Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Highlight + Giveaway!!! The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard

Title: The Forgotten Ones
Author: Laura Howard
Genre: New Adult Fantasy
Series: The Danaan Trilogy #1
Published: April 28, 2013

Allison O'Malley's plan is to go to grad school so she can get a good job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She has carefully closed herself off from everything else, including a relationship with Ethan, who she's been in love with for as long as she can remember.

What is definitely not part of the plan is the return of her long-lost father, who claims he can bring Allison's mother back from the dark place her mind has gone. Allison doesn't trust her father, so why would she believe his stories about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan? But truths have a way of revealing themselves. Secrets will eventually surface. And Allison must learn to set aside her plan and work with her father if there is even a small chance it could restore her mother's sanity.

Amazon& nbsp;| B&N

Laura Howard lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Her obsession with books began at the age of 6 when she got her first library card. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and other girly novels were routinely devoured in single sittings. Books took a backseat to diapers when she had her first child. It wasn’t until the release of a little novel called Twilight, 8 years later, that she rediscovered her love of fiction. Soon after, her own characters began to make themselves known. The Forgotten Ones is her first published novel.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: Crash into You by Katie McGarry

NOTE: I received the eARC via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Oh my goodness! Katie McGarry is one of my favorite YA contemporary authors, and no wonder! All her books so far have left me drained of emotions, or overflowing with them, or simply stunned beyond belief. It's rare to stumble upon such incredible stories - well told, well written, with amazing realistic characters - and I'm glad I was given the chance to review them. The tough romance gives me a high I don't find every day. The background stories make everything more realistic, and the secondary characters compliment the action to perfection.

All that said, I want to gush out my feelings. Starting with Pushing the Limits, I've fallen in love with every single character pair that Katie introduced. I was amazed at how those imperfect characters were matched to fit each other perfectly. How their stories entwined their lives in the most suitable way. I'm sure Echo wouldn't have survived the madness in her life had not Noah given her a reason to. Nor would have Beth given her trust over to Ryan if he hadn't shown her his love.

But I was a little unsure of Isaiah. I truly wondered how this tattooed bad boy would ever find someone to trust him enough. To love him enough. To give him everything. To push him to do better without changing him. Because Isaiah was only tough on the outside, and was mush on the inside. He suffered a lot when Beth turned him down and I didn't want to see him suffer because of someone else again.

At first I was suspicious of Rachel. I didn't know her, had never met her. But it was soon that I realized she was a toughie too. Just the right kind of girl for a boy like Isaiah. She talked cars as much as he did, and he was pleasantly surprised. I knew from the beginning that something was wrong with her, but I didn't exactly know what. I knew nothing was perfect in her life. Everyone wanted something from her, giving nothing back. I knew everybody expected her to be someone else, who she clearly wasn't. Rachel was selfless, caring and loving but it took too much from her. And being the toughie she was, she didn't share her weaknesses with anyone.

The ending almost broke my heart, I was crushed and tearful. I won't say more, but you must know that this is an emotional roller coaster that you would want to experience.

My rating is

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas my lovelies!

Hello everybody!
And Merry Christmas!!!
May God bless you with all the love, mercy and forgiveness that you deserve!

Now, since I love you all so much, I'd like to share a Christmas story with you. Please enjoy and leave me a comment if you wish! :)


“Are you sure about this, Try?” My best friend Nikki asks me as we enter the school building along with a multitude of our classmates. We are both well aware that I’m not loved at school. Well known – yes, but for the completely wrong reasons.

I take a breath and nod decisively, asking her to take my books from my locker and wait for me in Mr. Tarley’s class. Then I head for the middle hallway with a stack of fliers in hand and begin handing them out. Most freshmen and some sophomores stop and take a flier, then scurry off to their first period classes. But the juniors and seniors keep away as if my presence alone could take away from their perfectly maintained awesomeness.


I smile and continue passing out the little, carefully cut silver pages, with printed red words and pictures in them. It goes better than I thought it would – several people even stop to ask me what the event is really about – until a shadow falls over me, making me freeze in sudden alarm.

“Well well, look who we have here fellas!” A deep, painfully familiar voice drawls from behind me, startling me so much I almost jump out of my . I know it’s Ledger Sullivan without even looking. At the same time, an arm reaches past my shoulder, passing merely inches away from my chest, and snatches one of my fliers. "Chocolate chip snowmen? Is that what you call ingenious, Hormones?"

I can feel my heart almost halt inside my ribcage, then pick up to a wild gallop as I turn around and scowl at the boy standing before me, unsure how else to react. Two of his buddies are flanking him as usual, their faces carrying their usual easy smiles, but I can’t remember their names. Weird, that, since I'd spent a lot of time hovering around Ledger back in ninth grade, like a puppy hungry for attention. That's also how I ended up with my horrible nickname.

For a moment I wonder how to react – do I confront him for calling me Hormones, or do I just ignore him? As the seconds tick, I look around for Stacy, Ledger’s girlfriend, hoping that she'd get me out of this in that special mean way only she can pull off. Then I remember she is now an ex. He’d broken it off with her just a week ago, right after he found out about the little affair between her and Bobby Sly. Yeah, trust me to know.

“What do you want, Ledger?” I snap at him, because I know that otherwise I would just melt in a puddle at his feet. Because unfortunately, Ledger Sullivan is more than the cumbersome, immature jock, who plays quarterback in our school’s junior varsity football team. He is sensitive, smart and honest, even though he prefers not to show it all the time. He’s also absolutely stunning, and just like every other girl at school, I’ve had a crush on him ever since ninth grade. Too bad that he would never see the real me; that he would always remember me as the girl who used to follow him everywhere through all of last year.

I have changed though, building up my character all through summer vacation, so I could return to school a self-confident sophomore. I am that now, though I still try to evade meeting Ledger in the halls. Not because I doubt my own actions, but because I’ve never been able to predict his.

So far though, and it's been quite a while since Christmas was only a week away, I'd been able to keep my distance. Or, in the few cases when that'd been impossible - to be as sarcastic as ultimately necessary.

His hand, the one holding the flier, is suddenly in my face as he points at the printed letters with a finger. His buddies snicker on his sides. “I want to know what this is about.” He says flatly, like his intentions are quite obvious.

Well, they aren't and as it happens, a clever comeback is building on my tongue and before I can stop myself, the words are already out.

"Oh, I'm sure you would be able to figure it out. Especially since a thorough drawing and explanation have been provided on the same flier you've been staring at for the past five minutes." I give him an icy smile, trying so hard not to show exactly how much his super hot looks affect me.

Dirty blond hair covers his head and ears in a messy, yet styled way that screams 'gorgeous' from at least a mile away. He has high cheekbones and his mouth is made up of two full, totally kissable lips. His blue eyes make him look even more dreamy. Which is how I know I can't have him. I need a real guy, not a fairy tale madness.

"Jesus, Hormones, that bile you've had for breakfast is spilling all over your chin and clothes." He replies, looking smug as his friends join in to have a laugh at my expense.

I glare at him and turn around ignoring him and his pretty face. "Just go away, Ledger. I don't have time for you right now." I say while handing a flier to a couple of passing girls. They barely look at it before throwing it away.

"You could've at least read it." I shout after them, and pivot on my heels hoping to get to my class no later than the first bell.

Only I happen to bump into a well built chest, crushing my face in the soft fabric of a blue sweater. The same blue I happened to notice on Ledger just a few minutes ago. I straighten up like a bow string, stumbling back to put some distance between us.

"What the hell are you still doing here?" I demand of him, thinking only of the solid feel of his chest. I guess that's what years of extensive practice do to a boy's body – and ultimately to a girl's heart. Looking around for his friends I notice that they're gone. It's just me and him now in the quiet of the almost empty hallway.

He points at the flier again. "Well? Are you gonna tell me about the snowmen?"

"Right. Like you'd really want to know." I say and begin to walk away but he suddenly catches my arm and makes me face him again.

"I'm serious, Trinity. You mention some sort of a charity, but nothing else. So, what's it about?"

I watch him for a full minute, fully aware that one: this is the first time he's ever used my real name, and two: his hand is still holding my arm and therefore bringing me threateningly close to him. "What's it to you, jockboy? You don't do charities." I manage to say, but my resolution to stay in my block of ice is slowly crumbling to pieces.

"Try me, why don't you?" He insists, staring at my eyes with his blue ones as if trying to influence me with looks. I am never going to admit it is working.

Finally, I give in - after all, sharing this activity with people was the reason for me passing those flyers anyway.

"My family and I organize a Christmas charity event every year. We bake cookies and have other people from our church prepare treats and all kinds of food and then we take it over to this orphanage off of Bridgewater Road on Christmas Eve. But due to some family thing, my parents and sister won't be able to help with the cookies, which means that I'll be in need of additional hands to fill in for them since I can't handle that many cookies on my own."

"How many are we talking exactly?" Ledger asks as if he cares.

I want to be suspicious, to squint my eyes at him and demand why the interest. But I don't. "A couple dozen batches or more?" I reply, unintentionally raising my voice like a question, while somehow finding a way to simultaneously bite my lip.

"Aha." He says and hands me back the flyer."Good luck then." You'll need it, he could've added, and I'm almost sure he mentally does so. Then he releases my arm and walks away.

I stare at him until he disappears behind the Social Studies corner. A second later the tardy bell rings.


When I get home, my parents are already gone. A pink sticky note hangs on the fridge.

There's chicken and some salad in the fridge. We'll call as soon as we land. Love: Mom and Dad.

I open the fridge and fill a plate of food to munch on while studying for finals. My cell rings a couple of minutes later, and I recognize Mom's number on the screen.

“Honey?” Mom says when I pick up.

“Howdy, Mom. Did you land alright?” I ask, though I'm well aware by the tone of her voice that something isn't quite right.

“One of our bags has gone missing and your Dad's trying to track its whereabouts.” She sighs, but I know she's more irritated than she cares to appear. “Anyway, how was school? Could you get enough people to help for the cookies?”

It's my turn to sigh, but I restrain myself. No need to stress her over things she can't control. “School's fine. Got to study for finals though. And the cookies will be taken care of.” Don't ask me how, I add mentally. Because I only received one positive answer and it came from my best friend Nikki, which had been a given anyway. A bunch of people said they'd think about it, but I knew exactly how well that would go. In the end, I would have to be baking cookies in the wee hours of Christmas Eve if I was to deliver them any time near Christmas.

“Great. I know you can handle these things Trinity. I'm so proud of you.” And she sounds so sure in me, I feel like the worst daughter on the planet. “I've left you a list of ingredients that you'll need, and some cash so you could buy everything.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I mutter, suddenly wishing that my sister Destiny didn't have to play in the University of San Diego's homecoming game. Or that I could be there cheering for her, instead of suffering through the first half of the Holidays on my own.

“Take care while we're gone, sweetheart.” She instructs then, and I can tell by the tone of her voice that she's worried about leaving me alone on Christmas. “We love you very much.”

“Okay, Mom. Me too.” I say. “And take pictures! I want my sister all over Facebook!”

“Sure thing, honey.”


Today is Thursday the 23rd. I have my last exam during third period World History, and am counting every passing second for the rest of the school day. But when I get to lunch, time seems to extend almost infinitely.

“I won't be able to help you with shopping today.” Nikki says, as she drops on the seat next to me, all grace gone from her usually elegant posture. “I'm really sorry.”

“What happened?” I inquire, because I know that she wouldn't leave me alone for no good reason.

Nikki takes out a plastic fork and pokes a carrot from her salad without looking at me. She looks kind of guilty, but I don't know why. “Josh asked me out.”

“Oh,” is all I say.

“I'm sorry, Try!” She almost shrieks then turning to face me, and her expression is so expressive, I know that she's telling the truth. But I also know that she's been swooning after Josh Hamilton for the better half of our high school years. Which is why I can't bring myself up to be angry with her. After all, if Ledger had asked me out, I might have forfeited the whole charity event altogether.

On the other hand, I might not have.

I try not to be judgmental, or to show exactly how betrayed I feel, but I'm almost sure she sees it in the tight way I hold my mouth. Can't help it, it's a habit. “It's alright, it's just shopping for flour and sugar. I'll manage.” I shrug, and manage a smile.

She hugs me then, like I'm her life-boat, and proceeds to tell me exactly how Josh had done the asking, while all I can think of is the overflowing cart with ingredients that I'd have to push around WalMart all on my own.


I check Mom's list again, making sure that I haven't forgotten anything.

“Flour, sugar, milk, eggs, icing, chocolate chips, cinnamon, butter, flavors – mint and vanilla, baking dyes, baking sheets, baking oil.. Oh, baking oil!” I exclaim a little too loudly, and push the shopping cart with all the strength I can muster, trying to turn it about, so I could go to the isle where they have the baking oil.

Unfortunately, pushing is one thing, steering – quite another. As I try to maneuver the overflowing cart, it slides over the tiled floor, and ends up bumping into a row full with plasticware, scattering packets all over the floor.

“Oh, for heaven's sake!” I hear someone call over my own internal row of curses, but I'm too terrified to notice who it is, or that the voice sounds suspiciously familiar.

I crouch down and start collecting plastic cups, forks and knives, all the while cursing my luck. Approximately three seconds later, another set of hands visibly larger and rougher than mine, join in the venture. For some reason I don't look up to see my helper, though I manage to mouth a “Thank you.”

“Don't make it a habit, Hormones.” The person says with a smile in his voice. My head snaps to the side suddenly and I gasp. My unfortunate helper is no other but Ledger Sullivan, the only person who makes my heart melt without even smiling. And he just used my nickname in a department store.

My eyes narrow down on him, even though my inner response is completely opposite. “No worries, I won't.” I spit back and rise to my feet, the last handful of separately packaged utensils clenched tightly in the grip of my fingers. “What are you doing here anyway? Don't you have your own WalMart to go to?” I ask bitterly, subtly removing myself from the topic of discussion.

He looks amused. As he opens his mouth to reply – another snide comment, no doubt – someone else beats him to it.

“Of course we do! But this WalMart has the best cheesecake ever! It's like homemade, with just the right amount of strawberry topping.” This is explained in the most matter-of-fact tone I've ever had the chance to hear. I can't help it, a smile spreads over my mouth as my eyes meet the green ones of a grade-school-aged boy who stands confidently on Ledger's other side.

“Does it now?” I say, taking in the boy's messy blond hair, the smart look in his bright eyes and the posture that clearly states 'I'm the man'. With Ledger only a foot away from him, I really don't need to wonder who the boy reminds me of. “Your brother?”

“Gee, woman! Of course I'm his brother!” The boy says in a mildly irritated tone, though I can't help but notice that he is glad I made that observation. Just the fact that I'd connected him to Ledger instantly, seems to make him proud, and I can't blame him one little bit.

“That's enough, Ronnie.” Ledger finally steps in the conversation, his hand ruffling his brother's hair. “Eight year olds... you can't help but love them.” He heaves an over exaggerated sigh.

The boy, Ronnie, scowls and quickly extracts himself from under Ledger's hand, showing his pink tongue at his brother. “Beatcha! Beatcha!” He chants from a few feet away, which I notice is a reasonable distance, should Ledger decide to pursue him.

Only he doesn't. He's looking at me with a weird expression on his face – like he's in some sort of pain, but he can't nail it down precisely.

“Are you alright?” I ask, unable to keep the concern from leaking into my voice.

“Of course.” He says and the easy smile is back on his face, leaving no trace of whatever he'd been thinking of previously.

After a second of looking at him and trying to figure out what I'd seen on that charming face of his, I give up. I shrug it off and walk over to my cart, which is still overflowing, and I know I'm still unable to steer it, but really – what choice do I have?

“See ya around.” I call out, not sparing a glance in Ledger's direction. Then I breathe in and out several times in mental preparation for what I am about to do, grip the handle bar of the cart and push with all my might.

And nothing happens.

“I honestly don't see you moving that thing anytime soon.” Ledger's slow drawl reaches me from much closer than he should've been, then he appears on my side.

“No worries, I'll manage.” I answer, even though I think that if I concentrate on pushing any harder, my face might actually explode from all the straining.

He snorts. “No doubt. And then if you don't mind, could you do our cart too?” He asks, jerking his head in a way that makes me look behind him.

My eyes grow wide at the sight of a cart more stuffed than mine. “How in the world do you navigate this thing?” I say, heavily tempted to rub my eyes, or pinch myself, just in case I am dreaming.

Ledger rolls his eyes at me. “Please, I don't lift weights for nothing.”

Right. Weights.

I sigh deeply, weighing my options. I must admit however – even though I don't exactly like it – that I have no other choice but to let Ledger push first one cart then the other to the cashiers and then out to the parking lot. The only thing he requests of me is to keep an eye on his brother who comes out to be one wicked little devil. By the time we're out in the parking lot, I'm worn out from trying to keep up with the kid, who thought it fun to play hide and seek with random shoppers. I don't even know how many times I had to apologize to people on his behalf.

All is well now that we're unloading my supplies into mom's SUV. Surprisingly, they come out to take up a lot more space than I'd anticipated. More surprising is that Ronnie is actually helping out instead of wrecking havoc.

Ledger hums under his breath the whole time, and I think he doesn't realize it, but it's cute so I don't mention anything.

“All done.” He proclaims when the last bag of flour is transferred to the car. Then he puts his hands in the pockets of his jacket and shifts around awkwardly, as if he isn't comfortable in his own skin and he doesn't quite know what to do with himself. I've never seen Ledger Sullivan be uncomfortable before. Then again – I’ve never seen him outside of school either. That makes me grin.

“Umm, thanks. For everything.” I say, very self-conscious, but not the least bit uncomfortable. I am used to more awkward situations. “I guess I'll see you after the Holidays then.”

“Yeah. I guess.” He says, then hurriedly adds. “Have a Merry Christmas, Trinity.”

“Thanks, you – ”

An unexpected squeak interrupts me from behind and then suddenly a little blond head squeezes in between Ledger and me. Not that we are standing that close to each other, and not that anyone but my silly heart cares.

“Whoa! You’re Trinity?” Ronnie demands, suddenly occupied with surveying me from head to toe with a calculating look in his eyes. Abruptly, I’m super conscious of my ordinary clothes – just some jeans and a slightly worn out jacket with a warm sweater underneath. A slow mischievous smile transforms his face after a moment, making me feel awkwardly nervous.

I nod at the same time as Ledger says, “None of your business, Ronald.”

I catch a note of warning in Ledger’s smooth voice, and my brows arch up as my eyes dart to his face. I notice a very thin line where his full lips were just a moment before, his eyes concentrated down on his brother’s face. For some reason, I think that I’m missing something important from this picture, but I don’t know what.

After watching them stare each other down (or up) for a full minute, I decide this is way beyond my level of comprehension. “Umm. I gotta go.” I mutter, my voice just above a whisper.

“Okay.” Ledger breaks the silence with a sigh of relief and finally looks up at me.

I look away quickly. My heart crumbles at the sound of that one stupid sigh, because it could mean only one thing – he can’t wait to be rid of me. Not that I’ve hoped otherwise – I’m not that big of a fool – but at least he could’ve made it more subtle. He could’ve pretended that I wasn’t a complete waste of space.

Feeling the hot angry tears burning behind my eyes, I mumble something for goodbye and hurry to get to safety inside the SUV. The dashboard is a blur of cold blues and angry reds as my eyes fill up with tears, but at least no one can see me here. I take my time to calm down. I know I’m not really upset because of his reaction – it was kind of expected. Rather, I’m angry at myself because Ledger still has that kind of influence on me.

And it’s absolutely infuriating.

I pull out of the parking lot some time later, but I don’t head home immediately. I don’t feel like closing myself in the confines of the empty house, where my only companion would be the TV. A more delicious idea comes to my mind, as I pass by “Nora’s ice-cream house” and find an empty spot to leave the car.

“Welcome to Nora’s!” The cashier – a girl dressed in a cute purple dress, and wearing a captivating smile – calls out cheerfully as soon as I enter.

“Hello.” I say, unable to restrain my own smile.

Nora's is the perfect place to chill. Not only because the menu consists of about three dozen different ice-cream blends, but also because the atmosphere is very relaxing and rejuvenating. I especially love the wall decors, which are different on each wall. For instance, there's the sports wall that has all kinds special sport events glued right over the purple wallpaper; there's the lovers' cove that features pictures of kissing couples, hearts and has lipstick-shaped nut shredders.

My personal favorite is around the counter and towards the back of the place, which is known as the readers' spot. Sometimes, Nikki and I come here, take out our books and just... well – read.

“What would be your flavor today?” The cashier asks, looking at me with enthusiasm. It must be fun to work at an ice-cream house, I think to myself while trying to decide whether the Yogurt Blend or the Strawberry Delight sounds better.

“Get the Pineapple Madness.” Someone says beside me, and I turn to see who it is. Not that I need to, I can recognize his voice anywhere.

My eyes squeeze into slits, as I stare into Ledger’s face. “Are you stalking me?” I demand, because the chances of us winding up at the same place are so close to zero they appear negative. Then again, the thought of Ledger stalking me sounds even more impossible.

“Not really.” He says, jerking a hand through his messy hair. I love it when he does that, but right now I'm too suspicious to enjoy the sight.


“It so happens that I promised Ron to bring him here after shopping.” He explains completely undisturbed by neither my poisonous stare, nor the cashier's longing one.

“Uh-huh.” I say contemplating whether I should just turn around and leave. But I don’t, because I have as much right to be there as anyone else. “I want the Strawberry Delight.” I order then and rummage my purse for my wallet.

“And two Pineapple Madnesses.” Ledger adds. “On the same bill.”

Now that’s completely out of the blue. It's also unreasonable because after all the help, I should be paying his bill not the other way around. Only, I know that I don't have enough money on me.

I shake my head.“No way. I’m paying for my own ice-cream.”

He ignores me and turns to the cashier, who is complitely smitten by his charm. I glare at him, but it's no use - he's already paid.

"You're impossible." I say, then take my Strawberry Delight and stomp off towards the readers' spot, where I know there's always an empty booth.

But Ronald is already there, waiting for his brother, and crap - all the rest of the tables are occupied. It's December, for Christ's sake, i'm tempted to yell at no one and everyone, but I only close my eyes to inhale, and walk toward a widely smiling Ron. Ledger's at my side by then, carrying two cups of a yellowish mesh that almost looks like puke. He shrugs off his jacket and takes a seat beside his brother.

I don't talk to either of them when I sit down in the red leather booth opposite Ron. I'm angry and nervous and confused, but I'm not about to ask questions. Whatever this is, I don't like it – even though my heart's behaving like an insane pump, hammering hard inside my chest. And even if this is like a dream come true.

"Cool, Pineapple Madness!" Ron exclaims and plunges into his cup of ice-cream, oblivious to the fact that both his brother and I feel uncomfortable.

When the silence becomes unbearable, and I make a point that I am not in the mood to chat, Ledger clears his throat. "So Trinity," he says, making me abandon my ice-cream and look up at him with a scowl, "did you find enough people for that charity event?"

I'm speechless for a second because i don't expect him to remember. But he does. "Umm, if by enough people you mean me myself and Nikki, then yeah."

Ron snickers, spraying ice-cream everywhere. "Sorry, it just sounds like that Jim Carey movie."

Ledger rolls his eyes and ignores him. "So you still need help?"

"Obviously." I mutter, not really understanding where this conversation is going. "Are you offering?"

One corner of his mouth quirks up in that charming way that only he can pull off, only it's lost its usual derisive edge and my breath catches.

"I've got an entire football team on speed dial." He states, as if that's supposed to impress me. It doesn't, because the whole team lives for Ledger. He practically owns their souls, and everybody knows it.

"I need help with making the cookies, not with eating them."

A rumbling laughter erupts suddenly from both boys, and after a second I join them, all the while unable to believe that this is happening. Ledger Sullivan is eating ice-cream with me and laughing at my jokes. No one would ever believe this – not even Nikki. Hell, I don't believe it and I'm right here.

“Incredible, Hormones, you have sense of humor! “ Ledger declares with a smile that quickly fades away when he realizes what he's just said. He abruptly stops himself, as if he has swallowed poison. When he looks at me, I'm sure I can read the apology in his eyes, but somehow it is not enough. Because he just ruined the moment, my moment. “I'm - “ He mumbles then, but it's no use.

“Don't.” I stand up with a start, finally realizing that I should've just left when I'd had the chance.

“Wait, Trinity, I – ”

But I'm already walking away and around the cash register, oblivious to everything and everyone. Because I've been the greatest fool of all. Because I've hoped, and loved and cared. And because no matter how much I try, to him I'd always be plain old Hormones.


I must have fallen asleep on the couch last night, because when my phone rings and jerks me awake, it’s already morning and I feel stiff all over. I hear sounds from the TV, but my brain isn't capable of distinguishing what they say. I stretch awkwardly, trying to remember why on earth I hadn't gone up to my own bed. Then the hazy mist disperses from my head and it all comes back to me. Ledger. WalMart. Ledger. Nora's. Ledger. Ledger. Ledger.

When I finally answer the phone, I do it without looking at the caller ID. “What?” I snap at the intruder, as if they're responsible for my aching back.

It turns out to be Nikki, and she sounds pissed. “Don't what me! You were supposed to call and wake me up at eight! Do you know what time it is now?” I hold the phone at an arms length and stare at the digital clock.

A bright green 10:34 stares back at me.

“Holy crap!”

“Holy crap indeed. I'll be pulling up to your house in a couple of minutes. You'd better look nice, 'cuz I'm not alone.” And she hangs up.

“Shit!” I swear, and it tastes bitter in my mouth, because usually I'm pretty good at containing my emotions. But seeing that I have more than two dozen batches of cookies to make for tomorrow, and I don't exactly have a cake team on my disposal, I just can't help it.

In two seconds I'm up the stairs and in my bathroom, where I wash my teeth and face, and brush my bed-ridden hair. There is no time to shower, but I can still change my yesterday's clothes to something more comfy and appropriate. And fresh. Like sweatpants and a long sleeve T-shirt.

Sure enough, five minutes later I hear voices downstairs. I know one of them must be Nikki's, because she's the only person outside of my family who has a key to our house. But there's someone else with her as well. Then I remember she warned me about not being alone, and that makes me all the more self-conscious. What if she'd brought Josh? He was on the junior varsity football team.

“Trinity, are you upstairs?” She calls out, just as I run down the stairs. “Oh, there you are. Look who's come to help.” Nikki says wiggling her brows at me as I enter the living room and gestures behind her in what I can only call triumph.

I glance behind her expecting to see Josh. But it's not him. Familiar blue eyes meet mine and leave me breathless, even if only for a second. The moment my mind clears and I'm ready to think straight again, I'm furious.

“You have no right to be in my house, Ledger. Get out!” I say in a slightly raised voice and proceed to walk over to him with the intentions to shove him out the door.

“I invited him to come, because he wanted to help out.” Nikki intervenes, holding me in place with a tight grip on my wrist.

I glare at her. “You have no right to invite people in my house.” But my conviction grows less and less acute. Because, we do need all the help we can get, even if I'm too stubborn and hurt to admit it.

She rolls her eyes. “And you have no right to be so mean, since he's th – ”

“She has all the right in the world, Nikki, seeing that I owe her an apology.” Ledger interrupts then, surprising both me and her. We stare at him wide eyed, unable to believe he'd just admitted to be at fault. His gaze holds mine, refusing to let go. “Don't gape at me like that. I hurt you, and I can't blame you for hating me. But you still need help with those cookies, and we're wasting time.”

Like usual, he is right. “Fine.” I mumble at last, and stride to the kitchen. I rummage through one of the large cupboards under the sink where mom keeps her aprons, and find four clean ones. Taking out three, I hand one to Nikki and another one to Ledger, then tie the third over my own clothes.

“The eggs and butter are in the fridge. The rest is in the closet over there.” I say and point toward the door opposite the sink, then start pulling out pans, trays, mixing spoons and the like.

In no time at all, we've already finished one doze of snowman shaped cookies and I put them on two levels in the oven.

“I'll prepare the icing while they're baking.” I announce and proceed to grab an empty pan from the counter.

“Okay.” Nikki and Ledger say together, and it's so weird, I look up at them. They seem so concentrated on their work – adding ingredients, stirring and mixing, laying out the dough and pressing it with the rolling pin, and finally cutting the shapes – that I can't help but smile. It's unbelievable, having Ledger in my house, helping for a charity project that involves cooking!

He looks up just in that moment and grins back. “Everything alright?” But he knows the answer just from looking at my face, and there's no reason for me to hide how ecstatic I feel.

I nod, and look away shyly, because I know who I am, and who Ledger is, and I don't need to fall for him any deeper that I already have.

Then I go back to preparing the icing, but my mind's not on it. I feel hot waves running up and down my body, and my heart's pumping like mad in my chest. And what's more exciting – I feel his eyes on me, which makes me lose my concentration even more.

Consumed with thoughts about my racing blood, and the weird ringing in my ears, I trip over my feet on my way to the fridge, and Ledger catches me around the waist. I'm about to explode because he's touching me. Me! And he's smiling about it, in a pleased kind of way.

“Umm, thanks.” I manage to mutter as he rights me up.

“Pleasure.” And that extra special grin of his transforms his face in a way that makes me melt on the inside.

Nikki giggles on the other side of the kitchen , and I sort of gather my wits about. “Icing. Umm.. Gotta get the products.” I say in a very chopped up voice, pulling away from his grip. For a second he doesn't let go, but then the moment's over, and I'm free to move again.

I take a milk gallon and some butter from the fridge and place it at my area of work. Then I follow mom's recipe until the mixture is well blended, with no lumps.

Just then the oven alarm sounds and I abandon the frosting. When I open the oven door, I'm pleasantly surprised to see that the cookie snowmen have turned a nice golden color.

“I need some space to pull them out, you guys.” I say, looking around the kitchen. It's occupied with things all around the counters, the round table and even on the floor.

“Use the table in the dining room.” Nikki suggests, while rummaging for hot pan boards to place under the trays, as I carry one tray after another to the table in question.

When I empty the cookies, I bring the trays back to the kitchen, and Nikki and Ledger start loading them with the next dose. While they're so occupied, I frost the baked cookies, making them look like snowmen indeed. Then I add chocolate chips for eyes and buttons, and voila – chocolate chip snowmen. I grin at the cookies like a little kid, then place them in the special boxes that mom had had delivered before they left for San Diego.

Then I return to my place in the kitchen, and on we go without stopping – except for a short break for lunch – until we've filled up all fifty boxes, producing more than four hundred cookies.

We're exhausted, our entire bodies aching, but we're joking around as we load the boxes in mom's SUV.

“You’re sure you aren’t coming, Nikki?” I ask her one last time before she climbs in her car.

“Yeah, mom’s gonna need my help for dinner.” She says and I know she’s right. Mrs. Evans wanted me go help as well, since I’d be spending Christmas Eve with them, but I told her I’d go only after I deliver the cookies. “But we’ll wait for you to come before we sit at the table.”

“Sounds good. See ya later then.” I say and wave goodbye as she pulls out of the driveway and speeds down the street. When I turn to Ledger, he’s staring at me with a curious expression on his face. “What?”

“Nothing.” He shrugs innocently, but I don’t buy it and narrow my eyes suspiciously. “Forget it, Trinity. Let’s go deliver the goodies to the children, so we can go have delicious dinner as well.”

“You’re coming with me to the orphanage?” I ask incredulous. I’d thought I’d just be giving him a lift to his house before going to Bridgewater Road. This change of plan is completely new to me.

“Of course I am. Now let’s get going, or by the time we get to our respective homes, all the food will be gone.”

I just stand there, in the middle of the driveway and watch him climb in the passenger seat. And I wonder why he’s been so nice to me all day. He came and apologized for his insulting words from yesterday, and he helped with all the cookies without complaining even once. And now he’s even going to come with me. I either am the luckiest girl in the world – or the most doomed one.

When I finally make it into the driver’s seat and pull the belt to buckle up, I feel Ledger’s hand brush the back of my head. I turn around with a start, and suddenly I’m face to face with him. Then, stunned as I am, I don’t do anything to stop him when he leans into me and kisses me softly on the mouth.

But I do count. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three –

“What are you doing?” I whisper breathless after he pulls away.

He looks at me questioningly, one corner of his mouth pulled up in a half smile. “I thought I was kissing you.”

I shake my head, raking my mind for the right words. “I know what you’re doing, but I don’t understand why. I mean,” and I wave my hand in his direction, “you’re Ledger Sullivan, and I’m, well… I’m just Hormones.” I know it sounds lame, but it’s all I got.

“Yes, you’re Hormones.” He agrees, then places a finger over my lips, knowing that I’m about to argue. “But you’re my Hormones, Trinity. You’ve been playing with my hormones ever since I laid my eyes on you last year, and no matter what I do, or how hard I try, I just can’t get you out of my head. And lately, I can’t get you out of my heart either.”

And as sudden and bizarre this is, I know that it’s the truth, because I see it in his eyes. “This must be my best Christmas ever.” I say then and snuggle in his arms, across the gear shift, ready to finally live the love I’d been holding inside of me for so long.

The children and the chocolate chip snowmen could wait on hold for a little bit longer.


12 Days of Christmas: Day 12 + Giveaway!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

A Teenage Pregnancy by Robin Jones Gunn

It was early, early morning, that delicate time of day just before sunrise when it seems as if all of creation is still asleep.

In the cold, gray light she gazed at the infant in her arms. He was less than an hour old and so, so small. Instinct prompted her to draw her newborn close that he might feel the rhythm of her heart. He curled his tiny hand around her finger and she smiled. His eyes closed, and with feathered breath he gave way to the blessed sleep that follows such a long journey.

In weary awe she studied his face, his ears, his nose. He was here. He had come at last.

A single tear fell from her eye and rolled across his cheek. She kissed the tear away but could not kiss away the memories that came with the tears; memories of the day she found out she was pregnant. How exhilarated she felt and yet how terrified. She was young, and there was much she didn’t understand.

Trying to justify her condition to her parents proved more difficult than she’d hoped. But the most excruciating memory was the moment she stood guileless before the man she hoped to one day marry. She had no words to make him understand the awful truth—the child she carried was not his.

Leaving seemed to be her only option. A gracious aunt took her in and welcomed her with open arms. From the moment she arrived she was showered with motherly words of hope and sisterly touches of love. Week by week, month by month, the child inside her grew.

Was it a miracle when she returned home, her belly round, her face flushed, and found him there?

What prompted this man to take her back and make her his bride? Did he now believe what she had tried to explain all along, that none of this was her own doing?

When the time was right they left their small town together, as husband and wife, with her due date rapidly approaching. The labor began—tightening her abdomen with a force she had never before imagined. Perspiration streamed from her forehead. The contractions multiplied with a frenzied urgency until the need to push overwhelmed her young body, and the baby was born.

Nothing of the past mattered anymore. He was here. Naked, perfect, quivering in her arms. With a thrill of hope, she believed that her life, her world, would never be the same.

Now as the first silver streaks of dawn pierced through the cracks in the stable, she tenderly wrapped her sleeping babe in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.

Robin Promo Photo Close Up 2013Robin Jones Gunn, bestselling author of the much-loved Christy Miller Series and the award-winning Sisterchicks® series, has had more than 4.5 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her frequent speaking engagements have taken her around the globe. Robin and her husband live in Hawaii and have a grown son and daughter. You can learn more at Robin's website. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

12 Pearls of Christmas: Day 11 + Giveaway!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Cynthia Ruchti

To shepherds? Really, God? You crafted a birth announcement that was delivered first to shepherds? The story’s become so familiar to us, so easy for us to visualize because of all the Christmas pageants we’ve witnessed over the years—all the fourth-grade boys in plaid robes with a homemade shepherd staff, carrying a cloth lamb from the toy department that plays “Jesus Loves Me” if you pull the ring where an umbilical cord should be.

Theologians speculate the reason for shepherds as the audience for the holy pronouncement could be as intricate as a genetic retracing of the Baby’s heritage back through history to King David, who started his career as a shepherd.

Or it could have been simpler than that. Maybe shepherds were the only ones listening that night.

“Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night,” Luke 2:8, CEB. The biblical story tells us that the shepherds weren’t sleeping but were on guard, watching, when the news about Jesus came to them.

Distractions were few. Hills, sheep, other shepherds, a low fire, and a wide expanse of sky overhead—a dark sky that held the same stars night after night, until this one.

I wonder if any of the shepherds brought their families to the fields. I wonder if in the tent was a hardworking woman nearing the end of an exhausting day. She’d barely gotten the evening meal cleaned up when she had to start thinking about what her family and the other shepherds would need for breakfast. Soak the grains. Check the progress on the sheep’s milk cheese. And try to get those kids to settle down.

“Stop annoying your brother. Caleb! Last warning. Josh, get your fingers out of your sister’s ears. Turn down that video game. You can’t listen to the radio and watch TV at the same time. Turn one of them off. Better yet, both of them! Who’s singing? What’s that sound? Do you hear what I hear?”

What noise do I need to turn off in my life in order to hear the first notes of the angel’s song?

Another noisy Christmas party. Another trip to the department store for stocking stuffers. Another round of Christmas CDs. Another Christmas special on TV. Another Facebook post to share—the true meaning of Christmas. A text about the practice time for the Christmas program at church. Another phone call about travel plans. Brain waves clanking into each other, making a cacophony of noise.

Shutting down one layer at a time. Unplugging. Keeping even "Silent Night" low so I can silence my night and hear the downbeat of “Glory to God in the highest.”


Cynthia Ruchti is an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. Of seven books on the shelves currently, her latest releases are the novel When the Morning Glory Blooms (Abingdon Press Fiction), the nonfiction Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (Abingdon Press Christian Living), and several dozen of the devotions in Mornings With Jesus 2014 (Guideposts). Spring of 2014 will see the release of another novel—All My Belongings, also from Abingdon Press Fiction. You can connect with her at or on Facebook. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

Genre: Dystopian
Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: November 26th, 2013

NOTE: I received the eARC via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Wow! Aimee Carter has made a grandiose entrance into the dystopian genre! I liked her Goddess series well enough, but they were nothing like Pawn. This one is just incredibly new and fresh and entirely well done.

Pawn made me turn the pages lithely, being incapable to wait till the end arrived. I totally fell in love with the concept of the story and the characters. Especially Knox.

To be honest, I wasn't really expecting to like it all that much. Why? Well, some dystopians aren't realistic at all. But that's not true for Pawn.

From page one I was absorbed into this new post-catastrophe world, where people were classified in ranks depending on the results on a test they have to take at a certain age (16 or 17). If they ranked as a 1, they end up Elsewhere (and you wouldn't believe where that is). If they ranked as 2 they were used to do the worst jobs in society. 3's were okay. Everyone's dream was to rank 4 or above. But you had to be really smart to have a chance at such a rank.

Kitty Doe was smart. But she had dyslexia. She couldn't read, and her smarts were left unappreciated. Which is how she ended up in a brothel, where her virginity was auctioned. You may not believe it, but this was the turning point in this novel. Because Kitty was bought by the person who changed her life forever.

She wasn't Kitty anymore afterwards. Not really. Because she was allowed to see her world for what it really was - a place where one family manipulated everyone's life. A place where no one's life was valued. A place where one misstep could land you ... Elsewhere. A place of deceit, treachery and lack of hope.

Yet, it seemed to be in Kitty's hands that she change that world. She knew secrets that no one else was aware of. She was now an insider where people were rarely invited. She was also a danger to those in power, and she could be made to cooperate.

Because even in this horrible world, she had loved ones. Benji - her boyfriend, was the only person she could be blackmailed with. Being good at heart, smart in brains and incapable of bad decisions, Benji was the person who gave Kitty hope for a life without misery.

Knox on the other hand, was a leader, a traitor, a beautiful guy with a heart clothed in secrets. It's pointless to say that he won me over the moment Kitty met him. He was the bad boy (sort of), but he was following a good cause. And he pushed her buttons in the most thrilling way. Even she couldn't really see it.

The main point of this novel was that even a person without importance could make a difference when put in the right condition. Just like a pawn, when reaches the opposite side of the chessboard can turn into the most powerful chess piece.

In conclusion I'd like to say that no lover of dystopian novels will be left disappointed with Pawn.

My rating is

12 Pearls of Christmas: Day 10 + Giveaway!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

Wrapping Paper and Fancy Bows Not Required by Jodi Murphy

For more than a decade I worked in the luxury design field, and every year around Christmas time there were holiday show houses and charity events where the designers would hold nothing back to create the most beautiful displays for the Christmas season—trees with baubles and sparkles, swags of fresh greenery festooned with handmade bows, every room dressed to the nines, dining and breakfast tables set for imaginary entertaining, and hundreds of perfectly wrapped packages that would make Santa’s elves go green with envy.

The sights, sounds and smells were magical! And though I enjoyed the "eye candy" and appreciated all of the creativity, I often left these events on a "sugar high" of the season’s pufferies and feeling disconnected to the spiritual significance of Christmas.

As we begin to count down the days toward December 25th, I will do my share of simplified decorating as a way to mark such an important day, and I will be celebrating Christ’s birth with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the gifts God has given to me . . .

My Parents
I was blessed with parents who loved and respected me. I was always important, seen and heard. They gave me the confidence and strength to go out into the world because I knew they were standing right behind me in case I stumbled. They modeled generosity, loyalty and commitment.

My Sister
Tenacious, strong-willed, and determined balanced by a friendly, supportive, “I’m there for you” spirit—that’s my amazing younger sister. She’ll step out on the front line to stand up and defend you or throw on some work clothes and volunteer to help with whatever dirty work needs to be done. No questions asked . . . you need her, she’s there.

My Husband
My husband is so comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t compare himself to others or secretly long for what they have. He doesn’t get embroiled in other’s gossip or petty arguments. His loving influence has made me happier and more at peace. Every day I wake up to the joyful realization that I am his friend, wife, and life partner.

My Son
My firstborn. My son with Aspergers Syndrome. Raising him is the most extraordinary journey. He has made me more accepting, patient, and understanding. He has helped me find my passion to support and advocate for him and those just like him. He doesn’t filter or concern himself with being anything but who he is. I admire his strength to put himself out into a world he doesn’t fully understand.

My Daughter
She was born with grace and an "old" soul. From a very young age, she had an understanding and compassion for others well beyond her years. And when she was excluded for not following the crowd, she never compromised her values in order to fit in. She personifies all that is good and right in our world.

So I’m taking a pause from the hustle and bustle of the designers’ holiday season. This Christmas, and every Christmas henceforth, you’ll find me singing praises of “Gloria!” to God for the walking, breathing beautiful gifts of my family.

jodi_murphy-Headshot 1Jodi Murphy has been a freelance marketing specialist for the last 25+ years working for clients in a variety of industries, a journalist in the design/luxury lifestyle industry, and co-founder of Nesting Newbies, one of the first independent lifestyle digital magazines. But her most important role and her life’s passion is being a mom! She founded Geek Club Books to share her son’s life on the spectrum in a positive and entertaining way. Her focus is on building a community of spectrum and neurotypicals who are engaged with and inspired by the Geek Club Books’ message of self-acceptance—“I’m unique. I’m a geek.” Jodi writes original content on the blog, and, with the help of her talented kids and top-notch creative team, she produces audio stories, e-books, and interactive storybook APPs.
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

12 Pearls of Christmas: Day 9 + Giveaway!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below! The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

My Gift to the King by Sheryl Giesbrecht

It was a week before Christmas; a woman in the rush of her last-minute shopping bought a box of fifty identical greeting cards. Without bothering to read what the card said, she quickly signed and addressed all but one of them. A few days after they had been mailed she came across the one card that hadn’t been sent. She was horrified to read, “This card is just to say, a little gift is on the way!”

Gift-giving is just one of our many Christmas traditions. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Truly Jesus is the best gift we would ever want to receive.

One year a friend gave me a Christmas devotional book that turned my holiday traditions upside down. Anne Graham Lotz shared her custom of asking King Jesus what gift he would like for his birthday. God wants us to give freely out of our love for him as an act of worship. This process of intentionally and sacrificially giving a "love gift to my King" is something I have added to my personal Christmas traditions. I wonder, have you ever thought about giving Jesus a gift? Maybe this year you might ask Him what He would like you to give Him.

Each year, as the Christmas holidays approach, I ask the King what he would like for his birthday. I remember Anne Graham Lotz’s criteria: “Something I would not do except the King requested it. And it is something I could not do except the King enabled me,” (Christmas Memories by Terri Meeusen pg. 159).

One year the King began asking me for His gift in September when a local high school contacted me to develop a truant program. I didn’t feel qualified. Lotz’ words rang in my mind: “Something I would not do except the king requested it. And it is something I could not do except the king enabled me.” “God, not me," I argued. I remembered what God brought me out of; I was a rebellious and promiscuous teenager, chain-smoker, alcoholic, drug addict, and drug dealer who cut class all but five days my junior year of high school. At age seventeen, I went to work at a Christian camp and there I was shown the love of God through the experience of working transformed believers. I was shown God’s love could cover a multitude of sins. Now He asked me to share this same love with those who are looking for love in all the wrong places. I committed to doing the King’s bidding.

What gift will you give your King this year? Maybe God is asking you to serve in your child’s classroom at school or teach a Sunday school class. Or maybe God is calling you to prayer or to spend more time with Him? Maybe Your King is asking you to give Him control over a situation?

"Something I would not do except the King requested it. And it is something I could not do except the King enabled me." Ask the King for His gift suggestion. When He impresses on your heart the gift He desires, offer it to Him as your gift of thanks for His indescribable gift, His Son, Jesus.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (I Cor 9:15)

"Exchanging hurt for hope" is Sheryl Giesbrecht's focus. She loves to share how God rearranges loss, bitterness, and mistakes, and turns them into something remarkably beautiful. Learn more about Sheryl and her book, Get Back Up, at her website.
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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Review: Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: New Adult
Publisher: Harlequin
Date of release: December 31st, 2013

NOTE: I received this eARC via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

My first thoughts after I finished Unleashing Mr. Darcy went something along the lines Oh my! I believe I just fell in love again! And this time it's for the right Mr. Darcy!

With that said, I am adamant that Unleashing Mr. Darcy is even better than the original Austen Pride and Prejudice. So judge me! Or not. I don't care!

Usually I dread reading a favorite classic's retelling. Why? Because I end up hating them more often than not. It's sad, I know, but it's the truth. In fact, I've already read one Pride and Prejudice retelling this year and I was abysmally disappointed.

So you see, I was very tentative when requesting Unleashing Mr. Darcy. I was even more so when I started reading it, but I just couldn't pass up the chance because you know - it might just turn out to be a jewel.

Good heavens! I'm elated to say that my worries were completely in vain. Nothing about this novel was the mirror image of P&P and I just so loved that! Sure, the story line followed the original, but it had it's own quirks too. Also, all the little things that annoyed me in P&P were gone here. Like Wickam's marriage to Lidia - completely out of the story. Or his pursuit of Darcy's sister. Phew! Gone too! Or Darcy's coldness. Gosh that needed to be gone - I mean no man can be a statue, right?

I can proudly say that I was more affected by Elizabeth Scott and Donovan Darcy than Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Why?

Well, for starters, Donovan's character was a lot more down to earth and he had his own POV chapters! That right there is a huge bonus that I just can't ignore. I mean, I don't know about you, but I've always wanted an in on Mr. Darcy's thoughts! And let me tell you, Donovan did NOT disappoint! *I can only giggle!* It was easier to know where he was coming from, why he was behaving the way he was, what drove him etc. Which is why I found him not only charming, but also completely irresistible! He was lovely, passionate, incredibly careful and considerate. I really wanted to just snatch him off the pages and keep him for myself.

Elizabeth's character was the more conceited one here. Her prejudice - as Donovan pointed out - bordered on snobbery. There were moments when I was ready to strangle her for only seeing the negativity of her situation. That facade she had going on was - to say the least - annoying. I don't know how often I was urging her to just let bygones be bygones. I mean, the past cannot be changed, but that doesn't mean you should turn your back to the future too, right? Other than that, Elizabeth was strong. She followed her heart to the best of her abilities, and even managed to make friends far away from home.

If you're a Jane Austen fan, I suggest you don't pass up this opportunity. I'm sure you'll love Unleashing Mr. Darcy as much as I did!

My rating is

12 Pearls of Christmas: Day 8 + Giveaway!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

New Beginnings by Sharron Cosby

Christmas. The mere mention of the word sends thoughts and memories skittering like a box of spilled ornaments. Some roll toward sweet remembrances of times shared with family. Others bounce to the let’s-not-go-there corner of our minds.

I recall Christmas 2009. The one I wanted to cancel. My only son is an addict, and this was his worst year ever. I had convinced myself it would be his last, assuming he would be in prison or dead by the next Christmas. I told my daughters we would exchange gifts and have our usual holiday dinner, but no tree or decorations. I couldn’t dredge up the emotional energy to plaster contrived cheer around the house.

I’m usually the decorator, gift purchaser, food preparer, and mess cleaner-upper. Executing the necessary holiday tasks takes time and effort. Worrying about my son had left me drained of the required get-up-and-go. I couldn’t do it. Thank goodness for online shopping; at least there would be presents to hand out.

My pastor’s message four days before Christmas cut straight through my Scrooge-like attitude. His sermon points were: The holidays are too much trouble, count your blessings, and forgive someone.

Considering Christmas too much trouble reflects a selfish attitude, according to my pastor. What if Jesus had thought that way? My icy heart began to thaw.

The second point, count your blessings, stopped me dead in my tracks. Count blessings with a broken heart? I considered my husband’s love and my two daughters who have stood by their brother. I smiled as I pictured the faces of my four grandsons and the joy they brought our family. Yes, I had many blessings to number.

The third was the hardest: forgiveness. Forgive my son for the pain and suffering he had caused? “God, you can’t be serious,” I protested. “We’ve spent thousands of dollars on him, he’s broken our hearts, and he’s in worse shape than ever before.”

“Forgive him,” the Spirit whispered.

Tears slid down my face as I chose to forgive my son. No strings attached.

After church I headed home with a changed attitude. When my husband left for work, I retrieved the ornaments, dragged the Christmas tree from the garage, and set it up, my gift to the family. Decorating our tree with the children’s handmade ornaments is always a joint project, but that day I worked alone. I held the clothespin reindeers, popsicle stick picture frames, and monogramed angels and remembered the good times.

With tear-filled eyes, I watched as amazement etched the faces of my daughters when they came to our home Christmas morning and saw the decorated tree. “Mom! You put up the tree after all,” they said.

The biggest surprise of the day came when our daughter’s boyfriend knelt in front of her and asked, “Will you marry me?”

The discouragement of addiction was replaced with the joy of new beginnings, which is, after all, the message of the Christ Child.


Sharron Cosby has been married to Dan for thirty-nine years, is Mom to three adult children and “Mimi” to five grandchildren. Her family was rocked by her son’s drug addiction for fifteen years until he laid it down on February 18, 2010. She uses her life experiences to offer hope and encouragement to families caught in the chaos of addiction. Sharron is available to speak to groups on addiction related topics. Sharron recently published her first book, Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90, a ninety day devotional for families in recovery or those wanting to be. Receive weekly encouragement at her blog,, and Twitter @sharroncosby or contact her at moc.liamg@ybsocnorrahs. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Blitz + Giveaway! --> Tethered by Brandi Leigh Hall

Hello my adorable stalkers!

I hope everyone's doing great since it's Friday (yay!) because I'm about to make your hearts melt! Today I, along with Xpresso Book Tours, am going to introduce to your attention Tethered, a New Adult, Urban Fantasy book, with a dazzling cover and even better contents! Keep on reading for more!

About the Book:

Tethered by Leigh Hall
(BirthRight #1)
Publication date: October 29th 2013
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy

No matter how hard you fight it—destiny has a mind of its own!
Since foreseeing the imminent death of her parents six years earlier, Chloe has lived a simple, not-so-charmed-life away from her remaining Wiccan family.
Zero magic.
No close friendships.
While struggling to bench-press more guilt than any nineteen-year-old ever should.
But fate intervenes and forces Chloe to return home. As if being an in-the-closet-Seer wasn’t bad enough, now she has to spend summer break with the snarky sister who hates her—and the magical birthright she was hell-bent on denying for all eternity.
Luckily, meeting Mr. Perfect takes the edge off her endless family drama. Hunter’s twenty-five, sometimes old-fashioned in a Jane Austen hero sort of way, and more delicious than molten-lava cake. But the more she tries to hide her family’s magical secrets from this ever-present stranger, the more quickly she realizes he’s hiding a few doozies of his own.
Will the lies and betrayal destroy their relationship before it really begins? Or will learning of their tethered future create an unbreakable bond neither can deny? Either way, their hearts will be forever entwined by destiny.



Brandi lives in central Pennsylvania with her fur-ball cats (Onyx and Klepto), where she spends most of her time attached to her laptops, reading books, appeasing her sweet tooth, and watching TV for motivation.

Growing up in a haunted house inspired Brandi’s fascination with the paranormal, so it only made sense that she’d write Urban Fantasy books for both teens and adults.

Brandi hasn’t been lucky enough to meet her soul mate (yet), so she writes paranormal tales of those who have. Her stories combine magical elements with real-life issues, strong female characters, semi-old fashioned men and family values, woven together and told from an emotional, first-person perspective. She enjoys writing sweet stories that teach girls it’s okay to speak your mind and be independent, career-driven, and not worry about fitting in to society’s mold.

In addition to the BirthRight Novels, she also has four additional adventures she’ll be writing over the next few years, so stay-tuned.

You can follow Brandi at:
And here's what you've all been waiting for! The gorgeous excerpt!

He eyes me curiously. “Why, were you afraid I was stalking you or something?” Once the words roll off his tongue, a snicker bursts from his lips.
My face heats up. “Of course not! It just occurred to me after you left yesterday I had no idea why you were here...when you knew why I was. So now I know.”
“Now you know.” Mischief spreads across his face, his eyebrows lifting with his crooked smile. “So, if you see me back here a lot over the next few days, you won’t go thinking I decided to stalk you after all, will you? Because if we’re here—on the same floor—seeing the same doctor—we’re bound to run into each other from time to time. I wouldn’t want you worrying for your safety or anything, so I figured I’d put your mind at ease before it has a chance to run away with itself again.” He laughs almost under his breath.
Seriously? Oh, he’s clearly enjoying this. But I’ll play along. Why not? “Your consideration is touching.” I lift my hand to my heart. “But if you should happen to change your mind about stalking me, please just give me a heads up first. I’d be more than happy to provide you with my itinerary. I know how daunting your schedule must be, so I wouldn’t want to subject you to any difficulties which might further endanger your well-being.” I tilt my head, batting my baby blues for affect. “If you like, I could even leave a ladder outside my window...or binoculars in the tree across the street. You know...just in case.” Feeling just a tad cocky from my rebuttal, I return the same sideways smirk he’s now giving me.
“You see, I knew you were a good woman from the first moment I laid eyes on you. Most aren’t willing to be so accommodating.”
“Well, the way I see risk your life to protect strangers every day. It’s merely my civic duty to repay your kindness. I’m nothing if not old-fashioned.” I re-cross my legs, trying not to seem too confident.
He leans forward, elbows resting on his knees. “Well in that case, I promise to let you know when I decide to stalk you.”
When...?” My eyes open wide.
The second he laughs, I jump in right along with him. How could I not with that amazing, smoky laugh of his? He does seem to be enjoying this just as much as I am.
“You’re a lot of fun, Miss Chloe. And a lot quicker than I expected. Very pleasant surprise.” He smiles. His gorgeous, mocha eyes caress my soul.
Deep breath, Chloe. “Yeah well, you caught me on an off-day yesterday. But I’ll be sure to bring my A-game from now on.” I bump my knee into his as I lift my brows flirtatiously.
“I’ll hold you to it, you know. Comic relief is in short supply around here.” He nods towards the emergency room entrance.
“Yeah, hospitals tend to have that effect on people. I can’t imagine why.”
An adorable blush lights up his cheeks. I don’t know if I ever realized just how sexy it is when a guy gets embarrassed. Though, I’m sure just about any look would be attractive on Hunter.
“So, what do you do for fun in this town, Miss Chloe?”
“When you figure that one out, you can let me know. I have absolutely no idea. Lived in San Diego for six years, remember?”
“Oh, that’s right. Well, perhaps some evening after I decide to stalk you, maybe I’ll lure you to my car with some candy. Then we can drive around and figure it out together.” He leans back, eyeing me from under half closed lids as he grins.
“Well that all depends on how long it takes you to start stalking me. I can’t wait forever you know.” I do my best to look serious, but I can’t quite tell if I succeed.
He tips his head back, belting out a hearty laugh. “Fair enough.”
“So would it be presumptuous of me to ask how old my perspective stalker is?”
His jaw drops. “I’m appalled! How dare you ask me such a personal question? You have some nerve, madam.” His acting skills are lacking, but who cares. He smiles. “I’m twenty-five. So will you bestow the same courtesy upon me, Miss Chloe?”
Suddenly uncomfortable, I re-cross my legs, again, then start bouncing my foot. “Are you sure you really want to know?” Well, it was fun while it lasted. I know I’m way too young for him, and now he’ll know too. I’m such a dumb ass for asking his age. Idiot!
“Of course I do. It can’t be that shocking.”
“You sure about that?”
“Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.”
I hold my breath for a few seconds, then exhale. “I’m only nineteen.” My shoulders tense as I get ready for the big let-down.
“So you’re still in school then?” His head tilts to the side.
“Yup. Only two years left, thank god.”
“Hmm. I don’t know if I can stalk someone who’s underage. I could get arrested for harassing a minor, you know.” He attempts a serious tone.
“First, I’m not a minor...and second, I’d say that’s the least of your worries if you turn out to be a stalker.” Ha. Take that, Hunter Payne!
“You do have a point.” He shakes his head while looking at the sidewalk.
“Of course I do.” 

 Sweet sweet holies! Did you get that vibe? That total hotness that seeped from the paragraphs?? Gosh, I sure did! And if you're still undecided whether you'd like the book, here's what other fellow reviewers had to say about it:

Onto the giveaway then!

a Rafflecopter giveaway