Monday, May 26, 2014

May 2014 Movie Wrap-Up

By Andrea Renee Cox

Much like last month, I’ve been very busy. Tutoring has wrapped up for the semester, and I’m currently preparing for the summer session. My two-week break between sessions will be put to good use. My plans include cleaning up my house a bit more than usual, rearranging things to fit my new piece of furniture (pictures of the new piece to follow soon), watching the NBA conference finals, and writing, writing, writing. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze a little movie-watching time in these two weeks as well. If I do, maybe I’ll have a few more movies to recommend next month.

Here are a couple movies to tide you over on this last day of the Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy!


The Book Thief

This movie completely blew me away. It reminds me of The Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Set in the same time period, The Book Thief tells the story of a young girl who gets adopted by a laid-back man (portrayed by Geoffrey Rush) and his spunky wife (portrayed by Emily Watson). She makes friends and learns to read for the first time, even though books are being burned in the town she lives in, due to Hitler’s harsh creed. To continue her reading lessons with her new Papa, she must find books to read, even if it means becoming the Book Thief.

The star of this film, Sophie NĂ©lisse, brought innocent charm to the screen that I haven’t seen in a while. Not only that, but she held her own in the small sets she shared with the intimidating Geoffrey Rush and the plucky Emily Watson. Now, Geoffrey impressed me. I’m used to him playing bad, creepy guys (think Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean). But in The Book Thief, he earned a new level of respect and admiration from me. Emily Watson is an actress I’ve enjoyed since I first saw her. Each role she portrays, she plays it to perfection in a fun, never-know-what-she’ll-say-next kind of way. This role was no exception.

You may want tissues available when you watch this one. Also, it does deal with circumstances that may be difficult for children to see and understand, especially young children.

Disney’s The Pirate Fairy

This is the sixth Tinker Bell movie Disney has created. What I like about these films is they give more stories in the world we first discovered in Peter Pan. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always enjoyed the idea of Neverland and mermaids and pirate ships. With Disney’s The Pirate Fairy, we find more connections to the original Neverland tale of Peter Pan.

First of all, we see a young James Hook, who later becomes Captain Hook. Providing the voice for this character is Tom Hiddleston, a great actor with stunning blue eyes and a lovely British accent. I first saw him as the blue-eyed soldier (a.k.a. Captain Nicholls) in War Horse. Right away his talent stood out, along with those eyes. His voice is the perfect choice for young James Hook. It goes right along with what I remember from the original Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

Another connection is the introduction of the crocodile. He may be a lot smaller, but that didn't make me root for him any less. I loved seeing him in this movie. It just added another layer of fun in a cute flick.

The other connections I’ll leave as surprises for you. How many can YOU find?

Readers, what are your favorite movies to watch over Memorial Day Weekend? Do you watch lots of war movies? Do you watch them alone or with your family?

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Be My Guest - Tracie Peterson

This month's guest is best-selling author Tracie Peterson. I'm thrilled to play the hostess for her as I really enjoy her books. I'm always on the lookout for more of her novels to add to my collection. If you haven't yet read any books by Tracie, I hope this article of hers will inspire you to pick up one soon. You'll love it!

Inspiration Abounds
By Tracie Peterson

Tracie's 100th book!
Book One
Lone Star Brides series
Inspiration for writing has never been hard for me to find.  I've always loved to read nonfiction and study history, so that offered me great places from which to pull interesting tidbits that would help to create a book.  Many has been the time I'll be reading about something that happened in one town or territory and the author will state that "No one knows why it happened."  Or in the case of a person, "No one knows who was responsible."  I love statements like that because it gives me freedom to create what I think might have been the answer.

I'm also inspired by visiting places.  Historical areas always speak to me.  I'm drawn to the styles and architecture, the set up of towns, the local customs and the people.  It's always so interesting to sit down with locals who've lived in an area for multiple generations and listen to their family stories.  I would never copy someone's story per se, but always there is a thread of something that sparks an interest in my imagination.

Book Two
Lone Star Brides series
For most writers, I think these techniques are true, but speaking for myself I can also add that having a great imagination is probably the one resource I use the most.  I watch people, I listen to conversations, and I observe the world and think to myself, "What if...."  There is seldom a time when I'm not considering story ideas and my imagination runs wild with the "What if's."  I love to take a situation that would have a typical response by most people and twist it to a very unusual response by my hero or heroine.  Of course you always have to give them the proper motivation when they act out in a way that is other than the "normal response."  Motivation is critical and so often lacking in stories today.

Book Three
Lone Star Brides series
My current release A SENSIBLE ARRANGEMENT is also a good example of this imaginative process.  Book one in the new LONE STAR BRIDE series was created to tie two previous series together (STRIKING A MATCH and LAND OF THE LONE STAR series).  Readers kept writing me and telling me they wanted to know more about Jake from Striking a Match.  Later other readers wanted to know how little Marty Dandridge turned out from Land of the Lone Star.  I looked at the two characters and had a fun thought.  Why not marry them together and show the readers how life turned out for them both in one series?  It proved to be great fun and I hope the readers will enjoy revisiting some characters as well as meeting new ones.  There will be three books total in this new series.  Book 2 A MOMENT IN TIME comes out in June and Book 3 A MATTER OF HEART comes out in October 2014.

Oh and just to add another favorite tidbit - A SENSIBLE ARRANGEMENT is book #100 for me!

Tracie Peterson is the award winning, best-selling author of over 100 books. She makes her home in Montana with husband Jim, a historian, who helps with historical research.  Together they also teach at a variety of writer conferences and workshops.  Tracie also was one of the founding members of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Thank you so much for being my guest today, Tracie! Congratulations on your 100th book! At this point, I can only dream of reaching that goal. You've set the bar pretty high for the rest of us, but I'm very glad. May you continue to find success in your journey with God.

Readers, in celebration of Tracie's 100th release, let's talk about our favorite Tracie Peterson books. Which one is your favorite and why? Is it the characters? The setting? The time period? I'm eager to hear which ones you like best.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

A Table by the Window

By Andrea Renee Cox

The cover of A Table by the Window instantly intrigued me. The black-and-white look balanced by the burgundy tones of the title and byline spoke of another time and place as well as adventure. The dreamy-eyed stare of the cover model, looking directly at the reader, made me wonder what secrets she held. Ever since I first saw this cover online, I’ve wanted to read the book.

Then I read the back cover copy. It brought an entirely new depth to my desire to read this book. Here’s the back cover copy. What do you think about it?

Every cook knows finding the right balance between savory and sweet is a tricky business.

The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurant dynasty, food writer Juliette D’Alisa has spent her life negotiating her skill with both words and her restaurant aspirations. When her brother Nico offers her a chance to open a restaurant together, she feels torn—does she really have what it takes? Should she risk leaving her journalism career?

Sorting through her late grandmother’s belongings, Juliette discovers an antique photograph of a man who looks strikingly like her brother. As the truth behind the picture reveals romance and startling secrets, Juliette struggles to keep the mystery hidden from her nosy family until she can uncover the whole story.

Beginning a long-distance relationship with a Memphis-based immunologist just complicates Juliette’s life-shifting decisions. How can she possibly choose between a promising culinary career and a doctor whose life is worlds away from her own? Is it possible her grandmother’s past can help her move forward?

Hillary Manton Lodge crafted a beautiful story centered around the food the characters love creating, eating, and sharing with one another. This contemporary romance felt like it came from a different era. It also felt personal, like Juliette and Nico and the rest of their family were really good friends of mine. Maybe that’s because it’s written so eloquently in the first person. Or perhaps it’s because I was pulled into the tale right from the beginning. One of the things I particularly liked was the inclusion of some of the recipes of foods Juliette and her family and friends made in the chapters. I’d never seen recipes included within the text before, but it was a mark of ingenuity on the author’s part. Very nice touch.

My heart twisted at Juliette’s longing when I read this line in chapter one: “Restaurants may have been my first love, but that didn’t mean we were meant to be.” Oh, the anguish I felt for her in that moment! As her journey unfolded on the pages, I was tugged along very gently until suddenly I was fully engrossed in Juliette’s life. I kept whispering words of encouragement to her, and yes, I shared her tears. When a book grabs me so totally, that’s when I know I’ve been reading a masterpiece.

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for the complimentary copy of A Table by the Window in exchange for my honest review.

Readers, since this book made me hungry, let’s talk food. What’s your favorite recipe? Do you prefer to fix it yourself or have someone else do the cooking? Have you ever found cooking to be therapeutic?

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Here to Stay

By Andrea Renee Cox

Coming soon (as in tomorrow!) to a book store near you is Melissa Tagg’s sophomore novel, Here to Stay. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and a wonderful sequel to her debut book, Made to Last. The characters are heartwarming, the story easy to connect with, and the small-town family rivalries familiar to us all in some fashion.

Blake Hunziker plays the prodigal son as he returns from wandering the world after a tragedy changed his life forever. He hopes to find forgiveness and closure but doesn’t expect to find it in the father who’s always held him to high standards. When he receives a job offer, he realizes he’ll need help from one of his family’s rivals to pull off Whisper Shore’s annual Christmas festival.

Autumn Kingsley has been stuck in Whisper Shore her whole life and dreams of traveling across the globe. Before she gets the chance to chase her dreams, she must restore her family’s inn to its former glory. Despite the fact that the Hunzikers and Kingsleys have been rivals for decades, she needs Blake’s help to make the necessary repairs to her inn.

Will they put their differences aside long enough to help one another during this holiday season? Or will they allow their families to ruin any chance of bringing success to their little town? Will their different dreams collide somewhere along the way?

Many parts of Here to Stay had the laughter pouring out of me. Among them were a wasp attack, roof prank, and Melissa Tagg’s unique writer’s voice. Believe me, this story will have your giggle box turned on from the get-go. Not only did Melissa write a hilarious story, but she also knew precisely when to turn the tone more serious. Her timing is impeccable. The plot perfectly planned out. The build-up and ending fit together in a greatly satisfying way.

I can’t say enough good things about this story. You’ll just have to read it for yourself and form your own opinion. Here are a few of my favorite lines to pique your interest:

This one made me chuckle.

“Jamie, I’ve already grouched at you this morning. I have no desire to add to that by scaring you with my morning hair.” ~Autumn Kingsley; Chapter Four

After reading this one, I found myself reprimanding Autumn. There’s always reason to pray, girl!

“What was there to pray about? When your dream finally hit the ‘come true’ part, you ran with it, didn’t you?” ~Autumn Kingsley; Chapter Two

This one I found swoon-worthy. Tell me if it doesn’t make you sigh happily.

“Because I think you, my dear, might be my open door.” ~Blake Hunziker; Chapter Six

Here to Stay swiftly leapt up my favorites list. It’s standing firmly in my top three. That’s a tricky spot to earn, but Melissa Tagg did it with flair. Must say, I’m looking forward to more from this author. This one beat her first one, in my opinion, and I’m anxious to see if she can do it again. Come on, girl. You’ve got this!

Thank you to Melissa Tagg and her publisher, Bethany House, for a complimentary copy of Here to Stay in exchange for my honest review. It’s been a blast being a part of your influencer team. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of spreading the word about your first two books. With such great writing, you make my job so easy.

Readers, when was the last time a book made you laugh out loud? Was there a specific character that tickled your funny bone? Do you like it when books make you laugh?

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