The Great American Reader: The Count of Monte Cristo – Belief

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Dantes has escaped the prison at Chateau D’if! He has accomplished no small feat and during a storm no less. After joining a new crew, he eventually steers their ship to his destination. His prison mate Faria has left Dantes with the secrets to find the treasure. Now he has to find the right cave.

The island at first appears to have no more caves. Dantes considers how the landscape could have changed over time. He ponders if rocks could have sealed the entryway. Finally, he even accepts it may never have existed and he has fallen into a false belief. Yet even in his despair and acceptance of that possibility, he continues thinking of the chance that the desired treasure may exist. That leads him to the ultimate discovery. He uses a new approach to see if whoever hid the treasure created a false barrier to the entrance. This proving true, Dantes at lasts breaks through and discovers gold and jewels aplenty.

The crisis of belief Dantes experiences resembles the human struggle to maintain faith. Sometimes we know the truth and have heard the story telling us how to find our treasure or destination or purpose. Yet we doubt what we know. We wonder if a mistake has been made; maybe those treasures aren’t intended for us. Maybe they never existed at all. Dantes knows others make fun of his friend Faria’s stories of treasure; they consider him mad. Dantes eventually wonders if they have the right perspective. We do the same when others scoff at our goals or values. Yet the treasure does exist. It may seem crazy or counterintuitive, but the continued belief and persistence to keep figuring out the next step and taking it makes it possible to discover. Remember that God holds true to His promises no matter what anyone else says.

Book Review: Circe

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Circe, Madeline Miller’s Greek mythology retelling, has earned its slot on my 2018 Top 10 Read list. It also takes the spot for most pleasant surprise. My depth of knowledge in mythological topics doesn’t go far. Yet this story still holds easy accessibility. Circemakes a thoroughly interesting character, and I find myself steeped in the setting’s atmosphere. She spends a lot of time alone on an island because her father has banished her. This gives her plenty of opportunity to contemplate her effect on others and if she desires any connections at all. Ultimately, family rivalry stirs the ultimate battle. Circe proves she makes a strong female character.

Book Review: Summer by the Tides

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I received a copy of Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter from NetGalley.

 

Summer by the Tides makes for breezy fun at the beach as a positive summer read. After losing her treasured job and her boyfriend, Maddy returns to Seahaven to find her missing grandmother. Her two older sisters, who are estranged from each other, arrive at the cottage as well. The family goes through the physical and emotional process of clearing out the attic and their past. Maddy even finds a nice, handsome next door neighbor. The story unfolds rather straight forward and predictably, making it a comforting read as you imagine beach waves just off your porch.

 

Look for this book on May 21 as it releases just in time for summer.

The Great American Reader: Harry Potter

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The Harry Potter series has a top spot on PBS’s The Great American Read list, and some fellow Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club members have decided to read the entire series over the course of the year. That gives me an opportunity to keep a slow, steady pace to dive deeper into J.K. Rowling’s stories and characters, especially since this is not the first time I’ve read them. I have started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this weekend and already see points of interest. This series has so many angles and resources to see.

Grab a broomstick (or catch the Hogwarts Express train) and follow me to Hogwarts castle as Harry realizes the truth behind “yer a wizard” and attends the School of Magic for the first time. Harry figures out his identity, and the story keeps the wizarding world at stake through an epic battle of good versus evil. Follow along for a coming of age story for the ages.

Book Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend

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After my best friend spent a weekend reading Kasie West books, she sent me one of her favorites of the bunch. We read a couple of hers together prior to that, and she picked well again with one that exceeded expectations. This one made it to the number two spot of West’s work in my book.

This story starts on prom night, so it has me hooked by its first mention in the parking lot. After a stranger poses as the boyfriend who just broke up with her, Gia has to navigate sharing news of the breakup after the dance. Teen angst surfaces as it tends to do when anyone experiences a breakup, and Gia learns more about herself as well as her friendly stranger. Together they explore vulnerability and acceptance in friendship with each other and with their friend groups. I enjoy the story as well as the kindness of the characters and their friendships.

 

Further reading: My favorite Kasie West book is P.S. I Like You, and I recommend that as well as any of the others I’ve read. They make fun, quick reads but also share a sweet message.

Book Review: The Perfect Fit

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I received a copy of The Perfect Fit by Mary Jayne Baker through NetGalley.

 

This British romp pulls all the thrills of a staged pantomime. As Becky finds her personal life script veering, she finds her acting group as her constant. Her new male friend Marcus teaches her how to juggle, and she soon finds herself juggling two men in her heart. The storylines on stage and off stage bring fun and heart to the story. Some of the secondary characters start to blend together, but they make a good ensemble. Overall, the theme of community makes a good message. The story also shows how important it is to “play the honesty card” in conversations with people in your close circle.

Thoughtful Thursday: Prison Mates in The Count of Monte Cristo

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In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes eventually discovers he has a neighbor in a nearby cell. The dungeon has left him darkness and pulled his hope into despair. Yet not long before fulfilling his idea to starve himself, he hears a tapping sound that renews his hope. That day he eats again. Then he also starts chipping at his own wall, slowly making a passage to connect to his neighbor’s. Knowing he doesn’t suffer alone gives him hope and strength to move forward.

Once the prisoners succeed with their adjoining tunnel, they meet. Instantly, their hopes improve. Faria even literally steps into the sliver of light shining through the small window in Dantes’ cell as Dantes casts his first glance upon his new friend. As they learn they can trust each other, they begin to make plans. Faria shares his plethora of history and language knowledge. Eventually, they renew their efforts to escape their prison.

People often compare the darkness of mental illness as a pit, and people often feel stuck in what seems like a prison not unlike the one where Dantes and Faria find themselves. Yet when they join each other, their hope renews. They don’t bring the misunderstanding, accusations or judgment their guards have cast on them unhelpfully but bring company. The simple presence gives the possibility of trust. Outside the pages, we often forget to begin with this step when someone we love falls into the pit. Joining the friend shows they don’t suffer alone and serves as a starting point for giving them a safe place to share their struggles as Dantes and Faria share their backgrounds with each other as a way to form understanding. Then, sharing knowledge and support, we can work together to find a way back into the light.

 

A Winsome Woman’s Wisdom: Pink on a Wednesday Birthday

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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.

 

29 birthday

 

My birthday fell on a Wednesday last week, and I got to celebrate the start of another year in my new pink attire. My best friend made us personalized shirts for our book club duo. In high school, she recommended Twilight to me after we realized our common reading interest in journalism class. The friendship only grew from there, forged in immortality right alongside our Edward Cullen Pop! mascot (on the shelf behind me).

Books make great friends, but the people who join us outside the pages make our own lives better. Like the stories we read, we experience continual teenage angst, the flutters of a budding love and the disappointments and victories in stepping toward dreams. The people beside us join us for encouragement, laughter and support. I’m so thankful for my best friends and all my bookish friends.

The Great American Reader: The Count of Monte Cristo – Lies

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As the story continues in Chapters VIII-XII of The Count of Monte Cristo continues, the web of lies landing Dantes in prison grows. Villefort rushes to meet King Louis XVIII in Paris, where he describes the Bonapartist plot. He learns that the police hunt for his father, but keeps his family ties a secret. We already know from the first set of chapters that he has burned the evidence of his father’s identity and that he did that at the expense of putting Danters in prison.

Villefort lies to hide his own guilt, and it resembles the biblical account in Genesis 39 where Potiphar’s wife claims that Joseph attempted to seduce her rather than face the rejection of Joseph not responding to her advances. Joseph also ends up in jail due to false accusations. Unfortunately, these people care more about their comfort and status (both have high esteem in court) than how their wrongdoing might affect someone else. Both Villefort and Potiphar know their actions lead to imprisonment yet withhold the truth. This serves as a good reminder that the commandment to not lie exists for good reason. Many people convince themselves a white lie or lie of omission doesn’t hold the potential to harm or isn’t considered a lie, but that involves believing a lie. The language of lies still creates a world, in these cases one where the falsely accused get confined by the lies of others.

In Joseph’s biblical story, his imprisonment ultimately proves fruitful as he gets delivered from his cell and witnesses God’s hand in it. Perhaps Dantes ultimately find a similar twist to his fate where what others intend for bad turns out as good in the end. Maybe he will provide for those who harmed him like Joseph did for his brothers who left him and led to his enslavement in Egypt. However, a main theme in this story revolves around revenge. Perhaps Dantes doesn’t overcome his pride and hurt the way Joseph does.

 

 

Boy Meets Girl in a Summer Daze

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In (500) Days of Summer, a movie in my all time top 10, a story of boy meets girl begins on January 8. Hopeless romantic greeting card writer Tom sees the new assistant Summer and falls into a moody love at first sight. However, as the narrator informs us in the film’s introduction, this boy meets girl story is not a love story. The romantic comedy shows us a couple effects of falling into a Summer Daze.

 

  • A sweet boy meets girl beginning does not always have a happy ending. Watching Tom notice and pine after Summer has its sappy appeal. It gets even better when they ride the elevator together and Summer tells Tom she also likes The Smiths when she overhears his music. Once they finally start spending more time together and Tom feels like he’s grasping his dream girl, Summer communicates her intention to not have a serious relationship. Tom agrees, holding out hope that she changes her mind. People often fall into this trap in real life. Tom has the facts and chooses to continue spending time with Summer at his own risk, knowing she does not reciprocate his intentions or desire.
  • The meet cute always holds the most potential. When Summer and Tom first see each other, they do not know each other’s details yet. This time holds the most potential as they do not know of any reason not to pursue interest; the fantasy realm hasn’t shattered the hope that the other can fulfill the dream. Tom falls into a deeper level of interest in Summer once he learns that she too loves one of his favorite bands. He finds a detail that keeps his interest and increases their compatibility. This gives him reason to pursue more knowledge and to see if their values and relationship perspective might mesh as well, a more important factor to consider that he later ignores much to his detriment.
  • A relationship, failed or successful, shows the individuals who they are. Summer finally opens up to love and accepts a serious relationship, and marriage, after she splits from Tom. Spending time with Tom helps her see a new possibility as she learns to trust others, beginning with her friendship with Tom. Tom experiences tremendous heartache, but he eventually channels his energy into developing his architecture skill to pursue his career field again. He chooses to select his own direction rather than stay in his current situation simply because life has unfolded that way. He too takes another chance on love as he awaits his opportunity to interview for his dream job. Hopefully this time he knows a little better how to navigate communication and intentions.

 

Today we see January 8 on the calendar. Maybe we don’t have a boy meets girl experience today. We can still consider the knowledge we have and use that to navigate our direction and choices, whether we understand the information the first time or after we fall. The best potential comes after the Summer Daze fades.