The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker

Posted on October 20, 2011. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Every once in a while I find myself in a non-fiction kick. During those times I tend to go a bit overboard on biographies, memoirs and inspirational/self-help titles. An advice columnist that I really enjoy following, Carolyn Hax, recommends this book to many people for a variety of reasons. After hearing it time and time again I finally trekked to the library and put in the request to borrow it, and I am so glad that I did. I have recommended this to quite a few people since reading it, the impression it left on me is definitely a lasting one.

I personally feel that every young woman, going to college, in college, living on her own, moving to a new city or living in the same city she has lived in her entire life should read this book. This book teaches life lessons and life skills that many of us girls are lacking. This is not about self-defense and not meant to scare women about the dangers of the world but it is educational and excellent. There is no substitute for learning the information provided in this book – I wish I had read it years earlier.

Gavin De Becker is a pioneering advisor on navigating dangerous and risky situations involving assignation, stalking and basic survival fear. De Becker owns an agency that protects public figures including politicians and celebrities. Through reading his book you can tell that he is the leader in this type of knowledge. He is smart, he is confident and it shows throughout the book. Additionally, De Becker is confident that with this knowledge we can also be safer, which makes your confidence rise as well.

De Becker gives us some of his back-story on how he ended up in this field and goes through some difficult stories about his childhood. Hearing about his childhood helps us really understand how he was able to hone in and fully develop the heightened awareness he has for survival skills. We also get an excellent glimpse into the mind of someone whose sole profession is protecting others. Getting in on that thought-process is enlightening and helps us better understand how we can start to think that way and protect ourselves better.

The main topics in this book are female safety focused. While De Becker doesn’t want to stereotype, it is fact that many of the situations he describes in the book are female based problems. While men can be victims in the same scenarios, the truth is that women find themselves as the victims more often, focusing on what really is occurring is helpful to us to better prepare ourselves. Topics explored are stalking, trusting our instincts and learning to how to listen to the guidance our instincts are providing, public figure attacks, intimate violence, occupational violence, threats, and violence from children. There are many situations described in the book that we may never ever encounter, but having the knowledge in us ready in case we are in that situation is invaluable. We will never regret teaching ourselves what to do in the rare case we find ourselves there.

The best take-home message for me was learning how to trust our instincts. This book is not meant to make us more afraid or allow fear to take over our lives, it is rather about learning how not to be fearful because we have the ability and knowledge (after reading this) to safely navigate dangers that are presented to us. De Becker really focuses on what biology has given us and how we are ignoring it. Part of us ignoring these survival signals are culture – we are being taught to act in ways that go against this biology and are putting ourselves at risk. De Becker is helping women to break through that culture to put our personal safety first.

As I said before I think this is a book that every young woman should read, most likely more than once. It helped give me courage and strength and after reflecting on what I had read it also did make me feel less freightened and more in charge. I wouldn’t put myself in danger on purpose just to prove that I am in touch with my intuition but I did learn how to trust my intuition more and have thought of some ‘plans’ that I would carry out in a variety of situations, mentally preparing myself ahead of time should I find myself there. I also reflected back on previous encounters where I put many of these biological tools aside in an effort to just ‘be nice’ and I can recognize how I purposefully ignore bells and whistles and warnings and I’m ready to make different choices in those some situations in the future. Excellent read – don’t be scared, fear truly is a gift!

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Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Posted on September 8, 2011. Filed under: Books, Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

It has been a long while since I last read a Nicholas Sparks book. After Nights in Rodanthe was a box-office flop I took a break from his stories, but this one was amazing. For anyone who has read his books before, have no fear, it takes place in North Carolina and is a bit of a love story…

The story starts out with the mysterious ‘Miss Katie’. She is a waitress in a small town in North Carolina. She keeps to herself and really tries to be invisible as much as possible. As for her past and history, well that’s a closed book and she isn’t giving away any secrets. Sparks opens this book shrouded in mystery surrounding Katie. We know she has run but we aren’t completely sure what it is she’s running from. As the reader we are looking over our shoulders with Katie while doing our best to chip away at small details she gives away to figure out what her story is.

Much of the beginning of the book if focused around this North Carolina town she has found herself in. It’s a small town so gossip is rampant, which is part of the reason for Katie to stay as tight-lipped as she is. But the town’s smallness also lends itself to be quaint, and homey and just what she needs to calm her nerves from whatever it is she is running from. We quickly meet the local widower, Alex, who is struggling to keep up with his two young children and the general store he manages. There is no secret that right from the beginning of this story we are expecting something, anything, to happen between Katie and Alex. This is a Nicholas Sparks book after all, so it is no shock when she walks into his general store that he is intrigued, and is determined to break through her shell and learn about who she is.

The first few chapters are really focused on where Katie is, the struggles Alex has gone through loosing his wife, his interactions with his children, and the way the entire town interacts. As a reader I wanted to find out what Katie was running from, I had some hunches and ideas but nothing concrete and it was a bit frustrating not to have that laid out for me after a few chapters. Then, just as my frustration was about to peak, Katie has a new neighbor, a female named Jo that Katie opens up to. At this point we have it – we know why Katie is running, we understand what she is up against and we truly want her to succeed.

Sparks takes a moment to introduce a new character at this point. Up until now we have only heard from Katie and Alex, but it is time to get into the head of Kevin, Katie’s husband. Not hearing from Kevin until quite a ways into the book was definitely an interesting point to the book. Since we had hints about her past and then learned it in full it really gives the reader time to develop a concrete feeling on this new character, and when he is finally introduced we have a firm opinion on him, and the thoughts he puts into the book confirm our thoughts and really solidify them. Once Kevin is introduced the book takes a bit of a turn.

Katie and Alex are becoming close, she has a dear friend in her neighbor Jo, she is starting to grow roots in this new location and we are now hearing from her husband and have a direct insight into the mind that Katie is trying to read from miles away. We want Katie and Alex to love deeply and for Katie to trust Alex with all her heart and love him as much as he immediately loves her but we understand the difficulty. We learn her secrets and watch as she grows stronger by the chapter. And at the same time we watch Kevin’s actions and then the story gets really good and you are definitely involved.

Without giving away the ending, or much of the middle, I will say that this book was more riveting and page-turning than any other Nicholas Sparks book I have ever read. I literally could not put it down for quite a few pages because I was glued. The narrative switched between Katie and Alex in North Carolina and Kevin. We could see both sides of the story and we could only read one word at a time as the worlds collided. Nicholas Sparks did an excellent job developing all of these characters in a way that we had opinions of them that matched their actions and our opinions were so incredibly strong that we felt involved in the outcome. The book was heart-wrenching while at the same touching and at the end you feel proud at what was accomplished by the characters. I really did not know how it was going to end and that helped keep me glued to the pages.

I cannot say enough that while this is somewhat of a love story, it is less about love as it about learning to love again and learning how to trust. There are times when the story is a bit graphic, not from a sexual point of view but from a violent point of view but it is done in a very tactful way that makes you really understand the characters and their inner-feelings.  It is a good story with a lot of meat to it – perfect for those that like drama, good for Sparks’ fans and really good for just about anyone who has agreed with my book selections in the past. The action, drama and love packed into this book truly would make a Hollywood movie proud, according to the author’s website movie rights have been sold, hopefully the movie lives up to the book! Enjoy!

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