May 10, 2018

Review: Falling For You by Becky Wade {Blog tour + Giveaway}

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Falling for You
(A Bradford Sisters Romance #2)
By Becky Wade
Inspirational Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 368 pages
May 1st, 2018 by Bethany House Publishers

Famously beautiful model Willow Bradford is taking a temporary break from her hectic schedule to work as the innkeeper at her family's small-town bed-and-breakfast. She was enjoying the peace of her hometown, Merryweather, Washington, right up until she came face-to-face with Corbin Stewart, the man she loves to hate. A thoughtful rule-follower by nature, Willow threw caution to the wind four years ago when she entrusted her heart to Corbin--and suffered the consequences when it all fell apart.

Former NFL quarterback Corbin is forceful, charming, and accustomed to getting what he wants . . . except where Willow Bradford is concerned. Unable to forget her, he's never stopped regretting what happened between them. When their paths unexpectedly cross again, he's determined to make her give him a second chance.

When a decades-old missing persons case finds Corbin and Willow working together, they're forced to confront their past and who they've become--and whether they can risk falling for one another all over again.


I have been a huge fan of Ms. Wade's since her debut book, My Stubborn Heart, first came out several years ago and she has yet to disappoint me, so of course I expected to love this one. Especially since I've been looking forward to Willow's story since finishing book one last year! Even though I had to wait much too long, I am pleased to be on this end of the waiting and happily swooning over Corbin now. ;)

I must say, one thing that I so appreciate about Ms. Wade's stories is how she takes difficult subjects and touches on them realistically yet gently at the same time. Hard things make for harsh choices sometimes, yet there is always threads of hope interweaving through the chapters, so that I continually stay sympathetic to the very real struggles her characters are dealing with. It's those bits of hope that keep me turning pages, just waiting for the moment when it becomes a bright shining light instead of a gentle little glow!

I loved how I connected with Willow's emotions consistently. We are nothing alike, but somehow I could understand her fears and her uncertainties. So many times I wanted to reach in the story and give her a hug, or just simply remind her that she could let go of her control a little bit. But I especially loved how she set her standard high and strove to stick with it, no matter how hard it might be. And it was hard! Yet a glorious reward happened because of her choice and it ended up bringing about a most wonderful scene. I love those reminders of the beauty in hard things!

But it wasn't just Willow that I connected with. It was all three of the Bradford sisters. I was so happy for little glimpses of Nora and John's life now! And Britt...ah, now I really can't wait to find out more of her story. The sisters relationship is definitely a favorite aspect of this series. They make me feel like if I actually met them in real life that they'd be just as wonderful as I'm imagining! One of my very favorite fictional families.

The romance is, of course, just as swoony and delicious as you'd expect from Ms. Wade. Corbin and Willow's chemistry is off the charts! As I said before, Corbin is certainly a keeper, but I do have to admit that he had to grow on me a bit. He was just a little too confident at first. Yet I began to realize what a facade he'd been fostering and, like Willow, it wasn't long until he'd charmed me over to his side. He's awfully irresistible!

All in all, this book seems to have a little bit of everything. Mystery! Romance! And precocious twelve-year-old girls who understand their uncles way better than anyone else. Charlotte was a really sweet addition to the cast of characters and became one of my favorites. Her small nudges certainly help get the ball rolling in the beginning, for which none of us are unhappy! :D

There are many more reasons that I could name in order to try and convince you to give this one a try. But ultimately? All I've really got is that it's by Becky Wade and that should totally be enough to convince you! So what are you waiting for? Go read it.

**I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House & Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Other Books in the Series

About the Author

Becky’s a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance! She’s the Christy Award and Carol Award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, the Porter Family series, and the Bradford Sisters Romance series.

April 30th:
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Facebook Party at 8 PM EDT/5 PM PDT
May 9th:
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May 12th: Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway

Celebrate the release of Becky Wade's Falling for You by entering to win a fabulous prize pack that includes some of Willow Bradford's favorite things!

One grand prize winner will receive*:
  • A model-worthy Kate Spade bracelet
  • A $100 cash card (so you can feed a housewares and home d├ęcor addiction like Willow’s)
  • A Seattle Candle Co. candle (that smells just like the setting of the book)
  • Roasted in Seattle Rainy Day Coffee
  • A delicious scone mix (so that you can enjoy scones just like Willow and Corbin do while having high tea)
  • Cozy book-lover socks
  • And of course, a copy of Falling for You
Two runner up winners will receive*:
  • A Seattle Candle Co. candle (that smells just like the setting of the book)
  • A copy of Falling for You
*Due to shipping costs, US entrants only.

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April 4, 2018

Review: No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Oh, friends. I don't even know where to begin. This is hard stuff. This is powerful stuff! This is an incredible journey from first page to last, but it is not for the faint of heart. This is for the hurting ones. This is for the uncertain ones. This is for all those who want to help and to make a difference, to bless and encourage, but have no idea where to begin. And ultimately? This is for all of us. A story of hard, yet a story of hope! It will make you cringe in places and wish you could hide, yet realize that the only way hard can be conquered, the only way hate can be conquered, is with one single, first step. Love. The truest, deepest love that searches out your own darkness, acknowledges its presence, seeks redemption, and then compels you out of passivity and into spreading that love far out beyond yourself.

There is no way to read this story and feel wishy-washy by the final page. Ms. Ganshert asks the hard questions and then she asks even harder ones! (Appropriate with that title, yes? :) She takes three very different characters and melds their stories, their questions, their fears, their doubts, and their hope together. I was wondering how it was going to work, knowing there would be multiple points of view, but I should have trusted. Especially knowing she has her own personal journey which likely brings these issues extra close home for her. Actually, it's that very knowing which intrigued me to pick this one up. There's just something about reading an author's work when you understand bits of the journey which brought it to life, isn't there? (Which is one reason why I love to read the Author's Notes at the end of the book. To discover those extra little details! :)

The quietly building tension kept me on the edge of my seat as the characters began entangling their journeys with one another, struggle by struggle. Nothing about any of the choices confronting each of them is easy and their constantly weaving pathways that circle around again and again seem like they would only drive them further apart, not together. And they did. At least at first. These ladies could not be any more different from one another. And yet? It takes each hard, rough interaction and uneasy conversation to bring them all to the place where they can finally confront their own darkness and shame and see out beyond it to the light. Once that happens? Oh friends, it's a powerful journey! And a necessary one. As Ms. Ganshert noted, a story such as this should prompt more conversation and a hard look at oneself and our own choices.

For all the dark that must be conquered here, it's the beautiful redemption and HOPE that weaves through every single paragraph which caught my heart. The harshness of the reality these characters (and we ourselves) must face every day is made gentler with Ms. Ganshert's wonderful writing. I can only imagine that such a story as this was not easy to create, but everything flows so well that it took a bit for me to leave Missouri behind once I had finished reading! These characters, their journeys, and the lessons to be learned are necessary and real. So be sure to read this one, friends! It's utterly unforgettable.

**I received a complimentary copy via Waterbrook & Multnoma. All opinions expressed are my own.

Enough was enough.
She pushed open her front door, let in the cacophony of sound, placed her hands on her hips, and glared with the full force of her disapproval, as if doing so could make all of them stop. But nobody did. Nobody noticed her at all. The tutu-wearing runners kept running. The volunteers continued tossing clouds of pink into the sky. The marching band kept marching farther away.
But then the minute hand changed from 4:22 to 4:23, and something happened nobody could possibly ignore. Something happened that had never happened in the town of Crystal Ridge before, at least not that Juanita Fine could remember. Something that had been brewing ever since that horrible town meeting last July.
A startling crack burst through the noise like a car backfiring. For a split second, in the infinitesimal span between the sound and the processing of it, Nita thought one had.
Until it happened again.
The crowd scattered. Onlookers trampled her cones. Tables upended. Bottles of pink cornstarch flattened underfoot like sandcastles at high tide. And through all the chaos, a blood-curdling, terrifying scream rose above the others.
One that went on and on.
Even after everyone was gone, and all that remained was yellow police tape and a bright crimson stain on her green grass, Juanita Fine could still hear it.

March 31, 2018

Anne of Green Gables :: Discussion Post #3

Aw, do we have to be finished with this story already? I knew I loved it, I remembered that I loved it when I first read it years ago, and now I am absolutely certain that Anne Shirley is one of the best characters ever written! At least in my humble opinion.

I have lots of thoughts about this final third of the novel (chapters 27-38), but how about we get to the questions and I can gush there? :)

{Be sure to click over to Jenni's post for more discussion and fun!}
{There will be a twitter chat tonight at 6:30pm MDT/8:30pm EDT, so come join in!}
{Don't forget about the watch-along that will happen over on twitter either. That will be this coming Friday night (4/6/18) starting at 6:00pm MDT/8:00pm EDT.}
Lots to look forward to!

1. Is this your first time reading Anne of Green Gables or a reread? Either way, what did you think about it?

This is a reread, although it's been so long since the last time I read it that I can't even tell you exactly when that was. I can tell you, however, that I loved it then and I love it now!

* I love that we get to grow right alongside Anne and see all her (mis)adventures and general love of life.

* I love that Marilla was completely blindsided by how much she would come to love and count on Anne (and I especially loved that moment when she comes to comfort Anne after Matthew's death and realizes that, since life can be so fleeting, she needs to tell Anne right then exactly how dear she is. *cue the warm fuzzies and my tears*)

* I love that Matthew and Diana just immediately loved Anne with no question or hesitation, forever and always.

* I love that even the characters, like Mrs. Rachel Lynde, who start off thinking that Anne is a bit too strange for their liking ultimately fall in love with her too! (I also love that she's always referred to by Mrs. Rachel or Mrs. Lynde or Mrs. Rachel Lynde. That formality totally suits her character! :)

* I think I just love the entire story and it's focus on loving life and seeing the bright side to hard things. It's not just Anne that is hope-filled, the story as a whole is so infused with HOPE. It shines in every chapter, through the happy and the sad and everything in between.

* And I also love the idea that was reiterated over and over through Anne, about how beauty is all around us if we're willing to actually see.

2. If this is your first time reading Anne of Green Gables, do you plan to read the rest of the series? If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables before, have you read the rest of the series? What do you think about it?

I'm pretty sure I read at least another book or two in the series when I was younger, but I'm not 100% certain if I read the entire series or not. (I think some of my memories might stem more from the movies than actually reading the books.) Yet I know that I at least read Anne's House of Dreams because that's where she and Gilbert get married and you can bet I wanted to read about that! :D And I can tell you that I really want to read more of the series now. So I'm thinking I might read on from here...

3. Who is your favorite character and why?

Anne, of course! I mentioned this a little bit above, but I'll expand it further. I love the way she looks at life. Her ability to always focus back on the positive, especially when enduring something hard, is quite incredible. All it takes for her is to look out a window and notice the flowers, or the sky, or the trees, or even one single ray of sunlight and she is quietly reminded of the beauty in small things. And it's those very small things that help her stay the course! They remind her that no matter how disappointing or hard a thing might be in the moment, that particular disappointment or hard is not the end. That we're given this one single life to live and we should appreciate it! And make the most of it. (Oh, that I might remember that and do the same!)

I love that she is not a perfect character. She gets into scrapes and makes several bad choices, and while life might seem fairly idyllic in Avonlea, consequences still happen. Yet it's her ability to learn from those things and see beyond them that is admirable. She might seem a bit too perfect, she is fictional after all, but I ended the story not feeling like that at all. She has a lot of growing and maturing to do, and looking back at her first days at Green Gables and then forward to where the book ends proves that she does that. By the final pages, her choices are no longer those of a frightened little twelve year old, but of an almost adult woman.

I guess all I can really say is that she's one of my most favorite characters ever! In my whole history of meeting memorable characters. :)

4. Who is your least favorite character and why?

Honestly? That's a hard call because I pretty much love them all! But if I have to choose, I'll go with Josie Pye because she never says anything nice. Or Mrs. Barry, at least during that time when she was convinced that Anne was out to ruin her daughter. I admit that I wasn't happy with her at all during that time period. (I mean, Anne was only twelve! What twelve-year-old isn't going to make a mistake or two? Even one so serious as getting Diana drunk. And Diana is partially responsible for drinking that much anyway.)

5. What was your favorite scene and why?

Oh boy. That's like asking me to pick a favorite author! Pretty much impossible! I loved so many scenes in this story. :) But maybe I'll go with those last few chapters (I told you it was hard to narrow it down) when we finally see Anne coming into her own. She's older and a bit wiser and more prone to making better choices. She goes to Queen's and flourishes in her studies, she loses Matthew and she and Marilla grow even closer, and she finally makes things right with Gilbert. I just love seeing her maturity! Also, I totally admit that I really just love the fact that she and Gilbert agree to be friends now. ;)

6. What did you think about the last third of the book and why?

I loved it! (I know I keep repeating myself, but I can't help it. :) As my answer to question 5 proves, I especially love the final several chapters.

* I love that Anne doesn't lose her inherent "Anne-ness" (or her imagination!), yet is finally growing into a beautiful young woman, both inside and out.

* Funnily enough, I love that Anne gets a taste of her own medicine when Gilbert begins to snub her. (She kind of deserves it and she knows it.)

* I love that she and Gilbert finally become official friends instead of "good enemies". (It's about time!)

* I really love that beautiful final moment of conversation between Anne and Matthew, where he got the chance to truly express, once again, exactly how much he loved her. (My heart bumped during that scene because I knew what was getting ready to happen next! *sadface*)

* I love the ensuing closeness between Anne and Marilla. They had always been growing closer, but Matthew's passing brought them the closest yet. And that moment when Marilla finally opens up to Anne and tells her specifically just how special she is to her....ah, my heart!

* I love how the friendship between Anne and Diana never changes. Their love for one another stands strong despite distance, circumstance, or any other friendship in their lives.

* I love that moment when Mrs. Rachel Lynde admits out loud that keeping Anne was the best choice Marilla could've ever made.

* Finally, I love that the quote I fell in love with, which inspired the name of this blog of mine, is in the final chapter! :)

A Few Favorite Quotes:
Marilla was not given to subjective analysis of her thoughts and feelings. She probably imagined that she was thinking about the Aids and their missionary box and the new carpet for the vestry room, but under their reflections was a harmonious consciousness of red fields smoking into pale-purply mists in the declining sun, of long, sharp-pointed fir shadows falling over the meadow beyond the brook, of still, crimson-budded maples around a mirrorlike wood pool, of a wakening in the world and a stir of hidden pulses under the gray sod. The spring was abroad in the land and Marilla's sober, middle-aged step was lighter and swifter because of its deep, primal gladness. {I do believe our dear Anne has rubbed off on Marilla without her being aware!}

"As for your chatter, I don't know that I mind it--I've got so used to it."
Which was Marilla's way of saying that she liked to hear it.

"That's the worst of growing up, and I'm beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don't seem half so wonderful to you when you get them."

Anne and Diana found the drive home as pleasant as the drive in--pleasanter, indeed, since there was the delightful consciousness of home waiting at the end of it.

"It's nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one's heart, like treasures."

"Well now, I'd rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne," said Matthew patting her hand. "Just mind you that--rather than a dozen boys. Well now, I guess it wasn't a boy that took the Avery scholarship, was it? It was a girl--my girl--my girl that I'm proud of."
He smiled his shy smile at her as he went into the yard. Anne took the memory of it with her when she went to her room that night and sat for a long while at her open window, thinking of the past and dreaming of the future.

"When I left Queen's my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla. I wonder how the road beyond it goes--what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows--what new landscapes--what new beauties--what curves and hills and valleys further on."

The beauty of it thrilled Anne's heart, and she gratefully opened the gates of her soul to it. "Dear old world," she murmured, "you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."

Anne's horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen's; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it.

"God's in his heaven, all's right with the world," whispered Anne softly.

Many, many, many thanks to the awesome Jenni, Kami, and Suey for hosting this wonderful read-along! I am so glad y'all gave me a reason to read this book again. I have loved the discussion questions and all the analyzing they have happily prompted in my brain! :D Here's to another read-along or three in the future. I'll be happy to read any book with y'all, anytime! ;)

March 22, 2018

Anne of Green Gables :: Discussion Post #2

And we're back for discussion #2! By the by, have I mentioned how very much I love our Anne-girl? Her delight in all and sundry (well...except for Gilbert, of course) never ceases to make me smile. (And I smile at her intensity of dislike for Gilbert as well! ;)

So! I think three of my very favorite things from these chapters are as follows:
  1. Matthew and the puffed sleeve incident! I adore Matthew and Anne's relationship
  2. Marilla's slow awakening to how much she loves Anne, which springs upon her very sudden-like. (Marilla and Matthew have such different relationships with Anne, but yet both connections are beautiful in their own way. And both need the other, I think, too.)
  3. GILBERT (enough said ;)
Also, I particularly enjoy the way Ms. Montgomery tells about Anne's escapades from Anne's perspective. Either the moment happens off page and we then hear Anne describe it, or we experience it firsthand alongside her. I just love the way Anne looks at the world, so I'm especially fond of the moments when she's describing the happening to Marilla or Matthew. (But goodness, I wonder when the girl ever takes a breath! Her speech-making is quite lengthy! ;)

Now then! Onward to the discussion.

1. Anne has a gift for loving nature in all its forms, she even gives them delightful names. Do you find yourself appreciating nature more as you read this?

I hadn't thought about it, but yet I think I do! And I can certainly say that reading her effusions makes me want to sit outside and just enjoy "being".

2. We have finally met Gilbert! What do you think of him? Do you think Anne is justified in hating him so much?

I LOVE Gilbert! I love that he's a boy who likes a girl, which causes him to make a crucially horrible decision (which, in his defense, he had no idea how much Anne hates her hair, so...not 100% his fault?), and immediately regrets it thereafter and does all he can to make it up to her. While I can understand Anne's reaction (at least to a point) that day, I don't think it was worth months of grudge-holding. And yet I kind of think it's good for Gilbert to have to work for Anne's favor? In her first descriptions of him, Ms. Montgomery states how most of the girls thought him handsome and so he'd never had to put forth any effort to make them like him. Anne's refusal to fall at his feet causes him to realize how much power his words can hold and also that making an effort toward building a friendship with someone is completely worth it. I don't know that I'm describing it right, but maybe you understand what I'm trying to say...??

Suffice it all to say, that I LOVE Gilbert angd his genuinely friendly, all-around-nice-guy persona, as well as his steadfast loyalty to Anne, no matter what she's done so far, just endears him to me. :)

3. Anne's imagination finally got the better of her in the Haunted Wood. Do you think she learned anything from that experience? Do you think she'll tone down the imagination a bit?

She definitely learned something. She even references it later herself and acknowledges that she shouldn't have allowed herself to do herself! I think it does cause her to tone down her imagination maybe a teeny, tiny bit. Just enough to realize when she's almost to go too far. And since I know how the story goes forward, I'm confident she'll continue to tone her imagination in an acceptable, adult-like manner, but we know she'll never let go of it completely. It's too much an inherent part of her! And WE certainly don't want her to lose it either!

4. What do you think of Diana and the other school girls? Do you think Anne chose wisely for her bosom friend?

I do think Anne chose wisely! For all Diana tries to match a little of Anne's imaginativeness, once she's decided on something she can be fairly stubborn herself. So they really chose each other. The incident where they were forced to not speak to one another enforces that thought for me. Diana was just as heartbroken as Anne. Her loyalty and genuine love for Anne is wonderfully sweet. And that moment when Anne hears Diana express out loud that she loves her? Ah, my heart! Diana may be a bit more pragmatic than Anne, but she completely understands Anne's heart. And knew just what Anne needed in that moment.

I suppose I just love the way they love and care for each other. Their friendship is one of my favorite things about this series.

5. I've always dreamed of visiting Prince Edward Island some day. Do you want to visit there also? What other real life literature places do you want to visit?

YES. I would LOVE to visit PEI! I had some friends that visited a few years back and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their pictures and hearing about their trip. Everyone that's ever posted anything about visiting PEI always says what a delight it is, so hopefully someday! :)

Another place on my bucket list would be Jane Austen's England. Of course! ;) I know there are tours centered around Jane's life and writing and if I ever, ever, ever got the actual chance to go I would jump on it immediately! *happily daydreams*

A Few Favorite Quotes:
{I find myself highlighting so many of the quotes that everyone already knows. But they're quite wise! And Anne is just so eminently quotable.}
"Boiled pork and greens are so unromantic when one is in affliction."

"What a splendid day!" said Anne, drawing a long breath. "Isn't it good just to be alive on a day like this? I pity the people who aren't born yet for missing it. They may have good days, of course, but they can never have this one. And it's splendider still to have such a lovely way to go to school by, isn't it?"

"I like that lane because you can think out loud there without people calling you crazy."

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?"

"But really, Marilla, one can't stay sad very long in such an interesting world, can one?"

Matthew nodded over a Farmers' Advocate on the sofa and Anne at the table studied her lessons with grim determination, despite sundry wistful glances at the clock shelf, where a new book that Jane Andrews had lent her that day. Jane had assured her that it was warranted to produce any number of thrills, or words to that effect, and Anne's fingers tingled to reach out for it. But that would mean Gilbert Blythe's triumph on the morrow. Anne turned her back on the clock shelf and tried to imagine it wasn't there. {Oh how I have been there myself, miss Anne! But no amount of imagination can make the anticipation of a good book go away.}

"Oh, Matthew, isn't it a wonderful morning? The world looks like something God had just imagined for His own pleasure, doesn't it?"

"Miss Barry was a kindred spirit, after all," Anne confided to Marilla. "You wouldn't think so to look at her, but she is. You don't find it right out at first, as in Matthew's case, but after a while you come to see it. Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world."

And now....onward to the last third of the book! For more wonderful fun with Miss Anne with an e.

March 20, 2018

Review: Until I Knew Myself by Tammy L. Gray

I'd been looking forward reading another book by Ms. Gray and was so happy to immerse myself inside this story! While it started out slightly dizzying jumping from POV to POV due to several characters, I soon figured out who was who and what was going on. The emotions are raw and intense. So many of the characters struggle with understanding their own selves and how to handle their reactions to the hard things happening around them.

I do have to admit that there were several times I just wanted to shake a few of the characters. Especially Ty. He has SO much love and care right around him and he can't see it. At all. Thank goodness his friends had more patience with him than I had! Then there's his relationship with Journey. Up and down and all around they had to go before both of them were in the right place at the right time. It was hard to read a few paragraphs, particularly the moments when Ty was letting his pain overtake every other part of his life. Yet Journey never truly gave up hope. Her resilience and strength are pretty amazing.

I think my favorite part of the story was the five friendships at the heart of it all. They know each other so well, yet find themselves totally missing crucial things about one another. Which is so typical of long-held friendships, isn't it? They take work and effort and sometimes we simply don't have it in us to see beyond our own pain and into someone else's. Especially if that someone is a best friend. So it is for these five. They all have to stumble a lot before they can begin to truly become the best versions of themselves, the version that the other friends need. And of course, just when all that seemed primed to come to a climax and I was excited to see where they would all go from here, the book ended! On a cliffhanger!! So not nice, Ms. Gray. Because now I'm all anxious for book two!! And I have to wait. *wails* ;)

I also have to mention that there were occasions when the emotions ran rampant enough that I began to feel it was a bit much. I needed to take a few breathers from it. But now that Ty and Journey are both in a better place, I hope they'll provide some stability for the others in book two. I shall look forward to seeing them all begin to feel more peace within themselves!

**I received a complimentary copy via the author. All opinions expressed are my own.

"I never cared about your last name, Ty. Only the character of the man who wore it."

If we are sons and daughters of a mighty God, why do we live our life as orphans?

I felt completely alone when I had everyone I needed just waiting for me to call for help.

There was a time when art was untarnished, when it brought joy, safety, and peace to her heart.

March 16, 2018

First Line Fridays :: Anne of Green Gables

Hello, my lovelies! It's been a few weeks since I joined in the fun on Fridays over at Hoarding Books, but as I'm currently in the middle of a read-along of Anne of Green Gables, I knew this would be a good week to participate again! Because that first line by Ms. Montgomery? Is just awesome! :D (Just you wait, you'll see!)

Without further ado....Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery!


Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on every thing that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.

Wow! Is that not the longest and best "run-on sentence" that you've seen?? :D It perfectly sets the tone for this story! You cannot read that and think that this book is going to be boring and dull. It's simply not possible! I've read this story before, but it's been years ago and so had forgotten how purely delightful it is. But I read that first sentence and I just knew. There's a reason why I love Anne so much. Why I remember loving this series of books so much. Ms. Montgomery created a cast of characters that are simply awesome and her vivid descriptions of everything make me think that she must clearly have had an incredible imagination herself!

If you've never read this book, then I highly recommend that you do! It's so worth it to meet Anne. Trust me, it really, really is. :)

What are you reading this weekend? What is your first line?
Open the book nearest you and post the first line in the comments below…
Or just click over here to join in with everyone else!

March 15, 2018

Anne of Green Gables :: Discussion Post #1

So remember how I said I was going to participate in this read-along this month?? And then how I completely missed the twitter chat and answering these questions on the actual day of the discussion? Ah yes, I do recall that... *hides face in embarrassment*

Anyhoo, leaving out all my good intentions to be on time for ALL THE THINGS, here I am at last! I could name off all the excuses (legitimate and reasonable and logical excuses, I'll have you know!), but in the end all that matters is that I'm late. And I'm sorry. But that doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying chapters 1-13!! Because Anne is just awesome, friends. It really has been way too long since I'd spent some quality time with her! And now I am officially ready to chat all things Anne. So let's get to it, how about it?! :D

{Click over to Suey's post for more discussion!}

1. In chapter 2, when Matthew is driving Anne back to Green Gables, she asks him: “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive.” Given her tragic childhood, how do you think Anne is able to maintain such a positive attitude?

Her incredible imagination! I don't think her mind ever stops turning with new thoughts and new ideas and new words, which in turn keep her distracted from the dismal things in life. Also her sheer delight in life, period! I don't think it's something she has to choose, it seems more that it's just a natural instinct for her.

2. Anne is insistent on renaming places and inanimate things.  Why do you think she does this? 

Again, I think it comes back to her imagination. Her mind is so taken with life and everything in it and it makes sense that someone with such a vivid imagination would naturally create personas around inanimate things around her. Also? I think it may partly be because of her tragic childhood. She was so starved for love and attention and her mind and heart needed someone or something to focus her immense amount of love onto. Just look at how she created two friendships basically with herself, via the mirror on the cabinet and the echo. If she couldn't find love and care via the actual people around her, it makes sense that her imagination would then force her to create an outlet of some kind. Which in turn would cause her to want to name the objects that she is "befriending".

3. Marilla gives several reasons for finally deciding to keep Anne. What reason do you think most changed her mind? 

I think it was the combination of things actually. The final kicker being the little bit of motherly care that swept up inside her, especially once she found out Anne's terrible childhood. And also the fact that few people can meet Anne and not like her! :) Marilla thinks of herself as stern and no-nonsense, but deep inside she feels a kinship with Anne's vivacity of life. It brings Marilla to life! As much as Anne's chatter may have annoyed her, yet she secretly is drawn to that. I mean, looking at Matthew and Marilla's lives, it must have been terrible lonely! Anne's presence brings joy and happy to their house and I think Marilla realized that pretty quickly, but just didn't want to admit it to herself right then.

(Also, I think Matthew's opinions hold a lot of sway for Marilla, even if she'd never admit to it!)

4. If Anne grew up today, would she have been happier with how she looked? What would she have pined for, looks- and fashion-wise? What is our society's equivalent of plumpness, dark hair, and puffed sleeves? 

I do think her red hair wouldn't bother her today like it did then. And she'd probably be much more pleased about being skinny! Yet I feel fairly certain that there'd be something she didn't like about herself. Because most of us struggle with that in some form or other. But as for what she'd pine for instead? I don't really know. Fashion and I have never really understood one another!

5. How would Anne have turned out if Marilla had let Mrs. Blewett take her? Would that life have crushed Anne's imaginative spirit, or would she have changed in a different way?

She has proven so incredibly resilient so far in her harsh life that I feel like her imaginative spirit would have endured, regardless. But it may have changed somehow. A young person, especially, can only take so much before breaking. All I know is I don't like to think about it! Marilla kept her and all's well that ends well! :)

My additional thoughts:

I do love how Anne uses such big words! I think, were she real, she would very likely drive me a bit bananas at first with all her incessant speeches. But I'd soon adjust and end up loving her just as Marilla does! :) And her penchant for naming inanimate objects? I love it!!

Also one of my very favorite things? How Matthew simply loves her immediately. It only takes one little drive and he's a goner. I adore Matthew and Anne's relationship. :)

A few favorite quotes:

"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be scope for imagination then, would there?"

"Matthew Cuthbert, you don't mean to say you think we ought to keep her!" Marilla's astonishment could not have been greater if Matthew had expressed a predilection for standing on his head.
"Well, now, no, I suppose not--not exactly," stammered Matthew, uncomfortably driven into a corner for his precise meaning. "I suppose--we could hardly be expected to keep her."
"I should say not. What good would she be to us?"
"We might be some good to her," said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.

"My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.' That's a sentence I read in a book once, and I say it over to comfort myself whenever I'm disappointed in anything."

"Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I'll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep woods, and I'd look up into the sky--up--up--up--into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And I'd just feel a prayer."

See you next week for discussion #2! I promise I'll try and be on time for that one. ;)

March 14, 2018

Review: Love in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan

OHMYGOODNESS. I believe that, right there, was my exact thought once I turned the final pages of this delightful little story! To say that I'd been salivating over this book coming out would be putting it very, very mildly, reader friends. Having already read and loved Ms. McMillan's debut series, I positively knew that I was going to love this one! And I was right. In fact, I think it's her best book yet! I swooned, I grew frustrated, I shook my head, I melted, I sighed happily, and I simply adored every single aspect of Evelyn's journey. Why, you might ask? What was it that struck me so completely, you must be wondering? I have only one word for you and it's a who, not a what. Klaus. (ALL the heart-eyes for that man!! ;)

I love Klaus. You should totally read this story and fall in love with him yourself! Except not because I want Klaus to be only mine! (Well...and Evelyn's, of course. ;) Having been privy to too many a few gushing twitter convos about this particular man, I can now promise you that he's very worth meeting! But enough about how much I love him, you want to know why I love him, right? I can sum this up in one word, as well. He's a gentleman. (Okay, so maybe make that three words.)

There are not that many heroes in fiction who are true gentlemen, honestly. At least, to the same degree as Klaus! He completely embodies the kindness, gentleness, and loving care which a man should show a woman of his acquaintance. It's his "quiet steadiness" (as Courtney described it) that stands out upon meeting him. He doesn't necessarily make a great first impression (at least to Evelyn! :), but if you hang in there, his inherent goodness shines bright. As his tender heart begins to open just enough for the reader to begin understanding so much more than what he's actually telling us on the page, it invites us to take a deeper look. For so much of the beauty of this story is discovered by what isn't on the page than what is!

Paragraph by paragraph, the gentle weaving of kindred spirits discovering one another, the sights and sounds of Vienna (and Prague!) wafting through your senses, the entwining of music and feeling until one is indistinguishable from the other, and the sheer delight of being so utterly swept away into the story that your heart feels like it can barely take a breath. The very essence of classic literature and literariness that fills every chapter! All of these varied feelings and thoughts that come from Ms. McMillan's talented "way with words", especially when so much of it isn't even written in words. It's simply the emotions evoked through the writing. Gloriously and wondrously evocative writing!

In short, this story reads like a beautifully written fairytale! There is such warmth and care taken with these characters and their slow journey to discovering just what possibilities surprisingly lie ahead and the wonderful feeling of simply falling in love. Falling in love with the characters themselves, as well as the Viennese atmosphere, and the quiet delight of recognizing a kindred spirit. And aren't we always glad to know there are so many of those in the world? :)

**I received a complimentary copy from the author. All opinions expressed are my own.

If Evelyn Watt's life were projected on a movie screen, it might look like the strand of Laura Linney's story in Love, Actually. not that she was far from home or responsible for an ill relative; rather, every time Rudy Moser walked by her cubicle, she touched up her lip glass and melted into a puddle of idiot.

She loved finding corners of the world that allowed her to see something beyond the ordinary, even as she stayed put.

Her heart ached for Klaus' kind of romance. The kind of romance that stretched beyond someone's lips on her neck or hand in the crook of her arm. The kind that trickled over the rooftops of an age-old city and spun it into a song. The kind that she found in dusty books and old stories. The kind she didn't find here: no matter the chime of the silver and the symphony of champagne, no matter the beautiful ambiance and lithe dancers, the silk and the glisten...

February 22, 2018

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Thirty-Four

Hello, my lovelies! I trust your week is going well. I've had various ups and downs for various reasons here recently. But there's a fun Anne of Green Gables read-along coming up in March to look forward to, as well as ALL the books for the INSPYs! So I have plenty to be happy about. How about you? :)

We are gathered here today to go over a few small reviews for the newest stories that I've read. So let's get to it, shall we?

Meet Cute by a variety of authors
There was definitely a couple really adorable meet cute's in this anthology. But of the however many super quick stories written here, many more of them were not at all what I'd imagined when I started the book. Perhaps it was that so many of them ended far too soon (which, I know, is the point of the book), so I never really got the chance to actually care about most of the characters. I don't know, I just never clicked with a lot of them, so I found myself skimming through really fast.

However, I can say that two or three of the stories left me hanging enough to wish I could read a full length story about those two characters, so it wasn't a complete wash! I grinned over the cute a few times and remember thinking a couple of the stories were fairly quirky fun. So overall, I'd suggest reading this if you LOVE one of the authors therein.

Wires and Nerve: Gone Rogue by Marissa Meyer
Of course I loved this! It's Iko, and Iko is always awesome. :) I especially loved getting an even deeper glimpse of her origins and how she came by her unique personality. It required her to work through some rough emotions, but she wouldn't be our beloved Iko if she couldn't come through stronger on the other side!

It was delightful to catch back up with the Lunar gang and see them always have each other's backs and just simply be the best little surrogate family any Earthen, Lunar, or android could ask for! Grand adventures continue to get thrown in the path of our gang and I just loved seeing them all step up and do the hard thing when needed, yet always with love at the heart it. With all the harshness these characters have faced, I love that they refuse to let it get them down.

I do have to admit that while the art is very well drawn, it isn't my favorite. And there were a few times it bothered me in this particular book. But it didn't take away from my overall feelings of happiness once I'd finished! If you like Iko (and who doesn't?!), then I say dive in! :)

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White
I've been hearing nothing but rave reviews for Ms. White's stories for a few years now, so she's been on my radar. And after seeing the same gushing over this particular story, something about it convinced me I needed to try it. I'm so glad I did! Because the chemistry between Willa and Lukas...?? Oh my stars!!! :D

Yet it's not just their chemistry, I think my favorite part is simply how music resonates for both of them. It reaches down deep in their hearts and settles there, inspiring and encouraging them. The way Willa, especially, gets swept up in her violin playing struck me from the very first pages and is why I, ultimately, decided to bring this one home from the store. (Although I can't deny that the romantic tension was also a big factor in that decision! ;)

The combination of connecting with the characters and their delightful romance, as well as the building tension of the mysteries to be uncovered, all come together to create a beautifully written story. I was thoroughly swept up and closed the final pages with a happy sigh. It's a keeper, friends! For sure.

February 21, 2018

Anne of Green Gables Read-Along :: March 2018

My AWESOME blogging friends Jenni, Suey, and Kami are hosting an Anne of Green Gables read-along in March (which starts the end of next week)!!!! So naturally I knew I wanted to participate. I've had chances to read this particular book with other friends, but it didn't suit my schedule as well. This time I'm determined to make it work! :) I love this story, and I love Anne, herself, to bits! But I haven't actually read the book in years, so I'm definitely excited. You should totally join in too! These ladies always host the BEST read-alongs, with fun, thought-provoking questions and every time I've read a book with them, it's always been fabulous.

(So have I talked it up enough yet?? You should listen to me then, and join in. ;)

Anyhoo! Here are all the details:

Reading Schedule:
Chapters 1-13: March 1-11   
Chapters 14-26: March 12-22
Chapters 27-38: March 23-31

There will also be Discussion Posts and Twitter Chats and even a Movie Watching! I have not seen any of the updated Anne movies/miniseries/tv shows (whatever they all are). I hear good things! But I'm still so partial to the '80s movies, so I was thrilled that they are going to watch that one!

Stay tuned, friends. And sign up here! :)

February 12, 2018

My Thoughts on Shakespeare's "Hamlet"

Isn't that an awesome setup?!
{Beware. I have FEELINGS about our lovely playwright...}

So over the weekend, I had the privilege of watching Shakespeare's Hamlet onstage at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse. And I have to admit that I was uncertain about it beforehand. As you may or may not know, my dear friend, Hamlette, LOVES this play (as if her name doesn't give that away, right? ;) and so, due to her enthusiasm and the fact that I'd be watching it with her, I decided to give it a go. Just to say I'd seen it once, but mainly to spend more time with her! (I totally admit that latter reason was the biggest one of all.) When someone is really passionate about something, it makes me happy to listen to them expound on why they love it so, even if I don't happen to feel the same way. Such was the way Hamlette feels about Hamlet, and also why I agreed to watch it with her. :)

But y'all!

Oh, wow. To say that I was blown away by the acting? Especially the guy who played Hamlet himself, Josh Innerst? Just WOW.

Okay, so I feel I should preface all of this to explain my relationship with Shakespeare thus far in my life. I've never been a huge fan of his, to say the least. I knew he was considered a "classic writer" or whatever term fits. But there's loads of classics out there that I've no interest in reading! So that meant nothing. In high school, we had to read Romeo & Juliet, and can I just be honest with you? (All R&J lovers out there, please don't hate me) Romeo and his Juliet have got to be the stupidest teenagers I've ever read about. I enjoy love stories, okay? Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity is totally going to know that by now. But R&J? Is SO not a love story in my book. It's depressing and horrible and they make really stupid, life-ending decisions all because they were supposedly "in love". That is not love, guys. Nope. (Sorry! But my dislike of R&J is serious.)

So! As you can guess, my first introduction to our main man, Shakespeare, was a total bust! I hated Romeo & Juliet and, thus, was very uninterested in reading anything else of his. Especially when my English teacher droned on and on about how all of his characters' choices had meaning, the only "meaning" I ever got out of those characters was how depressing they seemed!

{By the by, I'm not saying I was right in feeling this way about his plays, I'm just saying that was my impression at the time...}

But! Somewhere along the way, I found out that he'd written a non-depressing play. What is this craziness?! The idea that he'd written a comedy intrigued me (especially when I figured out there was a bit of romance in it.....what can I say? I'm a hopeless fool for romance in a story.) and so when I had the chance to read Much Ado About Nothing, I took it and fell in love. I will admit that I didn't truly fall in love with it until I saw Kenneth Branagh's version onscreen.

{Sidenote, it was mentioned sometime on Saturday that Shakespeare seems to translate better once you see the character onstage or onscreen versus just reading the lines of the play. I completely agree with this!! I understand so much more of the motives of the characters based on their facial expressions and body language! Plus the humorous lines just come through SO much more clearly and hilariously. I laughed at many moments during Hamlet that I'm not certain I would have by just reading the line itself.}

Maybe I should do a post about the versions of
Much Ado I've enjoyed so far? Hmmmm....
Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson became my Benedick and Beatrice. Their banter was perfect, their chemistry was glorious, and I simply loved every minute of the story. (I know, this post is supposed to be about Hamlet, not Much Ado About Nothing! I'm getting there, promise. Hang with me here just a bit longer!)

Thus, I decided that this guy, Shakespeare, maybe wasn't worth writing off completely just yet. But I still was awfully hesitant about his really popular tragedies. I'm a happily-ever-after girl, okay?! I like my endings to at least have hope! No depressing endings for me, thank you!

So when I asked Hamlette, before we watched the play, to tell me what it is that she loves about this story so much, I was really hoping she'd help me to understand it better. I was planning to spend at least two hours with this, I wanted hope that I wouldn't be miserable that entire time! I am happy to say she did her job. :) I sat down with, maybe not an expectation to love it, but anticipation of a storyline I could understand and sympathize with. And oh, I got that. Boy, did I ever get that! :)

First of all, I was happy to have read a little about the play before watching, so I went into it knowing at least the basics of what was supposed to happen. (Shakespeare's lines, people! You have to admit that he can be a bit hard to understand when you've got an actor/actress spitting out these complicated lines lickity-split.) The best thing though? I laughed so, so many times! I was not prepared for that. I absolutely fell in love with how Shakespeare wrote in all these little moments of sarcasm! Especially during really emotional scenes. Hamlet would be all intense and focused and then suddenly throw out this ridiculous line that would catch me by surprise! It was hilarious and perfect and I think probably my favorite thing about the play. :)

dr ralph ten things to know hamlet josh innerst blackfriars playhouse
image via
Then there was the acting. I already mentioned the guy who played Hamlet. He was AMAZING, y'all. Seriously! He'd go from being all agonizing turmoil, to throwing out this sarcastic little thought, then right back into the intensity, all while never losing his momentum or energy! By the end of the play, I could see the sweat dripping down his face and could totally understand why. Because whoa! The character of Hamlet seriously requires a ton of energy! He might not be in every single scene, but his presence was felt at all times, even when offstage. He definitely had the pressure of carrying most of the heavy weight of this story and man did he ever come through. I was very impressed with his acting. And all the other actors and actresses did a wonderful job as well!

Can I just mention the play itself now though? {Beware spoilers!} Because there was one thing I was stumped on. Having read a bit about the play beforehand, I was wondering what I'd think regarding Hamlet and his "madness". Whatever website I found last week (can't remember now) mentioned about how there are differing opinions on whether Hamlet was putting on a show of being mad or if he truly did become a bit crazy. And I still don't know what I think about that! (So if you know the story, please feel free to enlighten me. I would enjoy some clarification on this.) I began the first half thinking that he was totally putting on a show, but there were moments that I began to feel uncertain. Also, considering that Ophelia then becomes mad near the end, and I do think hers was very real, then that raises the possibility that Shakespeare could have meant that Hamlet did the same. His madness was just much more slighter and he had his revenge to keep him grounded, perhaps. I don't know! All I am certain of is that there are moments when Hamlet is clearly putting on a facade. Yet was he the entire time? I think it was during the scene when he sees his father's ghost up in the ceiling/sky (whichever it was) when he's with his mother that I felt a slight doubt as to him "acting" that bit. But maybe that's just the interpretation of the director of this particular version? Maybe it's purposely vague? I don't know! What do you think?

I do want to mention how fun it was to hear several lines that I recognized but had never actually heard in their context. Like, "To be or not to be, that is the question." And "Alas, poor Yorick...", as well as "Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love." Also, "Brevity is the soul of wit." and "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Those are the only ones I can remember off the top of my head currently. I've heard or seen those lines quoted lots of times, but I never really understood them. Naturally! Because you need to hear them in context to understand! And I do. Kinda sorta anyway. :)

(Speaking of quotes, I have to mention that I had the privilege of sitting beside Hamlette and watching as she quoted the lines right alongside the actors. Very impressive! :)

Whew! Okay, I think I'd better stop here. Anyone still with me? I hope I haven't driven you all away! But to simplify, in case anyone skips all those paragraphs just to get to this one, it was an excellently done production! I really enjoyed watching it, and it wasn't depressing. I appreciated that there was a slight hopefulness at the end. Very glad I had the chance to watch it! Not so sure I'm going to run out and immediately watch every onscreen version now, but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. Yay!

February 2, 2018

First Line Fridays :: A Brush with the Law

Hello, my lovelies. I am here for week three (for me) of First Line Fridays! How awesome am I?! (You don't need to actually answer that. ;) As usual, the lovely ladies over at Hoarding Books are hosting the fun...

So! Today is a special edition theme: Little Month...Little Book. I am not currently reading any novellas....BUT. I did remember one I read last year right around Valentine's Day and since Valentine's is almost here...

Without further ado, I give you... A Brush with the Law by Janette Rallison


It was going to be another great Valentine’s Day— at least for someone else. For Bethany Daniels it was another work day— one where her shoulders ached and she was splattered in paint.

Janette Rallison has become one of my go-to author's for sweet romances. Especially when I need a quick little pick-me-up! This particular story is super short, but super adorable! Poor Bethany has a seriously awful day, which only means there has to be a chance for it to become better, right? And when a certain fella makes his appearance? The cute really begins! It's my favorite of all the stories in this anthology and never fails to make me grin no matter how many times I've reread it. (And I've reread it at least ten to fifteen times so far! I told you. I really like it! See my review for further reference. :)

So, what are you reading this weekend? What's your first line?
Open the book nearest you and post the first line in the comments below…
OR just click over here to join in with everyone else!


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