Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Movies in Review, Ratings, Random Comments

All stars out of 5 possible, like on amazon.

Zero Dark Thirty (1/12/13)  - 4 stars; Rated R; Intriguing, suspenseful even though you know the outcome; strong language

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (1/26/13) 3.5 stars; Rated R; Not exactly a keep and cherish sort of movie, but entertaining; contains gore and violence and random, gratuitous sex

Good Day to Die Hard (2/16/13) 3 stars; Rated R; things blew up, bullets were fired, but it suffers from being part 4 in a series of similar movies; strong language

Jack The Giant Slayer (3/2/13) 4 stars; Rated PG-13; Surprisingly likable though the princess still manages to pull some airheaded moves; Jack's forgettable, but the princess is pretty, the effects are decent and the end fight's interesting

Oz: The Great and Powerful (3/9/13) 3 stars; Rated PG; I'm not a huge fan of the creepy pastel, "New Willy Wonka movie" look to begin with though I did enjoy how they managed to re-tell the old story with some twists.

Olympus Has Fallen (3/23/13) 2.5 stars; Rated R; typical action flick; the White House gets attacked and a disgraced secret service guy's the last hope for saving the president. They tried to do some character development by having the secret service guy's wife in a few scenes but they weren't enough to really sell the emotional connection.

GI Joe: Retaliation (3/30/13) 2.5 stars; Rated PG-13; I forgot I saw this movie. The cliffside fight scene was cool.

Iron Man 3 (5/4/13) 4 stars; PG-13; typical Iron Man movie; not quite as good as Avengers but a neat action flick with random pieces of humor appropriately applied

Star Trek Into Darkness (5/18/13) 4 stars; PG-13; I don't remember much about the first one, but I did enjoy this one. I was distracted by the fact that the antagoist also plays Sherlock Holmes on the BBC series.

Man of Steel (6/15/13; 6/29/13) 4.5 stars; PG-13; This movie suffered from a slow start, but it was better the second time around. At first, I didn't like the way the flashbacks were organized, but the second time around it made more sense.

Despicable Me 2 (7/4/13; 7/18/13) 5 stars; PG; Better than the first. That's hard to pull off for a sequel. While it's good to have seen the first one then this one, I think they accomplished a lot more with the second movie. The minions are still charming and Gru's character continues to develop. The girls are still cute, and Agent Lucy's a nice addition to the equation.

The Lone Ranger (7/6/13) 2 stars; PG-13; Disney's new John Carter; It suffered from being entirely too long and drawn out. The Lego sets used to promote it were and are cute, but it couldn't save the movie.

Red 2 (7/20/13) 4 stars; PG-13; Interesting, fun action movie; Anthony Hopkins once again pulls off crazy very nicely. Bruce Willis and the rest of the awesome cast save the world again.

Wolverine (7/27/13) 3 stars; PG-13; decent fight scenes but overall, it was just an average movie.

Gravity (10/5/13) 5 stars; PG-13; not really my kind of movie, but it's a beautifully done tale of survival and a woman's fight to keep sane during a highly stressful situation.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire (11/26;11/30; 12/2/13) 5 stars; PG-13; Entertaining movie with enough character development to make me care and enough action to make the 2.5 ish hrs seem well spent. Yes, I saw it three times in a week. The fact that it was still interesting the 3rd time is a feat in and of itself. I didn't think anybody would go with me and had 3 hrs to kill, so I saw it by myself. Then I saw it with a friend I rarely get to see. Then I saw it with a different batch of friends. Surprisingly good seeing as I thought the second book was overall weaker than the first book. Since the third book drove my overall opinion of the series into a very large hole, it should be interesting to see what I think of the 3rd movie. I'm torn between avoiding it and letting curiosity suck me in.

Frozen (12/9/13) 5 stars; PG; The goofy movie poster belies a touching tale full of themes like loyalty, love, family, and sacrifice. It's got some stunneningly beautiful scenes and overall leaves a good impression despite a few awkward, forced songs.

Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (12/21/13; 12/30/13) 4 stars; PG-13; Apparently amazon reviewers don't agree with me. It's good, but it's not quite as good as I'd like the precursor to Lord of the Rings to be. It's definitely better than Hobbit 1: An Unexpected Journey, but it contains some forced parts and some useless characters. Beautifully scored, as usual. The dragon's pretty cool. Some of his lines are kinda stupid, but he's overall awesome.

Conclusion: 2013 had some rough movie patches, but overall, it was a good year with a very strong end movie-wise. I'm not sure any of these are one's I'd add to my blu ray collection, but they kept me entertained and coming back for more.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Release Event Sign Up - The Kiverson Case #HeartfeltCases @AuthorGilbert

Title: The Kiverson Case
Series: Heartfelt Cases: Book 2
Expected Release:  January 2013
Genre: Christian Mystery
Date: Jan. 17th
Time: 12AM - 8AM CST


Short Synopsis
Brain Work... 
Dominate Law Enforcement... 
A Powerful Impression.

**Posts do not have to be Top Post**

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Promotional Event Sign Up - The Collins Case #HeartfeltCases @AuthorGilbert

Title: The Collins Case
Series: Heartfelt Cases
Genre: Christian Mystery
Dates: Jan. 16th
Time: 12AM - 8AM CST

Working for the FBI certainly isn’t a “normal” job, but Special Agent Julie Ann Davidson has never encountered a case as personal as this one. Although not officially assigned to the case, Ann and her partner, Patrick Duncan, take up the cause of finding Rachel, Jason, and Emily Collins. As if that task wasn’t enough, Ann and Patrick also have a baffling case of internet thievery to investigate.

Who is Christopher Collins and what about his past is endangering his family? Where are Rachel and the kids being held? Where is God in the midst of chaos? Will Ann and Patrick arrive in time or will they find only pain?

**Posts do not have to be Top Post**

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Goodreads Thursday | The Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorella

Title:  The Stones Cry Out
A Raleigh Harmon Novel
Author:  Sibella Giorello
Length: 270 Pages
Released: Mar 2, 2011


When nobody talks... the stones cry out.

In the searing heat of a Virginia summer, two men plummet from a roof to the sidewalk below. One is a white police officer. The other is a black man with a troubled past. Although hundreds of people stood at the scene, no witnesses come forward. When FBI agent Raleigh Harmon is assigned the case, she quickly realizes nobody is going to talk.

The Bureau wants a quick verdict -- with or without the truth. To uncover the facts, Raleigh must rely on her forensic geology skills and her connections among Richmond's most powerful families. But can she she solve the case before her boss closes the investigation? And will her choices bring down everyone involved--including Raleigh herself?

**My Review**

The Stones Cry Out is the second book I'm reading from this author. It's significantly shorter than book 4 in the series, but I suppose that comes from it being the author's first venture into the mysterious realms of novel writing. Few authors can capture and present a character's voice as clearly as Giorello has done here.

As a first person narration there's a bit of awkwardness here and there, but the story flows easily. I like that Raleigh Harmon's more human than most fictional FBI agents. It seems that a lot of tv series and books like to show us the FBI hotshot: young, handsome or gorgeous, insanely smart, etc, but Raleigh's normal. The ending's kind of cliche, but that's forgivable. (tragic past coming back to haunt her)

Some plot points are a bit far-fetched and as a mystery it's fairly straightforward, but it's worth reading. Find it from the library if you think you'll balk at the spiritual overtones herein, but definitely give the story a chance.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Teaser Tuesday | Heartfelt 1: The Collins Case Chapter 2

Bold Move

Night rapidly approached as the two men carried Rachel Collins to their van.

Jense returned and coaxed the children out. “Your mother’s very sick and needs to go to a doctor. Me and my friend are here to help.”

“You’re a stranger,” Jason pointed out, studying Jense carefully.

“Call Daddy,” suggested Emily.

Jense smiled at the small child and picked her up. “We will later, but now, we’ve got to get your mommy to a safe place. Come on, she’ll want to see you when she wakes up.”

Emily reached out and touched the scar above his right eyebrow then started crying for her mother. Jense held his hand out to Jason. Reluctantly, the boy took the rough hand.

As soon as the two Collins children were in the white van, Thomas Randle drove off. The entire operation had taken less than ten minutes, but he was anxious to get back to South Dakota. He had never liked kidnapping jobs. They rarely ended well.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Snippet Saturday | Heartfelt Cases 3: The Davidson Case

Chapter 2 
Dangerous Secrets

“I told you; she merely looked at the files! It means nothing. I’m only telling you because you so nicely requested I tell you every time my employees dare to breathe!” His sarcasm accentuated his anger. “No! Everything’s under control. I mean it. Look, this is getting us nowhere. Just keep out of it!” Dr. Miles hissed.

Joy took that as a cue to leave. Her heart did double time all the way to her car.

The trip to her new apartment passed peacefully. Joy knew she should puzzle through the strange conversation, but she didn’t want to deal with anything work related. Instead, she began preparations for a dinner. Suddenly, she felt very alone.

How did Ann stand living alone for all those years?

Joy thought of her sister’s beautiful Golden Retriever.

Of course, she had Danny.

“I need a dog … or a man.” Noting the order, Joy chuckled.

After dinner, Joy eyed the mounting pile of dirty dishes. “Might as well get this over with,” she muttered, rolling up her sleeves. She didn’t mind doing dishes; it gave her a chance to think. As she hung the microwave plate in the drying rack, the inscription caught her attention. She laughed as she read, “ ‘For microwave use only.’ Ha!”

What else am I going to use it for?

“Wow, I really need to get a life.” Shaking her head, Joy turned on the television and spent several minutes flipping channels. As usual, she found nothing even remotely entertaining. With a sigh, she retrieved the smuggled photocopies from her purse. Two hours and a lot of internet research later, she finally saw the pattern in the files.

I’d better call Ann.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Promotional Event | Nadia's Tears @AuthorGilbert #DevyasChildren

Title: Nadia's Tears
Series: Devya's Children
Author: Julie C. Gilbert
Released: July 31, 2013
Genre: YA Sci-Fiction
Presented by: As You Wish Tours

Jillian must enter Nadia's dreams to wake her from a mysterious coma. In Nadia's dreams, Jillian meets several versions of her sister, including the elegant Queen Elena, fierce Naidine, and heartbroken Nadie. Meanwhile, Danielle must save her friend Christy from making choices that could get them both killed.

“The sooner Ashlynn sorts Nadia, the sooner we can get back on schedule,” Dr. Devya replied. He sounded like a man trying to tame a lion.

“We don’t know if she can sort Nadia,” Dr. Carnasis snapped. She glared up at Dr. Devya. From her expression, I knew she was just barely refraining from stabbing Dr. Devya in the chest with the pen she held in one clenched fist. “We know next to nothing about why she is the way she is, but needlessly endangering Jillian is irresponsible, callous, and stupid!”

“Evie, you’re letting your feelings for Ashlynn affect your—”

“Do you remember what today is?” Dr. Carnasis interrupted.

Dr. Devya ran a hand through his mussed brown hair. “Of course, I remember; it’s Nadia’s birthday.”

“Nadia’s fourteenth birthday,” Dr. Carnasis corrected. “Do you remember what that means?” she inquired, arching an eyebrow while still glaring at Dr. Devya.

“Sure. Her Gift should give her the ability to alter vital signs, her own and anyone in close physical proximity to her.” Dr. Devya spoke as if he was reciting a list of groceries to pick up. “If we want to train her in that, we’re going to have to wake her. Ashlynn’s our best hope for digging her out of the coma.”

“Has it ever occurred to you that Nadia might feel threatened by Jillian’s presence in her mind?” Dr. Carnasis, just realizing she’d been strangling her pen, clipped the pen to a board tucked under her left arm.

Understanding dawned in Dr. Devya’s light brown eyes. “You think Nadia might actually harm Ashlynn?” He looked disturbed by his own question. “That would be totally against her programming.” He sounded like the very idea violated some fundamental law of nature.

With most of her anger already spent, Dr. Carnasis just seemed tired. “We should be prepared for anything. Obviously, dropping into a coma wasn’t exactly planned for either.”

“True,” Dr. Devya admitted. He narrowed his eyes in deep concentration. “Should we try a hard wire?”

About Me
Julie mainly confines her writing to three genres: Christian inspirational, YA real-world science fiction, and normal science fiction.

She likes teaching, writing, reading, sleeping, doing puzzles, and hanging out with friends. (Not necessarily in that order)

Writing has made her super picky about the things she reads but normally, her reading list includes something that fits under the thriller, mystery, science fiction, or fantasy.

Occasionally, she attempts short poetry. The poems turn into songs, which she sings with abandon when nobody's looking.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Cover Reveal - The Kiverson Case (Heartfelt Cases: Book 2)

The Kiverson Case
Heartfelt Cases: Book 2
Genre: Christian Mystery
Release Date: Early 2014
Presented by: As You Wish Tours


One man’s vendetta could cost them everything …

When a routine arrest turns deadly, FBI Special Agents Julie Ann and Patrick Duncan are drawn into a dangerous game with Kevin Kiverson, a man with little to lose and much to avenge.

In her heart, Ann knows they will catch Kevin, but she doesn’t know when or how or what sacrifices will be made along the way. She’s prepared to risk her life for others but will her resolve hold when the threat turns to her baby boy?

About the Author
Julie mainly confines her writing to three genres: Christian inspirational, YA real-world science fiction, and normal science fiction. 

She likes teaching, writing, reading, sleeping, doing puzzles, and hanging out with friends. (Not necessarily in that order)

Writing has made her super picky about the things she reads but normally, her reading list includes something that fits under the thriller, mystery, science fiction, or fantasy.

Occasionally, she attempts short poetry. The poems turn into songs, which she sings with abandon when nobody's looking.

Enter the Giveaway!
Three (3) Winners will receive an eBook
The Collins Case (Heartfelt Cases: Book 1)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Goodreads Thursday | The Stars Shine Bright (A Raleigh Harmon Novel) by Sibella Giorello

Title:  The Stars Shine Bright
A Raleigh Harmon Novel
Author:  Sibella Giorello
Length: 400 Pages
Released: July 17, 2012


Sent undercover to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh takes on a double life to find out who’s fixing the races. But when horses start dying and then her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger—and more sinister—is ruining Emerald Meadows.

She’s never felt more alone.

Her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy who seems to jump from antagonistic to genuine friend depending on the time of day. And she can’t turn to her family for support. They’re off-limits while she’s undercover, and her mother isn’t speaking to her anyway, having been confined to a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown. Adding insult to her isolation, Raleigh’s fiancĂ© wants them to begin their life together—now—precisely when she’s been ordered not to be herself.

With just days left before the season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who’s behind the track’s trouble, all the while trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiancĂ© will make things better—or worse.

Raleigh is walking through the darkest night she’s faced, searching for a place where the stars shine bright.

**My Review**

The book wasn't perfect, but it was enjoyable, decently paced, and easy to read. Raleigh Harmon's an interesting character. I got this book from Amazon vine, but as soon as I finished it, I hopped on my library's website to put the first in the series on hold.

As with most people, I'm crazy busy at the moment, but I think I finished the book in a few weeks. If I'd actually had time, I would have finished it in a day or two.

This mystery features FBI agent Raleigh Harmon going undercover at a horse racetrack to see who or what's poisoning the winners. The tale is told first person by Raleigh who's struggling to reconcile her faith and the lies she needs to live on the job. I'm kind of a sucker for stories about female FBI agents, and this one doesn't disappoint.

Some of the characters are kind of flat, but that's to be expected in any novel. Eleanor is wonderful. Jack comes off as a jerk, but maybe that's just because I'm not used to the character. He may be better in other books.

(Note on the title: I get that it needs to fit with the theme of the others in the series, but stylistically, it's bothersome that it doesn't have all that much to do with the story. There is a short section that explains it, but it still seems a stretch.) Nevertheless, this is a good book, well worth reading.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Teaser Tuesday | Ashlynn's Dreams Chapter 4

The Day It All Blew Up

I thought things might slow down then, but they sped up instead. The man holding on to me bound my arms behind me and pulled me back into the kitchen. His partner came in a moment later cradling Jillian in his arms. The picture of the man gently holding Jillian’s small form looked oddly incongruous.

Pitching my body back and forth only got me thrown into a counter. My head struck the granite, giving me an instant headache. Stunned, I had no energy to offer further resistance, though everything in me wished I did. Part of me shouted coward, and all other parts of me were completely numb.

“Just let me shoot her,” said the guy carrying Jillian.

“Drop the kid and go get the van,” replied the man holding me. His tone added idiot.

His disgust triggered the recent memory of the threat he’d uttered mere moments before.

There are only two ways for this to end; we take you or we leave your body.

What seemed like hours later, though it was probably only a minute or so, I heard the garage door open then close. Not knowing what else to do, I let myself be dragged to the two-car garage where I was forced into a dark blue minivan with a bumper sticker that declared “soccer mom” on the back. The absurdity of that struck me funny, but I couldn’t conjure even a small smile.

The guy who had retrieved the van hopped out of the driver’s seat and ran into the house. I assume he’d gone to get Jillian. I never found out, not then anyway, because the unsavory type holding me shoved me onto the van’s floor. Then, kneeling on my legs, he jammed a needle into my upper left arm, and I passed out.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blog Hop | 12 Days of Christmas | Eighth Day of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop
Event Date: December 1st - 12th 2013
Hosted by: As You Wish Reviews & Confessions of the Paranormal
Sponsors: As You Wish Tours & Book Dragon Designs

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs thoroughly in a large bowl.
  3. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
  5. Chill dough, and chill an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.
  6. Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.
  7. Scoop 1 inch globs of dough into the sugar/ cinnamon mixture.
  8. Coat by gently rolling balls of dough in the sugar mixture.
  9. Place on chilled ungreased cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes.Remove from pan immediately.

Jillian must enter Nadia's dreams to wake her from a mysterious coma. In Nadia's dreams, Jillian meets several versions of her sister, including the elegant Queen Elena, fierce Naidine, and heartbroken Nadie. Meanwhile, Danielle must save her friend Christy from making choices that could get them both killed.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grand Prize: $150 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
First Prize: One (1) eBook from Every Participating Author 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 
For more Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes & Giveaways - Hop along the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop!


Snippet Saturday | Heartfelt Cases 3: The Davidson Case

Chapter 1 
Day Off

After a longer, silent prayer, Ann took up her post near a teller’s booth, and smiled to the teller. “This will be over soon,” she muttered under her breath.

The woman frowned nervously.

“Smile; it’ll make the charade more convincing,” Ann encouraged, eliciting a dim, unconvincing grin from the woman.

Precisely on time, Ethan Vincher entered the bank looking surprisingly like his picture. His plain face resembled half a dozen men Ann knew, including her husband and Agent Dodger. Vincher wore his dark hair in a crew cut and had narrow, alert, dark eyes.

Ann watched him surreptitiously. As per the plan, the teller handed Ann an envelope and bid her good day. Ann thanked the woman, tucked the envelope into her purse, and turned to confront her quarry. Their eyes locked. Then, things went wrong.

Glaring, the man reached into his jacket and pulled out a tiny, plastic pistol.

The teller screamed and ducked, and all agents gasped. Ann reacted instantly. Stepping forward, she caught the man’s hand. A brief struggle ensued, but Ann won because five other agents expertly tackled both her and the target. Her breath left in a hurry.

Guns drawn and ties askew, Baker and Dodger charged out the manager’s office. It took half a minute to sort the mess of arms and legs. In the end, the criminal was cuffed, and Ann had her choice of a dozen hands ready to help her to her feet.

“I’m sorry!” Agent Baker blurted before Ann had even caught her breath. “I—I didn’t know. I wouldn’t have asked if—”

“Calm yourself, Baker,” Ann ordered. She grinned, having long ago learned how to smile seconds after having a gun pulled on her.