Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

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I received a copy of Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan through BookLook Bloggers.

 

After hearing some ladies in Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club discussing Becoming Mrs. Lewis, I knew I would enjoy it. A new friend of mine and I decided to read it, so I eagerly selected it as my first choice after joining BookLook. This historical fiction novel broadened my knowledge of C.S. Lewis, introduced me to his wife Joy and did not disappoint.

As Joy points out everything starts with words and acknowledges even the bible shares this truth, and her deep friendship with C.S. Lewis, who goes by Jack, begins no differently. She seeks his advice as a new Christian convert, and their letter writing turns into a regular correspondence and later a personal friendship. As a Christian unsure of how to trust God amidst difficult circumstances at home, Joy captures a feeling many have experienced to some extent. She feels lost and unsure how to move forward while still honoring God’s expectations for her. Of course she also desires to feel loved and understood. Both Joy and Jack find a depth to their friendship than broadens their understanding of theology, themselves and life. This grounds their work together as well as the family they ultimately bond.

This story delivers all I anticipated for a good novel about a historical figure who I wanted to know more. The inclusions of letters throughout the narrative gives it a personal feel, and that matches the closeness Jack and Joy feel to each other as they become best friends and work partners on books. Joy’s backstory gives a good understanding of her life and allows me to empathize with her plights. She makes a relatable character, and I find myself dreaming of going to England for some healing and writing inspiration myself. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live in England during that time, as Lewis regularly meets with Tolkien (Tollers to his friends) and other notable writers and periodically meets with Sayers, not to mention share his literature knowledge at Oxford and Cambridge. I would love to spend a day amongst such great minds! This book gives me a glimpse into two very neat lives and makes me appreciate their writing contributions.

 

I recommend this book to anyone interested in C.S. Lewis. The writing might not hold the same level as Lewis’s, but the story does have depth that can add to your knowledge bank on such a neat figure. This isn’t my first read revolving around Lewis’s work, and it certainly won’t be the last.

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Book Review: Shaken

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I recently read Tim Tebow’s Shaken, 2017’s Christian Book of the Year, with my friend Stacie.

After initially hesitating to read this book, I find myself glad for Stacie’s suggestion and interest in Tim Tebow. His stories may come across simple at times, but he shares a lot of his personal struggles along with his triumphs. I hear strong doubt in my head every day and that occurs mostly privately, so I can only imagine what it feels like to have your life broadcast and know the general public doubts your abilities. Yet Tebow stays focused on his mission and pushes forward. He sets a good example for making good choices.

In addition to generally modeling high ethics and the importance of prioritizing your values, Tebow demonstrates how seemingly small actions can reach a lot further than we imagine. So we can all follow his lead to listen to God telling us to take an extra step to show God’s love and truth even when it seems unlikely to help, unimportant in that situation or unpopular to the scrutinizing crowd. That gives me a nudge to follow through on sharing my gifts despite any doubt I face.

 

What can you do to share love and truth with someone this week?

Book Review: The Sound of Rain

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I received a copy of Sarah Loudin Thomas’s The Sound of Rain from Bethany House in exchange for a review.

This novel follows a similar structure and theme as numerous other Christian historical fiction stories. While that makes it comforting to follow Judd and Larkin as they both move toward facing fears in their life to find and follow God’s purpose for their lives, it hits the mark sometimes. Part of this might come from the biggest transformation happening in a secondary character when you expect the protagonists to experience the most growth. Larkin’s father serves as both an obstacle to Larkin pursuing her dreams due to his anger and disapproval as well as the person who overcomes those obstacles. His experience indicates a significant change whereas Larkin’s seems more like a revelation. She and Judd both do overcome real obstacles and face difficulties, but they don’t come across as the strong focus.

Despite the sometimes confusing plot structure, the situations still hold relatable content and good lessons. Trust, fear and understanding all play out as the characters struggle to relate to each other while pursuing their direction. Ultimately, the cast demonstrates a tangible hope for reconciliation and healing.

 

 

If you enjoy reading books that have holiday scenes this time of year, this book has a Thanksgiving scene, a Christmas morning and a November wedding. Yet it doesn’t exclusively take place during that time. It gives a nice taste of the holiday spirit without being a Christmas themed story.

Hope Centered

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Hope centered

on happiness fails

a faulty feeling

delivery fleeting

 

Bitterness roots

forgiveness heals

not a cure or easy

but better forgotten

 

Good intentions make

a centered goal

but guarantees

no desired result

 

For a heart knows not

complexities of itself

let alone another’s

so judge not unseen

 

 

A heart knot knows naught.

Slow to Speak

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It’s easy you see

to spot my needs

name that change

toss those seeds

 

It’s hard to plant

in infertile ground

growth needs more

in  order to abound

 

Faith gives more

than surface deep,

knows heart’s deceit

yet a hope can keep

 

So consider needs

for a fruitful life

stay slow to speak

to avoid more strife

 

We all know Job

and his friends

who spoke no truth

through limited lens

 

Hurt is complex

builds strong roots

consider the depth

shaking in my boots

 

You speak no harm

when you listen

let the trust come

as tears glisten

 

Then you can see

how to adjust

what fruit comes

after the dust

Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

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I have read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and I do not have words to portray properly how exquisite Towles writes. The story has the makings of a modern classic with its superb writing, fun and well developed characters and engaging plot. As Count Rostov carries out his house arrest in an elegant hotel, he finds himself connecting to the community there and eventually growing a family as an adoptive father. Smart as the classic Russian writers he reads, the Count shares unique insight into life and Russian politics at the time. The stagnant setting makes a nice contrast for the development of the Count.

I recommend this book for almost anyone. It has a lot of topics ripe for discussion in a book club, and it offers a highly engaging read.

Tip: Pair this with a viewing of Casablanca, preferably watching the film before reading the book or watching it as a break when you reach the halfway point in the book.

Book Review: Doon

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I now have had my second experience with the Brig o’ Doon, and I must say I have enjoyed this young adult retelling much more than the movie my college roommates and I watched years ago. This magical twist on time travel and fantasy makes for a fun adventure and of course includes plenty of romance. It even adds a thoughtful layer of faith and community.

As best friends Mackenna and Veronica find themselves crossing the mythical Brig o’ Doon and entering Doon’s kingdom during their trip to Scotland, they find themselves on an adventure much different than they imagined. They stick together to contribute to the community and ultimately to save it. Along the way, they learn how to deepen their faith in what will unfold for their fates as well as that of Doon and to trust each other. We see that sharing burdens of truth and uncertainty makes it easier to handle situations than facing them completely alone, as Veronica does in a prideful attempt to protect her friends. The strength of friendship and community ultimately wins the day.

Between the unique people and kingdom, the general sense of adventure and unique way to look at faith, I have enjoyed my trip to Doon. I look forward to continuing the series to read what happens next. I’m also curious to check out the source material. Though the movie I’ve seen has generally low reviews, the TV special with Robert Goulet has positive ones. Here’s to the next adventure having singing and dancing!

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.

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.