Month in Review


Good afternoon, friends. This is a first for me to put together a kind of "month in review" which is set to chronicle some of the blog's content and I'm also going to be talking about some of my favorites from this month or new finds. First up the new finds, then we'll discuss the blog's month and some of the content yet to come.
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Christmas Under Wraps (2014)



We’re over halfway through the 12 brand-new premieres of the Countdown to Christmas season (*sad face*) and tonight’s film is a cute (albeit familiar) story about elves, a doctor and the beautiful (but limiting - particularly to our leading lady) location of Alaska. Here’s the story's 411. Dr. Lauren Brunell (Candace Cameron Bure) has everything in her life neatly planned out. First she becomes a doctor following in her father’s footsteps (which she can check off), next she has plans to get a Boston fellowship, same as her dad and things are falling nicely into place with her boyfriend who she suspects is about to propose. Things instead take a detour. Despite her dad’s connections, she doesn’t get the fellowship and her boyfriend isn’t as crazy about her as she thought. This leads her to a tiny town in Alaska where she practices general medicine and meets a guy named Andy (David O' Donnell) whose father is suspiciously alike a widely loved Christmas figure.  

In case you couldn’t tell, it’s a blast to watch the new Christmas movies, and to pick favorites and add to that list of re-watches each year. Having familiar faces star in their films also is a big incentive and leading lady Candace has certainly garnered a following that enjoys seeing her return to the channel for any number of roles. For me, this movie fell a bit flat merely because I’d recently rented a movie in which Candace played a doctor (Finding Normal) so everything felt very familiar. That being said, I still loved the fun concept of the story and of course, the setting.  

Having family in Alaska, it was a blast to see a script set in Alaska even if it wasn’t filmed there the general look and feel came across well. The scenery was pretty and rarely looked fake or “off” (or what I saw wasn’t – I admit sometimes I multi-tasked while watching this). The characters were fun albeit many recycled plots came into play during the story, mudding up the personalities sometimes. On the flipside, the story is super festive and I liked the emphasis on family as an important relationship not to take for granted as well as the cute subplot of Lauren's nurse. If you're looking for something cozy to snuggle under your favorite blanket and enjoy while finishing up some of those Thanksgiving leftovers, this isn't a bad way to end the holiday week. 

Catch the premiere of Christmas Under Wraps tonight (Saturday the 29th) and if you plan to watch or see this one, don’t forget to share your thoughts on it; I’d love to chat about them.
 
                 
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How a Star Falls by Amber Stokes



About the Book:
Author: Amber Stokes
Publisher: Seasons of a Story
Source: Author Provided
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads
Genre: Fiction; New Adult Contemporary (novella)
Rating: 5 out of 5
When you’ve admired and eventually counted as a friend bloggers who have dreamt of entering the publishing world by putting out their own novels, it’s a joy to watch them realize that dream – and be a shining example of excellence in the all-to-often brushed aside Indie world of publishing. Amber Stokes took us on a journey to the old west with her sweet prairie romances in the Hearts Spring series and has now broken from that pattern to charm us with a new adult novella that is nothing if not sweetly romantic. Without dillydallying – I understand the reason for this being its limited pages, the story immediately gets into the heart of what is coming as our already confused hero (being dissatisfied with the direction his life is going), Derrick happens upon the mysterious figure of Brielle, a girl no one seems to know.

Right off, Amber has created a mystery that leaves readers flipping the pages and was something I really enjoyed. There’s a nice quality to the flow of the storytelling because of this and because of the heroine, there is definitely a mysterious bent to what is to come. Essentially, this is the strength of the novella and also a minor detriment because the ARC text wraps up the “who” and “why” of Brielle before it seems like the larger plot elements in the story reasons could be grasped. Does this in any way detract from the story? Nope, not for this girl it didn’t. The story is complete in every way with exception to perhaps the reader wishing to experience more of life with Derek and Brielle because they are easily relatable characters – just like many of us are, they’re going through the confusing stage of no longer being a kid which forces them to learn how to live in the mile-a-minute real world of adulthood.

Though short, How a Star Falls is well worth setting a course for. There’s a simplistic magic that is indeed magnetic. It’s got a great set-up (as previously discussed) and a special kind of description of a close-knit family, all of which endears this. Basically, the book is the perfect kind to read when you’re looking for something with charisma yet it’s short enough to read in an afternoon or matter of hours; it’s cute, wholesome fun that sets up the potential for something dark, only it’s over before we’re ready for it – it’s the sort that feels like the ending is really just the beginning and sometimes (I believe) those are the best kind of stories. The worst part of the best stories are seeing those dreaded words (whether figurative or literal) at the end of stories – “the end,” it serves us well to remember “happily ever after” isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning – these characters have quite a beautiful life ahead of them and because this author introduced them to us so well, they’re anything but a fading burst of stardust. ⭐

Don't miss the GIVEAWAYS going on featuring this book.
 
Visit other tour stops for How a Star Falls.

Synopsis: How does a star fall?

Quickly. Completely. Unexpectedly.


Derrick Knolane escapes to Trinidad Head most evenings, avoiding his apartment and planning for the day he’ll break free of Humboldt County. Working in a music store might be fine for a while, but it’s far from the goal he had in mind when he got his college degree. Not to mention the fact that his roommate is a jerk and his family won’t stop trying to run his life.

Then Brielle falls into his world.

She claims to be a star. Not from Hollywood, but from heaven. He thinks she’s crazy. Certainly delusional. Yet, he can’t just leave her alone on the cliffs. So he takes her home.

And his whole world falls apart.

A heartfelt and fanciful contemporary romance novella,
How a Star Falls explores the uncertain season of new adulthood and shows that sometimes the worst inconveniences make for the best miracles of all. – Goodreads


Sincere thanks to the author for providing a complimentary ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
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How a Star Falls Giveaways, oh my!



Morning. Today is a special kind of day. Today, I get to again lend a helping hand launching Amber's THIRD novel, this time around instead of a full-length historical, she has tried her had at a new adult novella and aww, it's darling! The book review, with purchase and author links is also published today, but as a bonus there are not one but TWO giveaways related to this book launch. The first one is author hosted (Amber has some great items in this giveaway) which you can enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The second is further down and features a Kindle copy of Amber's novella How a Star Falls or if you've read the novella and are interested in having the paperback, that's an option for U.S. participants. First here are the standard rules (for my giveaway listed below):

This giveaway(s) is open to U.S. readers (unless you chose a Kindle copy). I do 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! Winner(s) will have 48 hours to respond to the email notification before another winner is randomly chosen.

To be entered in the giveaway, just enter as much or as little as you like into the Rafflecopter widget... and good luck everyone! The giveaway ends on November 30th.

The Book:

How does a star fall?
Quickly. Completely. Unexpectedly.


Derrick Knolane escapes to Trinidad Head most evenings, avoiding his apartment and planning for the day he’ll break free of Humboldt County. Working in a music store might be fine for a while, but it’s far from the goal he had in mind when he got his college degree. Not to mention the fact that his roommate is a jerk and his family won’t stop trying to run his life.

Then Brielle falls into his world.

She claims to be a star. Not from Hollywood, but from heaven. He thinks she’s crazy. Certainly delusional. Yet, he can’t just leave her alone on the cliffs. So he takes her home.

And his whole world falls apart.

A heartfelt and fanciful contemporary romance novella, How a Star Falls explores the uncertain season of new adulthood and shows that sometimes the worst inconveniences make for the best miracles of all.  - Goodreads

Blog Book Review


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Best of luck.
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Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas (2014)



One of the best things Hallmark has going for them are the quirky characters of their wildly popular Signed, Sealed, Delivered franchise. Starting out as a two-hour pilot movie that launched a ten-episode show, it is now moving to three 2015 movie specials, all of which is kicked off with this 2-hour Christmas special. These late deliveries keep our quartet in their own backyard, delaying all but Oliver’s Christmas plans. Shane (Kristin Booth) plans to treat herself to a spa, while Rita (Crystal Lowe) has family to visit and Norman (Geoff Gustafson) too has plans of his own, leaving their fearless leader, Oliver (Eric Mabius) to carry out the last minute postal needs, only loyal to each other, plans are put on hold to be sure a little girl gets her Christmas wish – even as her mother lies ill in a hospital bed. Creative thinking and maybe a little heavenly assistance will be needed for the POstables to pull off this Christmas wish – and maybe that of a girl’s from a very long time ago.
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A Royal Christmas (2014)


 
Ever since The Princess Diaries (ironically I saw the Anne Hathaway helmed Disney flick for the first time at Christmas, but then that’s a story for another day) and probably before, I have been a fairy-tale movie kind of girl. Furthering that feeling are cute, cozy television productions such as this.  

Life for Emily Taylor (Lacey Chabert) is perfect. She’s working with her father at their generational family seamstress business, has dreams and sketches that could lead to designing, and to bring it full circle she is dating the greatest guy, Leo James (Stephen Hagan). Things couldn’t be more perfect. After nearly a year of dating, Christmas is nearing and the two of them are looking forward to their first holiday season together only Emily’s idea of a quiet, traditional Christmas is shattered when Leo is forced to admit to her that he isn’t just some British guy who came to the States to study, no in fact he is the crown prince of the small kingdom of Cordinia and his mother, Queen Isadora (Jane Seymour) is expecting his return for Christmas. Emily’s Christmas is suddenly all about manners, ballrooms and meeting the impossible standards of the queen.  

That is the gist of this latest Countdown to Christmas premiere and of the ones I’ve seen during this 2014 season, I do believe this one is my favorite to date. It’s sweet, romantic and airs on the side of caution when it comes to clichés – particularly with the whole breakup-ten-minutes-before-the-credits component. Is there still a separation? Of course, but it’s not as the result of a fight – or worse perceived cheating or lack of love. This alone is enough for me to completely gush over this, even if there wasn’t countless other attributes, which let me clarify: there are. Can we just run down a few now – castles, royalty, pretty gowns, and beautiful snowy landscapes. That seems reasons enough to fall head over heels for this festive production.  

Bringing this all together is the cast which is quite good. I liked Lacey and Stephen together and in particular respected how their characters were written. I never doubted that Emily knew that Stephen loved her (which was partially a factor in her later decision) nor did I question that Stephen loved Emily 100% wholeheartedly – in spite of a certain someone’s attempts to turn his head. Then there is well-known actress, Jane Seymour who adds some fun to the film and in particular her role. There are lots of cute moments with Emily and the servants, something that brings to mind the film A Princess for Christmas (this one mirrors that charmer in many ways) and of course, there’s an ending worthy of a wide smile and satisfied sigh of happiness. 

Catch the premiere of A Royal Christmas TONIGHT (Saturday the 22nd) on Hallmark Channel – let me know if you watched it and what you thought. In the meantime, check out this cute promo trailer. 
 
                        
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The Famous People Tag


Hello! For all you fellow movie buffs out there, you may enjoy this tag that I received from Rachel (aka Hamlette) of Hamlette's Soiloquy which is the Famous People Tag - THANK YOU for the tag, Rachel. Reading through the questions seemed like a fun idea so I was like, "why not!" And here we are.

#1 Who's your favourite singer/group? Oh, dear. Why do we have to start off with such a tough question? As a teen all of my groups or singers were Christian artists whereas now I'm in the country phase of my life or the sort of music on Taylor Swift's recent 1989 which I am sorry, but I'm loving the more I listen to said album.

#2 If your favourite male actor was in the same room as you right now, what would your reaction be? Um, it wouldn't be anything to write home about I am sure. I'd probably be too unsure or disbelieving to say a word. In other words, I'd be dumfounded.

#3 Is there a famous person you used to love but (due to something they have done in their life) you've suddenly changed your mind? As a kid, we often saw all of the movies Lindsay Lohan was in and in The Parent Trap she is cute, now it's sad to see how far she's fallen from the seemingly bright and happy kid she was.

Julianne Hough is another star I liked more prior to her becoming a DWTS judge. I'd read an article about her way back when and she sounded relatively grounded, but as a judge, she doesn't cut it. Though to be honest it doesn't sway me in terms of still enjoying her movies or music - and really, I am not easily swayed if an actor says something I disagree with, because honestly I've heard several of my favorite actors say something in an interview I thought was ridiculous, but if I like their movies... well, I still watch them.

#4 Name a famous person you like who's name starts with a V. Does Veronica Mars count as a famous person? Kidding. Vin Diesel - that's the first actor/famous person who came to mind. Oh, or there's Queen Victoria. Love how she's portrayed in the A&E miniseries.

Oscars.com

#5 What's one of your favourite red-carpet dresses? I don't follow the Red Carpet religiously, though do occasionally flip through a slideshow if one catches my eye... so, I did find this dress worn by Jenna Dewan-Tatum at last year's Oscars. Not sure I love everything about it, but the biggest thing that caught my eye was it's not strapless! Like, wow, that's a switch.

#6 Who's your favourite Royal person? Honestly, I don't think I have a favorite royal person. I mean sure William and Kate are fabulous to see in People magazine or thereabouts, but I'm not a real royal-obsessed fangirl.

#7 Who's your favourite child actor/tress Probably someone like Shirley Temple whose films I watched all the time growing up.

#8 Is there an actor/actress [whose private lives you respect]? A private life is just that so it's hard to know how the famous live in their day-to-day lives, though what I know of them, I respect people like Tim Tebow, Candace Cameron Bure, the Duck Dynasty family (they have been a shining example on DWTS this season - particularly Sadie) and the like because they aren't afraid to publicly share their beliefs.

#9 Do you think that the actors/actresses have improved these last 100 years? That's not really something I've thought about I suppose. I think for the kind of movies I generally enjoy, the actors are talented. Then there is someone like Matthew McConaughey (I know a lot of people don't care for him) who was type casted but let me tell you, he can act - watching him in his more "serious" dramatic roles prove that.

#10 What's the weirdest famous-people name? None are coming to mind.

#11 Do you think you look like a famous person? Which one(s)? Um, no. Not even close.

#12 Share your favourite famous-person quote. Unknown. I don't really have a stash of favorite quotes - I'll see something in a store on pretty wall décor and like it, but I don't have something I live by as a quote though I do think C.S. Lewis has some fabulous stuff.

#13 Who's your favourite dancer? The dancers on DWTS are the only dancers who come to mind - I like Mark Ballas, Derek Hough and many of the "normal" cast dancers as well.

#14 Why is your favourite actress your favourite one? When did you decide that she was your favourite? I have SO many favorite actresses, I don't think I could pick one though I suppose if I had too, I'd pick Jennifer Lawrence (for the purposes of today's post) or maybe Amy Adams. I'm not sure the defining moment when I realized their respective work was that good, but both of them are very versatile which to me seems the sign of a great actress.

#15 Have you ever met/seen/been close to a famous person? Does shaking a Russian ice dancing couple's hands count? My parents took us to a Stars on Ice show when we were young teens (back in the day when I was obsessed with figure skating) and at the end of the show, the stars came along the front row seats and shook everyone's hands - this couple had our row. :)

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That's a wrap!
 
Now, it's YOUR turn. Want to join in? If so copy the list of questions below and if you join the party, come by to leave your link as I'd love to read your answers and post!
 
Have fun!

#1 Who's your favourite singer/group?
#2 If your favourite male actor was in the same room as you right now, what would your reaction be?
#3 Is there a famous person you used to love but (due to something they have done in their life) you've suddenly changed your mind?
#4 Name a famous person you like who's name starts with a V.
#5 What's one of your favourite red-carpet dresses?
#6 Who's your favourite Royal person?
#7 Who's your favourite child actor/tress
#8 Is there an actor/actress you actually like their private lives of? (Not sure if that last question was properly phrased.)
#9 Do you think that the actors/actresses have improved these last 100 years?
#10 What's the weirdest famous-people name?
#11 Do you think you look like a famous person? Which one(s)?
#12 Share your favourite famous-person quote.
#13 Who's your favourite dancer?
#14 Why is your favourite actress your favourite one? When did you decide that she was your favourite?
#15 Have you ever met/seen/been close to a famous person? 
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My True Love Gave to Me, Edited by Stephanie Perkins


 
About the Book:
Author(s): Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt De La Pena, Gayle Foreman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, Kiersten White
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: Amazon Purchase
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary, Fantasy, Christmas, Novella 

Every year one of my “goals” for the Christmas season is to read more seasonal fiction because I must admit that being the Hallmark junkie I am there’s no logical reason why I shouldn’t enjoy some festive fiction as well, which is why this collection of novellas immediately snagged my attention. Its 12 stories written by some of the best in the YA/Teen business are all edited by respected novelist Stephanie Perkins. I started out reading this with skepticism after watching a booktube review for it, but am not sorry to have the information since it informed me about which stories I would enjoy and those that for personal reasons I would be skipping. Since it’s tough to review a collection of novellas, what I am going to do with this review is a little different. I’m going to share about some of the stories I liked best – along with maybe brief reviews on one or two I just didn’t “get,” beginning with the first novella.  

Midnights, by Rainbow Rowell: This is one of the least developed stories that I read, meaning while it spans several years (three, I believe) – each time set on New Year’s Eve, it really didn’t feel as if we got to know the characters well. That being said, this one was darling. I enjoyed Mags as a character particularly since she’s isn’t your normal, outgoing, vibrant kind of heroine. She’s someone more people will relate to than I think we realize and that’s nice. It’s a story about a group of friends who have banned together for years and the male “best friend” (Noel) Mags has watched kiss someone new each year – and it’s never her. Plus I enjoyed getting a taste of what Rainbow’s writing is about and being one of the most hyped currently in culture writers, that was a treat. (4 out of 5) 

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me, by Jenny Han: This one tells the story of Natalie, a normal girl rescued by Santa who was raised to be Santa’s daughter. Only trouble is she has developed a crush on an elf and unable to see a future with anyone other than her own kind, she begins thinking about the outside world. Unique is the best word I can think to describe this story. It’s darling in a different kind of way because of the idea of a heroine who is crushing on an elf – one who’s sort of been her best friend through their growing up. Natalie has a sweet personality and I like that she’s imaginative. Though probably the shortest in the whole collection, it’s a nice read. (4 out of 5)

It's A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown, by Stephanie Perkins: Immediately following up Jenny’s story is this one which tells Marigold and North’s story. These two meet at a tree lot and through a series of events (nothing “epic” certainly), they take a kind of emotional journey together in the span of limited pages and oh my, gosh! I totally know why everyone hypes Stephanie Perkins as a great contemporary author. I absolutely loved this one and can definitely get behind the calls for Perkins to make this into a full length novel – without having time to really let us know these characters (because of page space), we love these two and want to know more as the last pages come to an end. It’s charming, really – plus it doesn’t hurt that the title brings to mind one of THE most beloved Christmas specials. (5 out of 5)  

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman: Unfortunately, for all the hype surrounding this author, I just didn’t care for this story. It has some nice moments and I liked the idea of the story, but the crudities and choppiness (the story didn’t flow as nicely as most of the other contemporaries) just didn’t work. Sophie is a Jewish girl (whose family isn’t strict in their religion) who finds it tough being at a school where next to no one is Jewish. She (of course) meets a boy who changes things. (3 out of 5)  

Welcome to Christmas, CA., by Kiersten White: This was one that didn’t seem to get the best of reviews from readers, but I actually enjoyed it. It’s got some sass, features fabulous banter between its leads and offers a lesson that our perception of life isn’t always the truth – something Maria has to learn and unfortunately it’s a lesson that could have made her life more pleasant had she learned it sooner. Really quickly, the story is about a high school senior named Maria who hates her small town until she meets the new cook (Ben) at the diner her mother runs and where Maria works after school. (4 out of 5)  

Star of Bethlehem, by Ally Carter: Lydia and Hulda serendipitously meet at the airport and when Lydia sees that Hulda is trying to exchange her ticket for a different destination, they swap sending Lydia to a ranch where a cute guy, Ethan and this large family await her. Okay, so this story may be the most unrealistic, but aww… it was cute. I could have done without some of the “convenient” last-minute bits of dialogue and the events – it has something to do with legal guardianship and an aunt named Mary, but other than that, this one is darling. (4out of 5)  

I’m struggling with an overall rating for this so I’m not going that route with this collection. It’s hard to know where to rate it because in the interest of full disclosure, one story I read nothing of and two other’s I left unfished (one of which being ‘The Lady and the Fox’ because I’m sorry, but I just didn’t get it – am I missing something?) Then there is Holly Black’s mythical story (‘Krampuslauf’) which I suppose raises some interesting social issues yet doesn’t explain itself: is it contemporary fantasy… or what? Also some of the stories may wander into gray issues as regards spirituality and that will probably be a sore spot for some readers – I took most everything as regards those elements with a grain of salt because honestly nothing that happened in the pages shook what I believe in.  

Some of the novellas won’t satisfy everyone not just because of content, but because some of the stories don’t have time to spell out every issue due to the length. In the end, I’m glad I read this. It gave me a chance to “meet” some of the most popular authors in the YA scene (which I loved since I’m anxious to read some of their full-length novels) and provided me with some nice holiday reading – the festive events, scenes or descriptions know no bounds! Despite some disappointments, it's a book I can see myself picking up during the Christmas season and rereading my favorites in the collection.

Content: there is some profanity (sh*t, da*n, "effing" etc.) and innuendo (one story suggests a girl has taken a guy to a room at a party – she emerges in her underwear) in the stories. There are also some homosexual themes – some mentions are just in passing, another is the primary topic in ‘Your Temporary Santa.’ Parties do occur in certain novellas, most include alcohol and underage drinking.  

Synopsis: If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. - Goodreads
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Cinderella Full-Length US Trailer!


Fairytale lovers, today was full of the best (movie) news ever. We now have a full length trailer for the upcoming Disney live-action, Cinderella. Coming in March 2015, let me tell you, this looks awesome!


Here's a synopsis:

The story of "Cinderella" follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella's father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother's dying words and to "have courage and be kind." She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella's hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden). Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham-Carter) steps forward and -- armed with a pumpkin and a few mice -- changes Cinderella's life forever. - via Youtube

...and the trailer:



I adore the "look" of this one. It's bright and whimsical - something I did not expect, the costumes are glittery, colorful and beautiful, the acting (Cate will rock this character) and oh, my Richard doesn't look half bad as the prince either (*wink*) - and let me tell you, I was the greatest skeptic about his casting. Definitely this will be one to must-see in the theater.

Your turn: what do you think? Let's chat!

Photo: Disney
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This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof


 
About the Book:
Author: Joanne Bischof
Publisher: Mason Jar Books
Source: Author Provided
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Genre: Fiction; Historical YA Novella
Rating: 5 out of 5
 
I’ve only recently discovered the pen of Joanne Bischof, however all it took was one novel to know this was an author whose works I had to further look into – that one work of fiction was poignantly beautiful, so much so that my usual preferences for a specific era were blown out the window and I read her book, Though my Heart is Torn in (mostly) one day. Her latest offering is a novella of the YA persuasion and tells the story of Sarah, a teenage schoolgirl, who is struggling in math and thanks to her teacher, gains a tutor in the kind, Tucker, a boy who soon reveals there is more to him than Sarah first thought – and is the one boy who changes her life forever.

When a story such as this comes across your radar it’s tough to properly talk about it, to speak to its qualities and hope you are doing it the justice it richly deserves. That and then some is the dilemma of This Quiet Sky. Like its title it’s the quiet kind of story that leads us into the hearts (as well as a gentle introduction into Joanne’s ‘Cadence of Grace’ trilogy) of its characters – particularly Sarah’s since she is our narrator, and beautifully illustrates what selfless love and the choice to love looks like. Both Sarah and Tucker were darling – as individuals and together in their too few scenes, he was particularly kind and loving as a boy struggling to learn how to have relationships, and whose character had a right to be anything but. I enjoyed the set up scenes (the story moves quickly because of its limited pages) between them and the reader can even glimpse similarities in said scenes to a certain school girl whose name is Anne spelled with an “e.”

In Sarah, there is a character whose view of love might “bother” or be thought unrealistic to some people, when in reality, it’s one of the most healthy realistic instances of love in modern literature – and yes, I do realize I’m being ambiguous with this sentence, but guys, I can’t give away what happens! Just, you know, go read it. *smile*

This Quiet Sky has the nostalgic charm of Anne of Green Gables (that schoolroom scene – aw…) before it beautifully collides with the mistrials of life, and leaves the reader reaching for a Kleenex box over its poignant and bittersweet conclusion that is sure to make us think about life, love and the important things we cannot forget – and don’t want to. Tucker and Sarah’s story is definitely not a tale to miss; it’s a kind of love not easily forgotten, and while that may be the most heartbreaking variety of all, Sarah proves to be a heroine whose hope is in more than love. This is one of those novellas that’s strength is in being unafraid to have a weakness and sometimes those are the most memorable and beautiful stories – in those, we can often find the genuine gifts life shows us. This Quiet Sky is such a gift for any reader open to receiving it.

Synopsis: There is nothing extraordinary about Tucker O’Shay’s dreams. Go to college. Become president. Fall in love. And pretend like he has enough time to get it all done.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Miller doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary when she begins her first day at the one-room-school house in her new hometown of Rocky Knob. But when she meets seventeen-year-old Tucker O’Shay—the boy with the fatal illness who volunteers to tutor her in algebra—she finds herself swept up in a friendship that changes the way she sees the world and a love that changes her life. – Goodreads

Sincere thanks to the author, Joanne Bischof for a complimentary e-ARC copy of this book for reviewing purposes – thank you, Joanne!
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This Quiet Sky Kindle Giveaway


Morning. So, earlier this autumn, I had the pleasure to read Joanne Bischof's latest work of fiction; a charming novella geared towards the YA genre. It's a bittersweet one, but guys... it's a must read. This week, I was doing some Amazon shopping (trying to find out what to get everyone for Christmas is tough) and blog planning which, combined made me realize - yikes! - Joanne's novella debuted this week. I had it in my head that it wasn't out until December, so my apologies for not having this review up sooner... but if you want to read my thoughts, the review is up today plus, bonus! There is a chance for one of you to read it. As usual, below are all the details.

The rules are as follows:

This giveaway(s) is open to ALL readers (and is Kindle only). I do 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! Winner(s) will have 48 hours to respond to the email notification before another winner is randomly chosen.

To be entered in the giveaway, just enter as much or as little as you like into the Rafflecopter widget... and good luck everyone! The giveaway ends on November 18th.

Synopsis: There is nothing extraordinary about Tucker O’Shay’s dreams. Go to college. Become president. Fall in love. And pretend like he has enough time to get it all done.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Miller doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary when she begins her first day at the one-room-school house in her new hometown of Rocky Knob. But when she meets seventeen-year-old Tucker O’Shay—the boy with the fatal illness who volunteers to tutor her in algebra—she finds herself swept up in a friendship that changes the way she sees the world and a love that changes her life. - Goodreads


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Belle (2014)


Belle
 
There are some films worth waiting for. This recent costume drama was one I had seen raved about in reviews, Twitter and other spaces all by people I trusted, but it sat around my house for possibly a month after its release before finally its story came to life on the television.  

Young Belle doesn’t fit in anywhere. She’s born of Jamaican and English descent, and to add more pain to the mixed birth, she has a father born of the aristocracy. She’s too grand a birth to fit in with the less fortunate, but not good enough to be accepted in full by her English family. The father she doesn’t know takes her back to his family estates following the death of her mother and leaves her in the care of his uncle and aunt (Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson) before he leaves to comply with his military duties. When Belle grows, she takes the name Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and is raised along with her cousin, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), only to be held back from being accepted into society. She, like Elizabeth hopes of making a good match, only no respectable man will have her – even though she is one of the wealthiest women in England following her father’s death and his will leaving her the sole heiress to his vast fortune.  

When the family takes Elizabeth to London to enjoy the season, Dido is allowed to go, but isn’t expected to be accepted into society, until a young man, Oliver Ashford (James Norton) – a man from a wealthy family, takes a keen liking to Dido surpassing her family’s dreams of a prominent match. Also intrigued by Dido is a young, idealistic lawyer John (Sam Reid), whose education was once under the teaching of Dido’s uncle, but the two quarreled over John’s passion to see equal rights given to all men leaving John without a respectable place in society and Dido becoming accepted in a world she’s watched from the outside.  


Some cinematic masterpieces are of the sort that use a slower tempo of storytelling or a time and history to tell their story, which beautifully gives the audience a quieter story that is no less impacting as those that move at a lightning speed. Belle is one such story. I remembered seeing the trailers and beautiful promotional material back when the film was playing at film festivals, then promptly forgot about it. Fortunately avid fans of the film are a part of my Instagram timeline and I just *knew* it was a film I had to get my hands on, so I did – and happily the choice to purchase it was a wise one.
 
Reflections of Amazing Grace aren’t difficult to pull out of this script, even though Belle is generally a lighter approach to a movement that was very real and important to the abolitionist’s beliefs.  It gives us a hero who is willing to give up the opportunity for a chance at a more prosperous life to champion his cause and on the flipside, a heroine who suffers as a result of her misfortunate birth – one that allows her anything she materially wants, but limits her acceptance in society and family.

Belle

At first blush this does appear to be just another pretty face with its gorgeous promotional material; looking deeper reveals otherwise. There is so much more to this pretty masterpiece. The script is fantastic in terms of the beliefs Dido has as well as the progression of her acceptance into society – some of the characters may have been shortchanged in the script or not been as fully evolved as they might have been, however that is little to complain about in comparison to the loveliness to be found in this kaleidoscope of costume drama goodness. One of the more important and emotional issues that crops up in the film is the commission of a painting that pictures Dido and Elizabeth. Her reaction to this is telling to what her life has been, as is the misconception she harbored that perhaps she wasn’t as loved – or could be loved, as her fair and beautiful cousin. The quiet in the scene is what makes it powerful.

Belle
As any costume drama worth its salt would, again the costuming is beautiful. Belle is able to give the viewer some gorgeous finery to drool over and this production is no different – the dresses, the gentleman’s attire, the color, the hairstyles everything is spot on elegantly refined and complimentary to the era. Also talented are the cast who each add something good to the roles. I was particularly impressed with the two young stars; both women had an emotional role to fill and each one played it well with strength and vulnerability in equal points of their character arcs. Packing the best emotional punch is the knowledge that this is based off a true story and the ending bios for the characters in the story adds a nice touch and rings of truth to know we’ve just witnessed events that did happen in timeline of history – even with the license of drama to adapt the story, Belle is worth seeing and is easily one of my new favorites.
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2015 INSPY Chatter has Begun



Hello! I just wanted to stop by and let you all know that the 2015 INSPYs discussion has started - yes, it is coming up on that time again. Oh my! We're slowly but surely starting to plot strategy and get our ducks in a row for the 2015 awards season. On that note, there is a new discussion thread started on our Goodreads page asking YOU want you'd like to see more of on the INSPYs blog this year leading up to the winners in the spring.

IF you haven't joined us over there, visit our Goodreads page to join in discussions or vote on polls or just to meet fellow INSPYs supporters and book addicts.

To keep up to date on all INSPYs happenings, follow us on any of our social media sites or watch for updates on our individual Twitter timelines. I know I'll be sharing any and all news on mine.

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Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants


Films Discussed:

-The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (2005): Rated, PG
-The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 (2008): Rated, PG13

It had been years since last I watched either one of these adaptations and so one night I settled in to watch the first film and despite the late hour, couldn’t resist starting the sequel. In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, it follows four lifelong 16-year-old best friends – Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Lena (Alexis Bledel), Bridget (Blake Lively) and Carmen (America Ferrera), who have never been apart for a summer… until this one. On one of their shopping trips, they find one pair of pants that “magically” fits each of them perfectly. Sure that this means something, the girls decide to mail the pants to each other over a summer of separation – including travel to Greece and Spain, hoping that the pants found them for a reason.

Over the next two years, along with their companions of heartbreak and laughter, the pants continue to be a part of the girl’s freshman years of college lives as well as the many people who come and go, touch and change those lives.  

As I watched these films, I realized how easily I forget what cute “chick flicks” these were. I enjoy the characters, the locations, the saucy personalities and the stories themselves. In addition to the now well-known stars who brought these characters of Ann Brandish alive, some of the actors who played characters in these include Jenna Boyd (in a particularly moving role as Bailey), Michael Rady, Lucy Hale, Blythe Danner, Rachel Nichols (Alias, G.I. Joe) and Tom Wisdom. Though the books were never something that made it into my reading habits, after two adaptations, I cannot imagine enjoying anyone else in the leading roles – each girl brought something unique to their roles and the emotions they get out of their characters makes for memorable cinema. There was change in their characters between movies one and two which can be attested to the actors crafting and while, some of the emotions that flare up do repeat themselves in both movies, all of us can probably admit to the truth in them. Girls do fight over petty things and rather than think before acting, sometimes tempers get the best of us. For these four, that and then some certainly was a truism. Instead of remembering all they’d been through, they let jealousies, excuses and others come between what they had – a friendship that was always there, no matter what. 
 

Rumors of a third film have been circulating and while I’d be first in line – yes, we do want to see what these girls are up to in their “grown-up” life, I doubt it will ever see production if they cannot reunite the primary four cast members. Something I would completely agree with. The scenery in both films is also beautiful, particularly in the final scene of the sequel (one that was lobbied for by the actresses) and each of the sequences in Greece. Most people don’t care for the sequels nearly as well, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I liked it just as well if not better than the original, mainly because of the change in Bridget. She goes from being a girl on the verge of disaster to being a more responsible yet still fun-lovin’ “grownup.” Triumphs and tragedies follow these four girls and through it all – bumps and bruises aside, they define the meaning of friendship and that is the primary reason these stories are endearing.  
Review questions of the day: Have any of you read these books?
If so, which did you like best – books or movies? Let’s chat. 

(Content: the first movie involves Bridget enticing her older soccer coach while she’s away at camp – she sneaks out to find him at a bar, dresses suggestively and does anything she can to keep his notice. It’s implied the two of them sleep together, which changes her emotionally. The second film shows Tibby and her boyfriend making out in her bed and then Tibby giving her permission for them to have sex [there is a pregnancy scare as a result]. Some minor profanity crops up along with emotional situations like a death that hits home.) 
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A Cookie Cutter Christmas (2014)


 
Many fans have been waiting for this film to premiere and all I’ll say is those fans will enjoy this movie.
 
Ever since they were small children, Christie Reynolds (Erin Krakow) and Penny Miller (Miranda Frigon) have been friends-turned-rivals. It all began with a Christmas children’s pageant when Penny stole Christie’s solo and ever since then, the two have been competing against each other – even to this day. Both teachers, the two women enter the Christmas cookie bake-off with a winning prize being a class trip for the winning cookie recipe. Things get more complicated when a new student transfers to Christie’s class and her single dad, James (David Haydn-Jones) catches both Christie and Penny’s attention.

If my fandom radar is telling me anything it’s that Hearties (the official fandom for When Calls the Heart) is going to make this a popular movie for the 2014 Countdown to Christmas season because of Erin and indeed, fans will enjoy seeing her in a vastly yet not-so-different role – seriously, when it comes down to basics, she does essentially play the same character only it’s in a contemporary role. There are disastrous baking results, competition for a guy and of course, the profession as a teacher. Sounds familiar, right!? It’s a formula that admittedly is familiar and blissfully, with exception to one or two cringe-inducing no-no’s (laughs or no, said moments are a peg or two over-the-top), it does work.

With some flaws here and there, this is another darling Christmas flick to air on the Heart of TV network. As aforementioned, there is one serious “taking-it-too-far” scene that the writing just went overboard with in the rivalry issue and that is a scene at a party that involves a piano and singing. Every other attempt to “one up” the other I could deal with and thought was cute, but that one scene… just took things a little too much with a side of ridiculous. Looking past this, there’s nothing to complain about with regards to this delicious treat. There is plenty of sweetness in the cozy scenes between Christie, Lily and even James which leaves us rooting for the obvious all while making us hungry for some of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes – and you may want a plate handy while enjoying this treat. You’ve been warned.

Catch the premiere of A Cookie Cutter Christmas tonight, November 9th on Hallmark Channel. If you tune into this one, let me know what you thought!

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The Nine Lives of Christmas (2014) - RomCom Cute with Festive Charm and Brandon Routh


Even with all the cozy comforts of the familiar, the 2014 Countdown to Christmas has gotten off to a rousing good start. Last weekend started it all rolling with the bright captivity of One Starry Christmas and this weekend with not one but two all new original movies. 


Zach (Brandon Routh) may be a hero, but he isn’t exactly the happy ending kind of guy. His girlfriend (Chelsea Hobbs) is the spoiled daughter of a pet store owner, who though beautiful is a shallow woman. Then there is Marilee (Kimberley Sustad). She’s a ragged veterinary student, whose friends and sister has made it their mission to find for her the perfect man. 

When her path coincidentally continues to cross with Zach, Marilee may discover, her ideal match is not all that far away.

This movie – or what I saw of it, is absolutely darling. In comparison to some of its peers, the writing is really quite good with some great bits of dialogue between Zach and Marilee (primarily the scene when they first meet - like, how cute is this moment – appropriately awkward) and the sweet way Zach talks about his impressions of Marilee then there are the fun scenes of Zach at the firehouse where he manages to get some much-needed counsel from his captain (played by familiar face, Gregory Harrison). 

TV MOVIE REVIEW | Hearts of Christmas (2016) – Emotional with a Heartwarming Romance


Just to be upfront, I will say I did not see this film in its entirety due to some skipping (for no reason other than by choice) coupled with some minor technical issues, however I am comfortable with my review. Needless to say, this is one package any avid Christmas movie fan will enjoy discovering. The characters themselves seemed fresh (perhaps because of the newbie Hallmark faces playing them – they lend something “new” to the story) and I liked them all the more for this. 

One of the movies I didn’t expect to enjoy as well as some of the others I was eyeing, ‘Nine Lives’ definitely surprised me. Don’t miss it – really, it’s the purr-fect, cozy kind of flick. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.)



I’ll leave off with this bit of dialogue from Zach and Marilee’s meet-cute. (If you guys know what movie that last phrase is from, you’re awesome.)

 “What kind of cat do you have?”
“Uh… well, he’s sort of orange-ish. With stripes.” 
“That’s a very rare breed.”

                  

Images via Hallmark Channel.com
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