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Summer’s Coming! Try a Book Club!

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It’s almost book club time over here. I’m trying to get through The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown by Tuesday. This kind of nonfiction is always a slower read for me, but I’ve actually been on a WWII kick lately and this story’s timeline pretty much fits into that (the tag line reads ‘Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics’). I watched The Zookeeper’s Wife recently and loved it so much. Then I watched pieces of Schindler’s List again. Then Casablanca was on TV the other night, one of my favorite movies of all time.

For my reader friends out there, does anyone recommend reading The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society? The movie looks wonderful (could just be the Downton Abbey fan in me, seeing Lily James), and I’ve been wondering about the book. My TBR list is a little overwhelming but I might squeeze that one in soon.

I’ve been thinking about book club nights over here. I feel so ready to sit out on the deck, under twinkle lights, and talk about books over appetizers and wine. That’s tricky here in Colorado where we’re supposed to have snow tomorrow (during the church spring tea! Oh dear). But summer nights are coming, and for me, a summer book club is just the perfect thing. One of my favorite summer book clubs ever was when a group of girlfriends and I read Eight Hundred Grapes over the course of a month or two, then all got together and had wine and cheese and snacks and talked about the book. Or there was the year some girls and I read Outlander and talked about the book over chocolate and cheese fondue, under twinkle lights on my deck. So. Much. Fun!

Are you part of a book club? I’m part of a local one and regardless of whether we rave about the book we read or dissect it completely, there’s something so fun about getting together with friends to talk about it. Sitting at Starbucks and sipping a latte, or around the fire pit at Marina’s house and eating brownies, or on Tara’s gorgeous deck with an incredible view of the mountains–the topic starts around the book and can lead to anywhere.

If you’re not part of a book club, just ask a few friends to read a book together over summer and get together to chat about it. Last summer some friends and I read From Sand and Ash and then got together at my friend Krista’s to chat about it. A delicious cheese board and mixed drinks and a lovely summer night made this altogether perfect.

All you need for a fabulous summer-night book club are some reader friends, snacks, and a book to discuss. (Twinkle lights are optional but highly recommended. And when in doubt, chips and salsa are always a good idea.) And getting together at a restaurant is just as much fun if everyone needs a night out rather than a night in.

For any book club readers out there who might want to do a summer book club and read The Last Summer, you can email me at brandybrucewrites@Gmail.com for discussion questions for your group. One more suggestion might be to go through The Romano Family Collection for a summer book club. This collection is made up of three short novels. Choose one and then get together for a one night book-and-supper club combo. Have a potluck dinner and chat about the book. (And here’s a link to bookbub’s top picks for summer book clubs this year: https://www.bookbub.com/blog/2018/03/13/best-book-club-ideas-2018/.)

As summer gets closer, I inevitably start thinking of book club nights, delicious appetizers, and who might be up for a thrown-together party of reader friends. If your schedule is just too jam-packed for reading, do the party anyway! Tell everyone to come ready to share about one book that rocked their world (this could even be a book you read when you were a child).

Warm summer night.

Good friends.

Good food.

Yummy drinks.

Conversation.

You can’t lose. 🙂

 

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Amongst the Roses with Meghan Gorecki: Author interview!

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Hello loveys! How’s your April going? I’m super excited to have Meghan Gorecki back on the blog today. She’s so much fun! Meghan’s got a new novel releasing this month and we’re going to chat about it. Let me give you the book blurb and then we’ll hear from Meghan.

About the book:

The War Between the States shakes Margaret Bryant out of her comfortable upper-class life when her father enlists in the Army of the Potomac. Despite being safely ensconced above the Mason-Dixon Line in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Margaret finds her strength tested by opposition from familiar faces and Confederate threats. Will she let a young man from a lesser station into her heart even as war rages ever nearer to the home front?

Restless Connor Doyle sees the war as a way to escape from his family’s farm and his identity as a poor Irishman’s son. His brother, Adam, torn between duty to country and his family, enlists alongside Connor. Adam dares to hope in a future with Margaret when he begins a courtship correspondence from the war front. The two brothers make a vow to protect one another at all costs, but when faced with death and destruction from all sides—will they be able to uphold it?

The three bloodiest days in America’s history bring these three together at Gettysburg and tragedy’s cruelty threatens to tear two hearts apart—and bring two unlikely allies together.

My thoughts:

This is a story that brings the Civil War to life. With strong characters and thoroughly researched text, you can tell that Meghan poured her heart and soul into this story. And that cover! Swoon! For lovers of historical fiction–especially the Civil War time period (raises hand, guilty of a Gone with the Wind obsession! Who’s with me?)–you’ll appreciate this epic novel that’s the first in a series to come.

Interview with Meghan

1. What was the inspiration behind this story? Meghan M. Goreki

The history, and how the North’s side of things in the war rarely gets shown in historical texts and in fiction. Not to mention the strength and tenacity of the women who kept living and living well under dire circumstances they’d never had to face before when their men enlisted and left them for months or years on end. The stories shown in old letters or journals of how families rallied so well and supported each other through their world being at war, are stories that can and should be honored through fiction that points to the One who holds time, and hearts, in His hands.

  1. Were any of the characters inspired by real people?

YES! The sisters—all of them but Louisa—were inspired by my own. Sara’s two years younger than me, and Anna eleven years younger. They keep me grounded and down to earth—and always laughing. And they are there for me when it counts, without fail.

 

  1. What kind of research goes into this kind of historical novel?

Years worth. LOL I’ve always loved the Civil War era and cannot get enough of it, so researching this novel was part immersion for months, then whittling down the piles of research to the Absolutely Necessary Details and Plot Points, to researching during the writing to triple check for accuracy. It’s honestly my favorite part of writing.

 

  1. Which character did you connect to most?

Probably Margaret. She cares so deeply, and has her identity so (wrongly) rooted in superficial or external things, instead of the One who created her, which causes all sorts of issues and pressures for the resident control-freak of the story. But, as we do so often in life, she learns how to surrender and let go the hard way.

 

  1. When you’re writing, what snacks/drinks/music do you usually have around you to keep you going?

Coffee and tea in intervals, oftentimes something super salty or mildly sweet to munch on (think popcorn and Swedish fish), and I have my trusty Spotify playlists of book soundtrack, or synesthia/instrumental music if I really need to focus.

 

  1. When you’re not writing, what do you most like to do for fun?

Be around people! LOL Writing’s very solitary, so when I’m not on deadline (tearing my hair out) I try and spend as much time with my people as I can. Movies, catching up on reading, being out in nature if the weather’s nice, things like that.

Thank you so much, Meghan! And congratulations on this beautiful book release. I’m so happy for you!

Here’s more about Meghan:

Meghan M. Gorecki is an author of inspirational fiction about what God can make beautiful from the ashes of history, and hearts. A lover and avid studier of people, times gone by, and fiction, she has been writing since childhood and now houses her books under Northern Belle Publishing. Coffee and red lipstick color her days as a redhead from a box, alongside her treasured tribe of family and friends in her beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Book Links:

Amazon | Goodreads

 

Author Links:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

March Reading!

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Hello loveys! How’s March going for you? It’s been busy over here. Spring break, freelance projects, kids’ activities, trips to the library, etc. But I’ve managed to squeeze in a few good books. I’m currently speeding through Carla Laureano’s Saturday Night Supper Club and loving it, and I had signed up to read Dear Mr. Knightley with some online reader friends starting April first so that’s around the corner.

34848682So for March reading, I read The Woman in the Window. My sis Sara recommended it, so I knew it would be good and it was. This book is like blending together The Girl on the Train and the movie The Rear Window. It’s definitely borrowing from both of those (in the case of the second, the main girl is even a black-and-white movie addict and mentions The Rear Window along with lots of other suspense/thriller/noir movies). But it has plenty of unique aspects to the story and kept me guessing until the very end. I read this one in two days because I couldn’t stop.

Next, I finished True to You by Becky Wade. I’ll be honest and say this was my first Becky Wade book. I’ve seen her books everywhere online (she’s a popular inspirational romance writer), and have only heard good things about all her books. So I started with this one and really enjoyed it! Just when I thought everything was peachy-keen for the hero and heroine and we were going to spend lots of chapters just going on dates with the couple, the author threw in a completely unexpected twist, grabbing my attention again. I love when writers surprise me. I’m a sucker for happy TruetoYou_mck.inddendings (though I’m okay if not everything’s wrapped up perfectly, but if I’m left feeling sad, it wasn’t a good read for me), but one thing I really appreciate in fiction is unpredictable storytelling. If I can tell from page one where we’re going, I’m more likely to start skimming. So the fact that she wove in a great twist made me love the story. Not to mention the heroine is a mega-fan of this British TV series that sounds a lot like Downton Abbey. Loved that. (Not to mention the cover is gorgeous!)

On to the supper club book. Since I love food themes in books and movies, this is a good choice for me. Right away I felt like watching the movie Burnt again. Have you seen that one? About a chef–or two chefs? Yes. Good idea. Let’s take a moment and recommend movies that incorporate food. Tortilla Soup is one of my favorites. Also, No Reservations. Also, Julie and Julia. That’s a good start. Also, The Hundred-Foot Journey is wonderful. What was that you were saying? Let’s come back to this further when I review the book? Okay.

Guys, speaking of movies/TV, there’s a new development in my life. One night the Jeffster and I were flipping through Netflix, looking for something to watch because we’d finished The Last Kingdom and were having withdrawals. After searching for hours (because that’s what ends up happening with Netflix), I just randomly clicked on The Originals. And now I follow all the characters on Instagram and I’m obsessed with the show. (I come to these things late, I know.) The last season starts in April and I’m trying to catch up quick. Jeff and I will start watching one episode after the kids go to bed, and then it’s one a.m. before we can turn it off. We’re so hooked and it’s so fun and I’ll be sad when it’s over! So if you like the Originals, sound off below and share the obsession. Or if you’ve watched Vampire Diaries (I haven’t but I know they’re connected. As I said–late to this party). Guys, what do you watch on Netflix? Any recommendations?

So we’ve made it to the end of March (today is actually my sister Sara’s birthday! Happy birthday, sis!). On to April reading, guys! What will you be reading (or watching!) next month?

 

February Reading and More!

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Guys, I love to read. I have ever since I started reading. But with work and kids and a house to maintain, there’s no doubt that finding time to read has been tricky for at least a decade. Tricky or not, I squeeze in time here and there. So far, 2018 has been a good year for reading. I signed up for a reading challenge on Goodreads and it’s so fun to keep track of what I’m reading for the year.

I just got back from a trip to Virginia and as soon as I realized I’d be flying somewhere by myself, I got all excited about having time to read. I managed to finish Next Year in Havana, Still Me, and start The Selection. IMG_0858I enjoyed all three books so much.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton drew me in with its dual storyline and intriguing look at Cuba. I loved getting what felt like an insider’s look at Cuba, past and present. (Also, it really made me appreciate the freedom we have in America.) Family secrets, danger, romance–there was a lot to enjoy in this story. For some reason, dual storylines always take me longer to read. Maybe because you’re trying to keep track of two stories and how they intersect. Regardless, it was a great read.

And I loved Still Me. To be honest, Me After You was not my favorite. I wanted to know what happened with Louisa Clark, but it just didn’t capture my heart the way Me Before You did. Louisa is such a delightful character that I wanted to know where her story ended up, after the sadness she, of course, went through in Me After You. Still Me (like Me After You) went in all kinds of directions I had not expected. (There were moments when I paused and thought, Where are we and how did we get here again?) But the story took hold of me and I was again rooting for Louisa. I like when stories keep me guessing (but I can get crazy and have to flip ahead when I can’t wait anymore!). This book kept me guessing and ended so well. I recommend it for fans of Me Before You.

And finally, I just finished The Selection by Kiera Cass. I really do love YA fantasy, but it’s been a while since I read a book from that genre. With book club choices and others on my TBR list–and so many popular YA fantasy stories that I can’t keep track of what I’m missing out on–I’ve been on a little break. But this cover stood out to me forever ago, and I’ve had it on my to-be-read list ever since. It was such a fast, easy read, I should have read it ages ago. (Plus side, I think the series may be finished so I can read them straight through.) I found the heroine to be likeable and relatable. And all the covers in the series are gorgeous! If you like YA fantasy and you’ve never tried this one, I recommend it.

February felt like Jane Austen month over here. Since the start of the year I’ve read Jane of Austin, The Austen Escape and Jane by the Sea. I either need my own vacation to Bath or a (very) temporary break from all-things-Austen. However, I did love all three books! Jane is the queen.

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I’m about to dive into a few freelance projects so my reading time may get squeezed even more over the next several weeks. And I have some exciting book news coming up soon in my next newsletter. If you haven’t signed up for that, hop over to https://brandybruce.blogspot.com and plug in your email to sign up. I can’t wait to share that with you!

What have you read so far this year that you’ve loved? Any recommendations?

 

 

 

 

 

 

February is ALL THE LOVE (giveaway!)

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IMG_0197.jpgCan you believe it’s already February!? It’s a busy month at my house. Valentine’s Day and the Daddy/Daughter Ball and our anniversary–PLUS my little sister is having her first baby and the whole family is so excited. I truly love Valentine’s Day. We don’t go too crazy over here, but chocolate is a MUST and there are cards and usually some stuffed animals and the kids love all of it.

One thing I always think of around this time of the year is my novel Looks Like Love. Maybe because the cover is pink and white. Maybe because it’s a story of a girl seeking out adventure, and stumbling across a little romance along the way. It’s a novel that digs into the question What does love look like?  The main character, Kasey, has been dumped by her long-time boyfriend, so she heads off to visit her best friend, who just happens to be British. London is calling! So Kasey embarks on a trip of self-discovery, a touch of romance, and a lot of fun. When she gets back, things at work get crazy. The advertising firm where she works has finally landed LETA, a cosmetics company branching out with their first fragrance, called Love. Kasey’s tasked with finding out what love looks like, and then finding a way to sell it. From double-decker tour buses to glamorous galas–you’ll want to join Kasey on her journey to find out the truth about love.

The picture above includes a little “Book of Days.” I dug that out this morning when working on an Instagram photo post. This is one of my treasures. It’s the journal I filled out on my Europe trip, way back in college. I’m so thankful I wrote down even snippets of every day I was there. It was a trip of a lifetime and that little book helps me remember the details. The month I spent in Europe was the inspiration behind Looks Like Love. The places that Kasey visits–such as Westminster Abbey, Stonehenge, Bath, and more–are places I went to on my tour and that were stamped on my heart forever. The last week of the month was spent in Paris and Rome and Florence with my dad. The next year I would get married, so those days of just the two of us were extra special. (Though, I will say that admiring the Statue of David with your dad is an interesting experience! Ha! But we made it through and had an amazing time, from exploring Paris, to traveling via train in a sleeper car on our way to Rome (two little grannies shared our cabin!), to dinner in Florence. Those are moments I cherish.)

So, in some ways, Looks Like Love is imprinted with the heart memories of that trip. It’s one of my favorites and I hope you’ll check it out. Hop over to Amazon and read the first chapter!

The fun of Valentine’s isn’t just romance, and that’s part of what I love about the book. (Though romance is wonderful of course!) It’s exploring the many ways we see love in our lives–family and friends and so much more. Being loved by the people closest to us, and loving them well in return, makes all the difference.

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I thought I would do a little giveaway as my Happy Hearts Day gift to you! I’m offering one free Kindle e-book download for Looks Like Love. All you have to do is leave a comment (click on the rafflecopter link) telling us a vacation spot that’s on your bucket list, and for an extra ticket (not required), hop over and like my Facebook page . Since I want you to have this before Valentine’s Day, the raffle will run until February 9th. So spread the news, grab some white chocolate (Kasey’s favorite), maybe a little pink champagne, click on the link below, and get ready!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Starting Off Reading! From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

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IMG_0122Friends, we’ve almost made it through the first month of 2018! How are things going for you? Read any good books yet? Book club this month was my choice and I went for From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon. I was introduced to this book by my friend Krista (always trust Krista with good book choices!) and it was such a good read that I picked it for my month for book club. It’s a WWII era story (which I don’t always go for, I usually avoid heavy reads, but this one manages to leave you feeling hopeful and satisfied despite doing a phenomenal job with the war/devastation aspects that are bound to accompany this kind of book). Here’s the book blurb from Amazon:

Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.

But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.

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The writing just flows and the story flows with it, making this one enjoyable and fast-paced. I highly recommend for your book club or TBR this year! Our book club got together and discussed the story over snacks and wine at my friend Marina’s house. I love how book club discussion can go in any direction (we ended up talking about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for a long time! Ha!). This is a great story with characters you care about, gripping moments where you can’t breathe, and an ending that leaves you satisfied. Loved it!

Holiday Q&A with Author Alexis Goring!

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We’re ten days from Christmas, friends! (Breathe, breathe, breathe.) If you’re like me, you’re not quite ready. Every day this month is packed with things to do, but for this moment, I’m going to sip some coffee (with a healthy dose of peppermint-mocha creamer) and chat with my friend Alexis Goring.

Q: What’s one of your favorite aspects of the holiday season?Alexis A. Goring, Nov. 2014

A: One of my favorite aspects of the holiday season is celebrating it with family and friends.

 Q: Me too, absolutely. What’s your favorite holiday movie?

 A: “Last Holiday” featuring Queen Latifah and LL Cool J

 Q: I LOVE that movie! I need to squeeze that one on to my to-watch list! So, Alexis, cider or cocoa?

A: Caramel Apple Cider

Q: I’m with you again on that one. I love cider! Are you partial to Thanksgiving or Christmas and why?

A: I’m partial to Christmas because of the bright, festive atmosphere and spending time with the people I love. I also like giving and receiving great gifts!

Q: Tell us about your latest novel!

A: I finished writing my third book a few months ago this year. It’s about a wedding photographer who’s never been in love…until she meets the one man who she cannot forget!

BB: Awesome. Thanks so much for stopping by, Alexis. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Author Bio (short): Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ.

Visit Alexis at http://capturingtheidea.blogspot.com/.