Book Review: A Borrowed Dream

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I received a copy of A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot from Revell in exchange for a review.

 

Amanda Cabot shines her love of Texas Hill Country in her book, and her characters find a happy home there. As Austin and his daughter Hannah, and later cousin Grace, move to Catherine’s hometown, family ties develop and deepen. The small town creates a community feel, and Catherine’s connections to it as its teacher make her a good focal point. She both leads the children in knowledge and wisdom and develops her own as she journeys through the mourning period after her mother dies. Throughout the story, themes of forgiveness and trust abound. Cabot captures well the depth of the trials and hurts the characters experience. They experience realistic pain as well as healing.

Some of the painful experiences remind readers of their true depth. When Austin tends to a medical need, he reflects that his physician profession gave him the knowledge to identify internal injuries beyond the physical ones seen by the average person. This emphasizes a need for deeper healing on the part of the patient and understanding on the part of the community of caregivers. Other experiences remind readers of the importance of forgiving and speaking pain. Grace extends forgiveness to the perpetrator of her assault, but Catherine reminds her that by not sharing her story with the sheriff the perpetrator might strike again. Sharing the truth with Catherine allowed Grace to continue healing as she dealt with her turmoil rather than stuffed it. It also helped others stay safe. As this novel explores, a person’s painful experiences have a much greater depth than what the eye beholds. Healing must go deep, and it involves sharing and voicing the struggle with a trusted confidant.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. As I got further into it, I found myself attracted to it more, not wanting to put the book down and contemplating it while not reading. Though the characters hold an authenticity and their experiences seem realistic, it almost had too many situations during the last quarter. Perhaps removing one would have allowed greater exploration of a couple of the issues. As it stood though, I still appreciated the attention given to their depth. I enjoyed the characters and their stories, and I appreciated the overarching themes of healing and peace.

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Book Review: Boundaries in Dating

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Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend write some of the best books I’ve read discussing relationship basics, and this book fits right in with the others. Following the basis of their phenomenal Boundaries, Boundaries in Dating makes the concepts more specific to dating relationships. They dive into common issues and make accessible some of their causes. Gaining a better understanding of the underlying desires behind some people’s undesirable behaviors, whether done by yourself or the person you date, makes handling them manageable. The potential boundaries readers can develop a healthier structure and foundation for dating, including direction for future expectations. Overall, the book offers tremendous insight and applicable knowledge.

I highly recommend this book as well as its predecessor Boundaries. I also recommend their book Safe People. I look forward to a future re-read of Boundaries as well as further reading by these authors.

Book Review: Laugh it Up!

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Though I hadn’t watched the viral Facebook live video starring Chewbacca Mom, I ended up reading Candace Payne’s Laugh It Up! for and online bible study. I didn’t expect her backstory, not only in terms of actual experience but in vulnerability either, but I appreciated her openness. Like everyone else, she experienced tough circumstances. Though hers differed from mine, I could relate to a childhood of worrying about needs children shouldn’t have to contemplate. Her testimony and angle of overcoming and maintaining joy share a message of hope. She kept her focus on her purpose, and God delivered her and her family. It reminded me that I too can overcome my obstacles past, present and future and fulfill my God-given purpose as I maintain joy and hope.

Monday Motivation: More to Learn

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Anne of Green Gables sounds like a perfect spring or summer read considering the green landscape, blooming trees and adventurous Anne, but I see it makes it onto fall reading lists as well. More importantly, it has made it onto my fall reading list, made even better by doing it as a community read with fellow Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club members. I finally have met Anne Shirley, and I must say I immensely enjoy her story thus far (I’ve read the first quarter).

Readers meet Anne when her adoptive father Matthew Cuthbert picks her up from the train station, and immediately her curious and adventurous spirit shows. Throughout her ride to Green Gables, she asks Matthew questions and marvels at the beauty of the landscape around her. Matthew answers honestly several times, saying, “I dunno” in response to the red headed child’s musings. Yet she maintains her sense of wonder. Responding to one of Matthew’s “I dunno” answers, she says:

“Well, that is one of the things to find out sometime. Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive-it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

We all have this sense of wonder to some extent, imaginative spirits or not. Thankfully, we don’t know all there is to know in this world. The quest for knowledge keeps us moving forward, hopefully developing as people in the process. As we learn more, we can understand ourselves and others more. We can continue to progress our lives, goals, careers, and relationships.

Consider spending some time gaining a better understanding of a topic, whether it involve conflict management, nutrition, spiritual growth, history, or any number of subjects. Books exist covering numerous concepts, and most cities have groups or resources we can use to gain this insight. Even simply talking to people around us and asking the question Kelly Corrigan wisely learns and explains in Tell Me More (this month’s Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club selection), can lead to greater insight on endless topics. Let’s seek to know more!

 

What would you like to learn? On what topic would you like to gain a greater knowledge? I’d love to know; share in the comment section.

Book Review: The Theory of Happily Ever After

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I received a copy of The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck from Revell in exchange for a review.

This story aims to resemble a Hallmark Channel movie, but it gets a little more convoluted with its references to Dr. Maggie Maguire’s science background. If you simply board the story as the characters do the cruise and go along with it, it has the makings of a romantic comedy. It even attempts to add some depth with contemplations of happiness and relationships, but the friends’ arguments get confusing for what the prevailing lesson should be. At least the ultimate lesson of opening up yourself to find God’s purpose for you rather than your friends’ or parents’ and to accept love and happiness remains mostly clear. Generally speaking, this book tries too hard to attain a sweetness and ends up bordering cheese. The Hallmark Channel does this more successfully in their simple, sweet movies.

Monday Motivation: Active Participation

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As I contemplate the knowledge Dr. Richard Furman shares in Defeating Dementia (review here), I remember how we can improve our health a lot more than we tend to believe. Easily, we find ourselves falling into the myth that our genetics determine our health fate and that we cannot do much to improve it. While genetics can give us a disadvantage in numerous issues, the fact remains that our choices regarding our diet and exercise habits can significantly decrease the effects of many health issues.

Defeating Dementia outlines several facets of our health that we can improve by our own choices, such as blood pressure. This book as well as numerous articles I’ve read from Mayo Clinic and other sources remind us that a lot of deaths come from preventable heart disease and similar issues. So rather than accept a fate based on myth, let’s consider what we can do to improve our quality of health. This keeps us living more independently and happily and saves us from spending our extra money on avoidable health expenses. It also prevents us creating a strain on our family members or other caregivers who would have to give their time and money to us because we didn’t take care of ourselves as well as we should have when we had the knowledge and ability to do so.

We have a lot more power than we like to believe. We hold the responsibility of managing and caring for our health. Take some time to research how you can improve your diet and exercise routine to improve your overall health. This keeps you able to fulfill your purpose longer.

Book Review: Lonesome Dove

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I have finished reading the book brick known as Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty for a buddy read with some fellow Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club members, and boy do I feel blown away by this classic western. It has all the elements of a great story: rich setting, great cast of characters, tension and growth among the group members, a tinge of romance and more as the men route their cattle herd from Texas to Montana.

This book has the feel of an epic and vaguely reminds me of The Lord of the Rings. The group sets off for a long journey where they face numerous trials involving the settings and people they encounter along the way. They also develop a greater understanding of themselves as the battle their perils. I feel thankful I don’t live in this time period as it seems even the women faced their own struggles to have happiness and a sense of independence in this world. I most relate to the scenes on Clara’s homestead as they build a home and welcome travelers, even inviting a couple new people into the extended family. They too face death and heal from it and other disappointments, but they show how they can support each other. My favorite character Lorena might not survive without her friends to stick by her side and remind her she has a place and help she can offer. Augustus offers her a safe place on the journey, and Clara provides a safe place in the home she shares. Most the men, however, have to work together to keep each other safe from the elements so they can become the first herdsmen in Montana.

McMurty writes such vivid scenery and characters. Though western falls outside my normal reading realm considering the last one I read was just over ten years ago, I fully appreciate this book. The characters feel authentic, and their dynamics remind me those tensions exist in any setting. The border war comments they hear in Missouri about Kansas remind me of what they still say in Kansas City; I even remind people of that when they mistakenly say I hail from Kansas and I correct them to say Missouri (unfortunately now it seems I reside on the wrong side of the border in Kentucky, but that can change). These pages take you to another world while reminding you of the present. It certainly deserves its spot on The Great American Read.

I give this book 5 stars and recommend it to readers of all genres. I’m glad this group supported each other in tackling a large book outside their normal reading genres.

Fill Your Cup, Share the Fruit

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This morning I read Genesis 40 during my prayer time, and I remembered not only that I read it during another morning’s devotion about a week ago but that Joseph’s story in Egypt offered examples beyond his character we can apply to our lives now.

I have read Genesis 40 during my prayer time twice in the last two weeks. This story of the cupbearer and baker in prison with Joseph, who finds himself imprisoned innocently due to Pharoah’s wife not succeeding with her sexual interest in Joseph, reminds me that not only does Joseph’s character serve as a model for our lives today but so do the people he meets. The cupbearer and baker each share their dreams with Joseph, and Joseph interprets them through God. Joseph tells the cupbearer of the fortune that will soon come to him and implores him to remember Joseph.

The cupbearer’s fortune comes to fruition during Pharoah’s birthday celebration, but he forgets Joseph. It seems that because he has no worry anymore he need not remember the support he needs. He forgets to use his good situation to restore the person who helped him get there. All too often we forget the same details. We finally find ourselves meeting a goal, and we neglect the fact we did not arrive at success alone.

God plants a purpose in us when He makes us. We owe it to Him to follow His will; we cannot succeed without taking those steps of our own volition. However, He still marks the path and gives us success for His glory. This happens in community as we “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). This encouragement helps us build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11) to stay on the path for with more than one together, they will have someone to pick them up when they fall (Ecclesiastes 4:10). We want to remain steadfast on our path, not forgetting the community of believers God gave us or forgetting to remain on His vine so He may prune and develop us.

On our own, we don’t get anywhere. Let’s not forget that in the good times or the bad. Remain close and trust like Joseph. He continues to follow God’s Law and later finds himself working with Pharaoh to find success for himself, Pharaoh and the whole Egyptian community. We too can fulfill the role God gives us, share that hope with those around us and see fruit available for our community.

Book Review: Defeating Dementia

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I received a copy of Defeating Dementia: What You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Other Forms of Dementia by Richard Furman, MD, FACS from Revell in exchange for a review.

Dr. Furman makes the practical information in his book very accessible. Readers need not hold any mastery in medicine to understand the concepts. The first part of the book explains how dementia develops in simple terms, helping readers understand the changes in the brain as dementia develops and progresses. After sharing a working knowledge of the illness, he encourages readers to commit to taking care of their exercise and diet habits as the choices they make now will affect their body later. They hold the power to prevent or at the very least significantly decrease the effects of dementia.

I appreciate not only how anyone can access this information in its simplicity and therefore use it to help themselves but also how Dr. Furman emphasizes the power and control each person has to influence their own health fate. Most the factors that contribute to the progression of the illness fall into habits and lifestyle choices an individual can control. That feels empowering and really pushes readers to adapt to a healthy lifestyle.

Regarding the power of habit, Dr. Furman writes, “Whether you eat properly, maintain an ideal weight, or exercise is dependent on the habits you develop. So much in life is related to habits. Your routines eventually become habits that you don’t even think about. Willpower and self-discipline are the two most important factors in the success of habit development” (195). Choose today to evaluate your habits and watch your risk factors of: high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle, excess weight, high blood pressure and diabetes. You can create habits to maintain a healthy diet, ideal weight and exercise routine to avoid those risk factors and therefore avoid or decrease the effects of dementia.

Thoughtful Thursday: Fill out the Survey, Fill Up the Heart

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A lot of retail, dining and customer service oriented companies offer surveys to their customers. Most people ignore these questions and the chance to give back some of the same help someone just offered. Sure, those people help for their jobs and most customers have busy schedules. However, most the surveys take about two minutes, five tops. Adding a kindly worded comment for the representative can uplift their day.

Unfortunately, most customer service workers have undesirable schedules, face rude customers all throughout their shifts and take all this on for little pay. Your kind words can remind them their help does improve someone’s day. It can show them that not all customers treat them as less than. For a mostly thankless job with little positive feedback, a kind comment on the survey can give the encouragement to keep going.

Consider filling out the survey the next time someone offers you one. Tell the person who provided you excellent service that you appreciate what they did. Two minutes of your time can lift up their spirits among all the people who tend to forget to show any thanks. Neither your deed nor theirs will go unnoticed. A kind word acknowledges that.