Thanksgiving 2017 | Gratitude

Thanksgiving 2017 | Gratitude

As I said at this time last year, there's barely a month left before we'll be welcoming a new year. 2081, where'd you come from? 

This year, like every year (and every day), I am grateful for so many things. Not the least of which are the following people, and to make so much about life and this community - even silly moments, memorable.

Family | To my family I am beyond grateful to have you in my life. No matter our frustrations, at the end of the day, you mean so much to me. Without you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Thank you for putting up with me, and letting me chase aspirations that only make sense to me.

Christmas TV Films | Thanks for being adorable, awesome and a constant source of endless smiles.

Books | Of course, this is an obvious thanks, but all credit is really due to the authors. It's that one idea that sparks everything else.

Readers and Friends (aka this book community!) | No list would be complete without thanks to you all. To you, the readers and friends, thank you. I’m grateful to you if you’re reading this. If you’re a new visitor and reader, welcome. I hope you enjoy your time here. 

If you’ve been with Finding Wonderland for longer, thank you. You have no idea how much your support helps inspire this blog’s existence.
Wishing all of my readers and friends a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope it’s full of family and laughter, a slice of pie, and memory making. Enjoy the day, and Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

Thank you for visiting Finding Wonderland.
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Enchanted Christmas (2017) – Romance Dances Through Christmas

Enchanted Christmas (2017) – Romance Dances Through Christmas

One of Hallmark’s greatest strengths rests with the people they cast. Whether they recruit actors who’ve been in five of their originals or they’re filming their first one, they always seem invested in their roles. This year, they take their casting talent to a new level with Enchanted Christmas.

Tragedy has touched her young life, but Laura (Alexa PenaVega) has a good life. Her career in LA is flourishing and then there's her daughter, Nikki, the most important person in her life. As Christmas approaches, Laura’s latest project manager job is about to send her into the past. Her boss has just acquired a hotel located in Laura’s hometown. Trouble is, the Enchanted Lodge isn’t just a former landmark in her hometown, it’s where she fell in love.

Determined to get through this job with little fuss, Laura’s well-ordered plan is tossed on its axis when she comes face-to-face with Ricardo (Carlos PenaVega). Ricardo is the boy she once danced with and her first sweetheart. But despite all the happy memories he’s in, Ricardo is also the boy who broke her heart. Their reunion is not something Laura plans on, but it’s an emotional one she has to find a way to deal with. All while doing her job, taking care of her daughter, and protecting her heart.

Though they do every year, one of the best things about the Countdown to Christmas line up of 2017 is the impressive (respective) cast lists. Including Enchanted Christmas. What ups the fun factor of this title is the leads being real-life marrieds. Alexa Vega (Destination Wedding) is best known for her Spy Kids franchise and though I’ve seen Carlos in very little (Fox’s Grease is probably it), it was fun to see him co-star with his wife. There's a nice, genuine chemistry to their characters because of this freedom. Not only that, but these two also competed on the same season of Dancing with the Stars, so their dancing may very well be them really performing.

Seeing these two together allows for a deeper kind of connection between these love interests – and as the audience, it also (whether we realize this or not) makes us cheer their love story all the louder. Beyond this, I must mention the supporting cast including the adorable actress who plays Nikki! Chelsie Hightower also has a supporting role, a name Danicng with the Stars fans may recognize. 

Everything about this title is enchanting. It’s a lovely story about second chances and the choices we make in the wake of their appearance. It’s a love story with romanticism of an old-fashion kind that inspires us to feel so much more for the outcome. It’s a festive tale full of ribbons, bows and all the trimmings.

Those of us who enjoy fresh faces breaking up Hallmark's normal will enjoy seeing a new leading man. But those who enjoy the familiarity will appreciate the staple elements and moments, including the obligatory tree trimming is all bundled in this sweet story. With an emphasis on family, and an ending that works through the complicated emotions of choices and the best possibilities, there is no denying this script lives up to its title. Everything about the production is traditional “Hallmark” branding while still introducing us to a new kind of story that sure to become a classic Christmas movie in its own right.

Photos: Hallmark Channel 
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Top Ten Tuesday | I’m Thankful and Grateful for These Books and Bookish Things (and Authors) aka Happy Thanksgiving

Top Ten Tuesday | I’m Thankful and Grateful for These Books and Bookish Things (and Authors) aka Happy Thanksgiving

Top Ten Tuesday | I’m Thankful and Grateful for These Books and Bookish Things (and Authors) aka Happy Thanksgiving

After a week off from the Top Ten Tuesday fun makes its triumphant return to Finding Wonderland. Let’s get right into today’s subject.

Broke and Bookish November 21: Top Ten Books I'm Thankful For (Happy Thanksgiving week in the USA!) – Broke and Bookish

(This post does contain affiliate links. Read the disclosure page for details.)

Who among today’s visitors is in amazement that Thanksgiving 2017 is here? (Or for all intents and purposes it is.) I’m in greater amazement than usual. It literally feels like only yesterday it was November first. We’re 21 days into the month, and if the holiday weren’t enough, Friday is the culturally popular Black Friday. Speaking of, I’m curious, how many of us indulge in the experience? As close as I get is a keyboard – tell me all of the amazing bookish deals you’ve discovered.

Back on point. Today’s topic.

Every year, a pastime we all indulge in is to gratefully reflect on the many good things in our lives, one of the simple joys I circle back to each year is BOOKS. Bookshelves, bookish goodies or bookish inspiration, you name it, and I’m likely excited about these sorts of things within favored genres. Today, I’m going to put together a mixed bag of things.

Below you’ll find everything from books (centered on strong family bonds) – and their authors, which I’m thankful for along with a few bookish goodies (next thing we know CHRISTMAS will be here!!) and just because, a few things in life I’m grateful for.

Let’s get to Top Ten Tuesday listing.


1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han | Though I have not read this one – the question I keep asking myself is why? – I have the impression it’s all about strong family ties (plus some great romance-y stuff, too). That makes this one a perfect fit. Amazon | Goodreads

2. With You Always by Jody Hedlund | A strong sisterly bond is the backdrop of this historical novel. Amazon | Goodreads

3. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge | Retooling the classic Jane Austen story, Hillary moves her characters (who are also entrepreneurs who sell tea) and story to modern-day Texas. It’s an organic change that works effortlessly and beautifully well. Amazon | Goodreads

4. Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay | This is perhaps Katherine’s most family bonded story. It’s about sisters who start out in a perilous relationship only to eventually bond the titular characters – even if it takes a tragedy to do this. Amazon | Goodreads
“Stories are as unique as the people who tell them, and the best stories are in which the ending is a surprise.” - The Choice
5. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks | Its primary genre may be a romance, but I love how deeply Travis loves and begins to care for his wife. It’s a testament to their relationship and the fact that Travis IS not the man he once was – Gabby helped shape him into the best version of himself. In short, this is a beautiful story. Amazon | Goodreads

FILM REVIEW | The Choice (2016) - A Romance Drama About True Love and a Second Chance

6. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rodrick | Anyone who binge watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will know this story like the back of their hand. Nonetheless, this familial story is endearing and lovely. Amazon  | Goodreads | Rent the first episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Amazon Video

7. Bradford Series by Becky Wade | Strong family ties bind together this family, a family built in unusual ways, but is still nonetheless a lovely one. Amazon (Then Came You), Amazon (True to You), Amazon (Falling for You, May 2018) | Goodreads  

8. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon | This is another one I haven’t read. That said, I really like the sound of it, and thoroughly enjoyed Everything, Everything. Plus the themes of family sound like an important component. Amazon | Goodreads


Denise Hunter’s Callahan Brothers (Falling Like Snowflakes,book 1); Melissa Tagg’s Walker Family Series (From the Start, book 1); Susan May Warren’s Price Family (Heiress, book 1).


Still have all the shopping to do? If you're like me, you most definitely have ALL of your shopping to do! If you've joined #TBTBSanta or simply have a list of people on that list, you might find the perfect something for that someone on your list - and bonus! Friday IS Black Friday, so be on the lookout for some deals! Consider checking out the folks at Bookshelf Tees for that perfect bookworm-y gift. NerdyGrlDesigns sells cute "cut out" bookmarks in her Etsy shop or for the fashionista in your life, Personalized Jewelry is "in" nowadays. 

Speaking of jewelry, I'm totally going to put in a self-promo plug: shop Baubles, Beads and Stuff! Yes, this is my Etsy shop, but I feel totally comfortable with promoting it because, though I do some designs, I operate (mainly) in a technical role. It's my mother who's the shop's primary designer and well, I may be bias, but I have zero problem promoting her lovely work.  


Family | No matter what else is happening or who you might feel is going about “X” wrong or the wearying gossip culture and media that fans the flames about “X” in the aftermath of whatever-oh-my-gosh moment is currently making headlines, family is a constant. They have to put up with me no matter what, and for this alone, I’m grateful. Magnify that one reason times infinity and I like to think – quirks and all, my family is pretty special. Yes, I might be a little biased. *wink*

Nikon Cameras | For a long time now, I’ve wanted to purchase a nice camera. Earlier this year, I finally did… and let me tell ya’, simple joy that it is, I’m loving that I was able to purchase this! Any Nikon recommendations (or Canon), tips or suggestions are most welcome. I’m still on a hard learning curve. (When one is used to a tiny Kodak or a small pocket size Nikon, this is quite the exciting thing for this girl.) 

*video publishes tomorrow afternoon; channel linked above

That’s a wrap for this edition. Tell me about the things you’re thankful for: did you discover amazing new things this year? Learn something new? What are you shopping for this weekend? Comment all the bookish (or otherwise) thoughts down below, and leave those Top Ten Tuesday links. It may take me the week, but I will be by to visit your posts.

Happiest Thanksgiving to all of my readers. Hope your day is memorable – and full of good pie. Speaking of pie: what are you making?

Thank you for visiting Finding Wonderland
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Miss Christmas (2017) – Sweet Christmas Novella Transports to Small Town Wisconsin

Miss Christmas (2017) – Sweet Christmas Novella Transports to Small Town Wisconsin

Miss Christmas (2017) – Sweet Christmas Novella Transports to Small Town Wisconsin

One of Hallmark’s 2017 originals immediately captured my attention. Aside from its boasting the "Hallmark" name, there's more to this “why.” Let’s find out the “why” behind this.

The story introduces us to “Miss Christmas,” the lady in charge of finding Chicago’s Christmas masterpiece: their Christmas tree. Miss Christmas is really Holly Khun (Brooke D’Orsay), a Christmas enthusiast whose childhood memories include growing up on a Christmas tree farm. When their tree for this Christmas is damaged during transport, even the normally cool Holly is flustered. What’s Miss Christmas to do?

Desperate and exhausting every other option, Holly turns to the submission letters. Near the bottom of the pile she finds one from a little boy named Joey McNarry. It’s his crayon-penned letter that captures Holly’s attention. Enclosed with the letter is a photo of the most beautiful tree Holly has ever seen. With nary a second thought, Holly travels to the small Wisconsin town where the letter came from. Once there, Holly meets Joey, and his warm, open-hearted family. An adage that applies to everyone but his father, Sam (Marc Blucas), the one person standing in the way of bringing this tree to Chicago.

NOVELLA REVIEW | Miss Christmas by Gigi Garrett – Smart, Fast-Pace Christmas Romance in a Novella Package

Discovering a new Christmas movie that's bright with holly cheer and sweet nuances is one of my favorite things of the season. When they’re this cute, the stories shine all the brighter with personality. If there’s one thing Miss Christmas suffers no shortage of, it’s personality.

Here are a few of the reasons why this one wins my heart.

- The story is adorable. It’s the wonderful brand Hallmark is known for (which is plenty of agreeable romances), but at the same time, this is about a woman finding home.

- The family working as the “backbone” to this story is, as it always is on Hallmark, is sweet. The importance these stories always put on families and their role in our lives (especially as helping to shape who we become) is to be admired.

- Chemistry between the leads is fantastic. From the moment Sam and Holly meet, there’s one of those electric “meet cutes” because of the fun banter and the obvious interest on both parts.

- Of course, this leads to the cast, which is fabulous. D’Orsay’s chipper, girl-next-door personality is infectious. (Can I please borrow some of her Christmas enthusiasm??) Not just this, she perfect for this role, and as a fan of his (dating back to First Daughter), it’s always fun to see Blucas return to Hallmark. (As an aside, who else can rock the Ugly Christmas sweater better than these two?)

- Based on a novella (of the same title), this teleplay differs a great deal from its origin material, but that doesn’t stop this from being its own piece of Christmas charm.

Let's discuss the comparisons in more depth. If I do have a minor complaint (and please don’t misunderstand, I still adore this film), it’d be that they transferred this to a Christmas setting. I’d have liked to see it be the novel's “summer” setting (maybe as their “Christmas in July” premiere instead?) with a Christmas “epilogue” like scene to tie it all together. There are a few too many “differences” in the adaptation for this to feel like it’s still the same as the novella.

Even still... though we all have our favorites, anyone who likes Hallmark Channel will enjoy Miss Christmas. It’s got all of the qualifiers we look for in a good Christmas film. This is certainly a movie that made my mother and I react in an “aww” sort of way. All of which is sure to lead fans towards more excitement for what’s yet to come on the 2017 Countdown to Christmas schedule.

Photos: Hallmark Channel / Crown Media Press 
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Miss Christmas by Gigi Garrett – Smart, Fast-Pace Christmas Romance in a Novella Package

Miss Christmas by Gigi Garrett – Smart, Fast-Pace Christmas Romance in a Novella Package

(This post does contain affiliate links. Read the disclosure page for details.) 

Author: Gigi Garrett
Publisher: Unknown
Publication Date: 2015
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary Novella
Source: Kindle Purchase
Blogger | Goodreads | Wordpress
Rating: ★★★★

All’s well in Holly Kuhn’s well-ordered world. She’s succeeding in a career she loves, and gets to pay homage to her favorite holiday – Christmas, every day because of it. Holly is the go-to girl (aka Miss Christmas), who ensures there’s that shiny, beautiful and perfect Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center each year.

This year, she finds the perfect tree in a letter from a boy living in Massachusetts. This discovery derails her travel plans, and instead she makes a detour to the McCary farm. Once there, she meets the entire family, including the young writer’s uncle, Sam. Everything seems to be leading Holly to this perfect Norway spruce, but

Unlike the rest of his family, Sam is less than enthused by the notion some big city girl is about to take his family’s tree. It's up to Holly to prove to him why he should want to.

TV FILM REVIEW | Miss Christmas (2017) – Sweet Christmas Novella Transports to Small Town Wisconsin 

Since this is a novella story, instead of flailing about and weaving in and out of the pros vs cons, with this little write up, let me get right to the point. Wrapped inside these 80-some pages is magic. Because of the condensed time, there isn’t a lot of room for character backstory or growth, but this is excused because the story is so darn adorable.
“People always say that change takes time, but that’s not always true. You’re born in a second, you die in a second, and it’s quite possible you fall in love in a second.” - Miss Christmas
Holly's persistence is a cute trait, and I love that she’s not the stereotypical “city girl.” She’s as comfortable walking among the bright lights as the green grass of countryside. The connection between Sam and Holly suffers a little because of the short page length, but that doesn’t stop the “opposites attract” idea from still being cute.

If you recognize this title, but it being in book format seems a little “off,” this may be because you know it as a Hallmark Christmas original. Where this story lacks a bit in the character romance, the film makes up for in spades (read: sassy chemistry!!). What I feel like this novella does do better than the script is the settings. I really liked that while this is definitely a Christmas story with appropriate feels, this is actually (primarily) set months before Christmas. Plus, I also like that this seems to “flow” a bit more than the script; there’s a natural ease and storytelling (realism) quality that the script misses.

Despite any minor complaints, I enjoy the film adaptation and this novella both. Each have their strengths and weaknesses, but both are packed with infectious holiday cheer. Those looking for a quick Christmas read need to look no further than Miss Christmas. It’s a piece of Christmas magic you can enjoy during a snowy afternoon of reading. ♥

Content: there may be some minor innuendo or profanity (nothing that I remember), but for a secular release, this story is clean.

Synopsis: Holly Kuhn is on the hunt for The Tree, but could she possibly find The One along the way? 

Next to Santa Claus, Holly Kuhn has one of the most important Christmas jobs out there. She’s the Director of Horticulture at Rockefeller Center, which means she’s in charge of finding the biggest and most perfect Norway spruce and transporting it to Manhattan. When she stumbles upon The Tree of her dreams on an idyllic Massachusetts dairy farm, Miss Christmas—as she’s called—is on seventh heaven. That is, until she meets the farm’s owner, handsome Sam McCary, and discovers he doesn’t share her holiday spirit. 

Will Holly be able to convince him to share his tree with the world? Or will workaholic Holly learn that sometimes there’s something even more important than tinsel-trapped success? 

Join Holly and Sam—along with a colorful supporting cast and charming small town—as they discover that Christmas miracles are all around us, if we’re only willing to see them in plain sight. - Goodreads
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#Bookstagram Challenge | #WishfulWonder December 2017 Challenge

#Bookstagram Challenge | #WishfulWonder December 2017 Challenge

Hello happy readers and fellow bookworm friends. Popping in today to share another #WishfulWonder bookstagram challenge. Yes, that's right, it's time for a new edition of #WishfulWonder.

Tressa (of Wishful Endings) and I have had a blast putting all of these together these past many months. Though Tressa is taking a step back due to a busy schedule (#relate), we have a few more challenges already prepped, and ready to go, so that means #WishfulWonder isn't going anywhere. If you have ideas for this challenge or suggestions, please let me know in the comments or on Instagram - or if you'd ever like to be a co-host. I'm open to them.

Pressed for time? Not sure a bookstagram challenge is for you? Below I give a spiel hoping to convince you otherwise.

+ If you’re pressed for time to participate in daily challenges, first and foremost, while we love it when you do, there’s no rule that says you must post every day. (Not that you needed my permission to say this, but I thought I'd put this out there.)
+ If you think you can’t participate because of it being “too much work,” try taking a handful or several days’ worth of photos for an hour. (This is generally what I try to do, which is nice and I often find I have a little “stock pile” of Instagram photos as a result.)  
+ If you're looking to meet other Bookstagrammers (people in the book community on Instagram) and bloggers, or build your "brand" in the book community, joining a challenge is an excellent way to do this. 
+ If you don’t think our #WishfulWonder challenge looks like a good fit for you, there are TONS of challenges on Instagram. A brief #Bookstagram or some variation of a #BookChallenge hashtag search will show this. 
+ Best of all, the best thing about these challenge (well, aside from the people. And the books.) is the creative outlet. You develop your OWN style of photos, which is what makes everyone's account so unique! I've seen simplistic (in terms of prop use, etc.) photos that are stunning and I've seen more elaborate shots that compliment the book and suit the style of the bookstagrammer. Plus, if you're like me, and you love creative outlets, this is an excellent way to do this. 
+ Still not convinced? Go ahead and follow our #WishfulWonder tag on Instagram or Twitter to be inspired!

\\\\\ You're invited to join our December 2017 #WishfulWonder Challenge.

Hopefully everything is self explanatory, but if you have any questions about the prompts. Here's a few specific meanings for a couple of days. 

2 | Rudolph. Santa. Or Frosty (Create an iconic Christmas figure with books!)
3 | "Make a Gift Day," or #TBTB Santa (The former can be books w gifts or a handmade item you've made/been given, and the latter celebrates The Broke and Bookish's annual "Secret Santa" project! If you signed up this year, show us your process; shopping trip, goodies, packaging, etc.)

We’d love to see your pictures, so be sure to tag us with the usual, #WishfulWonder hashtag. Also, feel free to share this.

As we do every month, we extend our thanks to everyone who has joined our challenges. We're having so much fun browsing our tag, and appreciate your creativity and time. (If we haven't clicked that heart on your photos and/or commented, it's not because we won't, it's simply due to time restraints - summer always seems busy. BUT please know we enjoy browsing your photos, and sooner or later one or both of us will find them with that #WishfulWonder or for December, #WishfulWonderDec17 tag.)

We'd also LOVE your feedback on favorite prompts. Drop a comment down below. 
Happy day, Book Nerdigans. Join us in our fun, bookish endeavors - we look forward to chatting with you.
Thank you for visiting Finding Wonderland.
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Waiting on Wednesday | Twelfth Edition

Waiting on Wednesday | Twelfth Edition

Hello, readers and followers! Happy Wednesday. Welcome. With another mid-week arrival, today we're joining the "Waiting On" fun with Can't Wait Wednesday. A meme Finding Wonderland occasionally takes part in.

Organized by the lovelyTressa of Wishful Endings, here's another edition of Can't Wait Wednesday

The Brave, Episodes 1-6 (2017) – First Impressions of NBC’s Military Drama

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here to spotlight and talk about the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released as well. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. (Find out more here.)

For today's meme, I'm featuring a book that originally was set to release in the spring of 2018 (am I the only one who thinks it's odd to type this??). Fortunately, as a fan of this author, that release was changed, and it'll now be in our hands before the year's out. Perhaps even Santa will leave it under our trees. *starts letter to Santa*

In today's feature we meet an aspiring artist and a case of unrequited (?) love. Here is Kasie West's newest novel. (Also the fact that this will mark the start of a series by West: COLOR ME EXCITED!!)

Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: December 2017

Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart. 

Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soulstretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.

Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend—a boy she also happens to be in love with. 

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters. - Goodreads

(This post does contain affiliate links; read the disclosure page for details.)

Amazon | Goodreads 

PS: Before you go... 

we review our first Hallmark Channel original of 2017, The Perfect Christmas Present

Comment down below with your thoughts (have you read Kasie's books? what did you feature today? what's your favorite YA or contemporary novel???), Waiting on / Can't Wait Wednesday blog links or anything else bookish. I'd look forward to chatting all things bookish with you.

Thank you for visiting Finding Wonderland. 
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The Brave, Episodes 1-6 (2017) – First Impressions of NBC’s Military Drama

The Brave, Episodes 1-6 (2017) – First Impressions of NBC’s Military Drama

The Brave, Episodes 1-6 (2017) – First Impressions of NBC’s Military Drama 

Though the NBC network seems to pick up more duds than winners, of their 2017 line-up, one drama caught my attention. That happens to be their military drama, The Brave. A story that introduces us to an elite group of soldiers, all of whom I suspect have quite the backstories.

(This post does contain affiliate links; read the disclosure page for details.)

The day starts normally. In Damascus, Dr. Wells, an American doctor, sees to patients' needs, and sees that they receive the proper care as part of her Doctors without Borders work. On the way back to her accommodations, soldiers abduct her. This is when the US government becomes involved.

Patricia Campbell (Anne Heche) leads the team in the States. A team that includes linguistics specialists, tech experts and even a newcomer, Hannah Archer (Sofia Pernas). A former field agent, Hannah questions her boss being at work following personal tragedy. At home, this team can only do so much, which is why they need ground support.

Tasked with this job is an elite, “undercover” military team. A Special Ops team that’s led by CO Adam Dalton (Mike Vogel); CPO, “Preach” Carter (Demetrius Grosse), who has experience as a former SEAL; McG (Noah Mills) keeps pace with the team as their medic; the tough as nails, Jaz (Natacha Karam) is the team sniper; and then there is the newcomer Amir (Hadi Tabbal), the guy who replaced their friend who died.

When Adam gets the call his team is needed on the rescue mission of an American, they set a plan in motion. All is going as it should until they receive Intel that could change the entire mission objective.

I’m 100% an advocate of and for the Military. Without them, I wouldn’t have the freedoms I enjoy nor would I be able to live in a free country that doesn’t persecute me because of personal beliefs. My gratitude isn’t put into action, probably because I don’t have immediate family who serves, but I AM grateful… in awe… and in no way able to understand the sacrifices.
“They get it done or they die trying. They trust us with their lives…” - The Brave
I wanted to preface my thoughts with this statement, just as a this-is-where-I-stand point of reference. That said, I will say, I am thoroughly enjoying The Brave… so far. I think most writers do a disservice to the military, and in this present culture, some of our heroes are depicted in a way that isn’t flattering. Given the title of this series, and based solely on these five episodes, I’ll say I approve.

The series naturally has political angles, some of which I might not agree with, and caves to the pressure of society (in obvious ways). But I’m a fan. The characters are easy to root for, and I admire that they find ways to save people, even if only one person, and complete a “greater good” mission. The introduction to these characters is helped by a paused screen effect that titles them (their name and role in the team), but if there is a flaw in the pilot, I think it’s the hectic rush of characters. As all serials do, I’ve a feeling there is a story for each of these characters. All layers that will be peeled away in time, if the writers are given a chance to explore these layers.

Like most shows do, for those of you who haven’t seen the pilot, let me warn you: it ends on a cliffhanger. An end result I didn’t expect. However, with the second episode available, you won’t have a wait time like I did. The first episodic story is well conceived and executed. It keeps us anxious and waiting for the anticipation of “what’s next.” Will this team succeed? Why is something trying to [spoiler!] this team? And that’s where that dreaded cliffhanger comes into play. A cliffhanger that is uncovered in the early moments of episode two.

Smart, fast-paced with a thread of brevity (to help lighten the mood of what is, a real “feeling” of ominous doom that these heroes might not walk away from their next mission), The Brave is by far the best military drama of this season. Where one seems focused on being “sexy,” and another still needs to work out a few “balancing act” flaws, The Brave keeps me glued every time. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I also love this cast, and the easy-going camaraderie.

Entertaining and exhilarating, The Brave earns an enthusiastic “best new show” slogan from this amateur TV fangirl.

You can purchase the pilot and five additional episodes (which have already aired) on Amazon Video.

Content: Though rated TV14, this is a relatively clean network show. There's violence, beatings, threats and interogations (never overly graphic); there may be some minor profanity. 
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The Perfect Christmas Present (2017) – A Shiny Present Wrapped in Ribbons and Bows... from the Heart

The Perfect Christmas Present (2017) – A Shiny Present Wrapped in Ribbons and Bows... from the Heart

The Perfect Christmas Present (2017) – A Shiny Present Wrapped in Ribbons and Bows... from the Heart

The flurry of excitement surrounding Christmas movie campaigns seems to grow every year. There’s one primary reason for this, but collectively, some of the important ones are their festive cheer and heartwarming stories. The first to premiere on Hallmark Movie (as part of their “Most Wonderful Movies of Christmas” promotion) is certainly a sweet story.

Helping others give a little piece of joy to their loved ones is what Tom (Sam Page) does best. He’s a professional gifter who is hired by clients to find the perfect gift for the perfect person. He’s also known as Mr. Christmas. When his college friend, Paul, shows up on his doorstep looking to hire Tom, he breaks his one rule: never take on clients he knows. However, there’s something about Paul’s plea that makes him say yes.

Tom begins work on discovering the perfect gift for Jenny (Tara Holt), Paul’s perfect girlfriend. She’s a non-profit director who left behind her family in LA to move to Chicago. For Paul. Only trouble is, lately things have been tense between them. This inspires Paul to look for that “grand gesture.” The lines of business and pleasure begin to blur the more time he spends with Jenny… a complication Tom never planned on.

Though not my most favorite film this channel has produced ‘Present’ is, nonetheless, a sweet and memorable teleplay. In my catalog of Christmas films, this one has an edge in the creativity department. I’ve not seen a story quite like the one that unfolds inside its framing. It sets up well, with voiceover stories that tug at our heartstrings and set the stage for the story to come.

Rather than continue writing about the film or story in the usual format and rambles, below are a few highlights (and reasons why you might want to watch The Perfect Christmas Present):

- The electric Chicago setting keeps the “beat” of the story pulsing forward, and also gives vibrancy to the “feel.”

- Christmas décor surrounds nearly every scene; whether it’s the simplicity of a wreath or the bare silhouettes of the trees lined in lights, it’s magnetic.

- As nearly all of their originals do, you’ll recognize Sam Page as a familiar leading man (All Things Valentine, Walking the Dog plus the upcoming A Royal New Year’s Eve).

- As previously mentioned, the story is unique and sets the tone for a mature, charming love story.

If you’re as excited as I am about these Christmas film blocks of programming, you might want to add The Perfect Christmas Present to your DVR. Despite the few missteps, and reworking of lists, it’s as fun, heartwarming and sweet as one would think. In short, it’s one simple joy present you’ll want to unwrap.

Content: Though still clean, because this is on Hallmark Movie Channel (where the films lean ever the slightest towards more “adult” themes), there is some minor innuendo.

Photos: Hallmark Movie / Crown Media Press
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Booktube Talk | The TAYLOR SWIFT (#Reputation Era) Book Tag

Booktube Talk | The TAYLOR SWIFT (#Reputation Era) Book Tag

Booktube Talk | The Taylor Swift Book Tag 

I’m a Taylor Swift fangirl.

This has been chronicled multiple times on Finding Wonderland. From oldie reviews of singles to a guest post (of this very tag) from a talented blogger friend to my more recent “fangirl confessions” TSwift homage post, I’m all about this girl's music. There are a select few artists that write and record songs that I don’t eventually grow weary of. Taylor Swift’s songs fall into this group. Usually I put, whatever my latest single “obsession” is on repeat so many times that I grow tired of it before long. This shows no signs of affecting this artist’s songs.

(This post does contain affiliate links. Read the disclosure page for details.) 

“My castle crumbled overnight.” – Taylor Swift, Call it What You Want
Though I don’t relate to the tunes Taylor has penned, there’s something lyrically complex and pulling in her songs that still – somehow, resonates. This is why, on the eve of her new album, 'Reputation,' drop – where’s midnight?? – I’ve decided to put together The Taylor Swift Book Tag.

Fangirl Confessions | Taylor Swift and #TS6IsComing

(And as an aside note, don’t forget to go back and read Bekah’s take on this tag, which she so awesomely put together for Finding Wonderland.) 
“Cherry lips, crystal skies. I could show you incredible things.” – Taylor Swift, Blank Space
Today we’re playing this tag on the Booktube Channel as well. This means the usual rules apply. We’re breaking this tag up. “Part 1” is the video and “part 2” is here on Finding Wonderland, the written portion of the tag (or vice versa). However you look at it, we’re splitting up the tag. Part of the Q’s are answered below, the rest in the video (those Q’s are listed below, and left blank).

Let’s get to those TSwift hits, and pair with them some books. Because what goes better together??

Love Story: pick a book with forbidden love | Hm... I had trouble with this one. There's These Broken Stars and of course, my fangirl-y favorite, Warm Bodies
Innocent: Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for | I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to spoiling books (this is because I read all the spoilers, most especially for TV shows. I know there were a few books I read the ending of first – so far back, I no longer remember which they were. More recently, I did spoil myself on how the book Allegiant ends. Because of this, I doubt I’ll ever read the trilogy.

Everything Has Changed: Pick a character from a book who goes through extensive character development | I think one of the characters that impresses me the most (with a transformation) is Owen from You’re the One that I Want. Because he’s in the five books leading up to his story (the sixth and final novel in the series), I think I had this idea there’d be no way he’d step up and be a good hero. Needless to say, I was proven WRONG!

You Belong With Me: Pick your most anticipated book release | Do I hafta' just pick one??

Kasie West’s Love, Life and the List | Bailee Madison and Stefne Miller's Losing Brave | Julianna Deering’s Death at Thorburn Hall | Stephanie Strohm's Prince in Disguise | Rachel McMillan's Murder at the Flamingo - plus more!

Forever and Always: Pick your favorite book couple | TOO MANY TO NAME! Is this a satiable answer? *smile* OK, so favorite book couple. Well, I’ve talked about favorite book (and non-book) couples in many posts before (see exhibit A, and B), and I have a “2017 Edition” of favorite bookish couples in my drafts. For the purpose of today’s tag, I’ll name a few off the top of my head (fully admitting there are LOTS more).

Ty and Celia (Meant to Be Mine); John and Nora (True to You); Paige and Max (The Start of Me and You); Maddie and Seth (Lucky in Love); Callie and Davis (A New Shade of Summer); and so many others!

Come Back, Be Here: Pick the book you would least like to lend out, for fear of missing it too much | I’d miss all of my books, but so long as they’re returned, I’m glad to share.

BONUS QUESTIONS (added by Kat):

Teardrops On My Guitar: Pick a book that made you cry a lot | I don’t tend to be a “crier.” Though the one book that could have made me tear up – I don’t remember if I did try while reading it, is The Fault in Our Stars. Or Amy Matayo’s The End of the World.

Shake It Off: Pick a book that you love so much, you just shake off the haters | Love this question! The only book (aka series) I can think of is the ‘Selection’ series. It seems to get a love of hate, and I’m over here, all like lovin’ the series – flaws and all.

Q's Answered in the new Booktube Video

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together: pick a book or series that you were pretty sure you were in love with, but then wanted to break up with

Red: pick a book with a RED cover

The Best Day: pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic

I Knew You Were Trouble: pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love

That’s it for the Taylor Swift book tag!! Have you put this one together? Do you like Taylor Swift? Do you have a favorite TSwift song? Have you read any of these books? Comment all the comments down below – I look forward to chatting with you.

PS: thank you to everyone who’s commented and/or visited the blog recently. If your comments are still awaiting replies, I promise… they are coming. I so appreciate you visiting this space and sharing your opinions. I’m grateful for all of the support you show this small piece of cyberspace. It’s fun because you’re here.

Thank you for visiting Finding Wonderland
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Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – Suspenseful Stories and Threats Return to Chesapeake Valor

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – Suspenseful Stories and Threats Return to Chesapeake Valor

 (This post does contain affiliate links. Read the disclosure page for details.) 

Author: Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2017
Series: Chesapeake Valor, Book 3
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary Suspense, Mystery
Source: Author Provided Copy – thank you, Dani.
Blogger | Goodreads | Wordpress
Rating: ★★★★½

As a seasoned pro working as an FBI agent, Declan Grey has seen some strange cases. But none have felt quite so threatening as the one currently occupying his time. Terrorists and threats, along with unknown players hiding in plain sight makes Declan’s case all the tougher. Plus, this one is personal – in more ways than Declan realizes.

BOOK REVIEW | Still Life by Dani Pettrey - Fast Paced Suspense in the Art Scene

With his partner on leave, Declan is paired with Tanner Shaw, a crisis counselor with the agency. Compassionate and dedicated to her work, Tanner is as invested as Declan, particularly, the plight of immigrants. But as the work together, the more their feelings change. Raising more questions than answers is a face from Declan’s past, who returns with ties to their current case. This causes tension, complicating professional and personal lines where lives and feelings are put to the test.

If you’ve read any of Pettrey’s novels prior to this (her most recent) release, you’ll notice patterns. Each of these stories has a kind of unique marker ingrained in their DNA. They begin with some type of high stake case that asks the hero to selflessly protect, while still being remarkably human. By this, I mean that the author has an innate ability to combine both the enigma of a good mystery with that of human interactions (conversations, ties that bind, and developing relationships) seamlessly. It’s a skill she continues to master with each novel.

The only flaw in my reading experience is some confusion. This is something that’s solely the fault of the reader (me!), not the author since everything that was fuzzy is explained in prior books. I didn’t recap the earlier books (Cold Shot, Still Life), all of which lead up to the point we come onto the scene in Blind Spot. The action may give the story momentum, but it’s the characters who we invest fully in. Though I’d be lying if I didn’t say the suspense keeps us curious, really, for me, it’s the characters who keep me turning the pages. Their stories and lives take priority, which is why these books are so good.

Tanner and Declan are both characters I've come to love as supporting character throughout the prior two books. Of course, now they have their own story, we discover more about them. They're as cool as you thought they'd be.

Saying more may result in spoiler-ish territory, so I’ll leave off with simplicity. Go read this one. It’s fast-paced, and quiet (when it needs to be); mysterious and smart, Blind Spot is one not to miss. The only flaw in this otherwise fabulous story? That cliffhanger! It came in unexpectedly and took this reader by surprise. What’s worse is the fourth book (which I didn’t realize we were getting until recently) arrives in 2018 boasting, what I’m sure, will be a story that ties everything together.

Synopsis: FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life--but isn't sure exactly what he's chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that "the wrath is coming," Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She's sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there's anyone who can help him, it's Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can't deny, and she's pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell--and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming "wrath" that could cost thousands their lives. – Goodreads

Coming Next from Dani Pettrey: Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he's back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist's next target? - Goodreads, July 2018

Add on Goodreads | Preorder on Amazon

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book; all opinions are my own
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