Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"A Vote of Confidence" Book Review



This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


A Vote Of Confidence


Zondervan (April 2009)


by


Robin Lee Hatcher




MY REVIEW:


Robin Lee Hatcher is such a diverse writer. She encompasses so many different genres and her books are just a pleasure to read. One of my all time favorites books is Robin's book "Ribbon of Years" for the originality she uses in her writing style. A good example of women's fiction is her recent book "A Perfect Life", but "A Vote of Confidence" looked different than anything I had previously read by Robin so I was excited to see what it would bring to the table. Here again Robin shows her diversity in styles as she presents a book that takes us back in time and introduces us to a single woman in a time when women have the right to vote, but that is about it. Gwen gets challenged to run for mayor and even though it has never happened... anywhere... she decides to go ahead and run. The initial reason is that the only person running for mayor was the town drunk. At the same time that Gwen decides to run, another person throws their hat in the ring. He is a new person to the area and is trying to start a new business in the area. Lo and behold Gwen finds herself falling for her opponent. That can never work... can it?

A fun read in the same vein as Deeanne Gist or Cathy Marie Hake... I really enjoyed this book - a new winner from Robin Lee Hatcher!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon


ABOUT THE BOOK

In A Vote of Confidence, the stage is set for some intriguing insight into what it was like during 1915 to be a woman in a “mans’ world.”

Guinevere Arlington is a beautiful young woman determined to remain in charge of her own life, For seven years, Gwen has carved out a full life in the bustling town of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho, where she teaches piano and writes for the local newspaper. Her passion for the town, its people, and the surrounding land prompt Gwen to run for mayor. After all, who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?

But stepping outside the boundaries of convention can get messy. A shady lawyer backs Gwen, believing he can control her once she’s in office. A wealthy newcomer throws his hat into the ring in an effort to overcome opposition to the health resort he’s building north of town. When the opponents fall in love, everything changes, forcing Gwen to face what she may have to lose in order to win.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Vote Of Confidence, go HERE

"New York Debut" Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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



Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



New York Debut (Carter House Girls)


Zondervan (May 1, 2009)


MY REVIEW:
I have a few comments about the Carter House Girls series...

1) I really like this series. New York Debut is #6 in the series and even though I have missed a couple in the middle I can still enjoy the most recent addition, and enjoy it I did!

2) I need to make clear that the Carter House Girls is for YA, but not all YA (young adults). My almost 13 year old is not ready for this series. Period. The characters are diverse and interesting and cover all spectrums and I love the concept. 6 girls from various backgrounds come to Carter House to live while they go to a local high school. While at Carter House they learn about fashion, poise, manners, etc... or they are supposed to. Sounds good right. So why is it not right for my daughter yet? Melody Carlson deals with real issues in these books. Sadly, they really are real issues, but not issues that my daughter has been exposed to yet and I want to keep it that way for awhile longer. So these books will wait for her patiently on my shelf for the time being.

3) So what are some of these issues? Well, the main character, DJ, is a Christian but most of those around her (including her Grandma, Mrs. Carter) are not. Some of the issues dealt with in the books I have read include anorexia, reputations (as in sexual reputations), boyfriends, drinking... in this particular book, one of the girls is coming back from the rehab she checked herself into in the last book. So let me clarify that Melody deals with these issues wonderfully. But at this point my daughter wouldn't even know what rehab is.

I definitely recommend this series for high school girls in public school, even college girls and women like myself, but not for the younger girls that haven't been exposed to some of this yet. Just use your common sense and enjoy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past ten years, she has published more than a hundred books for children, teens, and adults, with sales totaling more than 2.5 million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List.

Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards including The Gold Medallion, The Christy, and The Rita Award. And most recently she is in the process of optioning some of her books for film rights.
She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714931
ISBN-13: 978-0310714934

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



“Where is Taylor?” asked Grandmother as she drove DJ home from the airport.
”Is she coming on a later flight?”

DJ hadn’t told her the whole story yet. In fact, she hadn’t said much of anything to Grandmother at all during the past week, except to leave a message saying that she’d changed her flight and planned to be home two days earlier than expected. Obviously, Grandmother had assumed that Taylor had changed her plans as well.

“Taylor’s in LA,” DJ said slowly, wishing she could add something to that, something to deflect further questioning.

“Visiting her father?”

“No…”

“Touring with Eva?”

“No…”
“What then?” Grandmother’s voice was getting irritated as she drove away from the terminal. “Where is the girl, Desiree? Speak up.”

“She’s in rehab.”

“Rehab?” Grandmother turned to stare at DJ with widened eyes. “Whatever for?”

“For alcohol treatment.”

Grandmother seemed stunned into speechlessness, which was a relief since DJ didn’t really want to discuss this. She was still trying to grasp the whole strange phenomenon. It was hard to admit, but the past few days of being mostly by herself in Las Vegas had been lonely and depressing and one of the reasons she’d been desperate to change her flight and come home early. She had really missed Taylor. The hardest part was when she discovered that Taylor wasn’t allowed any communication from outside the rehab facility. This concerned DJ. No cell phone calls, email, or anything. It seemed weird. Although DJ was praying for her roommate, she was worried. What if it wasn’t a reputable place? What if Taylor never came back? What if something bad happened to her? Not only would DJ blame herself, she figured everyone else would too.

Finally Grandmother spoke. “Did you girls get into some kind of trouble in Las Vegas, Desiree?”

“No…”

“I want you to be honest with me. Did something happen to precipitate this?”

“The only thing that happened is that Taylor came to grips with the fact that she has a serious drinking problem. If you’ll remember, I tried to let you in on this some time ago.”

“Yes, I remember the vodka bottle. I simply assumed it was a one-time occurrence.”

“I told you otherwise.”

“Well, I know that girls will be girls, Desiree. You can’t have spent as much time as I in the fashion industry and not know this.”

“Were you ever like that?” asked DJ. “I mean that girls will be girls bit?”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “I wasn’t an angel, Desiree, if that’s what you’re hinting at. However, I did understand the need for manners and decorum. I witnessed numerous young women spinning out of control. Beautiful or not, a model won’t last long if she is unable to work.”

“Isn’t that true with everything?”

“Yes…I suppose. How long is Taylor going to be in…this rehabilitation place?”

“I don’t know. You should probably call her mom.”

“Oh, dear…that’s something else I hadn’t considered. Certainly Eva Perez won’t be blaming me for her daughter’s, well, her drinking problem.”
“Eva is fully aware that Taylor had this drinking problem long before she came to Carter House.”

“Good.” Grandmother sighed and shook her head. “I just hope her treatment won’t prevent her from participating in Fashion Week. That would be a disaster.”

“Seems like it would be a worse disaster if Taylor didn’t get the help she needs.”

“Yes, of course, that goes without saying. But I would think that a week or two should be sufficient. Goodness, just how bad can a problem get when you’re only seventeen?”

DJ shrugged, but didn’t say anything. The truth was she thought it could get pretty bad, and in Taylor’s case it was bad. And it could’ve gotten worse. To think that Taylor had been drinking daily and DJ never even knew it.

“It’s just as well you came home early, Desiree,” said Grandmother as she turned onto the parkway. “Already Casey and Rhiannon are back. And Kriti is supposed to return tomorrow. Eliza will be back on New Year’s Eve.”

“I’m surprised she didn’t want to stay in France for New Year’s.”

“As am I. If I were over there, I’d certainly have booked a room in Paris. Nothing is more spectacular than fireworks over the City of Light. But apparently Eliza has plans with her boyfriend. Imagine—giving up Paris for your boyfriend!”

Of course, DJ knew that Eliza’s life of lavish luxury didn’t mean all that much to her. Like a poor little rich girl, Eliza wanted a slice of “normal.” Well, normal with a few little extras like good shoes, designer bags, and her pretty white Porsche.

“It’s good to be home,” DJ proclaimed as her grandmother turned into the driveway.

“It’s good to hear you say that,” said Grandmother.

And it was the truth. After a week in Vegas, DJ was extremely thankful to be back. Maybe for the first time, Carter House did feel like a home. She couldn’t wait to see Casey and Rhiannon.

“Welcome back,” called Casey as she opened the door, dashed out onto the porch, and hugged DJ. “Need some help with those bags?”

“Thanks.” DJ studied Casey for a moment, trying to figure out what had changed. “Your hair!”

Casey picked up one of DJ’s bags then grinned as she gave her strawberry blond hair a shake. “Like it?”

“It’s the old you—only better.”

“My mom talked me into it. The black was a little dramatic, don’t you think?”

“I think you look fantastic. And that choppy layered cut is very cute.”

“Your grandmother approved it too. And I got highlights.”

DJ touched her own hair. “Taylor had been nagging me to get mine redone. But it was so expensive in Vegas. I figured I’d do it here.”

Casey lowered her voice. “So how’d your grandmother take the news about Taylor?”

DJ stopped at the foot of the stairs and stared at Casey. “Did Rhiannon tell you everything?”
“Yeah, is it supposed to be a big secret?” Casey made a hurt face now. “I was wondering why you told Rhiannon and not me. I thought we were friends, DJ.”

“I didn’t mean to, but I sort of spilled the beans with Rhiannon because I was so desperate and didn’t know what to do at the time. But then I felt bad. I mean it was possible that Taylor wanted to keep it private, you know?”

Casey nodded somberly. “Yeah, I guess I do know.”

“You should.” After all, it had only been a few months since they had intervened with Casey in regard to her pain pill snitching.

“So, are you saying mum’s the word?”

“Until Taylor comes back. Don’t you think it’s up to her to say something or not?”

“Yeah. I can just imagine Eliza with that tasty little morsel of gossip. It’d be all over the school in no time.”

“Speaking of Eliza, that means Kriti too.”

“Kriti just got here about an hour ago.” Casey paused, nodding toward the room that Kriti and Eliza shared. The taxi dropped her and she went straight to her room. But something seems wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure. She just looks different. Kind of unhappy. I mean she didn’t even say hello or anything.”

“Maybe she was missing her family.”

“Maybe, but my guess is it’s something more.”

“We should probably try harder to reach out to her and make her feel at home.”

“You’re here!” Rhiannon burst out of the room and threw her arms around DJ. “Welcome home!”

“Man, it is so good to be back. Vegas—for more than a day or two—is a nightmare.”

“At least you got a tan,” observed Rhiannon. She glanced at Casey. “Both of you, in fact.”

“It’s that California sun.”

“Don’t make me envious,” said Rhiannon.

“Hey, look at you,” said DJ as she noticed that Rhiannon had on a very cool outfit. “Is that new?”

“Old and new. My great aunt gave me some of her old clothes and I’ve been altering them.” She held out her hands and turned around to make the long circular skirt spin out. “Fun, huh?”

“And cool,” said DJ.

“She’s got all kinds of stuff,” said Casey. “Hats and costume jewelry and scarves and things. I told her she should open a retro shop and get rich.”

“Maybe I will someday.”

“Or just sell things here in Carter House,” suggested DJ. “Between Eliza and Taylor’s clothing budget, you could clean up.”

“Oh, yeah, DJ, Conner just called,” said Rhiannon. “They just got back from their ski trip and he said he tried your cell a few times, but it seemed to be turned off.”

“More like dead. My flight was so early this morning, I forgot to charge it.”

“Well, I told him you’d call.”

Casey set DJ’s bag inside her door. “Speaking of boys, I think I’ll check and see how Garrison is doing—find out if he missed me or not.” She touched her hair. “Do you think he’ll like it?”

“How could he not,” said Rhiannon. “It’s so cool.”

“Later,” called Casey as she headed for her room.

“So, how’s Taylor?” asked Rhiannon quietly.

“You didn’t tell Kriti, did you?” whispered DJ, pulling Rhiannon into her room then closing the door.

“No, why would I?”

“I just wanted to be sure. I think we need to respect Taylor’s privacy with this.”

“Absolutely. So, have you talked to her?”

“They won’t let me. They have this no communication policy. No email, cell phones…nothing. It’s like a black hole. Weird.”

Rhiannon nodded. “Yeah, it was like that with my mom at first. I think they wanted to keep her cut off from any bad connections. Then after a while, you earn communication privileges.”

“Oh, that’s a relief. I was really worried.”

“I still can hardly believe Taylor went willingly.”

“Yeah, our strong-willed wild child…putting herself into rehab.” DJ shook her head.

“That remind me, Seth has called a few times too. He wanted to know why Taylor’s cell was off and where she was.”

“What’d you say?”

“That I didn’t know.” She shrugged. “Actually, that was the truth.”

“But nothing else?”
“No.”

“Good. I mean it’s not like we need to keep it top secret, but until we hear from Taylor, let’s not talk about it.”

“Sure.” Rhiannon put a hand on DJ’s shoulder. “And don’t worry about her, DJ. She’ll be fine.”
“I know.” DJ nodded as she put her bags on her bed and started to unzip them. But as soon as Rhiannon left, DJ wasn’t so sure. What if Taylor wasn’t fine? What if something had gone wrong? And what if it was all DJ’s fault?

"Skeeter and the Mystery of the Lost Mosquito Treasure" DVD Review

"Skeeter and the Mystery of the Lost Mosquito Treasure"
Hermie and Friends DVD
Poor Skeeter can’t seem to do anything right. His famous older brother can do no wrong. Which one will find the treasure?

Skeeter's "perfect" brother Sir Sinclair M. Skeeto, the world famous adventurer, comes to the garden with a mysterious treasure map left by their father. All the garden gang are in awe of Sinclair, and fawn all over him. But could it really be up to wrong-way Skeeter and his crooked stinger to solve the mystery of the treasure’s location?

Introducing John O'Hurley (Seinfeld, Dancing With the Stars) as Sir Sinclair M. Skeeto. Also featuring the voice talents of Tim Conway and Melissa Disney.

Lesson is based on Psalm 139:13-14 about each of us being designed especially by God.

MY REVIEW:
What do you get when you take some great animation, top-notch voice actors, good storyline and an excellent lesson and roll them altogether in a new kid's movie? You get the newest in Max Lucado's Hermie and Friends line of DVDs. And it is a treat. To top off the excellent quality of the movie, the lesson in this particular one is wonderful. All about celebrating our uniqueness and realizing that we are designed by God to be exactly who he made us to be. Based on this movie and the fact that I have 6 kids, I think Hermie and his friends will be coming to stay at our house a lot more!

Monday, April 27, 2009

"The Noticer" Book Review

"The Noticer"
by
Andy Andrews
A moving story of common wisdom from the bestselling author of The Traveler’s Gift.

Orange Beach, Alabama is a simple town filled with simple people. But they all have their share of problems – marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, and many of the other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.

Fortunately, when things look the darkest – a mysterious old man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” Jones explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. In his simple interactions, Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what they can do about it.

Based on a remarkable true story, The Noticer beautifully blends fiction, allegory, and inspiration.

MY REVIEW:
I was so excited to read this book since I have read Andy's book "The Traveler's Gift" and absolutely loved it. It was so unique that I wasn't sure he could meet my high expectations. My goodness, Andy did it... he has written another life changing book. What I love about this book is that he brings together a lot of common sense wisdom and rolls it into one easy to read and enjoyable book. It reads like a fiction book but is a mix of a true story, fiction, allegory and inspiration. The Noticer is brilliant in its simplicity. The story of one man, Jones, that makes a difference in many people's lives. The way that comes across to us is that in one chapter he helps a couple on the verge of divorce by helping them see how they love each other but haven't been expressing it in ways the other one can understand. Another chapter is Jones meeting with some young adults that want to know what they can do now to help ensure that when they get married, they don't end up in a divorce. That chapter alone is worth the entire price of the book - brilliant! I loved this book and will be giving it for gifts and recommending it to my friends and family. Every once in awhile a book comes along that will make you think and want to change how you live... The Noticer is that kind of book!

Friday, April 24, 2009

"So Long, Status Quo" Book Review - 5 Stars!

Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



So Long, Status Quo: What I Learned From Women Who Changed the World

Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)



MY REVIEW:
"So Long, Status Quo" is the kind of book that you should buy for birthday presents for people you know, give as Secret Sister gifts, Mother's Day presents, graduation gifts and pretty much any excuse you can think of to pass this book onto a girl/woman in your life that needs a little encouragement. I personally have already recommended it to the homeschool moms I know to use in school (and just found out that Suzy has put together a reader's guide to use with the book that makes a great educational enrichment) and loaned my copy to my mom. She in turn has started recommending it to ladies at our church.

Here is the set-up of the book...
It starts with a little peek into Suzy's personal life that reveals some area of her life that she is lacking in or needs work on (an overflow of material items or lack of sympathy for the children of the world) and then she delves into the biography of a woman that made an impact in that particular area. Following the biography she then figures out a way to make that relevant to her life and somehow implements it. She rounds out the chapter with some ideas for how you can do something in that area of your life.

This is a great book that kept me absolutely captivated the entire way through and while I normally plow through non-fiction at a slow pace - I breezed right through this book because I just loved it. At around $10.99 on cbd.com and amazon.com this book is a steal of a deal!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


SUSY FLORY grew up on the back of a quarter horse in an outdoorsy family in Northern California and she's not afraid to dive into the trenches to experience firsthand whatever she's writing about. If that means smuggling medical supplies into Cuba on a humanitarian trip or sitting down to coffee to talk about faith with a practicing witch, she's there with a listening ear and notebook in hand.

Susy's creative nonfiction features a first person journalistic style with a backbone of strong research and a dash of dry wit. She attended Biola University and UCLA, where she received degrees in English and psychology. She has a background in journalism, education, and communications. Her first book, Fear Not Da Vinci, released in 2006.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0834124386
ISBN-13: 978-0834124387

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Introduction
Addicted to comfort


“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside

and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive …

One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt, on her 77th birthday



I love my couch. It’s covered in a squishy soft velvety material the color of oatmeal laced with honey and the cushions are fat. Three big loose pillows rest against the back, the material woven into an exotic, vaguely Eastern pattern of impressionistic flowers and trees in tawny gold and lapis blue. My favorite spot in the entire house is the far end of this couch, with two smaller pillows behind my back and my legs stretched out long ways. I do this every day.

For a while we had an uptight couch. Bright Colonial red with little blue and yellow flowers, it reminded me of the calico dresses Melissa Gilbert used to wear on Little House on the Prairie. The fabric was quilted in the shape of puzzle pieces and the back rose straight up, pierced by a row of buttons. A boxy pleated strip of fabric ran along the bottom. It was really uncomfortable and almost impossible to take a nap in. That couch didn’t want you sitting there very long; it was a little Puritanical, wanting you up and around, taking care of business. We sold it at a garage sale for $20. Good riddance.

But the comfy oatmeal couch—it loves you. It calls you to sink down into comfort, and to stay awhile. A long while.

From the couch I can see the kitchen where my kids are grating cheese for quesadillas or searching the fridge for leftover pizza. I can look out the back window, at the drooping branches of the monstrous eucalyptus tree overhanging the back yard. Or, I can stare at the ceiling fan, slowly circling overhead. But, really, I hardly ever look at anything but words. Books, newspapers, catalogs, magazines, letters from friends—those are the things I look at when I’m stretched out on the couch.

Sundays are my absolutely favorite. After church, we eat lunch at the taqueria, then head home. The newspapers await; I don’t want to waste time changing my clothes so I head straight for the couch. News comes first, then business, travel, entertainment, and the Sunday magazine. Last are the sale papers: Target, Best Buy, Macy’s.

By this time I’m sleepy, melting a bit around the edges. My head grows heavy and I turn, curl up, and snuggle into the cushions. I fall asleep, papers crinkly around me.

A while ago my teenage son, just to aggravate me, staked a claim on the oatmeal couch. He’d race home after church in his little pick-up truck and head in the door, kicking off his shoes and diving into my favorite comfy spot in one gangly flop. He made it his goal to be asleep, limbs a sprawl, before I even made it inside the house. A few times I tried to extricate him but it was useless, like trying to wrestle a wire hanger out of a tangled pile.

I decided to wait him out and so after he slept on the couch a few Sundays, he gave it up. He had better things to do, usually involving his computer.

Things returned to normal, the oatmeal couch remembered the shape of my behind, and I took to snuggling into the tawny-lapis pillows once again.

It was safe, my velvety couch cave.

Just like my life.

In one of my favorite books, A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel writes about her mother, always on the couch with a cardboard box of books by her side. There she was, forever reading a book and waving at her children as they went back and forth, in and out of the house, busily doing whatever kids in a small Indiana town did. She stayed there, curled up on the couch, peacefully reading her books as her husband ran around who-knows-where, maybe coon hunting, gambling away his paycheck, or sleeping with the divorced woman across town. She was comfortable there. Zippy unexpectedly became a bestseller and Kimmel traveled around giving talks and signing books. The one question everyone asked her was, “Did your mother ever get up off the couch?”

I don’t live in Indiana; I live in a suburb of San Francisco. My kids don’t run in and out of the house; they pretty much stay put. My husband is a hard working, non-gambling, faithful guy who pays the bills. And my life is pretty good. But I have lived most of it lodged safely in the corner of my couch.

My secure couch cocoon was really a picture of what I had let my life become. Lethargic, sleepy, with a love for security and for comfort, I lived for self. I avoided suffering at all costs. I didn’t want to ever do anything uncomfortable. I think I was addicted to comfort.

My journey out of my couch-life started years ago when I was a college student on vacation, idly looking around a gift shop. Flicking through a box full of enameled metal signs, I came across one that read “We Can Do It!” Underneath was a portrait of a woman, looking sort of like Lucille Ball in her cleaning garb, hair up in a red bandanna. Glossy lips, a little pouty, with arched eyebrows and thick eyelashes. She wore a blue collared shirt, sleeve rolled up over a flexed bicep, toned and powerful. Her eyes were wide open, focused, determined. Who was she? I hadn’t a clue, but I bought the sign and installed it in a place of honor by my desk.

Later, when I was married, the mother of two small children and too busy changing diapers to sit much on the couch yet, I learned she was called Rosie the Riveter. She, and six million other women who toiled in factories while their men were off fighting in World War II, changed the world. Even now, as I look at the old enamel sign next to my desk, I’m haunted by the determination in the line of her jaw and the resolve in the curl of her fist. I wanted to be like her.

But the couch called. I forgot the sign; it migrated to the back of my bookcase and I took a part time job teaching English at a private high school. My kids were in school, my husband was fighting up the corporate ladder, and with the days sometimes a blur of homework, basketball practice, and ballet class, I hoarded my couch time.

Funny, though. It wasn’t satisfying. I just couldn’t ever seem to get enough.

And then, one day, stretched out reading the Sunday paper, I saw Rosie again. It was a full-page department store ad. Across the top ran a banner: “Help end hunger.” Something had changed. Rosie looked a little more glamorous than I remembered. The “can” in the “We CAN Do It!” was underlined and capitalized to emphasize the can of food in her fist. I unfolded the page and examined it; it was an advertisement for National Hunger Awareness day. If you made a $5 donation to the department store, they would in return give you a 15% coupon for regular, sale and clearance-priced merchandise. It’s our thanks to you for helping to relieve hunger in our communities.

I pondered the page; something didn’t quite make sense. Somehow, by partnering with Rosie to spend money at the department store, you would help to relieve hunger. Rosie and her factory worker sisters had changed the world by serving for low pay and little recognition on factory lines during a war. They had sacrificed personal comfort and convenience for a cause greater than themselves, a cause they believed in and sweated and grew calluses for. Now the department store was asking me to be like Rosie, tie up my hair, bare my biceps and leave my couch, so I could … shop? You’ve got to be kidding.

But my irritation that day over the hijacking of the Rosie the Riveter image piqued my curiosity. Who was Rosie? Was she a real person? Was she still alive? What would she think about the ways her image, once meant to encourage and inspire the Nazi-fighting women of World War II, had been used for merchandising? I was intrigued by her determination and I decided to roll up my sleeves and get to the bottom of her story. So I did. And after Rosie I found eight other women, amazing women, who changed the world. I found women who, with grit and guts, made their lives add up to something much more than just a satisfying Sunday nap. And somehow, in the finding, the oatmeal couch lost its allure.

I wanted to feel alive, to experience something more deep and dangerous than my middle class life. I wanted more than a Ford Expedition SUV with leather seats or a 401K groaning with employer contributions. I craved something beyond Ralph Lauren Suede paint or a giant glossy red Kitchen Aid mixer. I was ready to wake up from a very long nap and do something meaningful.

So this is the story of how, slowly, I began to get up off the couch of my boring, safe, sheltered, vanilla existence to something more real, sharper, in focus. Rosie led the way. Along came Eleanor, and Jane. Then Harriet, Elizabeth, and more. These women became mentors calling me to a different kind of life. Passionate for change, each woman sacrificed money, love, comfort, time, and, ultimately, self, to make a difference to thousands, maybe millions of people.

Living like the women who changed the world is not easy, but it’s good. It feels right. It is satisfying.

This is how I got up off the couch and tried, with much fear and trembling, to make a difference in my world. And I’ll never go back.




This is an excerpt from an interview with Suzy Flory...

First, I studied a group of amazing women who changed the world, like Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mary Magdalene. I immersed myself in their lives and tried to get to know them better. Who were they? What were their lives like? Why prompted them to step out and make a difference in the world? Then, for each woman, I created a little adventure in order to follow in her footsteps and live out one of her ideals or values. So for Rosie the Riveter, I went into a metal shop and learned how to weld. For Eleanor Roosevelt, I traveled to Cuba on a secret humanitarian mission to work with children. For Mother Teresa, I went on a fast. Now that one was hard!

Q. The book's title, So Long Status Quo, sounds familiar. Where did it come from?

A. It's from the chorus of a Nichole Nordeman song called "Brave," about letting go of your fear and stepping out in faith. I love this line: "I think I'm letting go…" Faith is about letting go of your plan, and trying to live out God's plan. And His is better!

Q. So Long Status Quo highlights nine amazing women who changed the world. Of those nine, who is your favorite?

A. My absolute favorite was Harriet Tubman. She had so many obstacles to overcome. She was born into slavery. She was illiterate. She suffered a brain injury when she was young that caused her to go into a coma. She had slave catchers after her. She had no money. She worked all alone. Yet, she accomplished unbelievable things. She never quit. Even after she had been a conductor on the Underground Railroad – she led 300 slaves to safety, to freedom, without losing one – after that she became an army scout, a spy, and an army nurse during the civil war. She was unpaid, just a volunteer. When she was an army nurse she was the first line of care and would care for the soldiers lying on the battlefield. They were just lying there, suffering and in pain. She took care of them with her own money, her own supplies, and no one to really help her. She was doing it on her own. And, at night, when she would go back to her room, she would bake 50 pies; she would make homemade gingerbread and homemade root beer from actual roots she got out in the woods.

Q. She would cook and bake at night after she'd been working all day?

A. Not only that, but the next day she'd hire ex-slaves to go out and sell the food and drink in the camps. Then she would use that money to buy supplies for the soldiers. So, I was just amazed by how resourceful she was and how she didn't give up when she didn't have the things that she needed to take care of these guys. Even when she was an old lady, she started a retirement home for former slaves. So I just like her. I like that she didn't quit; I like her resourcefulness. I like that she didn't make excuses and I like that she used her own hands to help in whatever way she could, even when she wasn't paid, even when she wasn't welcome. I think she's probably just about the most amazing woman I've ever read about in my entire life.

Q. If you had to choose some powerful women currently impacting our world in a positive way, who might they be?

A. Catherine Rohr was a very successful stockbroker in NYC. Something happened; she felt a call on her life. She sold everything she had, and along with her husband, rented a U-Haul truck and moved to Texas. She started a business-training program in the Texas prisons called The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and it's been going for about ten years. She went behind bars and taught business classes to these guys who were the lowest of the low in society. She's had tremendous success and has given these guys a chance for a new life.

Another one is Wendy Kopp. She came right out of college, an Ivy League school, and founded a non-profit called "Teach for America". She recruits the best and the brightest students across the country to go into inner city schools and teach for a year or two, before they start their careers. A lot of them end of staying in those inner city schools because they love the kids, they love the challenge and find it very rewarding. Wendy is brilliant; she could've made a million dollars, but instead she started a non-profit and built it from the ground up. Wendy Kopp is a woman changing the world.

Q. In your book, each chapter ends with suggestions for readers to try a little adventure on their own. Where should a beginning volunteer start?

A. I think a lot of times when you're doing volunteer work or you're trying to make a difference you look at what other people have done. But, I think that's the wrong place to start. I think that you have to start in your own community, with the needs that are in front of you. Use whatever resources or gifts or talents you personally have. So if you love to knit, knit for others. If you love to create scrapbooks, if you love to cook, if you love to spend time with people, if you love to take care of children, serve others. Start with yourself and what you like to do, and then find someone who needs what you like to do.

Q. Would So Long Status Quo work for book clubs or women's groups?

We just created a Reader's Guide for small groups or book clubs—any kind of group that wants to work through the book together. It's free and you can download it at www.susyflory.com. I've also started a blog that highlights women changing the world, both past and present.

Q. How can we become women who change the world?

A. By starting in our own backyards. And if God wants it to turn into something larger, that's up to Him. I think if we do what we can, with the tools God has given us and the resources that we have, then who knows what can happen? Mother Teresa put it this way: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." Don't be the missing drop.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Reluctant Cowgirl" Book Review!


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Reluctant Cowgirl

Barbour Publishing (April 2009)

by

Christine Lynxwiler


MY REVIEW:
Reluctant Cowgirl is a nice homecoming story when Crystal McCord leaves New York City and Broadway when the off Broadway show she is in closes and an emergency meeting is called by her siblings. Help is needed at the home ranch for a little while and it looks like Crystal is the only one that can step up for the time being. Just one problem, she doesn't come home much because of a tragedy seven years ago she can't even sleep in her old room, or upstairs, or in the house... but she'll do anything for her parents. So stay she does, and the neighboring rancher volunteers to help her get her ranching feet back under her so he joins her for the first week or so, all the while dealing with a tragedy all his own. Of course, who expected a little romance to spark between the two of them? Especially when they are both dealing with so much. Then of course Crystal is still trying to deal with landing a new role that will fulfill her dreams of being on Broadway... that is her dream isn't it? Can Crystal figure out what she really wants before she loses everything?
I good storyline, strong characters and good resolution. Nothing earthshaking and no big surprises here, but it is a good romance for summer reading, very satisfying.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Chrisitine lives with her husband and two precious daughters in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains in her home state of Arkansas. Her greatest earthly joy is her family and, aside from doing God’s will, spending time with them is her top priority.

She recently took a break from writing romance to pen a Christmas story with a twist. Her Mom Lit novella, My True Love Gave to Me, is part of a 2 in 1 anthology from Barbour entitled All Jingled Out. It’s also included in Simply Christmas, a 4 in 1 Barbour anthology. One of my holiday highlights was seeing Simply Christmas at Sam’s Club a few weeks before Christmas.

She has written two other novellas, both romance, which are included in Barbour anthologies, City Dreams, and Prairie County Fair and a serial for the Heartsong Presents book club newsletter – The Carousel Horse. The Carousel Horse can be read in its entirety on the Heartsong website, and you can read excerpts from all of her other books on her website, HERE

In 2003, Christine was honored by being voted #2 Favorite New Author by the Heartsong Presents Book Club members!



ABOUT THE BOOK

Actress Crytal McCord gave up the closeness of her big family in order to make a name for herself on the New York City stage. But when life in the Big Apple turns sour, she follows a country road back to her parents Arkansas ranch.

The last thing she expects to find in cowboy country is a new leading man. Still, she can't help but imagine handsome rancher Jeremy Buchanan in the role.

Unfortunately, Jeremy's been burned by Crystal's type before. Or has he? Every time he thinks he knows her, the multi-faceted woman surprises him. Will the reluctant pair allow their hearts to guide them, or will their common stubborn pride keep them miles apart?

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

"Elisha's Bones" Book Review


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Elisha's Bones

(Bethany House March 1, 2009)

by

Don Hoesel


MY REVIEW:
Whoa! This book has it all... murder (people dropping like flies), mystery (what is going on???), intrigue (lots of that), romance (a little for good measure), competition and a whole Indiana Jones vibe - and who doesn't love Indy? This book is great fun and will take you on a wild ride. I am amazed that this is Don Hoesel's first book, but I would venture to say that we will see more books by him and I sincerely hope that some of them will include Jack Hawthorne on more adventures!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Don Hoesel was born and raised in Buffalo, NY but calls Spring Hill, TN home. He is a Web site designer for a Medicare carrier in Nashville, TN. He has a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University and has published short fiction in Relief Journal.

He lives in Spring Hill with his wife and two children.

Elisha's Bones is his first novel.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Every year, professor of antiquities Jack Hawthorne looks forward to the winter break as a time to hide away from his responsibilities. Even if just for a week or two. But this year, his plans are derailed when he's offered almost a blank check from a man chasing a rumor.

Billionaire Gordon Reese thinks he knows where the bones of the prophet Elisha are--bones that in the Old Testament brought the dead back to life. The bones of the prophet once raised the dead to life... but they vanished from history in a whisper.

Bankrolled by a dying man of unlimited means, Hawthorne's hunt spans the globe and leads him into a deadly conspiracy older than the church itself. A born skeptic, Jack doesn't think much of the assignment but he could use the money, so he takes the first step on a chase for the legendary bones that will take him to the very ends of the earth.

But he's not alone. Joined with a fiery colleague, Esperanza Habilla, they soon discover clues to a shadowy organization whose long-held secrets have been protected . . . at all costs. And he soon discovers those sworn to keep the secret of the bones will do anything to protect them. As their lives are threatened again and again, the real race is to uncover the truth before those chasing them hunt them down.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Elisha's Bones, go HERE

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"So Not Happening" Book Review

Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



So Not Happening (The Charmed Life)

Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)


MY REVIEW:
What do you get when you take Paris Hilton, marry her mom to a small town Oklahoma farmer with a secret regarding spandex, one step brother that is a brilliant, 6 year old, wannabe super hero and another step brother who drives a hearse to school. Mix in some mysterious deaths, some friend issues and the downside of blogging and what do you have? You have Bella Kirkwood, Jenny B. Jones' newest heroine and you have a hit! I loved this book! I ate it up and can not wait until the next book comes out. This is listed as a YA book and is wonderful for that, but lest you think it is not for adults, let me settle that issue right now - if you love a little humor mixed in with your mystery, drama and comedy then you will love this book.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Jenny B. Jones writes adult and YA Christian Fiction with equal parts wit, sass, and untamed hilarity. When she's not writing, she's living it up as a high school speech teacher in Arkansas.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595545417
ISBN-13: 978-1595545411

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



One year ago my mom got traded in for a newer model.

And that’s when my life fell apart.

“Do you, Jillian Leigh Kirkwood . . .”

Standing by my mother’s side as she marries the man who is so not my dad, I suppress a sigh and try to wiggle my toes in these hideous shoes. The hideous shoes that match my hideous maid-of honor dress. I like to look at things on the bright side, but the only

positive thing about this frock is that I’ll never have to wear it again.

“. . . take Jacob Ralph Finley . . .”

Ralph? My new stepdad’s middle name is Ralph? Okay, do we need one more red flag here? My mom is marrying this guy, and I didn’t even know his middle name. Did she? I check her face for signs of revulsion, signs of doubt. Signs of “Hey, what am I thinking? I don’t want Jacob Ralph Finley to be my daughter’s new stepdad.”

I see none of these things twinkling in my mom’s crystal blue eyes. Only joy. Disgusting, unstoppable joy.

“Does anyone have an objection?” The pastor smiles and scans the small crowd in the Tulsa Fellowship Church. “Let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”

Oh my gosh. I totally object! I look to my right and lock eyes with Logan, the older of my two soon-to-be stepbrothers. In the six hours that I have been in Oklahoma preparing for this “blessed” event, Logan and I have not said five words to one another. Like we’ve mutually agreed to be enemies.

I stare him down.

His eyes laser into mine.

Do we dare?

He gives a slight nod, and my heart triples in beat.

“Then by the powers vested in me before God and the family and friends of—”

“No!”

The church gasps.

I throw my hands over my mouth, wishing the floor would swallow me.

I, Bella Kirkwood, just stopped my own mother’s wedding.

And I have no idea where to go from here. It’s not like I do this every day, okay? Can’t say I’ve stopped a lot of weddings in my sixteen years.

My mom swivels around, her big white dress making crunchy noises. She takes a step closer to me, still flashing her pearly veneers at the small crowd.

“What,” she hisses near my ear, “are you doing?”

I glance at Logan, whose red locks hang like a shade over his eyes. He nods again.

“Um . . . um . . . Mom, I haven’t had a chance to talk to you at all this week . . .” My voice is a tiny whisper. Sweat beads on my forehead.

“Honey, now is not exactly the best time to share our feelings and catch up.”

My eyes dart across the sanctuary, where one hundred and fifty people are perched on the edge of their seats. And it’s not because they’re anxious for the chicken platters coming their way after the ceremony.

“Mom, the dude’s middle name is Ralph.”

She leans in, and we’re nose to nose. “You just stopped my wedding and that’s what you wanted to tell me?”

Faint—that’s what I’ll do next time I need to halt a wedding.

“How well do you know Jake? You only met six months ago.”

Some of the heat leaves her expression. “I’ve known him long enough to know that I love him, Bella. I knew it immediately.”

“But what if you’re wrong?” I rush on, “I mean, I’ve only been around him a few times, and I’m not so sure. He could be a serial killer for all we know.” I can count on one hand the times I’ve been around Jake. My mom usually visited him when I was at my dad’s.

Her voice is low and hurried. “I understand this isn’t easy for you. But our lives have changed. It’s going to be an adventure, Bel.”

Adventure? You call meeting a man on the Internet and forcing me to move across the country to live with his family an adventure? An adventure is swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean. An adventure is touring the pyramids in Egypt. Or shopping at the Saks after-Thanksgiving sale with Dad’s credit card. This, I do believe, qualifies as a nightmare!

“You know I’ve prayed about this. Jake and I both have. We know this is God’s will for us. I need you to trust me, because I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”

A single tear glides down Mom’s cheek, and I feel my heart constrict. This time last year my life was so normal. So happy. Can I just hit the reverse button and go back?

Slowly I nod. “Okay, Mom.” It’s kind of hard to argue with “God says this is right.” (Though I happen to think He’s wrong.)

The preacher clears his throat and lifts a bushy black brow.

“You can continue,” I say, knowing I’ve lost the battle. “She had something in her teeth.” Yes, that’s the best I've got.

I. Am. An. Idiot.

“And now, by the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Finley. You may kiss your bride.”

Nope. Can’t watch.

I turn my head as the “Wedding March” starts. Logan walks to my side, and I link my arm in his. Though we’re both going to be juniors, he’s a head taller than me. It’s like we’re steptwins. He grabs his six-year-old brother, Robbie, with his other hand, and off we go

in time to the music. Robbie throws rose petals all around us, giggling with glee, oblivious to the fact that we just witnessed a ceremony marking the end of life as we know it.

“Good job stopping the wedding.” Logan smirks. “Very successful.”

I jab my elbow into his side. “At least I tried! You did nothing!”

“I just wanted to see if you had it in you. And you don’t.”

I snarl in his direction as the camera flashes, capturing this day for all eternity.

Last week I was living in Manhattan in a two-story apartment between Sarah Jessica Parker and Katie Couric. I could hop a train to Macy’s and Bloomie’s. My friends and I could eat dinner at Tao and see who could count the most celebs. I had Broadway in my backyard

and Daddy’s MasterCard in my wallet.

Then my mom got married.

And I got a new life.

I should’ve paid that six-year-old to pull the fire alarm.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Boneman's Daughters" Book Giveaway!


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Boneman's Daughters

Center Street (April 14, 2009)

by

Ted Dekker



MY REVIEW:

I have mixed feelings about Ted Dekker. His writing is wonderful, but sometimes it can be so descriptive that it gives me the heebeejeebees. "The Kiss" that he co-wrote with Erin Healy was really good, I think Erin tempered some of that and it made for a wonderful book - I also love the YA series that he has about the Lost Books... it is excellent. I wasn't sure what I would think of "Boneman's Daughters" when I got it. I am thrilled to say that I really liked this book. Not to say that he didn't get descriptive when it came to describing how the murders happened (Boneman would break the girl's bones one at a time without breaking the skin) but it didn't overtake the incredible suspense that drove me through the book. Ryan returns from war after having been a taken captive and been tortured. He is estranged from his wife and daughter, but after his life flashes in front of his eyes he realizes that he wants nothing more than a relationship with his daughter. But then she is kidnapped by the serial killer "Boneman" and he wants Ryan to give him chase. In the process it starts to look like Ryan IS the Boneman. Can he save his daughter before the cops put him behind bars? Just who is going to end up broken?

**************************

If you would like a chance to win this book then leave me a comment telling me what your favorite Ted Dekker book is and I will enter you. Be sure to leave your email so I can get a hold of you if you are the winner - good luck!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. Dekker's body of work encompassing seven mysteries, three thrillers and ten fantasies includes Heaven's Wager, When Heaven Weeps, Thunder of Heaven, Blessed Child, A Man Called Blessed, Blink, Thr3e, The Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, White), Obsessed, Renegade, and Chaos.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter?

They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who’s abducted six young women. He’s the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die.

Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.

Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan’s estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own.

But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand.


If your an avid Dekker fan, and would like wallpaper and counters for your blog, go HERE.

You can listen to an audio clip HERE

Watch the VIDEO:




If you would like to read the first chapter of Boneman's Daughters, go HERE

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Fatal Illusions" Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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





and the book:



Fatal Illusions

Kregel Publications (March 5, 2009)

MY REVIEW:

Mystery and suspense, murder, attempted murder and a serial killer. This book is packed with an excellent storyline that kept me on edge as I flipped the pages. Though I figured out who-dun-it early on (to a certain extent I think I was supposed to) the writing style was so well done that I held my breath to the end. The past wraps around to the present as we realize that nothing should be overlooked. There is a lot going on in this book - a pastor and his wife that aren't as close as they used to be, pastor is accused of rape and his wife is in mourning over her still born babies... wedges are driven between them and they are asked to take a sabbatical from the church til everything blows over. In the meantime in another state, a detective is getting ready to retire, but he hasn't been able to retire the case that has been under his skin for years - a serial killer who murders thin blonds with wire rimmed glasses. When things converge at a lighthouse in Michigan all heck breaks lose... pastor is accused of murder, his daughter is being hunted by the killer, mom is trying to hold it all together. Well written and suspenseful - I enjoyed every moment of this book!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Adam Blumer graduated from Bob Jones University with a degree in a print journalism. Since childhood he has been writing stories and has since been published in a variety of periodicals. He lives in Michigan with his wife and their two daughters.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825420989
ISBN-13: 978-0825420986



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Prologue

As dusk settled over the suburban Cincinnati neighborhood, the sodium-vapor lights along the quiet street blinked and came to life on cue. They chased the shadows from the grade school parking lot, now littered with dried leaves that scraped across the pavement and swirled in their seasonal dance of joy.

Across the way, a man in a jet-black jogging suit eased behind a tree and checked his watch as the chilly breeze tousled his hair. He breathed deeply, noting the intoxicating aroma of burning leaves, and impatiently studied the faces of the pedestrians now strolling toward the school auditorium. Anxious children tugged at reluctant parents, their excitement barely contained.

“Yes, yes,” he overheard a woman tell a child. “We’ll get there in plenty of time. No need to rush.”

He smiled. He had been that overzealous child once, but that was a long time ago. He’d grown up, things had changed, and not every change had been welcome.

His smile faded as he continued to search for a certain bespectacled face. He’d been watching her for weeks and knew everything about her: when she got up in the morning, when she went to bed, where she went each day, how she spent her time. He even knew she was failing English for the second time, even after her teacher had given her a two-week extension on her term paper. Going through her trash, he’d discovered her addiction to Snickers bars, her affection for Ruffles potato chips and cream soda, and her preference for Pantene shampoo, which added luster to the blond hair she wore long and wavy.

A familiar red nylon jacket caught his eye, and he sucked in his breath. Concealing himself further behind the tree, he waited for her to pass.

Hmm. She was so close. He could have reached out, could have touched her hair. But he steadied his breathing and let the moment pass, deciding that reason must win the battle with emotion. There were simply too many people around who might see him and remember his face. He watched as she strolled into the school with her two charges in tow, carefree and unsuspecting.

Just the way he wanted her.

He took another deep breath, surprised by how calm he felt tonight. He knew what he needed to do and realized he had the resolve to execute his plan. Now all he needed was the opportunity, but waiting had never been easy for him. He could hear his mother’s chiding words strumming across the strings of his memory.

You’re so impatient, Donny. So restless. Don’t you know that good things come to those who wait?

Time to get inside.

***

Someone was watching her. For weeks, she’d felt unseen eyes following her every move. Evaluating. Judging. But when she would whirl around, no one was ever there—just brittle leaves scudding across the empty sidewalks.

“C’mon, you two. Hurry up.”

Clutching their hands with icy fingers, Erin yanked Daphne and Thomas along to match her stride. It was bad enough that she was stuck taking care of these first-grade brats on a Friday night. Worse, the evening’s entertainment promised to be a childish, elementary school musical, and she had better things to do with her time.

She’d been planning to give Sheryl a cut and dye job tonight. Her hairdressing service brought in more money than babysitting, but her mom had said she owed the Spensers a favor.

Yeah, whatever.

Erin wished for her father right now. Divorced from her mom and recently remarried, he had moved three states away, leaving them with the mortgage and a barely enough paycheck from her mom’s job as a nighttime gas station attendant. Her mom had said he was a no-good lowlife, that they were better off without him, but Erin wasn’t so sure. She had fond memories of her dad taking her ice-skating, just the two of them. He had shown her the spins he’d mastered as a young man, when he had almost qualified for the Olympics.

Almost. Dreams are never easy, he’d told her. You have to work hard and never, ever give up.

One more year and she would graduate from high school. Maybe then she could free herself from her mother’s stranglehold and open the beautician’s shop she’d always wanted.

The lights of Bridgetown Elementary glimmered against the darkening sky, the crisp wind swirling the leaves at her feet. She wished she’d worn her jean jacket instead of the thin, red windbreaker. She pushed her wire rim glasses up on her nose and glanced at her watch, realizing that in her reverie she’d slowed her stride.

“C’mon, we’re going to be late if you two don’t hurry,” she said.

“Slow down!” Daphne cried. “We can’t keep up.”

Erin peered down into Daphne’s frustrated hazel eyes. “Look, I’ll let you wear my watch if you’ll get a move on.”

Daphne squealed. “Cool!”

Though they were five minutes late, the program hadn’t yet started. But Erin realized that they should have come much earlier if they’d wanted to get a good seat. The place was packed, and she didn’t see an open row anywhere.

Biting her lip, she spied a friend coming down the aisle toward her. Laurie was a stagehand—and, as it happened, she was also the solution to their problem. She had been saving seats for her mother and sisters, but they’d all been waylaid by food poisoning or something, and wouldn’t be coming.

Three seats. Right in front. Perfect.

Erin couldn’t help smiling smugly as Laurie escorted them to the front row like celebrities at the Academy Awards, minus the red carpet pre-show, of course. She felt the indignant glares drilling into her back from those who had arrived a half hour early to get their seats. She felt a rush of pleasure at the realization that she was the cause of their indignation.

Let them sulk. Sometimes good things happen when you least expect it.

Her mind replayed a similar thrill she’d felt just a month ago, when she’d been summoned to give testimony in a big court case downtown.

***

She’d done up her hair special, dry-cleaned her special navy twin set, and worn her new high-heeled shoes, which made her short, lithe figure seem several inches taller. Approaching the stand, she had, for once in her life, felt important; felt as if every eye in the room was glued to her, mesmerized by this long-haired, blonde goddess with the porcelain skin and sapphire blue eyes. She hadn’t realized until later how important her testimony had been.

“And you saw the defendants enter Margaret Stowe’s house?” Stan Loomis, the prosecuting attorney, had asked.

“That’s right.”

“And you’re sure it was Walter and Virginia Owens. You’re positive?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Remember, Miss Walker, you are under oath. You saw their faces?”

She had bitten her lip as she tried to remember.

She had just finished house-sitting for Mrs. Stowe, as another way to make some extra money. The old lady was loaded. She had said good night to Mrs. Stowe and had walked off, feeling giddy at the sizable check. Almost to her car, she’d dropped her keys and bent to pick them up. Hearing voices, she’d glanced back and had seen two people walking up the sidewalk to Mrs. Stowe’s front door.

A man and a woman, wearing long, dark overcoats. They had looked wealthy. The man had placed his black-gloved hand at the middle of the woman’s back.

“You don’t think she’ll mind?” the woman had asked, a musical quality to her husky voice. “It’s late.”

“You’re right. It is late. Too late.” The man’s voice had sounded rough, like a smoker’s. “She can’t turn us away now.”

Standing beside her car, Erin had watched as the man knocked. When the door opened, a band of light had slashed across their faces for an instant before they disappeared inside.

Staring unflinchingly at Stan Loomis, she had said, “Yes, it was them. I’m sure of it.” She’d pushed away the fact that the encounter at Mrs. Stowe’s house had occurred the week before she’d gotten her new glasses.

“For the benefit of the jury, would you please point out who you saw?”

Her hand had trembled as she pointed to the pale-faced Owenses, who sulked beside their defense attorney. They didn’t flinch. They didn’t move. But their eyes—they hated her. They wanted her dead. Ever since, those eyes had stared back at her in her dreams.

Those dark, hateful eyes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"The Secret" Book Review and Giveaway!


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Secret

(Bethany House May 1, 2009)

by

Beverly Lewis

MY REVIEW:

Let me start out by saying that this is book #1 in this new series, and it is definitely the start of something good (but only the start). Here we have some amazing storylines that start to intersect as we go along... Grace is from a nice Amish family, living a nice Amish life when weird things start happening. Mom can't sleep at night and wanders around outside, Dad doesn't want to discuss it, Grandma seems to know more than she is letting on... but not enough. Then one night Grace's world is turned upside down. Her mother is gone and no one knows why. Can her family function without mom? Can they survive the scrutiny of the Amish community? What is the deal with Heather who is coming to stay with an Amish family? The interesting thing about "The Secret" is that even though the big secret is revealed before the book is over it definitely asks more questions than it answers. This book is not about resolution, it is about questions... so don't read it if you are not planning on reading the rest of the series! I will say that it is worth the read and Beverly Lewis is a master at crafting characters and storylines - so dive into the mystery that is the Amish community!

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If you would like a chance at winning a copy of "The Secret" by Beverly Lewis then leave me a comment telling me what intrigues you most about the Amish community. Be sure to leave your email address as I will stop entering people that don't include it so I can reach you. Good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Not until her own children were well into middle school did Bev seek to publish her work, first in magazines such as Highlights for Children, Dolphin Log, and Guideposts for Kids. Her first book followed in 1993—Mountain Bikes and Garbanzo Beans—presently retitled Big Bad Beans (book #22 in the popular CUL-DE-SAC KIDS series of chapter books—see list of Bev's children's books).

Beverly's first venture into adult fiction is the best-selling trilogy, THE HERITAGE OF LANCASTER COUNTY, including The Shunning, a suspenseful saga of Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman drawn to the modern world by secrets from her past. The book is loosely based on the author's maternal grandmother, Ada Ranck Buchwalter, who left her Old Order Mennonite upbringing to marry a Bible College student. One Amish-country newspaper claimed Beverly's work to be "a primer on Lancaster County folklore" and offers "an insider's view of Amish life."

Booksellers across the country, and around the world, have spread the word of Bev's tender tales of Plain country life. A clerk in a Virginia bookstore wrote, "Beverly's books have a compelling freshness and spark. You just don't run across writing like that every day. I hope she'll keep writing stories about the Plain people for a long, long time."

A member of the National League of American Pen Women, as well as a Distinguished Alumnus of Evangel University, Lewis has written over 80 books for children, youth, and adults, many of them award-winning. She and her husband, David, make their home in Colorado, where they enjoy hiking, biking, and playing with their three grandchildren. They are also avid musicians and fiction "book worms."






ABOUT THE BOOK

In the seemingly ordinary Amish home of Grace Byler, secrets abound. Why does her mother weep in the night? Why does her father refuse to admit something is dreadfully wrong? Then, in one startling moment, everything Grace assumed she knew is shattered.

Her mother's disappearance leaves Grace reeling and unable to keep her betrothal promise to her long-time beau. Left to pick up the pieces of her life, Grace questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment.

Heather Nelson is an English grad student, stunned by a doctor's diagnosis. Surely fate would not allow her father to lose his only daughter after the death of his wife a few years before. In denial and telling no one she is terminally ill, Heather travels to Lancaster County-- the last place she and her mother had visited together.

Will Heather find healing for body and spirit? As the lives of four wounded souls begin to weave together like an Amish patchwork quilt, they each discover missing pieces of their life puzzles--and glimpse the merciful and loving hand of God.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Unbelievable - check this out!

I just saw the most amazing thing - I love America's Got Talent, can't wait until it starts up again this summer! But Britain's Got Talent offers some great stuff too. So meet Susan Boyle from Britain. She is an unassuming, single, 47 year old that lives with her cat and looks like a librarian, but don't let that fool you, when she opens her mouth it is unbelievable! Sit back and enjoy...
Susan Boyle...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

"Deadlock" Book Review


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Deadlock

Thomas Nelson (April 2009)

by

Robert Liparulo


MY REVIEW:
I am a huge fan of Robert's books. His YA books are some of my favorite and I really liked "Comes a Horseman". The concept for "Deadlock" was intriguing... is it a video game, is it reality, rogue soldiers for hire. My only regret is that I did not read "Deadfall" before I dove into this one, especially since it was sitting on my bookshelf just begging for me to pick it up. Granted, it was not necessary to read Deadfall first, but it would have answered a lot of little questions much sooner, with a lot of the characters being returning characters it would have simplified my thought process. But that aside, this book was awesome! I read it in less than a day (and it is not a small book). I believe that Robert Liparulo is the Tom Clancy, John Grisham kind of author for Christians, gritty, keep you on the edge of your seat, intrigue, murder, mystery, suspense... written for guys but great for girls!
In Deadlock there are strong characters, including Laura who is quite capable of kicking butt on her own - especially as mama bear protecting her cubs. Hutch is a one man Rambo - but the kids are pretty incredible too - give Dillon a bow and arrow and get out of his way! The bad guys are really bad, unless they are confused about what is reality and what is just a game. Good is found in unlikely places and bad is just everywhere. Can Hutch save his kids from Outis? Is Brendan Page really as evil as he wants Hutch to think he is? How can Hutch protect his family from the one man that can cause killing anywhere in the world?
This is one ride you want to be on with Hutch... you might just want to ride along on Deadfall first.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Robert Liparulo is a former journalist, with over a thousand articles and multiple writing awards to his name. Readers of his action-thrillers were not surprised when his visual storytelling style caught the eye of Hollywood producers. Currently, three of his novels for adults are in various stages of development for the big screen: the film rights to Comes A Horseman were purchased by the producer of Tom Clancy’s movies; and Liparulo is penning the screenplays for GERM and Deadfall for two top producers. He is also working with the director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Holes) on a political thriller. Novelist Michael Palmer calls Deadfall “a brilliantly crafted thriller.” March 31st marked the publication of Deadfall’s follow-up, Deadlock, which novelist Gayle Lynds calls, “best of high-octane suspense.”

Liparulo’s bestselling young adult series, Dreamhouse Kings, debuted last year with House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods. Book three, Gatekeepers released in January, and number four, Timescape, comes out in July. The series has garnered praise from readers, both young and old, as well as attracting famous fans who themselves know the genre inside and out. Of the series Goosebumps creator R.L. Stine says, “I loved wandering around in these books. With a house of so many great, haunting stories, why would you ever want to go outside?”

He is currently working on his next thriller, which for the first time injects a bit of the supernatural into his gun-blazing stories. The story is so compelling, two Hollywood studios are already in talks to acquire it—despite its publication date being more than a year away. After that comes a trilogy of novels, based on the critically acclaimed short story he contributed to James Patterson’s Thriller anthology. New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry calls Liparulo’s writing “Inventive, suspenseful, and highly entertaining . . . Robert Liparulo is a storyteller, pure and simple.” He lives with his family in Colorado.


ABOUT THE BOOK

John Hutchinson thinks it's no coincidence that Brendan Page runs this modern Praetorian Guard, and that the billionaire military industrialist must have had something to do with the atrocities his son Declan committed in Canada. The Canadian and U.S. Justice departments disagree, but Hutch has been digging for dirt ever since.

Brendan Page has some dirty not-so-little secrets. he's built an empire on supplying futuristic weapons and highly trained soldiers to the world's most powerful armies. But he's saved his most destructive weapons for himself.

When Hutch discovers the secret of Page's success, Page decides to teach him a lesson. But the operation goes terribly wrong, and Hutch's son is kidnapped. While a lone man stands little chance against the best black op soldiers ever issued M-16s, Hutch manages to survive longer than Page anticipated. As far as Hutch is concerned, high-tech helmets, machine guns, and hand grenades are nothing compared to a man determined to save his son. It's a lesson he sets out to teach Page-and one that he can only hope works as well in the real world as it does in his heart.

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