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Book: The Director’s Cut

About the Book:
Author: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2012
Series: “Backstage Pass” (book 3 of 3)
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

Tagline: The one thing she cannot direct is her heart

The Story (from the publisher): Tia Morales is used to calling the shots. She’s the director of the popular sitcom Stars Collide, and her life on set is calculated and orderly. Well, most of the time. But her life outside the studio is another matter. If only she could get her family to behave as well as her stars do! When she starts butting heads with handsome camera operator Jason Harris, it’s enough to send a girl over the edge. Will she ever learn to let go and take life–and love–as it comes?

My Thoughts: Tia’s story rounds out what has been a “fun” series. Set in the glamorous and glittering, fast-paced world of Hollywood, the books take a unique approach in each storyline – all three angles of filmmaking, acting and writing, are covered. Book one looks at show business from the perspective of actors, followed by the screenplay writer viewpoint, and then directing. Of the three, I think hers was the story I was (subconsciously) most anticipating. Even from the first, meeting Tia and before I knew who the final book was about, I hoped Tia would get a chance to have her story told and indeed Thompson did not disappoint. (Plus it didn’t hamper my enthusiasm that I also hoped a certain cameraman who was a source of irritation to Tia would be leading man potential. *wink*) I loved this little book despite the fact that it was the least wholesome of them all. Continue reading “Book: The Director’s Cut”

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Stars Collide by Janice Thompson

About the Book:
Author: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2011
Series: “Backstage Pass” (book 1 of 3)
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Tagline: Her future is so bright, she’s gotta wear shades

The Story (from the publisher): Kat Jennings and Scott Murphy don’t just play two people who are secretly in love on a television sitcom–they are actually head over heels for each other in real life. When the lines between reality and TV land blur, they hope they can keep their relationship under wraps. But when Kat’s grandmother, an eccentric star from Hollywood’s golden age, mistakes their on-screen wedding proposal for the real deal, things begin to spiral out of control. Will their secret be front-page news in the tabloids? And can their budding romance survive the onslaught of paparazzi, wedding preparations, and misinformed family members?

My Thoughts: Unlike the topics most books that are set in Hollywood cover, this series is a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce a television show, and I suspect that with a background in TV writing, Janice Thompson puts a realistic spin on a fictional comedy. Telling the story of a family-friendly sitcom, Stars Collide book one finds the leading stars, Kat and Scott realizing that their on-screen characters lives are mirroring reality. Kat has crushed on her good-looking co-star Scott since day one and after a lighting snafu, Scott’s under-cover-of-darkness kiss convinces both of them that there is a spark between them… they just have to risk the always-persistent paparazzi – and most importantly Kat’s 70-something grandmother not finding out first! Continue reading “Stars Collide by Janice Thompson”

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Hello, Hollywood! by Janice Thompson

About the Book:
Author: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2011
Series: “Backstage Pass” (book 2 of 3)
Genre: Christian Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

Tagline: When it comes to love, one thing’s for sure – it doesn’t follow a script!

The Story (from the publisher): Athena Pappas is the head writer on one of the most popular sitcoms in television history. But when Vegas comedian Stephen Cosse is brought in to beef up the show’s suddenly sagging ratings, she starts to worry about her job. Sparks fly as the competition–and attraction–between the two writers heats up. Athena has never had a problem scripting the romances of her characters. So why is her own love life so hard to script?

My Thoughts: After reading the first book in this series, interest in this was high because I wanted to like this series more than how the title read and I thought this book would realize all that untapped potential. It isn’t a question of whether or not Janice could up the stakes – I knew she could because I had been so spoiled after reading her “Weddings by Bella” series; it was a question of whether or not she would rise to the occasion. That crazy series was a nearly perfect romantic comedy trio that was not only was wholesome but also rich with witty humor. Here, in book two we follow Kat’s best friend, Athena’s story and despite the fact that I started out liking it better, I think she and Stephen’s romance got tangled up in underdeveloped plots and uninteresting incidents in all the wrong places. Or perhaps it was the romance that didn’t suit. Continue reading “Hello, Hollywood! by Janice Thompson”

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Book: Blue Moon Promise

About the book:
Author: Colleen Coble
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2012 (re-release)
Series: “Under Texas Stars” (book 1 of 3)
Genre: Fiction, Christian Historical
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

The Story: Stubborn Lucy Marsh is not about to watch her family fall apart – no matter if her materialistic funds seem all but gone. Her job as a seamstress may have been taken away but she is not about to let that stop her from seeing that the two young siblings left in her care are taken care of. Following the recent death of their father, Lucy realizes that she won’t be able to continue paying rent even in their small lodgings if she cannot find another job and so it seems an answer to prayer when out of nowhere Texan cattle baron Henry Stanton turns up on her doorstep with a proposition: Marry his son. Skeptical about his proposal, Lucy realizes that Stanton’s past friendship with her father seems reason enough to leave behind Ohio and start life afresh – and when a man breaks into her home looking for something Lucy doesn’t know she possesses, the decision seems all the clearer.

Nate Stanton is not a man with marriage on his mind. His ranch is his first – and only priority, as is his desire to see his father’s dream of an “empire” realized. When his father returns to Texas after a “business trip” with a bride for Nate in tow, Nate is furious! But since his father had his signature to do business on his behalf and he is now married to the petite, pretty blond by proxy, leaving Nate with few options.

As Nate and Lucy try to reach compromise and get to know one another with two children to care for, they find Lucy’s father was being used – and a thief now wants his treasure back.

My Thoughts: Originally published under the name, The Cattle Baron’s Wife, this novel was recently re-released under a new name, and presumably with some new, up-to-date editing techniques and the like, put into practice. I used to think that I liked novels set in the old Wild West more than other genres but now, I think that opinion has shifted. Most of the time the sub-genre within Christian fiction is really cute but a couple of years ago I read an author who was new to me (she primarily writes  exclusively that genre), but her writing did not much mesh with my preferred type of book. This novel is not a “bad” one by any means but it is also not as griping as I wanted it to be – I wanted to like it more than my conclusions allowed in the end. Continue reading “Book: Blue Moon Promise”

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Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren

About the book:
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publisher: David C. Cook
Publication Date: 2012
Series: “The Grand Tour” (book 1 of 3)
Genre: Fiction, Christian Historical
Rating: 5 out of 5

The Story (from the publisher): It was the summer of 1913, and Cora Kensington’s life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, so is her father’s health. Cora is carrying on, helping her mother run their Montana farm until a stranger comes to call, and everything changes. Cora then learns a secret that will radically change her future: she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king who has come to claim her.

Cora is invited to take the “Grand Tour” of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person’s education, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France with half-siblings she’s never known, Cora encounters the blessings of the Kensington family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning.

Faced with the challenge of accepting her father, new family, and the identity that comes with it, Cora also struggles to accept that she is also the daughter of the one true King-a Father who is the only One who can truly heal.

My Thoughts: This is the first novel I have read by Bergren and I must say, as an author who was finally finding one of her novels on my bookshelf, the story first enticed me by its premise then left me intrigued like no other novel has. Or at least not in a looong time. Furthermore, when an author whose writing I find endearingly humorous compared it to Downton Abbey, I was pretty much “sold” on the idea that this novel couldn’t be anything but a keeper. It follows a young farm girl who learns she is not the biological daughter of the man she called “father” for her entire 20 years. She is actually the illegitimate daughter of Montana’s wealthiest copper king. In the aftermath of these events, Cora is plunged into a world she knows nothing of and feels forced towards social requirements and people she has no proper knowledge of but the true cusp of the story is in finding one’s identity. Something each of us will be able to relate to in some form or another. Continue reading “Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren”

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Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad

About the book:
Author: Lorna Seilstad
Publisher: Revell
Series: “Lake Manawa Summers” (book 1 of 3)
Publication Date: 2010
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical

The Story: Although wealthy and spoiled by her beloved father, Marguerite Westing is none too keen on her mother’s plan to see her married – to the one man Marguerite cannot stand. Roger is a perfect gentleman but where she craves adventure, Roger is so staid he could make almost anything usually boring seem interesting. When her father makes plans to take his wife and daughter to Lake Manawa in 1895 Iowa, Marguerite is thrilled whereas her mother horrified at the mere thought of sleeping outdoors! During their say, the spunky socialite discovers sailing… and the handsome instructor, Trip Andrews.

Suddenly all is right in Marguerite’s world and things seem to be looking up. She could marry Roger Gordon if she is given this one last summer of freedom… or she might find she is losing her heart to the sailing instructor. Then her father’s habits threaten to ruin the family name, and everything nearly comes crashing down around the family. Will Marguerite do what is right to save the Westing name? Or will she trust her heart?

My Thoughts: Bored. That is what the normally, clumsy, blonde-haired spitfire socialite Marguerite Westing is. The spunky heroine feels trapped in her world despite having everything at her disposal – including her father being wrapped around her  little finger – all of which is about to change! Despite the fact that our heroine is bored stiff by a suitor who is crushing her free spirit – a guy who makes watching paint dry seem interesting, we honestly can find nothing about the story with which to call it “tedious.” Its first chapter starts great and this fabulous, comical and whimsical “fairy-tale” that new-comer Seilstad fashions into historical settings, rich with detail and the grand characters easily keeps us delighted – and most of all, wishing for so much more! Possibly even that it would never end.  Continue reading “Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad”

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The Ride of Her Life by Lorna Seilstad

In this, Seilstad’s third and final novel in the “Lake Manawa Summers,” we are given Lilly’s story; the girl who kept Marguerite in check back when first we met her in “Making Waves.” When I discovered that is who Seilstad’s third and last book in this series was going to be about, I remember thinking what a good choice she had made. Knowing that Lilly’s story is not your typical boy-meets-girl idea (she being a widow) like Marguerite’s and Emily’s was, makes the reader view the novel differently. As a widow with a young son, this had the promise of starting out very melancholy but I appreciated the author not endearing Lilly’s husband to us as a character introduced on the pages in either of the former books. Instead he is a figure present but never developed. Here we get to experience Lilly falling in love not for the first time or in the blush of a first love but a second time that is a more mature, but equally enthralling love. Hero Nick is an admirable guy and just the sort of man we want to see win the stubborn heart of Lilly – he is also the best fit to warm Lilly’s heart to the idea of something new… to loving again.

One of the best things about this series, or this novel in particular is its consistency. Before twenty pages are gone, we are re-introduced to both of the female protagonists from the prior books and I loved that the author kept such close tabs on their friendship. In the case of this novel, it was important to see Lilly at the center of a friendship that would do anything to see her happy and well looked after, even if it means going “around” her pride because she had a lot working against her. If there is one thing that I would really wish different it would be moving things along a touch more quickly. Like the other books, this one tends to take too much time on events (one event can lag on for two to two-and-a-half chapters) – overusing and over-playing them. On the other end of the spectrum, I do not like a story to not take time at key moments, furthering them but even given that, I think this could have been written better and without lagging on the majority of occasions that are undeserving of so much space. Continue reading “The Ride of Her Life by Lorna Seilstad”

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My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

I am the sort of reader who usually is willing to try a book even if it has an unfamiliar name emblazed across the cover. That was my motivation in taking a keen interest in this novel – I saw the cute cover (that usually is what draws your eye), read the synopsis, and thought, “it sounds good.” Debut author Becky Wade did indeed create a sweet, engaging romance that is not just a romance but also an affectionate piece of writing that blends a fairy-tale (of sorts – not in the “traditional” sense) with realism perfectly. In my humble opinion, there is a fine line in crafting that balance but it seems to be something that I crave in authors – and Wade captures it skillfully. It tells the story of the thirty-something Kate who is burned out with her job as a social worker. While helping her grandmother renovate her ancestral home, Kate meets the broken-hearted Matt – a former hockey celebrity. Naturally sparks fly between the pair.

In more depth, here are the things I loved, and those I wish had been handled differently. Continue reading “My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade”

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Book: Winning Balance

About the Book:
Author: Shawn Johnson
Publisher: Tyndale
Publication Date: 2012
Genre: Autobiography, General
Rating: 4 out of 5

My Thoughts: There probably are not many of us who have not heard of the pint-sized, gold-medal-winning gymnast who won over the heart of America at the 2008 Olympic Games. If her name is not familiar from the sport that she excels at, then you probably “met” her on the eighth season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (which she also won). This book is a journal of sorts that she has written for her fans about her life so far – her growth in maturity and her faith; the lessons life has taught her and getting back to the place where she is more happy – and healthy. It is rare that I read books in which the celebrity name emblazoned on the front shares their life’s story. My tastes seem more suited to fiction but I do not regret having read this book in the least. Not knowing much about Shawn’s private life so much as her professional one (even that is limited), I enjoyed getting to “know” her as a person and not a mere celebrated figure who’s spotlight was made bright by her appearance at the Olympics – and subsequently her gold-medal win. If you’ve followed this athlete, I’d wager that in reading this, you will learn a lot of things about Shawn you didn’t know. Some that may even surprise you. Continue reading “Book: Winning Balance”

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Book: The Hunger Games

Reading this novel was… interesting. I read it not for a multitude of reasons but one: Simply put, I was darn curious about it. To give a bit of background on my exposure to The Hunger Games before news of the big-screen adaptation broke (dare I say this…), I had never heard of this trilogy. Shocking, I know. Anyway, after all of the buzz surrounding the series seemed to capture my attention, I asked Danielle if she would be willing to write a review on the book for my blog, and she graciously accepted. After that, I couldn’t hold out any longer and succumb to my curiosity. The book both entertained me and also annoyed me as a reader.

Less of a review and more my thoughts on what I hope is left intact in the movie, be warned: This is a looong “review.”

Continue reading “Book: The Hunger Games”