Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fictional Crushes


So...it's nearly 11:00 on a Tuesday night as I'm beginning this post, but when I saw this week's theme for The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday feature, I couldn't resist jumping in! I have some pretty awesome fictional crushes, if I do say so myself. 

But seriously, it's kind of fun to pick favorites, isn't it? It feels like you're learning something new about yourself while getting some training in being decisive. 

All that to say, below are some of my fave fictional crushes. I'll try to avoid too many spoilers, but be warned that it's hard to gush without providing a bit of context. ;)

From the Screen:


This crush goes back about ten years or so. Oh my goodness, how I fell in love with Harry as a teenager! Funny thing is, he's really not in that many scenes of the movie (at least, not as many scenes as I'd wish him to be!), but he doesn't need much time to charm a girl. 

Harry is a drifter - a hobo - during the Great Depression. A guy who rides the rails and looks out for himself. Until Natty shows up in his life. He puts on a great show of being burdened by Natty's presence, but it's very obviously an act by a lonely guy who can't help but take Natty under his wing and watch out for her. 

(Harry is played by a young John Cusack. I really don't need to say more, do I?)

2. Gus Pike from the Road to Avonlea series

This crush goes back even farther than my crush on Harry. I grew up watching the Road to Avonlea series with my grandparents and uncle, and Gus Pike's character intrigued and enchanted me. You will find echoes of his fiddle-playing, adventure-loving, gentlemanly ways in one of my own historical characters (Myghal). :)

3. Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey

I suppose this character could go under the book section, as well...I'll have to see how I feel after a re-read of the book. I confess that the version of Henry Tilney I truly fell in love with is the one played by JJ Feild. It's the smile! And the teasing! And the amazing way he balances maturity and a completely endearing sense of humor. 

4. Prince Naveen from The Princess and the Frog

While the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) will always hold a special place in my heart, more and more I feel like Naveen might just be my favorite Disney prince. I just watched the movie again tonight (Mardi Gras and all that jazz!), and goodness, for an animated frog, he gets the sweetest, most tender expressions! I LOVE the way he grows in the movie and demonstrates his love for Tiana. Their relationship is funny, adorable, and allows them both to gain new perspective and remember what's really important in life. And that last scene of the movie?? It's just perfect.

5. Guy from The Croods

Guy is quirky. And hilarious. He's a "smart guy" with huge dreams and hope for the future. While he doesn't always have a choice about hanging out with Eep's family (*wink*), he has a big, loyal heart. I love the way he fits in with the Croods. I love his tenacity and his admiration for Eep. (Their relationship is so precious!) And Guy can tell a simple story in a way that will leave you spellbound.

From the Page:

6. Jervis from Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

To say too much about Jervis would ruin the story for those of you who haven't read it. (Why haven't you read it yet??) But sometimes it's what someone doesn't say...or what they do in secret...that make their character and feelings so darling and obvious. 

(I should add that this one could also fit under the first half of the list, because the live musical production that aired a while back was totally wonderful!)

7. Dexter from Recalled by Cambria Hebert

This might seem like an odd choice if you only know the premise of the book, or even the majority of the plot leading up to the end. Despite Dexter's assassination assignment, he completely stole my heart. I think it's the way he wrestles with himself...how he fights so hard and can't seem to shake the deeper desire to do the right thing. As often as he finds himself trying to take the easy way, he realizes his error. I don't know - his story probably isn't for everyone, but he won me over with his protective ways and ultimate decisions.

8. Jacin from Winter by Marissa Meyer

OK, this is such a tough one, guys!! It's between Jacin and Wolf for me...and I feel like I need to re-read the whole series before I make a final, final decision. ;) They both are terribly, wonderfully swoon-worthy! I guess, right now, I'm just thinking about the sweet relationship between Jacin and Winter, the guard and the princess. His love for her is so tender. *heart melts* But Wolf and Scarlet...oh, I do so love them, too!

9. Pono from Songstone by Lena Goldfinch

Lena's fictional heroes totally deserve a spot on this list - and it's hard to pick just the right one, since they're all so dear! I will freely admit to some bias, given my friendship with Lena and my work in editing for her. But in that case, I should also note that it was because of how much I loved her novella The Language of Souls that I started beta reading for her and discovered the beginnings of a beautiful friendship. :) So, I was totally a fan before anything else!

Anyway, back to Pono... He's brave. He's total hero-quality in the ways he sacrifices and stands up for Kita. Pono left an impression on my reader heart, and I think I'm due for a re-read soon so I can remember all the details of why I love him so much. Mostly, I just know that I do. ♥ 

Bonus!

A romantic fictional moment that caused me to burst into tears. 

Since the overall theme of this week's Top Ten Tuesday is Valentine's Day, I feel like this is a good place/time to mention a scene from a favorite show that affected me in an unexpected way. Curious yet? ;)

The show is Signed, Sealed, Delivered. The particular episode (movie, really) is From Paris with Love

(If you haven't seen it yet, this is definitely a spoiler. So please do skip over this, in that case!)

* * * 

This show inspires me, encourages me, and reminds me to have a broader, hopeful perspective on life. It makes me laugh and cry.

And with this scene, it literally made me burst into tears.

Norman and Rita are the sweetest characters. They're also extremely shy, and throughout all the episodes I'd seen up to this point, they danced around their obvious affection for each other in a still-satisfying but open-ended way. 

Until I got to the end of From Paris with Love. I was home for the holidays (a little over a month ago), and my family ended up joining me on the couch for at least part of the movie, which I had very happily caught on Hallmark channel. (Squealing might have been involved when I realized I could finally see this movie!) In the scene, their friend and coworker Shane just said goodbye, and Rita is trying to explain to Norman why Shane can't stay. (It's a matter of the heart involving another coworker.)

Suddenly, the truth finally comes out. I guess I just didn't think it would actually happen, but they did it. Norman and Rita admitted their feelings for each other. They even kissed! And I think I missed a good deal of that kiss because as soon as it happened, I literally burst into tears. It wasn't like the happy little tear rolling down the cheek. It was like an outpouring of relief and unanticipated joy. :'-) (My poor family probably didn't know what to do with me, haha.)

I'm not sure if I was just extra emotional that day or what, but I think I'm just really invested in these characters. I surprised myself when I realized just how much I cared about them and how much I wanted to see them be open with each other.

* * *

So that's my random romance-related anecdote. ;)

I'd love to hear if you've ever burst into tears because you were so happy for fictional characters! And/or I'd love to know about some of your favorite fictional crushes.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Prism Book Tour: The Express Rider's Lady


About the Book

Westward Wedding Journey

Delsie Radford is going to make it to California, no matter the danger or difficulty. Her father may have kept her and her sister apart, but Delsie refuses to miss her sister's wedding—even with only eighteen days to get there. And she's found the perfect escort in Pony Express rider Myles Patton.

Myles can't believe it when a pretty socialite hires him to take her cross-country through rough terrain and dangerous territory. Surely she'll quit before they reach their destination—he's known girls like her before. But the longer they ride together, the more Myles notices Delsie's toughness and kindness beneath her polished exterior. And though they may be worlds apart…they might just be perfect for each other.


Happy release day to a fab Love Inspired read!
Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Book Depository - Harlequin - Walmart

My Rating

Spring/Summer

My Review

This has to be one of the best Love Inspired books I've read to date. The Express Rider's Lady is just my type of story: a Western journey with a delightful mixture of humor, peril, and tender romance. I truly enjoyed the adventure!

I quite adored the hero, Myles. So, he's a bit brooding, let's be honest (is that a bad thing?)—but he's the kind of guy who's completely devoted to his friends and those in his care. There's this scene where it's been raining like crazy, and Delsie's health is at stake, and...well, I won't spoil the preciousness of the scene, but I'm utterly and completely a sucker for heroes with protective instincts as wide and fierce as the Wild West. *happy sigh*

I also really liked Delsie and their companion for the ride, Amos (a sweet older man who makes a great chaperone). The one main issue I had with the book was the ending. Not that the outcome isn't pleasing, but just that the effort to get there felt a little more dragged out than I'd prefer.

For a somewhat quick but very satisfying trip along the rugged routes of the Pony Express riders, complete with a romance that's as stirring as it is fun, let me introduce you to The Express Rider's Lady.

*With thanks to the author and Prism Book Tours for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*


About the Author

Stacy Henrie has always had a love for history, fiction, and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances. Wife of an entrepreneur husband and a mother to three, Stacy loves to live out history through her fictional characters. In addition to author, she is also a reader, a road trip enthusiast, and a novice interior decorator.

Website - Goodreads - Facebook - Twitter 
Pinterest

Giveaway!

- $50 Amazon eGift Card (open internationally)
- Print Copy of The Express Rider's Lady (US only)
- eBook of The Express Rider's Lady (open internationally)

Ends February 19th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tour organized by Prism Book Tours

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour: A Son's Vow



About the Book

Three months ago, everything changed for Darla Kurtz and her family. 

Darla’s father was responsible for a terrible fire at Charm’s lumber mill which killed five Amish men. And though he, too, lost his life, the town of Charm hasn’t looked at her family the same since. Even Lukas Kinsinger—with whom Darla used to have a close friendship.

Now her brother’s anger at the town is spilling over onto Darla, and she has the bruises to prove it. The accident already cost five lives, but if something doesn’t change soon, Darla fears it will cost her—and her family—even more.

Lukas Kinsinger wants to mourn the loss of his father, but he can hardly find the time to breathe. Suddenly the head of his father’s lumber mill and responsible for taking care of his three siblings, he’s feeling the pressure. He has also never felt more alone—especially with the new tension between he and Darla. But when he learns of her troubles at home, Lukas knows he can’t simply stand by and watch. Someone has to help her before another tragedy occurs.

As Lukas and Darla attempt to repair their families, they discover something deeper than friendship growing between them. But will Lukas and Darla’s love be accepted after so much loss? Or will the pain of the past overcome any chance of future happiness?

Shelley Shepard Gray’s first book in her Charmed Amish Life series is set in the quaint Amish village of Charm, Ohio, and tells the stories of the Kinsinger siblings who are each struggling to find both forgiveness and love in the face of tragedy.


My Rating

Fall/Spring

My Review

I was instantly intrigued by the description of this book. I love a story where the hero steps up and protects the one he loves!

I confess I'm not entirely sure what to think of how this particular story played out... One thing I will say is that this is a very sweet and hopeful book, despite it's traumatic premise. The main issue felt a little too easily resolved, and the ending a bit anticlimactic. And while I did enjoy reading about the protective instincts of our hero (Lukas), I didn't always appreciate his lack of gentleness when interacting with Darla.

My favorite couple was a secondary pair of characters. While I don't know how their differences will be resolved, I loved the tenderness of their relationship and how it was built on a growing friendship. They're so cute!

A Son's Vow was an easy read with a little less depth than I'd prefer (especially given the circumstances of the story), but with a lovely emphasis on forgiveness, friends, and family.

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity blog tour.*

About the Author

Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.

Litfuse Book Page: click HERE

Giveaway!

Enter to win 1 of 5 copies of A Son's Vow! Click HERE or the image below and fill out the form to get your name in the drawing. Giveaway ends February 10, 2016 and is open to US residents only. Good luck!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Cat Detectives Are Back! | Review of The Case of the Clever Secret Code



About the Book

Buckley and Bogey, Cat Detectives, find their next big case with the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Agency to be their most difficult yet.

It all starts one hot summer day, when the boys are sitting in the front window of their Mom’s antique store. That’s when they see a big, black limo crawling up the street and going right through downtown St. Gertrude.

So who is in that long, black car? None other than famous movie star, Steele Bronson! And his surprise arrival sends the entire town into a tizzy! Especially when he announces his plans to shoot his next movie right there at the St. Gertrude Library, housed in a historic four-story mansion. And wouldn’t you know it, but it all happens just when Gracie, the boys’ human sister, is a finalist in the town’s Fourth of July essay contest. Holy Catnip!

But it isn’t long before Buckley and Bogey realize there is something very wrong with the whole picture . . . including the one that Steele Bronson is filming. Because it soon becomes very clear that the guy is after much more than just an Academy Award. And when the drama turns to danger for the boys and their family, that’s when Buckley and Bogey jump into the scene. Because this is one case that has it all—from Fourth of July festivities to tales of the American Revolution, and from a secret code to a hidden key!

Unless Buckley and Bogey want to see this movie turn into a tragedy, it’ll be up to them to crack the case . . . as well as the secret code . . . Holy Mackerel!

Available Now


My Review

Talk about clever!

The BBCDA (Buckley & Bogey Cat Detective Agency) is back, solving a brand-new mystery and cracking the code. This case takes Buckley, Bogey, and their loved ones through the library, on the hunt, and into some pretty tough moral dilemmas. Yet it's a fun ride with a hint of National Treasure, plenty of patriotism, and a great big dose of warm fuzzies. Once you meet these cat detectives, you'll love getting reacquainted with them with each new read!

Poor Gracie, Buckley and Bogey's human "sister," has a LOT to deal with in this story. What starts out in star-struck excitement quickly breaks down into frustration and sorrow as actor Steele Bronson pushes Gracie and her family into the (unwanted) spotlight. To what end? What does a big-name actor and his team want with the small Texas town of St. Gertrude? And what does Gracie's Fourth of July speech have to do with them?

As hard as it is to see Gracie meet with failure after failure, one of the best things about this story (and the whole series) is seeing the difference it makes in a person's life to have the support of loved ones.

Another thing I loved about The Case of the Clever Secret Code? For fans of this series and its precious characters, let me tell you that it's a treat to see the way Buckley comes into his own as a cat detective. While a lot of the plot revolves around Gracie, Buckley is the main character—and he's finding his purr-fect (couldn't resist!) place in the BBCDA and within his family.

This latest Buckley & Bogey mystery shows that fame has a price and doing the right thing is its own sort of prize. The ending is quite enjoyable, and the case is one for the history books.

Disclaimer: The author is one of my previous clients from my freelance editing and publicity days—and more than that, she's become my honorary aunt and dear, dear friend. So I freely admit to having a special place in my heart for Buckley & Bogey and their Mom/author. :)

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book. A review was not required in exchange, but I offer this as my honest opinion.*

Bonus!
Enjoy this exclusive interview with Cat Detective Buckley.

Monday, January 25, 2016

From Fairy Tales to Regency Romance | Review of A Spy's Devotion



About the Book

In England's Regency era, manners and elegance reign in public life—but behind closed doors, treason and intrigue thrive... 

Nicholas Langdon is no stranger to reserved civility or bloody barbarity. After suffering a battlefield injury, the wealthy, well-connected British officer returns home to heal—and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary.

At the home of the Wilherns, one of England’s most powerful families, Langdon attends a lavish ball where he meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Determined to maintain propriety, he keeps his distance—until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian.

As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England—and the man she is falling in love with—need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray.

Will the two succumb to their attraction while fighting to save their country?

Releases February 9, 2016!

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Melanie Dickerson has made the transition from historical fairy tales to Regency romance with ease! I enjoyed the setting and character descriptions of A Spy's Devotion, as well as the steady pace of the story, urged along with bouts of danger. Dickerson knows how to craft engaging tales set in long-ago eras.

The hero, Nicholas Langdon, was a gentleman. Perhaps a bit too much so in some ways, because I wouldn't have minded if he was a bit clearer regarding his feelings and said what needed to be said when it ought to have been said. ;)

And the heroine, Julia Grey, was both brave and kind-hearted. She was tender when the situation called for it, but also very loyal to her country.

If you're a fan of Melanie Dickerson, a lover of sweet romances, and/or a fan of Regency stories with a bit of intrigue, then you'll want to check out A Spy's Devotion. It's a great start to The Regency Spies of London series!

*With thanks to NetGalley and Waterfall Press for providing me with an e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Monday, January 18, 2016

Join Me for the Little Women Read-Along in February?


Many thanks to awesome blogging friend Courtney (The Green Mockingbird / @CameraCourt) for bringing this read-along to my attention! I got a gorgeous Puffin in Bloom copy of Little Women from Barnes & Noble a while back, but I could use a little motivation to tackle this chubby (but lovely!) book. :)


The read-along is hosted by It's All About Books (@SueySays), Jenni Elyse (@jenni_elyse), and Kami's Library Thoughts (@kamisthoughts). Here are the details...
  • Who: Anyone's invited!
  • What: A read-along of Little Women by Lousia May Alcott
  • When: The month of February
  • Where: First discussion (February 10th) @ Suey's blog; second discussion (February 19th) @ Kami's blog; third discussion (February 29th) @ Jenni's blog
  • Why: To read a treasured classic with friends
There will also be some Twitter chats (#LittleWomenRAL) and a movie watch-along in early March. (Woot!)

If you're interested, you can learn more and sign up at Jenny's blog!

Hope to chat with you in February. :)


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Looking Back...and Feeling in Awe Once Again


I'm one of those people who has tons of journals, many of them partly used. I love having them around for writing down ideas, feelings, plans, lists. :)

While cleaning house and putting away Christmas decorations this past weekend, I delved into a box with several journals and other memorabilia. And, of course, I got sucked into a period of reminiscing.

I think we need those moments of looking back.

"Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders and the judgments of his mouth." - Psalm 105:5 (emphasis added)

I was deeply touched to come across an entry from a time when I was feeling really uncertain and worried about my future. I'll leave out a bit with some more personal details, but I wanted to share most of it with you...

* * *

January 15, 2013

Tonight is one of those nights... I'm feeling so uncertain about my future, and so afraid of my own fears and of never moving forward in love and life.

[...]

I don't know what's wrong with me. I think perhaps I'm being too prideful - I want to have a legacy, to see and know that what I'm dong has an impact on others, is meaningful, successful. I suppose that I want to be successful... And yet I'm lazy, and I'm scared of change. 

Do I really think God's hand is not strong enough or long enough to guide me, to help me? Heaven help me if I do. I know He can work His will for my life no matter where I live. I know He can give me the strength to take the steps I need to take. I just wish I knew what those steps were!

Am I like that second girl on Joe vs. the Volcano? She was afraid of declining her father's money and leaving to go live on her own. Joe told her, "See! You know what you're scared of doing. If you have a choice between ending your life and doing the thing you're scared of doing, why not take the leap and do the thing you're scared of doing?"

What am I scared of doing? I'm scared of applying for jobs. I'm scared of getting a job and having to work and maybe hating it. I'm scared of getting my license. What if I can't pass the test? I'm scared of the freedom - and the added responsibilities. I'm scared of taking the step between the sheltered life I have here at home and the life I can have out there. What if I'm rejected? What if I have to work in a negative atmosphere? What if I fail? What if I hate my job? I'm scared of having to make choices. I'm so impulsive, and my choices haven't always been the wisest. What if I make horrible choices?

What if I've been making excuses? What if I'm hiding from life? God help me, please, because I just don't know how to take another step. I don't know if I can make the right choices, and I'm scared of having to live with the consequences of wrong choices. Please, God, please guide me. My heart is quaking within me. 

"We'll jump, and we'll see." Make my crooked paths straight, please, God. Don't let me live in fear of the life you have given me.

"Thank you for my life. I forgot...how big... Thank you."*

* * *

I looked back at that time, almost exactly three years ago, and was moved by how God has worked in my life since then.

It would still be another year and a half after I wrote this journal entry before I'd be offered my current job.

A year and a half in which my editing business finally found traction and brought in some amazing clients who gave me wonderful work experience.

A year and a half in which I became an indie author.

A year and a half in which I got the driver's license that so terrified me.

And now, three years later, I'm living away from home. In my own little apartment, having survived job applications and moving and acclimating to a new job and life in a new town. While there have certainly been some rough patches and many, many learning experiences, God has brought me to a wonderful place.

Amazingly enough, I've even come to enjoy driving. My parking skills have greatly improved. :)

It's easy for me to caught up in the new journal entries. The ones where I stress about work and what I feel I'm lacking and the next step. Always the next step...

But the God who brought me this far, who faithfully helped me take those scary steps in His time, hasn't changed.

How could I doubt that He's just as much at work in this season as He was in the past?

Wherever you are in your own journey, I hope that you'll be able to look back at those previous journal/life entries soon and remember God walking beside you. You've come a long way, dear friend.

*These quotes are from the movie Joe Versus the Volcano with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (although likely not word for word). Yes, I do love to quote movies!