Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review of Thicker than Blood, By C.J. Darlington

If you're looking for a good read that deals with relationships between sisters, Thicker than Blood, the debut novel of C. J. Darlington is what you want to pick up. I was sent a copy to review by Tyndale House Pulishers and am happy to report I loved the book!

Christy Williams has been estranged from her younger sister, May, whom she walked away from fifteen years previously, when a terrible family situation brought a rift between the sisters. Christy's life tumbles in a downhill spirial, as she becomes involved with a sinister, controlling boyfriend. She has lost herself in the process of trying to build her life in her own way. Christy has an interesting job in a bookstore that deals in antiquarian (old) books, often bought from estate sales, but her boyfriend interferes with her life there, causing her to be charged with a crime she didn't do. (I really enjoyed learning about the antiquarian book business, what to look for to know they are first editions, etc. Especially for me as a reader and writer, the book store was a great setting.)

May has spent the last years constructing a fulfilling life on a ranch, working with her hands and building a "family" with the other people on the ranch. But she often prays for her sister Christy, wondering what has become of her and why she simply walked out of her life.

Through an interesting and realistic series of events, the two sisters reunite, though it's not with the ease of a Hallmark movie. Their world view and religious beliefs are nowhere the same, and when danger shows up at the ranch, this becomes very apparent. These are real women who have to deal with problems in their lives that are nearly as old as the books Christy deals with! It isn't easy.

Thicker than Blood covers the issues of broken relationships, forgiveness and chances to try again, and ultimate redemption. Ms. Darlington develops her characters well, so much so that there were times I wanted to shout at Christy for making such bad decisions! This book held my attention and didn't to slow down. It was one situation after another that eventually brought these sisters back in contact, with a chance to build a deep family bond.

I'm thrilled for Ms. Darlington that her book is now available. I give it four stars for an entertaining yet thought-provoking look at the possibility of broken relationships being restored.

About the Author:
C. J. began writing the story that would become Thicker than Blood (her first novel) when she was a fifteen-year-old homeschool student. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the one described in the novel before cofounding her own online bookstore. Thicker than Blood was the winner of the 2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel.

C. J. co-founded the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her website for more info.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inefficient Thoughts

It’s January, the time when we think of a lot of things we’d like to accomplish during this brand new year. We’re all too familiar with the usual thoughts of losing weight, exercising more, keeping our house cleaner, or always having a smile lighting up our face. Or we may go the spiritual route and decide to fast weekly, read our Bibles daily, and pray every hour. While these may all be good ideas, that’s usually as far as they go. They simply ricochet from one side of our brain to the other, zinging around looking for a place to land but not having much luck.

Unfortunately, other kinds of thoughts find a couple brain cells jutting over a vast crevasse and manage to hang a hammock and rest a while, swinging back and forth in the breeze. Thoughts of our inadequacies or weaknesses. The never-ending list of our responsibilities and obligations. The "shoulds" and "oughts" of our lives.

And then there’s the unseen presence that is out to paralyze us. It fills our minds in the quiet of the night when everyone else in the house is asleep, their bodies relaxed, their breathing slow and easy. It’s the giant monster of worry that hides in our bedroom closet or under the bed, waiting to grab us as soon as we relax.

You’ve been there, I know. You’re about asleep in your slippers when you finally hit the mattress, and just as you’re ready to become a citizen of La-la Land you think of something that makes your heart pound harder than a rock musician on the drums, and your skin vibrate more lively than Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame on the bass.

WORRY. A five-letter word that can wreak havoc on our lives. A word that can start as a legitimate prayer concern before butting trust out of the way. Worry steals joy and peace, replacing them with endless churnings of concern and anxiety.

Corrie Ten Boom said, "Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear."
That reminds me of when I was a kid and would open the top of the washing machine to watch the agitator in the center whirl the dirty clothes around. There was something nearly hypnotic about the action—clothes and soap bubbles spinning back and forth.

That’s what worry looks like—fear in the midst of agitated chaos. Our mind spins as we try to work out solutions to our concerns, but we’re really visiting the same territory over and over. We somehow believe it’s our responsibility to come up with the right answer; to work our way out of whatever situation we’re facing.

Inefficient thoughts can’t exist in the same space as trust in God’s involvement in our lives. Psalm 46 says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear." Later in the chapter we are told to "be still, and know that I am God."
Stillness refers not necessarily to the lack of movement of our body, but I believe, even more, to the state of our mind, heart, and emotions. We can learn to be so focused on Christ and His promises to us, that nothing moves us from His peace. We are still. We are centered on Him instead of fear and worry.

May this year be one of much growth for each of us. May we follow Paul’s directive in II Corinthians 10:5 and "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."