Book Review: Pelican Point, A Hope Harbor Novel

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I received a copy of Pelican Point by Irene Hannon from Revell in exchange for a review.

Reading Pelican Point gave me the uplifting book boost I sought after reading and watching a few heavier stories. This sweet small town romance provides a fun story and encouragement for moving through life’s tougher situations. Though this book comes as the fourth in the Hope Harbor series, it makes sense as a stand alone novel. I fell right into step with the residents in town as I followed army doctor Ben there as he returned for his grandfather’s funeral. He and the other characters each face decisions on how to best move forward after loss, moves, and career changes. As they forge friendships and open themselves to possibilities, they find themselves improving their situations and relationships.

As many of us cue up the feel good Hallmark Christmas movies, I equate this with a similar style story. This does not involve Christmas, but it does end with a November wedding. So I say the timing for my reading could not have been better. Like the characters, I face decisions of how to move forward with my career, school and long term living situation. This story reminds me we all face difficult decisions but don’t have to do so alone. In this case, everyone gains confidence as they work together to save a lighthouse. The town coming together as a community to save a community landmark emphasizes the importance of a support network and connection to the world around you. With a little extra encouragement, we can pursue our potential. Sometimes what we need stands within our reach and we simply need to get out and open ourselves to the possibility.

 

This is my first Irene Hannon book, but it definitely won’t be the last. I’d like to go back and read the others in this series and look forward to the fifth releasing next year. As a Missouri native, I enjoyed the tid bit about her attending universities in Missouri and living there. I also found it interesting she chose a town in Oregon not far from where my brother lives and included a character transplanted from Texas, my last state residence. I look forward to returning to Hope Harbor to visit these characters again.

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A Winsome Woman’s Wisdom: Jane in Her 27 Dresses

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The girls in Mean Girls wear pink on Wednesdays. Though we think we leave drama and teenage angst behind when we graduate high school, the world continues to hand us lemons. We still struggle with maintaining a firm foundation of our values, discovering our identity, pursuing our purpose, developing relationships and more. The teenage angst lives on; therefore, we can still learn from young adults as they come of age. Let’s take a look at some ladies as they’ve forged their way into adulthood.

 

After a couple weightier books and movies last weekend, I reveled in an upbeat romantic comedy after painting my nails bubble gum pink Sunday night. Jane in 27 Dresses showcases a issue many women struggle to overcome long into adulthood. When she first meets Kevin Doyle, he points out how she can’t say no after questioning her about her involvement in so many weddings. Jane brushes this off at first because the next wedding has her sister saying the vows. As the ceremony plans continue, Jane feels more and more distraught over her commitments and her unspoken love for the groom, her boss and longtime crush.

Eventually, Jane speaks out to tell George the truth about her sister’s lies. Though the truth jives with the right thing to do and Jane expressing herself shows improvement, she let it come out more as revenge for so many years of unspoken disappointment and anger. We all make mistakes as we learn how to better navigate relationships, communication and goals. However, we can learn from Jane that a sudden outburst of expression to cover years of it may not match the situation at hand. Once Jane talks to her sister and they each see how they envied the other and how they handled growing up without a mother affected each differently (Jane took over mothering Tess after the death). They get a better idea of the other’s perspective as well as how to better interact with her. Their dynamics change for the better. Jane continues to open herself to possibilities when she speaks to George; she learns her crush didn’t hold all she dreamed and that she can move onto a better job.

It gets easy to stay in comfortable patterns like Jane did because we have a hard time saying no. Yet that leaves little room for growth and doesn’t allow us to open doors for new opportunities. By the end of the movie, Jane sees that having honest conversations and allowing herself to speak what she wants deepens her relationship with her sister, allows her to seek better job opportunities and opens herself up to the possibility of love with someone who respects her when she accepts Kevin’s apology. We have wants and goals placed in our hearts for a reason. Sometimes it helps us as well as others to say no and to keep pursuing opportunities. Saying a small no just might make it possible to say a big yes. Jane does get to marry the handsome Kevin after all.

Book Review: The Oedipus Cycle

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I recently read The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles after reading Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. Perhaps I should have read this one first considering Home Fire puts Antigone in novel form in a new time and place. However, reading it after gave me a greater appreciation for Shamsie’s work and allowed me to see it as fresh rather than guess the next point.

This ancient Greek tragedy makes for a different read. Where Home Fire makes its story relevant to current situations playing out in the world, The Oedipus Cycle provides the dark drama fitting of an old play. Yet they still carry a lot of the same weight when it comes to power, particularly in country and family dynamics. These plays give more context to the whole story, which fills in some of the background not provided in the retelling. Yet I still found Shamsie’s work had more depth to it, possibly due to the novel format allowing that or me relating to the current times more than the ancient Greek time. The myth element provides some intrigue, but Shamsie’s update to religion makes it that more accessible and realistic. It gets interesting to compare the power dynamics considering those differences. Ultimately, Sophocles reminds us how chasing power can come at the expense of a loss in family, kingdom and more.

Book Review: Out of the Ashes

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I received Out of the Ashes: The Heart of Alaska-Book Two by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse from Bethany House in exchange for a review.

This book packs depth and weight of numerous issues while still possessing a strong hope. Though taking place nearly a hundred years ago, the issues resemble common issues today. Katherine becomes a widow and has to deal with the trauma of her husband’s physical and verbal abuse, and Jean-Michel grapples with lingering haunting memories of his time at war in Syria. These lovers find their way back to each other, unsure of how to move forward with their lives and how or who they can trust. During their stay in Alaska, they find new hope as they put their faith in the Lord.

I find it refreshing to see characters new in faith. It shows an honesty in wanting to learn the right way to navigate life, a quest that continues long after that initial decision to follow. I also appreciate that it shows the depth to the difficulties these characters experienced. Their minds have altered due to their trauma, and the reality revolves around a complex healing. While clearly their faith lead to healing, the book shows that their journey holds more complexity than a simple realization.

Not only did the protagonists at the heart of the story and the romance show realistic experiences through authentic characters, the secondary players all provide round out insight into progressing life skills and developing friendships. Katherine makes friends with pregnant Cassidy as she sits on bed rest and Jean-Michel’s sister Collette, and the girls make a nice trio of support. Cassidy’s boss in the hotel kitchen provides some humor as well. This story makes a well rounded and insightful book. I have enjoyed getting an extra dose of hope through these characters’ lives and relatable earnest desire to move forward as best they can despite difficulties.

 

This books marks the second I’ve read by Tracie Peterson, Beloved Hope the first.  Both books come from a series and aren’t the first but can make sense read alone. Now I will keep Peterson on my radar as she seems to write characters who deal with trauma and handles it with authenticity, insight and hope. I recommend her stories from what I’ve read so far.

Thoughtful Thursday: Specific Action

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This week we’ve explored specific communication and specific requests. Now we can consider our friends and specific actions we can take to help. Everyone can use a loving hand in some capacity, and it offers a chance to deepen a bond as you lift them up. Plus, doing a kind deed for someone lifts your spirits too.

When I first moved to Houston two years ago, my dad and I both stood in a transition place between homes. I ended up in the townhouse we shared first, which meant neither my dad nor his kitchen basics had joined me yet. My cousin listened to me and understood it felt important to me to feel like I found a new home, so she brought a couple bowls, plates, cups and more to the townhouse from her own kitchen. These simple dishes made me feel like I had more autonomy and normalcy; I could eat my oatmeal the way I liked. Getting back into my routine made me feel better, and I got there because someone listened and shared what she could. She welcomed me to the community.

Consider listening to a friend or family member and hearing a need you might meet. This can range from paying attention to the weather changing causing your runner friend to adjust her exercise wardrobe and picking up a long sleeve running shirt. Maybe someone you know mentions a desire to lose weight. You can offer to cook a healthy meal for her or try a new recipe together. With a greater focus on those around us, these small actions remind your loved ones that they need not do life alone and that someone cares. 

 

This concept comes easier to some people than others. Perhaps it relates to the love languages and some people speaking acts of service better. Acts of service ranks last on what I speak well. However, if I focus on it more, I can still find ways to perform acts of service. A woman in one of my groups has mentioned a desire to lose weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle. I’d like to invite her to come to my place for dinner before an upcoming meeting or to walk at a park, weather permitting.

What can you do for someone you know who may need some extra encouragement?

A Winsome Woman’s Wisdom: Anna Fitzgerald, Sister Keeper

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The girls in Mean Girls wear pink on Wednesdays. Though we think we leave drama and teenage angst behind when we graduate high school, the world continues to hand us lemons. We still struggle with maintaining a firm foundation of our values, discovering our identity, pursuing our purpose, developing relationships and more. The teenage angst lives on; therefore, we can still learn from young adults as they come of age. Let’s take a look at some ladies as they’ve forged their way into adulthood.

 

Anna Fitzgerald exists because her parents specifically created her embryo as a donor match for her older sister Kate in Jodi Picoult’s bestselling novel My Sister’s Keeper. The story follows Anna’s attempts to make donor decisions herself by filing a lawsuit against her parents. Her whole life has involved huge procedures all chosen for her; those also make it difficult for her to live life normally, almost as though she had leukemia too. Like most 13-year-olds, she feels unsure as she navigates making choices for herself, especially when tension arises due to her parents not agreeing.

In some ways, we all can relate to Anna in our desire for approval. We all seek approval from our parents, our peers, our friends even as adults. Yet we forget that we need not live by their standards. Even Queen Elizabeth I points this out to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown when she asserts that her job requires her to make decisions based on God’s approval rather than the general public. In most cases, this would follow the wiser direction anyway considering the unapproving parties tend to not have expertise in the field they project their opinion. Mrs. Fitzgerald unquestionably cares about her daughters, but she doesn’t have the expertise to understand what will happen to Kate or Anna if they follow through with a kidney donation. In fact, the doctor said Kate had passed the point in renal failure where it would benefit her. Anna seeks counsel and help from experts, despite not having her mother’s approval.

While we want to live at peace with those around us, it serves us all to stand on our proper foundations to make our decisions rather than sway to gain temporary approval. It also does us well to seek counsel from multiple sources. Chrystal Evans Hurst wisely encourages readers to gather multiple types of people for your support team in She’s Still There, including a mentor figure ahead of you on the same career path and a friend who cheers you on by your side. Having a firm foundation and a support team makes it easier to keep moving forward and stay focused on your purpose.

Desiring approval comes naturally. So does the angst felt when we don’t get it. However, we can continue forward with strength and purpose and do better than if we allowed ourselves to waver. We have support around us to give us the guidance and encouragement we need to make progress. Making decisions doesn’t necessarily get easier, but we can rest assured knowing we base them on truth.

Recognize Potential Growth and Ask for Specific Help Achieving It

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In my post yesterday, I mentioned the importance of specifics that included requests for help. Today I’d like to share specific ways someone may ask for help. Whether combatting obstacles of mental illness or not, we all need community and personal growth tools. Recognizing those needs and voicing them creates opportunities to deepen relationships and fuel progress on goals. Consider asking a trusted friend specific questions like these.

 

Five Ways to Ask for Help

  1. Could I have more time? Especially with depression, motivation seems lackluster at best. It takes longer than usual to do routine tasks just to get to the rest of the to-do list. Letting someone know you work to complete the task lets them know you have not quit. It also gives them a chance to offer to collaborate.
  2. Would you look at this list with me? I’ve been exploring options for graduate school. After passing on an opportunity to attend for free years ago and recently passing after almost agreeing to go $20,000 further in debt simply because that was the convenient option rather than wait, I want to make an informed decision and one that doesn’t inadvertently create a greater stress (like a greater debt than I already have). My best friend periodically asks how my progress looks. I’ve created a document with information on the schools I consider and shared it with her. This keeps me on track and allows me to bounce ideas as well as collect more perspective. If you have a goal to pursue a new career or add to your exercise routine, ask someone to look at your options with you.
  3. Would you go to this place with me? Sometimes we hesitate to go somewhere to avoid the discomfort. Having a friend for moral support can help. If it makes it possible for you to make a necessary appointment or to try a new group to gain community, get someone to go with you.
  4. Could I tell you something? Voicing a concern makes it real, thus makes it possible to face it. Ask a trusted friend if you can share your hesitations. Then you can start exploring ways to overcome your doubt. It also gives the person a way to give you support and encouragement. Again, my friend who asks me about my school progress also reminds me of my capabilities and intellect when I share my hesitations and doubts. It helps me keep the truth push me forward rather than let the doubt hold me in place.
  5. Can I confess something? This continues the concept of voicing an emotion or struggle to deal with it rather than let it fester. When we feel angry, avoiding the emotion allows us to bury it and grow roots of bitterness. Voicing the emotion in prayer or to a trusted friend puts it in the light to expose it to truth and let it go. The same thing happens when we confess a wrong we’ve done.

Monday Motivation: Specifics

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After reading Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing (review here), I have contemplated a bigger picture lesson of his insight to request help and to specific clear requests. Numerous people have offered their help when they’ve noticed I’m struggling, but neither I nor them end up making specific requests or offers in most cases. As numerous articles about how to help someone fighting depression point out, sufferers tend to not ask for help. So while the person offering to help does so with good intentions, those might not land anywhere without specifics from either party. This also happens in recovery of mental illness and substance abuse if issues remain vague rather than specific.

Much like with relational communication, when it comes to anxiety and depression, vague and unclear assessments make it difficult to move forward. Unfortunately, these symptoms create a cloud that makes clarity difficult. As we can recognize the symptoms and go further to acknowledge the roots, we can make it possible to specify causes, needs and goals. We can recognize anger, acknowledge it and then specify the cause. That makes it possible to deal with it and move on rather than bury it and let it grow roots of bitterness. It also allows us to communicate specifically in prayer. A named person and sin lifted in prayer gives us an opportunity to see grace at work as we forgive and experience peace. We can even learn to specify what triggers anger, anxiety, depression, etc. to face each one with detailed goals rather than a vague hope for improvement. Once we know what ails us, we can work with managing the details.

Anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue has a complicated and difficult journey for healing and management. Yet as we seek more understanding and can see details, we can make specific adjustments and requests. Acknowledging a need for help makes it possible to request it, and recognizing each issue makes it possible to manage it. An experience, feeling or thought noticed, specified and managed rather than buried makes it possible to diminish it rather than grow its own roots and negative fruit rather than let us stay grounded in truth. We have access specific insights into the truth. Therefore, we can conquer specific issues and meet specific goals.

Book Review: Anxious for Nothing

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Max Lucado’s recent book Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World offers a biblical starting point for understanding and handling anxiety. Though he doesn’t delve into the science or psychology angle much, he does provide scriptural evidence for how we can handle it, and most importantly recognizes that it exists.

At times I found the book too simple, but it does at least acknowledge that anxiety does not have a simple solution. Lucado describes, “This business of anxiety management is like pulling stumps out of the ground. Some of your worries have deep root systems. Extracting them is hard work. In fact, it may be the toughest challenge of all. But you don’t have to do it alone” (76). Most of the book seems to better apply to worry, a much more common affliction and one with a simpler solution. Yet this reminds readers that anxiety goes deeper and involves hard work to conquer old roots and then develop new ones. Lucado also reminds us that we need not face worry or anxiety alone.

With a loving community providing extra support, it makes it possible to conquer anxiety. As we navigate the roots on this journey, we can learn how to communicate specifics about our concerns as we pray, whether related to anxiety, worry or any other topic. When we can acknowledge our request or difficulty, we can start to put an accurate description on it. Then we can seek help from God as we voice it as well as communicate our needs to others. In turn, we can all support each other in the details of our everyday lives as we pursue the bigger picture of our purpose. Peace can replace this anxiety as we acknowledge concerns, voice specific requests and focus on the truth.

I recommend this book as a starting point for acknowledging worry and anxiety and starting to confront those thoughts. Anyone can benefit from double checking what occupies their mind. We can all use a little more peace, and we all have access to it and the ability to adjust and develop our roots.

3 Movies, 3 Books and 2 Songs: Halloween without the Scares

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Even though Halloween ranks last on my list of favorite holidays, it does fall during my favorite season. I do find it fun to participate in the seasonal festivities. In honor of that, I’ve created a list of suitable Halloween themed entertainment that fits the theme without including a scare factor. Consider these movies, books and songs for the upcoming weekend and holiday.

 

Movies

  • Edward Scissorhands: Despite the seemingly eerie, Frankenstein-like concept of Johnny Depp’s character having large scissors for hands, this story explores the scary consequences of fearing differences or unknown. Kind hearted Edward enters a new community and navigates interactions with neighbors as they respond differently to the newcomer. Winona Ryder’s character’s family welcomes them into their home and provides some romantic intrigue.
  • Warm Bodies: This movie also tackles the treatment of those considered different. It has the added bonus of being a zombie story following the love saga of Romeo and Juliet. The main walking dead character goes by R, and he meets Juliet and attempts to get her to safety. As Juliet figures out that R somehow has some humanity left, she works to uncover the rest of R’s name and details. I love this movie. It has a great story, awesome soundtrack and a beating heart.

Bonus: The third book installment by Isaac Marion releases in a few weeks.

  • Twilight: What falls under the Halloween category better than vampires? This year also marks the 10 year anniversary of the release of the movie. Again, this movie follows a forbidden love story and focuses more on the romance and friendships than horror. This vampire clan doesn’t even feed on humans.

 

Books

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker: I’m currently reading this for the first time. This classic text begins the vampire legacy and introduces Count Dracula. Though it may venture more into the scary realm, I look forward to learning more about the vampire lore. Something tells me it differs a bit from what we see in the Twilight Saga. Also, the diary entries end on November 6, the same day Stranger Things begins in 1983.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: This classic story celebrates its 200 year publication anniversary. Where Dracula shares the first background of vampires, Frankenstein serves as part of science fiction’s development as Victor Frankenstein conducts his famous experiment. Perhaps the inspiration for Edward Scissorhands, this book depicts a scarier outcome from an experiment resulting in a creature.
  • The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman: My best friend and I have chosen this prequel to Practical Magic as our fall themed buddy read. This story maintains the light hearted and romantic vibe from Practical Magic as it follows three young siblings coming of age. Growing up feeling different but having the truth avoided by their parents, they finally learn their heritage. Part of that involves a curse that hurts anyone who loves them, and the teens must decide how to navigate their identity and their choices.

Music

 

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson

This song captures 80s pop culture as much as it does Michael Jackson’s rise as the King of Pop. Fun rather than scary, the hit has pep and even includes its own zombie inspired dance. It also makes a perfect background song for the Stranger Things 2 trailer, a modern cultural phenomenon showcasing the 80s that released Halloween weekend last year.

 

“I Miss You” by blink-182

This song has the lyrics and the video to capture the more emo side of Halloween. The music video takes place what could represent Dracula’s castle and its eerie outskirts, including a graveyard. The song mentions nightmares and references Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It even uses a simile comparing a spider eating insects caught in its web to relational angst as they sing, “like the webs from all the spiders/ catching things and eating their insides/ like my indecision to call you…” Oh, how I miss the teenage years when I first heard this song.