July 17, 2018

Featured Author: M. R. Durbin

I discovered a new author this summer: M. R. Durbin. His books have been perfect summer reads--not too heavy, exciting, but each with a few interesting nuggets of history that I've thought more after closing the book.

There is no sex or bad language to worry about in any of them. They do have some action-related violence, but nothing over-the-top or gruesome.

So if you need something to tuck into your pool bag or take on a vacation with you, pick up one of these! (Then you have to come back here and report on it--let me know what you thought!)

I'll start with a stand-alone novel:

The Swords of Joseph, by M.R. Durbin

4 stars: Kept me interested on many levels.

The Israelites are suffering as slaves under the reign of the iron-handed Pharaoh, when Moses returns from the desert demanding their release. Joshua, impulsive and bold, is itching for change to happen; for freedom, in whatever form he can find it. So when the Prophet Moses gives him an assignment, he's ready. Even though it seems impossible, he is to find the bones of Joseph, which according to legend (Moses says prophecy) are to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. This is no small task, as Joshua has no idea where to even begin looking. He will have 2 friends along to help him: Caleb and Gaddi. They also end up rescuing to maidens about to be sacrificed, who join them in their adventures.

Joseph's final resting place is extraordinarily well hidden. While they travel around Egypt finding and deciphering clues, there are others looking for the bones as well--and for them. Not to mention the plagues that are falling upon Egypt, due to Pharaoh's refusal to let the people go. It will take faith in God and answers to prayer in abundance if they are to find what they are looking for.

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This was an entertaining story with some depth to it. I never realized that the plagues Moses brought upon Egypt were symbolic as well as physical. This book brings out that each of the plagues corresponded to one of the Egyptian deities--in other words, God was showing the Egyptians that He was more powerful than every one of their gods, in turn. Super interesting.

The characters kept things moving along well. My only complaint was that the clues were figured out so quickly--it didn't seem like much of a challenge.

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These next two are part of a series (I hope!)

Beyond the Narrows, by M.R. Durbin

4.5 stars: Buckle in, and get ready for the treasure hunt to begin!

There is treasure to be found amongst the rocks, canyons, and caves of Southern Utah, but you have to know where to look; which means you have to be able to figure out the clues. O'Reilly Begay (Obie) has been retired from his job as an archeologist for quite some time, but attempted murder and a mysterious package arriving from overseas seem to be linked. He and some friends, along with his granddaughter Mac, and his friend Peter's grandson Charlie soon get caught up in a search for an ancient treasure. Of course, there are others hot on the trail, as well. Others with no qualms about murdering those who get in the way. It will be a heart-pounding race to the goal. Who will get the treasure, and who will get to live?

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This was a lot of fun! Obie and friends were constantly getting off wisecracks, there was a potential romance in there with Mac and Charlie, the clue deciphering added a bit more for the old intellect to chew on, and in the meantime there was plenty of action with gun fights, kidnappings, and rock climbing shenanigans.

It was a bit of a stretch that one (or two) people just happened to have all the right qualifications to unravel these clues, including multiple languages and cultural traditions, but I was willing to overlook that for all the rest of the goodness going on. The attempted romance was very awkward, and I wasn't too happy with how it played out--then I found out there was a sequel, so there was some hope there.

Double Eagle, Double Cross, by M. R. Durbin

4 stars: Mystery, with a bit of history woven in.

Charley Sawyer returns home to his late parent's beach house in Oregon, only to find it has been severely vandalized. What puzzles him, though, is that amidst the devastation, nothing seems to be missing. Out in their shed he finds a mysterious key that he's never seen before; he hopes it will lead him to some answers.

Meanwhile, Charlie's grandfather Peter and his old-guy pals decide that a road trip to Oregon is in order. Officially, they're giving Obie's granddaughter Mac a free ride out to do some research for her anthropology professor. Unofficially, they're along to see if they can't get Mac and Charlie to hook up.

The key leads to Charlie to more questions, including some about how is parents died. Was it really an accident? As he and his visitors try to put all the pieces together, none of them are sure who to trust. They must be getting close, though, because someone out there is getting scared....which is not good news for Charlie.

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I was happy to dive back into this world of close, multi-generational friends, unclaimed treasure, secret passageways, interesting history, more than a few nearly fatal episodes (hope that's not a spoiler), and the Oregon Coast. I love that place! I could just picture many of the scenes from the book, even though we've only been a couple of times.

My favorite characters this time around were probably the wives of the old guys. Deadpan comments that just cracked me up. The romance had a bit more closure this time, which was an improvement.

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I am looking forward to seeing what else M.R. Durbin comes up with! I'm a fan!

July 3, 2018

Ridiculous Dreams

I've been thinking a lot lately about the dreams we keep inside our heads and hearts. Almost everyone has one, I'll bet. Something that they wish they could, want to do, if only... They are as varied as we are. One person that I know has a ridiculous dream to live on the Almalfi Coast of Italy. Not just visit: no, actually live there, with that crystal clear turquoise water and the homes clinging to the cliff.  Someone else may want a cabin in the woods; a hideaway all their own. For others maybe it's to adopt a child or invent something or become a recording star. 

My kids have one that tickles me. They want to build the "Fun of the World Hotel" when they grow up. It will be a hotel with every fun thing in it--hence the name. It will have a water park, and mini golf, and arts and crafts, and rope courses, and climbing walls, and a ball pit, and I don't even know what all else. Everything fun. Oh, I remember what else: it will have an old folks home just for their dad and I to live in! Old folks home for 2, yep. Check it off. Guess I know how I'll be spending my retirement years!

As we cling to these dreams, and at times discard them for newer models, they shape us. They shape how we spend our free time, they give us something to think about as we're drifting off to sleep at night. They can seem as out of reach as the moon at times.

As I've been pursuing my own ridiculous dream--being a flower farmer--there have been a lot of ups and downs. A lot to learn. As expected, the reality of getting this dream going has got a lot more weeds than the dream version! It's not as cut and dried. There are moments of great excitement and moments of great discouragement. 

In my minds' eye, I see myself surrounded by rows and rows of flowers, of all kinds. I am cutting them and making these fabulous, abundant, lush, arrangements with them, that are almost immediately snapped up by whoever sees them first. That's the crazy, ridiculous dream I have. Seen from that view, it sounds like heaven and a whole lot of fun. 

The view from the ground is a bit different. It's hours and hours AND HOURS of weeding and watering so far this summer. I have been trying to get in at least 2 hours of weeding per day, but you would never know it by looking at my garden. It's seeds that don't grow, and more seeds that don't grow, and deer that eat what is growing. It's bushes that are very small and too young to cut anything from. Hot afternoons that are too miserable to work outside at all.

It's also kind friends who have let me cut their flowers from their yards. It's some direct sales to customers who were completely thrilled with the bouquets that I managed to cobble together from what I had. It's learning new things and stretching my mind in new ways. It's having time to "play with flowers" a couple of times per week, no matter what else is going on. 

So it's coming. The discouraging times become less so when I take a step back and remind myself that even with setbacks and things not working out how I expected, I'M DOING IT! I am working toward my dream. The only way to get better at something is to practice it. I already know next year will be better than this one, just based on everything I'm learning. I'm taking notes and there are quite a few things I'll be doing differently the next time around. 

If nothing else, I hope that seeing me pursue my dream will give my kids license to chase down dreams of their own someday. Challenges will come up. Of all kinds and varieties. Of course they will! They can be overcome. 

What dreams do you have tucked away? Are you getting any closer to making them a reality?