Month In Review: January 2015

Hello, friends. Here we have the third "month in review" on this blog which is set to chronicle some of the blog's content and I'm also going to be talking about some of my favorites from this month or new finds. We've already waved good-bye to one full month in 2015. January stays "busy" at my house because we have most of our family get-togethers (for Christmas) post Christmas day and it's my dad's birthday. First up the new finds, then we'll discuss the blog's month and some of the content yet to come.

A Wish Come True (2015)

A Wish Come True Hallmark

For 25 years, Lindsay Corwin (Megan Park) has made a wish on her birthday. But she doesn’t just make a wish when she blows out the candle, she writes the wishes down. On her 25th birthday, she wishes for the perfect guy to walk into her life, not knowing that her best friend – and now lawyer, Dave (Ben Hollingsworth) has loved her without ever saying a word. Instead he's been the guy she relies on. Nearly five years later and Lindsay is not in the job she’d have wanted, but she has got the perfect guy. Or so she thought. Her 30th birthday is celebrated again with no boyfriend.

Instead something else happens and all of her wishes begin coming true starting with a dream promotion… 

Following through with their tradition (Hallmark, of course) of bringing wholesome and sweet romantic comedies, A Wish Come True is another fabulous film to curl up and watch on a Saturday evening in. I liked a multitude of things about it. One of which is that it’s relatively grounded in reality. Sure, its heroine has some dreams, but they aren’t necessarily unrealistic. What do get marginally hooky are the methods by which Lindsay’s dreams are achieved – some of which do stretch the bounds of believability. That being said, this is all a part of the film’s charm, which is of course, too cute to rag overmuch on.  

Another plus was seeing Ben (Lucky in Love) in something again. I’ve really liked him in the leading man roles he’s played, and Dave is no different, and Megan's Lindsay is a fun heroine. Sprinkled with some pixie dust and elements of the Cinderella story, A Wish Come True is pure sunshine. It does take a quirky detour now and again (crazy side character), but that doesn’t undermine from the fabulous. Plus, the ending is far more complete than most of its peers, that alone proves wishes do come true.  

A Wish Come True premieres on Hallmark Channel tonight, January 31st 
Who else is tuning in to watch this sweet confection?  

Falling for Texas by Jill Lynn

About the Book:
Author: Jill Lynn
Publisher: Steeple Hill
Source: Author Provided
Publication Date: 2015
Find the Review elsewhere:
Amazon ǀ Goodreads ǀ Novel Crossing ǀ
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Amazon ǀ Barnes & Noble ǀ Goodreads
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5

Sweet romances are my “happy place” in reading. Yes, I will freely admit that. There is something “easy” about them that I cannot put my finger on, but do know they leave me happily smiling and normally willing to re-read. If I had the time, that is. But hey, at least I have the thought of re-reading – that totally counts, right!? Back on track, right. One of 2015’s debut authors, Jill Lynn’s contemporary romance tells the story of Olivia Grayson. A newcomer to Texas, Olivia is not without her secrets. Still suffering the emotional aftereffects of the string of bad choices she made, she wasn’t prepared for the stir rancher Cash Maddox would cause in her heart. The legal guardian and elder brother of her star volleyball player, Rachel, as Olivia gets to know Cash, she realizes that they could never be more than friends. Cash too is cautious as he gets to know Olivia. Truth is important to him in any relationship and right now Rachel needs to be his focus. But… something about Olivia makes him re-think his “no dating” policy.

Short and sweet best sums up Jill’s hot-off-the-press novel, which has no complaints from me. It wraps up at a 220 page count and is one of those easy-to-read books’ that is nothing but pure sunshine. Like any good storyteller, Jill does write involved character pasts that do trend towards being “dark,” though each of the situations is handled with tact and it doesn’t affect the happily-ever-after themes of the book. There is a fun-loving group of characters surrounding our hero and heroine, which makes the book all the more entertaining to read. But for me, that wasn’t the best part.

What I admired most about this story was the author lending her voice to some “tough subjects.” One of which is the belief that love shouldn’t be given on a whim (using the “true love waits” principle). There is a particularly poignant scene between Olivia and Rachel about this. Like any good contemporary, there are plenty of comical situations that arise and I liked the respect Olivia and Cash had for each other. If you enjoy inspirational romances or want one of those fast reads, then Falling for Texas is an excellent novel to pick up. It’s got a nice plot, good writing and of course, the most important of all, a Texan cowboy for its hero. What more could a girl ask for?  

Synopsis: Raising his orphaned teenage sister isn't easy for Texas rancher Cash Maddox. The girl tests his parenting—and patience—at every turn! But when he asks new teacher Olivia Grayson for help with his sister's grades and attitude, Cash realizes he's facing the toughest trial of all. He made a promise that he wouldn't date and get distracted from his mission of being a good father figure. Yet Olivia's quick wit is drawing him unexpectedly closer to the caring beauty every day. Could it be time to make a new vow…one that'll last a lifetime? – Goodreads  

Sincere thanks to the author, Jill, for providing a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it.

Ten Books I'd Read With My Book Club

Today's topic doesn't apply to me since I am not in any book clubs nor have I ever been. But it sounds like fun. If I were in one, below are some of the books that would be fun to read with fellow friends and book addicts. The official topic is:
Broke and Bookish:
Ten Books I'd Love to Read With My Book Club/If I Had A Book Club
(or you could pick a specific kind of book club -- like if you had a YA book club or an adult book club or a science fiction book club etc.)
The Anticipated:
In the Christian fiction world (and hopefully crossover to secular YA), we're pretty thrilled with the influx of young adult titles. Some of the authors bringing the best voices to this genre are co-authors Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon and Thomas Nelson novelist Mary Weber. Their upcoming novels are two YA readers seem to be anticipating.

The Classics:
Since I've not really gotten "into" Austen novels, it could be fun to try reading one in a book club. Because, you know, who doesn't love talking Austen-esque stuff.
The Debuts:
Laura's debut sounds awesome and Katie's darling... plus who doesn't enjoy discovering new books?
The Hashtags:
Pop culture went CRAZY with the YouTube sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It seems like it'd be a nice quick kind of read - plus more gushing with friends? That doesn't hurt at all.
Veronica Mars (Mr. Kiss and Tell) is one of my very favorite TV shows, and knowing her story "lives on" through books is awesome.
The Re-Reads:
Both of those would be re-reads, however they're the kind of books I still think about and remember fondly when I'm organizing my bookshelves. Both are very different, but excellent.
The Re-Tellings:
Rook is supposed to be a kind-of re-imagining of The Scarlet Pimpernel and after all, who among us wouldn't love more Sir Percy?
Cruel Beauty is Beauty and the Beast reimaged, and sounds as gorgeous as it looks.
The Rom-Coms:
I've read both of these novels, but they're two of my most favorite contemporaries.
The YA Scene:
No secret has been made of my "obsession" with Kiera Cass' dystopian series, so it'd come as no surprise that this upcoming May release would make the list. Plus, I know of two girls who'd make reading it as a group fun. Ally's books are on multiple YA lists, and her latest novel seems as good a place as any to start.
Your turn. What books would you want to read with a bunch of book friends? Are you or have you ever been in a book club?
Share any thoughts below.

Love by the Book (2015)

Love by the Book
Hallmark makes it a habit of producing some of the most wholesome romantic comedies ever. For those of us who prefer staying in over going out on a Saturday night, their latest is one you might want to bookmark. The story opens with two young girls playing and our heroine’s voice telling us this, “My sister Jane and I were raised on a steady diet of fish sticks and fairytales.” Emma (Leah Renee) has always dreamed about the perfect prince. She expected he’d find her when the time was right, yet today, she is instead learning of her sister Jane’s engagement and she remains single, and she’s happy with her work as a small bookstore owner. Life is about to get more complicated in her work when her silent partner (John Schneider) brings in his son, Eric (Kristopher Turner) to help turn things around. The two of them clash about ideas for the shop, but Emma is soon distracted by handsome newcomer, Logan (Ryan Bittle). Logan seems to be the epitome of perfect. Emma is showered in gifts and swept off her feet, but is this real or is it nothing more than... fiction? 

Perfect as a lead-in to Valentine’s Day, this script is one that is full of those “aww…” moments we have come to love from our chick flick television romantic comedies. The cute fairytale and literary references were sweet, and Leah made the perfect believer of the “fairytale life.” She was a sweet kind of heroine whose characteristics reinforced what she said she believed love was. Even the stylist does a nice job conveying Emma’s character – from her clothing to her hairstyles everything helps sell the idea that Emma is a faithful romantic. Eric makes a loveable, fun character who isn’t the guy we initially thought he was.  But wait… no need for alarm. He’s still a good guy. Also worth noting as regards the cast is Stephanie Powers as one of Emma’s employees. Those of you who watch classic TV know the name from Hart to Hart. Having watched a season of the 80’s series, it was entertaining to see her in something again.  

Some cute literary references crop up in the script – particularly cute is Emma being gifted an old edition of Emma and the sisters being named Emma and Jane, both of which are famous Austen heroines. Tying in with the literary bent was the setting. All of us book addicts will enjoy Emma’s store – the quaintness of it is hard to resist and guys, not only does Emma appreciate the old-fashioned charm of a good book, but she blogs! Or she starts one during the movie. The subplot adds a little snazzy-ness to the script and I also liked that Jane got a decent storyline that could have ended either way.  

Make sure you’re able to watch this one if you enjoy movies that are sweet and of course, feature some bookish references. The pace is nice – minus an ending that wrapped too abruptly, and of course, having a main character that values books doesn’t harm the script in the least. 

Watch the premiere of Love by the Book tonight January 24th on Hallmark Channel. 

Legend of the Seeker, Season One: “Prophecy” and “Destiny” (2008)

Legend of the Seeker
Fantasy shows and I aren’t always on the best of terms. They’ve usually got a great “hook” that tugs us into their world. Beyond that, they lack the same “complete” status as other genres enjoy. This short-lived (two season's) series opens with two sisters racing to escape their pursuers. One dies, the other, Kahlan (Bridget Regan) pushes forward. Hoping to honor her sister’s sacrifice, her journey is meant to end when she finds the Seeker and into his hands, place the book they were protecting. When she’s chased to the boundary by the evil forces of Darken Rahl – a place no one dare cross, Kahlan uses a magical device to cross past it and the portal she walks through allows the soldiers to give chase. In the next world, she meets young Richard Cypher (Craig Horner) when he aids her in escaping the soldiers.

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Beyond All Dreams Elizabeth Camden

About the Book:
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: Publisher Provided
Publication Date: 2015
Find the Review elsewhere:
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Genre: Fiction; Historical, Christian
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis: Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. She is thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, but her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

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

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

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

Historical details and I am sure meticulously researched facts balanced against the fictional lives of her characters seems to be Elizabeth Camden’s signature. Her later novels have been set against fascinating historical events or memorable pivots from history and her latest is no different. What she never seems to forget is the importance her characters have to the story. even amidst the scope or awe of the history. There was a lot to enjoy about this book from Elizabeth. The characters are equal parts sensible and sassy, and of course, the prose is as well composed as ever. To be honest, I don’t think I liked this novel as well as some of Elizabeth’s others (With Every Breath, Against the Tide). It could have been merely that distractions played too big a role during the reading of the book or maybe the story didn’t grab me as much. Either way, I’m sure it had nothing to do with the story or characters. Having said that, let’s move on.  

Speaking of those protagonists, they were quite the pair. Where Anna is quiet and unassuming, Luke is determined and always seems to be in the center of some commotion in his work as a congressman. Anna is the balm to his shattered soul and Luke embodies everything Anna doesn’t want from life. She doesn’t want to be a public figure and if she were to be the wife of one that’d challenge her idea of a simple life. Anna’s character is one many of us will relate too. I really liked her for this reason. She enjoys her work among the history and books of the library. She doesn’t need more than that. She’s content until Luke comes along and turns her world topsy-turvy. His determination to sweep her off her feet is definitely not a suit that easily goes away. Their relationship has interesting turns because of this. Smoothing things out doesn’t necessarily last for long in this relationship!  

Added to the character dynamics are the politics of the late 1800’s and a mystery surrounding a ship that sank. There’s also a lot of dynamics in the backgrounds of the characters. What I liked most was not the romance, but some of the twists the story took. Certain outcomes were not what I’d anticipated and it worked to the benefit of the book. Beyond All Dreams is any historical fiction addict’s dream. It’s a charming story and doesn’t shy away from packing in historical tidbits without lessening the impact of the story. That’s one of the reasons I adore Elizabeth’s writing. She has the balance down to a science and her years honing her skills as an author show that.  
How about you: did you read and like Beyond All Dreams?
I'm curious, so let's have some book talk, friends!

Sincere thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy of this review copy.

Bridal Wave (2015)

The effort to bring viewers an original premiere every Saturday night continues tonight in Hallmark Channel's, Bridal Wave. The movie reunites co-stars Arielle Kebbel and Andrew Walker (A Bride for Christmas) in a sweet little romance. 

Bridal Wave

The story is about Georgie (Kebbel), a nurse engaged to a doctor – Philip (David Haydn-Jones), and fellow co-worker. Philip is a perfectionist workaholic that serves him well in his plastic surgery practice. But not so well when it comes to making Georgie feel loved. His mother (Jaclyn Smith) is less than thrilled with her son's choice in marriage and feels his choice of bride and in-laws aren't good enough. 

Georgie’s mother has planned the entire wedding for the lovebirds and the ceremony is to take place on a small, commercialized island that sees dozens of weddings in one day let alone an entire year. On the way to their destination, Georgie meets Luke (Walker). Already nervous with “one” cold foot, Georgie’s already skittish heart is thrown into greater turmoil.

It’s always a blast to see co-stars in films together again. When first learning of this film and its cast, I figured it’d be one of my most favorites because I’d previously liked Arielle and Andrew together. While sweet, I have to be honest, this wasn’t a favorite. The cast is great – and it was especially entertaining to see Jaclyn Smith again (yes, I have seen the entire run of Charlie’s Angels), and I liked the setting. 

So this leaves the story. Sure everything is cute and is wrapped in an attractive package. Still something keeps the film from being its “best.” Or that’s my impression. Namely the reasons stemming from the few “awkward” moments that even the wackiest of situations cannot normalize or simply put, they were out of place. That rant being chronicled, don’t let that keep you from enjoying Bridal Wave. In spite of nitpicking comments, I sure did!  

With its relaxing settings (made me wish I could visit the place) and fun shenanigans plus an ending that’s better than most (why can’t movie endings go with the "complete" versus ambivalent!?), this is one wedding you probably want to get an R.S.V.P in for.  

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - Marvel's Witty Comic Book Spectacle!

Gaurdians of the Galaxy

I’m going to be honest. When I first heard about this and then saw the trailer, I basically thought it looked kooky. That was before the light bulb moment came. This was set in the Marvel universe. Things were aligning.

When Peter was a kid, he watched his mother die of cancer and his world fell apart. The pair of them shared a love of mix tapes that Peter carries with him like a lifeline. The same night his mother died, he was abducted by a mysteries light – or spaceship! Years later, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still marching to the beat of his mix tapes. He’s got cool space weapons and he hunts treasures in the galaxy. Things get complicated when he becomes the most wanted man of the Galaxy. First, his former mentor catches up with him, then the evil Ronan (Lee Pace) – who, by the way wishes to destroy the Galaxy – sends his assassin Gamora (Zoe Salanda) to find him. Shortly thereafter, bounty hunters Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) attempt to capture him. The Galaxy’s law apprehend Peter, Gamora and the bounty hunters, for their troubles, they are thrown in jail.

While in jail, the group devises a plan to break out of their cells. Before making the break, the guys realize Gamora is actually an asset to their group… and a jail break is planned. They’ve got work to do. Along with their foursome, they team up with Drax (Dave Bautista) who is reeling from a loss he wants avenged. The Guardians of the Galaxy have to stop Ronan and they’re letting nothing stand in their way.  

This film was crazy. I’m not sure there is another word that can accurately sum it up. My definition of “crazy” would look something like this: entertaining, oddly addictive and action-packed. There is definitely a charm to this production that one might not expect – all of which explains why this film is one of if not the highest grossing Marvel film. The cast alone is reason to incite curiosity. Chris Pratt isn’t the same kind of “familiar” as some of the other Marvel headliners, but he does a great job as Star-Lord. Then there are additional cast members like Glenn Close and of course, the always brilliant Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Selfie).  Most of the actors are unrecognizable because of the make-up and various visual character cues meant to define them. Karen especially is hard to recognize, especially when movie trivia reveals she shaved her head for the role. Every once in a while, there’ll be some flash of expression that crosses her face made me go, “ah-ha! There’s the girl we love. Amy Pond is baaack!” (Either way, may I just say this: shaving your head for a role… dude, that’s dedication!)

Addictive as this world is, probably its strongest pull is the humor. Throughout the entire film, I was smiling and giggling over each “small thing.” Whether it’s Rocket’s crazy character or the interesting pop culture references, there’s a lot of funny bone laughs.  Prior to watching this, there were a lot of viewers who mentioned the culture references. The film plucks Peter (from earth) into space during the eighties, which gives the film a lot of options to revisit the past even while set in what we’d consider a more “futuristic” world. Some of them I totally picked up on, others I did not. Likely because it references a fandom I never became interested in. 

Surprisingly for all its quip-y teasers and trailers with attitude, this flick does have poignant messages. The end might even inspire some tears when the climax evolves into a no-other-outcome-is-possible situation. That being said, don’t let these comments fool you, this film is primarily enjoyable without the aftereffects of disappointment. I’m not sure if forced I’d pick this as my favorite Marvel universe, however I cannot complain about anything “bad” or nitpick about parts of the story. The only thing I did think was lacking was the "secrets or mysteries" behind Peter’s past. Most films go backwards in their pursuit to better their characters. This one did not. Peter’s only link was his tapes and he was particularly protective of that link. 

The relationships (with exception to the romance, which I don’t particularly care one way or another about) were all fleshed out. This is especially true for Rocket and Groot. I know it sounds strange, but their friendship was really cute, fun and meaningful. The ending even ties into that with a message of new life after tragedy. Oh, and of course, the music is fabulous! All are catchy tunes with a beat. With a sequel supposed to be in production, and a long-range plan for Marvel stories in the future, meeting these Guardians is nearly a requirement for all fan girls. Just sayin’.  

(Rated PG13: there’s some crude humor playing into some of the culture references that no one but Peter gets, and an obscene hand gesture. Peter is a womanizer, learned through various implications. Sci-fi type “action” plays a large role in the story. Things are destroyed, good guys are killed and men are beat up. The standard smattering of profanity is also present in sh*t, a**, etc.)

Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Once again I haven't joined up with Waiting on Wednesday (or WOW as it's commonly referred to) for ages and as a result, I *had* to pick four books. Chances are high it'll be weeks or months before I take part again. Even at that, this doesn't even come close to the number of books 2015 has in store that are on my "must read" list.

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Each week you are able to spotlight an up and coming release (or in my case, four) you are anticipating.

All Fall Down, by Ally Carter: Grace can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.

Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay - in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.
  - Goodreads


A Love Like Ours, by Becky Wade: Scarred from his military days, cowboy Jake Porter is content being alone...until his old friend Lyndie starts tearing down the walls he's built. - Goodreads


The Wonder of You, by Susan May Warren: Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind? - Amazon


Siren's Fury, by Mary Weber: Nym has saved Faelen only to discover that Draewulf stole everything she valued. Now he’s destroyed her Elemental storm-summoning abilityas well.

When Nym sneaks off with a host of delegates to Bron, Lord Mylesoffers her the chance for a new kind of power and the whispered hope that it may do more than simply defeat the monster she loathes.

But the secrets the Bron people have kept concealed, along with the horrors Draewulf has developed, may require more than simply harnessing a darker ability.
They may require who she is.

Set against the stark metallic backdrop of the Bron kingdom, Nymis faced with the chance to change the future.

Or was that Draewulf’s plan for her all along? - Goodreads


Your turn: which books are you waiting on this WOW Wednesday?
Share away. 

Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To

This list is going to be all about the repetitive. I'm betting you'll look over this list and think, "This looks eerily familiar." You'd be right if you did. That wasn't my intention but when you've placed these books on any number of prior Top Ten Tuesday lists, it's bound to happen. Most of these were either on summer or fall TBR's, but they do apply to today's topic as well, which are all those books I really did want to read this past year and did not.

Broke and Bookish: Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To

COVER REVEAL: The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea

Good morning fellow bookish friends. Today, the blogosphere is coming together to help introduce another debut author and one of our blogging buddies to earning the title of author. Rachelle Rea has been blogging for several years now and is in fact, one of the nicest people in this community. If you didn't know, she's a freelance editor who has worked on many prior Indie projects, some of which have been authored by our blogging buddies. Since running her own successful business, she has signed a three-book contract of her own. Today, Rachelle has given those of us who wanted to a chance to help introduce her book to the world. This leads us to more information about Rachelle and the big reveal. Read on below to find out all the details.

Bio: Rachelle Rea plots her novels while driving around the little town she’s lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. As a freelance editor, she enjoys mentoring fellow authors in the craft. A homeschool graduate and retired gymnast, she wrote the Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college.

Synopsis: In Reformation-era England, a converted rogue wants to restore his honor—at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk Godfrey knows he has only one chance at redemption. 
An independent Catholic maiden seeking refuge in the Low Countries finds herself at the center of the Iconoclastic Fury. Jaded by tragedy, Gwyneth’s only hope of getting home is to trust the man she hates, and she soon discovers her poor vision is not the only thing that has been blinding her. 
But the home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, will the saint and the sinner hold to hope…or be overcome? When Dirk’s plan fails, could all be lost?

This cover is really very pretty! I don't mind the "artistic," cropped image of the woman. It's a well played design for the plot, actually. Also, I'm glad that heroine Gwyneth's dress is such a vibrant color. This makes the design stand out more. The filigrees beneath Rachelle's name add a pretty touch, giving it an aura of delicate elegance as do the "watermark" designs on the edge of the cover. Basically, it's just awesome to see Rachelle's name on a novel.
Rachelle, I'm super happy for you! It's exciting to be able to read about your process of writing and signing this series to publish. Knowing what a splendid writer and blogger you are, I know the role of author will be something you excel at. Thanks for letting us share in your excitement. Congrats, Rachelle!
Add your cover thoughts for Rachelle below!
Are you excited about reading this novel? Make sure to add it to your Goodreads shelves... or you know, just go ahead and pre-order it. *smile*

#INSPYAwards2015 Update

Good afternoon and happy Monday, friends! I decided before the day was out to give you a quick reminder and update on the start of our 2015 INSPYs season.

First, sincere thanks and appreciation from the Advisory Board to everyone who shared or tweeted about the awards. It means a lot to have that exposure and support. Thank you. Second, everyone who nominated... Wow! You guys are serious about letting us know which books you liked best in 2014 - with today's nominations we have over 150 books as proof of that! That says a lot about this community of authors we all admire. The nomination process will close this Friday, January 16th, so if you'd like to add a book to that growing list, now is the time to do so.

We ask that you first check the list of nominations; if the book has been nominated, then you know it will be fairly considered. If there is a novel you'd like to see get in on being a shortlist title, please read through the book and category criteria. After that, jump to the nomination form and cast your vote! It's simple as that.

A peek into the future following Friday, our attention will be on reading, obviously. *wink* But for you all, our judging applications will be opening in a little over a month. March 1st. If you think you'd like to be included in that process, please consider it or share the awards with someone you think might. All we're looking for are consistent bloggers who are book addicts and believe in our statement of faith. Plus, you have the chance to "meet" some new people and have fun. Or that's the experience we hope you have.

Wrapping up, beyond that, we welcome any kind of support whether its sharing INSPY news or having volunteers to judge. As with everything, more news about the judging process will arrive closer to March. Also, we welcome any help spreading the word on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook. If you have a question that you don't wish to publicize, contact us via email: inspyawards(at)gmail(dot)com. Also, we do have a  Goodreads group. You're welcome to join us just because or to start some fun discussions. We'll probably be glad chat with you. *grin* Any questions, comments, suggestions or the like can be left below in the comments or posted to one of the links above. Hopefully we're back in the swing of keeping up with all our communication.

Thanks for all your support!

Christmas Movies, Mini Reviews: Part 2

Last year I shared some reviews on a handful of Christmas movies complied into one post with a “short and sweet” review format. This year to wrap up my reviewing of Christmas movies (at least until next holiday season), today I decided to share about the movies I watched over the Christmas week. Four out of five are from the Hallmark Channel and are among my favorites. (My Christmas flick radar is pretty good I think because I saved the best for Christmas week, which is just what I wanted. *wink*) Plus, over or not, as my friend Kara says, only the “cool people still watch Christmas movies.” I tend to agree with her. Nothing wrong with watching these into January methinks. 
The Christmas Ornament (2013)  

One of Hallmark Channel’s 2013 premieres – and one of its most popular (I totally get this), this one stars TV favorite Kellie Martin (Christy) as a recently widowed shop owner named Kathy. In addition to mourning the loss of her husband, Kathy struggles to keep him alive by keeping his dream alive in the form of the bike shop they opened. Sadly, the shop is all but failed. This is when she meets tree lot owner Tim Pierce (played by Cameron Mathison). Since his work is largely centered on Christmas, Tim’s charm does appeal to Kathy but since Christmas was always a big part of her and her late husband’s life, she keeps him at arm’s length. It’ll take a bit of faith and her best friend, Jenna (Jewel Satire) for Kathy to possibly open her heart to love.  

Bottom lining it, I thought this film was one of the sweetest I’ve seen. On my mental list of favorites, this one ranks high. Seeing Kellie in anything is always a pleasure because of the fond memories I have of her short-lived titular role in Christy. Nicer still is seeing her in something drastically different from normal. The interaction between the two leads is sweet and I liked how the story played out clichés or no. The baking subplot is cute and Jewel (Call me Mrs. Miracle) as the best friend was darling. If you’re looking for another Christmas movie, check out this one. It’s definitely worth a watch.  

Northpole (2014) 

This 2014 Hallmark Channel premiere is uncharted territory for the network. It journeys into special effects and consequently a “bigger” scale. Single mom Chelsea (Tiffani Thiessen) is moving again for her work as a reporter. Tagging along is her son Kevin (Max Charles) who is tired of being the “new kid.” Before long, Kevin begins communicating with the curious Clementine (Bailee Madison). Clementine is an elf from the North Pole, whose disappointment with the lagging belief in Santa Claus (played by screen legend, Robert Wagner) is met with a plot to bring back the spirit. This brings her to Kevin’s door. When Chelsea learns her son has befriended an elf, she chalks it up to a lonely, overactive imagination. Along with Kevin’s quirky teacher, Ryan (Josh Hopkins), the quartet has their work cut out for them. Bringing back the joy of Christmas is no small task!  

The basic premise of this is the same as every movie that tells a story of people losing their zest or belief in Christmas. That being said, I liked this one because of its cast. Seeing Bailee in anything is always fun since I remember some of her roles from way back when and she’s no stranger to these productions. Then there is Josh Hopkins who stars in one of my must-watch, favorite Christmas TV films ever (12 Men of Christmas) and of course, leading lady Tiffani Thiessen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tiffani in anything apart from her fabulous turn as FBI agent Peter Burke’s wife in White Collar so it was really entertaining to watch her in this very different atmosphere. The sets are all pretty good which ties into making everything full of wonder and magic for the films intended ideals. Clementine is a fun character as is Josh’s Ryan, who is not the average romantic interest. Suffice to say, this is a world I’ll be glad to revisit come 2015 with the sequel that’s already in the works.

Snow Bride (2013) 

I remember a friend talking about this one last year. Which meant this was a title I anticipated seeing on DVD this year. Unfortunately a studio didn’t release it. However I still had a chance to see what it’s all about. Greta Kaine (Katrina Law) makes her living off other peoples misfortunes. She’s a gossip reporter that’s pitted against a fellow co-worker to get the scoop on one of the most prominent political families in the nation. One of the sons is rumored to have bought a ring and whoever gets the scoop first earns the promotion. Son Ben Tannenhill (Jordan Belfi) has been hurt by love. So much so that he’s not likely to easily fall again. However when a woman in a wedding dress tumbles (literally) into his life, he has to rethink his belief of love. Greta didn’t mean to meet Ben in such an unconventional way, but she needed an “in” with the family and if that means letting Ben believe she’s a runaway bride, she’ll do it.  

Apart from just a “convenient” meeting, this movie also has other moving parts that make it the perfect remedy for a festive kind of rom-com. It also deals with a couple (Greta and Ben) pretending to date in order to make someone else jealous. I know this has been done tantamount times however something about this script made it come across differently. Maybe it was the “we’ll find ourselves under the mistletoe,” so let’s-get-the-kiss-out-of-the-way moment or perhaps it was the chemistry between the leads. Whatever it was meshes the story nicely and made this one a favorite. If you like romantic-comedies, this is one you should consider looking into. It’s got “magical” moments, pretty dresses and an ending that’s traditional albeit quite cute.  

The Tree that Saved Christmas (2014)  

Molly Logan (Lacey Chabert) left her small Vermont home town for New York with stars in her eyes. Her plan? She was going to be a popular author or edit books. Instead she’s the underappreciated assistant to the CEO of a publishing company. When decorating her boss’ house, she recognizes a tree that she once saved on her family’s tree farm when she was a young girl. Seeing this as some kind of sign, she takes matters into her own hands. She tells her boss (Jim Thorburn) she won’t be assisting him on the recent project he requested her for and hauls the tree home to the very tree farm that is now in danger of closing. While home, she rekindles a romance with her high school beau (Cory Sevier), reconnects with her family and learns that even the most hardened of hearts can be touched.  

This title was surprisingly very well rounded and good in comparison to its peers. One of UPTV’s 2014 premieres, it uses romance as part of its plot, but unlike most movies, it doesn’t just rely on that to move things forward. What I mean by this is that no relationship is treated badly or forgotten. For 90-some minutes, this script fits in a lot of material and seemingly does it well. There are a lot of familial relationships between Molly and her family. There are snapshots that sum up her relationship with each of her family members and in particular, there’s a cute scene between she and her brother. Then there is the romance that was meant to be, which we’re given as the obligatory romance bit (though not necessarily my favorite relationship). Most surprising was the role Molly’s boss, Walter and his two daughters play in the film. I confess as my mom and I were watching this one, we almost wished Molly wouldn’t end up with her old boyfriend although nothing ever wandered into a love triangle. Instead the lessons he learned through Molly’s generosity were much bigger than finding love again. That’s reason enough to enjoy this sweet story.  

A Very Merry Mix-Up (2013) 

Becoming engaged was the last thing Alice (Alicia Witt) expected this holiday season. When her uptight and perfectionist boyfriend surprises her with a ring, he also suggests they return to his parent’s home to share the news. Just before their flight, he gets a call that requires him to close one of his many real estate deals, which prompts him to send Alice on ahead of him. Having never met his family, Alice is wary of travelling there alone, but "chance" has other plans for her. She serendipitously meets Will’s brother Matt (Mark Wiebe). Matt brings her home where Alice grows to love each member of her soon-to-be family and Mark begins to have feelings for his brother’s fiancée… 

This Hallmark film is probably one of the cleverest I’ve encountered. The script manages to take some more unique twists I didn’t expect and some I did. Whenever a movie surprises its viewer it deserves admiration and with this, the script certainly takes a few “happy accidents” that leave us silly grinning. The cast is entertaining too as are the scenes between this oddly, thrown-together family. Think While You Were Sleeping if you’re looking for something that resembles this.  It's definitely one I'll re-watch each season. Watch it yourself and enjoy this festive "mix-up."

So… if you’re snowed in – like we are now – or experiencing the brutal cold, pick up a festive flick and snuggle in with a cup of mocha. You’ll find one that will still entertain.
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