January 30, 2016

Review: A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love

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This was my first time reading a book by Dorothy Love. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the synopsis intrigued me. I mean, a protagonist who's a popular actress in the 1870s? Not your usual type of heroine! Especially in Christian Fiction. So I opened to page one and started in, only to get sucked into a murder mystery unlike any I'd read before.

Miss India Hartley is quite the lady. Accused of a crime she didn't commit, she struggles with the desire to defend herself, yet is limited by the laws of the time. Someone generously pays for a lawyer for her defense and voila, Philip and India meet and proceed to have quite the adventure trying to suss out the true criminal! I liked Philip and enjoyed watching he and India open up to one another. Their slow-building romance was very sweet.

The mystery was well written and as each clue was uncovered, I kept wondering where the next one would take us. Kudos to Ms. Love for keeping me turning pages! Overall, this is an intriguing story. While I didn't absolutely love it, I still enjoyed the chemistry between the characters and watching all the clues come together. I closed the book happy to have read it! :)

**I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

Her heart hammered. Her worst fear was realized. The play, or at least the first act, was ruined. And Mr. Philbrick would accuse her of deliberately sabotaging it.
"Pray tell, has a cat stolen your tongue?" Mr. Sterling abandoned the script and was improvising his lines now, stalling for time.
No, but someone had stolen her prop. Quivering with humiliation and anger, India bent down to peer more closely at the table. And found the gun at last.
Just as she lifted it there was a deafening explosion and a quick flash of fire. An anguished scream.
Mr. Sterling crumpled onto the stage.


Review: All is Calm, All is Bright by Colleen Coble

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Ms. Coble has long been an author that I've enjoyed. I haven't read near all of her books yet, but her skill at keeping you on the edge of your seat is excellent. These novellas showcase that so well! A bit of mystery and intrigue is all it takes for your heartbeat to rise and your page-turning to quicken. Not to mention a couple sweet romances.

I will say that Brendan and Lauren's romance does have a bit of insta-love involved, which is inevitable within a novella format. But that does not mean they aren't cute. And then there's Tom and Delilah! I enjoyed their story the best, I loved that they both had been dancing around their attraction for a while. So once they acknowledged it openly, then cue the sweetness!

These two Christmas novellas are perfect for a cozy evening spent by the fireplace, with a hot beverage and a blanket to snuggle with. Doesn't that just sound perfect? :)

**I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

She gritted her teeth and started to swim, but a big wave grabbed her and shoved her under again. Then a hard hand yanked on her arm. The dark figure pulled her toward the top, and her head broke the surface.
She blinked water out of her eyes and saw Amy swimming toward her too. Curtis had hold of one arm, and Amy took the other as they headed for the shore without speaking. Delilah couldn't have told them what happened if her life depended on it. Moments later, she lay gasping and shuddering on the shore.
Some had tried to kill her.


January 18, 2016

Movie Quote Monday :: Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries


Phryne: What evidence do you have that it was me who broke into the bookshop?
Jack: An Hispano-Suiza parked outside at the time.
Phryne: If a tree falls in a forest...
Jack: You were very likely somewhere close by wielding the axe.
Phryne: Well... I didn’t break the window. That was done by a man in a black trench coat with a hat – the same man who attacked me when I tried to stop him stealing a book.
Jack: He attacked you?
Phryne: Well, I disturbed him. And he ran off with the book. I gave chase, and he took a shot at me, so I did the only thing I could in the circumstances.
Jack: You called for help?
Phryne: I stabbed him in the shoulder.
Jack: Oh.

I know I just mentioned this series in my last post, so I figured I should give you a taste of what life is like for Phryne. And Jack, of course! These two and their banter. :D (This quote happens to be from season 1, for the record.)


(Also I know this isn't technically a movie, but just go with it, okay?)

But truly, this series is just plain awesome! Phryne Fisher is unlike any heroine I've ever met before. She's rich, opinionated, fearless, loves a good murder mystery, a loyal friend, will do anything for those in her adopted family, and quite intelligent to boot! I know, those are qualities that have been used to describe other heroines, but trust me. Phryne is one of a kind! And while her real family gives her some fits (especially her father! as we find out in season 3), she collects a group of people around her that she trusts absolutely and loves completely and who love her just as much in return. For all that she can be a bit bossy and frustrating (especially for Jack ;), once you're in her inner circle you don't want to be anywhere else. She inspires the people around her to be better!

As for the rest of the cast, they are all amazing as well. From her trusted sidekick Dot, to Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, to Constable Hugh Collins, as well as loyal friend (and doctor) Mac, as well as Aunt Prudence. Plus all the fabulous other characters who I can't name off the top of my head! Each character takes a life of their own and they all gravitate toward and rotate around Miss Phryne Fisher herself.

(I should note that Phryne isn't afraid to show her appreciation for the males in her life, and while there's nothing truly explicit, it's also not a secret. So just be warned.)

Phryne makes the series what it is, but every character and every storyline just comes together to make a truly awesome show to watch. And after three seasons I REALLY hope we get more! :D




January 13, 2016

5 Things That Make Me Enthusiastic

1) Labyrinth is an AWESOME movie.
The end.
{Clearly this is mentioned in relation to the fact
that David Bowie died this week,
but you already guessed that, I bet.}
Also, tell me I'm not the only one who loves this movie!

Labyrinth


2) I have two books that I'm determined to read this year.
So I'm stating it here so y'all can help keep me accountable!
Smart, right?
(We'll see if I still agree with that come December. ;)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

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3) Have you seen the amazing things Jamie has in her new shop?
So much bookish goodness to be found!
Seriously.
Go check it out.

Image of Literary Keychains
For example, bookish keychains!!


4) I just watched season three of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
and y'all it is SO GOOD. I think this might be the best
season yet? I may do a review of sorts at some point,
but until then just know that you need to watch
this series if you haven't already.
NOW.
Go. Shoo. Go watch it.
Then come back and gush with me.
Because Phryne! And Jack!!
And PHRYNE AND JACK!!!!
And Dot (who is just awesome) and Hugh!
Seriously.
Go watch it.
 
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Series 3



5) My coworkers think I'm absolutely ridiculous, but I cannot
wait for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I have not
read the book, I'm not certain if I will at this point.
Because we all know the movie is going to be a bit
different than the book, it's inevitable, and to be quite frank
I've looked at the book in the store and had no
enthusiasm to read it. Which, I know, does not
match with my excitement about the movie.
That's okay though! Because it doesn't have to make sense!
It just is.
And man am I ever excited! ;D
I'm enthusiastic about the actors and actress too!
(Have you seen who all is in this movie?!)
Now let's just hope it's not too gory,
though if it's like Warm Bodies then
it won't be too bad. I'm excited
regardless, at this point!
(Obviously.)
 
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January 8, 2016

Review: The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

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I loved this! But of course I did because it's Katherine Reay. She has very quickly risen to the top of my list of favorite authors! Three books in and I have yet to be disappointed. It's her characters that do it. They sneak into my heart so subtly until suddenly there they are refusing to leave!

Especially Lucy. She was on my mind for hours and hours after I finished this book. She's a little bit unlikeable in the beginning, but give her time! Because it wasn't long before I was rooting for her to realize her choices weren't good ones and that she could overcome them. And then there's Helen, such heartache she's carried for so very long. The journey these two ladies take together (and separately) is hard, yet needed. They both have their own bits of hardness to conquer in themselves and they encourage each other and push each other to step carefully onward in their lives. It's not an easy road for either of them, but their questions and struggle to find themselves felt real and struck me right in the heart!

All the secondary characters are lovely as well. From Sid and Dillon to Bette, they feel fully formed and add so much to the story. I could picture them going about their lives, even while not on the page. And James! I was a bit disappointed we didn't get more of him, but what we did get....and especially that ending....yes, I quite liked him very nicely. :D

Ms. Reay's love of stories is as prominent as always. She interweaves bits and pieces of classics into her story and I loved catching glimpses and realizing I recognized that part! Sort of like hide and seek, there are so many treasures to be found here for the booklover. :)

I also love the introspectiveness of the plot. It's not really that the characters think a lot, it's more that we are taken on a thoughtful and meandering journey and slowly watch Lucy and Helen find their true selves deep inside. The story takes its time and allows for both ladies, but Lucy most especially, to see themselves in the people, situations, and stories around them. Getting the chance to do this while journeying through England fits so perfectly! Ms. Reay wonderfully draws you around this and that scene that seemingly don't connect....at first. But soon you realize she's taken you around to where it all comes together so beautifully!

If you are a lover of quiet stories filled with delightful nuggets of wisdom and comfort, I highly recommend this one! :)

**I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest review.


Lucy slouched low and bonked her forehead on the table. "I sound ridiculous, but you're right it does hurt-not hearing about my grandfather, but making all the connections down the generations to me. And I criticize my dad for living in stories and I compare my life and family tree to Wuthering Heights. But that's what's upsetting. Where do they end and I begin? My family, not the stories."
"You are your own person and I wouldn't worry about the stories. We all compare our lives to them. That's why we love them: they help us understand ourselves."


January 7, 2016

Review: The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert

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Wow. There is so many things that I could say about this story, but the first thing that comes to mind is just wow. What a powerful story this is! From the adrenalin rush of jumping off a moving train on page one, to the sweetest ending ever, Gretl's story is one of heartache, pain, joy, happiness, comfort, and finding home. It is easily understandable why this book is an international bestseller!

Gretl completely stole my heart from the first few pages and I loved getting to journey with her as she grew up. I especially enjoyed how much she loved stories and used them to get through her hard places! I can so relate to that. And Jakob. Oh how that boy-man grew into my heart. With a seven year old pretty much thrust upon him, he nevertheless cares for her and strives to get her where she needs to go no matter the cost. Both characters experienced so much hard in their lives, yet they form a little family of their own for the bit they are able and it's wonderful.

I haven't read much WWII fiction, I confess, but I'm so glad I had the privilege of reading this one! Ms. Joubert does a remarkable job with drawing the reader into the characters plight and helping you feel the horror and fear they had to live with every single day. And getting a glimpse of life for the Polish people as well as South Africans was so very interesting. I know nothing of South Africa's history and this was fascinating for me.

There is just something about this story. There truly is. I'm not even sure I can precisely pinpoint what it is, but please believe me when I say that it's well worth your time!

**I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

"We must find a place for you to sleep," he said. "Stan is no longer on night shift, so he'll be sleeping in his bed tonight."
Gretl didn't know who Stan was. "I'll sleep on a bed of hay, like Heidi," she suggested.
"Who's Heidi?"
She looked at him amazed. "She lives in Switzerland. With Alm U."
He shrugged and shook his head.


Jane Austen Adaptations :: Part 2 {Sense and Sensibility & Northanger Abbey}


Hello my lovelies! Are you ready for part two? And for more reminiscing on Awesome Austen Adaptations?? I surely hope so because here it is! (Part 1)

I should note that I forgot one of the movies for my list of Emma adaptations last time (thanks so much for the reminder, Catherine!), but instead of just editing that post and risk y'all not realizing I'd added to it, I decided to simply add it here. So! My first order of business is to mention one more Emma-based movie.

Emma {continued}

Clueless
Clueless - 1995
The first time I saw this I was not an official Jane Austen fangirl yet, in fact I'm not certain I really knew who Jane was. But I did think this movie was great fun. I still do! Once I made the connection to Jane though, I loved this even more. Such a completely 90s film, filled with all the clothes, phrases, nostalgia, and cuteness you can imagine! I don't watch it often, but it never fails to make me smile. Cher and her friends (and Josh! ;) are wonderful to watch. The romance is very adorable, but the friendships are too!


Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility (BBC, 1981)
Sense and Sensibility - 1981
I should confess that I skimmed through this adaptation pretty quickly the one time I watched it, so perhaps I can't say I've watched it in its entirety. But I did watch most of it! So I'm going to count it anyway. It's not a terrible adaptation, just a bit like all the other BBC period dramas from the 1970s and early 1980s, in other words dry and sort of boring. I much prefer the newer versions! And I imagine so will you. If, however, you are an avid fangirl of S&S, then it may be just what you like! :)


Sense & Sensibility (Special Edition)
Sense and Sensibility - 1995
And here we have the very first Jane Austen adaptation I ever watched! I fell in love with the costumes, Emma Thompson's hair (seriously, I love her hair in this movie!), Hugh Grant as Edward, the sweet romance between Elinor and Edward, and oh, just about everything! I do remember getting frustrated with Marianne and wishing she'd grow up a bit more the first time I watched it. But she does and all is happy. Funnily enough, I also remember that it took a bit for me to warm up to Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon, the last thing I'd seen him in was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) where he'd played the villain. But it didn't take long for him to grow on me and now I love him in this role. :) This movie made me realize my love of period dramas, not just Austen adaptations. It really is excellently made. All the actors and actresses do a wonderful job! And if you haven't watched the video of Emma Thompson's Golden Globe speech for her screenplay(which is fabulous, I might add!), then click here and enjoy!


Sense & Sensibility / Miss Austen Regrets
Sense and Sensibility - 2008
Since I love the 1995 version so well, I wasn't sure anyone could really improve on it. But I was wrong! This version is just as excellent. The actors and actresses do a superb job in their portrayals, particularly Hattie Morahan. The scene where Elinor finally tells Marianne of her secret heartache is beautiful and heart-wrenching! You should watch this version for her if nothing else. And I have to admit, Dan Stevens as Edward is quite swoonworthy. This was actually my first introduction to him and when I saw him in Downton Abbey the first time, with blond hair, it jarred me! I wasn't so keen on that color, but it grew on me. :) I really like Lucy Boynton as Margaret as well. One big thing this version has going for it is the fact that it's four hours long, which leaves ample room for lots of details. If you haven't watched this one yet, I highly recommend you do! Much as I love the 1995 version, I almost think this one has supplanted it as my very favorite. (Not quite sure on that yet though, maybe I need to go rewatch them both to check. Oh the things one must do for research purposes! ;)


From Prada to Nada
From Prada to Nada - 2011
This is a cheesy, silly, adorable, and cute little romcom that never fails to make me grin! I confess I do like the fact that Fanny Dashwood (Olivia in this case) gets her comeuppance quite nicely, even if off screen. The sweetness of this version is the relationship between the sisters. Which is an important part of S&S! The romances are adorable, don't get me wrong, but watching Nora and Mary frustrate each other, but ultimately love each other no matter what is wonderful, just like Elinor and Marianne. Things move rather quickly, since they only have an hour and a half to tell their story, but if you don't mind overlooking some insta-love bits (as any fan of romcoms has to! :), then I think you'll enjoy it.


Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey (BBC)
Northanger Abbey - 1986
Okay, I really did try to watch this one from beginning to end. I did! But I just couldn't do it. It was perfectly awful! I'm sorry to say that about an Austen film, but I do not like this version at all. The music was strange, the plot was all discombobulated and weird, it just didn't work for me. I'm sure the actors and actresses did a fine job with what they had to work with and if you enjoy this version, then that's great! Unfortunately, I won't be planning to watch this ever again, not when we have another version that is fabulous!


Masterpiece Theatre: Northanger Abbey
Northanger Abbey - 2007
This one! I love this one! Having not read the book yet (I know! I have no excuse why not.), I don't know if this adaptation's tone is close to Austen's original or not, but it totally works for me. The mix of cute romcom (seriously so adorable!) and mystery and intrigue is so well done. Plus JJ Feild and Felicity Jones play off one another wonderfully! Their chemistry and adorableness are the biggest reasons why I love this film. But all the other characters are delightful too! Except for the General, of course. And Frederick. But the Allans are too cute, and I love Catherine's family! All her brothers and sisters (the three who sit and watch Henry at the end are my favorites ;) make for lots of laughs. And JJ? Oh my heart, I love his Mr. Tilney!! His smirks, his playful nature, how he falls for Catherine so unwittingly, he and Catherine being so awkward and cute around each other....like I said, I love this version! And I'm pretty sure you will too, if you haven't seen it yet. :D


And there you are! I don't think I forgot any this time around, but we'll see. :) Have you watched any of these? Tell me you love the 2007 NA as much as I!



January 4, 2016

My 2015 Favorite Reads


I tried to limit myself to only ten. I really did! But do you know how hard that was?! 2015 was a great reading year for me. I fell in love with SO many awesome stories and when I took a moment to look them all over to try and narrow down my absolute favorites ever....yeah, that was hard. Plus it wasn't helped by the fact that I read several series this year which makes for almost ten books with just those! So! I decided to cheat a little bit (after all, this is my blog. I can do whatever I want, right? ;) and I'm going to lump a couple favorite series together. In other words, instead of counting all three books separately, I'm going to count them as just one on my list. Because I couldn't just pick one of the three! I loved them all! A reader's gotta do what a reader's gotta do.

Also. These are in no particular order either, so don't just scroll down to number one and assume that was my favorite of the entire year. I couldn't decide! (Sorry not sorry.) They're all amazing and wonderful and made me sigh with happiness once I finished the final page. Basically I went to my Goodreads list and started with the beginning of the year and went down, picking out all my faves along the way. Easy peasy! Only not.

Anyhoo! Here they are. Enjoy! :)


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North and South
by Elizabeth Gaskell
 
This should just be obvious. I loved it! The end. ;)

 
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by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
 
Oh my goodness, this series! I loved that they could all be read as stand-alones (although they have one overarching big storyline that connects them, so it makes more sense to read them in order), I loved each couple's romance (seriously swoony guys here!), I loved every bit of this world that Ms. Kaufman and Ms. Spooner created, and I loved how each book's tension and suspense just built on the previous story (it was like the authors just kept getting better and better).


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The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

I don't know what else I could say about this story that my review didn't. Other than these characters refused to leave my head for days and days after I finished this book! Which is the highest praise I can give a story.


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Tiffany Girl
by Deeanne Gist
 
I have read and reread and reread all my favorite scenes in this book SO many times! Flossie is an intriguing mix of feisty and sweet and I loved every minute we get to spend with her. Definitely one of Ms. Gist's best!


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I was on the edge of my seat while I devoured this series. Despite a few clich├ęs that I wish weren't there, I still absolutely loved Tess' story! Each book built on the tension so well that I felt as triumphant and exhausted as the characters themselves once the end came. :)


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The Bronte Plot
by Katherine Reay

I do believe that Ms. Reay only gets better with time! (Can you imagine what her stories will be like once she has bunches more published?!) Her characters never fail to make a deep impression on me. Lucy is flawed, but unforgettable and I loved how covertly she climbed into my heart until suddenly there she was embedded forever.


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by R.C. Lewis

Scifi fairytale retellings that are awesome? Yes please! :)


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by Amber Stokes

This short little story seriously packs a lot of cuteness into just a few pages! I've reread it several times and it never fails to make me grin. Ava and Keegan are in my heart to stay! :)


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By J.R.R. Tolkien

EPIC. That one word completely describes this amazing series.


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By Katie Ganshert

So much of this story made me think of You've Got Mail that it was obvious I would add this to my favorites list! I loved it to pieces!


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by Connie Almony

These characters gripped my heart and refused to let go! Watching as their layers are peeled back and their true selves revealed is a beautiful (and painful) thing.


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by Marissa Meyer

Now come on, you knew this one would be on my list, right? I only waited YEARS for it! ;) Ms. Meyer gave me everything and more that I'd been waiting for. An epic conclusion to an amazing series! Now I'm ready to reread them all again. :D


Well! That wasn't too many, was it? I listed twelve, with four series included in that (which, I know, makes nineteen books.). Like I said, it was hard to limit myself to just those! :) My reader's heart was so happy with the stories I read in 2015. (I almost said last year, which is technically true, but since 2015 was only three days ago.....it felt weird, okay?)

Here's to even more epic and awesome stories in 2016! Cannot wait to see what all our favorite writers have in store. :)



January 2, 2016

My Reading Time is Weirdly Affected...

A dear friend gave this to me and I loved it!
It has a place of honor on my bookshelf. :)
Actually what this post is about is the fact that I can get so much reading done when I'm not feeling well! Go figure. Now granted, y'all know I love to read. That's a given seeing as how I have an entire blog dedicated to the subject. But what I've noticed this fall and early winter is how much reading I do when I'm sick. As I've been sick several times recently (three colds and one flu, anyone? Blech! And all since August. Double blech!) I've had lots of research time. Unfortunately.

So! As I spent the past week fighting my most recent bout with a cold, I (obviously) didn't feel up to doing much. I did go to work, but evenings are when I felt the worst, so I'd go home and, you guessed it!, spend the evening reading. Six books in three days! Yes, a few of them were novellas, but still. That's a lot of reading! Not that I'm wishing I were sick more often. Definitely NOT. But I do find it fascinating that that seems to be what it takes to get me to read more. Well. That and the weather.

Yes, the weather. Last winter, when we got a boatload and a half of snow (way too much in my humble opinion!), I read seven or eight books in one week. Now that may not be very many to those readers who read hundreds of books a year. But of my measly 77 books I read last year (still so weird to use that term for 2015), to say that almost 15-20 of them were read when A) it was snowing or B) I was sick is kind of noticeable. At least to me.

(It also means that I have loads of reviews I need to catch up on again. *sigh* Hopefully coming soon!)

All of that highly scientific data begs the question: Have you ever noticed that you read more when you're sick or when there's bad weather and you can't get out? Or am I the only odd one? (It's okay if I am. I'm actually quite used to that. :) Let me know!



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