book review: wooing cadie mccaffrey

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After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

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What I was expecting (based on the cover/blurb): a sweet, fluffy, quirky contemporary romance.

What I got: a complicated, honest, heartwarming contemporary romance.

Romance isn’t one of my favorite genres but when the opportunity to review this book came up, I couldn’t pass up the cute cover and a story that centered around classic rom-coms.  Only, it isn’t really?  Rom-coms are definitely integral to the story, but in an almost harmful way and I much prefer the real, human side of Wooing.  If that makes any sense. 

To put it another way, there was enough authentic emotion in this book to make me forgive the gushy, unrealistic romantic stuff.

I liked Cadie, as a heroine.  I liked how she owned up to her mistakes, had a career/knew what she wanted from life, and was vulnerable and open in the moments where it counted.  I struggle with showing my emotions so she was a bit of an inspiration in that regard.  I didn’t like Will as much.  He was kind of pushy?  And a bit insensitive?  But the last couple of chapters went a long way toward clearing up confusion around some of his actions, which was nice.

Overall, I think Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is pretty much the perfect romantic novel: a little serious, a little fun, and a very fast read.  I don’t read the genre a lot but when I pick up a romance novel, I want it to be just like this. ❤

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Eva

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book review: romanov

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The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

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My mind is still reeling from the shock of this book.

In a good way, I promise!

I think everyone knows that I’ve been eagerly anticipating Romanov, Nadine Brandes’s newest book.  And I wasn’t disappointed. 

I find it interesting that it opens with Nastya burning her diaries because the Anastasia book in the Royal Diaries series ends with Anastasia burning her diary.  So you could almost read the books back to back, you know?

Speaking of Nastya, she was a great heroine!  It takes a lot for me to truly love a main character (I don’t know why, it’s just a thing with me) but I’ve loved and cheered on and rooted for all of Nadine’s protagonists so far. Nastya is a mixture of compassion and mischief and deep wounds (emotional and physical) and seeing her story through her eyes was such a powerful thing.  I think Nadine did a great job of bring Anastasia, the real Anastasia, to life.

Remember how I talked in a previous post about how I was leery of Rasputin being portrayed as a good guy?  Well, I thought he would be an actual character in Romanov, but he wasn’t and his actions (as discussed by other characters) were left open for interpretation, so that’s all good. 😉  I loved all of Nastya’s family members, even the ones who weren’t fleshed out very much.  There was so much goodness and kindness and joy in them, even while they were prisoners.

Zash is probably my favorite character in Romanov, to be honest.  His entire character arc is, like, one big spoiler so I won’t say much about that.  But I’ll just say that I have a thing for broken, wounded heroes who struggle to find redemption and Zash delivered that on every single level.  I liked how the relationship between him and Nastya was strengthened and then fractured and then slowly rebuilt again and again and again.  It was complicated and real.

The only thing I didn’t one hundred percent love about Romanov was the magical side of things.  It was really interesting and inventive and necessary to the story, but it was a little more magicky than I like.

Nadine’s writing is at its most beautiful in Romanov.  There were so many sentences and phrases and bits of dialogue and description that filled my writer’s heart with joy.  I’m not one for recording quotes obsessively so I (unfortunately) don’t have examples at hand, but trust me: if you love beautiful prose, Romanov is the book for you.

And then, finally, there’s the theme of Romanov: forgiveness.  Without going into personal details, I found this theme hugely appropriate for me, at this point in my life.  And Nadine did such a good job (as usual) of weaving the theme through the story and characters in a way that never felt preachy.  Not once.  It’s amazing.

I know I said ‘finally’ last paragraph, but I just wanted to add that this book made me cry and cry hard.  I still have a lump in my throat.  But at the same time, it’s one of the most hopeful books I’ve ever read.  

Romanov is gorgeous and heartbreaking and triumphant all at once.

You really need to read it.

Eva

movie review: mary poppins returns

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Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives.

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Going into ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, I was hopeful but leery (pun not intended, I promise – I only caught that when I was proofreading this post).  The critics weren’t kind to this movie.  They labeled it dull, joyless, boring, and an unworthy successor to the original film.  Even the more positive reviews did little more than bestow faint, somewhat withering praise on the film.

But I had to see for myself.

And, well, I LOVED IT.

Everyone was perfectly cast.  I was pretty excited to see Lin as Jack (it blows my mind that little kids will grow up with Lin the way I grew up with Dick Van Dyke) but it was Emily Blunt that really blew me away.  She’s not imitating Julie Andrews.  She is playing a character – the character.  Mary Poppins herself.  I was on the fence about her performance for about two sec-  Forget that.  I was never on the fence.  From the moment she sailed out of the sky holding onto the kite she was my Mary Poppins.

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Ben Whishaw was another delightful surprise.  He’s rather adorable but he also brought such emotional depth to Michael.  Left me in tears several times.  Jane was AWESOME (following in her mom’s footsteps by fighting for people’s rights).  I ship her and Jack so hard.  And the three children – Annabel, John, and Georgie – were delightful and worthy successors to (of? for?) Jane and Michael.

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Seeing Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, and Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks’s actress from the original movie) was a delight – especially Dick Van Dyke.  I never even really liked him as Bert (the accent!  the horror!) but, man, the nostalgia was real.  Plus, it’s super impressive that he’s in his nineties and still singing and dancing and acting.

And let’s talk about the nostalgia.  It was real.  Very real.  From Karen Dotrice’s character saying “Many thanks, sincerely” to THAT STORY ABOUT MICHAEL’S TUPPENCE I CAN’T EVEN (many tears, you guys) to the kite and “We are still not a codfish”…ahhhhh.  Loved it.  And all the instrumental versions of the original songs on the soundtrack.  I think they hit every song from ‘Mary Poppins’ and it was definitely ‘Feed the Birds’ that I loved the best.

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And speaking of songs…I thought they were perfect.  ‘A Cover is Not the Book’, ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’, and ‘The Place Where the Lost Things Go’ were my favorites but I loved almost all of them.  Except ‘Turning Turtle’.  That whole scene weirded me out.  I didn’t LOVE the songs the first time I watched the movie but they’ve been running through my head since the second viewing.  Which has to mean they’re pretty great.

If I were writing the screenplay I would have cut out the bath sequence entirely.  I would also have cut out ‘Turning Turtle’ and have had Cousin Topsy come along into the Royal Doulton bowl when they took it to her (and that’s when the bowl would have opened up for the children and Jack and Mary Poppins).  I just didn’t like the bathtub scene or ‘Turning Turtle’ – they didn’t add much to the story, in my opinion – and I would have liked the movie better if they’d been cut.

But besides all that, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is a fantastic movie.  There were so many delightful, quotable lines.  So many memorable scenes.  So much joy.

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Though it was also very emotional.  I came into the movie with all the emotional baggage of losing a parent and watching ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ (NOT the same level of emotional wounds, but ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ does do things to my heart) so there were several parts that made me cry.  But everything ends in a wonderfully, blissfully happy way so it was all good.

Have you seen ‘Mary Poppins Returns’?  What do you think of it?

Eva

mini movie reviews {#10}

Incredibles 2 (2018) – Entertaining.  The animation was gorgeous to look at (even though this movie is more about the action than the aesthetics) and it was fun seeing all the characters again.  And the villain was pretty cool.  But it definitely wasn’t as perfect as the first movie. (What is?)

Ella Enchanted (2004) – Horrid, horrid, horrid.  The book is a gift, the movie is a curse.

Casino Royale (2006) – Okay, so it was very confusing and somewhat boring.  But Daniel Craig is very good-looking and the femme fatale was intriguing.  So the movie wasn’t a total loss.

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Hidalgo (2004) – An incredible western-that-is-not-a-western.  I can’t recommend it highly enough to fans of westerns, horses, exciting races, and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.  Based on a true story of a guy who entered his mustang in a famous Arabian race, ‘Hidalgo’ has everything: romance, a great soundtrack, action, and an epic character arc.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) – Literally Hidalgo 2.0 – but worse?  It was an okay movie and there were definitely parts I liked, but it was pretty meh overall.

The Theory of Everything (2014) – Started out strong, but got a little boring and pedantic.  Still, a powerful, moving story.  As a Christian, I obviously have problems with Stephen Hawking’s worldview, but I can still respect the tremendous struggles and triumphs of his life.  Eddie Redmayne was fantastic in the role. (And Felicity Jones is one of my top five favorite actresses, so yeah.)

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The Terminator (1984) – LOVED IT.  I had my reservations at first, but it was so, so good.  Action-packed, emotional, thoughtful, chilling, romantic…gahhh. (Apparently James Cameron has a thing for tragic romances.)

No Country for Old Men (2007) – When I showed this to some of my siblings, we were pretty evenly split in our opinions of this movie.  My oldest brother and I think it’s a fascinating cinematic tour de force.  And then another brother and sister thought it was a total waste of their time.  What do you think?

The Nun’s Story (1959) – Utterly fascinating.  I watched it for Audrey Hepburn but the story, characters, and sneak peek into the inner workings of a convent captured my interest fully.  ‘The Nun’s Story’ is almost three hours long, but that time flew past.

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Jaws (1975) – Yep.  I finally watched it.  I still much prefer ‘Jurassic Park’ though.

Good Will Hunting (1997) – *deep breath*  YOU GUYS.  I get it now.  I totally get why Robin Williams was – and is – a national treasure.  I CAN’T EVEN.  He…he did such a good job.  Totally grabbed my emotions and held them. (Also, young Matt Damon is super cute and I think it’s really cool that he and Ben Affleck wrote the screenplay.)

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So, what movies have you watched lately?  Anything good?

Eva

mini book reviews {#5}

Edit: After publishing this post, WordPress informed me that this is my 500th post.  Which I think is awesome. 🙂

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Inside Narnia by Devin Brown – I’m a bit obsessed with Narnia right now (in case you couldn’t tell) and this is the best nonfiction book I’ve read about the Chronicles so far.  Yes, the author focuses on TLWW but he talks about all the other books too.  It’s a super interesting book and I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys reading about Narnia.

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Everything is Mama by Jimmy Fallon – I don’t care for Jimmy Fallon but I saw this book in a bookstore and read it in, like, two seconds (it’s a board book).  I was surprised by how cute and sweet and heartfelt it was.  Would definitely buy for a baby’s first birthday (or their actual birth).

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Live Without You by Sarah Grace Grzy – I had high expectations for this book and they weren’t really fulfilled.  The author is an excellent writer and LWY was beautiful formatted (the chapter headings are so gorgeous – as well as the cover) but the characters didn’t grab me the way I’d hoped.  Still, die-hard fans of contemporary romance will probably enjoy it.

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The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis – I need to read more of Lewis’s nonfiction.  He was such a clear, thoughtful way of putting things which is a joy to read.  I don’t agree with all his views but he truly is one of the greatest Christian apologists of all time.  I really need to read Mere Christianity now.

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Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk – This book is almost exactly what I love.  Ancient Rome, gladiators, great characters…the only thing I didn’t like (actually hated) was the romance.  It was insta-love and it cheapened the story.  But I did truly enjoy everything else.

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I hate the girl on the cover though.  She looks soooo modern.

What have you read recently?  Any great books?

Eva

book review: character carved in stone

(I requested this book before I decided to stop featuring ARCs on my blog – it just got here recently because the mail was slow.  So don’t worry.  I’m not going back on my resolution.)

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When I started reading this book I was afraid that it would be a dry, slow, boring read. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Even though I’m not an American, I’ve always been fascinated by American history and felt a certain kinship to Americans (my mother is one, so yes). Character Carved in Stone contains story after story of brave, true Americans who risked everything to give others freedom – and it made me want to cheer.

From famous generals like Omar Bradley to little known heroes like Michael Collins (the third man on the Apollo 11 mission), Pat Williams unpacks the virtues that make West Point what it is through engaging, informative true-life stories. My only complaint was that the chapters tended to end on a “you can do all the things” guru-style note that was tiring (and not half as inspiring as the stories).

Character Carved in Stone is a great book nonetheless and one that I’d recommend for fans of history and heroes.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Eva

series review: the chronicles of narnia

In chronological order (as opposed to publication order) because that’s how I read the series and I personally think it’s The Best Way.

The Magician’s Nephew

“Awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.”

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I didn’t know what to expect, going into this book.  I’ve heard TMN spoken of quite disparagingly online and all I knew about it was that it’s Narnia’s origin story.  Anyway, I read it because I made a goal this year to read all the Chronicles.  And you know what?  I loved it.  Absolutely loved it.  Prequels are my thing (Monsters University, Heartless…) so I enjoyed that aspect of it.  And I think I connect with Digory the most of all the children in the series (Susan too, but in a different way).  His relationship with his mom, with Aslan, with the truth…it speaks to me.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

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You couldn’t have the Chronicles of Narnia without the first book ever written – and it’s so good.  Not my favorite in the series, but it definitely deserves all the love.  I think it’s awesome that C.S. Lewis had this image of a faun and a lamppost in his mind and finally decided to find out what that was All About.  And it gave us Narnia!  Edmund’s redemption arc is brilliant and moving.  And Lucy’s instant friendship with Mr. Tumnus is the sweetest thing.

The Horse and His Boy

“Do not dare not to dare.”

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Someday I want to read the Chronicles of Narnia in true chronological order – stopping just shy of the end of LWW, reading this book, and then finishing LWW.  It’s so cool, seeing a different culture (well, more than one) besides only Narnian culture.  “The bolt of Tash falls from above!” is probably the funniest bit in the whole series.  I love Susan and Edmund’s relationship in this book (plus the ‘even a traitor may mend’ line) and the whole book is one thrilling adventure. (I think Aslan is at his best here, though it’s so hard to tell.)

Prince Caspian

“Things never happen the same way twice.”

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While Caspian is a bit immature in this book (because he’s so young) he’s one of my absolute favorite characters in the series.  He makes mistakes (don’t we all) but he’s courageous and gentlemanly…not unlike another favorite character: Reepicheep. (REEPICHEEP IS THE ACTUAL BEST.)  I’ve heard people criticize this book for being a repeat of LWW (putting a good royal on the throne of Narnia) but I don’t see it that way.  Peter’s battle with Miraz is heart-pounding and Lucy seeing Aslan and not doing anything about it…it’s all so good.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“Courage, dear heart.”

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Okay, so this book did get a wee bit repetitive (basically: go to an island, discover something interesting/frightening, leave, repeat) but I still loved it.  Caspian really shines in this book (oh my WORD, when he to go back and not go to the end of the world… *dies*).  Eustace gets the second best redemption arc in the series (I love me a good redemption arc) and Edmund, Lucy, and Reepicheep are splendid.  The Dawn Treader is gorgeous, btw.  I love how it has one sail, a deep purple one, because deep purple is my favorite color. ❤

The Silver Chair

“I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.”

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TSC is regarded by many fans as the best Narnia book and while I don’t personally think so, there’s plenty to enjoy in it.  First of all, I love how matter of fact Jill and Eustace are.  They aren’t siblings, so they don’t have the bond that the Pevensies do (though I think they get it by the end of this book), so they fight quite a bit.  But they still stick up for each other.  PUDDLEGLUM IS AS AWESOME AS REEPICHEEP. (Well…almost.)  Prince Rilian is a dear (goodness, the whole thing with him being under an enchantment – it got my heart pounding almost as much as the first time I read the book) and everything with King Caspian made me cry.

The Last Battle

“But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.”

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This book…disturbs me.  It’s very, very good.  But between Susan’s desertion of Narnia (though I firmly believe she gets back in), the end of Narnia itself, the parallels between TLB and the book of Revelation, and all the other depressingness, I can’t quite bring myself to love it.  It’s a little weird, too.  But I do love King Tirian (if he had to be the last king, he was one of the best) and Emeth and seeing all the dear characters from previous books at the very end.  It’s a great conclusion to a great series – just, disturbing to me on a personal level. (I can’t quite get over that everyone DIED and Susan is left over, especially since I relate to Susan quite a bit.)

What Narnia book is your favorite (I can’t decide, but it might be Dawn Treader)?  Do you disagree with my opinion of The Last Battle (or any of the books)?  Let’s debate and fangirl in the comments!

Eva