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Friday, May 30, 2014

The Color of Rain (2014) - An Emotional Drama Inspired by True Events

Adapting true stories are often the films that will reach out and tug at the heartstrings of its viewers the best. This sweet, tender romance is one of those scripts that while bittersweet in its early scenes moves forward to become one of healing and hope. 

For three years, Gina Kell (Lacey Chabert) has lovingly cared for her cancer stricken husband. His death may not have come as a surprise, but coming at Christmas makes it especially difficult for her and her two young sons (Sean Michael Kryer, Seth Isaac Johnson). Now two months later, feeling a stranger in her own home, she is trying to resume normalcy for her family. Putting them back in school and searching for something to keep her busy, she inquires of an office position at her school. It's then when she learns that a woman she met at her husband’s service – a former classmate of Matt’s, has suddenly died leaving behind a family of her own. 

Michael Spehn (Warren Christie) is having a rough time moving beyond his own wife’s death and seeing Gina at her service offers Michael a chance to talk with someone going through the same thing. Trying to do everything without adjusting to his in-laws swooping in to relieve his juggling act, Michael finally finds a schedule with his three kids that works, and after a dinner between the Kell and Spehn families for support, Gina and Michael slowly begin to heal, opening their hearts to the possibility of a brighter future. 

Starting out sluggish, what was high hopes for this drama turned into disappointment as I sat through the opening 8-10 minutes, though I couldn’t really put my finger on what I didn’t care for (perhaps, it was the somber tone or the flipping back and forth from past to present), something just wasn’t “right.” It wasn’t long before things picked up and the viewer is swept up into a tender drama that is more than just about the romance. Perhaps it’s because this is based on a true story and the writer’s wanted it to feel genuine or maybe the people behind the characters had input, either way, I respected that aside from perhaps one or two instances, this film is relatively (over)drama free preserving more dignity that some films have previously displayed.  

TV fans will recognize Lacey from various telefilms and programs and – hello! – Hallmark aficionados will be glad to see Christie in something again (particularly fun is the fact that this is a role with much more depth) after the cute Christmas flick The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  The entire cast does a splendid job conveying the emotions of the characters they are depicting, and I liked all of the relationships with the kids, too. The struggle that the writer’s (or in this case, the real-life inspiration) put everyone through felt very genuine, and I loved that. Especially lovely was seeing it in a televised film since most the time, these are more about “fun” than risking a story that’s more serious in nature. In the case of The Color of Rain, that's what makes it shine.  

Despite a weaker opening, this turned out to be a lovely, inspirational, genuine story full of equal parts sadness and love, that makes us realize the fragility and beauty of life – and no matter what happens, we can find that ray of sunshine again.  

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lie to Me, Season One - Three (2009 - 2011) - An Interesting Drama about Deception and Truth

Since my library of television shows weren’t ready to arrive on DVD, and I ran through all five available seasons of The Mentalist in record time, I had to go hunting for a “fill-in.” 

Rudimentary research and a trip to the video store later, I walked out with two discs of Fox’s Lie to Me and the hope that if nothing else, it’d be interesting.

As the best deception specialist there is, Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) is something of a human lie detector. From his book sales (inspired by his government work), he now owns his own company, The Lightman Group. A group that has assembled the best in the field. 

Their current case involves a murdered high school teacher. While interviewing the students – along with his partner, therapist Dr. Gillian Foster (Kellie Williams), Cal uncovers more than meets the eye is hiding in this case, including a student who was home schooled by strict parents and is now something of a local misfit in the eyes of his peers.

Rounding out the Lightman Group is the hot-headed Eli Loker (Brendan Hines) whose work clashes with Cal's personality. Into this comes TSA screener Ria Torres (Monica Raymund) whom Cal and Gillian vetted after reading her near perfect deception diagnostic testing score. Ria is what the deception world would call a “natural,” she has no formal training, but her skill at detecting deception is eerie. With office politics, and many cases from a variety of sources, these are the cases of the Lightman Group. 

Lie to Me is the kind of show that is probably going to smack you across the face a time or
two, and enjoy doing so. It’s not because there are poignant truths you can glean (although there are some of these) or the purpose behind each story is meant to resonate with a viewer, more because it’ll make you rethink what we, as, layman, think of as dishonest indicators. Plus, there is the fact that its protagonist can sometimes morph into an antagonist, and his “idea” of truth is enough to stun anyone. 

Season one is more diverse in its cases and not so consumed with being full of crazy life-or-death situations, whereas the second season tends to lean more into the “dangerous” excitement (cases that involve kidnapping and the danger of being shot). What this does is morph into more of an adrenaline rush with its thirst for seeking to follow in the footsteps of the crime drama scene. 

This leading character is a guy who doesn’t care what others threaten his own person with or say about him. However, if you threaten his people or family, then you’d best watch out! Only Cal can talk trash to or about his employees (I just have to say, I adore the friendship between Cal and Gillian); this certainly made an interesting persona. That being said, the writers do toy with various impersonations of his character. He starts out annoying in a tolerable manner before they amplify that in a portion of season two and finally, evening out in the latter portion of season three, which is sadly left open-ended. 

Annoying habits aside, part of the fun lies in watching Cal at his work, both in the environment and his process. The friendship he has with Gillian is beautiful and leaves audiences feeling happy without the complications of a romance; the final season mucks this up, only to be cut short before the possibilities can be explored. 

If nothing else, I’m willing to bet the show will make you think about things in ways you never have before. Certainly something meant to entertain has a creative license which could eliminate reality completely but given that this was loosely based on a real group of professionals, I’m operating on the assumption a tandem amount of research was compiled. Given this, it’s cool to think this is a profession that working professionals actually specialize in. Because of that, one thing stands out; Lie to Me is likely to make you  look at the reactions of people very differently. And that's the truth.

*Because I don’t own the first season DVD to refer to and I couldn’t find a straight answer online, the synopsis I used may not be the first episode. That being said, hopefully it introduces all the main players without too much confusion.  

(Content: there are a few bedroom scenes [one involves exes reuniting, others are either related to a case or later, one of the main characters becomes begins dating] throughout the entire 3 season run, mostly the sexual content involved is mainly innuendo [we learn one of the characters "experimented"], though there are some awkward conversations between Cal and his daughter – she once admits she’s already had sex with a boyfriend and that she and her current boyfriend haven’t. There is some profanity and some violence. Hostage situations, characters are shot, bombings injure people, one case involves a rapist. A character’s ex is a drug addict. The show is rated TV14.)
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday...?

Coming out of a holiday weekend, I figured, it'd be best to keep things simple around here. We've now entered the "unofficial" start of summer, and I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful holiday weekend.

Today's official Top Ten Tuesday subject is a free-for-all, which in my estimation means, anything goes. Obviously, I couldn't pass up this opportunity so I went back to check the TTT meme I had a while back in which I listed all of those REWIND! topics I'd like to revisit.

Top Ten Tuesday Freebie! Pick your own topic!

My idea of keeping things simple is revisiting this topic:

Top Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf For The Longest But I've Never Read

This week could actually be "top 100 books..." or something like that as there are lots more than just these picks... but this is a start, and after a peek of my bookshelf last week, you're getting another this week.

Priced to Move by Ginny Aiken

Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter

Leaving Carolina by Tamera Leigh

All the Tea in China by Jane Orcutt

The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks

Controlling Interest by Elizabeth White

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Towering by Alex Flinn

A Charmed Life by Jenny B. Jones

First Date by Krista McGee

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

These are some of my bookcase still-have-to-read confessions.
What are some of the books on your shelf that you haven't read yet?
Which of these have you read - and which should I read first?
Share any thoughts you have!
Happy Tuesday.
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Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day!

Though not enough... to the men and women, who have served, we're more grateful than we'll ever know. To everyone who has served. Thank you. To everyone who is serving. Thank you.

Your sacrifices and fight to give us the freedoms we enjoy, is something I'm sincerely grateful for.

You ARE heroes.
Happy Memorial Day!
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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Drumroll Please...

Good afternoon, all! I am afraid that yet again, I owe you all an apology. I've been lagging in getting up giveaway winner announcements, but, well, here we are... finally sharing the lucky winners. .

Below are the winners of the last two giveaways. Drumroll, please...

Winners of the novel, Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg:

- Areykah H.

- Maria J.

Congrats, winners! Your books are on the way to the addresses you provided and should arrive next week. Hope you enjoy Melissa's new novel as much as I did.

Winner of the novel, Silenced by Dani Pettrey:

- Courtney C.

Congrats, Courtney! Your book will be mailed after this holiday weekend. Hope you enjoy Dani's thrilling series!

Hip, hip hooray! So excited for you ladies. Thank you everyone who participated in these giveaways - all were fun and I appreciate your participation and help in getting the word out. Keep an eye out, because I've got more to come this month. What can I say, May has been a good book month. *wink*

Until then, Happy Saturday - it's the unofficial start to summer, everyone! How time does fly.

Wishing you all good reading.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

From Dani Pettrey...

Hello, readers. I know everyone saw it on Dani Pettrey's awesome Book Banter event with Bethany House, however, I couldn't resist sharing the new title and cover for her final Alaskan Courage series. You knew, I would, right?? *grin*

The title is Sabotaged and the cover art is:

Isn't it gorgeous? All of the details the designer put into this, color scheme and concept is perfect. What do you like about it? Easily, I can say, this one is one of my very favorites of the five, and with this buzz and excitement, Winter 2015 is a date to circle on the calendar.
Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and trouble maker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now paired together on Yancey’s search and rescue canine unit, they begin to put aside old arguments as they come to see other in a different light. Then a call comes in from the Iditarod that will push them to their limits. - Dani Pettrey
Also in her book banter, Dani gave us a teaser of what's next! Here it is:
Up next will be a brand new four book series that is set in the Chesapeake Bay region. I'm super excited to get to share my neck of the woods with you all. The first book will be out Fall 2015. - Dani Pettrey
Excited much? Yep, I know I sure am. 

Bittersweet as it will be to say good-bye to this family, I'm looking forward to what Dani has next for her readers and am sure it will be memorable. 

Alaskan Courage book reviews:
Submerged ▪ ShatteredStranded ▪ Silenced

Congratulations, Dani.
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Confessions of a Bookaholic

Morning, friends! Fridays are meant to be about fun (I'm right about this, aren't I??), so I figured that it was appropriate to answer this fun book quiz meme that I was tagged in by Lianne this past week (thanks a million, Lianne!), and since I've talked more than enough in the following answers, I'll quit talking now.

What are your top three book pet hates?
This is a tough question because there are certain things within books that bother me as a reader. But I’ll try to come up with general answers…

  • Most of the time, I don’t like “too much” of any one thing in a book – especially if it’s as if the author has tried “too hard” to incorporate it into the storyline. When there is constant reference to something, it makes the book more irritating than enjoyable.
  • Books in the same series that aren’t “matching” – design, size, etc. Silly, maybe, but there you have it. (Echoing Lianne on this one.)

 Describe your perfect reading spot.
I cannot say that I have a “perfect” reading spot. Some days I’m comfy in my corner of the couch, other times it’s on the front porch on a cool evening. There have been places that I’ve drifted away in the story and enjoyed being – in fact, I just visited Whisper Shore, Michigan (Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg) and Alaska (Silenced by Dani Pettrey), but I’m not a girl who has that one spot where I can be found. It’s really more about the book than it is the place.

Tell us three book confessions.

  • I’m not a reader of classic literature.
  • Silly confession: When I get frustrated for not getting to select books on my bookshelf that are anticipated, I’ll pull them out, reread the synopsis and am (usually) satisfied. (What can I say? This girl is easy to please.) Why? Because I like to save the best for last despite the anticipation - it gives me something to look forward to, this is especially helpful if I’m reading something that is boring. Motivation  is sometimes needed.
  • When I was a teen, I used to be able to read fast. Maybe because I didn’t like being outside or maybe because, my reading tastes have changed, but today, I am slower than a turtle. Part of this is because, as a book reviewer (who also happens to be passionate about writing), I want to be able to give my best attention to a book – particularly to those novels that have been generously sent to me for the purpose of reviewing. As a result, unless the book is a quick “chick-lit”-like read, no matter how I’ve tried, usually I *cannot* skim read – I miss too much!
  • And bonus, a fourth confession: I don’t own an e-reader.

When was the last time you cried during a book?
Good question. Because I’m more an internal feeler, I am not sure if I could remember the last time I cried while reading a book… *thinking*

How many books are on your bedside table?

This is a list that could constitute an entire quiz entry all on its own – the first list are must-read review commitments, the second are books I’ve been reading in-between and sidelined because of reviewing, or *really* want to be reading.  Here’s visual proof and a list with Goodreads links.

What is your favorite snack while you’re reading?

I’m not a reader who snacks while reading. But if I do have something, it’s usually a cup of Café Mocha.

Name three books you would recommend to everyone.
How to answer this question? Seriously, this is something I don't feel is easy to answer because we all have such different opinions of what makes a book great which I love, but I recognize this as making it hard to know what to or how to recommend books to everyone. That has to be done on a more personal level - by considering what the person has liked in the past or sharing honestly what you thought of a book, then you let the person decide whether or not it's right for them. 

There is really only one book I can think of that I’ve actually read that I’d say “everyone” should at least try to read.

Show us a picture of your favorite bookshelf
on your bookcase.

Um, I’m sorry but all of my bookshelves are favorites – there’s no favoritism here (*grin*), especially now that I’m in the “cleaning house” stage of my book life. Meaning, I’m busily sorting out books that a.) I’ve had for 5-10 years and never read or b.) I’m never going read again. Hence, here is photo of one of my bookcases.

 Write how much books mean to you
in just three words.
Adventure. Inspiration. Journey.

What is your biggest reading secret?
Well, I'd tell you, but… *wink*
No, really, I don’t think there is a “secret” in the traditional sense of the word though I will say, I’ve found it very helpful to know what I like and what just doesn’t work for me. That’s why I’m in full on bookshelf “spring cleaning” mode, and why I’m selective in what I read. There’ve been times when that instinct hasn’t failed me and times when what I had in mind wasn’t at all what the book was about. Most of all, I don’t like feeling bored in a story or as if I have to force myself through a book – first and foremost stories are meant to be entertaining, charming, enchanting, transforming, and if there is depth or an underlying theme of faith that touches our heart then that makes the book all the more beautiful.

Thank you - again - for the tag, Lianne.
Now, anyone else what to join in? If so, please do as I would love to read some of you book bloggers replies to this fun quiz - you know who you are, and be sure to drop back by with your link if you participate as I'd love to read your post!
Happy Memorial Day weekend, friends. Hope you have a good book at hand. 
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Paradise, Series Two (2013)

Back when I saw the first season of this pretty piece of candy, it took the entire 8-episode span to convince me its material was… clever. At the start of the second series, an entire year has passed and the ambitious John Moray (Emun Elliott) has been exiled to Paris after spurning his fiancée, Katherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy) and subsequently giving up ownership of his prized possession – The Paradise. A well-to-do shopper’s haven, Katherine’s father took over ownership after Moray broke his daughter’s heart and now it’s in Katherine’s hands. Embarrassed and heartbroken over her ruined alliance with Moray – and for being tossed aside for a shop girl, Katherine has since married a widower and military man, Tom Weston (Ben Daniels) whose own past is shady and full of secrets.

With the death of her father, the Weston’s now have the Paradise and are settling into Katherine’s childhood home, which is no longer full of joy thanks to her cold husband. This drives Katherine to transfer her energies into raising Tom’s daughter and prompts her to send for Moray to again be the manager of the store. Though apart, the love between Moray and the young shop girl, Denise (Joanna Vanderham) has blossomed. Over letters, the two reaffirm their love and upon his return Denise accepts his marriage proposal though she is in no rush to marry lest she have to give up her newly-appointed promotion at The Paradise. When the return of Jonas stirs up old feelings of resentment, financial strains and clandestine meetings, a game of wits is waged.

TV SERIES REVIEW | The Paradise, Series One

One thing you should know up front about these characters is that while there are lines drawn between good and evil, all of the characters are manipulating someone to their advantage. Figuring out motives is tough, the guesswork in that sense is genius because though we know there is an endless bid to gain advantage, we’re always hesitant to what ends that ambition will swing. Having gotten that out of the way, I will say that I still quite adore The Paradise. It’s not just a sweet confection that is pretty to look at, there’s darkness around corners and fretful personalities who aren’t above allowing secrets to go to the grave should that prove necessary.

Some faces are missing this season – like Katherine’s father, and there are some new characters who adequately replace them. In place of the silly shop girl, Pauline is now Susy, a girl who may be dense, but grew up without advantages and of course there is the return of the main characters in addition to Clara and Dudley. The most unforgivable add-in was the pursuit of more politically correct material – the girls encounter a feminist (and more) as well as an introduction to a photographer who catches Clara’s eye yet is perhaps an addition so as not to be outdone by Downton Abbey. Denise changes the most drastically in this season and grows all the more comfortable in her role, so much so it makes us pause and wonder if she and Moray will end up being nothing more than lovers who will never commit. In that respect there is a sense of resolution at the end of season two, especially knowing what had come before Denise’s brilliant plan to help “fix” matters.

Ironically, there is a shift of personalities and in some sense power, where Denise gains more power (and if possible, more confidence) Katherine becomes a figure of pity. She has her moments of bitter resentment that leave us with a bad impression yet overall, it’s almost as if we regret her not getting what it was she always wanted. Almost. Mostly, I was still not as fond of her as other characters. The Paradise is part complex study and if analyzed beyond its surface (which is dazzling), it can reveal ugly secrets and what’s more, unfortunate characters. That being said, I have enjoyed its brief two-season run. This series has heartwarming instances of joy (including an imaginative episode that involves a “haunting” event at the store or a script that brings all of the workers together to jointly put on a stage performance) or getting caught up in the moments between Denise and Moray even if I don’t always respect their love story.
Fellow costume drama aficionados, what’d you think of the second and final season? Did you like it better than prior installments or was it on the same playing field…
Or fans who have finally seen season one, what did you like or dislike about this series? Thoughts are always welcome!

(Parental review: it’s implied an unmarried couple is intimate and a married man propositions more than one woman. Much ado is made over a bi-sexual character [for one episode] and there is one same-sex kiss. There is some minor violent content.)
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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Favorite Friendships

Clearly, I have a problem.

A reading conundrum if you will. As I was preparing to happily put together a Top Ten Tuesday "all about friendships" - which I naturally assumed would be as fun as it could be complicated, because, let's face it, relationships are complicated - I realized when searching my literal bookshelves and later my virtual ones that I hadn't read many books in which the friendships were primary or so memorable that they immediately leapt to mind. (You guys really have to help me correct this. Pretty, please?) Instead of skipping out, I decided to expand my search parameters by eliminating the stipulation that the book had to be about friendship, and include film and television, and luckily, I came up with enough BFF's to satisfy a list.

Ten Books About Friendship
Here are the friendships that have stuck with me, and in my perspective, lasted through "thick and thin."  
Emma and Liv from Bride Wars
Typical chick flick flair, this film didn't sit well with many people, however, sad as it is, it is a good depiction of a typical bestie relationship - and unlike some, it wound up being stronger for the trouble it went through.

Lizzie and Charlotte from Pride & Prejudice
Yes, these two first appear in a book but since I've never read the book, I figured I put them under the film category - plus I'm quite fond of the Youtube sensation version of these two. You know who I mean.

Mia and Lily from The Princess Diaries
I'm pretty sure that from the moment we heard Lily blurt in response to Mia's timid question, " look ridiculous. You should sue," we knew she was the best best friend for the new Princess Mia.

The Girls of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
Who doesn't love these four girls? Between the four, they're fun, sassy, shy and opinionated.

Cassidy and Allison from Dare to Love Again
Since many of my relationships with cousins are more than just seeing them at holidays - I grew up with cousins being my BFF's, any cousin-friendship has a special place in my heart. These two were lots of fun together!

Issy and Lucy from My Foolish Heart
I loved this friendship. It wasn't the focus of the book, however it felt like it could have played a larger role and been the best of the book. Issy's fear is something Lucy takes in stride while still trying to be what Issy needs - which is challenging her to emerge from the fear that drives her life.

Veronica and McKenna from Doon
Out of everyone else on the book list, this is probably the book (story) that is most friendship driven. There's an interesting dynamic to this friendship just because of their journey into a Brigedoon-esque world - both girls meet the perfect "guy," but where one wants to stay behind, the other longs to return to the modern world, and she keeps that from everyone around her.
Cal and Gillian from Lie to Me
Up until its ill-time series cancellation, this show (mostly) stepped back from putting on romantic sparks between its two leads. I'm the girl who is the biggest fan of putting a leading male/lady together in a show, however my gripe is that once the writer's do put couples together, we get a moment of happiness after waiting forever and then, something happens that ruins the romance, which effectively kills the solid, memorable, touching friendship that they spent years building. 

Diane Lockhart and Will Gardner from The Good Wife
My mom and I watched this show up until a couple seasons ago and for me, one of the best things about it was this friendship. It was complicated and far from "perfect," but the inspiration is that no matter how difficult things got, these two always found a way to work through everything. Googling this show would reveal that is gone because of a fatal change, but I've still got fond memories.

the Doctor and Amy Pond from Doctor Who
What more can be said about these two? They are and were awesome together. Bring them back.

Lavon and Zoe from Hart of Dixie
Zoe still has a lot to learn about being a real friend, but by taking advantage of Lavon (let's face it, she's done that one too many times - but then there was the one time when he showed up at an inconvenient time with a bag of donuts and Zoe helped him "eat" his feelings), Zoe has matured from Lavon's friendship and has even learned that putting other people's feelings before your own isn't such a bad thing.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson from Sherlock
There are so many inturpretations of these characters - RDJ and Jude Law, Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, but seriously, anyone who has seen series three has to agree, the BBC's contemporary re-telling does it up right.

Veronica and Wallace from Veronica Mars
Loved these two in the show. Love these two in the movie. Basically, yep, I love these two. 
So... my question to you all today, what are some lighthearted, girly novels I need to read that are all about friendships? Young adult, contemporary fiction, I'm all ears! Let me know which I should look out for first.
 Toss the recommendations my way.
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Monday, May 19, 2014

The House that Love Built by Beth Wiseman

About the Book:
Author: Beth Wiseman
Source: Publisher Provided
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2013
Find the Review Elsewhere:
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5
Never reading anything by Beth Wiseman meant that upon opening this novel, there were no expectations. Regardless of a slow beginning, this novel shaped up to be a splendid story full of idiosyncrasies and romanticism that many novelists cannot capture to the page. Looking up Beth’s previous work reveals this story is uncharacteristic to her usual writing, meaning this is a rare departure for her as she tells a contemporary romance about a woman named Brooke Holloway, who is raising her two children after losing her husband to a tragic accident while busily operating her hardware store. Into their small Texas town comes Owen, a man smarting from his own past involving a painful divorce and in an effort to spite his wife, he purchases her dream house, working to restore it to its former glory. When these two cross paths – amidst the most unusual circumstances, their hearts are reawakened and they discover the healing powers of letting go… and forgiveness.

If done well, I’m a sucker for stories that “blend” families. This book isn’t as seeped in that premise as some because its leading man isn’t emotionally navigating single fatherhood. What sets apart this work of fiction is its storytelling proficiency and by extension, its fabulous characteristics – the ability to entertain is parallel to none and its characters unforgettable. Woven into the heart of the story are pretty, thought-provoking idiosyncrasies that make everything book-ending them “pop” with personality. I loved Owen. I loved Brooke. I loved the silly antics. I loved the poignant plots carefully embedded in the narrative. All these things are important to any good – or entertaining novel, and this sweet piece of quirky fiction has them all.  

Where some readers could be bothered by Owen’s mindset towards his wife, I felt that the healing process and the pacing was captured beautifully. He arrives embittered and wanting to inflict pain only to – before he or Brooke realize, be “saved” from his own sense of self-justice and pity through his friendship with Brooke and her children. Navigating a would-be or even, any kind of relationship between these two protagonists is perhaps something “tired” because of the circumstances, but it’s in the “awkward” moments this story is allowed to be at its best – the one scene in particular involves an evening between Brooke and Owen, and her disastrous attempts at making the night be more than what they agreed to ask of the other. Somehow the thought process behind this and the scene itself worked because it was genuinely told. These are what brings the story full circle and gives it a meaningful bent. 

Honestly, I could have done without one or two of the minor subplots, but that isn’t enough of a complainant or detractor for me to chatter about. Between one sullen teenager, a story about a woman who isn’t right in the head (yep, this one made me giggle), a bushel of hidden treasure and a nomad uncle, this is a story built from love.  

Synopsis: Brooke has only loved one man. Owen's heart is filled with bitterness. Can a mysterious house bring them together for a second chance at love?

In the small town of Smithville, Texas, Brooke Holloway is raising six-year-old Meghan and ten-year-old Spencer on her own two years after her husband's death. Being a single-mom and running the family's local hardware store keep her busy.

While Meghan longs for a daddy, Spencer has threatened to run away if Brooke even goes out on a date. But the last thing on Brooke's mind is falling in love. When a stranger moves to town and buys a house with a mysterious past, Brooke can't contain her curiosity. As she spends time with the new owner, she wonders if maybe God is giving her another chance at happiness.

Owen Saunders fled the big city to start over in a small, rural town famous for baking the world's largest gingerbread man. Then he bought an old house to restore-for all the wrong reasons. If anything needs restoration, it is Owen's heart in the aftermath of his failed marriage. With little hope and lost faith, Owen is tempted by happiness when he meets Brooke, but his heart remains sealed shut.

As they learn more about Owen's house, one thing becomes obvious to both of them: God has put them together for a reason. - Goodreads 
Coming next from Beth Wiseman: Mallory's search for happiness leads her to a faraway place. There she finds heartache, betrayal—and danger. Can the only man she's ever loved rescue her before it's too late?

Mallory Hammond is determined not to let her boyfriend, parents, or anyone else get in the way of her #1 goal—to save a life. She had that chance when she was a teenager, and the opportunity slipped away, leaving a void she's desperate to fill. Then a new friend she met online offers her the chance she’s dreamed of. But she'll have to leave behind everyone she loves to take it.

Tate Webber has loved Mallory for years. He understands that Mallory's free spirit has to fly, and when he gives her the space she needs, he hopes that when she lands, the two of them will be in the same place and can marry at last.

In a bold move—and with lots of resistance from Tate and those closest to her—Mallory decides to travel across the world to fulfill her dream. Tate begs her not to go, but Mallory embarks on the dangerous journey to Pakistan anyway, only to discover how swiftly and easily promises can be broken. Her new friend isn't who he says he is. And Mallory can only pray she'll make it out alive.

Inspired by actual events, this riveting story will take you on a wild journey and have you asking yourself: How far would I go for love? - via Goodreads, September 2014
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for INSPYs consideration.
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tonight on Hallmark Channel!

It's Sunday which means there is another episode of Signed, Sealed, Delivered about to be sent to us from the dead  letter postal team via Hallmark Channel.

This fifth episode, "The Edge of Forever" follows the #POstables gang as they take a journey to bring together two sisters who have been estranged for years and are now locked in a disagreement over their mother's final resting place - it's their mother's final words that will determine the future of sisters, Katie and Vanessa, and be her greatest gift to them.

Highlights of this episode include more "depth" to the push-and-pull relationship between Oliver and Shane - well, that and seeing Rita on roller skates, and overall, just the story arc between the two sisters - the history between them is particularly moving. Unusual to the past pattern of this show, I did feel like the pacing felt too easily "wrapped up," or as if  it wasn't as effortless this time - things seemed to rush through, making the story feel more forced. But  I can appreciate the evils of time constraint and given its hour time slot - an hour that is meant to stand alone, that is always an issue. What I'm enjoying about this series above some of its peers is the poignant storylines. The writer's aren't "afraid" of ending or beginning a script with bittersweet emotions and while the mood of the show remains upbeat, there is a genuine, real quality to its storytelling that I admire.

If you've been keeping up with the series, don't miss tonight's episode! It's one sent from the heart.

What do you think of this latest Hallmark Channel show?

Miss an episode? Buy them on Amazon
Watch episode five tonight, May 18th on Hallmark Channel
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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Silenced by Dani Pettrey

About the Book:
Author: Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Author, publisher
Publication Date: May 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Series: Alaskan Courage, Book 4
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
Rating: 5 out of 5
There is nothing quite so disappointing as a series that introduces us to a cast of beloved characters – whether they’re considered primary or secondary, only for some of them to never have their own story. Most series come out as the usual three-book trilogy, which for the best kind of books is never enough. Coming across a series that spans five books and covers all of its family members – the McKenna siblings, was something I hadn’t anticipated so learning it was a journey with talented suspense author, Dani Pettrey was a very good thing. Silenced is book four in the adventurous, Alaskan-set series about a group of five siblings, which focuses on eldest sister, Kayden McKenna and the man who has quietly loved her. Ever since the McKenna’s “adopted” him, Jake Westin’s troubled past – one he fled from in Boston, has slowly healed by loving Kayden. Only trouble is, Jake’s love is unrequited. Mistrusting Jake’s unusual knowledge of criminology and refusal to reveal his past, Kayden closes off her heart to him with no promise to accept the honorary McKenna until the truth of his past is exposed, and when events place Kayden with Jake – particularly when she discovers a body during a family day of rock climbing, the McKenna family must chase the truth to piece together a mystery.

Anyone who puts up with my book tweets will know that I read at the pace of a turtle, which is why I have to confess that I devoured the better part of this book in one day. Peeps, it was that good. For those of us who are “team McKenna,” this is the book that Dani has built up to be the “one” we were all anxious to get our hands on. It wasn’t long in book one before we realized Jake’s heart had been given to Kayden, which meant all that was left was for the readers to figuratively cheer on Kayden to wake up to the depth of that love. For multiple reasons, this was the book that left me breathlessly awaiting its arrival, one of which I’ve talked about enough and won’t bore you. The other being the subtlety with which this love story was crafted, the care with which it was handled – anyone who thought that the actual story wouldn’t live up to the teasing, I think it’s safe to say, everyone is going to appreciate Jake and Kayden’s story. It’s full-on in excitement and the love story is all the more precious because of the bantering story between these two characters. Before reading Silenced, I’d learned that the format took a different approach than the normal suspense novel which raises curiosity, however, in reading the book, I can confidently say that it’s proof that the upkeep of a secret can be revealed prior to the final ten pages and brilliantly, can work – and be very effective. In Pettrey’s hands, there is no lost gap between the guessing game reveal we expected to last until the final remnants and the final half of the book – it remains a solid page-turner.

There are adventurous books that struggle with meeting a happy medium of keeping the reader turning the pages to propel an escape from the “danger” chasing the characters and good character building. This is not one of those novels. The characters are magic in this series, which is what makes the suspense work so well – it’s the characters who bring it all together. To some, Kayden may seem a heroine difficult to relate to because she doesn’t effortlessly open up or outwardly show love; she’s an internal person who loves fiercely, and she is passionately loyal to family and their traditions. The girl doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve which is what makes her such a strong person – and in a way, this is also her greatest weakness and what makes her fragile, and as a reader, I love her all the more for who she is, not what the expectation of who she should be is. Then there is Jake. (*swoon*) I cannot tell you all what a fantastic hero he is. In some ways, he’s very much like Kayden – loyal, protective, kind, moral, and secretive. These two are well matched – Jake is going to have to draw Kayden about of the protective shell she’s made for herself, and similarly, Kayden – even if unintentionally! – has opened up Jake’s heart to the fullest love, just the way God intended.

Coming to book four is bittersweet. As I reluctantly closed the final page of this novel, I realized again how close we are to the end of these Alaskan adventures (happy with Silenced, we are back “at home”) that come alive in our mind so easily. There are weddings (I cannot say how beautifully Cole and Bailey’s wedding sequence was – I loved that we had Cole’s point-of-view when it was most important), more insight to youngest sibling Reef and I suspect, we have met the girl who is about to steal his heart. With her flair for descriptive scenery, beautiful family ties and adventure that is more than just one-dimensional, Dani Pettrey has again written another 5-star piece of high-stakes escapism. These aren’t just books that have found a spot on my shelf, they’re books about people I feel like I know. That’s the best kind of story there is.

                                                Fun Extras
now-May 21st

Synopsis: Romantic Suspense's Rising Star Returns with an Electric New Thriller

A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna's route leads her face to face with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something sinister? When the case is handed to the overburdened sheriff, he turns to Jake Westin. With Jake's past now revealed, he's ready to use his talent for investigation again--but he could never prepare for where the case will take him.

Kayden and Jake soon realize that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is on to them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger. But the truth is far worse than he could ever imagine. - Goodreads

Coming Next from Dani Pettrey: Reef's story, which arrives Spring 2015.

Sincere thanks to author Dani Pettrey (and publisher) for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

© Copyright 2011-2014 Dreaming Under the Same Moon / Scribbles, Scripts and Such
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