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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?

 

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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 Chat with Author Meghan Gorecki!

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Loveys, I’m so excited that my friend Meghan Gorecki is visiting the blog today to talk shop on the holidays! Meghan is an amazing editor and writer and person and–she’s basically awesome. So let’s chat!

What’s one of your favorite aspects of the holiday season?

The music! From the holiday hymns honoring Jesus’ birth, to the pop classics old and new that you get stuck in your head instantly—it’s all so happy and bright. I just love the spirit it brings and the warmth it ushers in even through the stress and hustle and bustle.

 

Oh! I LOVE holiday music. Seriously. I listen to it in June sometimes. What’s your favorite holiday movie? Oh gosh. Not gonna lie I sat here for twenty minutes thinking of one. Favorite holiday movie is probably White Christmas, followed closely by Little Women if that can be considered a holiday movie (hey it opens at Christmas, right?). And we can’t forget all the Claymation classics like Rudolph or The Year without a Santa Claus.

White Christmas and Little Women are both classic Christmas movies to me. We watched Little Women as a family every year of my childhood. So…cider or cocoa? Cider, actually! Cocoa is delicious but so very rich. Warm cider with whipped cream and caramel? Sign me up, any day, any time.
 

I’m a fan of whipped cream and caramel on anything actually. Are you partial to Thanksgiving or Christmas and why? Thanksgiving, for sure. The stuffing(!), the parade—and the reminder to count our blessings. And it’s kind of like autumn’s last hurrah, my favorite season, but I do still love Christmas too. Just partial to Turkey Day.
 

I definitely love both holidays as well. My family usually makes the same traditional meal for both, so it’s turkey again (or maybe a glazed ham!) and dressing and all the fixings. Okay. I’m getting hungry! Tell us about your latest novel! So my latest novel is coming out this April, and it’s a historical romance. Amongst the Roses follows Margaret Bryant, and Connor and Adam Doyle—three people from opposite sides of the tracks, brought together when the Civil War overturns all their lives. It’s set in Chambersburg, a large Pennsylvania city very near the Mason-Dixon line that saw three Confederate invasions during the four years of war. Here’s the official blurb:

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.

That sounds so intriguing! Meghan, thank you SO much for stopping by! Loveys, check out her Christmas novella. (I love the cover so much!)

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. Connect with her on social media and at her blog/website at: http://www.northernbellemeg.com (http://www.northernbellemeg.com)

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A Steel City holiday romance sure to melt your heart.

The holidays haven’t been the easiest for Merry Grainger. Five years ago, she lost her grandfather and got dumped by her boyfriend right before Christmas. Each season since sees her determined to avoid getting hurt again, and so she keeps a steel-like grip on her hopeless romantic heart.

Music used to soothe Sam Shepard’s soul until the death of his biggest cheerleader broke his heart, family, and dreams into pieces. Now he’s focused on thriving in the city, and with the people, he’s grown to love—all to keep the hole in his heart from opening anew with every passing holiday season. Thrown together by a church play and meddlesome family armed with mistletoe, will Merry and Sam unwrap their guarded hearts to let in the true hope of Christmas—and each other?

 

Talking Holidays with author Toni Shiloh!

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DSC01664.jpgQ: What’s one of your favorite aspects of the holiday season?
A: I love the kindness that permeates the air during the holiday season! People who are normally standoffish will offer a smile and a greeting. People seemed to stop and smell the roses and remember people are what it’s about.
Q: What’s your favorite holiday movie?
A:I love Home Alone and Home Alone 2. What’s even better is I can watch them with my boys and have a good laugh. It’s a great family moment.
Q: Cider or cocoa?
A: Depends on my mood. I’m all for apple cider but hazelnut hot chocolate is fantastic.
Q: Partial to Thanksgiving or Christmas and why?
A: I’m partial to Thanksgiving for two reasons: food and football. I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan and they always play on Thanksgiving so I get to eat and watch TV. 😊
makingspiritsbright.jpgTell us about your latest novel!
A Sidelined Christmas is one of the novellas in the Making Spirits Bright collection. I was honored to join the other ladies in the boxset. Once they asked me to join them, I started wondering what could happen during Christmas. Since I’m a football fan, I made my hero a wide receiver, only he gets injured during the Thanksgiving game. What could be worse? Sidelined with a career-ending injury, he goes home to Peachwood Bay to recover and runs into his high school sweetheart.
Thank you for stopping by, Toni!
Check out Making Spirits Bright on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0773TC1TR

Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness. She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and president of the Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.wordpress.com.

 

 

Progeny by Tosca Lee

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Progency_without-quoteSo . . . I just finished reading Progeny by Tosca Lee and I have to talk about it! This was really good YA fantasy. I was hooked from the storyline and the main character was likeable and relatable. One of my favorite things about this book was how well the author wove spiritual themes into a fantasy novel (that’s not strictly a Christian novel). She’s not afraid to create flawed, realistic characters in this fantasy setting, while at the same time explore questions about God’s existence and add in religious elements. Since I’m someone with a spiritual bent to begin with, this aspect of the story really connected with me. But even for someone who is nonreligious, this aspect just rolls into the storyline completely seamlessly. I’ve found that with lots of YA fantasy books, I enjoy the first novel in a series, but then find myself not invested enough to want to keep going. With this one, I’d like to know what happens in book 2. I know not every story can hook me like Harry Potter or Hunger Games (where I want to buy the next book as soon as it releases, even if it’s at midnight!) so it’s nice to read something that pulls you in and makes you want to keep going with these characters.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee brings a modern twist to an ancient mystery surrounding Elizabeth Bathory, the most notorious female serial killer of all time.

Emily Jacobs is the descendant of a serial killer. Now, she’s become the hunted.

She’s on a quest that will take her to the secret underground of Europe and the inner circles of three ancient orders—one determined to kill her, one devoted to keeping her alive, and one she must ultimately save.

Filled with adrenaline, romance, and reversals, The Progeny is the present-day saga of a 400-year-old war between the uncanny descendants of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, the most prolific female serial killer of all time, and a secret society dedicated to erasing every one of her descendants. It is a story about the search for self filled with centuries-old intrigues against the backdrop of atrocity and hope.