August 29, 2020

Emma. 2020


Hello, my lovelies! So yeah, I have finally watched the newest version of Emma. I actually first watched it several weeks ago and after a rewatch or three I decided I should really get my thoughts down in print. :)

So here's the deal. I was excited for a new Jane Austen adaptation, I really was! But I was a whole lot uncertain. As I've been pondering that uncertainty since, I've decided there were several things that played into it:
  • I read the book for the very first time only a couple years ago and while I enjoyed it, I didn't love it like I expected to. So I think my disappointment was affecting me even this long while later. (Incidentally, now that I've watched the film, I really want to reread the book!)
  • I tried watching both the Gwyneth Paltrow version and the Kate Beckinsale version years upon years ago and rather disliked them both. It wasn't until I saw the Romola Garai version that I fell in love with the story. And I haven't even watched that one for a couple years. So perhaps I was fearful of more disappointment...? Or maybe even that I might like this one better...? I don't know. (Side note: SO many of my reader friends LOVE the Paltrow version! I'm thinking I should really give it another chance as I can't even remember what it was that I didn't like about it...)
  • I LOVE Jonny Lee Miller's Mr. Knightley. So much so, I think I just didn't want to even imagine someone else in the role...
  • SO much talk about the bloody nose scene. And I will have more to say on that later, but all I heard about this scene before watching it simply put me off.
  • And lastly, I read and listened to a lot of reviews once the film officially came out. There was a mixed bag of thoughts. Some loved it, some hated it, some couldn't stand the bloody nose scene but liked everything else, some liked this or that part better or this over here was awful. Suffice it to say, I think I overdid it on reviews and just should've watched it for myself.
One weekend I decided it was now or never and bit the bullet. And what do you know but that I really loved it! All my silly worries and here I ended up really enjoying myself. :D I'm not sure it overtakes the Garai version as my very favorite, but it certainly stands tall right next to it!

What I loved:
  • The humor. This version is hilarious! I was not expecting to laugh quite so much. The Garai version is funny, but I think the length of it means that we get a mix of light and serious moments (as is appropriate!). This one has its serious moments to be sure, but there is simply a general feel of lightheartedness about it that I felt right from the beginning all the way through to the end.
  • Since I liked the humor, I ended up LOVING the bloody nose scene! Go figure, right? :D (I know, I laugh at myself. ;) Once I was into the flow of the story, by the time we get to that scene I figured out just what it was going for. As a reviewer I listened to stated it, in every other version that scene is played for romance. The great romantic moment, the climax so to speak. But in this one, the great romantic moment comes later, so this scene just flows hilariously onward and after numerous rewatches of it (yes, I rewound just that scene multiple times, I confess it) I still laugh at Emma's messy and real portrayal. As another reviewer stated, it showcases just how much of a mess she is and yet why we love her by this point of the story. And certainly why Knightley loves her because if he can deal with Emma and her dramatics, bloody nose and all, then he's truly in love! :D
  • The Emma and Harriet friendship. I confess to having struggles with all the different versions of actually liking Harriet all that much. But Mia Goth did an excellent job of walking the fine line between naive (rather than idiotic) and just simply being a good friend to Emma. One of the reviews I read said the focus of this one is really the love story between Emma and Harriet and I have to agree. It was beautifully played out between those two actresses.
  • Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley. I already admitted that I LOVED Jonny Lee Miller's portrayal, so I really wasn't expecting to love this new guy. But it worked. I'm pretty sure I love them both equally now. The way they each play their interactions with Emma herself and watching as they figure out they're in love with her...they each work perfectly in their particular versions. So I am happy to rewatch either and both again and again and again. :D
  • All the actors and actresses actually. I thought they all did a fantastic job with each of their characters. Not going too over the top, but yet keeping with the lighthearted and real feel of the story.
  • Okay, I also admit Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse was fabulous! He was a lot more nimble than I usually picture Mr. Woodhouse but it worked. There are two scenes where I absolutely loved him the most: 
    • when Emma is crying right after the Box Hill scene and the tenderness and fatherly-ness of his clear desire to comfort her yet he awkwardly doesn't quite know how so he ends up simply sitting with her in her sorrow. SUCH a beautiful moment!
    • the big romantic scene at the end when he remarks about the "draft" and then totally sets up the moment for Emma and Knightley. :D His sly looks at the beginning of the scene just crack me up! He knows precisely what's going on, even if he pretends he doesn't.
  • The colors and the costumes! SO much color and glorious costumes! There are several of Emma's outfits that are just gorgeous.

What I could've done without:
  • The particular scene with Mr Knightley at the very beginning. Luckily, it is easily skip-over-able.
  • The awful relationship between Emma's sister and her husband. It did make for some funny moments, but I definitely prefer the way the Garai version portrayed them!
  • This isn't really a thing I wished for less of, I actually wish there were even more scenes with Ms Taylor/Mrs. Weston. The first scene between her and Emma is so sweet and then she's barely in the film from there on out. I get that there were likely time constraints and all sorts of things that played into that decision, but still. I wish she'd showed up a bit more. And Mr. Weston too!
So there you have it. I laugh at all my worries about what I imagined this version would be like. Because clearly I rather enjoyed myself overall based on the lengthiness of my thoughts! :D Now. I am off to do another rewatch. (My birthday was this past week, so I can still celebrate with Jane Awesomeness, right?? I agree completely! ;)

August 28, 2020

Review: Start With Me by Kara Isaac

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Where does one begin with describing a Kara Isaac novel? The smiles that are guaranteed to come? The swooniness of the hero? The female protagonist who always seems to find her way into our hearts?  Or! What about the raw emotions which resonate with our own? Truly it's a combination of all of the above, isn't it? 

I should confess that I wasn't sure how I would feel about Victor himself. It's not that I doubted Ms. Isaac's skills, but I wasn't yet convinced that I could believe his redemption. Even though I'm almost always a fan of that storyline! I wasn't too doubtful though, because it didn't take him as long as I first imagined to convince me. (And I'm a sucker for a great redemption arc, did I mention? :) Victor began to tug at my heartstrings and that's not even counting what all Lacey did to my heart! Watching these two slowly figure out their attraction, the growth they both needed, and just what sort of future they each truly wanted was such a wonderful ride. Their story isn't perfect, but that's why I loved them. I could understand their uncertainties and flaws, even as I was pushing for them to reach beyond them into their truer selves.

The lives of these characters are messy, yet beautiful. It was a joy to walk beside them, witnessing their hilarious banter, their frustrations with their current lives, even their frustrations with themselves. The point of it all is to walk the journey, the destination (i.e. their happy ever after) is just the bonus! So do I think you should read it? If any of the above intrigued you, then I say yes! One rarely goes wrong with a Kara Isaac novel, trust me on that. :)

**I received a complimentary copy via JustRead Tours. All opinions are my own.

July 15, 2020

Review: The Lost Lieutenant by Erica Vetsch

In the midst of all the crazy of the world, I wanted something lighthearted and fun to read. This arrived perfectly timed on my kindle! :) It made me laugh a few places, swoon quite a few others, and left me with a smile by the time I finished the final pages. Kudos to Ms. Vetsch!

Now I should clarify that the plot isn’t all happiness and rainbows, there are mysteries upon mysteries to solve amongst all the sweetness. I could never quite put my finger on exactly what would happen to whom although I surely spent quite a bit of time trying to figure it all out. I got close, but still had a few surprises left for me to discover at the climax. And at the heart of all the goings on is the super adorable (and sometimes frustrating) marriage of convenience! That, naturally, was my favorite bit of them all. :D Evan and Diana have splendid chemistry together, their scenes were always snapping with energy. Even as they frustrated me with their inability to just be honest with each other already, I could still appreciate their reasons why they each held things so close. And! The fact that they completely acknowledge the ridiculousness of their refusal to communicate towards the end redeemed all that for me.

The added detail of having the Prince Regent play such a large role in the story was unexpected but I actually rather enjoyed his outrageous way of going about things. (Not so sure I’d enjoy it in real life, but in fiction? Absolutely! :) Combine that with all the swooniness of the romance and the utter sweetness of Cian and you simply have the makings of a wonderful few hours of reading. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and if you like a bit of mystery with your romance then you just might do the same.

**I received a complimentary copy via JustRead Tours. All opinions are my own.

June 1, 2020

Review: Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay

Yay for a new Katherine Reay story! I anticipate the next one just as soon as I finish the last one and this time was no different. I love all the literary references she casually (and not so casually) weaves into her plot. I love how her writing flows along and draws me in immediately (especially when I’m “only going to read a couple chapters right now” and suddenly two hours have flown by ;). I love how her characters are always complex and real, they feel like friends by the end. In short? I just really love Katherine Reay books!

This one drew me in like her previous ones. I was intrigued by Alyssa’s problems and wanting so badly to make her relationship with her mother all better. After growing to know and love Janet dearly in The Printed Letter Bookshop, I was hoping for everyone else around her to be witness to her awesomeness and growth. However, it is perfectly understandable that a fraught relationship is rarely healed overnight. Thus no matter my impatience at times, I truly appreciated the nuanced and natural feel of how they began to slowly understand one another again. I do think their relationship was my favorite among all the possibilities within the story! I also rather enjoyed Jeremy’s relationship with his daughter, Becca. I was not expecting things to end up the way they did and my heart ached for all the emotions he had to process through. But what a beautiful lesson that came out of it! Seriously. Like I said, I love how Ms. Reay so skillfully handles complex characters and gives their story arcs such depth and feeling.

I will have to confess to feeling some slight disappointment, however. As much as I have adored all of Ms. Reay’s books thus far, this is the first one which I closed with a tinge of bittersweetness. This has nothing to do with her writing, more it has to do with where a couple plots ended up going. Ms. Reay has beautifully written a story in which choices were made which I did not enjoy as much as I wanted. Also, while I liked getting several different perspectives on scenes, the multiple points of view got a tad overwhelming at times, since I never knew when I'd jump into someone else's head suddenly. However! These choices are not enough to make me wish I hadn’t read it. To the contrary, I especially loved a certain conversation between Luke and Chris which just made me grin. The fact that they had this same basic conversation again at the end of the book only made my grin bigger! (On that note, Ms. Reay. I’d REALLY love to see the results of those convos played out in an epilogue of sorts! Pretty please? ;)

So! The bottom line? Katherine Reay is quite skilled with the pen and I think you should absolutely read her books! Though this one isn’t perfect, it still has some good lessons to be learned and imperfect characters with whom to fall in love. And! Did I mention all the literary references? You should be intrigued for those alone. What are you waiting for? Go read her books and be entranced as much as I!

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

May 26, 2020

Cover Reveal :: One Bad Apple by Rachel Kovaciny

Hello, my lovelies! I am SO pleased to be sharing the wonderful cover of Rachel Kovaciny's newest book coming out very soon! Ms. Kovaciny has been slowly writing an intriguing series of books based on fairytales set in the old west. She is a good (real life!! :) friend of mine, but is also a wonderful author in her own right. So it pleases me to share her awesomeness with the world. :)

So! Without further ado, let's get to the pretty, shall we?

Ooooo! Isn't it gorgeous?! I love the color scheme and all the small details that you notice as you really look at it. I actually didn't catch this until I looked a second time, but the apple has the look of a skull. Coupled with the title, the general creepiness makes it clear this isn't going to be a happiness and rainbows type of story. It just intrigues me! Doesn't it you?? :)

In case you need a synopsis to intrigue you further...
Fourteen-year-old Levi Dalton feels numb. Hands tied behind his back, he's about to be hauled away for poisoning a beautiful girl and her kind father. The woman pointing her finger at him and accusing him of murder is the very same woman he hoped could teach him to heal illnesses, not cause them. The woman he idolized. The woman he trusted. Levi knows he should be scared for his own life. But all he can think about is how graves always come in pairs.
The book releases on 07/28/20, so it'll be in our anxious hands soon! And you can add it to Goodreads if you care to. Ah the anticipation! :)

May 25, 2020

Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Naturally, any book to do with Jane Austen catches my eye, so I was intrigued when I saw the synopsis for this one. There is so much to love about this story, friends. I mean, the fictionalization of how the Jane Austen Society began? And such a mix of characters! Ms. Jenner is quite talented at bringing all her different storylines together into one cohesive big tapestry.

Okay, so I admit that I didn’t love every character. Certainly I didn’t start out loving all of them! A few are easier to love, a few make choices that I didn’t like, still others made me smile every time their point of view appeared again. Yet it was their genuine love of Jane Austen which endeared even the unlikeable ones to me.

My absolute favorite bits of all? Were the moments when they began to come together and each discovered the genuine joy of discussing and analyzing books with likeminded friends!! I get that, I understand that, I LOVED that! Whether it’s Jane Austen or whatever other books we love or hate, discussing the whys and wherefores with someone else who loves to read….there’s just nothing like that feeling. It brings people of all kinds together. And these characters are all so very different! Which is why I loved it when they found they had so many more things in common through discussion of Jane Austen. Jane is so good at bringing people together, don’t you think?

The other thing about this story that kept me turning the pages is how each character, so very different from the others, interprets Austen. How each one reads her stories and sees different things. Which is true of all of us today, just as much as it would’ve been true in the 1940s when this takes place. We all read her books from our own perspective, with our own biases and backgrounds and history playing a part in how we interpret what we read. (This is true of any story we read.) Yet the focus of all these different perspectives coming together and how they learn from each other, how they fall in love, how they grow, how they make choices, both good and bad…it’s all intricately and beautifully woven together.

This isn’t a perfectly written story, as any book isn’t. There were parts that I skimmed over due to not particularly enjoying them, I cannot deny this. Yet watching these characters stumble their way through life and find joyous reason to keep going through Austen’s stories and each other, I could reread those bits without any problem! And will do so, let me tell you. Even just writing this review makes me want to go back and reread the book! I loved all the introspective analysis the characters did which caused me to do the same. They opened my eyes to new perspectives and made me want to reread Austen herself! So I would absolutely recommend this one to all Austen lovers out there. Perfect or not, it is a wonderful homage to the timelessness and beauty of her stories and how she brings so many of us onto common ground together.

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

"He was becoming quite worried for Mr. Darcy. It seemed to Adam that once a man notices a woman's eyes to be fine, and tries to eavesdrop on her conversations, and finds himself overly affected by her bad opinion of him, then such a man is on the path to something uncharted, whether he admits it to himself or not."

May 13, 2020

Review: The Joy of Falling by Lindsay Harrel

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I admit that what pursued me throughout this story was the grief journey. What is it about experiencing such a significant life situation such as losing a loved one that draws us to the stories which speak about such? Is it not wanting to know we’re alone? Is it the hope that often infuses them? Is it just the connection, of knowing someone else clearly gets it? Whatever the reasons (probably it’s a lot of all of them, right? :), I was totally down for reading this one. And Ms. Harrel did not disappoint me!

Grief is such a personal, crazy, upside down, twisty, hopeful, and piercing sort of journey to experience. It truly is one of those things that one must experience in order to “get it”. Well, Ms. Harrel clearly gets it. Her story is absolutely full of all the chaoticness that grief brings a person. Yet its hope grounds these characters and this story, the hope that entwines every single chapter, that dances along all the heartbreak and confusion, that wondrous Hope which never gives up! That hope kept me turning the pages during paragraphs when Angela or Eva frustrated me. I confess that there were several moments in the first half of the book that I didn’t really like them. They were both so caught up in their un-processed grief that I struggled to connect with them. But that’s also what worked! Because real life, real people, we’re like that. Losing a loved one is HARD, and you don’t just “get over it”, nor is it pretty because we humans can behave pretty harshly to each other sometimes, especially when we’re hurting. So even while I was frustrated, I trusted Ms. Harrel to take both of them (as well as me! :) into beautiful new places if I only had the patience. And I was rewarded!

Both Angela and Eva have a lot of growing to do over the course of their journey. And I rather enjoyed watching them grow weaker in order to realize the strength that was already hovering within them, waiting to be noticed. This story is about more than just them. Angela’s children, both of the gentlemen that wreak havoc on said women’s emotions, and of course Sherry (I LOVED Sherry and her words of wisdom at just the right moments!), all the secondary characters took on life around our two main ladies and brought so many different dynamics into play. Certainly they were proof that our personal grieving affects all those in close proximity to us, especially those we love.

Oh, I could go on, there are so many thoughts about grieving and loving and life after that are spinning through my mind! But I think I ought to let you discover this gem of a story for yourself. It’s not an easy journey to make, grief never is. But the end result? Is a beautiful tapestry of wonder, delight, and HOPE. So I think you should totally find a copy real soon for yourself. :)

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

"But what if the ultimate muse is really God, and he's got this amazingly full and creative life waiting for you, if only you'll step back into it? Is it possible to allow all the pain and the beauty of life to inspire you? To allow God to inspire you--not to creative, but to live?"

"Stability is overrated. Trusting God to catch you...that's what life was really about."

April 14, 2020

Review: Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Ah, this book is like an overflowing cup of happiness! I was totally committed to Lauren’s journey right from the start. And then Joshua walked onto the page and….well, the rest is history as they say. :) Knowing that Ms. Deese pulled from bits of her own personal journey with adoption while writing this only made me more excited to read it! Then once I was started there was no putting it down until the final pages.

I loved Lauren. Her heart and her clear calling to adopt were beautifully portrayed. I was right there with her during every uncertainty, fear, joy and all the emotional upheaval of her current life. She hasn’t taken lightly any of the decisions she’s made and I loved her clear certainty of what God was telling her to do. Even during her doubtful times she could always come back to that confidence as a reminder to keep moving forward. Watching her maneuver through each step in front of her so carefully, prayerfully, yet each one feeling like a giant leap of faith…oh I got it. I have been in such a place myself, not with adoption but I still got it. I loved Jenna, Lauren’s bestie so, SO much for this very reason. Having people behind you, supporting you every step of the way? It’s a wonderful and necessary part of doing this life we’re given! Oh, and Joshua? Swoon. I could totally see why Lauren was such a goner for him! :D Their chemistry is felt in practically every scene they have. They are made for each other, they simply didn’t expect to find each other right now in the messy middle!

Ms. Deese’s heart shines through her writing in this story. It is so wonderfully obvious that she understands the heartache and beauty to be found in adoption, for she treats it with respect and love, acknowledging the hard that comes right along with the joy. All the while interweaving hope and pain and happiness into a delightful picture that makes sense only at the end, not always so much during the process. Which is simply true to life.

There are many words that could be said, but I think I’ll leave you with these. It’s a heart-full, big-smile, happy-sigh kind of story! And I totally think you should read it. So why don’t you? :)

**I received a complimentary copy via Bethany House. All opinions expressed are my own.

"I don't think it's possible for us to measure the impact one person can have on another, but I do believe that offering hope to someone without it is invaluable."

"God's best for us rarely comes without the stretching, and it's in that stretching season, those periods of complete and utter dependence on God's faithfulness, that He holds our hearts and molds them into a shape that only He can fill."

March 19, 2020

Blog Tour :: Review :: Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne

Finding Love in Wishing Bridge JustRead Blog Tour 
Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


I read book two of this series for the first time just a couple months back and have been itching for Jazz’s story ever since! The little taste of the people circling around her and all the heartache she was going through gave me just enough of a glimpse to whet my appetite. This book was as delightful as I hoped. :) Plus I loved getting caught up in the general awesomeness of the town of Wishing Bridge as a whole. I love these people, I truly do.

Jazz’s journey is far from easy, but her determination to push through, not to mention the amazing friendships she has with Thea and Kelsey, simply endeared her to me from our first “meeting”. She is ever so much stronger than she imagines herself and with God on her side and the love from everyone that surrounds her, she begins to slowly figure this out. I loved watching her grow, especially as she conquered fears and doubt. I will admit that the fact she gets in the middle of a bit of a love triangle disappointed me, as I dislike that particular trope. Yet it’s once again the three women at the core of this series which gives it so much heart and keeps bringing me back to reread my favorite bits. These ladies simply love each other so well, even amidst mistakes made and forgiveness needed. (But especially when one is struggling, for the others encourage and cheer her on!) They understand one another and it seeps through every interaction. I want to be friends with them!

Ms. Herne proves yet again her ability to jump from heart-pounding tense moments to the sweetest adorableness all the while never losing a moment of momentum. Every interaction motivates the next and the next, and the threads of hope and joy in spite of uncertainty are beautifully done. Somehow all these different elements weave together to create a smooth and intriguing picture by the end. One which I thoroughly enjoyed! (In case you can’t tell. ;) From edge of your seat, to slow and romantic, to laughter and fun, this book is a keeper, my friends. Don’t miss out! Get yourself a copy and try it for yourself.

**I received a complimentary copy via JustRead Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.


Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne
Title: Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge
Series: Wishing Bridge #3
Author: Ruth Logan Herne
Release Date: March 2, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Being a supermodel isn't just hard.

It can be a killer, so when international sensation Jazz Monroe answered a friend's call for help, she'd just taken a hiatus from the job that made her a very rich woman and almost took her life. Outwardly Jazz was everything anyone would want to be. Beautiful, confident, rich and famous, and often seen on the arm of some of the world's most eligible bachelors, Jazz knows the truth she hides. Her self-confidence is an act and the eating disorder that plagues her refuses to let her rest.

But then she and her old friend Thea are called to help a friend and fulfill a pledge they'd made a dozen years before as high school seniors. If any one of the three ever needed help, the others would come running. Last December, Kelsey made that call and her two old friends, the other members of the "Soul Sisterhood", responded. They're here now. Thea is practicing medicine, Kelsey has married the hero deputy that saved her life and Jazz is finding the hints of peace that have eluded her for nearly two decades. She settles into the little town, helping out at a local diner, waiting for the sky to fall.

It doesn't. Instead, the sun begins to shine, winter fades to spring, and surrounded by new and old friends, Jazz begins to believe in herself. She loves the small town, the kindness of the locals, the warmth of the family diner and the special attention from two very different and distinct men makes her think new thoughts. Thoughts of family and picket fences and settling down.

But an unexpected attack on a wood-edged path reignites her fears and insecurities. Now she's looking in shadows again, doubting herself and others. In Manhattan, locked elevators and a staffed entrance desk kept her safe from intruders.

Wishing Bridge has nothing like that. Here, she lives life at ground level, with no bodyguards watching out for her. But when a local contingent makes it their job to keep her safe, Jazz learns not to sell the small town short. Folks here mean what they say because that's the kind of town Wishing Bridge is.

As Jazz rediscovers the most important things in life, she realizes that happiness isn't about where you are: it's about who you're with. And who you love.

Join Jazz, Kelsey, Thea and the rest of the Wishing Bridge cast as they band together to help the town and one another because together-- in Wishing Bridge-- they can make anything happen.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon


Ruth Logan Herne

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Ruth Logan Herne is living her dream of writing sweet stories, full of unforgettable characters in pastoral small towns and the occasional big city. With over 50 books published to date, and more to come, Ruthy loves to pen stories in the middle of the night when it bothers no one… and, in return, they don’t bother her! J Married with six children and a daughter of her heart, Ruthy has fourteen grandkids who all love her and think she’s the coolest thing on the planet. Except for Star Wars & Harry Potter, puppies, baseball, Nerd ropes…. Okay, you get the picture. She loves chatting with readers. Email Ruthy at, ask to be put on her newsletter list or visit her website

CONNECT WITH RUTH: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


(1) winner will receive a print copy of Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge and an assortment of candies!

Finding Peace in Wishing Bridge JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule shown below. Giveaway will begin at midnight March 16, 2020 and last through 11:59 PM EST on March 23, 2020. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US mailing addresses only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!
*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

March 7, 2020

My Current Fave Podcasts

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
So I think I've mentioned a time or twelve that I've fairly recently gotten into listening to podcasts. I know. I am so late on the bandwagon. But I refuse to feel badly about that! Because I am thoroughly enjoying so many intriguing lines of thought.

I should clarify that I currently have a job wherein are long moments I am pretty much doing data entry type of things which do not require a ton of concentration. During said moments my mind will wander all sorts of interesting and strange places because my mind is a weird thing. What I have truly enjoyed about the podcasts I've listened to is that they cause me to ponder deep things. (Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good laugh and have listened to some podcasts that are purely hilarious convos. But I prefer the deeper ones that make me think harder.) The podcasts I will share with you tend to be the kind that involve searching for the whys of how we live and think, thoughts on beauty and story, how to walk and live a more surrendered life, and often I have added to my TBR simply because a quote will get mentioned which intrigues me. I don't know how else to describe it but to yet again say that these podcasts make me think.

My current reality is that while I have many dear friends surrounding me whom I love and with whom I love to converse, most of them are in a very different phase of life than I, which requires that the amount of time they have to converse about deep things is much more limited than mine. We do converse about deep things when we can, so this is simply a reality of their phase of life, not a criticism from me! And I crave deep convos. (I stink at small talk.) So imagine my appreciation for these podcasts where I get to listen to people ponder through serious things which only serve to make me ponder the same! My soul has been delighting in it. :)

There you go. My reasons for why I've loved discovering the podcasts I have. Now let's get to listing my current favorites, shall we? :)

Cooper & Cary Have Words :: A Swing and a Myth
This is two British gentlemen who, clearly, have words to share. The particular podcast I linked to is my most recent listen which I loved. In it, they talk about story and how creative work is all in thanks to and a small part of the larger Story that humankind is privileged to be within. A lot of food for thought which I am still pondering! Plus, I cannot deny, I just really like listening to their British accents. ;)

Speaking With Joy :: Modern Day Monasticism
Ms. Joy Clarkson and her thoughts were my very first foray into podcasts. I'd been following her on twitter and instagram for some time and finally decided to give her a listen as well. I love her thoughts on books, beauty, and the deeper things of life. The episode I've linked to focuses mainly on adopting rhythms of prayer into our lives, which is a discipline I have struggled to stay consistent within. Thus I appreciate her thoughts and encouragement. 

At Home With Sally & Friends :: Cultivating a Rich Inner Life Through Reading
This podcast is by Sally, Joy's mother. I haven't listened to a lot of her's yet, but I thoroughly loved this particular episode. Number one, because it's about reading. :) Number two, because I read Sarah Clarkson's Book Girl last summer and absolutely loved it, so when I saw she was a guest in this episode, I knew I wanted to listen. It's just a whole lot of good thoughts and encourages those of us bookish sorts. :D

I have appreciated so many of the podcasts that The Daily Grace Co has put out. This episode came right at the beginning of this year, when I was in the midst of trying to reset and recommit after several months of letting goals and plans in my life slide away. I really appreciated the good reminders and helpful hints I was given. But it's still a great episode even if you give it a listen at other times of the year! Goal setting can be thing to reevaluate throughout the year, not just in January. Because I'm just human enough to let things slide again, long before 2020 is over.

Are you a podcast listener? Do you have favorites? I'm sure you do if you're a regular listener. Any good suggestions for me? :)

February 29, 2020

My bookish confession...

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash
Hello, my lovelies! Yes, this is confession time. Bookish confessions, of course! :) I've been pondering my reading life and realized something I should just own up to out loud (or, you know, in writing, at least). So you may just be horrified when you read the next paragraphs. (Or perhaps not, we shall see.)

So! My bookish confession? Is that I have spent a whole lot of my adult years pretty much determined not to read anything of depth. I loved romantic stories and refused to be willing to even contemplate reading something a little different, something that would require me to think a little harder. Friends would recommend a book that did not fall within my usual genres and I would tell them I was considering reading it when deep down inside I knew I was lying because I'd never read it, nope, not for me. There. I said it. (Wrote it? You know what I mean.) Even as embarrassing as this feels, I want to be honest.

Now. I feel I should clarify what I mean by saying that of all the books I've read over my entire life, there are a lot that have depth, that are so much more than just another romance. (I certainly don't want someone to go look at my Goodreads lists and assume that all those books are shallow!) But the type of books I'm referencing fall under other categories, such as classics, autobiographies, memoirs, and just nonfiction in general. Books by older authors, not contemporary ones. But also contemporary books that aren't just a simple romance. 

I don't know if that paragraphs makes any sense, I keep reading over it again and I don't know how to better get my point across. I just know that I'm no longer satisfied to simply read a sweet romance story. Now don't get me wrong! I am not eliminating those books from my TBR altogether! I'm just more willing to honestly try a book that is out of my reading comfort zone, so to speak. I want to read something that will surprise me because so many of the books I've been reading in recent years haven't truly surprised me. Some have, but not most. I want to try another Charles Dickens novel, even if I hate it. I want to read CS Lewis' nonfiction, even if I struggle my way through understanding what he's telling me. I want to read books that will make me think. I've read a whole lot of books that have only entertained me for a few hours, that allowed me to shut off my brain and wallow in make believe. And I still feel like there's a place for those books. I'm not saying that we shouldn't read them. I mean, I just read a couple Jane Austen sequels a couple Sundays ago and they didn't make me think at all, they were just fun.

However, I'm finally tired of only using reading as an escape, I want to allow books and stories to help me understand my world better. They've always done that to a certain extent, but now I want to actively seek it out, not simply stumble over it occasionally. 

I want to read out of my comfort zone. 
"It is only by struggling with difficult books, books over one's head, that anyone learns to read." ~Mortimer Adler
Probably most of you reading this right now have been reading such for years. I admit to feeling slightly embarrassed that it took me this long to be willing to even entertain the idea in my mind, let alone be willing to challenge myself to actually do it. I should've had this epiphany a long time ago, instead of in my late 30s. But there you go. And here I am. Better late than never, right? (I hope.)

So. I haven't gotten terribly far yet, in attempting this. But I have made a bit of progress. And I'm determined not to give up! What about you? Have you always read out of your typical genres? Have you been more like me and just always gravitated towards what was easier? Or has your reading journey been different than even those two options? 

And lastly, how about recommending one of your most favorite books that doesn't fall under the contemporary romance genre! I need more books on my TBR, don't you? ;)

February 23, 2020

five things

Five things you will find if you open my purse/bag:
  1. chapstick
  2. earbuds
  3. phone/laptop charger
  4. old receipts
  5. keys
Five things in my bedroom:
  1. books (of course)
  2. my laptop
  3. dr pepper pillow
  4. calendar
  5. this amazing tote bag a friend gave me *all the heart eyes*

Five things I’ve always wanted to do in my life, but haven't yet:
  1. write a story
  2. travel to Italy
  3. publish a book of poetry
  4. own a pet
  5. read all six published books by Jane Austen {I know! But I haven't read Mansfield Park yet...}
Five things that make me very happy:
  1. books
  2. friends
  3. family
  4. Jesus
  5. hugs
Five things I’m currently into:
  1. sitting in the library with a dear friend
  2. convos with friends, whether deep or silly
  3. Speaking With Joy podcast
  5. all things yellow
Five things on my To-Do list:
  1. read all the books in the stack a friend gave me just last night
  2. blog more regularly
  3. journal just a little bit every single day
  4. read more nonfiction
  5. make time for solitude in my schedule
Five things some people may or may not know about you:
  1. cookies are my favorite type of dessert {As long as they're not full of nuts, nuts don't belong in cookies}
  2. I love dr pepper
  3. good food makes me happy
  4. that when I try to think about something people don't know about me, my mind immediately goes to food
  5. even all these years later I am still fascinated by horses {but my LOVE of them has definitely been tempered a good deal}
Five things you enjoy doing during your free time:
  1. read
  2. time with friends
  3. read
  4. write/journal
  5. watch a period drama

{another post from my drafts folder, be glad I updated it, the horror of what I wrote a few years ago... *embarrassed smile*}

February 22, 2020

books we relate to

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

I was reading through my drafts here on blogger. You know, those posts you began but never finished? Perhaps no one else does this, but I had 12 draft posts just sitting there. A few definitely worth deleting because you don't even want to know just how old they were and how not-relevant to my life now. *shakes head at younger me* ;)

Anyhoo! One such draft was this one. Which only had two sentences. And a link to an old blog post of Suey's. Reading over the article again made my mind spin with ideas and lo and behold! Here I am with a post. Yay me.

So! Books we relate to. In the blog post (in case you don't want to go read it, no judgment don't worry) Suey's friend Jenny mentions about how a certain book really connects with her. (I'm assuming it still does anyway, this many years later.) I completely understood what she meant because as I thought on it, that is precisely one of the main reasons why I love certain books over others. I have a lot of booklikes, but books I love? I have to love and connect with the characters. I have to relate to something they are experiencing or something inherent in their personalities. That connection will take a booklike straight to booklove for me. (Not always guaranteed, of course, but more often than not.)

Connecting with a character is HIGHLY important to me. (I think that's true in my real life as well. I deeply love being able to connect with people around me. If I can find something we share in common and we have opportunity to chat about it? That person is forever a sweet spot in my heart, and that conversation doubly so.)

Here are a few literary examples for you:

Anne from Persuasion by Jane Austen :: I relate to so much of Anne's thoughts and personality. A great deal of her outer circumstances have created a rich inward life for her and I get that. Plus her phase of life is one I understand as well. She's a huge reason why I love this book so much. (That and Captain Wentworth, of course. I LOVE Wentworth a whole, whole bunch too! ;)
Valancy from The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery :: I love Valancy. I don't personally have an awful family who basically browbeat me like she does, but I completely understand how she feels a little lost and unknown. How uncertain she is. Oh how I get that! And I love journeying with her as she finds her voice. Her story fills me with hope.

Autumn from Life After by Katie Ganshert :: I read this book during the year after my mother passed away and cried a bucket nearing the end. I just completely understood the grief journey Autumn was on. Grief is hard and jarring at times, yet gentle and constant at the same time. It's a strange sort of being and Ms. Ganshert wrote so much of what I could not put words to. (The way this story spoke so wonderfully to my grieving heart has made me slightly hesitant to read it again, for fear of not loving it so much now, which is just silly I know.)

41818523. sy475 Cori from My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay :: I would say I connected to so much of the feelings of many of the characters in this one, not just Cori. I haven't ever been in such a terrifying situation such as they are, yet I still understand their fears, their uncertainties, their struggles to work together as a team with others that they don't always understand. I just got it. Plus the fact that they're overseas in another country and culture that they don't understand and yet have to survive in, that spoke to my longing for travel even before I ever imagined getting to go overseas myself! :)

These are just a few examples. There are many more and we'd be here for pages and paragraphs longer if I were to truly analyze what I related to in every story that I LOVE. (So I won't do that to you. ;) But I can say, again, that the biggest reasons I will fall in book love with a particular story hinges on me being able to connect with something or someone within it. Otherwise, it's pretty much a no go.

What about you?

February 11, 2020

Review: If For Any Reason by Courtney Walsh

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This one is a super sweet and emotional read! Ms. Walsh is so good at that combination. It's been a little while since I read one of her stories, so this was like renewing an old friendship. :)

One of the highlights for me was the details on the theatre. Knowing that Ms. Walsh has a great deal of personal experience in that area, her wealth of knowledge and the joy it brings her shown through her descriptions. I connected with that part of Emily's life, even though I have zero experience and know nothing about it myself. I love when that happens in a story.

Another of my favorite things was Hollis' family. They are so loving and caring for each other! And since Emily is in desperate need of such in her life, I loved seeing how they swept her up into being part of them and made her comfortable. Plus they helped provide a safe place for Hollis to figure out his relationship with his daughter. They truly are one of my favorite fictional families now. They're not perfect, none of the characters are, but the flaws only endear them further.

The romance bits were adorable, of course. (Which was only to be expected! This is a Courtney Walsh novel after all.) I appreciated that they were friends first, a good friends-to-lovers romance is one of my favorite tropes and Ms. Walsh handles the transition really well. Because goodness the chemistry between these two! Yet both Emily and Hollis have a lot of growing to do, so I especially appreciated the slow way the romance heated up, giving both time to process through all the stuff they needed to.

Overall, I really enjoyed the emotions I connected with while reading. The grief, the uncertainty, the fear, the familial love, and most of all the hope that threaded everything together from beginning to end. Several moments brought smiles, while others made me turn the next page as quick as I could to find out how a character would respond. Beautifully written, Ms. Walsh continues to solidify her spot on my list of awesome writers!

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

It was funny how you could miss something so much and not know you missed it until it was back in your life again.

February 10, 2020

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Fifty-Four {the Ruth Logan Herne edition}

So back a few months ago I was having a lazy Sunday afternoon. While trying to decide what book(s) I should read, I somehow ended up on a Ruth Logan Herne kick! And ended up devouring four books of hers all in one day. (Why yes, I did stay up quite late that night, why do you ask? ;) To be fair, most of them are stories on the fairly short side. So that's how such a feat was possible.

Anyhoo! Ms. Herne is definitely an author worth reading and, having met her in real life, I can add that she's just an awesome person all the way around! :) So you should definitely check her books out if you haven't read anything by her before now...

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At Home in Wishing Bridge
You'll probably think I'm crazy for starting a series with book two, but something about the synopsis for this one convinced me to pick it up first. And it was oh so delightful! I loved all the characters and goings on in this little town. And I, especially, LOVED the friendships at the core of the series. Thea, Kelsey, and Jazz have such a wonderfully solid reliance upon one another, where they can bolster the others in one conversation and speak hard truths in another. Their friendship feels real and true, which gives a firm foundation for the rest of the cast of characters circling around them. And Thea and Ethan? Oh my heart, they are so good for each other! Only it takes a bit for them to truly realize this. Which makes for a fun journey! And now I'm all excited for Jazz's story next. Cannot wait! :)

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Her Secret Daughter
Ah the complications that begin this little story! They are difficult and uncertain, and significant enough to have a huge impact on everyone involved. And beautifully set up the adorable romance that kept me turning the pages. Josie and Jacob are super sweet together, add in the cuteness that is Addie and we have the makings of a complicated, adorable mess of emotion. Watching Josie deal with her conflicted emotions and attempt to do the right thing at every new turn was heartbreaking, yet hopefilled. I think that's what I loved best about this romance, the hope that permeates their interactions. (Plus the chemistry between them. ;) This story made me smile a lot and that's precisely what I liked about it.

Yuletide Hearts & Mended Hearts
Two stories in one! And what fun stories they are. A redeemed bad boy who makes a tomboy swoon (Matt and Callie) was my fave romance between the two. But don't get me wrong! Jeff and Hannah are super adorable too! Both of these guys are pretty much goners from their first meetings with their respective ladies and watching as they swept each lady off her feet was just...ah, there are no words. I wanted adorable romance and I got precisely that! Plus a little character growth, which was the icing on the proverbial cake. :)

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Christmas at Star Inn 
by Margaret Brownley, Mary Connealy, and Ruth Logan Herne
So I picked this one because of Ms. Herne, but thoroughly enjoyed all the stories found therein! The Star Inn features prominently, of course, and it was fun to see how each couple ended up there and what staying at the inn did for them. Sweet romances, strong character growth, and simply loads of fun makes this anthology a wonderful addition to my Christmastime reading!

February 5, 2020

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Fifty-Three

The Words Between Us By Erin Bartels
This is very much a gripping read! I was pulled into Robin's world from the first few paragraphs and stayed glued to the pages. As her past is slowly revealed and we discover just what has made her into the person she is today, I was thoroughly intrigued. However, I have to say that while I was very much invested in where her journey would take her, there were several moments that jarred me out of the story. The overall flow just wasn't as smooth as I wanted. And the ending...well, it simply fell a little flat for me. I was expecting more of something during the final pages and never found it. Things finished up a little too cleanly and quickly for me. So while I was captivated by the storyline, I closed the book feeling disappointed. But overall, still a wonderfully told story!

Letters From Paris by Juliet Blackwell
The idea of death masks fascinates me! I'd never heard of them until reading this story. Clair's journey to discover the history behind a particular death mask and the slow unfolding of what really happened years ago kept me turning page after page. Plus the romance bits were pretty cute. :) Overall an intriguing story that I'm glad I read.

26114524The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You 
by Lily Anderson
When a favorite reviewer highly recommended this teenage take on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, I knew I'd have to try it. And I wasn't disappointed! It translated into modern times very well (as I figured) and was just a whole lot of fun. Mostly the bits between Trixie and Ben. Those two characters never failed to make me laugh and shake my head at their determination to not admit their feelings and then be unable to deny them. :D Super fun with adorable romantic bits, if you like Much Ado, I think you'd enjoy this one.

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The Last Drop by Erynn Mangum
I love Erynn Mangum stories, especially her Maya Davis series. This is a wonderful continuation of them! Presley is so much fun, Maya is as awesome as always, and the romance...well! I loved every cute and adorable moment! Definitely you should start with book one of the series if you haven't read it yet, but each successive book is loads of fun and this one is a perfect ending. (Only I wouldn't be opposed to more Maya books! Just saying. :)

February 4, 2020

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Fifty-Two

And here we have another Christmas edition! I must have been in the mood for Christmas stories this past December because as I went back over my list there were a whole lot more on there than I'd realized. A good problem to have, though, right? :) Some were good and some a bit forgettable...

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I decided this was the year I'd finally read this little volume and I'm so pleased that I did! I may have thought I knew this story, but it still surprised me in parts. Which is a good thing. :) For being a "ghost story", it has a whole lot of light and hope within it. I can see why so many have loved it for so many years. A particularly good quote: "The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but, though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light, which streamed from under it in an unbroken flood upon the ground." (emphasis mine, obviously)

Now I want to try another Dickens novel... :)

The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
It started out super fun and then went in a completely unexpected direction. But this shouldn't surprise me coming from Dickens, right? :) I did enjoy the story overall, though, I just wasn't prepared for some harsh realities that hit. Yet there is hope threaded throughout the story, so that helped tremendously. Still, the first several paragraphs are perfectly described and woven that I was invested within the story before I knew it. I loved those bits particularly!

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Christmas at the Circus by Joanne Bischof
A sweet and wonderful return to Charlie and Ella Lionheart's world! Entirely too short for my liking (a good problem, yes :), I loved getting a small glimpse into their married life. It reminded me it's been far too long since I last read The Lady and the Lionheart!

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
Having watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on this book a couple years ago, I was intrigued to try this. Of course, books and movies always differ, so I had a few disappointments. But overall this was an intriguing story, very Christmasy and enjoyable (mostly). There were parts I particularly liked better than others and I won't say that I will ever pick it up again, but I'm not sad I tried it. (Plus, does it ever make you feel like patting yourself on the back when you try a popular and well-known author even if you didn't love their story? Perhaps I'm the only one... ;)

Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm 
by Jaimie Admans
Ms. Admans certainly has a way of writing addicting stories! Because somehow she got me to finish this one when I felt like the beginning wasn't truly hitting all the right buttons for me yet. As I pushed on farther, though, my interest picked up by about midway through. Having now finished it, I can say that it's cute overall. Perhaps not one that I loved, but still enjoyable. The romance was adorably fluffy. If you're interested in a quick, Christmasy and wintery story, then try it! You may just love it more than I. :)

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Christmas Every Day By Beth Moran
I loved Jenny! In spite of her current awful circumstances, she forges a path through all the yuck and discovers life again. Her fabulous personality gets her through just about anything. There were bits about this story that disappointed me, but I stuck around for Jenny. And Mack! Because having a neighbor who does good deeds (while grumbling) makes for hilarious interactions between them. I laughed several times during their conversations. I also love the friendships that spring up around Jenny, through hardly any effort of her own. She is simply just that awesome and easy to love. Bits I loved and bits I didn't made an interesting combination but overall a sweet story.

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Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale
This had it's cute and sweet moments. Particularly when Nick interacts with Max, Abbey's son. Their scenes always made me smile. And the romance was fun, mostly. There were bits that just didn't work for me, but overall an enjoyable read. Very Christmasy and romantic, which was all I was in the mood for, so it worked!

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A Bramble House Christmas by CJ Carmichael
Hallmark movies are terribly addicting and when they are based upon books, I tend to want to try them. Turns out that can mean good things or forgettable things. Unfortunately I would label this story as one of the ones that was just intriguing enough to make me finish it, yet there was much that wasn't flowing so smoothly for me. That's not to say it's a terrible book! Just not for me, sadly.

Christmas Joy by Nancy Naigle
This reads exactly like a Hallmark Christmas movie, which is precisely what I wanted. A little bit cheesy, a little bit predictable, a whole lot Christmasy, and quite an adorable romance. It was the perfect way to while away a sick day spent in bed. It made me smile through the misery! :)


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