It’s Here! TV Premieres of Fall 2014

Fall TV Preview - 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .

Well, fine, maybe we shouldn’t compare the fall television premiere season to Christmas. We shouldn’t. Right?

Okay, so we won’t. But I also won’t deny that I am ridiculously (though, unsurprisingly) excited for old shows to return and new shows to start. Especially after the past two weeks of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BEING ON.

I asked on Facebook which shows you all are most looking forward to beginning this fall, and you had lots on your lists! You’re excited for Parenthood (tons of votes for this one, no surprise), The Good Wife, Scandal, Blacklist (the previews are making me question my choice to not watch this one last year…thoughts?), Person of Interest, Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, Newsroom, Agents of Shield, Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Galavant (I can’t wait for this one, but unfortunately it’s a mid-season premiere.), Gotham, Scorpion, and NCIS: New Orleans.

Wow! That’s a lot of shows and a lot of variety. You all have good taste! (Although I’ll confess I’ve never watched a single Batman movie and I’m just not sure Gotham would make sense to me.)

So let’s talk specifics. Shows. Dates. Thoughts. Opinions.

(NOTE: All times are CST because that’s where I live.)

Returning Shows I’ll Be Watching:

  • Once Upon a Time (Sundays at 7pm, premieres 9/28)
  • Castle (Mondays at 9pm, premieres 9/29)
  • NCIS (Tuesdays at 7pm, premieres 9/23)
  • New Girl (Tuesdays at 8pm, premieres 9/16 – tomorrow!!)
  • The Mindy Project (Tuesdays at 8:30 pm, premieres 9/16)
  • Arrow (Wednesdays at 7pm, premieres 10/8)

I’ll probably DVR Brooklyn 99 (Sundays at 7:30 pm, premieres 9/28) and About a Boy (Tuesdays at 8:30 pm, premieres 10/14), but I’m not quite ready to commit. Oh, and Hart of Dixie and Parks & Recreation are returning mid-season.

New Shows I’m Thinking About:

[Don't worry. I'm not planning to watch all of these. Yikes! Can you imagine? TOO MUCH TV!!!]

  • A to Z (NBC, Thursdays at 8pm) – This one feels like How I Met Your Mother all over again – partly because the main female character is The Mother, partly because the concept of the show is based on a relationship with an expiration date. I watched the pilot on Hulu, and it was cute. I’m not sure it’s a keeper, but I’m going to give it a try for now.
  • The Flash (CW, Tuesdays at 7pm) – A spinoff of Arrow, based on comic books. I don’t read comic books, but I do watch – and like – Arrow. So I’ll at least watch the first episode of this one.
  • Forever (ABC, Mondays at 9pm) – So. This show is about a guy who can’t die. Every time he does, he comes back to life, waking up naked and in water. Also, he’s a medical examiner and works with a pretty cop. I realize that might just sound a little ridiculous, but I will be watching it anyway.
  • Gotham (Fox, Mondays at 7pm) – Batman before Batman was Batman, apparently. Lots of people are real worked up about this one, but since – like I said – I haven’t watched any of the Batman movies, I think I’m going to sit this one out.
  • How to Get Away with Murder (ABC, Thursdays at 9pm) – Lots of you mentioned this one and lots of critics have talked about it. But…I don’t know. I gave up Grey’s Anatomy a long time ago and never got started with Scandal, so I’m not really inclined to add the latest Shonda Rhimes show to my list.
  • Jane the Virgin (CW, Mondays at 8pm) – A Christian girl accidentally gets artificially inseminated and then her show is compared to Ugly Betty. Ummm…okay? I figure I’ll give this one a try, since I liked Ugly Betty. We’ll see.
  • Madam Secretary (CBS, Sundays at 7pm) – Former CIA agent becomes Secretary of State and “shakes things up.” The preview looks good, so I’ve already put this one on my schedule. (Yes. I have a schedule.)
  • Manhattan Love Story (ABC, Tuesdays at 7pm) – Oh my gosh, shoot me. You know how people joke about reading each other’s thoughts and how it might not be a good thing? Yeahhhh, it’s NOT. Just watching the preview was painful. And this is coming from someone who’s currently watching Greek and loving it (the show this one’s main character was in).
  • Marry Me (NBC, Tuesdays at 8pm) – I liked Happy Endings, Penny included. And Vinnie Van Lowe from Veronica Mars always cracked me up. But I do not buy these two together, and I am not interested in this show. Watching the preview felt like watching a bit, like they could not possibly be serious – BUT THEY WERE.
  • Mulaney (Fox, Sundays at 8pm) – It’s the new Seinfeld. It might be funny. I’ll maybe watch it if it’s on On Demand.
  • NCIS: New Orleans (CBS, Tuesdays at 8pm) – No, I do not need another procedural in my life. But I liked the episodes that previewed this new spinoff last year, soooo…I don’t know. Maybe? I’ll try it? I guess?
  • Red Band Society (Fox, Wednesdays at 8pm) – Uggggghhhhhhh. You guys! It’s another show about sick kids! I blame John Green for this new trend, and I do not approve. Because TEARS. But the critics are all over this one. And I don’t want to miss out on the Next Hot Show (unless it’s about Batman). So I’ll watch the pilot. If it makes me cry, though, I’m out. (I mean, not really. Reruns of HIMYM make me cry. So.)
  • Scorpion (CBS, Mondays at 8pm) – A crew of super smart people save the world. I believe I saw one critic say it’s Big Bang Theory meets the Justice League of America and/or Fast and the Furious. Clearly I will be watching this from Day One.
  • Selfie (ABC, Tuesdays at 7pm) – I don’t know why (I was bored?), but I watched this pilot on Hulu. It was not good. I don’t plan to watch. Annnnnd that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
  • State of Affairs (NBC, Mondays at 9pm) – Katharine Heigl is a CIA agent, working with the president and tracking down the terrorists who killed her fiance. I know, okay? But I’m going to watch it anyway.

Some TV Resources for You:

What shows are you looking forward to this fall?

Photo source

Saying Yes to Saying No

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A friend and I have had several conversations about being a high capacity person – or not, and learning to love people who have different capacities than we do. The other day I told her that I’m learning that I’m not as high capacity as I once was – or, at least, as I once believed I was.

In other words, I can’t do it all.

I know. You’re shocked! Right?

It’s true – and I’m truly learning what this means for me. Having a baby kind of forced my hand, but it’s something that’s been creeping up on me over the past several years of saying yes to everything.

Everything I needed to do.
Everything I wanted to do.
Everything I thought I should do.
Everything I felt others thought I should do.

I know that’s not healthy, it’s not smart, it’s not a strategy for success in any area of my life. I do! Look – I’ve written about it here and here. So obviously this struggle isn’t new to me. It’s just new for me to actually do something about it.

I’m taking baby steps in the direction of what Lysa TerKeurst calls My Best Yes – saying no to the good things so I can save my yes for the great things. The trick, of course, is figuring out what’s great and what’s just good. And then, the other trick is prying my fingers off of the good things, the things that will be fun and will help people and will make me happy and will look good on a resume (or Facebook status).

But if I don’t release my grip on the good, I’ll never be able to reach for the great that God has placed in front of me.

This realization pretty much always sends me straight to Whiny Baby Mode. “But I WANT to!” “But it won’t take THAT long!” “But it would be FUN!” I’m not sure I’ll ever grow up enough to avoid this stage. But my prayer is that I’ll stay here for less time.

I think it’s possible. This summer I said no to a handful of good things so I could focus on great things, namely family and writing. Two of those good things, though? They were at my church. They would have helped people. They were things I enjoyed and cared about and would have been good at. And saying no to them sent me straight to the church version of Whiny Baby Mode:

“But it’s for a good cause!”
“But I could HELP people!”
“But they NEED ME!”
“But God said to volunteer at church! {That’s in the Bible, right?}”

The Best Yes superhero cape

Thankfully, my overwhelming GREAT life was full enough at the time that I was able to grit my teeth, say no and move on.

Until last week, that is. I’d met my friend for lunch, and we were having that high capacity vs. low capacity conversation again, and I referred to one of those good things she’d asked me to do. That I’d turned down in favor of great things.

This is a friend who is honest with me and lets me be honest with her. So I didn’t flinch when she looked at me and said, “Yeah, that made me sad, because you said it was something you cared about but didn’t have time for – so I wondered what you were saying yes to that maybe you shouldn’t.”

Immediately I questioned that months-old decision. Had I turned down the great thing? Had I chosen wrong?

I’m confident that the answer to both of those questions is NO. I did the right thing this summer when I said no. But this conversation made me realize a couple things:

  1. Saying no when I need to might let other people down. As long as I know I’m doing what God’s calling me to do, what’s best for my family and for me, I have to learn to be okay with that.
  2. I’ve created the bad habit of over-apologizing in a way that makes it seem like I am either a) unsure of my decision or b) interested in or called to every single opportunity, whether I am or not.

When I told my friend I couldn’t help her, I was afraid of disappointing her. So I went overboard, as it turns out, making sure she knew how much I valued the project and how disappointed I was to “have to” say no. See, that way, she wouldn’t be mad at me, because I didn’t WANT to say no! And I loved her project. I did! It’s super important! But I “have to” say no…as if someone else was making that choice.

I didn’t lie to my friend. I do think the project she asked me to help with is super important. It helps kids in our community, and I think it’s amazing. And I was sad not to help. BUT. When I weighed that project against the other things I know undoubtedly that God has called me to do right now…I knew my answer this time was no.

That was my choice. But because I was so afraid, I didn’t own that choice and, instead of preventing disappointment, I just created confusion. After all, if I was so sad, why was I saying no?

See what I did?

Have you ever done that? (Hoping I’m not alone in this brand of crazy…)

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Learning to say no when I should and yes when I should is a process. It’s not a matter of reading one article or having one conversation and being done with it. And I suspect – like all annoying “growth opportunities” – it will change just as seasons of life change. So that’s something to look forward to.

I’m grateful to know I’m not alone in this journey – both in learning to say no, to draw boundaries, to make hard choices and in not getting it right the first time, questioning the choices I make, struggling to figure this thing out. So while reading one article or blog post or book won’t let me snap my fingers and make this easy, finding women who write about their own struggles and encourage me through this process is huge.

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Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book is one of those resources I’m loving right now. The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands is all about everything I just shared. Except with more wisdom and lots of examples and encouragement that are keeping me mindful of this struggle and determined to keep plodding along toward My Best Yes. The book helps readers (including me):

  • Cure the disease to please with a biblical understanding of the command to love.
  • Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no.
  • Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom based decision-making process.
  • Rise above the rush of endless demands and discover your Best Yes today.

At TheBestYes.com, you can read the first chapter of Lysa’s book for free. You can also learn about the Bible study she’s written to accompany the book (as well as watch a free session of the DVD curriculum and download a free chapter from the study guide).

This post is part of Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes” Blog Tour. To learn more, click here.

If You Build It: GoldieBlox and Girls

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This summer Annalyn started saying the worst thing. I’m not referring to her sass-mouth that just about puts me over the edge in approximately 3.7 seconds. No, I’m talking about this phrase:

“I’m not good at this.”

She’s said this about dozens of different tasks, and it’s driving me up the wall. I’m sure she’s heard Mark or me say that – whether in complaint or humility – and is parroting us. Which makes me even MORE upset! I’ve tried to talk to her about it, and I’ve tried to encourage her in the moment (reminding her that yes, she CAN do whatever it is she’s trying to excuse her way out of).

I haven’t heard her use those words much recently, so hopefully my efforts are working. But I know this is just one stop in a long journey of teaching her that she is capable and clever and GOOD at a lot of things.

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You know, she isn’t brilliant in every subject or gifted in every area. There are already things that Mark or I are good at that we can see she might not be. But that’s the beauty of discovering who this little girl is. Because there are LOTS of things she IS good at! And while singing on key is [so far] not her strength, inventing and building is something that captures her imagination and comes as naturally to her as singing along with the radio does for me.

I’ll never forget the time she cut up a bunch of scribbled on pieces of paper (coloring in the lines is also not her favorite activity), taped them together into a very convincing rocket ship. SHE MADE A ROCKET SHIP. Out of scraps. That blows my mind!

And over the weekend, I walked into the living room to find that she’d co-opted her baby sister’s toy box (a plastic crate from Walmart, because that’s how we roll) for a doll bed. But it was okay, she told me, because she’d scrounged up another basket for her sister’s toys. And now the stuffed elephant (THAT BELONGS TO HER SISTER, but whatever) has a home.

That kid’s mind is always working. And even though many of her inventions are unnecessary or impractical, I love that she thinks that way. I love that she wants to create, to build. And so GoldieBlox, construction toys made for girls, is the perfect toy for us!

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I heard about GoldieBlox for the first time last year when the company made news with a super clever commercial. Very quickly, it went on to win awards – including Toy of the Year. It didn’t have to win awards for me, though. I was sold after watching the ad and reading a little bit about the company’s goal to get girls building. I bought Annalyn a GoldieBlox kit for Christmas last year – and yes, she loved it as much as I thought she would.

So, OF COURSE, when The Motherhood contacted me about learning more about GoldieBlox, reviewing their toys and (Hello!) giving away some toys to my readers, I jumped at the chance.

[Side note: I wouldn't say that every webinar, conference call or Twitter party I participate in is FUN. Educational or interesting, yes, but fun? Not really. Getting the chance to talk with the founders of GoldieBlox, though, was AWESOME.]

I felt like this:

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{Can you tell that acting is another one of her interests? Heh.}

Anyway.

I loved learning about the beginnings of the company AND its goals for the future. These moms saw something they didn’t like, saw a NEED – and did something about it. I love it!

Also, while I knew GoldieBlox was more than just a pink version of boys’ toys, what I didn’t realize was the amount of research that’s gone into finding out just how girls learn best. It turns out that the construction kits are centered around a character and a story for a reason; girls typically have strong verbal skills, so a story + construction set bolsters confidence in spatial skills while giving young inventors the tools they need to build and create amazing things.

Cool, right?

Goldie is a young engineer who likes to build things with her friends. Each set comes with a book that tells a story with instructions for building something related to the story. (So it’s problem solving plus engineering!) Plus it has extra blueprints in the back of the book for additional projects. (PLUS the GoldieBlox blog has more ideas, and you can buy a bag of parts for even more building fun!)

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The company has three award-winning products on the market right now:

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine (3-6 years old)
GoldieBlox and the Parade Float (3-6 years old)
GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank (5-8 years old)

At the beginning of every GoldieBlox story, some basic engineering vocabulary is introduced with a basic “Bill of Materials.” The pieces you get with GoldieBlox are based on the Seven Simple Machines (wheel and axis, lever, pulley, etc.) As I learned from GoldieBlox, these are the basic building blocks of every physical thing.

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When the founders of GoldieBlox were asked about specific skills they hope to teach girls with their toys, they said:

“One of the most critical skills we are teaching around engineering is simply confidence. Research has shown us that girls are less likely to pursue an activity if they don’t know they will be amazing at it. So by giving girls confidence and exposure to words, when they see and hear these words later in life, they won’t be as intimidated, because they will already understand the concepts!

Another important message we’re sending girls through GoldieBlox is to not give up! Even Goldie, in the stories, will have something not turn out the way she wanted it to and will have to try again at making something.”

I COULD NOT LOVE THIS ANYMORE.

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As Annalyn played with her Parade Float kit, she said, “I’m like a real builder, Mama!”

Now THAT is something I like to hear.

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GoldieBlox GIVEAWAY

Do you know a little girl who likes to build? I’d love to give you a Parade Float and a Dunk Tank kit! Simply visit the GoldieBlox site and tell me in a comment what part of it you’re most excited about.

The winner must live in the U.S. and will be selected randomly after the giveaway closes on Friday, September 5.

This post is part of a compensated campaign with GoldieBlox and The Motherhood. All opinions (and over-acted reactions caught on camera) are my own. And Annalyn’s own. They’re ours. And they’re real.

What I’m Into :: August 2014

What I'm Into :: August 2014

Ahhh, the end of August, you’re the best. We’re saying goodbye to summer (which makes me sweat) and saying hello to school (which makes me smile). And best of all? The end of you means the beginning of fall. And fall is my favorite.

That doesn’t mean August is all bad, of course! It’s not. Really. {What’s that? I’m protesting too much? Psh.}

Seriously, this August has been full of family drama and blistering high temperatures. (Yes, fine, after a gloriously mild summer. But I don’t care how many nice days we’ve had, the nasty hot ones still make me mad. I am reasonable that way.) So I’m doubly thankful for What I’m Into this month – both because it means the end of a less-than-awesome month and the chance to remember the GOOD things that have been going on.

Here we go!

Reading August 2014

What I’m Reading

Lucky for me, it’s been a season of book reviews around here. I’ve had four (FOUR!) recent posts about books, and I have another one coming up next month. But that’s not all I’ve been reading!

The ones I’ve already mentioned: The Cure for the “Perfect” Life, Dark Hope, and The Best Time Travel Books of All Time

The ones on sale until Monday: Jesus Calling

Other books I’ve read: The first book in the Katie Parker series by Jenny B. Jones (Christian YA by one of my favorite authors) was on sale not too long ago and reminded me that while I’d read that first one, I hadn’t read the other two. So I fixed that problem. Oh – and to make it even better? Jenny is releasing a follow-up novella soon, so I’ll find out what’s happened to the main character since the series ended!)

I also read the fourth book of Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series, Silenced. I enjoyed it a lot more than the third book, thankfully. I’ve so enjoyed this series that reminds me – in all good ways – of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series, and I’m glad there’s still one more book to come. I hope Pettrey continues writing after she completes this series. I like her mix of suspense and romance, and she writes good dialogue (the most important thing to me).

The ones I’m reading right now: Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Deluge by Lisa Tawn Bergren, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, and Power Play by Catherine Coulter.

Basically I need to take a week off from life and just read. That’s the dream…

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What I’m Watching

You guys. Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy? It is SO GOOD. Completely hilarious.

Look, I was wary. I only know Chris Pratt as schlubby-but-lovable Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation, and despite his ab selfie heard ’round the world, I just wasn’t sure he could pull off space cowboy hero.

Well, he did. And the other characters were great, too. (Not so much the big bad – sorry, Lee Pace – though.) The story itself isn’t anything innovative, but the movie is just pure fun and seriously funny. It reminded me of Star Wars, with more colors and less drama. I loved it. You [probably] will, too.

As for TV, we’re entering the end-of-summer wasteland now, as summer shows wrap up and we wait for new and returning shows to begin their fall seasons. I’ll talk more about those upcoming shows soon, but for now, I’ll report that I’ve been watching the same old, same old: Perception, Suits, Covert Affairs, Franklin & Bash, and So You Think You Can Dance. They’re all fantastic.

Especially Suits – holy cow, tell me somebody else is still reeling from the last few minutes of that finale!

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What I’m Listening To

Hold on, folks, because I’m about to get up on a soap box.

Now, if you don’t like country music, you might want to skim this section. (NOT THAT YOU EVER DO THAT.) But I do like country music. I love it, as a matter of fact. It – along with Barry Manilow, Chicago, the Beach Boys, Lionel Ritchie and hymns – is the music of my childhood. And, I’m not ashamed to say, it’s the music of my adulthood as well.

In the past year or so the biggest sub-genre of country is, well, I don’t know what it’s called. Country rock? Bro-country? (I saw that somewhere. I swear on my George Strait CDs I did not make it up.) Whatever it’s called, it’s fun. It’s loud and pretty much all about having a good ol’ time and not relevant to my own personal life, but I like it a lot. (Except when they add rapping, and then I have a problem.)

So I like this current trend except for one thing. What I don’t like (in addition to the rapping situation, in case you forgot) is the lame songwriting. I’m not talking about the fact that we have both a song called “Dirt” and a song called “Dust” playing on the radio right now. I am not even worked up about two songs – off the top of my head! – that start (THAT START!) with the word, “damn,” negating all attempts I make to only listen to profanity-free music when Annalyn is in the car, no matter how fast my ears and station-surfing fingers are.

No, I’m sick and tired of songs using empty words and phrases that mean absolutely nothing at all. Like “This is How We Roll,” “Yeah,” “Where It’s At,” and “All Alright.” I’d include, “Aww Nah,” but forgive me, I love that one. I just feel like, as a society, as a world in which talented songwriters live, WE CAN DO BETTER.

Right? CAN’T WE?

I don’t know. Maybe you all don’t care. But I just needed to get that off my country-loving chest.

Also, it’s funny. Because though I’ve been annoyed by the bizarre prevalence of rapping and the loss of decent turns of phrases in these country songs I otherwise love (I do. Honest.), it never once occurred to me to be offended as a woman. Even though these songs? They really are pretty stereotypically sexist. Nope. I’ve just sung along, forgetting everything I ever learned in COMM 560 Women’s Rhetoric (aka, one of my favorite college classes ever).

That is, until I heard the brilliance of “Girl in a Country Song” by the talented (and adorable) Maddie & Tae. Guys, these two 18-year-olds debuted this summer, swinging at some of the biggest names in country right now with their first song. They mock all these obnoxious lyrics in the best way. All in good fun, but still. Maddie and Tae can’t just play the guitar and sing. They’ve got nerve!

This song – it’s hilarious and catchy and, oh my word, SO TRUE. I love it. And I still love the other songs. But this is priceless.

Also, for you pop music lovers, I’m also going all girl power with All About That Bass. (And anything Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato or the likes of them sing. And Taylor Swift’s new song. Because yes, I am 14, thank you for asking.)

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What I’m Eating and/or Cooking

Well. See. The thing is…I’m tired all the time. So I wanted to try to learn to drink coffee. But coffee is gross. It is! I know. Everyone else in the world loves it, but I don’t. I want to, but I don’t. But I’m tired. So I keep trying it.

And then…well…I found a coffee drink I like.

Unfortunately it comes with a whole lot of sugar and about a million (or 600) calories. Even without whip.

OOPS.

Seriously, though, I have discovered the McDonald’s Frappe. And it is delicious and wonderful and I want one every day. Mocha or caramel, doesn’t matter. I love them equally. And I always get it without whip, but I looked up the calories and some things you can’t unsee. You know?

So I’m not sure if I’ve made any progress in my effort to learn to drink coffee. More likely I’ve just gained a few pounds. I mean…I’m not even sure if these delicious drinks give me any more energy! They just taste SO GOOD.

Maybe next month I’ll have something better for you in this department. But for now, I’m not gonna lie. I’m all about the bass AND the frappe.

How about you?

What were YOU into this month? Tell us in the comments!

I’m linking up with my friend Leigh at What I’m Into.

{Frappe Photo Source}

Dark Hope: A Book Review

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My first job was at the public library in the next town over. I loved that job for many reasons, one of which was getting first dibs on returned books. This was years before online requests and self-checkout. This was before Amazon and Goodreads and Oprah’s Book Club.

The only way to find a good book to read was simply to walk the aisles of a bookstore or library.

Then, I loved doing that. I loved walking up and down the aisles, picking up the books with the pretty covers or by familiar authors, making sure I’d read every book in a series. But other than spotting an appealing cover or coming across a book while shelving returns, I didn’t know where to look for good, new (or at least new-to-me books).

Fast forward a thousand years, and on one hand, the last thing I need is a recommendation for a good book. Between the to-read stack next to my bed and my to-read list on Goodreads, I’m ALL FULL UP with good book to read.

Except . . . is there really such a thing? NO.

I’m always on the hunt for a good, new book to read – even if it means setting aside the books I swore I’d read next and return before accruing a late fine. again. And while I now enjoy following the click-y rabbit trails of reviews on Goodreads just like I used to enjoy wandering through the actual library, sometimes it’s hard to find a new novel to read. (And sometimes my Kindle leads me astray with recommendations that … how to say … don’t make sense.)

All that to say – when I’m asked to review a YA pararnormal novel – the first in a new series by an author I hadn’t heard of, I jump at the chance. A new book and new-to-me author? Yes, please!

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Dark Hope is the first book in the Archangel Prophecies Trilogy. As I’ve really enjoyed a couple other series about angels, I thought this sounded great. It’s written by Monica McGurk, an author known (though not, previously, to me) for her fan fiction based on the Twilight series. As I’m not a fan of that series, I was a little unsure about this.

But my angel story interest won out over my fanfic author bias, and I cracked it open the day it showed up in my mailbox. Here’s the summary:

For years, Hope Carmichael, survivor of a shocking child abduction, has lived a sheltered existence under the protection of her fanatically religious father. Now, liberated by her mother, Hope prepares to start life over as a normal kid in an Atlanta, Georgia, high school. Normal, that is, until Hope meets Michael, a gorgeous emancipated teen with a mysterious past and a strong interest in her.

Soon, Hope’s life is filled with questions. What’s behind the angry looks she gets from Lucas, leader of a gang of students? Who’s responsible for sending Hope strange valentines inscribed with Bible quotations? How does this relate to the sinister business of human tracking that operates on the periphery of Hope’s suburban world? And is Michael really a protector, or something more sinister-and just why does he seem so familiar?

In an epic narrative that takes readers from the back streets of Atlanta to the height of Vegas penthouses and beyond, DARK HOPE introduces The Archangel Prophecies, a saga of extraordinary love, vast mythological scope, and great moral urgency.

I liked Dark Hope a lot. I read it in just a couple days, and I’ll definitely read the next book in the series when it’s released. (Another pro in the Monica McGurk column is the news that she’s already completed the second book!)

The story was intriguing – combining a mysterious childhood abduction with a supernatural conspiracy that only comes out a decade later. The idea of an angel falling in love with a human seems a little far-fetched – but no more than any other paranormal romance plot, I suppose.

There were a couple things I didn’t love about this book. For one, a high school girl being left alone so often while her mom traveled on business (especially after spending most of her childhood with her extremely overprotective dad) didn’t ring true at all. Secondly, while I understood the hot and cold personality and affections of the main angel, it was still annoying to me (on behalf of Hope, because yes, she needs my help).

The list of things I liked is much longer! Even without the paranormal business, the decaying relationship between Hope’s parents following her kidnapping rang true to me. I imagine that happens quite a bit in families that experience that kind of tragedy. I also liked the main character, Hope – her voice, her personality, her perspective. Also? This novel uses vocabulary that is higher than the typical sixth-grade reading level I find in a lot of books, both YA and otherwise. I like that.

This book did a great job of highlighting our nation’s problem with sex trafficking. I felt like it was obviously a big deal to the author and an important part of the book – but it never felt preachy. Hard as it is to learn about something like this, I’m always thankful when reading a “fun” novel educates me, too. Win-win.

Oh, also? This book felt longer than a lot of books in the genre, which I appreciated. Because even though the next book in the series is reportedly written, I don’t know when it will be actually on the market. I may have a long time to wait for answers to the mysteries Hope faced in the first book (and I’m crossing my fingers the next two books also flesh out some of the supporting characters a bit, too).

If you like YA paranormal novels, I’d recommend this one for sure. You can find Dark Hope by Monica McGurk as a paperback or an ebook at Amazon.

Where do you find recommendations for your next book to read?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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