have the confidence to go ahead and try.”

Could I tell my mom at that point about my fears? Could I tell her that because she couldn’t pick me up from school, I was extremely afraid my dad would forget to pick me up after kindergarten? No, that sounded silly.

Could I tell her that my teacher frightened me when she yelled at the class and how I thought she wasn’t very kind? Could I tell her about a girl in my class named Donna, who accidentally wet her pants during school? The teacher made an example out of her. First she announced to the class what

Donna had done. Then she made a pair of panties out of paper towels and tape and held it up for the class to view. Donna was red faced, and I was humiliated for her. I didn’t ask why Donna wasn’t at school the next day or any other day after that. I felt her embarrassment. I knew why she never returned to school.

Could I also tell my mother about that secret thing that had happened to me months earlier, which had frightened me more than anything else? No! I decided not to share the fear that was troubling and paralyzing me. I didn’t want anyone to find out my secret. It would be safer that way. And so I cried and rocked myself to sleep each night. Those were the only ways I knew how to cope with my growing fears. My tears were simply voicing the unspoken fearful words of my fettered and cheerless heart.


1. Can you identify with having an emotionally distant parent? If so, how has that impacted your life?

2. Do you remember ever being shamed as a child? If so, how would you complete the following sentence:

I felt shamed when I ______________________________.

3. Psalm 39:12 (NLT) says, “Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears.” (By the way, ongoing tears may be an indicator that something more is going on inside.) How do you typically express your hurt? How might you bring your shame or disappointment to God?

4. Have you ever felt hindered by hurtful, destructive words or names that were said over you as a small child? What were some of them?

5. Do you now have freedom from those words, or do they still have their paralyzing grip on you today? Explain.

6. Are you dealing with any past or current fears? In what way?

7. In Isaiah 41:13 (NLT) God promises, “I hold you by your right hand—I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.” What hope does this passage offer you?

✺ ✺ SHAME Lifters ✺ ✺

■ Identify a secret that you have been holding on to or an ache that just doesn’t go away.

■ Why do you want to keep this secret hidden? Why do you think the ache persists?

■ Identify a person you could safely confide in. Pray for the courage and wisdom to bring this secret or hidden ache out into the light.

Dear heavenly Father,

Thank You for listening to my cries when I call out in the “darkness” of my soul to You. You cry with me and take note of my tears (Psalm 55:17; 56:8).

Thank You that You do not leave me by the side of the road in my daily struggles. You are there for me. You are emotionally and spiritually connected to me! Even if I don’t recognize Your presence, You do not leave me—nor are You ever in the process of leaving me (Hebrews 13:5).You will not, nor cannot, leave me as an orphan (John 14:18). Over and over You speak peace to my heart and say, “Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13).

Thank You that Your name for me is “beloved.” Your words never wound to destroy me. You speak only healing words of conviction, comfort, and encouragement. You value me and treat me with dignity.

Heavenly Father, You love me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)—the kind of love I know so little about, but desire to experience more. Thank You! In the name of Jesus, Amen.