Friday, June 27, 2008

"The Molech Prophecy" Book Review

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his book:

The Molech Prophecy

Whitaker House (July 1, 2008)


Thomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability. He did everything possible not to read. It wasn't until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book from cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, Phillips uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies.

Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Phillips has worked as a freelance journalist and currently works full time as an employment law paralegal. When he isn't writing, Phillips plays his guitar, is active in his church, coaches his children's Little League team, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his first published Christian novel.

Visit him at his MySpace, ShoutLife, and blog.


Chapter One

The first things I noticed when I pulled into the church parking lot were the two police cars. Instinct wanted to kick in, but I stopped myself from turning my car around. The police weren’t there for me—couldn’t be there for me. I’d done nothing wrong. I wasn’t the same man. My days of running from the police had ended when I became a Christian. I reminded myself of this simple fact and felt a grin play across my lips. Thankfully, my days of running from the police ended four years ago.

On any given Sunday, I have come to expect many things from Faith Community Church. And why not? I have been attending weekly services for years. I expect smiles from Faith’s Greet Team—from those helping direct cars in the parking lot to those handing out programs and pencils at the sanctuary doors. I expect powerful worship music, a variety of jokes from Pastor Ross—some funny, some not so funny—and I expect, each week, a message that will impact the way I live the rest of my life.

But what I did not expect this morning was what I saw next: the complete defacing of the church building. Black spray paint covered the pecan-colored bricks in horrific graffiti.

After parking, I sat silently in the car, taking it all in. A large pentagram—an encircled, upside-down, five-pointed star—was displayed at the center of it all. Painted on every other available surface were words like “Death,” “Die,” “Faggots,” “Hypocrites,” and “God Is Dead.”

Seeing all of the graffiti felt like a punch to the gut. Faith Community was like my second home; the people who attended were like my second family. It was impossible not to take this attack personally.

Slowly, I climbed out of the car, ignoring the early November morning chill. The wind blew relentlessly all around me, howling and moaning as if it too was furious and saddened and confused by the desecration.

Other cars pulled into the lot. The people get-ting out of them emerged as slowly as I must have. I could see the stunned expressions on their faces—dropped jaws and wide eyes that surely matched my own.

Who would vandalize a church like this? I wondered as I walked toward the entrance. As I stopped in front of the pentagram and took in the mess that attempted to dirty my church, I realized that who-ever did this was hurting—hurting badly. That thought did not stifle the anger—the righteous anger—I felt boiling deep inside.

I nodded a grim good morning to the greeter who held the front door open as I walked into the church. The atrium is usually packed with people mingling before the start of the service. Free coffee, hot cocoa, and doughnuts set out on a table each and every week encourage people to arrive early for fellowship.

This morning, however, only a few people lin-gered in the atrium. Whispers were all I heard. As I entered the sanctuary I saw that this was where everyone had gathered. I usually sit toward the back, far right, as if there were assigned seating. The things I’d seen outside left me feeling hollow and alone. Today, I sat closer to the front, middle row.

I nodded hello to people here and there. Many sat with heads bowed, deep in prayer. I decided praying would be a good use of the extra time before the service.
I tried to cope with a flood of mixed emo-tions, such as anger, sadness, confusion, disbelief, and then, once again, anger. Instead of praying, questions ended up filling my mind: Who could do such a thing? Why would someone do such a thing? How are we going to get that filth off the bricks? If I ever get my…. I broke off the last thought before it got out of hand. I’m in a church, I reminded myself. There is no place for thoughts like that, but especially not in a church.

The service did not start the way services nor-mally did. The church band usually opened wor-ship with a fast-tempo song, one that got those present up on their feet, clapping and singing along, and one that brought those lingering in the atrium into the sanctuary.

Today, in dead silence, Senior Pastor Ross Lobene walked out and stood center stage, grip-ping the podium. He seemed at a loss for words. I think he knew what he wanted to say but was afraid that if he tried speaking too soon, he might lose his composure. I wouldn’t blame him.

As usual, roughly two thousand people filled most of the available seats. Two large projection screens hung on the wall at either side of the stage. Both showed a close-up of the pastor’s face. He could not hide his red eyes—or stop his quivering lips.

Pastor Ross opened a Bible, and when he finally started to speak, his voice was weak and shaky, as if he were on the verge of crying. “I want to read Matthew, chapter five, verses ten through twelve: ‘God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.’”

He bowed his head.

I felt sorrowful pain in my chest.

“Shock. Pure shock,” Pastor Ross said. “You don’t think stuff like this will happen here. It will happen elsewhere, like in run-down, gang-ridden areas, so we think. But from what I know of human nature, it happens everywhere, because people can be dark-hearted everywhere. God is always in con-trol, and He wants us to learn to deal with prob-lems in God-honoring ways. I have come to realize through this incident, and through other incidents that have occurred in our church family, that our enemy, Satan, attacks those churches that are a threat to him and his evil ways.”

I nodded in agreement, listening intently and watching as Pastor Ross released his white-knuck-led grip on the podium and began to come into his own. He paced back and forth on the stage, addressing the congregation, righteous fire heating this impromptu sermon.

“Jesus tells us in Revelation three, verses four-teen through seventeen, that He will spit out of His mouth the church whose people are lukewarm in their faith, because they are neither hot nor cold. It is my desire for Faith Community Church to be a church that is hot, making a difference for Christ and His kingdom in Rochester and the surround-ing area.”

As Pastor Ross paused, he stroked the sandy-colored goatee that covered his chin and used a handkerchief to wipe away the beads of sweat that formed on his bald head. “This, friends, this is a great opportunity for us to love our enemies as ourselves.” He pointed out at us and then pointed back at himself. “It is my desire to see everyone at Faith truly model this command from Christ and not become bitter by this incident. I pray that we have an opportunity to minister to the needs of the person or people responsible, so we can share the life-changing message of the gospel with them.

“I have known many people who have been enslaved in the bondage of satanism and witch-craft, and although the hold these things have on them is strong, it is no match for our all-powerful, all-loving God. It will take time, but if we can be models of Christ’s love to this person, I have full confidence that he will become a child of the light instead of a slave to the darkness.” A second, brief pause followed. Then Pastor Ross added, “Don’t get me wrong. I also hope that the person who did this crime is caught and processed fairly through our justice system.”

I tried to let my own anger subside. If Pastor Ross could move on, so could I. All I needed now was help unclenching my hands, which had been rolled into solid fists since the beginning of service.

Used by permission of the publisher, Whitaker House ( ). All rights reserved.


This book was so good and original that I was really enjoyed it. Thomas has written a great story with an excellent premise. I dug into the story with interest wanting to find out what exactly the Mollech Prophecy was, if Nancy disappeared on purpose or by foul play and what exactly Tommy's background story was and what would make him so good at finding people. Did the pastor have an ulterior motive for wanting Nancy found? What is the New Forest church and are they as harmless as they claim to be? All good questions and Thomas does a great job of answering all of them and pulling us along on an amazing hunt in the process. I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for something a little different to read...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Calico Canyon" take 2

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Calico Canyon

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)


Mary Connealy


MARY CONNEALY is an award-winning author and playwright, married to Ivan a farmer, and the mother of four beautiful daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy. They live in Decatur, Nebraska. Mary is a GED Instructor by day and an author by night. And there is always a cape involved in her transformation.

Mary has also written Petticoat Ranch, Golden Days, and her latest, Alaska Brides that will debut in August.


Let yourself be swept away by this fast-paced romance, featuring Grace Calhoun, an instructor of reading, writing, and arithmetic, who, in an attempt to escape the clutchs of a relentless pursuer, runs smack dab into even more trouble with the 6R's - widower Daniel Reeves, along with his five rowdy sons. When a marriage is forced upon this hapless pair - two people who couldn't dislike each other more - an avalanche isn't the only potential danger lurking amid the shadows of Calico Canyon. Will they make it out alive? Or end up killing each other in the process?

Running from her Abusive foster-father, a man intent on revenge, the prim and perfectly proper Grace Calhoun takes on the job of schoolmarm in Mosqueros, Texas.

As if being a wanted woman isn't bad enough, Grace has her hands full with the five rowdy and rambunctious Reeves boys─tough Texan tormenters who seem intent on making her life miserable. When, in an attempt to escape from the clutches of her pursuer, Grace is forced to marry widower Daniel Reeves, father of the miniature monsters, she thinks things couldn't get any worse. Or could they?

Daniel Reeves, happy in his all-male world, is doing the best he can, raising his five boys─rascals, each and every one. Since his wife's death in childbirth, Daniel has been determined never to risk marriage again.

When God throws Grace and Daniel together─two people who couldn't detest each other more─the trouble is only beginning.

Will this hapless pair find the courage to face life together in the isolated Calico Canyon? Or are their differences too broad a chasm to bridge?

If you would like to read the first chapter go HERE

I posted my review last week when I talked about Calico Canyon, but wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate that this is one of the best books I read this spring and it would be a great summer reading purchase for you. You know its a good book when you can look at the cover after reading it and it makes you smile because you remember how the book made you feel. So treat yourself this summer with a little "Calico Canyon" and some Mary Connealy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione

(Multnomah Books - June 17, 2008)


Chuck Black


Chuck Black first wrote Kingdom’s Edge to inspire his children to read the Bible with renewed zeal. This captivating expanded parable led him to write the Old Testament allegories, Kingdom’s Dawn and Kingdom’s Hope. Chuck added three more titles to the series, Kingdom’s Call, Kingdom’s Quest, and Kingdom’s Reign which were released in May of 2007.

Chuck is a former F-16 fighter pilot and currently works as an engineer for a firm designing plastic consumer products. He has a degree in electrical and electronic engineering and served eight years in the United States Air Force. Chuck and his wife Andrea have six children and live in North Dakota.

It is Chuck’s desire to serve the Lord through his work and to inspire people of all ages to study the scriptures in order to discover the hope and love of a truly majestic King and His Son.


A dangerous new order threatens the mission of the Knights of Arrethtrae. Only loyalty to the King can bring victory!

As the Knights of the Prince await His triumphant return, they are steadfast in their mission to take His story into the kingdom and recruit as many as are willing. But when a new and dangerous threat is revealed, their mission is jeopardized.

Sir Kendrick and his young charge, the impetuous Sir Duncan, are sent on a mission to discover the identity and origin of a secretive new order known as the Vincero Knights. They travel to the city of Bel Lione where Lord Ra has been enticing young people in the kingdom to join his festivals, after which many choose not to return home. Their families keep quiet for fear of repercussion.

When Sir Duncan disappears while trying to discover the truth of Lord Ra’s castle, Sir Kendrick attempts to find and enlist the help of a mysterious warrior. Time is short for he must save Duncan and call upon the knights of Chessington to join in the battle against the evil Lord Ra.

Journey to Arrethtrae, where these knights of noble heart live and die in loyal service to the King and the Prince. These knights are mighty, for they serve a mighty King. They are...the Knights of Arrethtrae!

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

I was blown away by how much I loved this book! It looks like a great start to a fantastic series. This is a book that would be a great read aloud to your family and would keep everyone entertained while giving you good discussion of spiritual truths and ideas. The characters are great and the settings are vivid with imagery that will take you right into the castles and countrysides as the characters go there. This is a series that I will be collecting for my family and I would strongly suggest that you do as well!

Sleeping through the night...

I have to say that it is easy to forget how precious an uninterrupted nights sleep is until you have a newborn again and 1 1/2 hours without interruption seems wonderful. Just as I was wondering if I would retain my sanity with such limited sleep, my milk came in and Quinn has been busy nursing to play catch up with his eating. Now remember that he was 9 lbs, 9 oz when he was born so he had a head start, but then babies always lose some weight until the milk comes in and they get to start filling up again. I am of the mind that you feed them as often as they need fed until they get caught up before you start worrying about a schedule. So I kind of feel like he has been nursing non-stop for 2 days now... until last night. He basically ate from midnight to one, but then he slept til 8:00 this morning! That makes 7 precious hours of sleep in a row!!! Oh precious, precious sleep! I feel so much better today and this is a good thing because it is my dear husbands birthday today (yes, he and Quinn have birthdays 6 days apart now) and hopefully I won't be a grump now :-)

Delayed Book Giveaways!

Well, these book giveaways got delayed a little with the birth of Quinn last week, but I finally did the drawings tonight for 5 of them and the winners are...

"Ruby Among Us" by Tina Ann Forkner goes to ... rojosho@hot...

"Voice In The Wind" by Francine Rivers goes to ... gautami tripathy

"I heart Bloomberg" by Melody Carlson goes to ... Doreen (purpose driven)

"Summer of Cotton Candy" by Debbie Viguie goes to ... Diane (bencanada)

"A Bride So Fair" by Carol Cox goes to ... Becky C. (rec@...)

Please email me your address so I can get your book out to you - Congratulations to all of you!

New giveaways are available now so make sure you get signed up for those too!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"The Hunted" Book Review and Giveaway!

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Hunted

(Realms - June 3, 2008)


Mike Dellosso


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted. He was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years and has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets. Mike also has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters.

Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer's Network, and International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master's Graduate School of Divinity.

You can read a great interview with Mike, over here on TitleTrakk


A town's deadly secret will drive one man to the edge of his faith...

After learning of the disappearance of his nephew, Joe Saunders returns to his childhood home of Dark Hills to aid in the search effort. When Caleb is found, badly mauled and clinging to life, Joe embarks on a mission to find the beast responsible. But the more Joe delves into the fabric of his old hometown, the more he realizes Dark Hills has a dark secret, shrouded for three generations in a deadly code of silence.

As Joe unravels the truth behind a series of unexplained animal attacks, murder, and corruption at the highest level of law enforcement, he is led to a final showdown where he must entrust his very life into God's hands. Will his young faith be strong ehough to battle the demonic forces of The Hunted.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE.

Mike Dellosso could very well be the next Frank Peretti-if you liked The Oath and Monster, you are going to love The Hunted.
--C.J. Darlington, Cofounder and book editor,

A spine-tingling tale of hidden secrets, buried hopes, and second chances. A story best read with all the lights on and an extra flashlight--just in case!
--Amy Wallace, author of Ransomed Dreams

Mike Dellosso's pins-and-needles thriller hurtles the reader down a dark and twisted path. I dare you to take this one home!
--Jill Elizabeth Nelson, author of the To Catch a Thief suspense series

With hints of Frank Peretti and Stephen King, The Hunted is a chilling debut."
--Creston Mapes, author of Nobody

A vicious enemy, a family secret, a thirst for revenge, and a need for reconciliation all drive The Hunted from intriguing beginning to thrilling conclusion."
--Kathryn Mackel, author of Vanished

Read this someplace safe as you experience the incredibly descriptive world of The Hunted. And sleep with the lights on.
--Austin Boyd, author of Mars Hill Classified trilogy


You must read this book with an open mind. If you can do that and you like Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker's style, then you will like this book. It is very well written and has mystery and suspense as the story unfolds and you try to figure out who is doing what along with the characters in the book. I was intrigued and questioning as I read and wondered right down to the end if I was on the right track or not. I could see this book being a hit with the young adult and male crowd.

Leave a comment with your email address and I will enter you in a drawing for a copy of this book. Good luck!

"She Always Wore Red" Book Review and Giveaway!

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

She Always Wore Red

Tyndale House Publishers (April 23, 2008)


Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected in novels from this versatile author. With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to novels.

Now that her two children have reached their twenties, Angie and her husband live in Florida with Very Big Dogs (a direct result of watching Turner and Hooch and Sandlot too many times). This affinity for mastiffs has not been without its rewards--one of their dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest canine in America. Their dog received this dubious honor after an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for the dog and the Hunts, complete with VIP air travel and a stretch limo in which they toured New York City.

Afterward, the dog gave out pawtographs at the airport.

Angela admits to being fascinated by animals, medicine, psychology, unexplained phenomena, and “just about everything” except sports. Books, she says, have always shaped her life— in the fifth grade she learned how to flirt from reading Gone with the Wind.

Her books have won the coveted Christy Award, several Angel Awards from Excellence in Media, and the Gold and Silver Medallions from Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. In 2007, her novel The Note was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

In 2006, Angela completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree and completed her doctorate in 2008. When she’s not home reading or writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course.

Visit her at her website.


Chapter One

The nameless cadaver on the cover of my anatomy textbook—a middle-aged man who is no longer black, white, or brown—would be counted among the orange in a census of the embalmed.

Someone should have adjusted the tint before they juiced him.

I flip the book open and study the color photographs of the cadaver’s aortic arch and brachiocephalic veins, then close my eyes and try to commit the multisyllable words to memory. Here I am, near the end of my first semester of mortuary school, and I’m still having trouble keeping my veins and arteries straight.

Behind me, an irate mother in the carpool line is honking, though we have a good three minutes before kindergarten dismissal. She probably has to pick up her child and get back to work before the end of her lunch hour. While I sympathize with her impatience, I wish she’d lay off the horn so I can concentrate.

I open one eye and examine the book propped on my steering wheel. The right internal jugular branches off the right and left brachiocephalic veins, which lie outside the brachiocephalic trunk. Brachiocephalic sounds like some kind of dinosaur. Bugs would like that word.

I turn the book sideways, but the photograph on the page looks nothing like a prehistoric animal. In fact, I find it hard to believe that anything like this jumble of tunnels and tubes exists in my body, but skin covers myriad mysteries.

I snap the book shut as the bell at Round lake elementary trills through the warm afternoon. The kindergarten classes troop out into the sunshine, their hands filled with lunch boxes and construction paper cutouts. The tired teachers stride to the curb and peer into various vehicles, then motion the appropriate children forward.

My spirits lift when my red-haired cherub catches my eye and waves. Bradley “Bugs” graham waits until his teacher calls his name and skips toward me.

“Hey, Mom.” He climbs into the backseat of the van as his teacher holds the door.

“Hey yourself, kiddo.” I check to make sure he’s snapped his seat belt before smiling my thanks at his teacher. “Did you have a good morning?”

“Yep.” He leans forward to peek into the front seat. “Do we hafta go home, or can we stop to get a snack?”

My thoughts veer toward the to-do list riding shotgun in the front passenger seat. I still have to run to the grocery store, swing by the dry cleaner’s to pick up gerald’s funeral suit, and stop to see if the bookstore has found a used copy of Introduction to Infectious Diseases, Second edition. Textbooks are usually pricey, but medical textbooks ought to come with fixed-rate mortgages. Still, I need to find that book if I’m going to complete my online course by the end of the semester.

“I’ll pull into a drive-through,” I tell Bugs, knowing he won’t mind. “You want McDonald’s?”

He nods, so I point the van toward Highway 441.

“Mr. gerald make any pickups today?” Bugs asks.

I ease onto the highway, amazed at how easily my children have accepted the ongoing work of the funeral home. “none today.”

“See this?”

I glance in the rearview mirror and see Bugs waving his construction paper creation. “Yes.”

“It’s a stegosaurus. Can I give it to gerald?”

“I think he’d like that.” I force a smile as an unexpected wave of grief rises within me. like a troublesome relative who doesn’t realize she’s worn out her welcome, sorrow often catches me by surprise. Gerald, the elderly embalmer at Fairlawn, has become a surrogate father for my sons. Thomas, my ex-husband and my children’s father, has been gone for months, but in some ways he’s never been closer. He lies in the Pine Forest Cemetery, less than two miles from our house, so we can’t help but think of him every time we drive by.

I get Bugs a vanilla ice cream cone at the McDonald’s drive-through, and then we run to the grocery store and the dry cleaner. I’ll call the bookstore later. no sense in going there when a simple phone call will suffice.

Finally we turn into the long driveway that leads to the Fairlawn Funeral Home.

Gerald has poured a new concrete pad next to the garage, and as I park on it, Bugs notices that the call car is gone. “uh-oh.” He looks at me. “Somebody bit the dust.”

I press my lips together. A couple of months ago I would have mumbled something about the old station wagon maybe needing a wash, but now I know there’s no reason to shield my children from the truth—we are in the death care industry. The squeamishness I felt when we first arrived vanished the day I walked into the prep room and gloved up to help gerald lay out my ex-husband.

“Come in the house,” I tell my son. “I’ll pour you a glass of milk.”


I am looking forward to hearing Angela Hunt speak at the ACFW conference in September so I eagerly read any of her books that come across my path right now. I have had mixed opinions about them so far (The Novelist - didn't love / The Elevator - I liked but it was very cerebral / and now She Always Wore Red...) and so I was very glad that I enjoyed this book so much. It is book #2 in the Fairlawn series about a woman and her 2 sons that inherit a funeral home and move in. It is not macabre and actually is quite interesting and fun. Angela deals with some intense issues (racial issues, abortion, unknown siblings due to dad cheating on mom, etc...) and handles them expertly. I have not read book #1 in this series, but I would read it based on how I enjoyed #2. I have found that with Angela's books it is a book by book basis for me and this one is worth reading and enjoying.

Leave a comment with your email and I will enter you in a drawing for a copy of this great book!

"Calico Canyon" Book Review

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

Calico Canyon

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)


MARY CONNEALY is married to Ivan a farmer, and she is the mother of four beautiful daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy. Mary is a GED Instructor by day and an author by night. And there is always a cape involved in her transformation.

Visit her at her website and her blog.

Product Details

List Price: $10.97

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1597899380

ISBN-13: 978-1597899383


Chapter One

Mosqueros, Texas, 1867

T he Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode in.

Late as usual.

Grace Calhoun was annoyed with their tardiness at the same time she wished they’d never come back from the noon recess.

They shoved their way into their desks, yelling and wrestling as if they were in a hurry. No doubt they were. They couldn’t begin tormenting her until they sat down, now, could they?

Grace Calhoun clenched her jaw to stop herself from nagging. Early in the school year, she’d realized that her scolding amused them and, worse yet, inspired them. To think she’d begged their father to send his boys to school.

Her gaze locked on Mark Reeves. She knew that look. The glint in his eyes told her he was planning. . .something. . .awful.

Grace shuddered. Seven girls and fifteen boys in her school. Most were already working like industrious little angels.


The noise died down. Grace stood in front of the room and cleared her throat to buy time until her voice wouldn’t shake. Normally she could handle them—or at least survive their antics. But she hadn’t eaten today and it didn’t look as though she’d eat soon.

“Sally, will you please open your book to page ten and read aloud for the class?”

“Yes, Miss Calhoun.” With a sweet smile, six-year-old Sally McClellen, her Texas accent so strong Grace smiled, stood beside her desk and lifted the first grade reader.

Grace’s heart swelled as the little girl read without hesitation, her blue eyes focused on the pages, her white-blond hair pulled back in a tidy braid. Most of her students were coming along well.


Grace folded her skeletal hands together with a prayer of thank-fulness for the good and a prayer for courage for the bad. She added prayers for her little sisters, left behind in Chicago, supported with her meager teacher’s salary.

A high-pitched squeak disrupted her prayerful search for peace. A quick glance caught only a too-innocent expression on Ike Reeves’s face.

Mark’s older brother Ike stared at the slate in front of him. Ike studying was as likely as Grace roping a longhorn bull, dragging him in here, and expecting the creature to start parsing sentences. There was no doubt about it. The Reeves boys were up to something.

She noticed a set of narrow shoulders quivering beside Mark. Luke Reeves, the youngest of the triplets—Mark, Luke, and John. All three crammed in one front-row desk built to hold two children. The number of students was growing faster than the number of desks.

She’d separated them, scolded, added extra pages to their assign-ments. She’d kept them in from recess and she’d kept them after school.

And, of course, she’d turned tattletale and complained to their father, repeatedly, to absolutely no avail. She’d survived the spring term with the Reeves twins, barely. The triplets weren’t school age yet then. After the fall work was done, they came. All five of them. Like a plague of locusts, only with less charm.

The triplets were miniature versions of their older twin brothers, Abraham and Isaac. Their white-blond hair was as unruly as their behavior. They dressed in the next thing to rags. They were none too clean, and Grace had seen them gather for lunch around what seemed to be a bucket full of meat.

They had one tin bucket, and Abe, the oldest, would hand out what looked like cold beefsteak as the others sat beside him, apparently starved half to death, and eat with their bare hands until the bucket was empty.

Why didn’t their father just strap a feed bag on their heads? What was that man thinking to feed his sons like this?

Easy question. Their father wasn’t thinking at all.

He was as out of control as his sons. How many times had Grace talked to Daniel Reeves? The man had the intelligence of the average fence post, the personality of a wounded warthog, and the stubbornness of a flea-bitten mule. Grace silently apologized to all the animals she’d just insulted.

Grace noticed Sally standing awkwardly beside her desk, obviously finished.

“Well done, Sally.” Grace could only hope she told the truth. The youngest of the three McClellen girls could have been waltzing for all Grace knew.

“Thank you, Miss Calhoun.” Sally handed the book across the aisle to John Reeves.

The five-year-old stood and began reading, but every few words he had to stop. John was a good reader, so it wasn’t the words tripping him up. Grace suspected he couldn’t control his breathing for wanting to laugh.

The rowdy Reeves boys were showing her up as a failure. She needed this job, and to keep it she had to find a way to manage these little monsters.

She’d never spanked a student in her life. Can I do it? God, should

I do it?

Agitated nearly to tears, Grace went to her chair and sat down.

“Aahhh!” She jumped to her feet.

All five Reeves boys erupted in laughter.

Grace turned around and saw the tack they’d put on her chair. Resisting the urge to rub her backside, she whirled to face the room.

Most of the boys were howling with laughter. Most of the girls looked annoyed on her behalf. Sally had a stubborn expression of loyalty on her face that would have warmed Grace’s heart if she hadn’t been pushed most of the way to madness.

Grace had been handling little girls all her life, but she knew noth-ing about boys.

Well, she was going to find out if a spanking would work. Slamming her fist onto her desk, she shouted, “I warned you boys, no more pranks. Abraham, Isaac, Mark, Luke, John, you get up here. You’re going to be punished for this.”

“We didn’t do it!” The boys chorused their denials at the top of their lungs. She’d expected as much, but this time she wasn’t going to let a lack of solid evidence sway her. She knew good and well who’d done this.

Driven by rage, Grace turned to get her ruler. Sick with the feeling of failure but not knowing what else to do, she jerked open the drawer in her teacher’s desk.

A snake struck out at her. Screaming, Grace jumped back, tripped over her chair, and fell head over heels.

With a startled cry, Grace landed hard on her backside. She barely registered an alarming ripping sound as she bumped her head against the wall hard enough to see stars. Her skirt fell over her head, and her feet—held up by her chair—waved in the air. She shoved desperately at the flying gingham to cover herself decently. When her vision cleared, she looked up to see the snake, dangling down out of the drawer, drop onto her foot.

It disappeared under her skirt, and she felt it slither up her leg. Her scream could have peeled the whitewash off the wall.

Grace leapt to her feet. The chair got knocked aside, smashing into the wall. She stomped her leg, shrieking, the snake twisting and climbing past her knee. She felt it wriggling around her leg, climbing higher. She whacked at her skirt and danced around trying to shake the reptile loose.

The laughter grew louder. A glance told her all the children were out of the desks and running up and down the aisle.

One of the McClellen girls raced straight for her. Beth McClellen dashed to her side and dropped to her knees in front of Grace. The nine-year-old pushed Grace’s skirt up and grabbed the snake.

Backing away before Grace accidentally kicked her, Beth said, “It’s just a garter snake, ma’am. It won’t hurt you none.”

Heaving whimpers escaped with every panting breath. Grace’s heart pounded until it seemed likely to escape her chest and run off on its own. Fighting for control of herself, she got the horrible noises she was making under control then smoothed her hair with unsteady hands. She stared at the little snake, twined around Beth’s arm.

Beth’s worried eyes were locked on Grace. The child wasn’t sparing the snake a single glance. Because, of course, Beth and every other child in this room knew it was harmless. Grace knew it, too. But that didn’t mean she wanted the slithery thing crawling up her leg!

“Th—ank—” Grace couldn’t speak. She breathed like a winded horse, sides heaving, hands sunk in her hair. The laughing boys drowned out her words anyway.

Beth turned to the window, eased the wooden shutters open, and lowered the snake gently to the ground. The action gave Grace another few seconds to gather her scattered wits.

Trying again, she said, “Thank you, B-Beth. I’m not—not a-afraid of snakes.”

The laughter grew louder. Mark Reeves fell out of his desk holding his stomach as his body shook with hilarity. The rest of the boys laughed harder.

Swallowing hard, Grace tried again to compose herself. “I was just startled. Thank you for helping me.” Taking a step toward Beth, Grace rested one trembling hand on the young girl’s arm. “Thank you very much, Beth.”

Beth gave a tiny nod of her blond head, as if to encourage her and extend her deepest sympathy.

Grace turned to the rioting classroom—and her skirt fell off.

With a cry of alarm, Grace grabbed at her skirt.

The boys in the class started to whoop with laughter. Mark kicked his older brother Ike. Ike dived out of his chair onto Mark. They knocked the heavy two-seater student desk out of line. Every time they bumped into some other boy, their victim would jump into the fray.

Pulling her skirt back into place, she turned a blind eye to the chaos to deal with her clothes. Only now did she see that the tissue-thin fabric was shredded. A huge hole gaped halfway down the front. It was the only skirt she owned.

Beth, a natural caretaker, noticed and grabbed Grace’s apron off a hook near the back wall.

Mandy McClellen rushed up along with Sally and all the other girls. Mandy spoke low so the rioting boys couldn’t overhear. “This is your only dress, isn’t it, Miss Calhoun?”

Grace nodded, fighting not to cry as the girls adjusted the apron strings around her waist to hold up her skirt. She’d patch it back to-gether somehow, although she had no needle and thread, no money to buy them, and no idea how to use them.

Grace looked up to see the older Reeves boys making for the back of the schoolroom.

“Hold it right there.” Mandy used a voice Grace envied.

The boys froze. They pivoted and looked at Mandy, as blond as her sisters and a close match in coloring to the Reeves, but obviously blessed with extraordinary power she could draw on when necessary. After the boys’ initial surprise—and possibly fear—Grace saw the calculating expression come back over their faces.

“Every one of you,” Mandy growled to frighten a hungry panther, “get back in your seats right now.” She planted her hands on her hips and stared.

The whole classroom full of boys stared back. They hesitated, then at last, with sullen anger, caved before a will stronger than their own. Under Mandy’s burning gaze, they returned to their seats. Grace’s heart wilted as she tried to figure out how Mandy did it.

When the boys were finally settled, the eleven-year-old turned to Grace, her brow furrowed with worry. “I’m right sorry, Miss Calhoun,” she whispered, “but you have to figure out how to manage ’em yourself. I can’t do it for you.”

Grace nodded. The child spoke the complete and utter truth.

The girls fussed over Grace, setting her chair upright and returning to her desk a book that had been knocked to the floor.

“Miss Calhoun?” Beth patted Grace’s arm.


“Can I give you some advice?”

The little girl had pulled a snake out from under Grace’s skirt. Grace would deny her nothing. “Of course.”

“I think it’s close enough to day’s end that you ought to let everyone go home. You’re too upset to handle this now. Come Monday morning you’ll be calmer and not do something you’ll regret.”

“Or start something you can’t finish,” Sally added.

Grace knew the girls were right. Her temper boiled too near the surface. She was on the verge of a screaming fit and a bout of tears.

My dress! God, what am I going to do about it?

These boys! Dear, dear Lord God, what am I going to do about them?

She tried to listen for the still, small voice of God that had taken her through the darkest days of her life during her childhood in Chicago. He seemed to abandon her today. The good Lord had to know one of His children had never needed an answer more. But if God sent an answer, her fury drowned it out. She’d been putting off a showdown with these boys all term. It was time to deal with the problem once and for all.

Sally slipped her little hand into Grace’s. “Boys are naughty.”

Grace shared a look with Sally and had to force herself not to nod. Seven sweet little girls stood in a circle around her. Grace wanted to hug them all and then go after the boys with a broom, at least five of them. The other ten weren’t so badly behaved. Except when inspired by the Reeves.

God had made boys and girls. He’d planned it. They were supposed to be this way. But how could a teacher stuff book learning in their heads when they wouldn’t sit still or stop talking or quit wrestling?

Digging deep for composure, Grace said, “You girls return to your seats, please. And thank you for your help.”

Beth shook her head frantically, obviously sensing Grace wasn’t going to take her advice.

“It’s all right, Beth. I’ve put this off too long as it is. And thank you again.”

Beth’s feet dragged as she followed her sisters and the other girls to her seat.

Grace waited as the room returned to relative quiet, except for the usual giggling and squirming of the Reeves boys.

Glancing between her chair seat and her open desk drawer, Grace was worried she might develop a nervous tic. She sat down but left the drawer open. An almost insane calm took over her body. “School is dismissed except for Abraham, Isaac, Mark, Luke, and John Reeves.”

Forehead furrowed over her blond brows, Beth shook her head and gave a little “don’t do it” wave.

Grace could tell by the way the sun shone in the west window that it was only a few minutes early for dismissal. Good. That gave her time to settle with these boys, and then she’d have it out with their father. Things were going to change around here!

The rest of the students, stealing frequent glances between her and the blond holy terrors in her midst, gathered up their coats and lunch pails and left the schoolhouse in almost total silence.

And that left Grace.


With the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse.


This book was a sheer joy to read! I loved Petticoat Ranch when it came out, but I read it a year ago. When Calico Canyon finally came in a few days ago, I picked it up and didn't put it down until it was done. It is possible that I actually liked this one even more than the first book. I do need to point out that it would not be necessary to read Petticoat Ranch first, but Calico Canyon does build on it nicely. Mary has a beautiful writing style that might best be described as fun and absolute delight. The characters are incredible and amazingly well written. The 5 Reeves boys are written so well that you can tell them apart as you read and we see them in a heart breaking way - first they are so incorrigable that you want to smack them and then you start to see them as they really are, lonely little boys in need of a mother. And I love the way that Mary sets up Gingham Mountain (book #3) as she works her way through Calico Canyon. I can't wait for it to come out as this series has been a delight so far and I look for Mary to keep delighting!

"Sydney Clair's Season of Change" Book Review

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

Sydney Clair’s Season of Change

Authentic (March 1, 2008)


Pam Davis is an author and motivational speaker who views her charge as bringing the timeworn truths of Scripture to life. Pams candid teaching style not only enlightens but also entertains, leaving her audiences with a refreshed desire for the living Word of God. She lives with her husband, Steven, and three children in Fort Worth, Texas.

Visit her at her website.

Product Details:

Reading level: Ages 4-8
List Price: $7.99
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Authentic (March 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068500
ISBN-13: 978-1934068502


Chapter One

It’s going to be a bad day, Sydney Clair thought to herself. She snuggled deeper under the covers. Maybe if she stayed in bed all day, nothing would change. Her sister wouldn’t leave. She’d stay right here with the rest of the family, the way things had always been.

But she could already hear Penny moving about the room they shared, packing last-minute items and singing to herself. Sydney Clair pulled the pillow over her head.

It sounded like she was taking everything.

“Not the dancing clowns!” Sydney Clair removed the pillow when she heard the music box.

Penny smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m not taking the dancing clowns.”

Sydney Clair thought her sister was the prettiest girl ever. She blinked back tears, but Penny still saw them.

“I’m only a twenty-minute bus ride away, Clair-Bear. You can come visit anytime.”

Clair-Bear. It was a nickname her sister had given her when she was just a baby. She’d loved it when she was little.

Sydney wasn’t a very common name amongst her friends’ Susies, Vickys, and Lucys. Mother had named her Sydney in honor of her grandfather who passed away shortly before Sydney Clair was born. Now Sydney Clair appreciated the name more—and liked the uniqueness of it—but “Clair-Bear” still had a special place in her heart. Though, with Penny leaving, who would call her that now? And who would braid her hair for school? Who could she talk to about what was happening in her favorite book series? Who would walk down to the Dairy Queen with her for Dilly Bars?

Who would be her sister?

The family’s Plymouth station wagon meandered its way onto the University of Texas campus. Sydney Clair could tell Penny was practically bursting with excitement. She stared out the window, pointing to every statue and building on campus. “That’s Hogg Memorial Auditorium. That’s Austin Tower. You can see the whole campus from the top of it.”

Sydney Clair didn’t even pretend to be interested. But her dad slowed down the car and stretched to see the Tower. “Can you read the inscription?” he asked.

“And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” quoted Penny. “Isn’t that a Bible verse?”

Mother nodded. “John 8:32, I believe.”

“Ding, ding, ding,” Mr. Wilcox chimed. “Your mother wins the prize.”

“And what might that prize be?” Mother asked teasingly.

“Uh . . . I’ll make dinner tonight,” Mr. Wilcox said.

“That means we’re having peanut butter and jelly,” Sydney Clair interjected from the back seat.

“Or corn chips and soda pop,” said her mother, laughing.

Mr. Wilcox pretended to pout. “You have no confidence at all in my cooking abilities.”

“I’m just remembering when you made me that birthday cake while we were dating.”

“Uh, oh. Don’t bring that up . . . ” Mr. Wilcox said.

“What was wrong with it, Mother?” Penny asked.

Mother turned her head to look at the girls. “He decided to frost it before he put it in the oven.” She began to laugh. “When he took it out, the whole top was charred black.”

“I didn’t know you were supposed to bake the cake first and then decorate it,” Dad said with a grin on his face. “And, bless her heart, your mother ate it anyway.”

“What you lacked in culinary skills, you more than made up for in charm,” Mother told him.

“I’m voting that Mother keeps her job of doing the cooking,” said Sydney Clair.

Sydney Clair tried to imagine her mother and dad before they were married. She knew they must have laughed a lot—because even now they were always joking about something.

Her dad pulled into a parking spot and shut off the engine in front of Penny’s dormitory.

“Here we are,” said Mr. Wilcox. “Bradshaw Hall.”

“Isn’t it beautiful?” said Penny.

“It’s very stately,” Mrs. Wilcox agreed, opening her car door.

All Sydney Clair saw was a boring brick building. She stepped out into the hot, dusty Austin summer, already feeling the start of sweat on her temples. Not only was her sister abandoning her to go to college, but she’d have to spend the next few hours carrying boxes up and down stairs.

“What’s going on over there?” Mrs. Wilcox asked. Sydney Clair looked in the direction she was pointing toward and saw a swarm of college students marching around in a circle waving signs. Some seemed to have relinquished themselves to the heat and sat lounging in small circles on the grass.

“They’re protesting bleached toilet paper,” said Penny. “Leah told me all about it. Companies whiten toilet paper with chemicals that can ruin our environment. It needs to be stopped.”

Leah was Penny’s best friend and an expert in everything.

“We should get started,” Mr. Wilcox said. He lifted a large box out of the back of the station wagon.

Sydney Clair kept watching the protesters. A young man, whose hair hung down to his waist and wore a colorful headband, seemed to be in charge. He shouted from the steps of a building, waving his sign high in the air. Like the others, he wore frayed blue jeans, and his feet were bare. “The land has taken good care of us—we need to take good care of it!”

The other protesters shouted back in agreement. “Right on, man!” “That’s right!” “Protect our planet!”

Sydney Clair’s dad broke into her thoughts. “If I’d have worn my hair like that, your grandmother would’ve never let me out of the house.”

Sydney Clair lost count of the number of times she climbed the three flights of stairs to Penny’s new room.

She still didn’t understand why Penny was so excited about college. The room they shared at home was twice the size of this one. She felt her eyes moisten thinking about sleeping in the room all by herself.

As Sydney Clair reached the third floor for the umpteenth time, Penny’s squealing voice caught her attention. “It’s so great to finally meet you!”

Sydney Clair turned into Penny’s dorm room and plopped down the avocado green beanbag she’d been carrying.
A red-haired girl. who wore a peasant blouse and a denim skirt, sat cross-legged on the bed next to her sister.

“Sydney Clair, this is Moonbeam,” Penny said. “My roommate.”

Sydney Clair quickly shoved aside the thought that she used to be Penny’s roommate. “Hi,” she mustered. She wondered what Moonbeam’s parents had named her brothers and sisters. Star? Planet? Galaxy? Were they astronomers?

“Peace,” Moonbeam said, holding up two fingers in a V-shape.

“What are your sisters and brothers named?” asked Sydney Clair.

“What kind of question is that?” Penny said.

“It’s cool,” said Moonbeam. “I have two brothers, named Jack and Harry.”

“Those names are pretty normal,” said Sydney Clair. “Why isn’t yours?”

Penny glared at her. “Sydney Clair!” she scolded.

“No sweat. Little Daisy here is curious,” said Moonbeam. “My parents named me Shirley. But I chose Moonbeam. It seemed to fit my personality better—y’know, who I really am. I shine in the midst of dark ideas.”

Penny nodded in agreement, but Sydney Clair thought it was just plain weird. Why was Moonbeam calling her Daisy? She liked the names Shirley and Sydney Clair better but thought it best not to say.

“You have to listen to this record,” Moonbeam was saying. “Have you heard of Jefferson Airplane?”

“No, but I really like the Beatles. And Peter, Paul, and Mary,” Penny said. Moonbeam nodded approvingly. “Their song ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ is far-out.”

Sydney Clair noticed a guitar case in the corner. “Do you play the guitar?”

“I’m learning,” said Moonbeam. “Maybe someday it’ll be the group Peter, Paul, and Moonbeam.”

Sydney Clair didn’t think so, but she kept her mouth shut.

Another girl burst into the room. “Guess what, Moonbeam! We have a colored girl on the floor.”

Moonbeam quickly introduced Sydney Clair and Penny to Beth. “What room is she in?”

“Two doors down.”

“Didn’t the University of Texas open up to colored students several years ago?” asked Penny.

“Sure,” said Beth. “But this is my third year here, and I’ve never lived on the same floor as one before.”

Sydney Clair wondered what was taking her parents so long. She didn’t really like college life. But she knew she felt bad for the colored girl living two doors down. She hadn’t been exposed to a lot of colored people in her life. There weren’t any Negro families in her neighborhood. Only a handful of colored kids went to her school and they pretty much stuck to themselves.

“Well, I don’t have a problem with it,” stated Moonbeam.

“I do. And my mother certainly will when she finds out. She’s from Alabama, and things are different there,” said Beth. She started talking about some town named Birmingham and how the town residents set buses on fire that Freedom Riders were riding.

Sydney Clair wondered who Freedom Riders were. The whole thing sounded scary.

A knocking sound came from the hallway.

“Come in,” called Moonbeam.

A petite colored girl swung open the door. She wore a white blouse and plaid skirt. “Sorry to bother you. Can you tell me how to get to the library?”

Moonbeam started giving directions, but Sydney Clair noticed that Beth turned away and stared out the window.

Outside her car window, Sydney Clair watched the pink sunset fade into the Texas plain. It had been a long day, and she was tired.

“I hear some larger companies are coming into town. There will be some good-paying jobs opening up,” Mother was telling Dad.

Mother often talked about “larger corporations” these days, but Dad never seemed as interested. “And all those good-paying jobs will require a suit and tie,” he said.

“I think you’d look very handsome in a tie,” Mrs. Wilcox said.

Sydney Clair was still thinking about the university they’d
just left. The whole place seemed crazy and loud and chaotic.
Even as they’d pulled out of the parking lot, girls wearing flower wreaths in their hair waved signs saying, “Bring our GIs home!” She remembered the young man with the long hair. Yep . . . college was a far cry from the white picket fences of their quiet neighborhood, where walking to the Piggly Wiggly for candy was enough for excitement.

“Don’t you like the name Shirley better than Moonbeam?” she asked her parents.

Mr. Wilcox chuckled as he drove. “College students have their own way of doing things.”

“Especially in this day and age,” said Mrs. Wilcox. “I hope Penny does okay there.”

“She’ll be fine.” Mr. Wilcox patted his wife’s hand. “We’ve raised her well.”

“Do you think she’ll change?” Sydney Clair wondered aloud.

“In some ways,” her dad said. “She’s growing up. She’ll be learning new things, meeting new people.”

“I mean really change. Will she still be our Penny?”

“She’ll always be our Penny,” her mother said.

Sydney Clair was still missing her sister as she and her mother washed the dishes that evening. The sounds of The Dick Van Dyke Show wafted in from the next room where her dad sat in his easy chair with the newspaper. Her mother had made Sydney Clair’s favorite dinner—roast beef with mashed potatoes—but it hadn’t cheered her up much. She kept thinking of Penny at college.

“There’s only three of everything,” she said. “Three plates, three forks.” She handed her mother a sudsy glass to rinse. “Three glasses.”

“I guess things change,” Mrs. Wilcox said. “They’ll always change. Someday you’ll go off to college and move away from home.”

“Maybe I’ll just move into the playhouse,” said Sydney Clair. Her dad had built her a new playhouse over the summer. It was better than any playhouse she’d ever seen, and her friends Vicky and Ann had agreed. It had shutters that opened and closed, a little kitchen with a sink that held water, and even electricity for the light that hung over the table. Mrs. Wilcox often brought cookies or snacks to Sydney Clair and her friends, who regularly hosted tea parties from the playhouse. Inside the playhouse or out on the lawn in front—it didn’t matter. Mrs. Wilcox would often say, “You need to eat more than just tea and crumpets,” which were usually Kool-Aid and corn chips. But with Sydney Clair’s imagination, they were never just tea and crumpets. They were exotic concoctions from far off lands. Sydney Clair cherished her playhouse. Because it never changed, she thought.

Her mother chuckled. “Someday you’ll even outgrow the playhouse.”

Sydney Clair couldn’t imagine that.

Mr. Wilcox walked into the kitchen, carrying the newspaper. “Did you see this article, dear?” He handed Mrs. Wilcox the newspaper, and they started talking about some race riots that had taken place in California.

“Do you know there’s a colored girl that lives on Penny’s floor?” Sydney Clair said.

Mrs. Wilcox nodded. “Yes, and I hope your sister will make sure she feels welcome.”

“Knowing Penny, she’ll do just that,” said Mr. Wilcox. “Can I help you finish the dishes?”

“As always, your timing is perfect,” said Mother. “We just finished.”

“And I missed it,” Mr. Wilcox feigned disappointment.

“Someday we’ll have to get one of those new automatic dishwashers they have out now. We’d be done doing dishes in no time,” said Sydney Clair.

“I thought you were my automatic dishwasher, Sydney Clair.” Her mother smiled.

“I think she might need a tune-up,” Dad said. “She’s slowing down a little.”

“Maybe she needs some chocolate cake to get her going again,” Mother suggested.

Sydney Clair’s spirits lifted a bit. “We have chocolate cake for dessert?”

“We do,” Mrs. Wilcox said, her eyes twinkling. “And because I love you so much, I baked the cake before I frosted it.”

“Wow, what an interesting idea,” said Sydney Clair.

“I can tell when I’m being made fun of,” Mr. Wilcox said. “But I’m still sticking around for chocolate cake.”

Sydney Clair chewed on the end of her pencil while she stared at her calendar. Bo, the family’s golden retriever, brushed past Sydney Clair’s bare legs and curled up on a rug in the middle of the floor. Every day, Sydney Clair would write either “good day” or “bad day” to describe how the day had gone. All day, she’d planned that this would be a “bad day.” She mindlessly scratched behind Bo’s ears.

Boy, I’m really going to miss Penny,” she said. Penny’s bare bed, now stripped of its pink sheets, made the room look so empty.

Bo looked up at her with big brown eyes, as if he understood Sydney Clair’s sadness.

“At least I still have you to keep me company,” Sydney Clair told him.

Bo answered by putting his head on his paws.

Sydney Clair penciled “bad day” on the calendar. But then she thought about joking around with her parents, having chocolate cake, and talking to her mom about going shopping for school. I guess it wasn’t all bad, she thought. Sydney Clair jotted “mostly” in front of “bad day.”

“What do you think, Bo?” she asked.

The dog perked up and seemed to smile back in agreement.


I was able to read this book and another one called Mesi about a girl in Africa. In both cases I was impressed by the storylines and the underlying lessons in the books as well. The characters are fun and actually deep. I am very excited about this series that Pam Davis has started and you must go to her website to check out the dolls that go with the books. They are just beautiful. I am hoping to get my girls dolls for Christmas this year. These are designed to be an alternative to the American Girls series and I personally think they surpass that series. So if you have preteen girls, you must check out these books and dolls - they are amazing!

"Mixed Bags" Book Review

It's June 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

and her book:

Zondervan (May 1, 2008)


In sixth grade, Melody Carlson helped start a school newspaper called The BuccaNews (her school’s mascot was a Buccaneer...arrr!). As editor of this paper, she wrote most of the material herself, creating goofy phony bylines to hide the fact that the school newspaper was mostly a "one man" show.

Visit the Melody's website to see all of her wonderful and various book titles.

Don't miss the second book in this series: Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2)

And one of her latest, A Mile in My Flip-Flops will be featured on FIRST Blog Alliance on July 1st!

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714885
ISBN-13: 978-0310714880


“Desiree,” called Inez as she knocked on the other side of the closed bedroom door. “Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs.”

“The name is DJ.”

“I’m sorry, but your grandmother has instructed me to call you Desiree.”

DJ opened the door and looked down on the short and slightly overweight middle-aged housekeeper. “And I have instructed you to call me DJ.”

Inez’s dark eyes twinkled as she gave her a sly grin. “Yes, but it’s your grandmother who pays my salary, Desiree. I take orders from Mrs. Carter. And she wants to see you downstairs in her office, pronto.”

DJ grabbed her favorite Yankees ball cap and shoved it onto her head, pulling her scraggly looking blonde ponytail through the hole in the back of it.

“You’re wearing that?” asked Inez with a frown. “You know what your grandmother says about?—?-”

“Look,” said DJ. “My grandmother might pay you to take orders from her, but I’m a free agent. Got that?”

Inez chuckled. “I got that. But you’re the one who’ll be getting it before too long, Desiree.”

“DJ,” she growled as she tromped loudly down the curving staircase. Why had she let Dad talk her into living with her grandmother for her last two years of high school? She’d only been here since last spring, late into the school year, but long enough to know that it was nearly unbearable. Boarding school would be better than this. At least she’d have a little privacy there and no one constantly riding her?—?-telling her how to act, walk, look, and think. She wished there were some way, short of running away (which would be totally stupid), out of this uncomfortable arrangement.

“There you are,” said Grandmother when DJ walked into the office. Her grandmother frowned at her ball cap and then pasted what appeared to be a very forced smile onto her collagen-injected lips. “I want you to meet a new resident.” She made a graceful hand movement, motioning to where an attractive and somewhat familiar-looking Latina woman was sitting next to a fashionably dressed girl who seemed to be about DJ’s age, but could probably pass for older. The girl was beautiful. Even with the scowl creasing her forehead, it was obvious that this girl was stunning. Her skin was darker than her mother’s, latte-colored and creamy. Her long black hair curled softly around her face. She had high cheekbones and dramatic eyes.

DJ noticed her grandmother smiling her approval on this unhappy-looking girl. But the girl looked oblivious as she fiddled with the gold chain of what looked like an expensive designer bag. Not that DJ was an expert when it came to fashion. The woman stood politely, extending her hand to DJ.

“I’d like to present my granddaughter, Desiree Lane.” Grandmother turned back to DJ now, the approval evaporating from her expression. “Desiree, this is Ms. Perez and her daughter Taylor.”

DJ shook the woman’s hand and mumbled, “Nice to meet you.” But the unfriendly daughter just sat in the leather chair, one long leg elegantly crossed over the other, as she totally ignored everyone in the room.

Grandmother continued speaking to DJ, although DJ suspected this little speech was for Taylor’s mother. “Ms. Perez and I first met when my magazine featured her for her illustrious music career. Her face graced our cover numerous times over the years. Perhaps you’ve heard of Eva Perez.”

The woman smiled. “Or perhaps not,” she said in a voice that was as smooth as honey. “According to my daughter, kids in your age group don’t comprise even a minuscule part of my fan base.”

DJ smiled at the woman now. “Actually, I have heard of you, Ms. Perez. My mom used to play your CDs. She was a serious Latin jazz fan.”

“Was?” She frowned. “I hope her taste in music hasn’t changed. I need all the fans I can get these days.”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree’s mother?—?-my daughter?—?-was killed in a car accident about a year ago.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

DJ sort of nodded. She never knew how to react when -people said they were sorry about the loss of her mother. It wasn’t as if it were their fault.

“Desiree,” said Grandmother, “Would you mind giving Taylor a tour of the house while I go over some business details with her mother?”

“No problem.”

Grandmother’s recently Botoxed forehead creased ever so slightly, and DJ knew that, once again, she had either said the wrong thing, used bad grammar, or was slumping like a “bag of potatoes.” Nothing she did ever seemed right when it came to her grandmother. “And after the tour, perhaps you could show Taylor to her room.”

“Which room?” asked DJ, feeling concerned. Sure, Taylor might be a perfectly nice person, even if a little snobbish, but DJ was not ready for a roommate just yet.

“The blue room, please. Inez has already taken some of Taylor’s bags up for her. Thank you, Desiree.”

Feeling dismissed as well as disapproved of, DJ led their reluctant new resident out to the foyer. “Well, you’ve probably already seen this.” DJ waved her arm toward the elegant front entrance with its carved double doors and shining marble floor and Persian rug. She motioned toward the ornate oak staircase. “And that’s where the bedrooms are, but we can see that later.” She walked through to the dining room. “This is where we chow down.” She pointed to the swinging doors. “The kitchen’s back there, but the cook, Clara, can be a little witchy about trespassers.” DJ snickered. “Besides, my grandmother does not want her girls to spend much time in the kitchen anyway.”

“Like that’s going to be a problem,” said Taylor, the first words she’d spoken since meeting DJ.

“Huh?” said DJ.

“I don’t imagine anyone is going to be exactly pigging out around here. I mean aren’t we all supposed to become famous models or something?” asked Taylor as she examined a perfectly manicured thumbnail.

DJ frowned. “Well, my grandmother did edit one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world, but I don’t think that means we’re all going to become famous models. I know I’m not.”

Taylor peered curiously at her. “Why not? You’ve got the height, the build, and you’re not half bad looking .?.?. well, other than the fact that you obviously have absolutely no style.” She sort of laughed, but not with genuine humor. “But then you’ve got your grandmother to straighten that out for you.”

DJ just shook her head. “I think my grandmother will give up on me pretty soon. Especially when the others get here. She’ll have girls with more promise to set her sights on.” At least that was what DJ was hoping.

“Has anyone else arrived?”

“Not yet.” DJ continued the tour. “This is the library.” She paused to allow Taylor to look inside the room and then moved on. “And that’s the sunroom, or observatory, as Grandmother calls it.” She laughed. “Hearing her talk about this house sometimes reminds me of playing Clue.”


“You know, the murder game, like where Colonel Mustard kills Mrs. Peacock with a wrench in the observatory.”

“Oh, I never played that.”

“Right .?.?.” Then DJ showed Taylor the large living room, the most modern space in the house. Grandmother had put this room together shortly after deciding to take on her crazy venture. Above the fireplace hung a large flat-screen TV, which was connected to a state-of-the-art DVD and sound system. This was encircled by some comfortable pieces of leather furniture, pillows, and throws.

“Not bad,” admitted Taylor.

“Welcome back to the twenty-first century.”

“Do you have wireless here?”

“Yeah. I told Grandmother it was a necessity for school.”


“This house has been in our family for a long time,” said DJ as she led Taylor up the stairs. “But no one has lived here for the past twenty years. My grandmother had it restored after she retired a -couple of years ago.” DJ didn’t add that her grandmother had been forced to retire due to her age (a carefully guarded and mysterious number) or that this new business venture, boarding teen “debutantes,” was to help supplement her retirement income. Those were strict family secrets and, despite DJ’s angst in living here, she did have a sense of family loyalty?—?-at least for the time being. She wasn’t sure if she could control herself indefinitely.

DJ stopped at the second-floor landing. “The bedrooms are on this floor, and the third floor has a ballroom that would be perfect for volleyball, although Grandmother has made it clear that it’s not that kind of ballroom.” She led Taylor down the hall. “My bedroom is here,” she pointed to the closed door. “And yours is right next door.” She opened the door. “The blue room.”

Taylor looked into the pale blue room and shook her head in a dismal way. “And is it true that I have to share this room with a perfect stranger?”

“Well, I don’t know how perfect she’ll be.”

“Funny.” Taylor rolled her eyes as she opened a door to one of the walk-in closets opposite the beds.

“I try.”

“It’s not as big as I expected.”

“It’s bigger than it looks,” said DJ as she walked into the room and then pointed to a small alcove that led to the bathroom.

“Do I get any say in who becomes my roommate?”

“I guess you can take that up with my grandmother.”

Taylor tossed her purse onto the bed closest to the bathroom and then kicked off her metallic-toned sandals. “These shoes might be Marc Jacobs, but they’re killing me.”

“So, you’re really into this?” asked DJ. “The whole fashion thing?”

Taylor sat down on the bed, rubbing a foot. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good.”

DJ felt the need to bite her tongue. Taylor was her grandmother’s first official paying customer to arrive and participate in this crazy scheme. Far be it from DJ to rock Grandmother’s boat. At least not just yet.

“Well, thanks for the tour,” said Taylor in a bored voice. Then she went over to where a set of expensive-looking luggage was stacked in a corner. “Don’t the servants around here know how to put things away properly?”

“Properly?” DJ shrugged.

Taylor picked up the top bag and laid it down on the bench at the foot of one of the beds and opened it.

“Don’t you want to go down and tell your mom good-bye?” asked DJ as she moved toward the door.

Taylor laughed in a mean way. “And make her think she’s doing me a favor by dumping me here? Not on your life.”

“Here are some more bags for Miss Mitchell,” said Inez as she lugged two large suitcases into the room, setting them by the door.

“Put them over there,” commanded Taylor, pointing to the bench at the foot of the other bed. “And don’t pile them on top of each other. This happens to be Louis Vuitton, you know.”

DJ saw Inez make a face behind Taylor’s back. But the truth was DJ didn’t blame her. Inez might be a housekeeper, but she didn’t deserve to be treated like a slave. Suddenly, DJ felt guilty for snapping at Inez earlier today. She smiled now, and Inez looked surprised and a little suspicious. Then DJ grabbed the largest bag, hoisted it onto the bench with a loud grunt, and Taylor turned around and gave her a dark scowl.

“Thank you,” she snapped.

“Later,” said DJ as she exited the room with Inez on her heels.

“Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs, Desiree,” announced Inez when they were out on the landing.

“Again?” complained DJ. “What for?”

“Another girl just arrived. Your grandmother wants you to give her a tour too.”

“What am I now?” asked DJ. “The official tour guide?”

“That sounds about right.” Inez gave her a smirk.

DJ wasn’t sure if she could stomach another fashion diva with an attitude problem, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to risk another etiquette lecture from her grandmother either. Once again, she clomped down the stairs and made her appearance in the office, suppressing the urge to bow and say, “At your ser-vice, Madam.”

“Eliza,” gushed Grandmother, “This is my granddaughter, Desiree Lane. And Desiree, I’d like you to meet Eliza Wilton.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Desiree.”

DJ nodded. She could tell by how formal her grandmother was acting that Eliza Wilton must be someone really important?—?-meaning extraordinarily wealthy?—?-even more so than the Mitchells. And that’s when she remembered her grandmother going on about “the Wilton fortune” this morning at breakfast. Of course, that must be Eliza’s family.

“Nice to meet ya, Eliza,” DJ said in a purposely casual tone. This girl was pretty too, but not like Taylor’s dark and dramatic beauty. Eliza was a tall, slender, impeccably dressed, blue-eyed blonde. She wasn’t exactly a Paris Hilton clone?—?-and she didn’t have a little dog as far as DJ could see?—?-but there was a similarity, except that Eliza’s face was a little softer looking, a little sweeter, but then looks could be deceiving.

DJ wondered if the Botox was starting to wear off, as her grandmother studied her with a furrowed brow, probably comparing her to Miss Perfect Eliza. Naturally, DJ would not measure up.

“Eliza is from Louisville,” said Grandmother. “Her parents are presently residing in France, where her father just purchased a vineyard. But Eliza’s grandmother and I are old friends. We went to college together. When she heard about what I was doing up here in Connecticut, she encouraged her daughter to send dear Eliza our way.”

“Lucky Eliza,” said DJ in a droll tone.

Eliza actually giggled. Then Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree will give you a tour of the house,” she said. “And she’ll show you to your room.”

“Which is .?.?.??” asked DJ.

“The rose room.”

Of course, thought DJ as she led Eliza from the office. Next to her grandmother’s suite, the rose room was probably the best room in the house. Naturally, someone as important as Eliza would be entitled to that. Not that DJ had wanted it. And perhaps her grandmother had actually offered it to her last month. DJ couldn’t remember. But she had never been a flowery sort of girl, and she knew the rose wallpaper in there would’ve been giving her a serious migraine by now. Besides she liked her sunny yellow bedroom and, in her opinion, it had the best view in the house. On a clear day, you could actually glimpse a sliver of the Atlantic Ocean from her small bathroom window.

DJ started to do a repeat of her earlier tour, even using the same lines, until she realized that Eliza was actually interested.

“How old is this house?”

“Just over a hundred years,” DJ told her. “It was built in 1891.”

“It has a nice feel to it.”

DJ considered this. “Yeah, I kinda thought that too, after I got used to it. To be honest, it seemed pretty big to me at first. But then you’re probably used to big houses.”

“I suppose. Not that I’m particularly fond of mansions.”

“Why aren’t you with your parents?” asked DJ. “In France?”

“They’re concerned about things like politics and security,” said Eliza as they exited the library. “In fact, they almost refused to let me come here.”


“Oh, I think they felt I was safer in boarding school. If our grandmothers hadn’t been such good friends, I’m sure they never would’ve agreed.”

“So, you’re happy to be here?” DJ studied Eliza’s expression.

“Sure, aren’t you?”

DJ frowned. “I don’t know .?.?. I guess.”

“I think it’ll be fun to go to a real high school, to just live like a normal girl, with other normal girls.”

DJ tried not to look too shocked. “You think this is normal?”

Eliza laughed. “I guess I don’t really know what normal is, but it’s more normal that what I’m used to.”

“But what about the whole fashion thing?” asked DJ. “I mean you must know about my grandmother’s plans to turn us all into little debutantes. Are you into all that?”

“That’s nothing new. Remember, I’m from the south. My family is obsessed with turning me into a lady. That was one of the other reasons my parents agreed to this. I think they see the Carter House as some sort of finishing school.”

Or some sort of reformatory school, thought DJ. Although she didn’t say it out loud. Not yet, anyway.

My Review:
This book was so much fun - kind of like "Friends" tv show for teens. A group of girls from all different walks of life that end up living together while going to school and of course how their different personalities mesh (and don't mesh). I read it in one sitting and look forward to the next one in the series. It is a book that ends pretty abruptly because it is a set up for more books in the series so don't expect any closure in this one, but do look for some fun situations and interesting scenarios. If my daughter was a couple years older this is a series I would definitely get for her. A really fun series for young adults.