INSPY Awards 2014 Update

Friday, November 29, 2013

 Afternoon, all! I trust everyone had a spectacular Thanksgiving, and you've all recovered from those food comas. Mine was quiet but nice (I spent a good part of the afternoon with my nose in a book! Hmm... that doesn't sound like me, right!?) and nope, I am not one of those people who waits in line for hours for Black Friday deals. The closest I want to get to that is sitting in front of a computer screen in my pajamas browsing Amazon. Anyway... today I wanted to update you all on a bit of INSPY news in case you missed our repetitive tweeting, Google+(ing) or our new Goodreads presence.

Yes, we now have a Goodreads page - yay! If you've not seen it, you are all invited to check it out and if you like, you're welcome to join. You can start discussions (which you are welcome to do!), vote on polls (something we'd appreciate you taking a moment to do) and meet new people. We'd  be happy to welcome you, all we ask is you be kind and courteous in your comments or discussion, beyond that, please have fun and offer feedback. Secondly, our Google+ page is slowly growing and we're keeping our Facebook and Twitter feeds current and up to date.

Over the last two weeks, there has been lots of Advisory Board discussion about the 2014 awards process and we've made some decisions that are new for this year and one of those changes should be posted very soon, so keep an eye out for that.

Aside from that, I think that's basically all the news-y things to share. If you or someone you know is interested in possibly being a shortlist judge this year, please give us a shout-out! We'd love to have your name and information for consideration.

Hope you're all having a happy Friday, readers.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Each year I feel like a broken record because every New Year that we ring in seems to rush past faster than the last, and each year I am amazed by that. 2013 has reached the Thanksgiving holiday and again we are about to be wrapped in the warmth of family, seasonal joys and the gift of giving and gratefulness.  

This year, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving with family on December first (which seems really weird to me but that’s what a late Thanksgiving will do!) and my family is staying home on the actual holiday. We’ll enjoy all the trimmings of a good meal and snuggle in to watch a customary viewing of a favorite movie but most of all as this holiday is now here and upon us, I am reminded of all the blessings we have to be thankful for. Even when life is hard… life is good. God is good – we’re blessed with so much and maybe it’s just because I’ve grown up in these past few years, but I’ve become all the more aware of how awesome that is. Not in the way of exclamation or expression but rather by what a gift that is to have been given.

This year, I’m grateful for...

// family and friends //
// America and its freedom //
// the men and women who protect that freedom //
// life and the lesson’s it’s taught //


Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I hope each one of you are surrounded by those you love most and will enjoy a special day making memories to cherish and enjoy good company.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers and friends.

Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade (2012)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

At least one Christmas movie a year spins such charm that it pulls me in and I am reminded why I hold such a fondness for Christmas movies. This year, Love at the Thanksgiving Parade wins the pick for “new favorite.”

Emily Jones (Autumn Reeser) loves her life. Every day she gets to go to a job she loves – one that is perfectly tailor made for her, and sneaks in Skyping time with her marine biologist almost-fiancé, Brian in-between his travels and busy work schedule. A Chicago native and cop’s daughter, Emily thrives on being the best at her job as a coordinator for the annual parade with a specialty in knowing all the historical details and this year, it seems nothing could ruin her happiness… that is until Henry Williams (Antonio Cupo) comes along. Henry’s job is to close out places that aren’t earning the city any revenue and despite their less-than-cordial encounter, Emily and Henry are about to be paired off as working colleagues since part of his job as an independent consultant is being tasked with figuring out if the parade is still worth the resources and time it demands.  

You already know that I really loved this movie from the opening comments so I suppose now what I’ll ramble about is the “why” behind loving this telefilm… although other than saying this film was superior, I’m not sure what more to say! Judging by its seasonal genre, I am not sure when the last time was that I fell head over heels for a Christmas flick. Certainly up until now nothing has topped the sweet stories of The Christmas Card or A Princess for Christmas however this film held its own and one viewing later, I knew that again Hallmark had scored another winner. Too many films – particularly televised ones, rush their story and leave the audience feeling (partially) cheated out of a full circle concept. This one had a nice pace and the progression seemed very “easy”– both for the story line and the characters.  

This script was really fantastic. It added in some unique quirks that sought to blend the worlds of contemporary and vintage and fortunately, the filmmaker’s vision worked just right. Many of the scenes do a stupendous job of putting us in mind of the 40's/50’s era with its taste for vintage fashion, settings – Emily’s apartment and her determination that books are far more original than a download (see, this girl is awesome) and an adorable heroine whose goal for living in the past is to feel close to her mother, which brings me to the characters. They were so delightful… and fun… and special. Henry’s wealthy businessman persona was portrayed convincingly well by Antonio whom I’d not seen in anything before, yet thoroughly enjoyed as a leading man (he reminded of a young Peter Gallagher). Autumn pulled off a beautiful vintage look and with exception to one or two ensembles which looked horribly misplaced, she sported all of the cloths with snazzy style – and I applaud designers for putting together such a complimentary wardrobe. These two were also adorable together (did I already mention this?); I mean, their chemistry is infectious – they made fighting fun with plenty of sparks and it was sweet seeing the care and time Henry took to help Emily overcome some of her fears, basically, we find ourselves waiting for their next moments together.

Though filmed in Canada, the Chicago setting was different, making the location somewhat unique to most films that are either in a small town or the big cities of the west and east coasts. Adding in the conflicting personalities of the characters (modern world vs. the old soul) was also something that added a memorable back-and-forth proving that cute “flirting” doesn’t always have to entail a bad vs. good scenario. Eventually, the conclusion may be one of those things that viewers have a hard time accepting as realistically satisfactory, however speaking for myself, this film is possibly the best holiday script I’ll watch this year. It sparkled (with so much personality) all the while retaining a special kind of genuine feeling than most Christmas movies manage to compel and that’s why this one dazzles.

Cover Candy, Edition 15

Monday, November 25, 2013

Well, hello there, everyone! So... the plan for today was first, to post a book review. That got pushed aside because I haven't finished the darn thing yet; said book is quite interesting but my time has been limited over the last few days. Then, I saw an adorable Christmas movie last night and thought, "I could totally write up a quick yet accurate review to post today!" Ha, that enthusiasm was short-lived. There was Castle to watch and books to read and late-night laughs and an early start for Monday, which pretty much clenched my Sunday night. Fortunately, I couldn't be kept away from posting something on this fine Monday and start to an all-new week, and we have the lovely Rel to thank - she inspired me with some new cover designs.

Take a peek at some of 2014's upcoming titles and let us know which catch your fancy.


When 13-year-old Lilix Morgan is found alive and floating on a bed of ice at sea, everyone counts it a miracle. Kidnapped nearly four weeks earlier, she remembers nothing of her mysterious abduction. When she tries to remember what happened, she hears only a melody – a faint and delicate set of notes, strung together in a tune she doesn’t understand.


A year later and desperate to put the lingering nightmares of her past behind her, Lilix crosses the country to enroll at Baelmorte Academy, aiming to become the violinist she once dreamt of. Things seem to be finally going well, and Lilix settles into a routine of sheet music and inspiration among new friends.

Then the dreams start.

The melody and night terrors she thought she’d left behind return with a vengeance, threatening to ruin her fragile version of normalcy. Then an unlikely ally tells her that she isn’t alone. That there are others just like her, fighting to hide their own shocking truths from coming to light. That they know who she is, and what she’s been through. Now, accompanied by four other girls, Lilix discovers her nightmares are larger than a single trauma; they’re a window to a hidden part of her soul, a place of immense power with a destiny that cannot be ignored.


With this knowledge comes a new and frightening reality. For Lilix has been reawakened to stop an age-old enemy, one thought to have been destroyed centuries ago. Trapped by her destiny, Lilix is torn between what feels right and what she remembers. Her memories tell her of a star-crossed love waiting to be reunited, of friendships and trust broken in the past. But can she save that love when reality brings her an enemy, and an evil that will be the undoing of them all if they don’t destroy it?
April 2014
Synopsis: Some memories are better left forgotten... After a daring escape from the scientists at Diotech who created her, Seraphina believes she is finally safe from the horrors of her past. But new threats await Sera and her boyfriend, Zen, at every turn as Zen falls prey to a mysterious illness and Sera’s extraordinary abilities make it more and more difficult to stay hidden. Meanwhile, Diotech has developed a dangerous new weapon designed to apprehend her. A weapon that even Sera will be powerless to stop. Her only hope of saving Zen’s life and defeating the company that made her is a secret buried deep within her mind. A secret that Diotech will kill to protect. And it won’t stay forgotten for long.

Packed with mystery, suspense, and romance, this riveting second installment of Jessica Brody’s Unremembered trilogy delivers more heart-pounding action as loyalties are tested, love becomes a weapon, and no one’s memories are safe.
February 2014

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 fiance, 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.


Synopsis: Pretty, popular Marijke Monti and over-achieving nerd-girl Lily Spencer have little in common—except that neither feels successful when it comes to love. Marijke can’t get her boyfriend to say “I love you” and Lily can’t get a boyfriend at all. When the girls end up at a late night showing of Titanic, sniffling along with the sinking ship, they realize that their love lives could—and should—be better. Which sparks an idea: Why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they create perfect romantic situations? Now they have a budding friendship and a plan—to act out grand gestures and get the guys of their dreams. It seems like fun at first, but reality turns out to be much more complicated, and they didn’t take into account that finding true love usually requires finding yourself first.
July 2014

Synopsis: Maeve, princess of Connacht, was born with her fists clenched. And it's her spirit and courage that make Maeve her father's favorite daughter. But once he becomes the High King, powerful men begin to circle--it's easy to love the girl who brings her husband a kingdom.

Yet Maeve is more than a prize to be won, and she's determined to win the right to decide her own fate. In the court's deadly game of intrigue, she uses her wits to keep her father's friends and enemies close--but not too close. When she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the son of a visiting druid, Maeve faces a brutal decision between her loyalty to her family and to her own heart.

Award-winning author Esther Friesner has a remarkable gift for combining exciting myth and richly researched history. This fiery heroine's fight for independence in first-century Ireland is truly worthy of a bard's tale. Hand Deception's Princess to fans of Tamora Pierce, Shannon Hale, and Malinda Lo.
April 2014
Synopsis: World War II is finally over and the people of Rosey Corner are busy welcoming the boys home. The Merritt sisters in particular are looking toward the future. Kate is eager to start a family and live out her dream of happily ever after with Jay. Evangeline wants a beautiful house and encourages Mike to pastor a big-town church. Victoria wants what can never be--a life with a man who will never come back. And little Lorena is growing up and wondering more and more about her birth family.

Through the heartfelt storytelling of bestselling author Ann Gabhart, readers join these endearing characters as they walk an uncertain road. Each sister must learn to hold her plans with a loose hand, trusting that God will guide and strengthen them as they share the joys and sorrows of life in their little corner of the world.
July 2014
Synopsis: Ivy Darling can’t have children of her own, and her husband Nick’s resentment is forcing them apart. And while Ivy has the support and love of her large, close-knit family, Nick’s family has never welcomed her into the fold.

When the three children next door are abandoned by their mother, Ivy and Nick take them in for the night. One night becomes several, and suddenly Ivy and Nick find themselves foster parents to the only African-American kids in the town of Copper Cove, Maine. As Ivy grows more attached to the children, Nick refuses to accept their eclectic household as a permanent family. Just as Ivy begins to question whether or not she wants to save her emotionally barren marriage, Nick begins to discover how much Ivy and the children mean to him. But is his change of heart too little, too late?
June 2014
Synopsis: Increasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany—in the summer of 1939—will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.

Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.

Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young—a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally—who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives—and asking others to do the same—for those they barely know but come to love.
June 2014
Synopsis: 1 crush on your best friend +
1 gorgeous, scheming new girl +
1 Mathletics competition =
1 big mess


Ashley Price doesn’t have much in life after being bullied so hard she had to leave her old school to live with her aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh. But the camera she borrowed from her best friend and secret crush Brendan, and her off the charts math abilities, make things a lot more bearable. Plus, since Brendan is the captain, making the school Mathletes team should be easy.

But when gorgeous new girl Sofia rolls in and steals Brendan, Ashley's place on the team, and her fragile foothold on the Mansfield Park Prep social totem pole, it’s on. Sofia is everything Ashley left her old school to escape. The only thing Ashley didn’t count on is Sofia’s sexy twin brother Vincent.

Vincent is not only the hottest boy in school, he’s charming, sweet, and he’s got his eye on Ashley. He’s also not taking no for an answer. There's no real reason Ashley shouldn't like Vincent, but with the
battle lines being drawn between her and Sofia, Ashley’s not sure which side he’s on. Or which side she wants him to be on.

She does know Sofia is trouble with a capital T, and she’s determined to make Brendan see it.

February 2014
Synopsis: Back in the underground State against her will, Thalli is no longer the anomaly she was before. She has proven herself to be a powerful leader aboveground and returns with information that Dr. Loudin needs to complete his plan of uniting the world under one leader: himself. But he, too, has information. A secret he has kept from Thalli her entire life. A secret that, once revealed, changes everything about the person Thalli thought she was.

Hoping to help Thalli rise up against the Scientists, both Berk and Alex join her underground, but their presence only brings more trouble for her. Now Dr. Loudin knows just the leverage to use on his captive, and she is forced to choose between the two of them. Is her first love her true love? Or does Alex ultimately claim her heart?

Unsure of everything around her, including her own identity, Thalli doesn’t know where to turn. She knows she needs the Designer, but he seems further away than ever. What she does know, though, is that if she doesn’t do something to stop Loudin, the fragile world aboveground will be lost once and for all.

July, 2014
Synopsis: After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.
July 2014

Synopsis: Things are very different--better--for Sarah and her family: her Aunt Maggie grew up; her parents are happily married; her grandmother died after a long, productive and respected life. But other things are different too, and not for the better. Sarah must figure out what has changed, and why, and how she can fix it--how she can find her way to another otherwhen.
January 2014

Synopsis: Delancy Sullivan has always known there's more to reality than what people see. Every time someone makes a choice, a new, parallel world branches off from the existing one. Eating breakfast or skipping it, turning left instead of right, sneaking out instead of staying in bed ~ all of these choices create an alternate universe in which an echo self takes the road not travelled and makes the opposite decision. As a Walker, someone who can navigate between these worlds, Del's job is to keep all of the dimensions in harmony. Normally, Del can hear the dissonant frequency that each world emits as clear as a bell. But when a training session in an off-key world goes horribly wrong, she is forbidden from Walking by the Council. But Del's not big on following the rules and she secretly starts to investigate these other worlds. Something strange connecting them and it's not just her random encounters with echo versions of the guy she likes, Simon Lane. But Del's decisions have unimaginable consequences and, as she begins to fall for the Echo Simons in each world, she draws closer to a truth that the Council of Walkers is trying to hide ~ a secret that threatens the fate of the entire multiverse.

July 2014

Synopsis: In Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties, Celeste DuFrane has it all. Her father’s work with color movie film opens doors that lead to the stardom she’s always aspired to. But after losing her mother, she discovers that half the estate has been left to a woman accused of killing Celeste’s baby sister before Celeste was even born.

Dana Lundgren arrives on the steps of the DuFrane mansion having spent most of her life imprisoned for a crime that never happened. After accusing her of murder so many years ago, why did Marguerite DuFrane leave her a sizeable inheritance?

As Celeste and Dana learn each other’s stories, they come up with more questions than answers. Then a surprising discovery begins to fill in the missing pieces: Marguerite DuFrane’s written confession, penned shortly before her death. Uncovering the treachery and deceit that changed the course of countless lives—most of all, their own—the two women find more than they ever dreamed of.
July 2014

Synopsis: Since the day Rhoda Mummau was baptized into the Old Order Mennonite Church and became the head midwife of Hopen Haus, she’s been torn between the needs of the unwed mothers under her care and her desire to conceal the secrets of her past. Contact with the outside world could provide medical advantages, but remaining secluded in the community gives her the anonymity she craves.

Graduate student Beth Winslow is on a path she never would have chosen. Heartbroken after surrendering a baby to adoption, she devotes herself to her studies until she becomes pregnant again, this time as a surrogate. But when early tests indicate possible abnormalities, Beth is unprepared for the parents’ decision to end the pregnancy—and for the fierce love she feels for this unborn child. Desperate, she flees the city and seeks refuge at Hopen House.

Past and present collide when a young woman named Amelia arrives to the sweeping countryside bearing secrets of her own. As Amelia’s due date draws near, Rhoda must face her past and those she thought she had left behind in order for the healing power of love and forgiveness to set them all free.

June, 2014

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Kestrel is an aristocratic citizen of Valoria, a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers. Here, a girl like Kestrel has two choices: join the military or get married. Despite her skills in military strategy, Kestrel’s real passion is music.Which is why she feels compelled to buy Arin, a slave with a talent for singing, at auction. It’s not long before she finds herself falling in love with Arin, and he seems to feel the same for her. But Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for Arin is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
May 2014

Synopsis: Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is used to getting what she wants, and when her boyfriend Jason breaks up with her for no reason, what she wants is to win him back before the start of their senior year. Lainey and her friend Bianca check the interwebz for tips and tricks, but the online dating advice is all pretty lame.

Then the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. Didn't someone once say that love is a battlefield? Jason isn't going to stand a chance once Lainey and Bee go all Zhou Dynasty on him...

Old school strategy and subterfuge meet modern-day dramarama in the story of a girl who sets out to win at all costs and ends up discovering what's really worth fighting for.
May 2014

Synopsis: The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.
July 2014
Synopsis: Gisela must hold on to hope and love despite all odds in the midst of a war-torn country.

Gisela Cramer is an American living in eastern Germany with her cousin Ella Reinhardt. When the Red Army invades, they must leave their home to escape to safety in Berlin.

However, Ella is a nurse and refuses to leave, sending her young daughters with Gisela. During their journey, Gisela meets Mitch Edwards, an escaped British POW. She pretends she is his wife in order to preserve his safety among other Germans, especially one wounded German soldier, Kurt, who has suspicions about Mitch's identity. Kurt also has feelings for Gisela and tries to uncover the truth about her "marriage."

Their journey to Gisela's mother in Berlin is riddled with tragedy and hardship, but they strive to keep Ella's daughters safe so they can reunite with their mother. During the journey Gisela and Mitch begin to develop feelings for one another beyond friendship. They reach Berlin, but their struggles are far from over. Gisela and Mitch must learn to live for the day and find hope in the darkest of circumstances.

In this moving, historically accurate portrayal of WWII Germany, the characters learn that, even with destruction all around them, some things last forever.

May 2014

Synopsis: Mallory's search for happiness leads her to faraway place. But there she finds heartache and betrayal. Can the only man she's ever loved rescue her before it's too late?

Tate Webber has loved Mallory Hammond for years. He plans to marry her someday, but not until he has his career and life in order. Mallory is in love with Tate, but his unwillingness to commit has created a rift between them. So when Mallory's new boss introduces her to his cousin, she's surprised by his charming, exotic ways and delights in his attention. This exciting stranger begins to sway her thinking about her lifelong dreams and her religious beliefs.
As their online relationship develops, he invites her to visit his homeland in the Middle East, promising her a traditional life based on commitment to family—something she's never had and always wanted. In a bold move—and with lots of resistance from Tate and those closest to her—Mallory decides to leave the only life she's ever known to meet this man on the other side of the world.

Tate begs her not to go, but Mallory embarks on the dangerous journey anyway, only to discover how swiftly and easily promises can be broken. Her new friend is not who he says he is. Tate must risk his life to rescue the only woman he's ever loved. Can he reach Mallory . . . before it's too late?

July 2014

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.
July 2014
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old slave girl, Nym, should not exist. In a world where Elementals are only born male, and always killed at birth, she is an anomaly at best. At worst, people around her die.

When a court emissary identifies her weather-manipulating ability as a weapon, Nym is purchased and put to work honing her skills. With time running out for the kingdom of Faelen, Nym might be all that stands between it and the technologically-advanced horror racing down upon them—not to mention the rumored reemergence of the monstrous shapeshifter, Draewulf. But some elements even she can’t control.

Nym must decide whom to trust as she’s unleashed into a world of assassins, changelings, and political betrayal surrounding a young king fighting for his throne, a tired nation that has forgotten its calling, and her handsome tutor whose dark secrets could destroy both her people and her heart.

August 2014
Synopsis: Can Sloane and James survive the lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end? Find out in this sequel to The Program, which Publishers Weekly called “chilling and suspenseful.”

How do you stop an epidemic?

Sloane and James are on the run after barely surviving the suicide epidemic and The Program. But they’re not out of danger. Huge pieces of their memories are still missing, and although Sloane and James have found their way back to each other, The Program isn’t ready to let them go.

Escaping with a group of troubled rebels, Sloane and James will have to figure out who they can trust, and how to take down The Program. But for as far as they’ve come, there’s still a lot Sloane and James can’t remember. The key to unlocking their past lies with the Treatment—a pill that can bring back forgotten memories, but at a high cost. And there’s only one dose.

Ultimately when the stakes are at their highest, can Sloane and James survive the many lies and secrets surrounding them, or will The Program claim them in the end?
April 2014
...and now, please do share your favorites.

Little Letters, Edition Eleven

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dear 78 Violet,
pretty please release more music…? 
 Dear CMAs,
thank you – no, seriously THANK YOU, for that hilarious opening skit. It worked.  
 Dear Downton Abbey,
why do you have such a hold over me…?
 Dear Google+,
I am in like with your new photo header design!
 Dear Hallmark Channel,
I love the Christmas program you bring to television screens – I’ve already got a pile of 2012 movies on DVD, and I kinda’ cannot wait to let the Christmas movies begin.
 Dear J.J. Abrams,
dude, you’re awesome.
 Dear INSYs,
you’re going to spotlight some epic books this year.
 Dear Katherine Reay,
you brought a character to life vividly though a series of letters so I decided you deserved one of your own, just to say thank you. Your debut novel is lovely and I am honored to have been given opportunity read it. All the best to you.  
 Dear Kelly Clarkson,
your Christmas album is lovely! It’s my observation that a girl can never have too many Christmas albums – and who can resist one with My Favorite Things on its track-list!? Not me.
 Dear Readers,
thanks for being you! I feel fortunate to have “fallen” into the blogosphere community I’m in – thanks for being so welcoming and helpful. It’s been a grand 2-and-a-half-years.
 Dear Spam Comments,
You. Are. Rude.
 Dear Sonoma Ballet Flats,
I like you which is why I just bought two more pairs of you. Thanks for being comfy.

 Dear Sound of Music Live!, 
well, don't you look delightful...

 Dear Stack of Christmas Movies,
I kinda like you! How have I not ripped the cellophane off of you and dived in? I really don’t know, but know this: I’m getting antsy to begin the festivities with some sappy goodness.  
 Dear Thanksgiving,
well… hello there!
 Dear Twitter,
yeah, I still don’t like your latest change – that whole showing photos in the timeline? It’s messy.

 Happy Friday!
Now, it's your turn... do join in the fun and leave the link. :)

Love at the Christmas Table (2012)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

All television Christmas flicks seem to suffer the same fate – mediocre scripts. With exception to Hallmark Hall of Fame, most of the festive movies aren’t inventive nor do they bring the best out in their actors. That being said, I still persist in collecting any that come to DVD… and love every second of it. 
30 years ago, love between Sam Reed and Kat blossomed… or at least a friendship did when the four-year-old kids were brought together by their father’s joining in business and thus begin their yearly Christmases together at the children’s table. Each year the neighborhood gathers at the home of neighbor Elizabeth (Lea Thompson) who throws a celebration unlike any other and each year, the decorations take up more corners of her house. Remembering all the Christmases gone by – including Sam as a 13-year-old crushing on an uninterested, bookish Kat, college years and the fight that kept Sam from returning home for five years – Sam (Dustin Milligan) finally returns home to his small town with the hope that finally he and Kat (Danica McKeller) will lay the past to rest… and the one question Sam wants to ask her will result in wiping the slate clean to begin afresh.

Airing on Lifetime during last year’s Christmas programming, this story is actually one of the more unusual and sweet scripts in its genre, and for that, I applaud it. Unfortunately, the story isn’t well produced. Primarily the story unfolds in flashbacks, starting with a four-year-old Sam and Kat in the 1980’s all the way up until they are 27-year-old adults who are still in a “holding pattern,” neither one being sure what they want from life. As usual their adult lives are about them owning up to their own choices and learning to deal with them, and more importantly facing what it is they are most afraid of – what they want out of life. Their younger years are full of teen angst, confusion and changing perspectives which is regrettably limiting to the present timeframe and though I understand why so much time is spent in the past – believe me, that is needed when it becomes clear what Sam’s intentions are, I cannot help but feeling cheated out of knowing who Sam and Kat become rather than who they were. Upon reflection maybe this is best considering the ending does offer some semblance of delight at the promise of what’s to come and therefore, the unknown is better than showing us. 

Anyone looking for festive cheer is in for a treat with this tele-film – the halls are decked to the max and there is rarely a frame that doesn’t have some sort of glittery cheer. Grounding that overcompensation of Christmas, is the attachment of the classic Great Expectations to a modern film and though it reaches in being believable, it adds layers to a character and allows for a cute ending that makes us want to say, “finally!” (Oh, and for the classic lit lover, there are some other references – including a declaration that put me in mind of Edward and Elinor.) Each of the conflicting elements that keep apart Sam and Kat are of the “usual” variety and same as always, sometimes you feel like shaking them and yelling, “just say it!” but no, instead we have to go through the two of them saying things that cut deep and drive wedges. To be fair, I suppose if we didn’t have that there wouldn’t be a movie… and of course, we have to have one even if it does use every (and yes, I do realize I'm being repetitive by saying this, but it is true...) cliché in the book. 

There’s a lovely sequence involving a silly dance and some cute scenes with Sam, Kat and the neighborhood kids being goofy which adds realness to the story – who among us doesn’t get silly at family gatherings? One of the biggest hiccups is that the majority of the film takes place in one location; this almost makes the movie “run together” and seem as if the entire 90 minutes is one big party instead of getting down to the important business. Despite the flaws and filmmaking flubs, one thing the script does is bring happiness and laughter to a room – and as everyone knows, laughter is the best medicine.

(What to know: there are a few sexual innuendoes that crop up at various points in the film. Throughout the entire movie, characters drink various alcoholic drinks; no one ever seems to be without some sort of drink in their hand. There may be a few instances of profanity – a running gag involves a “swear jar.”)

The Host (2013)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Host

Any best-selling teen novel is likely to either get its own feature film or be optioned by a studio for its film rights to be produced at some point. Open Road Films brought alive another Stephanie Meyer work of fiction, only this one has a different threat or twist than that of a girl wanting to die to be with the guy she loves. 

She promised once the danger had passed she’d return. Melanie Stryder (Saorise Ronan) is a fighter; she’s hiding her brother from the resistance force that has invaded their world in hopes of claiming all human bodies as hosts for their souls. Along the way she meets Jared (Max Irons), another human who has escaped capture only when the Seekers catch up to them, Melanie flees in an attempt to draw them away from her brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury).

Now, while in their clutches, rather than be implanted, Melanie attempts to kill herself only to somehow survive the fall. In the aftermath, Wanderer takes Melanie’s body as her host. What Wanderer isn’t prepared for is Melanie being alive and rebelling against her at every turn, all the while fighting against Wanderer who shares all of Melanie’s memories with her Seeker (Diane Kruger).

This film was boldly attacked if memory serves correctly. Filmmakers and promotion put too much stock in the name Stephanie Meyer, which they banked on carrying The Host towards being another record-breaker. I’d started to read this novel this past winter preceding the theater release, and found it monotonous yet quite interesting (yes, I realize that sounds contradictory, however the book is slow-moving which makes the adventure “dull”). The premise is actually unique without many caveats and if I may timidly say, having not finished the novel, I thought the script did a nice job of retaining the purpose of the novel. 

When finally watching this one Sunday night, I put it in the DVD tray expecting not to like the movie. I’d read some uncomplimentary things, and while I suspect it may have taken a more romanticized approach, I did actually like the film. It was creative and the storytelling was decent in comparison to its generational stories. Plus what’s more, the movie quietly relates its story without much in the way of action moving it forward. The world in which the seekers live was sleek and just as one might imagine people attempting to obtain “peace” would live in (no surprise considering the man behind the camera is Andrew Niccol, In Time).

Part of moving the story forward were flashbacks and while sometimes it’s a bad habit for film to use recollections that can easily become repetitive and nourish character “hang ups,” in this case, they were necessary to demonstrate Melanie’s fear and fight to find herself again. I cannot pretend that the film didn’t grow on me with each frame and as the layers were pulled back on the characters, but one thing that could be said is this script has a very prominent awareness of being politically correct. It’s not just one element either; the entire story works hard to insure every outcome leaves an­ impression of “peace” and equality. There is never pleasure to any sort of fighting or war, however to protect lives and freedom, it has become a necessary evil and when stories mess with the legitimacy of that, I tend to find that premise foolish.

FILM REVIEW | Brooklyn (2015)

The Host

Casting Ronan didn’t seem to “fit” the story, but then I came into this with some bias since I wasn't necessarily a fan of Saorise. The girl proved me wrong. I thought she gave a kick-butt portrayal of Melanie; a girl who had to demonstrate multiple personalities and she did it all with great aplomb. There isn’t a lot of “crackling” chemistry between Saorise and the two guys (Irons, Jake Abel). Its approach was more sweet than passionate which I don’t mind since most teen fandoms often present unrealistic portraits of what love is. That being said, the movie still abuses young love and where some may find this love triangle oddly unnerving, it’s actually captivating; it evokes emotions that usually we wouldn’t feel or consider in the stereotypical teen love triangles (Peeta, Gale and Katniss, I am looking at you).  

Fans of the Stephanie Meyer novel (of the same name) may not like how the book-to-screen adaptation worked, however I was impressed with it. Between the cast and visually motivating worlds, the story pulled me in and I got caught up in Melanie’s helpless plight, Wanderer’s growing affection for the people who are sheltering her and the impressive visual effects. It doesn’t have the same, profound message as some of the teen dramas I’ve recently seen, however the filmmaking makes a statement and the actors embody these characters well once they step into the shoes of these young protagonists, and through all the good and bad, The Host is decent entertainment. It’s something I’d rewatch and in the end, it reminds us that there are some things worth fighting for.

CONTENT: a flashback pictures a young, unmarried couple in bed [covered in sheets] and subtle conversation reveals that a girl wants to consummate a relationship because they might not get a tomorrow. There are some passionate kisses between a girl and two different guys – once a kiss is used to bring someone “back.” Someone jumps out a window, breaking nearly everything in her body and at least two other characters commit suicide [they run their vehicle into a barricade] instead of being caught and “invaded” by a soul; a couple of “tense” moments involve chases and some seekers are shot. We see a few operations – nothing overly graphic, as the soul enters a person in the back of the brain, and a girl inflicts self-injury [cuts her arm and forehead] in order to escape suspicion. The film rates PG13.

Arrow, Season One (2012)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Not only are comic book heroes making a splash on the big screen, they’re not about to let their presence (or an opportunity) go unfulfilled on the small screen. Arrow is one of those series. Based off a DC Comics character, this show is a mash-up of multiple stories we’ve already seen… and somehow, it doesn’t seem to affect the influence this series has on an interested audience.  

The Queen family is not just prominently known as one of Starling City’s most wealthy they are the sort of family who are often splashed across the tabloids. Because of their well-known name, news of Oliver Queen’s return after being shipwrecked and presumed dead for five years is headline news. Being the lone survivor of a boating trip – that included his father and a friend, Oliver (Stephan Amell) returns to Starling City a different person – physically and mentally. When he left, he was a spoiled, out-of-control partier. Reuniting with his mother (Susanna Thompson) and sister, Thea (Willa Holland), Oliver puts on one face for the public life of the Queen family but at night, he becomes someone else.  

Before his father died, he gave Oliver a list that would allow him to right the wrongs he had made in business and a promise from his son that Oliver would tirelessly work to see these people destroyed. With that ammunition and armed with all he learned in fighting to survive on the island, Oliver creates a persona that leaves police hot on his trail as they attempt catching the “hood,” Starling City’s vigilante and puts him back into the arms of his old love, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy).  

There seems to be a growing demand for all things super hero/comic books lately. I can understand the Marvel flicks on the big screen but must confess the recent television series left me a bit baffled. That I didn’t expect. Now that they are actually residing on our television screens and no longer a mere rumor, I can safely say, bring it on! Needless to say, I don’t mind especially since amongst all the ploys and stops this pulls off to lure viewers on a superficial level, Arrow has more substance to it than merely using its young, attractive cast to draw in an audience. From a production angle, I was far more impressed than by some of Arrow's peers but nothing was more “fun” than the cool weaponry. As its title reveals, Oliver is an expert archer and there's something attractive about watching archery. Perhaps it’s because of my love of period drama that has previously featured a scene involving archery or maybe it was seeing Jeremy Renner be all awesome in The Avengers, either way, I like that being the weapon of choice for a hero. Like any good piece of fiction, this may stretch the accuracy of these aspects but the archery scenes look cool and Amell does a good job pulling off the confidence, all while convincing us he knows what he’s doing.  
Telling its story means that nearly every episode flashes back to a portion of time Oliver was on the island. This can be both distracting yet eye-opening. The difference in Oliver physically is believable – for once, and it was informative to learn why Oliver has grown up into the better man he returns as. Had we known him as the spoiled 20-something he was before the wreck, he certainly wouldn’t have been a hero to cheer on. Even now, some potential viewers may not be able to justify what it is Oliver does. If seeing him bring down (which usually consists of putting arrows in men) the wealthy or drug dealers isn’t a form of “justice” you appreciate than Arrow is probably not your sort of entertainment. However, anyone who is a fan of Marvel shouldn’t be bothered with this form of self-justice. Another thing that’s a joy to see is the relationship between Thea and Oliver. The little girl he once knew is no longer around and in her place is a rebel child who needs to know that Oliver is back and not going to disappear again. Some of the things writer’s do with the characters is really quite good; the set up suggests one thing only to reveal something different and for once I like the tease between Laurel and Oliver. Instead of being a couple who are always on the verge of getting back together (at least until three or so episodes from the end), they’re relationship is slowly defined by a tentative but sincere friendship.

As individual hour-long scripted stories, this isn’t badly written. As a collective, connecting plot, any viewer will be able to draw conclusions to multiple stories – everything from the short-lived Crusoe to Revenge or The Count of Monte Cristo. Another thing plays into is the constant forms of conflict that arise and threaten Oliver’s crusade. Like most network shows, it tries too hard to keep up the string of villains instead of using Oliver's one-time villain plots to take down the powerful as a means of conflict. That would work so much better in my opinion. Like with most shows, I overlook this since overall, I love Arrow. The chemistry between the cast is fabulous (including Digg! Who, I did neglectfully forget to mention) and it’s particularly fun to watch the evolution of the newest addition to the team in computer genius Felicity Smoak (Emily Brett Rickards).  

If I had to pick a favorite show from the 2012 season, Arrow would rank high on the list. It’s not something anyone should take too seriously and if you don’t, angst and all, it’s fun entertainment.   

(What to know: In the first episode we learn that a man cheated on his girlfriend with her sister [in a flashback, we see them together, her in only her underwear], there are scenes of unmarried couples lying in bed together – a pair of exes end up in bed together in the finale. Thea and her boyfriend are seen making out on the couch. Conversations tease of past relations and there is some innuendo. There is lots of violence – people shot in the head, men’s necks are snapped, arrows hit their targets and there are various instances of mental torture. A series of episodes revolves around a powerful drug. The show is rated TV14.)

A Look Ahead at 2014: News!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Starting anything new is something we approach with  mixed feelings of trepidation and excitement. This is the place I am finding myself in right now. This past Spring I was honored to be a part of the INSPYs (@INSPYs) as a judge - it was a fun, wonderful experience that I enjoyed very much. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the INSPYs, it’s an award program created by bloggers that recognizes the best in Christian fiction only it’s geared towards bloggers who read, review and help promote the best in Christian fiction.

Here is the paragraph briefly summarizing the program:  

Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.” 

The tag line is “the bloggers award for excellence in faith-driven literature.” INSPYs recognizes many different genres and categories as well as the authors who write these novels. If you don't really know what the program is all about or how you can become involved, we'd love for you to read up and considering nominating books or helping spread the word for the 2014 year and this year INSPYs is going through some changes, and part of that resulted in the lovely Jamie (@jamielynne82) and myself being asked to fill the two vacant advisory board seats. Needless to say, I’m honored and thrilled to be a part of this wonderful organization! This means, there's going to be a lot of reading (hence the bookshelf -->) coming in these next several months but I am determined to be up to the task and am looking forward to learning more about INSPYs, and to be doing so with these lovely bloggers and friends - plus participating in every aspect of its program has left me excited; shout outs to Rel (@Relz), Lydia (@OverweightBooks) and Stacy (@TheNovelLife) for this opportunity and their patience during this learning process. I look forward to working with you all!

The INSPYs is discussing some new things and there are some potential changes upcoming because of that, so please, do bear with us all as we retweet news (feel free to jump on the RT train :D) and try to get word out about some of these new things. The timeframe for nominations are coming up fast, so keep your eyes open for that and be ready to nominate your favorite 2013 novels! Also, for past judges or anyone who has anything they'd like to add in regards to the INSPY program, we're open to suggestions, so feel free to share anything you may have in mind. We're working on some Goodreads things (so if you're on GR, watch for those links!) and do have a Google+ and Facebook page, so if you're on either of those, we'd love for you to visit and maybe consider hitting the "+1" and "like" buttons. We look forward to chatting with you and having fun with the 2014 INSPYs.

Hope you’re all having a lovely Friday, friends!

The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist

Thursday, November 14, 2013

About the Book:
Author: Jenny Lundquist
Publisher: RP Teens
Publication Date: 2013
Find the Review elsewhere:
Amazon Goodreads Wordpress
Series: The Opal Mask Series – Book 1
Genre: Fiction; Teen/YA, Fairytale
Rating: 4 out of 5
Fantasy, fairytales and anything that involves a royal is catching like wildfire and fortunately for the most part, it’s a subculture most fans are willing to embrace. With a twist, this fairytale is one of the cutest I’ve read in this genre for a while. It follows the feisty, Elara whose life has been anything but easy. Raised by a family who is not her own, Elara has become tough to the world and has no love for the family who’ve given her a roof but treated her as nothing more than a source of income and servant to do their bidding. Then there is Wilha. The young princess has had a very different life than Elara – she’s been brought up with privilege, yet no answers as to why her father insists she wear a mask that hides nearly her entire face. The two girls meet after forces greater than their own bring them together and forever change both of their futures.

Relative newcomer to the world of YA fiction, Jenny Lundquist (she’s written middle-grade fiction) has got a sweet little premise going on in this, the first novel in a series about secrets, adventure and plenty of cute heroes. Alternating between the heroines, Lundquist does a fine job of shifting between the girls though some readers may find fault with their personalities. In different ways, both are hard to warm too – Elara is a bit of a sassy “brat” but she’s made likable because of how she grew up. She had to be a fighter, someone who could fend for herself and insert her independence in even the smallest of ways. Then there is Wilha. Sheltered and the “good girl,” Wilha develops a selfish side a fourth of the way through the novel when she has a chance to escape a life she didn’t understand and while I liked the adventurous side of her (and even sympathized), this also leads to a potential irritant - the author was fond of loading up on would-be love interests. Each girl has someone from their past (Elara a friend, Wilha a fencing instructor) and then at their eventual destination, there is a prince and local boy waiting in the wings. True, one of them is ruled out fairly early on just the same, it seemed a little bit unfair given how the novel wraps and doesn’t say much for the protagonists – plus I was fond of James, the village barman, and think that he deserves better than a disappearing girlfriend. Maybe my suspicions won’t prove correct and he will.
Fans of Melanie Dickerson should consider checking into these because the style of ‘Opal Mask’ reminded me a great deal of her novel The Captive Maiden. With exception to a slow start, this novel was quite good as well as being much preferred over Dickerson’s writing. This plot has been accomplished before, however there was a “pull” to this one that kept the pages turning and excitement to see what would next happen. Anyone who read Doon this summer will recognize similarities (two girl’s finding romance, uncovering secrets) there also and from all I’ve read, this could also be likened to Lisa Bergren’s River of Time series only there is no time travel element. The "quality" of the novel was unexpected and I’m eager to read the eventual sequel – there are many doors left open in this Cinderella-esque saga. 

Synopsis: Every Fairy-Tale Ending Has a Price. . . .

Orphaned as a child in the crumbling village of Tulan, Elara is determined to learn her true identity, even if it means wielding a dagger. Meanwhile, in Galandria's royal capital, Princess Wilha stands out as someone to either worship or fear. Though no one knows why the king has always made her conceal her face--including Wilha herself.

When an assassination attempt threatens the peace of neighboring kingdoms, Elara and Wilha are brought face to face . . . with a chance at claiming new identities. However, with dark revelations now surfacing, both girls will need to decide if brighter futures are worth the binding risks. - Goodreads

Coming Next from Jenny Lundquist: Untitled sequel, coming fall 2014 

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

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