January 23, 2017

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Twenty-Five

Well, hello again, lovelies! I am back with some mini reviews for your reading pleasure. I figured out that, while I thought I had caught up all my reviews from last year, I missed one. Oops! So I'm adding it here, along with a few others that I've read more recently. I am so, so, SO happy my reading slump is mostly over! It's just not fun when I struggle to find books to hold my attention. These following stories aren't amazing, but I did enjoy them overall. :)

Return to Sender by Janice Thompson
This is a cute and sweet little novella written by one of my favorite authors. Ms. Thompson's stories almost always have just the right amount of humor to tickle my funny bone, along with an adorable romance. While this one had both of those things, it seemed to not flow as smoothly as I was expecting. The banter between the main couple had its cute moments, but there was something holding me back from fully investing in their relationship and I'm not sure why. Lots of novellas have things moving at a pretty quick pace, simply because they have to given the shortness of the page count, so that wasn't the issue for me. Regardless though, I did enjoy the story overall! Holly and Liam have nice chemistry and I loved Gertie. She was pretty fun! I closed the final page with a smile on my face, what more can a reader ask for? :)

The Girl Who Heard Demons by Janette Rallison
I've been a fan of Ms. Rallison's for several years and I was happy to see that she had a newish one out. (I have to admit it has been out for a while, but I just hadn't noticed it.) Her stories always have a great mix of fluffy, adorable romance and enough tension to keep the pages turning. This one is excellent in that regard! Adelle can hear demons, she just can't see them, and having that "gift" has disrupted her life in many, many ways. Enter Levi, a fellow student whom she attempts to save and who refuses to stay out of her life ever after (and thus has to give some of her secrets away). Their relationship has lots of pretty cute moments and their banter is fun. The fact that demons are real is a concept Adelle never questions, but Levi struggles with it. His unbelief, coupled with a mystery as to some other happenings around school, make for a little bit of drama for Adelle. But she is up to the challenge of learning how to handle her "gift" as well as fall in love. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her growth and seeing her finally choose to live life instead of letting it simply go by out of fear.

Wrapped in Red by Meghan M. Gorecki
I'd heard good things about Ms. Gorecki's first book, but hadn't fit it into my reading schedule yet. Then I heard she was writing a Christmas novella and that seemed a perfect way to get to know her writing. I really enjoyed it! Merry and Sam are rather easy to root for, even when Merry's being a little ridiculous. Let's just say that she has a few quirks that made me simultaneously laugh and yet wish I could knock some sense into her so she could realize how silly she was being! But that made her feel like a real person, as don't we all have our frustrating sides? :) As they slowly get to know one another, I loved seeing them open up to each other and fall in love. I do have to say that the beginning of the story took a bit to start flowing smoothly. The first chapter or two felt a little choppy to me, but once I was several chapters in things settled down and I stopped noticing the little bumps while reading. All that to say that this wasn't a perfect story, but I liked it anyway! I definitely look forward to reading her future books because this only whet my appetite for watching her skills grow! :)

Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by Becky Monson
This was just a really fun story! I wasn't sure what to expect upon beginning chapter one, but I was quickly swept up in Julia's mundane existence of a life. She's stuck, and while she kind of knows that, at the same time it's really hard to get herself going again. Her "spinster-ish" life isn't that terrible, but she definitely needs a wake up call. When hers arrives, she doesn't appreciate it at first, but watching as she grows, changes, and realizes that there is so much more to life than simply going through the motions and being miserable, I loved it! Her love life gets a bit of a jumpstart as well. While I could see some of the plot developments coming, it didn't take away my happiness at seeing Julia finally take charge of her life and fall in love (both in romance and with her job) in the process. She's a fairly relatable character, even when she's being a little frustrating. Overall, just a cute story that made me laugh several times! And I'm looking forward to seeing where the next book takes her...

The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts
I love the Hallmark Christmas movie that is based on this book, so I was hoping I'd enjoy this one. But I didn't. Oh, it's not an awful story, so to speak, it's just vastly different than the movie (which is to be expected, I knew that) and had so little substance to it. I kept hoping I'd finally like Zachary, but he was simply never very likable. Not even when he finally gets a clue at the end and makes the right choice! When I don't like the main character, that means I usually struggle to like the story they're in. I will say that I did enjoy Ambrose the cat! His parts were funny and sweet, and I liked getting things from his perspective. And Merilee is very sweet as well, so that helped. So basically, this wasn't terrible, it was simply very forgettable once I closed the final page. If you like romances where the main guy is very shallow, and has to stumble around being a bit stupid for much of the story, then you might like this one. It just wasn't for me, unfortunately.

The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans
I really loved this little story! After watching the Hallmark Christmas movie based on this book and enjoying it, I was so pleased to start this book and find so much more meat to the story. It starts off seeming like it has a rather shallow foundation, but it isn't long before Elise begins to realize what a wonderful man Nicholas is and I did too! He is a sweet man who lives up to all the promises he makes to Elise. But it isn't just the cuteness of watching these two fall for each other, their backstories are complicated and entwined in ways I couldn't have imagined. I loved watching it all play out over the course of the book and I think I fell a little bit in love with Nicholas myself. ;) There are a few bumps in the road, like Dan, who irritated me greatly, but I just skimmed through his parts and quickly returned to Elise and Nicholas. Definitely a wonderful read worth your time, friends!

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter
After seeing fellow reader friends exclaiming how they loved this one, I knew I needed to check it out. Plus I loved book one of this series and as much as I love the Hawthorne family in particular, when I saw this one had a contract marriage as its premise, I was hooked. :) And I ended up really liking it! Watching Adelaide and Trent circle around each other so very tentatively, both clearly uncertain of the other, is pretty cute. Although I will say that I expected a little more confidence from Trent. As the man in the relationship during this time period in history, I expected him to at least take charge of a few decisions. Instead, he decides to completely ignore the fact that he's married. In fact, the degree to which he was naive over things really surprised me! It felt a little unrealistic, I think he should've known a few more things than he did, and he frustrated me with how long it took him to finally begin acting like he's married. Now Adelaide's naiveness is perfectly understandable and I enjoyed watching her begin to learn confidence in herself and what she is capable of. And of course, the Hawthorne's! Once the rest of the family finally shows up (much too late in the story for my liking, I admit), then things truly begin to happen. Lots of forward movement in the latter half of the story brings everything to its delightful conclusion and I closed the book with a happy sigh. So while the first half was a little disappointing, the last half made up for it. I'm always game to read about a contract marriage, there's just something about that trope that pulls me in every time! :)

January 19, 2017

My Thoughts on Doctor Thorne

So! I finally had the chance to watch this miniseries last weekend. After reading a few raving reviews, I'd had it on my radar for several months but hadn't sought it out at the library (my go to for period dramas that I'm uncertain whether I'll enjoy). That changed when I was reminded again the other day and lo and behold my library had a copy all ready for me! Love it when that happens, especially as it happens so rarely. And I proceeded to thoroughly enjoy all three hours with these characters. :)

{Also, I'm terrible about talking about these sorts of things without a few spoilers, so beware!}

Firstly, it didn't take long for me to decide I liked Doctor Thorne himself. He is played so wonderfully by Tom Hollander, who I've seen in other things but hadn't liked him as well as I do this character. In fact, I think the last one I'd watched him portray was Mr. Collins from P&P '05, so you can imagine that I was perfectly willing to see him as a very different character! I do enjoy him as Osborne Hamley in Wives and Daughters, but I believe that this is my new favorite character for him. :) Doctor Thorne is just so very gentle and kind. Yet when his niece is hurting, he is well able to become as fierce a protector as needed! One of my favorite scenes with him is when he is defending Mary against Lady Arabella. He knows just how to make Lady Arabella aware of how awful she is! I loved how he is always proper in his responses, yet there is no doubt the severity of his choice of words. He will not stand having Mary hurt and his love for her is so fatherly and wonderful. Time and time again he stands between her and those who would potentially hurt her and it just made me so happy. Knowing the circumstances of how she came to live with him, especially when he had to have made those choices when he was still young and could've chosen differently, well that just proves to me how amazing he truly is. He also has this hilarious, sarcastic sort of wit. He'll be so quiet, just listening to whomever is talking, when suddenly he throws out this little rejoinder that makes you laugh! Also, he is quite observant, with a lot of wisdom. Definitely someone to be counted on for careful advice. He is absolutely the highlight of this miniseries for me! :)

Then there's Mary, herself, and Frank. I'm lumping them together because so much of the plotline revolves around separating these two lovers. Both actors (Stefani Martini and Harry Richardson) do a fine job, they're newbies so this is the first time I've watched them. I enjoyed their interactions, especially as both are simply nice characters. The only qualm I have is that the falling in love part of their relationship happened off screen, prior to the opening scene, so while I appreciated that they were in love, I could never fully invest in their desperation, especially Frank's. Perhaps it was just me (probably so), but their romance just didn't hold me as captive as I wished, it simply didn't ring totally true. That doesn't mean they weren't all kinds of cute though! Because they were. And I was definitely rooting for their happy ever after. So while I wasn't blown away by the romantic parts of the miniseries, I was impressed with Stefanie and Harry and will certainly look forward to (hopefully) watching them in future projects!

There's also Lady Arabella (who is perfectly horrid and I absolutely laughed and laughed when she got her comeuppance! :), her husband whose name I forget (but who I liked, especially his friendship with Doctor Thorne. I just wish he would've had a bit more of a backbone, or at least shown it a lot earlier), the mysterious Miss Dunstable (played by Alison Brie, who held her own very well against all these English actors/actresses), and Sir Roger Scratcherd (played by the awesome Ian McShane, and while his character wasn't entirely likeable, he had a good heart. And his final scenes were heart-wrenching and beautifully played, so I easily forgave his alcoholic tendencies. Plus his friendship with Doctor Thorne was fun, they danced around each other like old friends do and I simply loved their interactions, even as I would get frustrated with Sir Roger himself). Other minor characters make an impact whether good (Sir Roger's sweet and funny little wife) or horrible (Louis Scratcherd, Sir Roger's son who I could've done without. But then, I suppose we wouldn't have a story, would we? ;). Also, Frank's sisters are sweet, if a bit silly (especially Augusta, I did rather like Beatrice though!).

Moving into the other parts of the story besides characters, the cinematography is beautiful (naturally, it's the English countryside after all!). The plotline itself is intriguing. It definitely went in different ways than I was expecting, although there were several things that I figured out pretty quickly (which is abnormal for me actually. I'm not usually so smart when it comes to figuring out what's going to happen next!). It's based on a book by Anthony Trollope, who's had books adapted before but I haven't watched them. Now I'm convinced perhaps I should give them a try! I laughed quite a lot during my watch, and there's the proper amount of romance to bring a few swoons your way, plus the mysteries sufficiently drew my curiosity, so all in all I really liked this miniseries. I'm thinking it'll be added to my personal library someday. Perhaps! :) Definitely worth a watch, if you enjoy these sorts of period dramas. Watch it for Tom Hollander's Doctor Thorne, if nothing else! :)

January 16, 2017

Bookish {and Not So Bookish} Thoughts

Bookish and Not-So-Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they’ve encountered during the week, etc.). Thanks to Birdie from Lady of the Manor and Lianne from Eclectic Tales for bringing it to my attention! :)
1. Why yes, I am still here! Thanks to the holidays, plus some winter weather, I haven't had the time nor felt much like doing any blogging here in January. But I'm back now! And hoping this enthusiasm continues. :) I hope your New Year has brought lots of happy!

2. I have been in a miserable reading slump since the beginning of December. And I hated it!! There is not much that's worse for a reader than failing to find any books that made me want to actually read them. I started I don't know how many books in the last several weeks and lost enthusiasm for them all! *heaves a big sigh* SO frustrating. Especially during the weekend we had frigid temps and loads of snow that refused to leave on account of those frigid temps. I am SO READY FOR SPRING, y'all. I'm one of those non-fans of winter anyway and knowing I still have three whole months to go yet just....*frowny face* Enough whining though! On to happy things now. I read my first book of the year the other day! And am currently in the middle of two more. Take that, reading slump! :D

3. The first book I read this year was The Girl Who Heard Demons by Janette Rallison. It sounds crazy, but it's actually a really great story! Plus it's Janette Rallison. I love her books! Always the right amount of cute and fluff with just enough serious drama to keep it from being overly sweet. Currently reading The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans. I started it in the bookstore while waiting to meet up with a friend and couldn't put it back on the shelf when it came time to leave. So home with me it went! Also in the middle of Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. I love the banter between the main couple!

4. Y'all are now nauseatingly aware that I'm part of the INSPYs, but I just wanted to highlight author Becky Wade's post about these awards. If you're curious how they came to be, the awesome Rel answers a few questions! (Also, I might get a slight mention. Maybe. ;)

5. While I may not have gotten much reading done over our snowy weekend, I did get one of my bookshelves sorted. Turns out I have no fewer than 100 books to get rid of! Whoa. Maybe being in a reading slump made it easier for me to say "Nope, not keeping that one, or that one, or this one..."? Now I have to pack them all up so I can load them in my car to donate. Sounds nice to use my muscles for hefting books instead of heavy shovelfuls of snow!

6. I just read Ruth's review of Passenger by Alexandra Bracken and she's convinced me I must read this one soon. Have any of you read it?

7. I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Christmas day with my nephew. I know, I know! I'm only like a year behind everybody else. But I liked it! I confess to only having watched A New Hope prior (I want to watch the others, I just haven't yet) I've read enough about TFA and the Star Wars universe though, so I wasn't lost regarding what was going on. The story kept playing in my head for several days after. It was especially bittersweet after I heard about Carrie Fisher's death. And now I really want to watch the other movies!

8. I keep seeing lists of books people have to read, or books that well-known critics/readers say everyone needs to read or somesuch. Every single time I see one of these types of lists I think, "But what if I disagree?" Because as I've learned (even just today- I loved that story, but Birdie did not), reading is very subjective. The books I fall in love with may turn out to be vastly different than the books you fall in love with! Every reader knows this by now, I think. I guess it's just the titles of those lists that bug me. Because I love lists! I do. But me saying that these certain ten books are ones that you are guaranteed to love is very misleading, because you may not love them. You may hate them actually! And that's perfectly okay. Maybe what I want is just for people to stop titling these lists as guaranteed winners. I know, I'm ranting over something silly. I just needed to get it off my chest. Rant over. Promise. ;)

Happy Monday, my lovelies! I hope your week is delightful.

January 14, 2017

New Year, New Hope

When you start to feel
like things should have
been better this year,
remember the mountains and valleys
that got you here.
They are not accidents
and those moments weren't in vain.
You are not the same
you have grown and you are growing
you are breathing, you are living.
You are wrapped in
And things will get better.
There is more to you than yesterday.

~ Morgan Harper Nichols


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