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Dirty Girls Come Clean

Reviewed by  Brittney

Just the Facts: by Crystal Renaud. 160 p. Published April 2011 by Moody Publishers.  Advanced copy provided in electronic format courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★★★

Who Cares? Self-Help/Christian Growth

Short Bio: Crystal Renaud shares her own personal story of pornography addiction, along with the stories of seven other women with similar struggles and her own adaptation of the 12-steps from Alcoholics Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous.  Crystals steps form the acronym “SCARS” – Surrender, Confession, Accountability, Responsibility, and Sharing.  Beyond an engaging narrative, the book includes many useful tools for anyone dealing with/in sobriety of a pornography addiction – from a personal inventory quiz to challenging application questions, as well as information on additional resources through other organizations, ministries, and websites (including Dirty Girls Ministries).

Eyewitness Account: This book is little powerhouse!! It is one of the fastest reads I’ve had in a while – yet still gave me quite a bit to think about.  I struck by Renaud’s description of the problem (data from 2003 concludes that 17% of all women struggle with a pornography addiction and that 1 in 3 visitors to adult websites are women) and by the testimonials of other women (including Renaud) who claimed that they each felt like they were the only person who had this problem!  It’s no surprise that Renaud’s SCARS steps heavily involve community – confessing to one another, being held accountable by someone else who is succeeding in their battle against addiction and sharing your story with others who need mentors and examples of standing strong.

Even though I wasn’t quite Renaud’s target audience, I did find some principles that are relevant to any Christian struggling against the power of sin and temptation in their life.  Renaud makes a point that our resistance to confess our sins only to God and not to each other usually reveals our continued deception – to show the world our “good” side and, in doing so, claim that we are our own saviors (see quote below).  I also appreciated Renaud’s statement that we can play the blame game  (excusing our current addictions by saying they are the result of our messed up parents or lack of emotional intimacy growing up) all we want, but it will not produce any growth or change in our lives.  We don’t actually move on and see different results until we take ownership of our own actions and choices and change them.

I requested this book to review on NetGalley because I’ve never seen another book like it.  I’m very thankful I did because I plan on recommending it to any woman who struggles with sexual addiction!

Notable Quotes:

“But why is it that confessing to others seems so much harder than confessing to God? . . . When we confess to God and not also to others, we cheapen God’s grace.  Your sins are of no surprise to God.  You won’t find a person on earth who isn’t carrying some piece of luggage they are ashamed about.  When God talks about healing through confession, He is talking about healing from having to be our own savior.  That’s why Christ died.  It is okay to be a screw-up because there’s grace enough to cover it.”

“But I’ve learned something over the years . . . that blaming others for my choices would not produce much change in me.  In fact, it would keep me in a holding pattern.  One that says that no matter what goes wrong in my life, no matter how screwed up things get, no matter how badly I mess something up  . . . I could just blame someone else and everything will turn out fine.  We all know that doesn’t work in real life so it certainly won’t work for this.  Unless of course I wanted to remain in an emotional prison.”

Other Books Read by This Author: None.

What are other people saying? Critty Joy, For What It’s Worth, For Such a Time As This


★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Organization

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★★


The Sea and the Silence

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by Peter Cunningham. 254 p. Published April 7, 2010 by GemmaMedia.  Electronic copy provided courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares? Adult Historical Fiction

Short Bio: The story of Ismay Seston is told amid the tumultuous context of newly independent Ireland, grappling with the dilemmas of class conflict and World War II.  The second half of her life is told first, and the book concludes with a short account of her life before marrying a fellow Anglo-Irish gentry whose family estate was also stripped by the Land Commission. 

Eyewitness Account: Cunningham proved to have some pretty fancy plot development and writing skills in this novel!  The second half of the book makes the first half an almost entirely different story, all foreshadowed with appropriate subtlety and almost none of which I anticipated.  I loved reading about a period and setting that I knew almost nothing about – the beginning of civil unrest in Ireland as a country of lower-class Irishmen tried to reconcile with their Anglo-Irish upper-class gentry after gaining political independence from England.  Ismay asks the tough questions that inform the discussion – is it fair to strip a family of land they’ve held for centuries? Is it fair that 95% of the land is owned by 3% of the population, most of which would shudder to call themselves “Irish”? 

This is the second book I’ve read in a week that’s omitted quotation marks (Cunningham prefers em dashes) – is there a new editing trend I’m not aware of?

Although Ismay’s story is written in a beautiful voice, the character development left something to be desired (as sometimes happens when men write with a female voice) – Ismay felt a bit wooden for someone who was supposed to be so passionate and lively, and the other characters fell flat.  Great characterization leaves you with sadness at the end of a book, as if you are saying goodbye to dear and beloved friends;  having finished this book an hour ago, I can hardly tell you the names of the secondary characters, much less attach any sense of personality to them.  Because of this, the love story pieces felt awkward and unbelievable (not to mention that one character tells another “I love you” after talking to them briefly twice?  Really?). 

Although not a 5-star book, the writing style, plot and historical setting make this novel well worth the read. 

Notable Quotes:

“. . .but at least then I would have him alone, which is to say, a man without pretensions, in need of love, who stayed at home and close to me, who came out the cliffs for walks and who listened as well as spoke.”

“We’ve only got one life.  You’ve got to live your dreams.  No one else is going to do that for you.”

“The love I known had both buoyed me and drowned me, for there were times when I knew I had lived rarely.”

Other Books Read by This Author:  None. 

What are other people saying?  Meredith Dias, Historical Novel Review, Suite 101 


★★★★ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★☆☆ Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts:  by Sonya Sones. 432 p.  To be published by Harper Paperbacks in April 2011.  ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares?  Poetry / Adult Contemporary

Short Bio:  Holly feels caught in “the sandwich generation” – sending her daughter off to college while simultaneously dealing with her mother’s ill health, not to mention the other sundry effects of being a 50-year old woman (dealing with menopause, re-negotiating marriage relationship as kid leaves, etc.).

Eyewitness Account:  Being, myself, a young newlywed with no kids makes the setting of this story something that I can’t easily relate to – and yet, the poems that fill this book are so exquisitely written and full of the just the right balance of information to progress the plot and emotional expression to pull me in, that I found myself incredibly sympathetic to Holly and fully enjoying her journey.

I loved the narrator’s voice and style of expression, often alternating among wit, nostalgia, and raw emotion with ease. I loved the characterization, which gave each person in the story a personality without overly stereotyping. And I liked the plot, which had just enough tension and conflict to stay interesting without being so overblown that it felt artificially constructed. Most of all, I really enjoyed the last few poems at the end that set the whole story in context and provided a very positive and hopeful response to what could be seen as a depressing set of circumstances.

Note: Even though this book is technically a composite of “poems”, it reads more like lyrical prose.  I may not have picked the book up if I had known it was a series of poems, so I’m glad that I didn’t know that to begin with.  If that genre makes you wary – read the first couple poems before making up your mind.

Other Books Read by This Author: None.

What are other people saying? Esmerelda’s Book Thing, Holly Weiss, Lets Eat Grandpa 


★★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★ Characterization

★★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★> Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★