Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kristi Scores with Book Four!

RITA Award-Winning Author Kristi Ann Hunter's Hawthorne House series transports readers back to Regency England. Fans are ecstatic that now in book four Griffith Hawthorne, Duke of Riverton, is getting his own story in An Inconvenient Beauty.

Griffith is a man who "like[s] order...traditions and routines. He especially liked when those around him followed them, because predictability meant a minimum of surprises." (Hunter, 127).  He applies these same characteristics in his search for a wife. His sights are set on Miss Frederica St. Claire, but the lady of the hour seems intent upon alluding his courtship and foists her beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge on him. Making her society debut, Isabella Breckenridge is quite the toast of London with "her ridiculously fashionable and symmetrical features." (Hunter, 142).  Her presentation is overshadowed by her main purpose...obtaining the money needed to save her family's farm, thus begins the story of An Inconvenient Beauty.

Hard to put down, this book is filled with romance intertwined with blackmail, intrigue, and surprising plot twists.  

Earlier this summer I had the privilege of meeting Kristi in person. She was kind, gracious, and exceptionally funny. Kristi wears many hats, one being a talented author. After reading her books, she was everything I expected she'd be...and more.

** An Inconvenient Beauty was provided to by the author herself and Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Here’s Looking at You Kid!

Celebrating Casablanca's 75th Anniversary
 Who doesn't recognized these memorable movie lines?!
 “Round up the usual suspects” 
"Here’s looking at you, kid”
and Bogie’s ad-libbed last line,
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” 


I recently had the incredible opportunity to see Casablanca in theaters, honoring the 75th anniversary of this momentous film. Hitting the silver screen in 1942 Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three; Outstanding Motion Picture, Best Director and Best Writing/Screenplay.

 By the time Casablanca premiered in 1942 American-born actor Humphrey Bogart had 20 years of acting under his belt. The role of Rick Blaine, an expatriate nightclub owner, was his first romantic lead. During the course of his career Bogart was nominated for best actor three times, winning only once for The African Queen (1951).  Casablanca was one of the films that earned him status as a cultural icon and according to the AFI (in 1999) he's classified as the greatest male star of classic American cinema. Bogie is also credited with having five famous film quotes, the most of any actor on  AFI's top 100 Quotations.

Swedish-born actress Ingrid Bergman had been in the film making industry for about a decade when the role of Isla Lund, (the lovely Norwegian wife of Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), an anti-Nazi underground hero) cane along. Not surprisingly, this is a role she is most remembered for. Always carefully screening the roles she played Bergman would continue to act for another 40 years. She accepted her final role in 1982, passing later that same year at age 67.
Bogie and Bergman, what a perfect pair!
So much more I could say
about this enduring film,
but I'll just simply end
with paraphrasing one of the
movie's popular quotes,
"Play it again, Sam."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Deadly Proof is Legal Suspense Taking on "Big Pharma"

Justice for her clients is Kate Sullivan’s motto.  Being assigned as lead counsel against Mason Pharmaceutical (MPC) for a new drug cover-up is a career-making case. Despite this, Kate’s focus is still solely on helping her client. When an MPC employee and whistle-blower is murdered, she realizes the stakes of this lawsuit are dangerous.

She enlists the help of PI Landon James, a former Army Ranger, to help her uncover the truth behind these allegations.  Kate breaks every stereotype Landon had about lawyers and he finds himself falling for the idealistic, auburn-haired attorney.

Working together can Kate and Landon expose the truth before it's too late?

Deadly Proof was the first book I read by author Rachel Dylan. The author hooked me from chapter 1 and kept the suspense intensified throughout the entire story.  Kate’s passionate and earnest personality won me over. However, as a reader I would have liked to see a few more flaws in her. Most of her “flaws” seem to be internal rather than external. Because of this I found her a little hard to fully relate to as the heroine. This would be my only minor critique. Other than that, Deadly Proof was an exceptional book and I look forward to reading more books by Ms. Dylan.

**Deadly Proof was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Fatal Trust is a Decent Legal Thriller

How would $200,000 dollars change your life?

Young, determined, attorney Ian Wells is straining to keep his deceased father's struggling law firm and care for his mother diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer's. He's near the breaking point with the stress of his job and his mother's mounting bills.

Everything changes when he receives a call from a new client. The case is to preside over a sizable will and judge if the 3 recipients have committed any criminal activity over the past 20 years. The payout is $200,000 for a week's worth of work.

Ian is suspicious of this large amount of money he receives simply for assessing if each beneficiary qualifies for the money. Ever more mysterious, his father drafted the original will 20 years prior. This calls into question his father's character which he had always thought to be man of honor.

Can Ian unravel the secrets surrounding his past before time runs out?

Reading a novel by a male author is rare for me. As a reader, I tend to gravitate towards stories with strong female leads. It was interesting to read a story that centers around the hero. Ian Wells was a hero who was complex and relate-able.  Fatal Trust was my first novel by Todd M. Johnson. My overall impression was that it was well-written and engaging.

** Fatal Trust was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Rosemary By Any Other Name

A Name Unknown explores identity, which can be found in many aspects such as a person's name, heritage, or occupation. Ultimately, Roseanna M. White's overarching theme is that if we are in Christ our identity is found in Him. Ms. White showcases her ideas in this stirring novel.

 Her heroine, Rosemary Gresham, is an exceptional thief able to blend in with the upper-class and embezzle high-value items for profit. Orphaned at eight, stealing has helped her survive the dangerous streets of London. She would even fall in with a band of  thieving urchins who become her family. Rosie's line of work leads her to the mysterious "Mr. V", who commissions her for a job that stretches Rosemary to the limits.  Posing as a librarian, she is sent to find evidence of a wealthy gentlemen to determine if he is loyal to England or Germany.

Her hero, Peter Holstein, an English citizen of German descent, fears he will lose everything, all the while political tensions in England are boiling over with the threats of WWI.  In an effort to prove his loyalty he hires Rosemary to help him find documentation confirming his allegiance to England.

Through personal letters Rosemary and Peter form what could be characterized as more than a serious friendship.  Over time this causes her to feel guilty of being there under false pretenses and second guess her efforts to find Peter, "the wealthy gentleman", disloyal to England.

Congratulations Ms. White on keeping your readers wanting to turn the pages into increasing tensions, romance, and danger.

** A Name Unknown was provided to me by the author herself and Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

De Havilland and Cagney Shine in Strawberry Blonde (1941)

Dame Olivia de Havilland's Hollywood career spanned from 1935-1988 and she appeared in 49 films. De Havilland is best known for The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Gone With The Wind (1939), and her award-winning performances in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949).
To honor this two-time Oscar winner on her one hundred one birthday this month I wanted to review one of her films.
In 1941, she made The Strawberry Blonde alongside veteran actors James Cagney, Rita Hayworth, and Jack Carson.

Set in 1890's New York, Strawberry Blonde tells the story of Biff Grimes (Cagney), a man who takes nothing from nobody because "that's the kind of hairpin [he is]" falls in love with beautiful, society girl, Virginia Brush (Hayworth). His dishonest friend, Hugo Barnstead (Carson) steals her away and marries her. Displeased about Hugo and Virginia's union,  Biff courts and marries Virginia's best friend, Amy Lind (de Havilland).

In the end Biff realizes the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence and he's the one that's blessed having married Amy. He's content with his life and loves his wife.

Strawberry Blonde showcases de Havilland's talent for comedy. The double date scene is one of the funniest parts in the film (i.e. de Havilland's winking at Cagney and "Exactly").

Being set at the turn of the century, Strawberry Blonde is an atypical screwball comedy during this era in Hollywood, but holds up well and still maintains a delight and charm about it 70 plus years later.

Fun Film Trivia:
Strawberry Blonde (1941) is sandwiched in between 2 remakes with the same title: One Sunday Afternoon (1933 & 1948).

Director Raoul Walsh considered Strawberry Blonde to be his most successful picture and his personal favorite of all his films.

My rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Some of the singing sequences slowed the film down a little, but you can easily fast-forward if that bothers you. Other than that I enjoyed the film as a whole and would recommend it. I appreciated that the film strove to present a moral about being content.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Heart On The Line; Code for Captivating!

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and text

It was a pure pleasure to travel back to Harper's Station in Karen Witemeyer's latest book, Heart On The Line. Readers become better acquainted with Grace Mallory, the quiet, shy, and sweet, miniature- gun -toting, telegraph operator who longs for a normal life. Weary of constantly looking over her shoulder, she's been on the run for almost a year after witnessing her father's murder, frightened that the man responsible will find her. Her communication via wire after hours with fellow telegraph operator "Mr. A" has turned into a strong friendship....perhaps even a courtship?

150 miles away in Denison, Texas,  Amos Bledsoe (Mr. A) prefers riding bicycles over horses. When he intercepts a threatening message over the wire meant for Grace; believing her life to be in danger he tosses aside his insecurities about meeting her and saddles up to save the day.

And so begins a page-turning journey of Morse code and  mystery, romance and rescue.

I loved how the author built Grace and Amos' relationship from their first initial awkward face to face meeting to their budding romance throughout the story.  Amos' character was a departure from Ms. Witemeyer's usual heroes, but I found him completely charming and endearing. He's "quick-witted, clever, and invested"(Witemeyer, 106). Grace sees beyond Amos' quirks and appreciates him as a kind and honorable man. Beyond this Amos "...boost[s] her confidence, [makes]her feel comfortable in her own skin. No pretense, no need to impress. Just acceptance, respect, and honesty." (Witemeyer, 128).  Truth be told....isn't this what we all want?  Amos and Grace truly compliment each other and their chemistry leaps off the page.

I enjoyed seeing Grace's character grow throughout the story. Initially, she's a person comfortable with being in the background, but she  comes into her own and realizes her strength.

The cover for Heart on the Line is so creative and one of my favorites. It's extremely clever the way the Morse code is interwoven with the title. The contemplative smile on Grace's face makes you think that she's just received a wire from Amos and the way her finger is poised above the machine as if she's reflecting on her response.

Ms. Witemeyer has a brilliant flair for capturing the reader's attention from page 1 and sweeping them away in whatever adventure she chooses. Heart On The Line has all the components that make a superb story. Energetic characters, engaging story filled with love and intrigue.

** I was extremely honored to receive a copy of Heart On the Line from the author herself and Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.