July 29, 2016

"...one big swoosh of a feeling."

:: devouring so many good stories :: 
:: the falling rain which brings fresh air and comfort :: 
:: hugs coming just at the perfect time :: 
:: unexpected text messages from far away friends :: 
:: convos with friends who understand your unknowns :: 
:: beautiful sunrises on the drive into work :: 
:: being told I'd helped someone feel better ::
:: anticipating time with friends I haven't seen in years ::
:: planning mini roadtrips for the near future ::
:: the quiet of the library ::
:: finding words ::
:: actual convos with authors ::
:: how the quiet of a friend can feel like a hug ::
:: seeing so many reminders of mom that just make me smile ::
:: coworkers who unexpectedly bring doughnuts ::
:: understanding that life is more, much more than just this one single moment ::
:: learning to exhale the yuck and focus on the good ::
:: discovering new favorite songs ::
:: the joy of hearing good news for a friend ::
:: knowing someone else makes you a priority in their life ::
:: fresh, ice cold water to drink on a hot summer day ::
:: finding brave again ::
:: realizing you're not the only one struggling with something big ::
:: finally reading a certain book and falling in love instantly with its characters ::
:: feeling wanderlust when chatting about a friend's big new adventure ::
:: eating a meal with people you realize are incredibly important to your life ::
:: getting the chance to live life every day, even in the hard ::

July 26, 2016

Review: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Several blogging friends have been telling me for years that I really needed to read this one, they were so right! I had determined that 2016 was the year it would happen, so yay for sticking to my resolution. Because Valancy's story is SO wonderful! :)

The biggest reason I loved this book was Valancy herself. She starts out completely stifled and lost. Her sense of self is pretty much nonexistent, and while she's somewhat self-aware of this fact, she also doesn't know how to change it. Until some devastating news decides her on a new course. I loved her internal dialogues! She's quite funny and smart actually, she's just let fear take over her life and keep that side of her from shining out. As she quietly (mostly) starts making choices in spite of her fears and begins finding her brave, her beautiful heart finally becomes apparent to others. I also loved how she came to know herself better by actively choosing to do something big for someone else. And that leads to new friendships and experiences. She makes a few mistakes, she has so much to learn you know, but always has her imagination to fall back on. Her "blue castle", as she calls it, starts out as just a perfect ideal in her head and ends up becoming very real.

Valancy's journey is populated with several people, most notably her horrible and stiff family, as well as Roaring Abel, his daughter Cecilia, and of course Barney Snaith. Oh what can be said about the notorious Barney Snaith! (I was greatly amused by the fact that he's always referred to by both his first and last names.) Known for doing everything horrible imaginable, true or not, he's quite mysterious and intriguing. So naturally, Valancy is intrigued. (Hamlette pictured him as Michael Fassbender and I find that easy to go along with. :) While we may figure out where their friendship is headed, the actual events to get there happen most unexpectedly. For this is Valancy's story, and while Barney becomes a part of it, her path is so much more than romance. (Although the romance bits are certainly very sweet and adorable!)

Letting go of fear and finding your brave is never easy (certainly not in real life!), so Valancy has several ups and downs. But she pushes on, determined to actually live her life and not let it just happen to her. Which is the ultimate lesson from this story. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured! And if a wonderful little book such as this makes it more enjoyable, then that's just even better. Read this one, friends! Move it up your TBRs, dive in, and be prepared for happiness! :)

And everyone knew that he was an escaped convict and a defaulting bank clerk and a murderer in hiding and an infidel and an illegitimate son of old Roaring Abel Gay and the father of Roaring Abel's illegitimate grandchild and a counterfeiter and a forger and a few other awful things. But still Valancy didn't believe he was bad. Nobody with a smile like that could be bad, no matter what he had done.

"Oh, but you know we're all dead," said Valancy, "the whole Stirling clan. Some of us are buried and some aren't--yet. That is the only difference."

"A plate of apples, an open fire, and 'a jolly goode booke' are a fair substitute for heaven."

July 25, 2016

Review: The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

This book, y'all. This book has my heart! Why? Because Charlie. Oh my stars, how I fell for that man! I was SO not prepared for him to worm his way to the very depths of my heart and refuse to ever come out again! I don't know that I can accurately describe with words for you to understand what is so very special about him. I think you just have to meet him and then you'll know. Oh then you'll know, friends! :) His heart is one of the tenderest and purest of any male protagonist I've ever met. While Ella may notice his looks first (who wouldn't?! ;), it's his heart that captures all her attention. And mine!

Do you have any authors who you've seen nothing but lovely reviews for their books, you even own a couple of said books, yet you've not actually read one? Sounds crazy, right? I cannot explain why on earth this particular story was the first I've ever read by Ms. Bischof, but believe me, I plan to pick up her others as soon as I possibly can! Because if this beautiful story is proof of her amazing talent with the pen, then I can only imagine that her other books are wonderful as well. And I think you should do the same. Charlie is so worth meeting, friends! He truly is.

But you need to meet Ella too! And Holland. And Regina. Each character is so vividly described and even the side characters add much to the story! Plus I confess that I'm particularly fond of the setting, considering it's an area I know very well. Virginia is the home of my heart, as I grew up there, and getting a taste of what it must have been like during the Victorian era is fun! As for the circus itself, this is my first time reading about that life. I remember a few things I learned at some point in my past, like the sideshows that were involved, but I'd never truly imagined what those people's lives must have been like. I hurt for them as much as I loved them. And I absolutely loved the way they were their own little family. When you live and work with people for years and years, it makes sense that you'd create strong bonds between you. Bonds that would never go away, no matter the time or distance. Bonds that sustained you through all the hard that inevitably comes in life. Bonds that meant you could truly be yourself with each other, open up and be vulnerable together.

That's what I feel like Ms. Bischof did with this story. The characters so tentatively opened up and were vulnerable to me. They showed the tender sides of their hearts, as if waiting to see what I would do, and then proceeded to gently sweep me into their fold, never to let go. The beauty in what they shared became powerful lessons not to be forgotten! As the hours and days after finishing this story proved, for I still cannot let go. These characters, Charlie especially, have became part of me now. They're in my head, my heart, and there they will stay.

Fellow reader friends, I can only encourage you to read this one! From the first quiet, yet indelibly real and haunting meeting of Ella and Charlie in chapter one, to the final pages where hope reigns no matter the circumstances, this story may capture your heart as it did mine. And I'll never be the same.

From head to toe she was perfect and there wasn't a single part of her that was less than.

"But there is a part of you that isn't whole."
When she blinked quickly, he reached out and nearly pressed his fingers to where her heart lived. "It grieves me to think of why that is and I can't go another minute without telling you that there is a God. And He loves you so much. He aches for you. He can be a jealous God, and at times even angry. I believe..." with his whole heart... "that He is both of those on your behalf."

July 18, 2016

Mailbox Monday :: Edition the Second

Do you remember long ago when I participated in this meme for the first (and only) time? You probably don't. It was pretty insignificant really. But! As I went book shopping this weekend, I found a couple beauties and decided now would be the perfect time to join in again! I mean, who doesn't love to add books to their towering TBRs or just admire beautiful covers?

{For any and all info about this meme, please click here.}

So let's get to the pretties...

Firstly, I admit to buying this one purely because of that gorgeous cover! The colors are even more amazing in real life, for the record. :) But it also happens to be the final book of a series that has been on my radar for a few years. I've been impatiently waiting for this one to come out so I could read the series. Y'all know how I much prefer reading an entire series in one fell swoop! Thus, I decided the best option was to purchase the last book first. Great plan, right? Makes perfect sense? ;) Still, perfect sense or not, I am very pleased to have this sitting on my bookshelf in all it's prettiness.

I know a certain someone (*ahem* Emma) is going to be thrilled to see Yankee Stranger in that picture! I have it on my TBR because of her. And you don't know how excited I was to find that copy. The book isn't in print anymore, so this was a huge (and happy!) surprise! :) I already own a copy of The Scorpio Races, but I love that book so much I could not leave it at the store! Perhaps I should have a giveaway for it? (Would anyone actually be interested?) And A Grief Observed seemed appropriate for my life right now. I've always enjoyed C.S. Lewis' books, but I've never read this one.

So! What books have you bought recently?

July 15, 2016

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Twenty-Two

More reviews! Yay! (I hope.) Anyhoo, still doing a bit of catch up, so here goes. :)

All Who Dream by Nicole Deese
This was just a really fun story! Although the beginning took a little bit to smooth out for me, I'm glad I hung in there. Angie and Jackson have pretty great chemistry and the two of them just have this heightened awareness of the other at all times. I loved all their banter and the way they affected each other. But I especially loved the way Jackson befriended Angie's son, Cody. He knew how important Cody is to her and is so very gentle and wonderful. Plus they both have things from their pasts that must be dealt with. All this combined made for a sweet story that made me smile. :)

Secrets of Sunbeams by Valerie Comer
The romance moves a tad bit quick in this one, but that doesn't mean it's not still pretty adorable. Because it is! Eden and Jacob rub each other the wrong way when they first meet, but it's not long before they're unable to deny their attraction. Both tend to be pretty stubborn though, so they find their way together through trial and error. And apologies. I did love Pansy the goat a great deal! She certainly added some adventure and humor to the story. Overall a cute and fluffy read for when you just need something short and sweet.

From Winter's Ashes by Amy Leigh Simpson
I vacillated between really enjoying this book and skimming really quickly through other parts. I loved the romance bits! While it moved a bit quick, it helped tremendously that Joss and Finn had a past and had known one another for several years. There was definite undeniable chemistry going on whenever those two were in close proximity! Much to my delight. :) But the rest of the story kind of lagged for me. The mystery is sufficiently mysterious and does have several edge-of-your-seat moments, but somehow it never pulled me in completely. Not really sure why. Still, I did enjoy reading this one overall.

Gentle Like the Rain by JoAnn Durgin
I loved this! Isabella and Sidney completely captivated me from their first encounter and I laughed my way through each subsequent debate. They click immediately, even though they try and deny it, and their witticisms just flew around constantly when they were near the other. But I also really appreciated the gentle way they treated each other once they realized their attraction was mutual. They were kind in the face of both of their pasts and gave each other the space to make the right choices for themselves. Plus they were just hilarious, did I mention that? ;) Definitely one I'm glad to have on my shelf for rereading purposes!

Finders Keepers by Sarah Monzon
Adventure and romance on the high seas! What more could a reader ask for, right? ;) This is simply a fun story. Taking place both in history and in modern times, Ms. Monzon handles the transitions pretty well (although we always seemed to change POV right after a major cliffhanger! Humph. ;) Both storylines are pretty engrossing, but I have to say I was more invested in Summer and Trent than I was in Isabella. Although Summer and Trent's romance moves rather rapidly, so I was glad that certain parts were handled carefully, yet not swept under the rug. Also Isabella and Summer, both, have a lot to learn, and as the story progressed I thoroughly enjoyed watching as they stumbled around making mistakes, yet always willing to grow from them. I really enjoyed this and look forward to seeing what Ms. Monzon will write next.

July 14, 2016

7 {Bookish} Things I've Noticed Recently

1. I finally believe the characters who still get teary-eyed when they talk about one (or both) of their parents years after said parent has passed away. I never realized precisely how you just know that you'll be affected by this loss for the rest of your life. And when a character was still really sad, I often skimmed right over that and didn't really think about it. I know better now.

2. I have several bookmarks.....which I never, ever seem to use. They're even conveniently laying on my bookshelves! Yet every time that I need one, I'm not right by them it seems like, so I end up using an assortment of things. Usually a random piece of paper or receipt to be honest.

3. Sometimes when my hearts in turmoil I can't read anything! And sometimes I read voraciously. I've yet to figure out what makes the difference...

4. If I lay a book down for more than a day or two, it will most likely go MONTHS before I pick it up again. Even if I really like the book! No, I don't know why.

5. It is entirely possible to not love a book, yet still be amazed at the author's skill with writing. AND to want to devour the other books in the series! (All dependent on it being a part of a series, clearly.) Maggie Stiefvater anyone.....???

6. Characters can (and will!) enter my heart and never leave. Thereafter (for DAYS) I think about them constantly and they just cause a *happy dance* inside when I do. (I just finished The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof and y'all need to meet Charlie. REALLY TRULY. Do it. The book comes out 8/1/16 and you should just plan to buy it now. Trust me. :)

7. I've been doing a LOT of reading lately. If you follow me over on Goodreads then you've maybe noticed too? It's been fun! I've just surprised myself. Wonder how long it'll continue....

July 13, 2016

Review: Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink

After the cuteness of Sit, Stay, Love, I knew I'd want to read more by Ms. Mentink. Because these dogs are super adorable! In this one, we get to meet Sweetness, who is a huge, overgrown ball of fluff who has a heart of gold. Really, there's simply no way for you not to fall in love with him! :)

Pick up this book because of the dog, but continue reading for the humans! Stephanie and Rhett reluctantly join forces early on, and while the sparks do fly between them, they've both got a lot of growing to do. He's made some mistakes he's working to correct, while she's trying to do the right thing for a difficult client. Together they slowly become friends and start asking the hard questions. (You know, the kind that make you take a step back and really think about your choices and what exactly you're hoping to accomplish.) Their little debates amused me, especially once they became aware of the attraction between them. Add in Sweetness, whose tendency to run away just added to their adventures, and you end up with quite the interesting roadtrip! Watching them navigate their way through all the unexpected was entirely too fun.

This little book was perfect for a day when I needed something light and fluffy to read. And where I was guaranteed my happy ending. Sometimes, you just need to turn your brain off and read a sweet story, right? :)

**I received a complimentary copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

She started. "It's a name stuck in my memory."
"A pet?"
"No, but he was a dog, for sure."
Judging by the look on her face, Spencer had done more misbehaving than chasing after squirrels. Rhett wasn't about to dig into that particular can of wigglers. "Why don't you try calling Sweetness without the hot dog incentive to see if he recognizes his name?"
"Right. That's a good idea." She put down her snack and walked a good ten feet away. The dog eyed her from his upside-down position. "Sweetness?" she called in a soft voice.
The dog rolled over, sprang to his feet, and careened over to her so fast his paws roiled up two columns of dust. She stepped back in alarm. Sweetness reared up and put his paws on her jacketed shoulder. Having finally got the well-dressed lady right where he wanted her, he began to lick her face with energetic swipes of his enormous tongue.
She made a gurgling sound, threw up her hands, squealed, and thrashed until Rhett finally grabbed the end of the rope and pulled the dog away. He couldn't help laughing.
"It's very rude to laugh, you know." Stephanie said.
Rhett mumbled an apology.
Satisfied with his performance, Sweetness meandered toward the shrubbery to pee on selected branches.
Stephanie wiped the drool off her face with the back of her hand and looked at the dog with disgust.
"Congratulations," Rhett said. "You really did find Sweetness."

July 12, 2016

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Mary Weber Edition

I've been waiting until all three books were out before starting the Storm Siren trilogy. And I'm so glad I waited because HELLO cliffhangers! After reading rave review after rave review, I had been very curious what I was going to think of the stories. I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed them! And for the record, the covers for each book are gorgeous. I love the colors and how Nym is depicted at crucial moments on her adventures. I'd want them on my shelf for the covers alone! (Also, does anyone know how to actually pronounce Eogan's name?)

On to the reviews...

Storm Siren
Well now! This was quite the beginning! There were so many twists and turns that I was so not expecting. At all! And Nym...what do I say about her? She's strong, much stronger than she knows, and is alive for a purpose, she just has to discover it. The hurt and pain of her past has made her understandably cautious of everyone. Yet there are a couple people who get past her defenses and become friendly with her, even as she tries not to let them. I loved Colin especially! This world Ms. Weber's created is slightly confusing, but as I just accepted everything at face value, I had no trouble keeping up with the plot. Some parts were a bit slow, some characters frustrated me, but overall I really enjoyed the ride! But that cliffhanger... Not nice, Ms. Weber! I'm just glad I could immediately dive into book two!

Much more tension-filled as the stakes have risen considerably! So much of book one had to be setup that the risk in what was really going on felt a bit sidelined. Not so in book two! Nym makes some hard choices and not all of them are good ones. I confess to missing certain characters from book one a great deal, but spending more time with Princess Rasha made up for it. I'm so glad Nym has such a good friend, as most of the rest of her life is crazy and hard. There were bits that still frustrated me, definite times that I wanted to scream at Nym for her choices, but the overall fun of the story kept me reading. And I was SO, so happy at what happened at the end. It was about time! Still, Ms. Weber's use of cliffhangers is alive and well, so I was pleased to have book three waiting! :)

Siren's Song
What an ending! Things started happening fast and I had to hang on for the ride. And what a fun ride it was! It was so good to see Nym and Eogan together and happy (of sorts), but seriously you two. Would it kill you to just communicate?! The way they still withheld secrets from one another really frustrated me. Sadly it was those moments that the insta-love that was involved in their romance kind of reared its head for me. Nevertheless, once they finally started talking, I warmed up to them again. Once again, Ms. Weber threw all sorts of twists I wasn't prepared for! I am amazed at how she had so many things going on, all the epic battle scenes, and yet was able to keep me from getting confused. I loved that Nym got some closure for her past! That made me so, so happy. I surprised myself with how happy I was that a certain character turned out to a good guy as well! I hadn't liked him in book one at all, but he started growing on me very slowly and I ended up glad that he made the choices he did. (Plus I now wish there would be a spinoff story, even if only a novella, about he and a certain someone else! I can dream, can't I? :) This is a wonderful ending to the series, with enough closure to make me happy, yet enough open-endedness to let me imagine where they go in the future. Which is just as I like it!

**I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

July 11, 2016

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Twenty-One

Hello there, my lovelies! Guess what? More mini reviews for your reading pleasure! Aren't you so excited? I just knew you would be.

Okay, okay. Enough with the sarcasm, huh? :)

Anyhoo! Still getting caught up with my reviews. I hope I'm not overwhelming y'all with all these, but a blogger/reviewer has got to do what a blogger/reviewer has got to do! I always tend to read escapist type stories, ones that are more fluffy than hardcore. And right now, for the past couple months, that's definitely what I've been veering towards! So, these are fun books, nothing extraordinary or AMAZING, but great reads nonetheless. Onwards!

First Light by Michele Paige Holmes
As a fan of stories based on fairytales, the synopsis of this one intrigued me. And I really enjoyed it! It feels like a mashup of a bunch of fairytales, yet with lots of original ideas as well. Which sounds a bit crazy probably, but somehow it all worked. I was swept into Adrielle's plight from the very beginning and spent the rest of the story avidly turning pages to find out what would happen next. The fairytale elements are lots of fun, the romance is pretty adorable, and there were several little twists I was not expecting. My only qualm was that much of the chaos could have been prevented had the adults been more adult and actually communicated with Adrielle! Still, I liked this a great deal and definitely recommend it. :)

Summer by Summer by Heather Burch
I admit it took a few chapters before I really got into the story, the beginning is a little rough around the edges. But once Summer and Bray were on the island, I settled in and enjoyed. There were still a few moments where transitions weren't as smooth as I'd like, but the sweetness of the romance overpowered those. The cute of the story is the relationship between these two seemingly opposite people. I loved how kind and loving Bray was towards Summer, especially once she explained her past. They have a bit of insta-love in their attraction, but I could overlook it based on their adorableness together. And were they ever adorable! :) This is a sweet and fluffy story, where even the tension-filled moments never feel quite as life and death as they're supposed to be. It's just a fun summertime read!

A Star to Steer By by Mary Jane Hathaway
More shenanigans overtop By the Book! That bookstore (and apartments above) seems to have a magic about it that can bring people together. (Helped by Alice and Paul, of course. ;) I absolutely loved catching up with Andy again! And he and Roxie were so perfect together. Take a mutual love of Dante, add in a dash of attraction, a sprinkle of family confusion on both sides, and a whole lot of charm, and you end up with a really sweet story about two people finding each other very unexpectedly. Both characters have family obligations that are hard, which is where the story really struck a chord with me. Plus I just really loved watching Andy and Roxie fall in love, what can I say? I'm a romantic at heart and these two were adorable.

Kiss the Bride by Melissa McClone, Robin Lee Hatcher, & Kathryn Springer
All three stories are plenty cute and fun, full of funny moments and sweet moments. My favorite was Love on a Deadline though. Something about Mac and Ethan just drew me in and made me swoon over them several times! :) Yet all three are well worth your time. When you're in need of a quick and delightful love story to while away an hour or two, I definitely recommend these novellas!

Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
This little book of Ms. Andersen's artwork is absolutely delightful! I've been a fan of her work for quite some time now and was excited when I learned she was publishing a book. So much truth in each short comic strip. She is able to capture all the unknowns and frustrations and craziness, and even the wonderful moments, that take place in adulthood (if there is such a thing, right? :). I saw myself SO many times! If you haven't seen her work, then make haste and find you a copy of this! You won't be disappointed.

July 9, 2016

Review: Her One and Only by Becky Wade

I have said before and I'll say it again, Becky Wade's stories are some of my very favorites. Every single one! Somehow I just know that when I pick up one of her books, I am going to have so many sweet and swoony moments which will inevitably cause me to *happy dance* my way through the story. :) So of course, this one is no exception to my theory.

Firstly, I always love her characters. Dru is a great combination of strength and insecurity, which seem like total opposites I know. She has had to fight to get to where she's at right now and is not interested in having her status quo upset. But she didn't plan on Gray! (Naturally. ;) He took a bit for me to warm up to at first, he's a little cocky and not very nice. But once he softened and got more friendly to Dru, I grew to like him. And as always with Ms. Wade's characters, the chemistry between these two is top notch! Watching them try and deny their attraction (all the while totally unable to!) is cute, and once they stop denying? Oh my! :D I also loved seeing their friendship grow right alongside their attraction. A great relationship has a lot to do with the couple having a good friendship as well, so that part made me very happy!

The mystery is intriguing enough, but I confess to mainly being invested in Dru and Gray's relationship than any other aspect of the novel. I also have to admit that I skimmed over Bo and Meg's storyline. It didn't really seem to add much to the overall story in my opinion and I'd skip large portions of their POV's to get back to the main couple. But those who love their book, Undeniably Yours, will perhaps be quite happy to catch up with them. (No, I haven't read it yet. *gasp* :)

Overall? This one is a keeper, folks! The undeniable chemistry, the adorable romance, the sweetness of two people finding each other, it all comes together to be a truly wonderful story. One I think you should definitely read!

**I received a complimentary copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Gray set his back teeth together hard. "Today's letter has seriously irritated me."
"As much as a Green Bay linebacker?"
"Worse. It was one thing when he was threatening me, but now that he's threatening you, I'm not taking it very kindly. I've dated plenty--"
"You can say that again."
"--since I started receiving the letters, but this is the first time he's threatened any of the women I've been out with in public."
"This must be just one more example of the escalation we've noticed in recent weeks."
He wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and looked at the floor. He did not want her hurt. And definitely not because of him. "I want to find this guy, Dru."
"So did I."
"Like, now."
"It's my day off, you realize," she repeated. "It'll be a little difficult for me to bring down your stalker at the moment, seeing as how I'm at the grocery store."

July 5, 2016

Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

I really enjoyed this one! I listened to the audio version and Peter Altschuler does a fine job as narrator. His voice was perfect for the Major! As I listened, I could easily picture him in all his gruff honorableness and proper way of living. I laughed so very many times during this story! :)

I loved the Major. I really did, even if he frustrated me a few times, just as he did the other characters. But for all his insistence on doing things properly, I easily empathized with him when everyone else around him refused to listen! I'm not so certain we'd get along in real life, but in fiction? He's hilarious and wonderful. And watching him navigate the myriad of situations, never knowing which one may explode all over him, is simultaneously funny yet bittersweet. He's such a lonely man and I was glad he and Mrs. Ali struck up their friendship. I loved their literary conversations and just how they understood one another. They both needed someone completely in their corner and I was happy they found each other.

But there were other bits that frustrated me with this story. For one, much as I loved the Major and Mrs. Ali, there weren't a lot of other characters I liked. In fact, there were several I couldn't stand. I kept hoping I'd change my mind about Roger, his son, but I ended the book severely disappointed in that. And several of the other characters never grew on me either. I did end up liking Sandy! I really, really wanted to hug Sandy at the last actually. As for Ms. Simonson's writing, well.... She's a great writer! She is. When I started the book, I loved her style immediately. But somewhere by about halfway through, I found myself getting a bit tired of all the lengthy descriptions and I'd skim through paragraphs to get back to the meat of the story. I'm not sure why that happened, but when I closed the final chapter, I looked back at my reading experience and thought, "Meh." By then, I was just glad to finally be finished.

Disappointments aside, I did enjoy this story. I was pleased the Major finally stopped letting other people's opinions impact how he lived his life! I'd read the book again just to spend more time with him actually. He really was the best thing about it and all his little commentary on everyone around him makes me giggle just remembering back on it now. For a glimpse of life in a proper English village, where everyone has loads of opinions and ideas for how everyone else should live their life, and to meet the awesome Major Pettigrew himself, I'd recommend trying this one! :)

"You are a wise man, Major, and I will consider your advice with great care—and humility." He finished his tea and rose from the table to go to his room. "But I must ask you, do you really understand what it means to be in love with an unsuitable woman?"
"My dear boy," said the Major. "Is there really any other kind?"

It surprised him that his grief was sharper than in the past few days. He had forgotten that grief does not decline in a straight line or along a slow curve like a graph in a child's math book. Instead, it was almost as if his body contained a big pile of garden rubbish full both of heavy lumps of dirt and of sharp thorny brush that would stab him when he least expected it.

July 4, 2016

Review: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

After finishing Winter, I Could Not Wait until this book of short stories came out! The reason? Because of the final story, Something Old, Something New, which is an epilogue for the series. Naturally I read it first when I finally got my hands on the book! :D And I was far, far away from being disappointed. I was perfectly happy with the ending of Winter, mind you! But I LOVED getting a future glimpse of our characters. Ms. Meyer created a truly epic world of characters and stories, and I am so, so glad she finished the whole series with happiness and rainbows. Of sorts. :)

For all my gushing over the last story in the book, that doesn't mean the others weren't still a lot of fun. Because they were! Some of them were bittersweet, some were just a lot of fun, and they all were wonderful insight into some of the questions we had from the series. I am amazed once again at Ms. Meyers skill. These little short stories only emphasize how much of this world she's created is so fully fleshed out in her head.

The Lunar Chronicles is a series that is wonderful and awesome and absolutely worth reading! Add this one to your TBR if you haven't yet. I'm positive you won't be disappointed! :)

His smile was instinctive. A little bit apology, a little bit politeness. And a little bit of charm because, of all the things he’d expected to come from his trip to the market, meeting a cute girl with messy hair and dirty work gloves had definitely not been one of them.

With pleasure," Kinney deadpanned. "In fact, I was hoping that if I came to see you off, I would be asked to do manual labor."
Iko shrugged. "If you don’t want to do any heavy lifting, then stop having such impressive muscles."

July 2, 2016

Review: Love at First Note by Jenny Proctor

The synopsis of this one intrigued me and I knew I wanted to read it. And I'm glad I did! Emma is a wonderful protagonist and reading about her busy life as a professional musician made me tired. Busy is an understatement let me tell you!

From lots of practice for her role as concertmaster for the Asheville symphony, to lots of practice for playing violin at her church (she's Mormon), just adds up to lots and lots of practice. (If real life musicians do the same amount, which I suspect they do, then wow. Playing an instrument full time takes a tremendous amount of commitment!) Not to mention that she's moved back home to help care for her mother. I suspect that's one thing that connected me to this story because I understand exactly how Emma felt about wanting to be there for her mom. So yes, Emma's a busy woman. But then she meets Elliott and oh my! Those two have quite a bit of chemistry and watching them together is wonderful. As they're both musicians, they understand each other. While their first few meetings might involve more embarrassment than cuteness, once they become friends their interactions were loads of fun! Especially a certain music battle through the wall. I loved that bit! :)

Once they begin to spend time together, they just get ever more adorable. And that's pretty much what kept me reading! Lilly and Trav's drama is an interesting addition to the story, but I skimmed through much of it just to get to Emma and Elliott's parts. Watching as they make so many mistakes, yet strive to learn from them and do better, and ultimately watching them fall in love is awfully sweet. They help each other grow, what more can a reader ask for?

It's not a perfect story, there were times it was a bit slow or didn't flow as smoothly as other parts, but I wasn't looking for perfection. I was just looking for a fun story that would make me smile and this one definitely fit that criteria! :)

**I received a complimentary copy via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Lilly rolled her eyes. "Don't psych yourself out. You'll be fine. Besides, it's probably not even him."
"So what if it isn't? It only has to be someone who's mildly attractive for me to act like an idiot." I blew out a frustrated breath. My responsibility to welcome the new guy suddenly felt a little like a death march. Or at least a really bad stomach virus. "Why did I agree to do this?"
"Because you're single and human and he's a guy. This is not rocket science."

"Life is too short to waste on misspoken words and wounded feelings."

The Soundtrack of My Life

As I was driving this morning and listening to my current fave cd, I got to thinking. (Music tends to do this to me, make me all introspective and whatnot.) I started thinking about how there are certain songs I associate with certain times in my life. Usually, it's because I was listening to that particular one when specific things happened, mostly just coincidental, but thereafter I always remember that time in my life when I listen to those songs again. Interesting, right? Does this happen to you?

So as I pondered on that, I realized that basically I have a soundtrack for my life. Not my entire life, mind you, just several years worth, but a soundtrack for sure. For instance, whenever I hear Jason Gray's Not Right Now...

...it takes me back to this past March, when a friend passed away very unexpectedly. Then there's Meredith Andrews' Sunrise...

...which helped me wake up on my drive to work in April, plus several of the other songs on there that gave me inspiration for writing. When I listen to it again, it takes me back to when I started challenging myself to writing a different sort of poetry than I'd ever tried before. And it inspires me again. It somehow gets my creative juices flowing! :)

Then there's May, when I was saying goodbye to mom and I had just recently purchased Phil Wickham's latest which had The Secret Place on it.

This song seemed to speak my heart during that difficult month. It still does, as do the other songs on that album.

These have all been current life songs, but what about my past you ask? Well now, there's the soundtrack to Bride and Prejudice (an awesome movie, by the by!)...

...which always takes me back to when I first watched it back in 2004. But it also makes me think about the roadtrip from CA to VA in 2013, when I moved back here. We listened to this cd quite a few times on that trip. It's just roadtrip music, okay? :)

Then comes 2014, when I was still adjusting to the Big Move (yes, it took almost an entire year for my head and heart to adjust completely) and I discovered Ellie Holcomb:

Those songs immediately take me back to all the Unknowns I was feeling at that time. It also reminds me of a fabulous weekend trip to Nashville where I met Natalie Lloyd (aka Awesomest Author Ever :)! I think I listened to that cd the entire way there, all weekend long, and then the drive back home again. Clearly I could not get enough of it!

If I want to go WAY, way back, I bring out Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Fishin' in the Dark.

That will definitely take me back to my childhood days! :D

And Pharrell Williams' Happy always makes me think of nephew...

Z and I listened to this song over and over and over one night when I took him out to eat for his birthday. He always introduces great new music to me! :)

Clearly, I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. Particular songs take me to particular moments in my life when I hear them. Moments of great happiness or great sadness. Moments that I haven't forgotten, or if I do, I've only to listen to a certain song again to bring that moment immediately to mind. Music truly speaks to our hearts, doesn't it?

What songs are on your soundtrack?


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