The Musketeers (2014)


When it comes to swashbuckling adventures, I’m not sure modern cinema has anything better than Disney’s original Pirates of the Caribbean film starring Johnny Depp. Clearly, the British thought it’d be fun to challenge that. 
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Truth be Told by Carol Cox


About the Book:
Author: Carol Cox
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Publisher Provided
Publication Date: 2014
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Genre: Fiction; Historical, Inspirational
Rating: 3 out of 5
 
Trying new authors always suggests there is some kind of “risk” involved. Either we’ll walk away with a beautiful new story to fill our minds for times to come and a new favorite pen to share about with friends or we come away disappointed. Whatever the case, sometimes the happy medium is just enjoying an easy story. This book, the third from Carol Cox’s Bethany House line of novels, introduces us to Amelia Wagner, a smart, opinionated daughter of a journalist father. Ever since her parent’s separation, Amelia has lived with her mother in the city, enjoying every advantage most society girls dream of. Only Amelia isn’t like most girls. She’d rather follow in her father’s footsteps and when she returns to Arizona to learn that her father is ill and soon after he dies, she decides to take up not just his mantle but also the story he was chasing about the Great Western company – a story that leads her straight into the path of Ben Stone, a “company man,” who has his own task to accomplish.
 
Considering I’d never read any of Carol’s books (I own her prior two), I thought it’d be fun to give one of her novels a shot. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get interested in this one. It has a nice message and some of the morals it explores are interesting, there just didn’t seem to be the same kind of depth that most of its peers do. For starters the characters didn’t shine. Amelia has a moment in the beginning when she puts a young flirt in his place – something that instantly had me liking her and expecting a spunky girl, so the further I read into the story, the more I expected I’d be fond of her character only she never really become “real” beyond that point. Same goes for Ben. Sure, I liked him and respected him for respecting Amelia, but again, he never really “came off the page,” which is something we should search for and not unrealistically expect of a good novel.
 
What is interesting is the embedded message in this novel about searching for and following our convictions of truth no matter where it leads. In this, there was no disconnect, however the plot overshadowed the ability for the reader to connect with its protagonists. Amelia’s journey led her to the right place, which is nothing to undermine and while I have no intention of doing that, in some ways, the greatest of her strengths was also the overall downfall of the idea. With little time left in the story, there is some breath-catching will-they-or-won’t-they in determining if a dire situation will be resolved with a happier conclusion. There are some cute bits of banter including a consistently interrupted kiss. If you like the western genre or the popular, Mary Connealy, check into Truth be Told. It just may be the summer read you are looking for.
 
(Goodreads) Synopsis: When Amelia Wagner takes over the running of her father's newspaper in Granite Springs, Arizona, she vows to carry on the paper's commitment to reporting only the truth. But Amelia soon learns that even the truth can have consequences. Her father's revealing articles about Great Western Investment Company's business methods have caught the notice of the wrong person, and pressure mounts for Amelia to retract her father's statements.

Determined to find the truth, Amelia goes through her father's notes and begins to interview members of the community. She can't seem to shake Benjamin Stone, a Great Western employee who's been assigned to keep tabs on her for the good of the company.

The more Ben and Amelia learn, the more Amelia's father's claims appear to be accurate. In fact, it's probably worse than he realized. Even Ben is beginning to wonder if he's become a pawn in the workings of a corrupt empire. But Great Western isn't about to stand for a female reporter and one of their own men bringing down their lucrative schemes. Working against time, and never knowing what danger lurks around the next corner, Ben and Amelia set out to reveal all they've discovered before Great Western silences them for good.
 
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
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A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge - Food, Family and Faith



About the Book:
Publisher: WaterBrook Press 
Source: Publisher provided via Blogging for Books
Publication Date: 2014
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Series: A Table for Two (or Two Blue Doors), book 1
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary
Rating: ★★★★★
Some novel beginnings are humble and quiet, expanding from where they start, kind of like a warm loaf of fresh, homemade bread has to first grow and expand before it can be baked, so goes this stories opening. This is an apropos reference considering this novel is actually, primarily about food – eating food, creating food, and us living vicariously through the lives - and food! - of the people behind those concoctions. It’s leading, first-person narrative is Juliette D’Alisa, the youngest child of six in a French-Italian family who comes from a two-parent restaurant family. Juliette – or Etta as she is sometimes called, is now a food critic following a failed restaurant she was a part of with her brother and his friend, Eric, a man who was once more to Juliette. Now, years later, her brother Nico is planning to start a new restaurant and he wants Juliette to be a part of it, only trouble is, her life has just gotten more complicated – she’s taking on more work responsibilities and as luck would have it, she’s met a guy who could maybe – just maybe, be the one she’s been waiting for.

Despite my pickiness about the whole first person narrative, this is one I didn’t mind being written as such. Add in some letters (emails do count) and a fun-loving family, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a lovely 200+ page novel. First things first, I liked that this novel kept things short and sweet. The book was long enough, but not overlong, which is perfect because it used its space wisely and didn’t ever seem to be moving too fast even with the pages using parts of its ending chapters to share recipes; in fact, if any pacing issue is mentionable, it would be that it lags in the beginning, which is really the only complaint I have – it’s minor, believe me. Beyond that, this book is gorgeous. There is something complexly “different” about it that causes us to sit up and take notice - this is one of those stories where we find beauty in the norm and quiet of what it has to say. The romance is “barely there” in terms of being “present” or maybe the better description would be that we don’t get a lot of face to face time between the two, yet what is was elegant and developed with class and where I’m concerned it didn’t hurt a thing that most of the defining moments happen through letters – what can I say, I’m an old-fashioned romantic sometimes – and of course, when we do have the pleasure of meeting the guy through Juliette’s eyes, we instantly fall for him because, well, he’s pretty awesome and then that ending… (happy) sigh.

Considering this is a series that is going to stick with Juliette as its continuing protagonist (instead of the usual three-book series about differing characters), there are unresolved issues in this book. One being, her romantic future, another being certain family tragedies that occur, then there is her work – is the restaurant going to work or will Juliette find a new passion on her journey? So many questions are left hanging in the air and yet, even not knowing much about Hillary’s pen, I’ve a good feeling that in her hands, Juliette will get the best possible story a girl could ever want – that and plenty of food.

Synopsis: The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurant dynasty, food writer Juliette D’Alisa has spent her life negotiating her skill with words and her restaurant aspirations. When her brother Nico offers her a chance to open a restaurant together, she feels torn—does she really have what it takes? Should she risk leaving her journalism career?

After the death of her grandmother, Juliette discovers an antique photograph of a man who looks strikingly like her brother. As the truth behind the picture reveals romance and dark secrets, Juliette struggles to keep the mystery away from her nosy family until she can uncover the whole story.

Inspired by her grandmother’s evolving story, Juliette resolves to explore the world of online dating. To her surprise, she finds a kindred spirit in Neil McLaren, a handsome immunologist based in Memphis, Tennessee. With a long-distance relationship simmering, Juliette faces life-shifting decisions. How can she possibly choose between a promising culinary life and Neil, a man a world away in more ways than one? And is it possible her Grandmother’s story can help show the way?
- Goodreads

Coming Next from Hillary Manton Lodge: Reservations for Two, arrives in 2015.

Sincere thanks to the publisher (Blogging for Books) for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
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Cover Love + New Stories


Morning, friends. I really should be sharing with you all about some AWESOME new books I read - including Susan May Warren's latest as well as the lovely Hillary Manton Lodge's, but well, one I have to hold off on until it's posted elsewhere and the other... well, I'm not quite happy with the review yet. But since I've done almost nothing around here except review things, I figured it was time for something else. This leads me to that something else I love talking about almost as much (or maybe more) as what's inside the book: the cover art!

Some of today's features don't have cover art, but their plots are out there for the world, others I have seen the cover art popping up here and there, but don't think the author has put it up on Facebook nor has it appeared on Amazon (which usually seems a good judge of whether or not a cover is "officially" introduced to the world), so I didn't collect those, then there are some that have covers, but oddly enough don't have their synopsis' out yet. Hmm...

Anyway, I found some pretties thanks to author reveals, Goodreads or Amazon and if you aren't bored with having seen some of these around already, let me know what you think of these!
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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)


The Mortal Instruments City of Bones

Considering this blog’s content has turned into a series of mushy TV films with the occasional book review, I figured, lest you readers get tired - and this blog would fall into a puddle, of reading all that’s “darling” in the world of filmmaking, it might be time to shake things up a bit. This brings me to our film review of the day, The Mortal Instruments.

Clary (Lily Collins) is an ordinary girl living with her mother in New York. Or so she thought. Her artistic abilities are intensifying and terrified she’ll remember something her mother (Lena Headey) puts a cap on Clary’s memories and puts off telling Clary the truth of her birth against the better advice of her best friend. All of that changes when Clary along with best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan) sneak into a club and instead of dancing, she witnesses a murder by three young people covered in markings is committed right in front of her – a scene she seems the only witness to. This makes Clary desperate to know the truth of herself – why is she seeing what no one else can? What do her desperate drawings mean that she doesn’t even remembering doing?  

When her mother is kidnapped, she is forced to team up with the man who she saw commit murder, his name is Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower). Jace is a Shadowhunter, a person committed to saving the world from daemons, and Clary suddenly seems to be in the same line when she gets “the sight,” but at what cost is her embracing of her newly found powers going to demand? And what does her mother’s disappearance have to do with a past Clary cannot remember…? 

One of the biggest trends at the box office in recent years is adapting popular novels – particularly in the YA genre. Some work, others don’t. With this young adult novel, there were mixed results. For my part, I found it to be about a dark, depraved world that while, full of great imagery, seemed to be a little too focused on the bad rather than the good. Overlooking all of the themes that are disturbing or go against what Christianity believes, this film is in its own way, exceptional. There was a lot of creative thinking that went into its production and I can never fault something for being “different” – I’m the girl who fell head over heels for the charms of Penelope or Warm Bodies, so sometimes it’s the unusual that gets me most intrigued. That is certainly the mold that fits this adaptation. Prior to the film’s release, the buzz of it inspired me to purchase the book and while I did page through it – reading the synopsis, the various notes or reading on-line articles, I never felt it a pressing matter to actually read the novel, and having seen the film, I don’t really regret never reading the book. What is potentially troubling pales in comparison to some of the themes in the novel and while, it can be a better experience to read the book-to-film order, I trust in the opinions of the people I’ve had this conversation with. 

Some of the things that were interesting about this film were the creative vision behind bringing the story to life. I watched the making-of feature that featured author, Cassandra Clare who seemed a genuine advocate of the filmmaking vision of her story. That alone brooks encouragement and even as someone who hasn’t read the novel, I can appreciate the visionary. First off, the characters were intricately written with not just some cool character traits but also a cool “look.” Everyone had their own style, and were dark and brooding or normal and relatable in equal parts. Where the Shadowhunters proved the former, Clary and Simon were the center, the two people who were a normal the viewers could relate to – particularly Simon whom I absolutely loved. His character is a big reason this film works as well as it does, because he lends much needed realism to the overview.  

A flop at the box office has pushed back production on the sequel and while there were things I liked about this production – all of which I’ve noted already, it’s hard to understand purely from a cinematic standpoint why this one was so… “blah.” It’s got nearly everything there needs to be to be a balm to even the most ardent fangirl’s heart. But then, perhaps that’s why it was such a disappointment – there can be danger in too much mayhem, and if there is one thing this film does well, it’s mayhem. 
 
Content: the PG13 material in this includes demons and a “sacred” cup that is supposed to transform people into the half-human/half-angel supernatural. There is plenty of violence and scenes of frightening creatures that transform from their human form into werewolves, or other creatures of the night. Vampires play a role as do warlocks. There is some inference of homosexuality; Clary and Jace kiss and are later told they’re siblings. There are some additional innuendoes. H*ll, da*n, etc. are used.)
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The Memory Book (2014) - Two Love Stories Collide



This telefilm snagged my attention for two reasons. First, it was a part of a favorite networks 2014 lineup and secondly, it starred a familiar face, a Once Upon a Time alum who enjoyed a recurring role and grew to be a fan favorite. When I had the chance to see it, I didn’t hesitate – in fact, I took extra time to see it. 

Life for Chloe Sullivan (Meghan Ory) is safe. She isn’t the kind of girl who buys into love that lasts forever – it’s reflected in her bad upbringing and in her photographs. Instead of finding joy in people, Chloe views the world more bleakly and captures stone structures rather than happy expressions… all of which is before she meets Gabe (Luke Macfarlane). A lawyer-turned-bartender-turned-wannabe-chef, Gabe is the kind of guy who likes to live life – and not just safely, but actually take chances, calling it just as he sees it, which is what makes him unattractive to Chloe and her irresistible to him. When Chloe finds an old scrapbook full of the kind of memories she wants – the kind of love she wants, her journey to find the owners puts her again in the path of Gabe and whether she likes it or not, the guy gets under her skin… she’s just not so sure about her heart.   


Every once in a while a TV film comes along that separates itself from the rest of the pack and for me that was this movie. Sure, it’s still a happy-go-lucky “cute” dish of happy circumstances, but it’s a non-blockbuster, Saturday-night-staying-in kind of flick that “has style.” On occasion (rare though it was), the conviction with which Chloe searched for the people in the memory book does come off as a tiny bit off-putting. Not because it isn’t admirable or because it doesn’t make for a charming story, more because even knowing who she is, we wonder why she has to piece the riddle together in order to justify what the outcome of her love life could be vs. what it will (in her mind) be. Aside from this minor complaint, I really cannot think of anything else. The writing is snappy and oh my, the leading couple…!  

From the moment we see the “meet cute” between these two, I was already grinning silly and easily knew this was going to be my kind of movie. Peeps, the banter between these two is darling. Or maybe it’s just the “natural” ebb and flow of their dialogue or could it be that for once both leading roles were filled to perfection? I don’t know what it was, honestly. Whatever, it was a ton of fun to experience and something that is hard not to get caught up in because of it. Beyond that, there is a nice story running parallel to Chloe and Gabe’s that works nicely with the “bigger picture” of the script – and is also concluded to everyone’s satisfaction. 
 

The acting is good as I have already alluded to in my earlier gushing and there are a couple of big name superstars from the past that will pop up. Filming isn't half bad and whatever is said (as regards her character), I liked Chloe’s work. Seeing her views of life through the lens was a cool, artistic addition that works seamlessly into the plot. If you like Nicholas Sparks-esque stories (albeit ones that take a lighter approach to romance) or movie’s that have a “complete package” kind of ending, be sure to tune into this all-new premiere. It’s easily one of my favorite chick flicks of this year.  

If you watch this or have seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. The comment section is yours. 
 

Photos: Hallmark / Crown Media Press
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A Woman of Fortune by Kellie Coates Gilbert


Synopsis: Texas socialite Claire Massey is living the dream. Her world is filled with designer clothes, luxury cars, and stunning homes. But her Neiman-Marcus lifestyle comes crashing down when her charming cattle broker husband is arrested for fraud. Suddenly, she finds herself facing attorneys, a media frenzy, and a trail of broken hearts. Betrayed and humiliated, Claire must start over against incredible odds to save her family–and discover a life worth living.


Poignant and emotionally gripping, A Woman of Fortune reveals the many ways we deceive ourselves and how resilience of the heart is essential to authentic living. Drawing on her experiences as a legal investigator, author Kellie Coates Gilbert delivers emotionally gripping plots and authentic characters. Readers will love Claire’s unbending determination as she strives to keep her family from falling apart and learns to embrace the kind of fortune that lasts. - Goodreads
 
About the Book:
Publisher: Revell Books
Source: Publisher Provided
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Amazon  Goodreads Life Is StoryNovel Crossing ▪ Wordpress
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Series: Texas Gold, book 1
Genre: Fiction; Women’s Fiction, Inspirational Contemporary
Rating: 3 out of 5
There are some books that are written beautifully, have a wonderful pay-off and feature a cast of characters searching for something beyond what they have enjoyed in a material world, which A Woman of Fortune is. Then there are those books that no matter their strong points, they just don’t connect with their reader. For me, that was this novel. It tells the story of the wealthy Massey family. Its matriarch is Claire Massey, who has built a good life for herself and three adult children with the love of her husband, Tuck at her side. On the eve of more success for the family – daughter, Lanie is about to start on a journey of being a young, promising senator’s wife, Tuck is led away in handcuff’s accused of a white collar scheme, the charges mount up against him, including wire fraud, leaving Claire feeling betrayed. Unsure where this leaves her marriage, Claire is left to pick up the pieces of her fractured life and try to hold her family together.  

To be honest, many of the moving pieces worked well. There were some interesting twists and I liked the intimate, inner struggle of the three POV’s – Claire, Lainie and Max. But, that notwithstanding, there wasn’t really anything that I related to in this story – I couldn’t understand some of the reactions and didn’t respect many of the choices the characters made. For me, Christianity wasn’t a big enough force for the decision that eventually put to rest its leading character’s doubts nor to be an impact that ties into the forgiveness payoff. Up until then, Claire’s reactions and life revolved around how the worldwide scandal her family became would affect her kids (understandably so) and how she’d be able to pick up and move on – without a skill or financial means to survive. There is a wild, reckless side of Lainie stemming from being rejected and this ended up being distracting. Then there is Max, who I actually would have liked to have gotten to know better because his character was the one who most changed, and in a novel that tears apart a family’s world, that’s what a reader wants to see emerge by the end of such a story as this is.

Thanks to her skills as a legal investigator, Coates storytelling is excellent. She writes with a skilled hand to create a world that I did admittedly love! Since most the stories I read tend towards the simpler lifestyle, there was a sense of carefree spontaneity in getting immersed in a wealthy world – one that the people in it didn’t have to worry over their shoes matching because they had “people” for that or could throw a lavish party that drew in Texas royalty. Because of this, the book draws its reader in – leaving us curious over a world we can touch though rarely are a part of. When all is said and done, it was freeing to experience the change in one character which perhaps, excuses all the tepid feelings the rest of this family stirred in me. Part of me eagerly wanted to get behind Claire and another believed that her choices didn’t have that one moment of clarity that seemed appropriate, nor an ending to pair with in, and in my opinion, that lessened what otherwise could have been a genuinely great novel.  

If you enjoy women’s fiction, then A Woman of Fortune (the first novel in a new series) is something worth looking into for that summer reading pile. Provided you're like me, and have one. *wink*  

My apologies to the publisher and author for the delay in this review.

Note: there are some minor descriptions of intimacy between a husband and wife, as well as conversation that reveals unmarried 20-somethings are engaging in unhealthy romantic relationships.  

Coming Next from Kellie Coates Gilbert: Following in her estranged father's footsteps, Dr. Juliet Ryan has devoted her scientific acumen to corporate America, providing safe drinking water for millions--and affording her plenty of perks along the way. Then, without warning, a fast-moving disaster sweeps Juliet into a whirlpool of corporate scandal and puts lives at risk. As she scrambles to find answers, Juliet must face her deepest wounds and join forces with her father to expose a far-reaching conspiracy. Underneath it all, she struggles to forgive those who betrayed her trust--not least of all her own father. - Feburary 2015, Goodreads

Take a look at this book video featuring Kellie chatting about her new novel.


Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
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Cedar Cove, Season Two (2014)


About the Show:
Network: Hallmark Channel

Reviewed: Episodes 1 – 3

Letting Go, Part 1
Letting Go, Part 2
Relations and Relationships, Part 1

Among all of the darker themes in crime dramas and darkness in general in today’s pop culture, sometimes it’s nice to find “light.” The first of Hallmark Channel’s original series, I have to say, I’m pretty sure I found a new guilty pleasure for summer time TV watching – one that won’t leave more conservative viewers reaching for the remote.  
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Banner 4th of July (2013)



When there's a good story to be told, I confess, I like familial dramas. Sometimes the reasons behind the rivalry that keeps a family – or in this case, more specifically, siblings apart, is  actually a good enough reason (we all know sometimes the reasons can be exaggerated at times) and with this one, I bought it, which makes this sweet, festive TV film a nice rainy night sort of movie to curl up with. 

The Banner siblings once had the world at their fingertips. Their one-night show, playing at their town’s annual fourth of July festivities placed them in the spotlight as superstars, which meant the greater part of their teenage years were spent along with their manager parents on the road, playing shows, signing autographs, making records and being anything but invisible. Now, years later, everything is different. Mitchell Banner (Christian Campbell) is finally calling his sister… only he isn’t contacting Desiree (Brooke White) by choice, instead it’s on behalf of their older brother, Johnny (Michael Barbuto), who is still living in their small hometown and has the bad news that their mother, Rosalind (Mercedes Ruehl), has had a heart attack and it’s time for everyone to come home. If only it were that simple…

There are some especially great moments in this film. I got it a couple weeks prior to the July 4th holiday, kind of forgot I had it and conveniently wound up watching it right before watching the sky lighting up with fireworks. Needless to say, it was the perfect 90 minute piece of entertainment to cap off a good holiday. I like a lot about it, not the least of which is the sibling interactions. Sometimes the acting does come across a tiny bit stilted, though overall, it seemed a “natural” progression of events, feelings and resentment for the other person – usually because no one wants to take the blame for the reasons why they don’t speak any more.   

TV MOVIE REVIEW | When Sparks Fly (2014)

Banner 4th of July Hallmark

As a family film, this title (which is also known as Star Spangled Banners) is really good for its status. Some viewers may be disappointed in the reason why they are brought back – or more appropriately, the method they are reunited, but I guess, I’m a believer in overlooking something that is done out of love for the good of others. Not only will fans of Hallmark probably enjoy this, music lovers should enjoy this one as well. There are some cool songs that fit the story and best of all, they are written and recorded by the stars which is cool and always seems to lend authenticity to the production.

In addition to the main cast, consisting of a country music singer (White), there is also a cute subplot involving a character named Savannah, who is played by Kristin Booth, and any diehard fan will recognize her name from Signed, Sealed, Delivered. She plays a sassy local though the hair color may throw you in the beginning, be sure to note her role, because it’s fun to see her in a different setting. Anyone looking for Hallmark’s signature “romantic comedy” status quo will be disappointed as that focus shifts to let the siblings and the healing of their relationship take center stage. For this type of story, I liked that. It was better and allowed us to read into what the future would hold without feeling like anything was being “rushed.” Plus, the ending was darling – and proof that not all of the people who move away make decisions to suddenly leave behind their big-city life (like, is that a crime??) to move home. Independence Day may have come and gone for 2014, but let’s face it, it’s never out of season to celebrate America.

Interested? Find the film on Amazon Instant Video

Photos: Hallmark Channel
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Gathering Shadows by Nancy Mehl


About the Book:
Author: Nancy Mehl
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Publisher Provided
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
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Series: Finding Sanctuary, book 1
Genre: Fiction; Mystery, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
 
If the genre of a new-to-me-author is one that appeals, I’m all for the “adventure” of trying that new author. Nancy Mehl is an author who has had a slew of books to her name already, though none of those have found a way onto my reading list. After my mom talked about this one from an ad in the back of another Bethany House book, I happened to get an email about this one and one accidental click of the mouse later and I had this one in my mailbox. That’s my story, the actual novel goes like this. Wynter Evans has built an entire life reimagining herself. She no longer wants to be the teenage girl who lost her brother to a kidnapping that made national headlines, and is now working as a journalist at a station where she rarely has any contact with her stern father – a father who fell apart after his son’s disappearance. Thanks to her curious nature, Wynter happens to spy a photo of a young Mennonite man who resembles her brother and convincing her boss to let her and a photog, Zac do a story on the Mennonite, Wynter sets off for the small town of Sanctuary and its people – including her kindly landlady, Esther and the handsome mayor, Rueben – determined she won’t leave without returning with Ryan.

When you’re used to a certain kind of mystery novel, sometimes adjusting to a new premise is hard. That’s what I found in Gathering Shadows. First off, the prose is first person which is never a favorite (mainly because I rarely, if ever feel connected or as if I can get to know the other characters – and that is especially accurate of this book) and secondly, the premise is much “easier” to read than most in its genre. The first half of the book relies on a years old kidnapping and slowly builds up to the mystery that surrounds a sudden murder. I cannot say that I didn’t like the book because I did, it simply took me a while to correct my idea of what the story would be against what it actually was. And as with all books, there were things I liked about this one. First, the interesting relationship between Wynter and Zac is one of the best things; at first, they were definitely more colleagues who didn’t seem to care they were on a story together beyond the fact of each doing their respective jobs. That shifts at some point and leads to a strong, good kind of friendship that all too often a reader will crave in a book. The reason for this is because the romance takes up the better part of the story, as it should do if that is what the book is primarily about. 
 
Those of us who love a good mystery with plenty of romance will feel let down. The boy-girl meet-cute isn’t anything near the same level of chemistry as some of its peers, although I don’t mean this as a gripe (aside from the ending coming across a bit too “neat” or more unrealistic than average) because, seriously, it’s refreshing now and again to read something that puts its heroine’s (or whoever its leading character is) emotional health above jumping into something more than friendship. In this, I think most readers will find that to be a truth. Everything  is wrapped up, and we get the answers to the mystery, however as a parting caution, you might not get the same sense of satisfaction with this ending. I didn’t mind it, but if you like to be able to experience the fullest intricacies of the story – in this sense, some of us may not feel like what the entire book was about is totally examined by the end of the story just because time is cut short – then this might not be a book you’ll enjoy. If you like mysteries that aren’t all about reading with the light on (I loved that the danger of this book wasn’t elongated – there was a bad situation that started in one chapter and was over by the beginning of the next), then be sure to look into Gathering Shadows.

Note: my sincere apologies to the publisher and the author for the delay in reviewing this book.

Synopsis: Wynter Evans is a promising young reporter for a television station in St. Louis, but even a bright future doesn't take away her pain over the disappearance of her brother nine years ago. So when she stumbles across a photograph of a boy with an eerie resemblance to him, she can't pass up the chance to track him down. With research for work as her cover, she sets out with one of the station's photogs for the place where the picture was taken: the town of Sanctuary.

Almost as soon as she arrives, she meets the town's handsome young mayor, Rueben King, and together they begin to uncover long held secrets that could tear the small town apart and change everything Wynter thought she knew about her life. As the truth of her family's past hides in the shadows, it's clear someone will stop at nothing to keep the answers she's searching for hidden forever--even if the cost is Wynter's very life. - Goodreads

Coming Next from Nancy Mehl: After years of upheaval, Sarah Miller's life is finally settled with all echoes of the past stilled and silent at last. She spends her time teaching the children of Sanctuary, a town she is happy to call home.

When the sister Sarah hasn't seen in years reappears, it stirs up hard memories of the past and their parents' murder. Even so, Sarah's joy at being reunited with Hannah and meeting the niece she didn't know she had is too soon interrupted when Deputy Sheriff Paul Gleason informs Sarah her sister has been killed.

As Sarah learns more about Hannah's death, the circumstances seem eerily similar to her parents' death. She enlists Paul's help in digging deeper into these murders the police are dismissing as burglaries gone wrong. Paul's concern encourages Sarah's growing feelings for him, but as their investigation peels back the layers of lies almost twenty years old, they get close to uncovering the truth one man will do anything to hide--even if he must do away with the last remaining members of the Miller family. February 2015 - Goodreads

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
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Rissi
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It's Independence Day


 
Today, on this Independence Day, is a day to remember all that our Forefathers left behind. Today is about remembering and celebrating our independence as a new nation when John Adams, George Washington and many others were at the forefront fighting to give us the chance to become the free country we are today, America. The Declaration of Independence is what they left for us, and no matter what, Americans still believe in the truth it states.

Remembering today in all that this country was founded on – and thank you to those who have protected those morals and values so that we can continue living in a free country these many years.

Happy Independence Day, readers!
What are your plans today?
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Rissi
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Grace Unplugged (2013)



Films based on Christian literature can fall into one of two categories they’re either a new favorite or a disappointment (usually thanks to the production as a whole) in my appraisal. After hearing good reports about this movie, I actually took the risk, and picked up a copy of its combo pack instead of renting it.  

Grace Trey (AJ Michalka) has a big voice. All her life, she has been raised in a church where, by her now-retired rocker father’s side, she leads the weekly worship portion of the service. Only trouble is, now she’s eighteen, the two of them clash over how the songs should be arranged. Grace has her own contemporary vision for them and her father Johnny Trey (James Denton) wants them sang only as traditional praise songs. This drives a wedge between the two. When her father’s former manager returns, making him an offer to relive his glory days by touring again, Grace desperately uses this attempt to show her individuality and seizes a chance to get the attention of her father’s former manager by sending him a demo of a cover she records. 
 
That cover impresses Frank (Kevin Pollock) and one phone call later, Grace is on a plane to L.A. to record the track with a bright future and deals to record another single. What she didn’t realize was the flurry she would stir in the media. Grace is no longer a small town nobody, now she has a spotlight with her name on it, and the fame – and constant attention – that comes with it is nothing like she expected.

I’ve been familiar with AJ Michalka’s (and her sister) work since her days as a “Disney kid” and the various records or television films that came with that insignia. Now, “all grown up” with a new sound in her musical career and film roles that are far edgier, this was the first film I’ve seen AJ in since the departure from her clean girl image. Fortunately, even though Grace Unplugged adopts a more grown up persona, it comes without crossing lines that it cannot return from. Original or not, I loved this story. It cannot really be described in one word because there is a lot of “growing up” done in this film, in such a short period of time. The progression of it happens in an organic way made it seem as if it wasn’t being “forced” or the characters’ lives being toyed with for the sake of a script – there is just that something special about this story that is hard to pin down because it’s got a light all its own that may be too “preachy” for some, however it hit all the right notes in my opinion.  

I’m not sure how many people will easily relate to this, but I think the story has a great deal of truth in it. It’s hard to try and break into a secularly-driven, competitive world, and retain more than a supporting role in it. Grace caused a splash in the music industry and was popular for those infamous 15 minutes, but with a hundred other girls just like her with the same dream, her aspiration is more of a burden than anything she ever thought it would be. Where other similar plots have failed, this story was very character-driven in its depiction of the relationships between all of the characters though primarily, at its heart, this is a story about a father and daughter. That is where it will “hit home” for many of us because no matter what kind of relationship we have with our fathers, our teenage self probably felt “stifled” by parents at some point or another, which is what Grace thought she broke free of. Right or wrong, seeing how the rift was healed between them was beautiful. It wasn’t so much because of a decision made for Grace as it was a choice made by her that made the ending and journey the sweetest part of the script. 

For anyone who enjoys Christian films (and I know there are many of us out there who do) that don’t fall into the same traps and are instead well produced – and acted (everyone really puts out a stellar performance), this is a movie for you to look into. It’s a lovely reminder of all that we can achieve or learn if we stay true to ourselves, and in today’s world, that is sometimes a hard albeit valuable lesson to learn. Plus, this has – for its script, the cutest ending that caps off the entire experience beautifully.  

(Content: there are some minor innuendoes when a girl overhears her boyfriend planning to get her into bed later that night [devastated, she leaves him behind]. There is the disrespect and back talking to parents when Grace makes plans to leave. The film is rated PG.)
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