May 26, 2017

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Twenty-Seven


Hello, my lovelies! How's everyone's May going? Crazy as it seems, this month is almost over and I have hardly any new posts to show for it! However, that doesn't mean I haven't been reading or doing fun things I'd love to share with y'all. In fact, I've done quite a bit of reading, at least for me! :) So let's get to the fun stuff, shall we?


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For Love & Honor by Jody Hedlund
Each book in this series is just full of adorableness, yet with the slightest touch of tension so as to keep you turning pages. And this one is no exception to that! :) I instantly fell for Sir Bennet in book one, so had been looking forward to seeing what lady would catch his eye. Lady Sabine is perfect for him! I wanted so badly to make everything easier for her, poor lady has in no way had an easy life. Her "blemish" that makes her so insecure actually makes no difference to those who truly love her. Especially her grandmother, who is absolutely the best! Their relationship was definitely a favorite. And, of course, I loved each of Bennet and Sabine's conversations. They are clearly equals when it comes to intellect, and their shared love of art and history, not to mention their mutual attraction, made for lots of banter, sarcasm, and wit being thrown around. :)

As in the previous books, Ms. Hedlund fills her story with sweet romance and a swashbuckling good time. This might even be my favorite of the three books? I'm not certain, but I will definitely say that Lady Sabine is my favorite character!


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Right Where We Belong by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, & Courtney Walsh
So much swoony happiness in these stories! I loved all three and if I had to pick a favorite, I'm not sure I could do it. Ms. Raney's meet cute between Lily and Gage was super cute! And the way Lily kept ordering stuff one day at a time just so the cute guy could keep coming back to her house? Too funny! Yet the chemistry between Ms Tagg's Megan and Eric? Wow! There was no denying it, no matter how much they both tried. The same goes for Ms. Walsh's Eleanor and Jason! They had good chemistry and best of all, history behind it. I loved watching the two of them swoon over each other. :)

So! Long story short? These three stories are absolutely adorable fun and I sorely wish they were full length novels because I could've used a few hundred pages more with each of these characters!



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Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
SUPER adorable and MUCH too short! I absolutely loved this little novella and so, so wish it were a complete novel. There is ever so much more that could've been expounded on! But I'll take what I can get and what I got was cute and funny. Ms. Rowell certainly has a way with words and I loved every minute, from Elena's arrival at the line until they all walk out of their first viewing of the movie a few days later. I know a bit about Star Wars, but still haven't watched all the movies yet, so I was glad that I didn't get lost in some of the references. Also I cannot imagine actually camping out for days and days like people have done in real life! But I suppose if I was guaranteed a cute boy to hang out with, maybe that might sweeten the idea? ;) Probably not. Still, Elena was willing to do it and her adventures in line go quite a bit differently than she expected. Some not so fun (I mean, the whole bathroom situation? Yuck.) and some rather sweet and then we get to that ending! So much laughter and cute to be found in this story, I highly recommend it.


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Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
I've read a few reviews which mention comparisons to You've Got Mail, and I can agree with that. But the online chats really got pushed into the background so the story could focus on the "real life" portions more. Which was a good choice because the real life interactions between Bailey and "Alex"? So much fun! I rather enjoyed their antagonistic attraction, which leads to many a good sarcastic and banter-filled convo between them. I also really enjoyed watching Bailey's relationship with her dad grow over the course of the story. Definitely a highlight of the book!

Yet for all the cute that I liked, there were a few things that bugged me. I wasn't all that impressed with the amount of coarse language used, for one. A little bit I can usually overlook, but this felt slightly excessive and unnecessary. Also, the violence portrayed was a little much for my comfort. It's not overly explicit, but just the way the characters respond to it bothered me. Especially Bailey herself. So while it was, overall, a very enjoyable read for me, my feelings are too mixed for me to recommend it wholeheartedly.


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The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
I am definitely a fan of Ms. Kearsley's without any doubt now! Her ability to string together words and phrases and create these atmospheric tales of interesting characters and places is incredible. So far (of the entire 2 1/2 books of hers that I've read), I love how the details of the geography and the architecture of the areas she describes feel so real to me. It's almost like they become characters themselves. The ruins around Chinon certainly felt like that in this book.  Enough to make me wish I could go visit! :)

Emily, herself, is a character I easily connected to and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing this "forced" holiday with her. All the vast and interesting people she meets and the certain someone who continually remains on her radar, especially when she'd rather not be quite so aware of him. The romance bits are limited, but do they ever pack a punch! Ms. Kearsley excels at using few words, yet depths of emotion are felt. While I wouldn't say I loved this story with no reservations, I can absolutely say I am planning to read more of her books in the very near future!




May 25, 2017

The BEST Part of my Trip to Biltmore


Some friends and I visited Biltmore Estate the other weekend and I hadn't realized they had period drama costumes on special display right now. BEST surprise ever! Because those lovely costumes you see up there? Tell me y'all know who had the privilege of wearing them!

Yes! Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice '95. (!!!!!!) As soon as I stepped into the library and caught a glimpse of them, I knew immediately what they were. To say that I was dancing on the inside would be an understatement! (It was a busy day and there were far too many people around me to make dancing for realsies actually possible. ;) Needless to say, this Jane Austen fangirl was very, very happy. :D

I don't know if any of y'all have ever visited Biltmore yourselves or happen to know any of the history. Delightful author Pepper Basham is always posting pictures of her numerous visits to the estate on social media, so I knew a tiny bit from what she's shared. But I had no idea that George Vanderbilt (the original owner of the house) was such a huge reader.

BECAUSE THAT LIBRARY IS AMAZING.

I mean, look at all those books...




(Yes, that is a balcony up there. It went around the entire room.) I think we were told that there were upwards of at least 10,000 books in there, in several different languages. Can you imagine owning such a library?! I wanted SO badly to have hours to wander that room and look at all the beautiful stories encased within. If only... *daydreams*





I also enjoyed seeing one of Mia Wasikowska (and yes, I did just go and google how to spell her last name) and Michael Fassbender's costumes from Jane Eyre '11.



Also, I learned that Alicia Vikander (I had to go look up her last name too) is much shorter than I. And definitely much shorter than Matthew MacFadyen! (Although I'm thinking that lots of people are probably much shorter than he. ;) Seeing their costumes from Anna Karenina side by side, the difference in height is quite obvious. I haven't watched that movie, but I did like the costumes they chose to display.



And lastly, this is Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts' costumes from Far From the Madding Crowd. I haven't seen that movie either (I've heard really good things about it, so I'm hoping to watch it one day soon), but I've seen lots of pictures and that particular pose is familiar. I knew who it was even before I read the sign! :)

There were many more costumes throughout the house, but I didn't recognize any of the movies or period dramas they were from, so I took no other pictures. Still, my period drama and especially Jane Austen fangirl heart was absolutely delighted! :) The estate itself is incredible and the costumes were the icing on the cake of the entire day. Not to mention it was wonderful to hang out with dear friends the whole time.

Best weekend of the year! (So far. :)




May 3, 2017

Sunshine blogger Award :: take two


I know I just did one of these a couple months ago, but I saw Hamlette's post for this yesterday and since she didn't tag anyone specifically, plus I was searching for some post ideas, here we are! I thought the questions were fun.

{Also, I'm not tagging anyone specific either. So if you want to join in, have at it!}

1. Do you like to read an entire series at once or spread out the books over time?

I would much prefer to read them all at once. If I have to wait, it's incredibly painful. (I'm looking at you The Lunar Chronicles). And then once I've read them all and loved them, I can reread again and again all I want! :)

2. Would you rather be stuck in the past or the future?

Hmmmm. That's a tough one actually. I'd say the past, at least I could have some semblance of understanding what's going on (maybe?).

3. Have you ever had dream re-runs? (In other words, the same dream twice. XD)

I have no idea. If I ever actually remember my dream, usually I've forgotten it a couple hours later.

4. What is your favorite vacation you've ever taken?

Not a pic from that trip, but
imagine thousands of these
all in rows.
There's several that would be in my top ten, but my most favorite ever? I'd probably go with this one: back in 2001, a couple friends and I drove straight through from VA to CA (it took 41-45 hrs....I think?), stayed there a few days, then drove up the west coastline to OR and WA. We stayed in each of those states a couple days apiece, then drove east. We stopped at the Grand Canyon for a few hours on the way out, and Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore on the way back. We also saw the most beautiful (and HUGE) fields of sunflowers in South Dakota, as well a very large amount of motorcycles around Sturgis, SD. Not to mention we did a lot of tent camping, which brought it's own flavor of adventure to the trip. (You try chopping up a long piece of wooden board that we found alongside the road into firewood without an axe. Lucky for us, a rather handsome gentleman came to our rescue. ;) I have the best memories of that two and a half weeks. It was crazy, a bit chaotic, but awesome!

5. Do you like to chew gum? If so, what is your favorite flavor?

Not really, so I don't have a favorite.

6. If you found the entrance to Narnia, would you tell anybody? Who would you take with you if you did?

Yes! I would tell a couple good friends of mine, who I know would be thrilled beyond bits to go on an adventure like that with me. :)

7. Waffles, pancakes, or neither?

Both!

8. Do you use the Shift key or the Caps Lock key every time you capitalize something? (Odd question, but it's something I always wonder, haha.)

The Shift key, unless I'm typing in all caps like I do for work. But for just one letter capitalization, I use Shift.

9. What is one smell that never fails to make you happy?

Anything freshly baking in the oven.

10. Have you ever been rollerskating?

Many, many times. Mom and dad's house has a basement with a cement floor and two poles in the middle of it. So around and around we went as kids, in skates and trikes and anything we could find with wheels! :)

11. You've gone into hiding and have to conceal your identity. What new alias would you adopt?

I have no idea? Off the top of my head, how about....Anne Shirley. :D




May 2, 2017

2017 INSPY Awards Shortlists

The day has arrived. We are ready to announce our 2017 INSPYs shortlists.


We thank you so much for your continued support, especially in light of the 2017 changes as we strive to create a program that is considerate of the many wonderful novels written in this genre.

Following multiple book deliveries plus multiple time zones, and juggling our respective schedules, the INSPY Awards Advisory Board is thrilled to (finally) announce the 2017 shortlist contenders. As each year does, another daunting task was placed before us to pick just 5 books in each category from a long list 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 6th annual INSPY Awards.


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE/ROMANTIC SUSPENSE 


Can’t Help Falling (Howard) by Kara Isaac
Her One and Only (Bethany House) by Becky Wade
Just a Kiss (Thomas Nelson) by Denise Hunter
A Twist of Faith (Southern Firefly Fiction) by Pepper Basham
You’re the One that I Want (Tyndale) by Susan May Warren


DEBUT FICTION


Close to You (Howard Books) by Kara Isaac
Counted with the Stars (Bethany House) by Connilyn Cossette
Leaving Independence (Waterfall Press) by Leanne W. Smith
The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson) by Celeste Fletcher McHale
The Undoing of Saint Silvanus (Tyndale) by Beth Moore


GENERAL FICTION


The Alliance (Tyndale) by Jolina Petersheim
The Feathered Bone (Thomas Nelson) by Julie Cantrell
Land of Silence (Tyndale) by Tessa Afshar
Long Way Gone (Thomas Nelson) by Charles Martin
A Portrait of Emily Price (Thomas Nelson) by Katherine Reay


HISTORICAL ROMANCE


A Flight of Arrows (Waterbrook) by Lori Benton
The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) by Joanne Bischof
A Heart Most Certain (Bethany House) by Melissa Jaegers
The Captive Heart (Shiloh Run Press) by Michelle Griep
The Ringmaster’s Wife (Thomas Nelson) by Kristy Cambron


MYSTERY/THRILLER


Conspiracy of Silence (Bethany House) by Ronie Kendig
Cold Shot (Bethany House) by Dani Pettrey
Dressed for Death (Bethany House) by Julianna Deering
If I Run (Zondervan) by Terri Blackstock
When Death Draws Near (Thomas Nelson) by Carrie Stuart Parks


LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS


A Daring Sacrifice (Zondervan) by Jody Hedlund
Gilt Hollow (Blink) by Lorie Langdon
I’ll Be Yours (Sweet Pea Productions) by Jenny B. Jones
Siren’s Song (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber
Unblemished (Thomas Nelson) by Sara Ella


SPECULATIVE FICTION


Accelerant (Enclave) by Ronie Kendig
The Calling (Tyndale) by Rachelle Dekker
The Long Journey to Jake Palmer (Thomas Nelson) by James L. Rubart
Seasons of Glory (Blink) by Lisa T. Bergren
The Shattered Vigil (Bethany House) by Patrick W. Carr


Congratulations to all of the nominated authors and shortlist contenders! We now turn the job over to our 2017 judges to select a winner in each category. Winners will be announced June 28th.

Download Press Release here.






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