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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Downton Abbey, Series 5 Trailer

Morning, all. I could not resist sharing this even though in all likelihood it's made all of the rounds in the Internet world. In many ways, I feel like the fandom for this show has died off, but just to put it out there, I am still thoroughly invested in this show, despite its flaws and yes, the impending arrival of a love triangle. As Renee says, finally, there is a trailer for Downton Abbey, series five! Squee. How excited am I??

Okay, so it looks like there are going to be TONS of secrets (again) in series five, and I confess if the teasers are any indication, I'm not going to like one specific plot thread... unless the promotional material is just toying with us in which case, I can "deal." Other than that, I'm looking forward to what's next for Mary, some of the new characters (do you spot Caroline Bingley?), seeing more change (of the best sort) in Tom and getting to know the next generation of Crawley's (aren't they darling?). How about you - what are you dreading or anticipating? Any thoughts are most welcome.

What do you all think?

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Friday, August 29, 2014

The Blacklist, Season One (2014)

Each new pilot season brings successes and failures. For NBC, being on the slippery slope of declining ratings has been the normal for many of those new fall lineup seasons, until the little thriller that could came along.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bethany House Book Giveaways!

The intention was to get these two books up for giveaway long before now, but as usual, my reading is still behind so of course, I'm just recently finished with these two lovely Bethany House novels and that is the reason why prior to today, these books weren't up for giveaway. If you've not read either one of these books or you want them on your shelf, trust me, these are both lovely reads! Both of these novels are keepers in my book despite the very different historical settings. The first one is With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden, which I just finished and oh my! So good. Second is Julianna Deering's Murder at the Mikado. This one rounds out the Drew Farthering mystery series far as we know and I have to say, I read books two and three in a relatively short space of time back to back, something I'm quite proud of, which means it deserved being documented.

But onto the details of the giveaway and specifics.

Note: If you've commented on this post and are entering both giveaways, that comment will count for an entry in the "comment on the giveaway post" option for BOTH books..

This giveaway(s) is open to U.S. readers. Also, please I will just ask that anyone who leaves a comment under "anonymous," please leave the same name you enter into the widget in your comment - it's not nearly as easy to try and match comments when there is no name and in fairness to everyone else, I want to be able to be sure everyone who used the Rafflecopter correctly has a fair chance at winning against those who abuse it - believe it or not, there have been a couple people that I could not verify. So please, I don't mean to overwhelm, but just keep this in mind when entering future giveaways. I'd sure appreciate it!

To be entered in the giveaway, just enter as much or as little as you like into the Rafflecopter widget... and good luck everyone! These end on September 3rd.

In the shadow of the nation's capital, Kate Livingston holds a respectable position as a government statistician when she encounters a rival from her past, the insufferable Trevor McDonough. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and she's bewildered at the way he suddenly seeks her out. Surprising even herself, Kate agrees to Trevor's entirely unexpected and risky proposal to work side-by-side with him in his quest to rid the world of tuberculosis, a contagious and deadly disease.

As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor's past, she realizes there is much more to him than she could have imagined. His hidden depths may fascinate her, but his most closely guarded secrets and a shadowy enemy lurking in the background carry a serious threat to their future.

When the truth of the past comes out, threatening to destroy everything they hold dear, how will Trevor and Kate ever overcome all that stands in their way?
- Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She's married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she'll soon disappear--until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect.

Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiancé, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It's Drew's most complicated case yet. - Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Best of luck, all.
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Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering

About the Book:
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Publisher Provided
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Amazon Goodreads Life is StoryNovel CrossingWordpress
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Series: A Drew Farthering Mystery, book 3
Genre: Fiction; Mystery, Series
Rating: 5 out of 5
Trouble always seems to find the dashing hero of this series and lest you think otherwise (there wouldn’t be a story if he wasn’t followed by mayhem) there is more in store for Drew Farthering. Again. Drew has finally gotten the answer he wanted from American beauty, Madeline Parker and he isn’t about to let anything stand in the way of their busy wedding preparations and more importantly those “I dos,” which is why he’s dismayed when his former flame sashays back into his life with suspicion hanging over her head – one that involves murder, a death that creates headlines. A popular actor was found murdered in his dressing room and despite Fluer now being married with a small child, no one believes her reformed from the girl she was. It’s going to take Drew, Nick and Madeline to solve this case… and get to the church on time.

Drew is back for his third and presumably last jaunt in this delightful Bethany House series. As usual, this novel is absolutely sensational and if ever there was truth to the adage of saving the “best for last,” it applies to this book. I’m not sure the “what” of why I was so swept up, but good golly, I was. Perhaps it was the sense of “completion” and finally having Madeline decide what it is she wants (or very nearly – ugh, silly girl) or maybe it was the familiar charm of Rules of Murder (book one) returning to a familiarity of the trio being back to their investigating, whatever this third novel is definitely a charmer. Before getting too far into this review, one thing to address is the arrival of a rival in the romance department. Anyone concerned with the possible “love triangle” needn’t worry, there is nothing worth mentioning with this minor subplot especially since (did you think otherwise?), Drew is completely besotted with Madeline and as such, the character development grew all the stronger in this final book – even with its setbacks.

As an aside to the mystery (which is really the primary in this entire series), one of the elements to most admire is the story’s sense of honesty. I adored how truthful and honest its leading characters were with one another. Too many times characters fall into the predictable, silly mold of hiding things from each other, which then later becomes a convenient catalyst for breaking the pair apart in a dash to create last minute conflict. Here, Deering took a more clever approach by eliminating dishonesty from the equation and I cannot stress what a refreshing entity this was. Sure there are still stressors that pop up and much as I adored her, I wanted to shake some sense into Madeline on more than one occasions, but since the biggest frustration is eliminated… I’m not miffed in the least. Plus, things end perfectly snazzy, which wipes away any minor feelings of disappointment.

Drew & Company returned for this third adventure – a fitting conclusion for Deering’s popular series, in yet another atmospheric 1930’s Agatha Christie styled whodunit with plenty of puzzle pieces, cracking dialogue and lighthearted moments that will leave you with a happy grin. Or it did me.

Synopsis: Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She's married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she'll soon disappear--until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect.

Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiancé, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It's Drew's most complicated case yet. - Goodreads

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Bethany House for providing a complimentary copy of this novel for the purpose of honestly reviewing it.
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With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

About the Book:
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Publisher
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Genre: Fiction; Historical, Romance 
Rating: 5 out of 5

Seamlessly, each novel to emerge from the pen of Elizabeth Camden continues to inch past the lines of excellence that were once drawn by authors who came before her. Each story is challenging the reader to dare assume a novel by her cannot beat her previous stories. With exception to one of her novels, I have thoroughly enjoyed her work. Nothing seems to change the pattern and each one I look forward to getting “lost in” brings me to the end wishing I was able to write something so beautifully compelling – not to mention the fascinating characters she creates, these two are particularly good. Kate Norton and schoolmate Trevor McDonough are enemies – or at least in school they are. Both of them use each other as motivation to one up the other, only 12 years later, Kate is out the scholarship she desperately wanted and lost to Trevor, and fate is about to bring them back together. Now a successful doctor relentlessly studying for a tuberculosis cure, Dr. Trevor Kendall has reinvented himself and he needs Kate to assist in his work. Their lives have both changed drastically since their school days, but one thing that hasn’t altered is Trevor’s feelings for Kate… if only her own experience in life hadn’t made her afraid to embrace a new future.

Simply put, Elizabeth’s writing is exquisite. She has a voice that never ceases to draw even the most halfhearted reader in – or that has been my past experience. In her latest jewel, I felt like this novel was very nearly her best to date, although nothing has quite risen to the level of Against the Tide (but then, we know that it has an unfair advantage because… Bane! *swoon*), however this book certainly runs a close second, because the characterizations are brilliant. Meeting this leading couple put them solidly into a top spot of favorites in fiction, and you know, they do say opposites attract and initially that is the magnet that draws these two together. It was so interesting to read about a hero who goes against the norm of most – here Trevor isn’t a charismatic, charming man. Instead he’s reserved and from Kate’s, opinionated albeit limited perspective, he’s a cold-hearted soul, who has no empathy towards the people around him. Then on the flipside, there is the vibrant, fiery Kate. Underneath her personality lies a heart full of fear that ties nicely into one of the primary issues that plague this character. Though before I say anything more – you just have to read the book, we’ll move on.  

I do feel like there are some minor pacing issues with the story – things are “resolved” before expectations, meaning the characters reach an understanding of what the other one wants and expects sooner than its peers but because neither one is willing to concede, they spend a good five months in denial which seems to drag out the story more than need be. However at the risk of contradicting myself, it is nice to have "space" and more time to the "revelation" moment. Either way, that’s a minor complaint and I enjoyed the sweet epilogue that tied everything nicely together, in addition to the realistic struggles that are dealt with, With Every Breath is not a journey any avid historical reader should miss being a part of. As its endorsements boast, this story is a journey full of “breathless” excitement, romance and the healing power of choosing life and love over the fear of the unknown; that kind of payout is beautiful and reminds us, we should never take life for take for granted.

Synopsis: In the shadow of the nation's capital, Kate Livingston holds a respectable position as a government statistician when she encounters a rival from her past, the insufferable Trevor McDonough. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and she's bewildered at the way he suddenly seeks her out. Surprising even herself, Kate agrees to Trevor's entirely unexpected and risky proposal to work side-by-side with him in his quest to rid the world of tuberculosis, a contagious and deadly disease.

As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor's past, she realizes there is much more to him than she could have imagined. His hidden depths may fascinate her, but his most closely guarded secrets and a shadowy enemy lurking in the background carry a serious threat to their future.

When the truth of the past comes out, threatening to destroy everything they hold dear, how will Trevor and Kate ever overcome all that stands in their way?
- Goodreads

Coming Next from Elizabeth Camden: Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. She is thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, but her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen until his promising career became shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship.

Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglement with a member of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol, where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for themselves?
– via Goodreads, January 2015

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own. Yet.

Morning, friends. We've welcomed another week, which is crazy. Where has 2014 gone? But, onto the topic of the day, which is more Top Ten Tuesday crazy good fun. Or as I like to call it, "the Top Ten Tuesday in which I fib." Yep, that's right, not all of the books on this list apply to the subject. But, to be fair, when I put this week's meme together, all of the books listed on this list DID apply to the subject. I promise.

Because I was ahead of the game (insert shock) and did this a few weeks ago, I used the lazy card and decided not to change it. However, if by the time I get done here (linking, loading photos and all that jazz), I think of any books to add to replace those I came into possession of between making this list and posting it... I'll add the Goodreads link and just go photo-less for those particular books.

Without further rambling, let the blog entry begin.

The Broke and the Bookish:

Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet
 Wonderland Creek, by Lynn Austin
This one recently caught my eye thanks to some reviews and I've been reminded how much I enjoyed the first two novels in Lynn Austin's Civil War series.
Season of Wonder, by Lisa T. Bergren
Anything Lisa writes goes on my to-be-read and this one sounds interesting.
Be Still my Soul, by Joanne Bischof
Loved Joanne's second novel (Though my Heart is Torn) so it stands to reason that I should go backwards and read the first in her trilogy - I'm betting it's equally as compelling.
Love Comes Home, by Ann Gabhart
Ann's Small Town Girl pleasantly surprised me, so while I did skip out on the tour for this followup, I've no doubt this one will make it onto my bookshelves at some point.
God's Will, by Meghan Gorecki
Love it when I learn one of my blogging buddies is releasing a novel and since Meghan was one of my very first readers around here - and we both wrote for Femnista way back when, I was especially excited to learn of her debut novel. No doubt, this one will appear on my shelf.
Fool me Twice, by Mandy Hubbard
I own Wish you Were Italian (book 2 in the "If Only" series) and have the third waiting in the wings (which I have read some of and guys, it's darling), which means, why don't I snag the first?
Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
Here's the first book I bought after making this. I cannot count the number of times this series showed up on my Twitter timeline which in turn made me all curious as to what the heck was going on - hoping it turns out to be as interesting as it sounds - and lives up to the hype.
With Every Letter, by Sarah Sundin
Okay, so I own a Kindle copy of this, but come on? I have the other two in the series in pretty, glorious paperback so of course, in my mind, I don't *really* own this first novel in Sarah's Wings of the Nightingale series. That makes sense. I think.
What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang
This is another one I actually got after reading some good reviews on it. Don't know much about it, but you know so long as it's a good story, that's half the fun.
Storm Siren, by Mary Weber
...and finally, yes, I own this now as well. I was able to get a review copy - fortunately, at long last, I am finally reading this much buzzed-about YA debut.
Also on my radar is...
The Art of Wishing, I've seen this one on the store shelf the last couple of bookstore visits and since I've heard it's cute, I figure, it's likely one to consider.
The Best of Me, since this is Nicholas Sparks next book-to-screen adaptation, tradition stands that I read this Sparks novel next.
 The Rules for Disappearing, Jillian just recommended this title. It sounds cute.
Since You've been Gone, okay, I'm not sure that I'd classify this as one I *really* want to read, however it's shown up everyone (Blogger, Goodreads, Twitter) and what that does is raise my curiosity. What say you readers: Yes or No?
Those are the books that apply to this week's topic.
How about you? Any books you have been curious to read and cannot get a hold of...
Let's talk.
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Friday, August 22, 2014

God's Not Dead (2014)

This was one of those movies recommended by more than one family member and for whatever reason I never made the trek to the theater to see it. When it finally came out, I got it as a gift for one of those said family member’s, and a copy managed to make it into the cart for our family, too – seemed a good idea despite my shaky opinions on certain Christian films. How does this one shake out?

Incoming college freshman, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) has no expectations his philosophy class is about to be the biggest challenge to his faith yet. His girlfriend has plans for them – Josh is going to law school and their six year romance is going to turn into “forever” at some point in her timeline. Much to the dismay of Kara (Cassidy Griffin), Josh accepts a debate proposal from his atheist teacher, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) to take up the challenge that God is NOT dead – something his professor believes, proof positive when he requests his glad to write out, “God is dead.” When Josh stands against this request, Radisson is none too thrilled to be argued against. 

In his quest to prove God does live and to convince a “jury” of his own peers that Professor Radisson’s claim is false, the lives of Amy Ryan (Trisha LaFache), Mina and Marc Shelley (Cory Oliver, Dean Cain), Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu) Pastor Dave (David A.R. White) and Martin (Paul Kwo) intersect leading to a powerful closing argument – and a revolution of awakened belief among many.
While I can respect their messages and the journey they’re taking to bridge the gap between Christianity and entertainment, too many Christian films just fall flat for me – I’ve bought one too many that turned out to be a disappointment and are now serving no greater purpose than gathering dust. Perhaps that’s why I'm a little bit shy to go ahead and openly support some of these films. This movie falls among those that lived up to expectations. Anyone who has seen To Save a Life will thoroughly enjoy this and it’s not beyond hoping that God’s Not Dead reached the target ages it desperately wanted to: the college crowd.

There are some flaws in the movie, but its message is what needs to be heard and I don’t think the distractions detract from that. There are a ton of characters introduced in a short span of time and most of them have no relevant connection to each other (far as the audience is concerned), though midway through, ties are made and we understand more of these character’s purpose to the story. Short on character development – understandable since the script had a greater point, what this zooms in on is the idea of God’s existence and whether or not that can be proven. For Josh, that was an impossible task to prove, yet easy to believe and he stuck up for his faith without letting let intimidation (from teachers and family) or fear shake what it was he believed in – or Who it was he championed.

For the most part, the acting is good. Shane does an admirable job in the role of Josh and the supporting cast is equally compelling to their roles. There are some particularly moving scenes with some of the secondary characters and how they react to the things that go wrong in their lives – one of which is a woman who has never had need of God. Each of the three lectures in which Josh debates his professor are well written and make valid points, but it’s really the ending that changes hearts – and the ending to the entire script is something I didn’t seem coming. The writers were going for something drastic and impacting, and while I don’t have a problem with it, the movie will leave viewers with a sense of melancholy because of that.

If you’ve not seen this and you like films that challenge normal plus take up the task of shining a light on Christianity, do watch God’s Not Dead. I’m not sure it will be something I’ll watch over and over again, but I’m not in the least bit sorry to have seen it – and no matter if the artistic delivery doesn’t carry the same impact it could, it features a hero who isn’t afraid to stand alone for all he believes in. That message alone is one that needs to be shared – and for many of us, needs to be realized in our own lives.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren

About the Book:
Publisher: Tyndale House
Source: Publisher Provided ARC
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Series: The Christiansen Family, book 3
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5

If ever there was an author in the Christian fiction market who consistently did everything but disappoint this girl, it’d be Susan May Warren. I started with her Deep Haven novels way back with Happily Ever After, then later some suspense and historical (did you ever notice that she writes every genre and does each so very well?) before coming full circle and returning to where it all began: Deep Haven, with a host of new characters to fall in love with. This third novel is all about daughter, Grace of the loving Christiansen family, who is a homebody to a fault. She feels comfortable in her surroundings at the family home and working for the small pizzeria in their hometown. Only that’s all about to change when, shortly after her eldest brother’s marriage, she receives a gift of a Hawaiian vacation from her family – one that involves cooking, which just so happens to be Grace’s passion, so long as it’s merely making pizzas at the local pizzeria. Much to her embarrassment, her almost brother-in-law, Jace, asks his fellow hockey teammate to look out for Grace during the trip he also is taking. Between Grace’s fear of being away from home and Max’s deep-seated fears over his own carefully protected secret, the fun they have in Hawaii may not last once they return to the real world.

Who cares about a tepid start (to this series) in Take a Chance on Me (in my lone opinion), when its peak heads towards the closest thing to book perfection there is – for anyone who is interested, Warren has the market cornered. This series is shaping up to be the definition of a long-running set of novels (it’s going to be a full six books along with a novella or two) that is not fizzling out in the least the longer it goes on. As a story, this has outshone the two prior to this thus far despite them also being able to stand up to the best of the best. The best part is it’s showing no signs of becoming bogged up in any “bad” fates or as if it’s losing its ability to turn ordinary into something so much more.

I absolutely adored Grace. Her personality and character sparkled in everything she did – she may be the “quiet, shy” kid of the group, yet her character is one of the most memorable, add in a hunky honkey star, Max Sharpe and you’ve got a recipe of pure brilliance – one that might not be something either Max or Grace planned on creating. Without giving too much away, let me just say that the plot of this book is… risky in all the ways it should be. It takes happily ever after with a twist to it without ever being sappy (not that I’d have minded) or coming across as unrealistic, because I completely believed in everything Grace and Max said to each other; in their demonstrations of love. For once, a book has a very natural cadence that doesn’t upset the balance of the good and the bad; embedded in the story are the most beautiful lessons on how to live and in this is something we all could learn from even if we’re not in the same situation or face similar choices. In past, the one thing that I’ve been put off by regarding this series is the multiple character arcs – i.e., the additional characters that have equal time as the two main characters. It was something I wasn’t drawn to in book one, liked better in the follow up (because it was limited to one person) and finally felt like this element of prose found its niche in this novel in which we get the perspective of brother Owen Christiansen (well done, Susan. Well done). This subplot leaves us hungering for more especially considering it is Owen’s story that’s rumored to be coming up next. Plus, he’s just an all-around cool dude.

If you like contemporary (of any variety) or have been reading these, do not miss this third novel. Between its setting (may I just give a shout of joy for a new locale?? It was striking in its descriptions and nice to move out of the familiar for a while – a great boaster for sure), plot and characters, this book is sensational – and that’s the honest-to-goodness truth. I was already longing for the fourth novel prior to completing this one because it has a kind of tranquil quality to it that nothing can damper; When I Fall in Love is a must-read for your summer reading list. Trust me. You'll fall hard for this one.

Note: Sincere apologies to the publisher and author for the delay in posting this review.

Synopsis: Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.

Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.

Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet. - Goodreads

Coming Next from Susan May Warren: An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn't be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad planned. He's sure she'll love it. What's more romantic than Christmas in Paris? Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then--because disasters strike in threes--an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts. As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid's marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future. - via Goodreads, September 2014

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: YOUR Recommendations

Hello. Happy new week to you all - it's the start of a new week of blogging around here. In case you couldn't tell, today is all about the Top Ten Tuesday love. This week's topic I had help with, thanks to awesome Twitter friends out there (shout-out to Jamie, Cassie and Courtney) and let me tell you, I needed it, girls. I knew there were lots of books that fellow book addicts had been getting on me for not reading (and I mean this in the best sense), I just couldn't remember the titles.

Some of these are books I remember the fabulous Rel and Amber recommending (and some of them are recommended by the authors themselves), and on the list goes. What I picked out of the bunch are the books I think I'll enjoy even if some are in genres I'm not as fond of... I just refuse to think all of the worthy hype will turn into a "it's-me-not-the-book" situation. But instead of me chattering away, I'll just let you see the books for yourself.
Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read
(whether because they think it's a "you" book or it's just been generally recommended so often)
Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

yep, we know all about my appalling lack of reading this one.
there's nothing left to say.

The Butterfly & the Violin by Kristy Cambron

recently won this in a giveaway, so yeah! eager to see what all the fuss is about.
Mark of Distinction by Jessica Dotta

after reading book one in this series, I am, of course curious about its sequel.
Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

this one was recommended to me back with the promotion for Katie's newest novel, A Broken Kind of Beautiful. needless to say, I'm excited to read ALL there are from this author's pen.

The Language of Souls by Lena Goldfinch

there have been more than one person rave about this novel (Amber & Juju), plus Lena seems like a lovely person. it's short and sweet which means, there is no excuse to not read it.
The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter

this one is a recommendation from the lovely Rel.
given my love of Denise's newest series, it's a must.
Digitalis and Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

pretty much anything from Ronie has been recommended by someone to me. clearly, I need to get caught up because Raptor 6 was awesome.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

yeah, you all know the chatter we've had about these books, too.
still haven't had a chance to read them. my bad.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

my aunt recently read this and has mentioned a couple times how good it is. so far, I haven't let her lend it to me because... well, you can guess.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

thanks to Amber, Jennifer's books appeared on my radar. hoping to read them soon.
Wish you Were Here by Beth Vogt

another one I need to work "backwards" to read after I had the chance to read Beth's newest novel, Somebody Like You. betting this one will be equally lovely.
There you have it, fellow book addicts.
These are the books I've been recommended, in all likelihood more than once.

What are some of the books you've had recommended and read - what did you think of them?

Are there any someone has told you is a "must read" and you just can't wrap your mind around reading?

Comment away.
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Divergent (2014)

Perpetually, I am the last girl who has opportunity to get in her fan girl moments for popular cinematic masterpieces, such as Divergent. The reason I’m discussing this at the beginning of my latest book-to-movie adaptation experience, you ask? Because, I’d like you to accept my thanks for indulging my gushing. I have no one who cares to listen to said gushing (because family/friends don’t know why the heck I like dystopian), ergo Internet, you are nominated.   

The society in which young Beatrice Prior lives is one of rules. Rules meant to be followed and left unchallenged. Divided by five fractions, Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) is of the Abnegation fraction, the fraction that never turns away the fractionless; they help the less fortunate, refuse to give in to vanity and are also the government for the fraction system. Upon coming of age, every child must take a test that is supposed to tell them which fraction they belong to – who it is they are. Beatrice’s test reveals a dark secret: she is Divergent – the one thing that poses the biggest threat to the fraction system. She can be whatever she wants. 

Warned not to trust anyone by one of the protectors (Maggie Q) of the system  –  Dauntless, Beatrice doesn’t know who to trust with her secret. Following her heart, she along with her brother, Celeb (Ansel Elgort) chose different fractions, leaving their parents (Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd) heartbroken. Becoming Tris in her new identity, the freedom of Dauntless is at first exhilarating. But Tris soon learns that if she wants to survive – and bury her secret, she’ll have to fight harder than ever to fit in. Hunted by a fraction leader (Kate Winslet) and forced to trust in the help of Four (Theo James), a mysterious member of Dauntless, Tris uncovers a larger fight is just over the horizon 

Okay… wow. I absolutely loved this film. The story wasn’t one I knew prior to seeing the film (I know, you have my permission to be sufficiently dismayed with me), however that didn’t stop me from becoming engrossed in this as a cinematic piece of brilliance. There is something “different” about this film for a dystopian. When it’s put down to basics, it really is an altered version The Hunger Games, yet it is so much different and – dare I say this? – better than Suzanne Collins story. The writing is far more fragile and emotionally vested than anything else I’ve seen of dystopian. Everything about Divergent is spectacular – the stunts, the costumes, the story and most importantly the cast. I knew who Shailene was back before she was anyone, which has made it fun to see what she’s starred in as an adult. She played off of Theo well (more on the characters and relationship down the page) and the supporting cast was equally brilliant – seriously, I don’t think there was any one person who was a weak link. There is veteran talent and fresh new faces, all of whom stepped up their game to embody already famous roles – even without meeting them in their original creation, I felt like these actors brought everyone alive to the fullest extent, which isn’t always a probability. If there is a more perfect cast, I don’t know who it is.
Something that struck me halfway through was how “quiet” this film is. It really took its time building up to the excitement of its action, using the time to the best of its ability. Because of this uptake – not throwing us into breath-catching action posthaste, some viewers could think this 2+ hour film is “boring.” I wasn’t bored. Instead, I was transported into the story, one that I merely expected to enjoy without much more to it. It’s really the “little things” that structure the fuller picture of this film – not just in the quieter storytelling, but also in how the characters come about. May I just say thank you to whomever (Veronica or the scriptwriters/actors) made sure a teen, dystopian, fill-in-the-blank romance – for once! – was anything but angst-y? If I had to pick merely one thing about this movie to love (impossible, but…), it’d be the romance. Its way more swoon-y than many of its peers without all the drama and it involves one of the more tender (teen) romances I’ve run across. 

On some random movie trivia – Shailene has starred with two of her fellow co-stars in two separate films. First she starred with Miles Teller (Footloose) in The Spectacular Now and then this past year she starred with Elgort in The Fault in our Stars only they played boyfriend/girlfriend in that film, whereas here they are siblings. (Also, Teller tried out for the role of Four, was denied then offered the role of creepy (my word) Eric, before eventually accepting the role he ultimately played.) The production was brilliant. I loved everything about the “less important” details from the special effects to the fight sequences, to the script. Everything clicked and created a kind of magic I don’t often experience from this type of film. Between its characters – this heroine has a personality and let me tell you, this is needed – and the emotions that run through the script, all of the hype for this one is merited. Easily, this is my favorite flick compared to recent films in its class, plus it’s just darn entertaining. That’s good enough.

CONTENT: Tris enters several stimulations as part of her training, in one of them she briefly imagines a man attempting to force himself on her – other than his hand under her shirt and then being thrown down on the bed, the scene goes no further. There’s some kissing, though mostly any problematic content will be found in the violence – many people are shot and killed [three of which are emotionally impacting], non-graphic. There is also some hand-to-hand combat that gets rough along with some tense moments. One character commits suicide others are referenced as having been murdered. This film is rated PG13.
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Giveaway Winners!

Just in case you missed it from Instagram or Twitter, here are the FOUR winners from the recent giveaways. One was held here on the blog for three different books, the other was a spur-of-the-moment Twitter giveaway when I decided to give away my extra copy of Anna and the French Kiss.

The winners are...

Take a Chance on Me, won by Aerykah
The Gifsnatcher (Kindle), won by Alyssa
The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, won by Emma
Anna and the French Kiss, won by Courtney
Congrats, ladies! Two of you have books on the way and Alyssa, I emailed your Kindle copy yesterday (hope it arrived). Courtney, yours will be mailed before the week is out.

Thanks to everyone who joined in the fun. There'll be more coming soon.
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Destined for Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

About the Book:
Publisher: Blink YA Books, a division of Zondervan
Source: Publisher (ARC Copy)
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
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Series: Doon, book 2
Genre: Fiction; Young Adult/Teen, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

There is something about a contemporary that travels back in time. Maybe its allure first began with the popular Gene Kelly musical Brigadoon (which this YA series is loosely based on) or maybe it’s just the idea that we have the ability to revisit these eras long gone through stories and it’s because of these visual descriptors that many of us have come to one conclusion: we were born to the wrong era. This co-authored series is the sequel to last summer’s inventive novel Doon and it continues the adventures of McKenna Reid and her best friend, Veronica. Living in Chicago pursuing her dream of a career on stage, it’s been nearly a year since McKenna left behind her true love, a native Doonian (what, so that's not a word... work with me) - not to mention real-life royalty, Duncan, though for everyone else, it’s merely been three months and now Doon requires McKenna's return – or more importantly Veronica needs her best friend. The kingdom is coming under attack by forces that are ruled by evil witches and would have Doon’s beauty turned into a zombie wasteland. With her new Calling as the Queen , Veronica is only able to fight the battle so far by herself – her best chance at winning is with McKenna by her side, only McKenna left Doon with broken hearts in her rearview and it’s impossible not to let personal infractions complicating things…

Readers have been eager to return to the land of Doon and for any of you who are fan girls for this series you’ll be delighted with the reappearance of a land of bygone eras with a delightful contemporary twist. One of the things that makes this book work so well is that aspect of modern vs. old fashioned battling for center stage and surprisingly, I really like that about the book. Aside from the friendship (which is really an entity onto itself and we’ll be gushing over later), it’s in the commentary that makes the novel fun. One thing I’m a stickler for (from a non-professional, non-historian standpoint) is books that are “historical” only to dismiss the proper terms or to come across as anything but historical. That rule is tossed out for this story because what it does is espouse two very contemporary besties and plop them smack into the center of Scotland and a setting that is historical. It was comedic to read all of the “today” references – everything from iPods and popular music (a sweet scene between Veronica and Jamie takes place involving music) and funny quips (McKenna’s saving the world in pretty gown is “overrated” line made me smile), plus may I just say, pretty much any book that can work in a Pushing Daisies reference has my heart (I’m just saying) – all the while knowing this isn’t a contemporary in the same sense, reading about it from a modern perspective (told in dual first person narratives) makes this book one of the more unique I’ve read in its genre.  

The best thing about this YA novel is actually the friendship relationship. Veronica and McKenna are two different girls, yet they’re really alike in more ways than we can “see.” The reason being their fierce loyalty to one another and despite their differences of opinion or beliefs in how to conduct their lives, they always find a way to work around their squabbles. This element alone makes the series worth tying, especially if you are like me and haven’t read many good friendship books. Sadly, I will say it’s pretty important to read the first book prior to this as a refresher unless you have an awesome memory (clearly, I do not). I read Doon last summer and felt lost on more than one occasion between the various references to past events, though as things progressed I did remember the “bigger picture” story and based on that, it seemed like the stories were too similar for their own good in terms of what is evil and what is to be defeated. On the flip side, the characters are moved along and further developed it’s just the plot that gets a little… stuck.  

When all is said and done, it’s easy to say this book is a lighthearted summer read. It’s quick and for those who may be bothered by this, it doesn’t push the Christianity visualizations (not that I’d have minded in the least if the role of the Protector had been more prevalent than He was), plus there are some cute rekindled romantics (even if the romance is a smidgeon too focused on the physical – but then, I’ll give that a pass considering its age range) and genuine characters to root for. This sequel also gives us more insight into what makes McKenna tick, the opposite of book one and what I discovered was all good. Only do be warned, this ending? Yep, it’ll leave you going, “Now what??” 

And yes, that’s all I’m saying. 
(note: there is some minor innuendo and a few description kissing scenes.)

Synopsis: the second book in the popular new Doon YA series that takes on a classic story, Brigadoon, and spins it in a new way to give readers a fresh, modern experience.

In this sequel to Doon, Kenna Reid realizes she made a horrible mistake-choosing to follow her dreams of Broadway instead of staying in the enchanted land of Doon. Worse, she's received proof she and Duncan are meant to be, along with torturous visions of the prince she left behind. So when Duncan shows up and informs Kenna that Doon needs her, she doesn't need to think twice. But even if Kenna can save the enchanted kingdom, her happily ever after may still be in peril.

The Doon novels are a part of Blink, HarperCollins Christian Publishing's new YA imprint that delivers empowering and heartening literature while maintaining a tradition of imaginative and impactful storytelling.
- Goodreads
Coming Next from Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon: Book 4 in the DOON series arrives late summer 2015. 

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
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