Inspy's 2014 Shortlists

Good evening, readers! After months of reading, the Advisory Board has settled on a shortlist for our seven categories in the 2014 Inspy's awards. As always, we are grateful for your excitement and all those tweets you sent out to raise excitement. As with every year, there are books left off the shortlists because of limited placement and after pooling our various reads and collaborative reading plus the discussion that comes with that, we try to find the best in each category that best represent their genre. Hopefully, we've done that and we are now able to hand the winning decision over to our talented panels of judges. Before sharing the shortlists, I do want to give a shout-out to my fellow Advisory Board bloggers who have been patient and kind in my first year being a part of this program - ladies, thank so much for being wonderful friends and some of the best in this blogging community. You're talented and I respect your opinions as well as the work you're doing in the Christian fiction scene. Love "hanging out" with you all, and am grateful to be a part of this team! Thank you.

Without further ado, that official announcement is up on the blog!

With bleary eyes, paper cut fingers and reading-in-bed hair, the Inspy Awards Advisory Board has come out of reading hibernation to announce the 2014 shortlist contenders. A daunting task was placed before us to pick just 5 books in each category from a long list of 150 nominated by readers and bloggers around the world. After careful consideration and deliberation, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce that the following books have been shortlisted in the 4th annual INSPY Awards. 
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Burning Sky by Lori Benton
Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta
A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears
The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
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When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell
To Know You by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel
Widow of Gettysburg by Jocelyn Green
Wings of Glass  by Gina Holmes
Iscariot by Tosca Lee
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Wishing On Willows by Katie Ganshert
Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter
Talon by Ronie Kendig
Shattered by Dani Pettrey
Take A Chance on Me by Susan May Warren
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Though my Heart is Torn by Joanne Bischof
Love’s Awakening by Laura Frantz
A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
Duchess by Susan May Warren
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Hero’s Lot by Patrick W Carr
Dark Halo by Shannon Dittemore
Anomaly  by Krista McGee
Memory’s Door by James L Rubart
The Rising by Lynn Chandler-Willis
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Dark Justice by Brandilyn Collins
Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering
The King by Steven James
Poison by Jordyn Redwood
Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer
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Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon
The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill
Hurt by Travis Thrasher
Captives by Jill Williamson
Congratulations to all of the nominated authors and shortlist contenders! We now turn the job over to our judges to select a winner in each category. Winners will be announced June 28th.

Tonight on Hallmark Channel! Signed, Sealed, Delivered Episode Two

Afternoon, readers. Tonight another episode - the second of Signed, Sealed, Delivered airs on Hallmark Channel and I couldn't let the opportunity pass by to use this as a reminder to tune in. Aside from that excellent excuse for this rare Sunday post, guys I just have to say, this episode... it's precious. I'm grateful to have seen it because I nearly skipped out due to time and busyness, however it was the perfect way to relax for 40-some minutes. Being a proud American girl that I am, I confess the story driving home points on patriotism, courage and bravery, and honor is the biggest reason for this.

This week, the dead letter division of the U.S. postal service - comprised of stickler-for-details, Oliver O'Toole (Eric Mabius), newbie Shane (Kristen Booth), kindhearted Rita (Crystal Lowe) and the stamps guy, Norman (Geoff Gustafson) - comes across a letter that sends the gang on a journey to find a soldier who saved a young girl from a horrible fate in her native Afghanistan.

Kudos to the writers, producers and whoever should be thanked for this episode. Its message, storytelling and acting is beautiful. I didn't expect this "level" of poignancy in a series that is usually more about the "fun" (not being critical of it; that is my kind of show). Uncharacteristic of my personality - I tend to be an internal emotion as opposed to an outward reaction, I can admit that I teared up while watching tonight's episode, To Whom it May Concern. Emotional feelings play a part in this but there is still a great sense of easy humor, which makes for a pleasant experience versus the norm of today's television. All I will leave you with is this; if you're a fan of this new series, be sure to tune in to the Hallmark Channel tonight. You won't regret it.

Miss an episode? Buy them on Amazon
Watch episode two tonight, April 27th on Hallmark Channel

Emma Approved


Last fall I blogged about the little web series that could, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries contrasting that with its fellow digital format newbie. It was the blog entry in which I shared early thoughts on the spin-off, Emma Approved. This post is a mish-mash of Emma Approved-ness because…

a.) it’s Friday
b.) I’m literally at my wit’s end keeping up with reviews – who needs to meet deadlines
c.) the web series is on hiatus until – say what, June 

All of this added up to a sensible conclusion that it’d be acceptable to write a bit about my progression of thoughts on Emma Woodhouse, the girl whose videos are busy documenting her “greatness.”  

First impressions of this were very ho-hum. I watched a few episodes, went through the missing-Emma-Approved-don’t-care phase (which translates to missing several in a row before getting caught up one late winter afternoon when I didn’t feel like doing anything else) before getting lured in again through Tumblr photo sets. Needless to say, I am now more aware of when new episodes release and have to confess I get a little bit giddy when seeing the Twitter photos of Emma, Knightley and Company attending their “Emma approved” events, all planned by their new event coordinator, Harriet. In the beginning I had to adjust my mindset having just come down from the adorableness of Lizzie Bennet, something that was a bad influence on my opinion of Emma who seemed highly annoying – her winks, her self-professed “greatness,” her meddling and all that jazz. In retrospect I had forgotten to remind myself that Emma Woodhouse is exasperating, though having never felt this way in the films, it struck me as odd that this was my reaction to this version of Emma.  

Fortunately, Alex Knightley can make anything better.

What really sold me on the web series is his character. Through all of my Emma journeys, it’s been Mr. Knightley who has been the best part. I love how he challenges Emma. I love how he respects her enough to challenge her. I love that he believes in her.  I love how he loves her. In this version, I was ho-hum about him in the beginning, however he’s become something of a modern hero in many ways because let me tell you, he is starting to show Emma who is boss as only Knightley can! That scene (episode 36) when he physically holds Emma back from ruining Harriet’s precious moment? Yep, that’s classic.  

Since that first episode, fans have also met many other familiar characters – everyone from Miss Bates and Emma’s sister (who by the way, has her own moments of hilarity) to Mr. Elton, and it’s certainly helped along the story-telling which is what they should do. Same as with LBD, writers have masterfully (I don’t think that word is over embellishing) adapted this. In undertaking this, they had two strikes against them – first it’s a web series with probably 5-7 minutes max per episode, plus it’s a contemporary version of Jane Austen’s classic novel, which in and of itself is challenging. Bottom line, sure Knightley has made things interesting as has the moments building – tender looks, anyone!? – between he and Emma, ever so subtly leading up to the mistaken disaster with Harriet and Emma’s realization, what we probably all delighted in most was the brilliant crossover. Yes, Pemberley Digital managed to connect LBD and their new sensation. How clever are they?  

No matter what, I love Emma and her cute ploys. And best of all, I know that the gang has more surprises in store which makes this girl doubly excited for the triumphant return of Emma Approved and Company.

What about you, all. Are you liking the series just as before?
Are you a fangirl? 

INSPYs News: 2014 Judges

Afternoon, friends! Today, the INSPYs Advisory Board finally made the announcement many of you have been waiting for. We announced our 2014 shortlist panel of judges. The Advisory Board is thrilled to be working with these bloggers and cannot wait to see which work of fiction they decide is best suited to our mission which is to find the best in faith-driven Christian fiction. At this stage, the board is busy with that longlist of books (not an unpleasant place to be in, girls...!) still working to get all 100+ of the nominated books pared down to the five books in seven categories. Once we have that set, we will hand over the task of choosing that one winner to our judges - and be on the lookout as that shortlist announcement will arrive April 30th!

A big, grateful welcome to all of our shortlist judges!

Here is our INSPYs official announcement:

Welcoming the 2014 Shortlist Judges

Following unexpected delays to our normal timeline, the Advisory Board is pleased to welcome our 2014 shortlist judges. This year, we revised our categories to better reflect the changing genres of Christian fiction which resulted in seven categories. Six of those will be judged by our respective three-panel judges and this year, the Debut Novel category will be decided on by our Advisory Board. Visit our 2014 Judges page to meet the fabulous judges!
We’d like to welcome all of our judges and thank them for their commitment to be a part of the INSPYs. We now hand over the task of selecting the winning work of fiction in the respective categories to their capable hands. Our thanks to everyone who applied for a judging position; we would also like to invite bloggers to apply again next year when we’ll be in our fifth year celebrating the  INSPY Awards. Your support and enthusiasm for Christian fiction is appreciated and we’re grateful for that. Be sure to check back on April 30th for the shortlists announcement.

Meet the 2014 Judges


In My Dreams (2014)

Romantic that I am, there was no way I was going to miss this television film – especially after seeing all of the trailers for it leading up to its premiere date.

Two lonely hearts, struggling in their careers and unlucky in love are about to meet… in the most unusual of ways. Natalie Russo (Katherine McPhee) stays busy running her family’s Italian restaurant and is happy doing so, but feels a desire to do something more, to insert her own “magic” into a business that is overrun with her traditional notions kept alive in memory of her mother. Nick (Mike Vogel) is a talented architect whose boss seems to stifle his ideas before they have a chance to grow. On a whim, both of them toss a coin into a wishing fountain which is the catalyst for their dreams and in those dreams, the two meet.  

According to folklore, anyone who wishes at the fountain can dream of their true love, believing this person they dream about is their other half, both Natalie and Nick begin a search to find each other… before it’s too late.

Implausible or not, silly or not, this movie is darling. As I tell any doubters in my family who lovingly make jabs at or pokes holes in the romantic movies I like (and I’ve been known to join in a time or two), “just go with it! It’s for the romance.” After all, without these sweet plots, how would we get our daily doses of a swoon-y romantic moment!? Just saying. This premise – using a fountain or coins as a catalyst, has a charming old-fashioned impression, likely it evokes that “feel” because of the classic films I’ve either been interested in seeing or have seen. That quality alone is enough of a “thumbs up” from me and other stylistic visualization helps present this picture. The progression of this script starts off slower than its counterparts though in doing so, it took its time to set up the characters and their lives prior to “complicating” things by entangling two strangers. Once the introduction is complete, things flowed better.

Something of a minor distractor on a technical front was the sound. There was a “muffled” quality to it or perhaps the background noise wasn’t distanced enough? Or maybe it was my television/the station airing and its DVD transfer will be fine. Either way, it was still easy to comprehend and follow, and didn’t detract from a lovely way to end a holiday weekend. Its cast was nicely blended – seeing Hallmark alums, veterans and of course, a popular singer/songwriter makes for quite a cast and all in all, everyone was smashing.  Equally so were their respective characters although I have to confess Nick’s choice in a girlfriend was ridiculous – all a part of the story to make the distinction that (obviously!) Nick and Natalie were meant to be. This is something that creates plenty of aww-inspired moments even in a state that isn’t reality.

If you like tender, romantic dramas, this one is worth a viewing. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay, but for this girl, it found the right balance between fantasy and reality with great importance placed on family, some neat vintage styling for its leading lady (can we take a moment to appreciate her shoes) and gorgeous scenery during the dreams. The ending was better than anticipated and it managed to be one of those stories I wanted to last another 10 minutes just for a more rounded sense of completion. All the same, it was “more” and gave its dreamers more than they thought possible. In life or fiction, that’s enough.

Catch encore showings of In My Dreams starting next week on the Hallmark Channel.

Happy Easter

Good morning, friends! It's Easter Sunday. Already. Where does the time go!? The calendar assures me it's April 20th, the tulips have bravely begun to pop their heads above the ground after a harsh winter and as I sit here typing this, as nearly every holiday does, I am reminded of all the blessings in my life and am grateful for each and every one. This year, Easter isn't going to be about dressing up in Easter best and instead - aside from church - I'll just be spending the day with my immediate family. Last week we had our fancy, fun, good time Easter Sunday dinner (...and Christmas. Don't ask. It's a long story. *smile*) with family, so on this day, it's going to be about catching up on British drama, enjoying nice weather, a quiet meal and of course, remembering that He is risen.

Wishing you all a wonderful Easter filled with many laughs and simple joys, good food and Reese's peanut butter cups, family and friends. All the things that makes Easter special. Be happy, friends!


Happy Easter!

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Season One - Time to Start Livin' (2014)

Following in the footsteps of When Calls the Heart, another series is hoping for similar success only this time instead of a trip to the old west, we’re visiting the dead letters department of the U.S. Post Office. 

A stickler for professionalism and details, Oliver (Eric Mabius) is the man in charge of a group of four postal workers that make up the team for the dead letters office in the USPS system – these are the letters that get lost in the system because of mishandling or mistakes in the addressing. Today he and his fellow workers – including the newbie, Shane (Kristen Booth) who has firmly made herself an important fixture to their team with her tech skills – are welcoming a new and legendary supervisor (Valerie Harper). Distracting from her flamboyant arrival is their latest letter which offers a story of a young boy missing his grandmother and reveals plans to leave his home and travel miles just to see her. Worried over what this could entail, the gang along with fellow co-workers, the big-hearted Norman (Geoff Gustafson) and the old-fashioned, Rita (Crystal Lowe), set out to find the intended recipient of the letter only to uncover more than they bargained for.  

The Hallmark Channel to some of us may be only “one dimensional” in that they consistently put out the same programming over and over again but I have to say, I admire them for the difference they are making in television. Graduating from original movies, the network is now on its third seasonal program and golly, this one is darling. Until it’s presumably released to DVD, I’ve not had a chance to see the telefilm that this was spun off of, however this pilot has some great moments (particularly in what it says about our society – whether its intentional or not) and is a promising start opposite what When Calls the Heart was. As a girl who enjoys cozy mysteries, I liked the script taking some cute turns that required the gang to solve a mystery, using their specialized areas of expertise to work together, helping whoever needs it.

Though unfamiliar with everyone save for its leading man, Eric Mabius – loved him in How to Fall in Love, the entire cast is unquestionably going to bring us a fun bunch of characters. Oliver’s stricter, rule-following manner countering against Shane’s sassier personality will be an interesting dynamic albeit one we’ll always know will end with smiles. If I had one minor gripe with the personalities it’d be Norman. Don’t mistake me. He’s a nice guy and in fact, many of his scenes speak to a society that young people don’t want to be a part of, however his shyness sometimes (painfully) comes across as “child-like.” Meaning that he can seem too “silly” for who his character really is. That notwithstanding, everyone has personalities ripe for more growth as writer’s discover who they all are and I’ve a feeling like any show, we’ll experience some crushes blossom between certain of our quartet.

While I probably won’t keep up with this one here, on the blog, I am definitely keen to keep up with the show and watch each new episode. If you like light-hearted productions with hints of the “cozy mystery,” give this one a shot. It had a nice “rhythm” going even in its pilot and hopefully not unlike what When Calls the Heart experienced, it will enjoy similar ratings and success. It’s not hard to be attach oneself to something that is likely to be a clever series.  

Will you be tuning in to this one?

Miss an episode? Buy episodes on Amazon

Catch the premiere, Sunday April 20th on the Hallmark Channel. 

Promotional Video: 

The One Book Trailer

Evening, friends! How are things going with all of you? Just wanted to stop by with my thanks for all your awesome comments today and for last week's roll out of entries! As always, I enjoy and appreciate them all. Today, I finally posted the review for Catching Fire and have plans to post one more review before the week is out. Until then, in case you didn't see what popped up on Twitter (thanks bunches for the shout-out, Amber) today, I wanted to share this. There's been no secret made that I have loved reading Kiera Cass' trilogy, so I'm sharing the book trailer for - eeep - The One! The YA novel releases on May 6th and let me tell ya', as if I weren't excited enough already, this just ups that. And all I can say is, thank goodness it's less than a month away!


What do you think?

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire (2013)

Reading The Hunger Games left me with mixed feelings mostly of the irksome reaction, then watching the film adaptation made me see there was “more” to the story so when a follow-up sequel was announced, I had been sufficiently intrigued.

Haunted. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) rarely has a moment’s peace from the memories of the Hunger Games she was a part of. Her family may live better now but her life will never be the same, particularly her relationship with best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) who has distanced himself emotionally believing that Katniss’ act of love with her fellow 12th district competitor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) was very real. Arguing against it, Katniss assures Gale that it was for show – to survive, just as she’s about to make the Victory Tour with Peeta, Katniss discovers that unless she makes the diabolical President Snow (Donald Sutherland) believe in her love for Peeta, bad things will happen to her family and those she loves.

Angry over the spark of rebellion Katniss has stirred, Snow believes he can make an example of her by reminding the distracts who is in charge. Unimpressed by Katniss’ attempts to prove she’s in love with Peeta, he enacts a Quarter Quell, a version of the Hunger Games that can happen every 25 years that pits past winners against each other. Reunited with their mentor (Woody Harrelson) for another training tour, Katniss and Peeta soon learn they aren’t the only two devastated over what their president is forcing them to do.  

It’s really too bad I didn’t get a chance to read the book prior to seeing this film because I remember how much “fuller” it was to read The Hunger Games before watching its adaptation. Alas, every good intention does not get a book read and while I could have put off seeing the film, who knows when I’ll get to the book and I really wanted to watch the next chapter. So I did. I came away with a much better feeling and as a result, that alone did make for a more rewarding cinematic experience. With that in mind all of the conclusions I walk away with will be based solely on the film – however I can say that friends have said this is an awesome adaptation and I trust that explicitly.

I’m not really sure it’s accurate to say we “enjoy” these movies as that implies a more lighthearted experience. The film does draw us in with pretty notions though underneath there is a darkness to it that has been the norm in the young adult genre of storytelling. Following in the wake of the Twilight movies and now competing against the Divergent series, this franchise has a lot of work ahead of it in order to live up to its producers and distributers standards. Fortunately it has a running start and is surpassing many expectations (it was the highest-grossing North American film of 2013) – my own included. Before I gush too much about any one element, let me start off with this, this film is magnificent. By my eye, it went above and beyond its predecessor and built off of that while still growing and shaping how it will (presumably) climax. Designers, cast and the director really deserve more credit than they probably get for these. They may only be “entertainment” and as such not fit into the mold of Oscar-worthy cinema but dang – ‘Catching Fire’ is definitely a spark that cannot be ignored.

Costuming is gorgeous – from everything Katniss dons to Effie’s (played by Elizabeth Banks) wacky creations, costumers deserve a grateful hand of applause. Oddly instead of distracting from the picture – because of its’ “bigness,” it adds to the atmosphere, characters and the “emotion” of the scene. Speaking of those characters, can I just give a little shout for joy…! I actually felt something for Katniss’ predicament, felt her emotions, felt for what she was going through. When I read the first novel, I remember thinking the girl was a board which in turn bored me so to finally feel like a character I want to like is coming to life, is capable of feeling makes this a far more pleasant thing to watch. What is more interesting is how she is changing towards Peeta (who, by the way, is as "cute" as ever. Like, seriously… who doesn’t like him?). She feels a pull towards him because both of them know what the other is trying to live through yet she is afraid of anything more between them. Also thrown into the mix along with returning favorites are newbies Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Jena Malone who turn in epic performances.

Certainly, I’m not a girl who can judge this on its book, however as a cinematic performance, this was beautiful. I loved the imagery, performances and the build up to its climax - one that is finally going in a direction we can stand up and root for, something that the leading lady played with grace, passion and intelligence. This sequel was on fire and then some. 

(Parental review; some of the deaths are more brutal than others,  soon as the contestants enter the arena, fighting breaks out – arrows, spears and any form of weapon is used to get “kills.” At various points in the film, they are also “tortured” by number methods [they’re attacked by birds or fire], a lot of which is psychological. The film is rated PG13.)

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

Death Comes to Pemberley

Celebrating any Austen milestone is a delicate business. They dare not remake the crowning A&E/BBC masterpiece – the 6-hour Pride & Prejudice – yet they cannot pass by the event without some recognition. It would seem the next best thing is, naturally, to turn the classic into a murder mystery.  

The Pemperley estate is abuzz with activity and excitement as the household staff prepares for its annual ball. Six years into her marriage, Elizabeth Darcy (Anna Maxwell-Martin) runs her home with kind proficiency while delighting in the joys of motherhood. Through it all, she has only fallen more in love with her husband. The young Miss Georgiana Darcy (Eleanor Tomlinson) has grown into a beautiful young woman who is besotted by the charms of a lawyer (James Norton) looking to someday ask for her hand in marriage only Darcy (Matthew Rhys) is inclined to give permission to another man vying for her hand. Further complicating the busyness of the estate, just as the Darcy’s guests are expected to arrive, is two of its maids returning to the house with screams that they’ve seen the ghost of a woman rumored to bring bad luck.

In the wake of this, trouble promptly finds the house when Elizabeth’s flighty young sister, Lydia (Jenna Coleman) arrives screaming that her husband, Wickham (Matthew Goode) is dead. She claims he’s been shot which forces Darcy and his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam (Tom Ward) to lead a search party for the one man Darcy vowed never again would step foot on Pemberley grounds.

Around here, there has been much discussion about my admiration of all things Austen. Whether it’s a “proper” re-make, an adaptation or something that’s more Austen parody than classic, I’m up for it all as has been documented. This sequel is no different. When the news of its book-to-screen transformation first broke, I was excited for the opportunity to see what came next in Elizabeth and Darcy’s story and even purchased the novel anticipating reading it prior to the series (unfortunately, I only managed a few chapters before other things beckoned me – though I can say, I felt like the writing was very complementary to Austen’s signature). All of that anticipation fizzled out when I saw who had been cast in primary roles. 

FILM REVIEW | Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Death Comes to Pemberley Mr. Darcy

Seeing an actor tackle a villainous role – and do it well, does nothing to endear him in an iconic role that is considered one of the greatest literary heroes and that was my conundrum when reading Matthew landed the role of Mr. Darcy. He played a Dickens baddie in the recent re-make of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and was sufficiently creepy while doing so. Once a girl sees Colin Firth and Matthew McFayden, there is uncertainly that someone else will be able to fill the very big footsteps. Much to my surprise, Rhys pulls it off quite well. He has the aloofness needed to play Darcy yet we see a softer side of him brought out after six years of married life – plus his reaction to Wickham’s reappearance is easy to accept. I’d not be honest if I didn’t confess to skepticism over Anna’s casting also. She’s a talented actress who has won me over time and again, however just thinking about her in the role of Lizzie seemed “off.” Aside from some unrealistic casting for the purpose of what age these characters would be at, these two both proves me wrong to say nothing of their breathing fresh life into iconic roles that should never seem worn out to those of us who are costume drama aficionados.

Around these two, supporting actors are equally marvelous – from the shrieking of Lydia (Coleman is really quite good in the role) to the new maturity haloing Georgiana, everyone is present and accounted for though sisters Kitty and  Mary make no appearance and Jane’s is far too brief even if it is a poignant sequence. James Norton (Grantchester) is also a supporting character, playing an ideal regency gentleman.

The most notable distinction between this and the glorified A&E miniseries is this BBC 3-parter putting up a more “casual” air about it. I’m really not sure how to describe it but where Pride & Prejudice (1995) exudes elegance in everything – from the settings to the costumes, the posture of the actors to the filming, there is no detail left untouched even if it isn’t what you imagined, one has to recognize the grandeur of the production. In Death Comes to Pemberley, nothing comes off as magnificent – sure the grounds of the estate are stunning but maybe the costuming isn’t near as pristine or the actors don’t own the roles with the same kind of confident posture. Nevertheless, lest you think anything else, this series is really entertaining!

At my house, putting the Darcy’s in the world of a murder mystery has to be a stroke of genius considering our love of popular British and Australian crime dramas. Aside from the fact that it's well written, it made for the “ultimate” fan experience, and in my book, this wound up being worth its salt. Looking at this as a chance to see literature characters in cinema form after the curtain closes on their love story opens doors that in my valuation endears this. Who wouldn’t enjoy the chance to see the “insufferable” Darcy flirt with his beloved Lizzie? Or finding out if marriage changed certain characters – you know who you are! – or left them unchanged.

Death Comes to Pemberley James Norton

This miniseries is the best of both worlds. There is enough elegance while having the freedom to write its own chapters for this beloved classic all while checking in with familiar characters. (As a bonus we get to experience Lizzie still sticking it to Lady Catherine.) Being able to watch this as an extension of Pride & Prejudice – which is really all this is, rather than an adaptation of Austen’s will help any doubters out there. Death Comes to Pemberley is something for the fans and in this girl’s opinion, I couldn’t have asked for better. 

Have you seen this adaptation? If so, what'd you think or are you anticipating it?
Do you have a favorite "non-traditional" film or book about these iconic character?
Share any thoughts you have, friends!

(Parental review: there is one scene of a married couple in bed – they undress one another before they lay on the bed caressing each other [his hand brushes up her leg] then we see them lying in bed together. There are a few innuendoes about a man who is married and keeps a mistress, one girl has a child out of wedlock and briefly considers suicide. There are flashbacks to a man with bloody wounds being dragged through the forest and perhaps the occasional profanity. The series is rated TV12.)

Minions Just Wanna' Have Fun!

Who has more fun than the Minions?

You know who they are - those crazy little yellow dudes from the Despicable Me film... the guys who don't speak plain English and are crazy silly yet somehow we'd all like to have one for ourselves - one is a tech genius after all, and I for one, could use a tech guy on stand-by. You've all probably seen these around on Pinterest or Google, or blogs, or anywhere, but since we've been chatting up Marvel so much (which I've enjoyed muchly! Thanks for all the comments), plus I failed to get this week's posting properly lined up - shame on me - I figured posting these worked for today. Mom and I spent part of Friday night giggling over these funny interpretations of various popular entertainment icons and even though she is unfamiliar with one of the British dudes in this post, she thought he was the funniest. So... with all that, it IS Monday and we all could use a little more laughter, right!?




Which is your favorite?
Happy Monday! 

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

About the Book:
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Source: Author Provided ARC
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Amazon Fiction Addict Goodreads Novel CrossingWordpress
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary, Romance 
Rating: 5 out of 5
When you read review after review of an author’s work you have yet to read and friends rave about that author, once you eventually get around to reading said authors works, the result can go one of two ways – either the book is subpar and you’re left wracking your brain for what it was you missed or (more preferably) you have one of those bop on the head moments in which you berate yourself for not taking heed of all those glowing reviews. One of these reactions was my own after finally reading a novel by the rising contemporary romance star Katie Ganshert. The story follows a 24-year-old model named Ivy Clark whose life has been a whirlwind of photo shoots and a string of broken hearts left behind in her wake. Now her career is starting to fade with fresh-faced teenagers rising up to take her place, and in a desperate effort to save face, Ivy succumbs to her agent’s advice and returns shortly after her father’s death to his home and the unwanted comfort of his wife, Marilyn. The last place Ivy ever wanted to return, she agrees to model Marilyn’s growing in popularity bridal gown line and has to put up with another face from her past, Marilyn’s nephew, Davis Knight as her photographer only to learn that sometimes what you want the least is really what you need the most.

Because we live life every day, I tend to be a reader who has the mentality that my fiction should be entertaining – if I’m not finding joy in the pages of a book, I confess to struggling to get through it as well as I do one that is entertaining and yet may still present in itself a challenge that will touch its readers. This book encapsulates all of this in breathtaking fashion, and so much more. In Ivy and Davis, Katie has created some of the most genuine characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. They’re both fleeing and protecting their scars from something and everyone while not wishing to be seen as raw or vulnerable underneath this façade. Ivy has carefully constructed a protective layer that she lets no one penetrate, preferring instead to use the one thing that has gotten her everything she wanted since she was fourteen; beauty. Davis is not such a cynical character counteracting Ivy’s materialistic mind though he is in fact a man not without burdensome secrets of his own, carefully buried. This is what makes this novel so poignant. Ganshert has brought together two very real individuals who are broken, searching for meaning in a life that didn’t go as they had wished and placed them in situations uncomfortable to them, where they challenge each other with their respective insecurities, something that is both inspiring and poignant to experience slowly bloom into the story this was meant to fully embrace.

It takes a special kind of person who can take such a tough subject as Katie has found in Ivy and pull the most redemptive qualities from the story of what it means to be emotionally broken and “ruined” beyond what she thinks a Savior could forgive and turn it into a moving image of hope. This may not be the most “pleasant” of novels to read merely because it’s a story each of us can relate to, it’s the kind of saga that in many instances will slap us with its reality – even if not because we’ve lived the life Ivy has, but because we’re searching for something or in need of saving – and this is what Ganshert captures to paper so elegantly. She has a flair for genuine characters and digging the best sensation out of every situation. From its setting (not the location but the fashion industry which is unique to my reading and brave) to its messages of Christianity and hope for a new future, this book is far and above one of 2014’s best. It vividly reminds of a song I like that has this line in its lyrics, “heal the wound but leave the scar…” and indeed that is just what Katie does with her latest. It’s broken in the most stunning ways and leaves a scar as a reminder of what we can overcome – what we can be redeemed from.
A version of this review appeared on Fiction Addict.

Synopsis: Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four-year-old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she's learned a sacred truth -- appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows -- so when it starts to unravel, she'll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother's bridal wear line -- an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white. – Goodreads 

Coming Next from Katie Ganshert: She wants to make her father’s dream come true. She doesn’t realize her own dream has been in front of her the whole time.

Emma Tate isn’t a risk taker, so everyone in her small Midwest town is surprised when she suddenly becomes engaged to lifelong friend Jake Sawyer. No one but Jake and Emma know the true reason they’re getting married—so Emma’s dying father can walk her down the aisle.

While Jake and Emma plan an autumn wedding together, it becomes clear that their agreement has a few complications—the biggest being their true feelings for each other. - Goodreads

In this novella by award-winning author Katie Ganshert, a young woman must reconcile her dying father’s dreams with her own dreams for love and her future. -, September 2014

Sincere thanks to the author, Katie Ganshert for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

Captain America: the Winter Soldier (2014) - The Captain Returns in High-Action Sequel

Marvel excited us with individual films to introduce all of their Avengers before bringing them together in a full-on, big heroic, action-packed film appropriately called The Avengers. Now prior to a follow-up sequel that will feature all of the awesome superheroes for a second save-the-world outing, the all-American soldier Steve Rogers is back for another chapter in his own story. 

Captain America The Winter Soldier

Trying to adjust to his life working as an S.H.I.E.L.D agent and living in the modern world hasn’t been easy for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Instead of embracing everything, Steve spends his days visiting the WWII museums where he can remember friends he lost – the world he knew was the 1940’s fighting to protect his country from the horrors of WWII and regret he missed his plans for a dance with the best girl, Peggy. Now that normal is no longer possible and Steve has to learn what it means to protect his home land in a whole new way. His latest mission nearly goes array when fellow S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Natasha Romanoff – also known as the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) goes off course of the carefully executed plan. Upon Steve’s retuning in confronting his superior Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), he learns that in fact his mission wasn’t a rescue mission at all and Steve was kept in the dark as to the real reason for the covert operation.   

Feeling betrayed and unhappy with what he's being asked to be a part of, Steve learns Nick has more than one secret and when he appears in his apartment, injured, begging for Steve’s discretion, he is shot before Steve can react. This event reveals that his pretty neighbor is actually Agent 13, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) assigned to protect Captain America. Dying from his injuries Nick’s demise leads to a series of events that proves there is a myth of a villain in their midst and traitors inside S.H.I.E.L.D and the only one who can save them is Steve… even if it means he has to become a fugitive to accomplish this.

Action movies don’t mess around in their genre – they seem to take that title very seriously, using the "bigness" their frames to pack in one too many near-climaxes instead of taking time to develop the characters a bit and show us who they are, there is a focus on what the next big stunt will be, how to plot, accomplish and shoot it. This is the one Marvel franchise that cares about its protagonists; they also minimize the damages which is a plus for those of us who feel like the destruction of people or cities goes a step further than it should. There is a plot that can be followed because it’s not obscured by things that go boom and those of us who have seen all of these movies we know the importance of that. To be honest, I don’t remember everything about ‘The First Avenger,’ partially because what I do recall was it being longer than need be (ironically this runs longer though didn’t seem it) and also it’s been too long since last I saw it. With that out of the way, forgive me for possibly forgetting any explanations in the first film.

FILM REVIEW | Captain America: Civil War (2016) - Dueling Friends Concludes with Poignant Messages of Patriotism and Friendship

Captain America The Winter Soldier

Even if I didn’t realize it, this superhero film was the most anticipated at my house. What started in The Avengers is followed up in ‘The Winter Soldier’ regarding Steve searching to find his place in society; it was amusing for the script to play with this especially since it never turned inappropriate. Adding a nice element of camaraderie was the introduction of the man who will be known as “Falcon,” Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who not only rises to the occasion of volunteering to join Steve, he also is the kind of person Steve needed to relate too. These characters are some of my favorite in this Marvel universe and also include returning favorite Cobie Smulders as Agent Hill and in its star-studded cast Robert Redford – one note about the cast, I must confess to being surprised Emily VanCamp didn’t play a larger role, though if her final scene is any indication, she’ll be back fighting fit in future. Seeing so many characters crossover from multiple franchises is in itself an awe-inspiring event, mainly because they “fit” so well into any story even if they aren’t a solo act at the box office.

Keeping in tune with the script being gold, the interactions between Steve and Natasha was adorable – that banter between them was leading down a road unexpected yet always stayed on the ambiguous side of things. In terms of the plot, as with everything before it, it does rely on ‘The First Avenger’ however I was aware of the “big reveal” though there were gasps from audience members so perhaps the “twist” was concealed from most reviews. That being said, this film is still tops. If it hasn’t been as full of torrential happy thoughts as reviews past, never fear, my mind is fully engaged and gushing! Even though all of the Avengers are favorite heroes, I’ve always had a soft spot for its first one. Maybe because he’s a moral person with a heart of gold or maybe I admire his loyalty and the way he respectfully questions everything – even when it means the right thing will end with painful realities. Either way, Steve Rogers probably tops the list at the end of the day. 

With spectacular action sequences (including a climax that limits itself to an area that “had” to be destroyed), another engaging cast and scenes that inspire in us an emotional sense of patriotism, this installment is nothing to sneeze at. It’s done its job in whetting our appetite for The Avengers: Age of Ultron and with a promise of seeing the Captain again in a third titular installment in 2016, (thank you record-breaking box office weekend) we’ll anticipate seeing him again when he assembles with fellow Avengers next year – and maybe by then he’ll have worked up the courage to call a certain someone. *wink*

(This post does contain affiliate links, which means – at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link. Read the disclosure page for details.) You can purchase Captain America: Civil War on DVD and Bluray or own/rent digitally on Amazon Video.

(Parental review; there are three-four “major” action sequences. Nearly all of them result in casualties and another beats up a man badly, he is shot at with machine guns [he shoots back] before his car is flipped over leaving him in bad shape. The climax topples a building and blows up a fleet of flying ships; also in this sequence, men are stabbed, burned or suffer from gunshot wounds. There may be some minor sexual innuendo and a rare instance of a general profanity. The film is rated PG13.)

Thor: the Dark World (2013) - Asgard's Hero Returns to Earth

In certain spheres the Marvel world has worn out its welcome. The box office is not one of these places.

Thor, the Dark World

Generations ago, ancestors of Asgard defeated the Dark Elves race whose leader had schemes to plunge the universe into a deep darkness only he watched his people fall and his desired supernatural weapon, the Aether fall to the Asgards. Escaping, their leader waits for another chance to get what he desires but the Asgards have buried the indestructible Aether weapon deep where no one will find it, leaving the Asgards to live in peace. 

One of these decedents is Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who is trying to align the realms again after his half-brother managed to turn their worlds into chaos. Along with his trusted comrades Fandral and Sif (Zachary Levi, Jamie Alexander), he travels the nine realms and defeats the armies rising up against Asgard, and giving their people peace again. Unlike the young reckless man he once was, Thor is now restless, his heart left behind on earth…

FILM REVIEW | Thor (2011) - Celestial World Introduces Marvel's Hero, Thor of Asgard

Thor and Jane

Two years have passed since his departure, and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is trying to move on. Now living in London, she has thrown herself into her work and along with her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings), she has found another anomaly. Excited for what this might mean, she explores the building hiding it only to emerge from this with an energy inside her that repels the touch of any human. Her change in circumstances brings Thor back to earth, and fearful for her well-being, he takes her back to Asgard with him in the hopes of finding a cure for an energy that will, if a cure is not found, kill her.

OhMyGosh! This is how a superhero movie gets better a second time out. While still flawed in places with select portions that should definitely have been cut or polished, I adored this sequel. Let me preference all this by saying that I don’t go to a film in this genre expecting “greatness” in the sense that it’s going to offer emotional stimulation to life’s problems. These are the kind of films I watch to be entertained by, to get lost in a fantasy and let me tell you, that is exactly was ‘The Dark World’ did. It rose to meet my expectations and then some.

Starting off, can I just say one very important aspect of this writing process that was spotless. Best. Humor. Ever. There were so many vivid moments of comic gold I had to keep reminding myself to be quiet so as not to disturb sleeping family members. Despite the darker undercurrent to the Loki/Thor betrayal drama, it's a refreshing break to experience their brotherly camaraderie without any sort of fake emotion beyond that of brothers being… brothers. (And you go, Asgard loyalists. Tell Loki how it is, “if you betray him…”) 

In the same vein I wouldn’t be honest if neglecting to say that there does come a point in franchises that a baddie needs to be removed as a threat. Saying this will likely earn flack (don't hate me), but I’m going to because it’s an opinion and in those parameters, what I’m about to say is an element I feel stifles the story. Writers need to understand the importance of a villain remaining put in his place – whether it be in a dungeon or by death in battle just as they send off their good in a blaze of honor, I’m not sure that they realize how much it undercuts the heroes to pit them against their foes time after time. 

Overall this film is better than its prequel. The action sequences are far better, the CGI is awesome (how gorgeous is Asgard!?), the costumes stunning and of course, the London setting also provides a fun escapism. Also an improvement is the script which was more elaborate than the prequel. Most evident is that this doesn't seem to have the same level of “silly” as before. Those looking for more character development may not find any in this follow-up though it’s still fun to catch-up on the adventures of Thor and Company. Also returning is the always entertaining Darcy, Erik (Stellan Skarsgård), Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and newbie, Ian (played by Jonathan Howard) as Darcy’s unpaid-intern, who apparently would follow her to the ends of the earth – and basically he does! 

Thor, the Dark World Loki

If you’re a Marvel fan, this is a solid installment to dazzle and include in your collection. There’s a fun cameo, great sass and opportunities of redemption found in unexpected places. It's funny, lighthearted, bittersweet, action-packed and of course, full of marvelous acting that brings everything together, and tagging along in the credits is a happy ending. This girl is certainly prepared for the next chapters in the Marvel universe. Bring it on. 

(This post does contain affiliate links, which means – at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link. Read the disclosure page for details.) You can purchase Thor: The Dark World on DVD and Bluray or own/rent digitally on Amazon Video.

CONTENT: there are several action/adventure battle sequences that rarely linger on the graphic, an energy source lives inside a woman causing her eyes to turn black. Men are stabbed and supernatural creatures wreak havoc on earth. There may be a mild innuendo or two, some general profanities. There are two or three scenes of a man running around naked on a TV news story – meant to be funny, the TV screen pixelates his body. The film is rated PG13.

Lucky in Love (2014)

Running with the theme of April Fools Day, this cute romantic comedy is yet another example of why we girls keep returning to this network for our “fix” of chick flicks. 

Working as a lower level creative design employee at a major social networking job, Mira Simon (Jessica Szohr) is about to get everything she ever dreamed of. Brushed aside consistently by her immediate boss, Mira grows increasingly frustrated with her work environment and getting nowhere with her ideas which prompts her to give in to partake in an April Fools trick of her own by sending a random text to her best friend and fellow co-worker, Jonah (Ben Hollingsworth) that exclaims she just earned an anticipated promotion and the next day starts to change Mira’s reality. Quite literally. 

Following being stuck in the elevator with her boss (Deidre Hall), Mira gets a chance to show her new web site design and ultimately she is named the head of a position her former boss was expected to get. From here, things rapidly start to happen. Mira moves into the town house owned by her company, meets the perfect guy (Ryan Kennedy) and tries to manage her new responsibilities all of which are the things Mira’s dreams were made of – this is exactly her envision of the perfect life, but is it the life she really wants?

As chick flick scripts go, this one is super fun, cute and really more inventive than most. It went in opposition to its competition – twice! – and made me glad to have chosen it for a night of relaxation (ironically, I just happened to watch it on April Fool’s Day). Experiencing a stereotype boss (Mira’s immediate boss) didn’t wind up being the bad guy was a great elimination as it drew more from the script – it showed that through Mira’s success and eventual mistakes, not one but two people benefitted. Then there is the lack of a self-sacrificial, radical change of life for its leading lady. I cannot tell you how frustrated this subject often makes me – it’s meant to show that its leading character finally understands what is important and for fear of ever letting material pursuits come between them and what’s important again, they walk away. I am sorry but seriously? No matter what happens, a person still has to work and just because you lose yourself for a time doesn’t mean that once you find yourself again you have to give up your dreams. We all lose sight of what is important in life from time to time, it’s how we react to realizing that lesson – giving up on everything we love isn’t the answer in my opinion. Lastly, when this one started, there was a fear it was going to be one of those alternate universe flicks that fortunately, never materialized for which I’m grateful!  

A fabulous cast helps this one shine too – including Jessica Szohr who made Mira always likable even in her worse moments and of course, I thought Ben was adorable. (When did I develop a soft spot for geeky heroes (and I mean this in the best way)!? Should I blame Clark Kent…!) It was nice seeing him in something again after a Christmas flick from last year and many may recognize him from the Signed, Sealed and Delivered franchise. The script kept a running gap throughout the film about Jonah’s crush on Mira that was sweet and even more endearing; I will say that his side story took some wrong turns in that it developed far too quickly. In an 80-something long movie though I respect that developing things does have to move swiftly and since Lucky in Love (which some of you may also recognize as Nobody’s Fool – really, that was a better title likely switched out to appeal to its target audience) is one of my favorites, all’s forgiven. If you have liked past titles from Hallmark’s large selection of romantic-comedies, don’t miss their latest. It’s an engaging treat - and that's no joke! 

Be sure to tune into Hallmark Channel on Saturday April 5th to catch the premiere of
Lucky in Love! Watch the promo video:
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