Best of 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

Before I get into the "purpose" of this post, I'd just like to give a shout-out to all of you for your support and wonderful, encouraging comments throughout the year. I read and appreciate every single one. And thank you to those of you who have recently followed: Without blogs of your own, I am unable to return the favor and express appreciation, so thanks! Right now, I'm having way too much fun creating a new header - hopefully it'll be up in the next week.
Life passes us by at an alarming rate. It seems impossible to think we are ready to bid another year farewell and yet, here it is, already time for the clock to strike midnight. Whether or not we are ready is another matter entirely. Before we break out the sparkling cider and tune the TV to the Times Square ball drop, I decided to join the meme and share faves from 2012.  

Reflection is what most comes to mind at the end of every year. Remembering our sorrows and happiness, the friends we’ve made, important milestones with family, goals met and forgotten, joys, triumphs and tragedies but since we live that every single day, I’m taking a lighter approach to discuss favorite entertainment, and listing what made my “best of” titles from twenty-twelve but instead of writing something new about each title, I’ve included a quote from the review. Where everyone else was counting down to see The Hobbit, I was more easily appeased. (I know my list may be a bit... pathetic in comparison to everyone else's. What can I say?) Before the countdown, take a peek at what topped my list. Enjoy!

Happy Chrismtas

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December twenty-fifth.
It’s a day anticipated  all year long. It’s a time for  twinkle lights and sappy sentiments.
It’s a day adults calmly and rationally claim is for children.
(whoever made up that falsity must be crazy!)
 It’s a day for giving back and reflecting.
It’s a day when family and friends gather.
It’s a day for snowman building and movie marathons. It’s a day for sugar cooks and sparkling cider. It’s a day full of laughter and pretty packages. It’s the one day when happiness fills glowing faces, and everyday life is put aside.
It’s the day in which one small child was born…
a child who changed the world.

Traditions make me happy during the nostalgia that is Christmas. I love snuggling up and watching a Christmas movie or baking sweets that I normally wouldn’t during the 11 months of the calendar year. Having family nearby and seeing them during the holidays is always wonderful. Enjoying the time my dad takes off. Or a hot cup of cocoa. The smell of an apple cider candle burning and twinkle lights on the tree. Everything good and right that December brings leaves me happy. Just one of the well-written Christmas songs is “The Giver and the Gift.” I’d like to leave with its chorus: 

You say come to me wait no more
I give you all you're asking for
Forget the lies this world has told
I'll wrap your life in linen gold
I'm more than just only
One night that's holy
I'm your star and I'm your wish
Cause I am both the giver and the gift.

Wishing you all the warmth, joy and love of the season wrapped into one package.

Merry Christmas to you all! 

The Paradise, Series One (2012)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Were it not for another blog, I may not have heard of this series. (Introducing me to this series was Jeanine, and she deserves a great “thank you” for it.) Many of you likely remember seeing the review of the pilot episode show up here a few weeks ago. Fortunately, in finally finishing up the novel-to-screen adapted first season, I kept an open mind and was handsomely rewarded for that.

Favorite Christmas Movies

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Last year, some of my friends put together a fun meme list of their favorite Christmastime flicks. Some were television movies, others rank among the classics. This year, the thought popped into my head that I should copy-cat their idea and put together a list of my own. It was easier than I anticipated to par down the collection to a “top ten” like list, but since just ten isn’t enough… there are eleven! Read after the cut to see which titles get me into the Christmas spirit – and which touched my heart. 

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas

Friday, December 7, 2012

About the Book:
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 2012
Series: Friday Harbor
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: At Christmas time, I basically throw out all my “rules” for clever entertainment and settle in for a joyous, delightful string of television films and even, the occasional novel. It’s not traditional for me to read Christmas fiction simply because I get my dose of a holiday cheer “fix” elsewhere but this year I decided it was worth reading at least one novel set at Christmas time and this gem of a novella earned the nomination. Telling a story that has been re-told many a time, Lisa Kleypas weaves a charming tale featuring characters from her “Friday Harbor” novels about Mark Nolan and the responsibility he fills following the death of his sister to his young niece, Holly. Mute since the death of her only parent, Holly is finally drawn out of her shell when the pair meets the vibrant, red-headed toy shop owner, Maggie. Hiding from her own tragic past following the death of a loved one, Maggie and Mark learn that in the magic of Christmas, two people can find healing.

Person of Interest, Season One (2011)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Taking on a role – for all the right reasons, that blacklists you from Hollywood’s “good side” is enough to earn any actor admirations from me. Before that, Jim Caviezel enamored me with his dashing portrayal of Edmund Dantes and now, despite some roles in direct-to-DVD films, he has finally found a niche in this CBS drama that may come across as a repetitive scenario of things already seen but is really a fascinating – and very clever concept. 

Every Perfect Gift by Dorothy Love

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

About the Book:
Author: Dorothy Love
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2012
Series: Hickory Ridge, book 3 
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 

My Thoughts: New authors get me excited. A newcomer last year to the Christian fiction market after a series of successes in the secular, Dorothy Love tapped into her southern roots as a basis for her first series and wrote a set of novels in which three determined women find love and their purpose in life. Those of you who have read the other books will be delighted that a character from Beyond all Measure rises to meet the expectations of a worthy heroine in Sophie Caldwell. Sophie is desperate to find where she belongs. An orphan who was taken in by Wyatt and Ada Caldwell, Sophie feels a tugging to return to Hickory Ridge from Texas to follow her dreams of becoming a newspaper reporter. She re-opens the local office and sets about running a successful business hoping that time has changed citizens prejudices. Her first interviewee is Ethan Heyward, a man with scars of his own. Hired to oversee and design a new, high-class resort in Hickory Ridge, Ethan becomes intrigued with Sophie’s determination and the scars she so carefully protects from her past but being honest may be the one thing that could tear them apart.  

Vengeance by Michelle Madow

Thursday, November 29, 2012

About the Book:
Author: Michelle Madow
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Publication Date: 2011
Series: Transcend Time, book 2
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Novella, Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 

Review: Picking up right where Michelle’s debut novel, Remembrance left off is this, a 50-some page novella from nice-girl-turned-antagonist, Chelsea’s POV. The story is a short work of fiction detailing Chelsea’s anger, hurt, and resentment towards her best friend, Lizzie and her now ex-boyfriend Drew in the aftermath of the secret that blew everything to smithereens, and Lizzie’s near death. Seeking out a way to exact her own kind of revenge, Chelsea allows her friend, Shannon to talk her into speaking with a shelf-proclaimed witch. Talk about harsh, right!? (Remind me never to get on Chelsea’s bad side. *wink*) In many ways, I am disappointed Chelsea didn’t get her own full-fledged novel in order to better shape her character to carry over into the finale but then the writer in me recognizes this method as “good policy.”

No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig

About the Book:
Author: Elizabeth Ludwig
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2012
Series: Edge of Freedom, Book 1
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 out of 5 

Review: While reading this historical work of fiction, I was surprised to learn that Elizabeth Ludwig has published novels prior to this since I’ve not yet uncovered the gem that was her style of writing. Under the assumption that Ludwig was another of the fabulous debut authors from 2012 (in my defense, this is her first pairing with Bethany House), imagine my further surprise when I realized I actually own one of her novels from the “Love Finds You” series. Before I reveal what I thought of this story, here is how the story goes: New to America by way of Ireland, Cara Hamilton is searching for someone. The man she meets on the docks upon arrival at Ellis Island wants to know who. Rourke Walsh has been driven by revenge for his father’s death for so long that he has forgotten what it’s like to live with peace – to be God’s servant… to accept love again. He desperately wants to learn the whereabouts of Eoghan Hamilton and Cara is his only lead. He knows that the man who killed his father had a twin sister but the more he gets to know Cara, the more he wishes she had nothing to do with the man whom Rourke has promised to visit his revenge on. Will there ever be truth between Rourke and Cara?

Give Thanks

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Every year, Thanksgiving Day brings up a bounty of memories and traditions that come flooding into our minds as if they happened only yesterday. The day represents something special in traditional activities but also our history and heritage. Although it’s a common holiday we share and celebrate, for American’s Thanksgiving Day may hold a different meaning. It may be merely another day for those who still have to go to a 9-5 job, for others, it could signify seeing family members that we’ve not seen all year or it may be a tradition of helping out others.
For my family, Thanksgiving holds more of a traditional meaning. We are either at home or spend the better part of the day with my mom’s family but whichever one works out, we always enjoy a meal with all the trimmings, watch a customary version of Miracle on 34th Street and have lots of laughs. (Since my family is hosting this year, who knows how things will turn out! *fingers crossed*)

Downton Abbey, Series Three (2012)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Though I cannot promise I won’t “slip up,” this will be a spoiler-free review.
Anyone who has watched this series – which I believe is basically... everyone, knows its sorrows, joys and triumphs. It’s an award-winning ITV series penned by Julian Fellowes that has evolved a great deal in the last three years. Praised for its first season but earning lackluster reviews in its second (which I attribute to the time frame), the series returns for a stronger, but emotionally driven third season. One that wouldn’t be the Downton Abbey we know and love without some fun and soapy drama – and there’s plenty of it!

Trading Christmas (2011)

Until Hallmark channel paid notice, authors whose works were considered Christian – or at least moral stories, rarely got much exposure in the world of film, on the small screen or the silver. A pair of movies, already a success and to their credit based on Debbie Macomber’s novels have already been made prompting Hallmark to again bring another of her novels to their holiday line-up.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Super hero films are a dime a dozen now days. When studio execs decide to produce them it really doesn’t matter how “good” they are because they’re sure to draw a crowd with cool special effects. Despite being for reasons that involved losing the franchise (the rights), less than ten years after the last Spider-Man film was made, the series was re-booted with a young, fresh-faced cast and some unique twists of its own. 

The Blind Side (2010)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Blindside
This was on my “to see” list from its debut in theaters. Initially (and ironically, since I'm the least among us who likes football) I was the only one of my immediate family interested, so it was “abandoned” in pursuit of other theater trips. Since it appeared on DVD, there were several surprises in store as a result of that, not the least of which was that suddenly my family was actually clamoring to see it. 

What does Entertainment Say About Us?

Friday, November 9, 2012

America loves going to the movies. That is no secret. We get a thrill walking into the Cineplex, buying an over-priced but oh-so-yummy bag of calorie laden popcorn and handing the ticket person our stubs before walking into the theater door they specify will show our movie. The anticipation of the opening credits build while we munch on that popcorn and watch the endless, worthless bunch of advertisements and then… the theater goes black and the HD screen lights up with the first frames. I am one of those people who don’t go to the theater much in comparison to average America but I love every second of it. For me, it is an “innocent” afternoon out without being “extravagant” and since I am a simple girl anyway, it is a fun activity that satisfies my need to enjoy an outing. But is that really “all” that an afternoon in a dark theater is?

How do our entertainment choices reflect on us?

The Paradise: Series One, Episode One (2012)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When it comes to gorgeous costume dramas, the British know how to make ‘em and do it well. There have been dozens of them that enchanted American audiences and several have even ended up in my collection. This is one of their recent endeavors and sadly, I think it shows the wear of writer’s who have already tried this premise.

Lark Rise to Candleford, Series One (2008)

Lark Rise to Candleford

This beautiful, entertaining lark was something I was clamoring to find any way to get my hands on. As a continuity airing on British television, the wait was an even longer wait in making its way to the states. Finally it did arrive on DVD and I anxiously bought all four subsequent series.

A Flight of Fancy by Laurie Alice Eakes

Saturday, November 3, 2012

About the Book:
Author: Laurie Alice Eakes
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2012
Series: The Daughters of Bainbridge House, book 2
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

Review: Stories set in the regency era usually hold my attentions without trying. Unfortunately, A Flight of Fancy fell inches short. The reason(s) why, I cannot put my finger on but something about the novel didn’t allow me to “connect” with it. Here’s how the story plays out.  

Lifestyle vs. Anonymity

Friday, November 2, 2012

Just a little over a year ago I started this blog. Its purpose was to post film reviews and the occasional rant if I needed a place to vent opinions on “hot button” or topical issues but even beyond that, it was meant to feed my love of scribbling words and forming them into semi-coherent sentences. Prior to creating a Blogger account, I read one blog that was similar to the sort of blogging I had in mind, and it seemed to work well for her, so after some thought, I became interested in getting in on blogging. Little did I realize how rewarding it could be or how many people I’d “meet” in the process. Not long ago, one of my friends on Blogger advised to be careful you don’t become burnt out on blogging because eventually, well… you’ll blog about blogging! If I could beg your indulgence, that is the purpose of this post. In the recent months, I have been asked by readers about my inclination to never post personal photos or use a profile picture that is actually of me. After a year of blogging, it seemed appropriate to share some of my reservations. The reason being I am a bit Internet shy when it comes to pouring my heart out either on the page or through posting photographs of daily life. Here is why.

Cover Candy: Edition Three

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Calling all book lovers and you, my book-loving friends! Again, I have compiled a list of upcoming novels that have piqued my interest and are stylin' so fabulously with their cover candy! Some of these books I am anxiously awaiting and others merely caught my eye because of their cover design. Check out the covers and most of their respective synopsis below (plus I've added most of the synopsis to the prior parts 1 and 2 of this series), and then, let me know which you are looking forward to reading or which covers you like best... or drop a line about just anything! Have fun checking out these 2013 books! I know I did.

Upstairs, Downstairs: Series Two (2012)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Upstairs, Downstairs

Wartime dramas can signify beauty and disaster. They allow for snapshots of charm as they catch us up in the dizzying lives of their characters but should compel us into realizing how frightening the idea of war is. It was not a pleasant time and as a result should not mislead otherwise. In advance, let me apologize for this lengthy, spoiler revealing and somewhat frank review as I attempt to share honest thoughts on this controversial second – and reported last, series of a once beloved BBC classic.

Cover Candy: Edition Two

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Yes, you read that title correctly. I am again (already!) posting some upcoming books that have me giddy plus some Christian fiction cover concepts that are to die for. Thanks to Rel for tempting me with sharing these with my  readers. *grin* So... at the risk of boring you all (I promise, there will be some reviews next week... what, I'm not sure but I may or may not have some "new" British material), below the cut is some "cover candy" that left me grinning like a goofball as I was glued to the computer screen tonight. 

That being said, if you aren't all "tired out" from booktalk from my post of earlier, sound off in the comments here or the one immediately prior, friends. 

Cover Candy: First Edition

I am just going to say it: I am a book-a-holic. 

There are SO many novels that I have stacked by my bookshelf (which means it is full) that I am excited to read! (And that is saying nothing about those that are "pre-orders.") Right now, I've even overwhelmed myself with the books I have to read and write reviews for but I am also enjoying the opportunity to discover new authors and new styles of writing. Taking a journey in most of the books has been memorable. I am randomly putting together this quick look at some of the books I am looking forward to in the upcoming months. Take a peek: 

Cowgirls 'n' Angels (2012)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Movies that are clean as snow with a premise that is equally sweet are rare. When one does come along once in a blue moon, it only makes sense that viewers with conservative sensibilities would want to support it. Not a Christian movie in the traditional sense of those that, say Sherwood Pictures presents, Cowgirls ‘n’ Angels has some sweet virtues that usually don’t fit the “bigger plan” or “end game” in cinema.

Taylor Swift: Red

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Taylor Swift Red
About the Album:
Released: 2012
Writing Credits: Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Shellback
Label: Big Machine Records
Genre: Pop
Number of Tracks: 16
Rating: 4 out of 5

Album Review: 22-year-old Swift has had what could only be entitled a “fairy-tale” career. She was nearly an overnight success, bursting onto the scene as a sweet, innocent blonde-haired country darling who took the world by storm with her songs of romances gone bad – each one more relatable to American teens than the last. Now some eight years, six Grammys and four records in, Swift has finally hit a stride that shockingly, this listener was impressed with. Many may know that Swift is considered a part of the country music scene but what began steadily building in Speak Now is full-fledged and embraced on Red as Taylor solely enchants pop and light rock audiences with these sixteen tracks – songs that almost at times take on a pretty folk ballad genre.

Queen of the Waves by Janice Thompson

Saturday, October 20, 2012

About the Book:
Author: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Summerside Press
Publication Date: 2012
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

My Thoughts: Stories that recount the tragedy of the RMS Titanic are usually not my cup of tea. In fact until the ABC/ITV film adaptation of earlier this year, I’d not see a movie depicting the events. It surprised me that I actually signed up to review this romantic tale on the high seas but given my propensity to “connect” with Thompson’s writing, a love of this era and curiosity to know how this scenario would play out, I hit the “submit” button. Here is how the story goes. Jacquie Abington has a dilemma. Wealthy and able to have whatever her heart desires, her future suddenly becomes a glaring picture of conformity. Her father has just shook hands with a wealthy business man whom her father plans to merge their name with through marriage and business. Unhappy with the way her future is shaping up, Jacquie becomes desperate to find a way to be with her true love, Peter, the family’s gardener. Knowing her husband would never approve the match prompts Jacquie’s mother to book passage for her daughter on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, hoping it will cure her daughter of any more romantic notions of Peter. Afraid of being forever separated from Peter, the two of them concoct a plan for Jacque to swap lives with Peter’s sister, Tessa. A poor farm girl who needs to be out of a bad situation, Peter sees this as his way of protecting his little sister, never realizing the consequences these choices could yield.

Twice Promised by Maggie Brendan

About the Book:
Author: Maggie Brendan
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2012
Series: Blue Willow Brides Book 2  
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical
Rating: 3 out of 5

Review: Two women hoping for a change of pace are startled into a new reality when, after answering mail-order bride ads, they are met at the station by the brother of the man both thought they were corresponding with. Two such different women were never seen than Greta and Cora. Both feel used by Zach Gifford and are taken aback when they meet face-to-face with Jess Gifford. The man both thought they could love is, in fact a brusque, disarrayed, easily angered man who cannot seem to remember things. Zach knows his brother needs a wife to keep his dream going, running his own small ranch not the mercantile store his brother is the proprietor of. Having written to the ladies as Jess, Zach’s strategy is to allow Jess to choose his own wife and he agrees under one condition: That Zach court one of the women also. Jess’ world is about to change drastically as he finds himself captivated by one pair of very pretty blue eyes.

Little Letters: Edition Three

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dear Blog, I just wanted you to know that I sorta like how you are looking these days. Yes, you are in the same general “pattern” but it suits us. Now, for an idea once the Christmas/winter season rolls around (yes, I am a long-range thinker) – what should I deck you out with!? I cannot help that I am a bit compulsive when it comes to which photo shoot images I could use and changing things around here – what can I say you make it too much fun! Now… if only designing had nothing to do with HTML coding. I detest that part.

PS: Allow me to put a question to you, readers and friends – do you have any idea websites that offer simplistic layouts or designs? Sound off below in the comments if you do!

Nashville: Pilot, 1.01 (2012)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In a media obsessed world, networks rival each other in hopes to come up with the “best” new drama when the new television season rolls around and this year, one of ABC’s most promoted dramas was this soapy tale of two rival country music stars. It has a unique voice – surprisingly, that will capture any music lover but ratings (ones that were dubbed, “solid”) will tell if that alone is enough.

Beauty and the Beast, Pilot, 1.01 (2012) - A Contemporary, Romantic Fairytale

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fairytales are no longer child’s play. Now, they are evolving into compelling stories that seem to put adults under their own kind of unique spell. Coming off the enormous success of the fantasy lover’s paradise in Once Upon a Time, the “teen network,” CW created a new spin on the Beauty and the Beast storybook that may or may not be worth a look.

A Love Surrendered by Julie Lessman

Saturday, October 13, 2012

About the book:
Author: Julie Lessman
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2012
Find the Review Elsewhere:
Amazon | Goodreads | Wordpress
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads
Series: Winds of Change, book 3
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: Annie Kennedy may have gotten herself in over her head now she has moved to Boston from the small-town Iowa lifestyle she knows. Hoping to lose herself in adventure and become a woman world wise – like her elder sister Maggie once did, Annie is looking for her first love. Living with the aunt who never married, disallows her from showing affection and the recent loss of her father has left Annie longing for something to fill the void. Things become complicated when Annie falls under the spell of Steven O’ Connor. Ever since he nearly lost his father, Steven has cleaned up his act. He’s an FBI agent and he no longer dates “good girls” because he can no longer stop himself from falling hard for anyone who appears innocent after his tumultuous relationship with Maggie. Then he meets the sweet Annie – another girl who reminds him of his first love. What he doesn’t know is that loving Annie is only setting him up for more heartbreak – or is it?
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