Saturday, May 30, 2009

"A Passion Denied" Book Review and Giveaway!

"A Passion Denied"


Julie Lessman


Very rarely does a book come along that makes you sigh with delight, cry with the characters, make you upset at their circumstances and then reach the last page and declare, "Yes!" But then along comes Julie Lessman and her Daughters of Boston series. First we had a revelation when "A Passion Most Pure" released and was unlike anything I had read since "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott. Then there was a revolution with "A Passion Redeemed" (did anyone else think that Charity just might be unredeemable???) and now after what seemed like a long wait to me, I have been revived with "A Passion Denied"!

I love series books where the characters are strong and we get to keep seeing them through out the books so you feel like you keep returning home everytime a new book comes out. Julie has exceeded any expectations I had for this 3rd book. I was hoping that we would get to see what Faith and Collin (from book 1) were up to and how Charity and Mitch (from book 2) were getting along as we got up close and personal with Beth (Faith and Charity's sister). No, no, no - we don't get to just get a glimpse or two at what is going on in their lives - we get to see life through their eyes! This book is not just about Beth, we get to literally get inside the minds of Faith, Charity, Collin, Mitch, Mom, Dad and of course Beth and the love of her life (who doesn't want to admit it, stubborn, stubborn John Brady!).

And not one to play it safe (Passion is in the title of each book remember) Julie hits many different issues and hits them hard, but I hesitate to even mention them for fear of ruining the wonder of you reading the book for yourself. So I will just say that you must, must, must get this entire series and read them, loan them, request them at your library and then add them to your permanent, always to have and read over and over book shelf.


Julie has graciously agreed to give away a copy of any one of her 3 books - so if you have never read any in the series then if you are the winner you can request "A Passion Most Pure", if you have read book one but haven't gotten to book #2 then you can request that one. And if you are like me and have been following the series and anxiously awaiting "A Passion Denied" then you can request that one! Any way you look at it - if you win this drawing then you are a big winner! Leave me a comment (with your email address of course!) telling me what your favorite epic book of all time is... Little Women, Gone With the Wind - surprise me and inspire me and then add Julie Lessman's series to your epic book list! Good luck!

Friday, May 29, 2009

HUGE GIVEAWAY - "Who Made You A Princess?" by Shelley Adina

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:

Who Made You A Princess? (All About Us Series, Book 4)

FaithWords (May 13, 2009)

Plus a Tiffany's Bracelet Giveaway! Go to Camy Tang's Blog and leave a comment on her FIRST Wild Card Tour for Be Strong and Curvaceous, and you will be placed into a drawing for a bracelet that looks similar to the picture below.

Oh sweet high school days... well I wouldn't exactly say that my high school days were the same as the girls at Spencer Academy, but it does bring memories back that make me sign in satisfaction. Of course I'm not sure I would have wanted to make the decisions some of the girls in this series have to make... Shelley does high school so well. In this series each of the books takes first person narrative from the view point of a different friend. So we get to keep in close contact with the girls we learn to love in each book while we are being introduced up close and personal to a new girl! In "Who Made You A Princess?" we finally get inside the mind of Shani. Here we have a beautiful young lady on her way to business school so she can take over the family business one day. Then an old family friend starts going to Spencer Academy with more than friendship on his mind, oh, and he is a prince. Not like "You're so sweet, you're such a prince." But like, "Oh my goodness, you are the Prince of a kingdom!" Shani's parents have been keeping something from her and suddenly the fate of her family lifestyle is all in her hands. What would you do in her shoes? What a great series!


Click on the widget on the left side of the blog to hear an interview with Shelley Adina!!!

If you would like to find out what you would do in her shoes and meet ALL the girls of Spencer Academy then get a chance to win the ENTIRE series so far - ALL 4 BOOKS!!! Leave me a comment (with your email!) telling me what kingdom you would like to be the princess of if fate had fallen differently :-) I'll draw a winner for the full set of books - good luck!


Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages. Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She writes books about fun and faith—with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, watching movies, and making period costumes.

Visit her book site and her website.

It's All About Us is Book One in the All About Us Series. Book Two, The Fruit of my Lipstick came out in August 2008. Book Three, Be Strong & Curvaceous, came out January 2, 2009. And Book Four, Who Made You a Princess?, came out May 13, 2009.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (May 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446179620
ISBN-13: 978-0446179621


NOTHING SAYS “ALONE” like a wide, sandy beach on the western edge of the continent, with the sun going down in a smear of red and orange. Girlfriends, I am the go-to girl for alone. Or at least, that’s what I used to think. Not anymore, though, because nothing says “alive” like a fire snapping and hissing at your feet, and half a dozen of your BFFs laughing and talking around you.

Like the T-shirt says, life is good.

My name’s Shani Amira Marjorie Hanna, and up until I started going to Spencer Academy in my freshman year, all I wanted to do was get in, scoop as many A’s as I could, and get out. College, yeah. Adulthood. Being the boss of me. Social life? Who cared? I’d treat it the way I’d done in middle school, making my own way and watching people brush by me, all disappearing into good-bye like they were flowing down a river.

Then when I was a junior, I met the girls, and things started to change whether I wanted them to or not. Or maybe it was just me. Doing the changing, I mean.

Now we were all seniors and I was beginning to see that all this “I am an island” stuff was just a bunch of smoke. ’Cuz I was not like the Channel Islands, sitting out there on the hazy horizon. I was so done with all that.

Lissa Mansfield sat on the other side of the fire from me while this adorable Jared Padalecki look-alike named Kaz Griffin sat next to her trying to act like the best friend she thought he was. Lissa needs a smack upside the head, you want my opinion. Either that or someone needs to make a serious play for Kaz to wake her up. But it’s not going to be me. I’ve got cuter fish to fry. Heh. More about that later.

“I can’t believe this is the last weekend of summer vacation,” Carly Aragon moaned for about the fifth time since Kaz lit the fire and we all got comfortable in the sand around it. “It’s gone so fast.”

“That’s because you’ve only been here a week.” I handed her the bag of tortilla chips. “What about me? I’ve been here for a month and I still can’t believe we have to go up to San Francisco on Tuesday.”

“I’m so jealous.” Carly bumped me with her shoulder. “A whole month at Casa Mansfield with your own private beach and everything.” She dipped a handful of chips in a big plastic container of salsa she’d made that morning with fresh tomatoes and cilantro and little bits of—get this—cantaloupe. She made one the other day with carrots in it. I don't know how she comes up with this stuff, but it’s all good. We had a cooler full of food to munch on. No burnt weenies for this crowd. Uh-uh. What we can’t order delivered, Carly can make.

“And to think I could have gone back to Chicago and spent the whole summer throwing parties and trashing the McMansion.” I sighed with regret. “Instead, I had to put up with a month in the Hamptons with the Changs, and then a month out here fighting Lissa for her bathroom.”

“Hey, you could have used one of the other ones,” Lissa protested, trying to keep Kaz from snagging the rest of her turkey-avocado-and-alfalfa-sprouts sandwich.

I grinned at her. Who wanted to walk down the hot sandstone patio to one of the other bathrooms when she, Carly, and I had this beautiful Spanish terrazzo-looking wing of the house to ourselves? Carly and I were in Lissa’s sister’s old room, which looked out on this garden with a fountain and big ferns and grasses and flowering trees. And beyond that was the ocean. It was the kind of place you didn’t want to leave, even to go to the bathroom.

I contrasted it with the freezing wind off Lake Michigan in the winter and the long empty hallways of the seven-million-dollar McMansion on Lake Road, where I always felt like a guest. You know—like you’re welcome but the hosts don’t really know what to do with you. I mean, my mom has told me point-blank, with a kind of embarrassed little laugh, that she can’t imagine what happened. The Pill and her careful preventive measures couldn’t all have failed on the same night.

Organic waste happens. Whatever. The point is, I arrived seventeen years ago and they had to adjust.

I think they love me. My dad always reads my report cards, and he used to take me to blues clubs to listen to the musicians doing sound checks before the doors opened. That was before my mom found out. Then I had to wait until I was twelve, and we went to the early shows, which were never as good as the late ones I snuck into whenever my parents went on one of their trips.

They travel a lot. Dad owns this massive petroleum exploration company, and when she’s not chairing charity boards and organizing fund-raisers, Mom goes with him everywhere, from Alaska to New Zealand. I saw a lot of great shows with whichever member of the staff I could bribe to take me and swear I was sixteen. Keb’ Mo, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Roomful of Blues—I saw them all.

A G-minor chord rippled out over the crackle of the fire, and I smiled a slow smile. My second favorite sound in the world (right after the sound of M&Ms pouring into a dish). On my left, Danyel had pulled out his guitar and tuned it while I was lost in la-la land, listening to the waves come in.

Lissa says there are some things you just know. And somehow, I just knew that I was going to be more to Danyel Johnstone than merely a friend of his friend Kaz’s friend Lissa, if you hear what I’m saying. I was done with being alone, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t stand out from the crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like this crowd. Carly especially—she’s like the sister I would have designed my own self. And Lissa, too, though sometimes I wonder if she can be real. I mean, how can you be blond and tall and rich and wear clothes the way she does, and still be so nice? There has to be a flaw in there somewhere, but if she’s got any, she keeps them under wraps.

Gillian, who we’d see in a couple of days, has really grown on me. I couldn’t stand her at first—she’s one of those people you can’t help but notice. I only hung around her because Carly liked her. But somewhere between her going out with this loser brain trust and then her hooking up with Jeremy Clay, who’s a friend of mine, I got to know her. And staying with her family last Christmas, which could have been massively awkward, was actually fun. The last month in the Hamptons with them was a total blast. The only good thing about leaving was knowing I was going to see the rest of the crew here in Santa Barbara.

The one person I still wasn’t sure about was Mac, aka Lady Lindsay MacPhail, who did an exchange term at school in the spring. Getting to know her is like besieging a castle—which is totally appropriate considering she lives in one. She and Carly are tight, and we all e-mailed and IM-ed like fiends all summer, but I’m still not sure. I mean, she has a lot to deal with right now, with her family and everything. And the likelihood of us seeing each other again is kind of low, so maybe I don’t have to make up my mind about her. Maybe I’ll just let her go the way I let the kids in middle school go.

Danyel began to get serious about bending his notes instead of fingerpicking, and I knew he was about to sing. Oh, man, could the night get any more perfect? Even though we’d probably burn the handmade marshmallows from Williams-Sonoma, tonight capped a summer that had been the best time I’d ever had.

The only thing that would make it perfect would be finding some way to be alone with that man. I hadn’t been here more than a day when Danyel and Kaz had come loping down the beach. I’d taken one look at those eyes and those cheekbones and, okay, a very cut set of abs, and decided here was someone I wanted to know a whole lot better. And I did, now, after a couple of weeks. But soon we’d go off to S. F., and he and Kaz would go back to Pacific High. When we pulled out in Gabe Mansfield’s SUV, I wanted there to be something more between us than an air kiss and a handshake, you know what I mean?

I wanted something to be settled. Neither of us had talked about it, but both of us knew it was there. Unspoken longing is all very well in poetry, but I’m the outspoken type. I like things out there where I can touch them.

In a manner of speaking.

Danyel sat between Kaz and me, cross-legged and bare-chested, looking as comfortable in his surf jams as if he lived in them. Come to think of it, he did live in them. His, Kaz’s, and Lissa’s boards were stuck in the sand behind us. They’d spent most of the afternoon out there on the waves. I tried to keep my eyes on the fire. Not that I didn’t appreciate the view next to me, because trust me, it was fine, but I know a man wants to be appreciated for his talents and his mind.

Danyel’s melody sounded familiar—something Gillian played while we waited for our prayer circles at school to start. Which reminded me . . . I nudged Carly. “You guys going to church tomorrow?”

She nodded and lifted her chin at Lissa to get her attention. “Girl wants to know if we’re going to church.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Lissa said. “Kaz and his family, too. Last chance of the summer to all go together.”

And where Kaz went, Danyel went. Happy thought.

“You’re not going to bail, are you?” Carly’s brows rose a little.

It’s not like I’m anti-religion or anything. I’m just in the beginning stages of learning about it. Without my friends to tell me stuff, I’d be bumbling around on my own, trying to figure it out. My parents don’t go to church, so I didn’t catch the habit from them. But when she was alive and I was a little girl, my grandma used to take me to the one in her neighborhood across town. I thought it was an adventure, riding the bus instead of being driven in the BMW. And the gospel choir was like nothing I’d ever seen, all waving their arms in the air and singing to raise the roof. I always thought they were trying to deafen God, if they could just get up enough volume.

So I like the music part. Always have. And I’m beginning to see the light on the God part, after what happened last spring. But seeing a glimmer and knowing what to do about it are two different things.

“Of course not.” I gave Carly a look. “We all go together. And we walk, in case no one told you, so plan your shoes carefully.”

“Oh, I will.” She sat back on her hands, an “I so see right through you” smile turning up the corners of her mouth. “And it’s all about the worship, I know.” That smile told me she knew exactly what my motivation was. Part of it, at least. Hey, can you blame me?

The music changed and Danyel’s voice lifted into a lonely blues melody, pouring over Carly’s words like cream. I just melted right there on the spot. Man, could that boy sing.

Blue water, blue sky

Blue day, girl, do you think that I

Don’t see you, yeah I do.

Long sunset, long road,

Long life, girl, but I think you know

What I need, yeah, you do.

I do a little singing my own self, so I know talent when I hear it. And I’d have bet you that month’s allowance that Danyel had composed that one. He segued into the chorus and then the bridge, its rhythms straight out of Mississippi but the tune something new, something that fit the sadness and the hope of the words.

Wait a minute.

Blue day? Long sunset? Long road? As in, a long road to San Francisco?

Whoa. Could Danyel be trying to tell someone something? “You think that I don’t see you”? Well, if that didn’t describe me, I didn’t know what would. Ohmigosh.

Could he be trying to tell me his feelings with a song? Musicians were like that. They couldn’t tell a person something to her face, or they were too shy, or it was just too hard to get out, so they poured it into their music. For them, maybe it was easier to perform something than to get personal with it.

Be cool, girl. Let him finish. Then find a way to tell him you understand—and you want it, too.

The last of the notes blew away on the breeze, and a big comber smashed itself on the sand, making a sound like a kettledrum to finish off the song. I clapped, and the others joined in.

“Did you write that yourself?” Lissa removed a marshmallow from her stick and passed it to him. “It was great.”

Danyel shrugged one shoulder. “Tune’s been bugging me for a while and the words just came to me. You know, like an IM or something.”

Carly laughed, and Kaz’s forehead wrinkled for a second in a frown before he did, too.

I love modesty in a man. With that kind of talent, you couldn’t blame Danyel for thinking he was all that.

Should I say something? The breath backed up in my chest. Say it. You’ll lose the moment. “So who’s it about?” I blurted, then felt myself blush.

“Can’t tell.” His head was bent as he picked a handful of notes and turned them into a little melody. “Some girl, probably.”

“Some girl who’s leaving?” I said, trying for a teasing tone. “Is that a good-bye?”

“Could be.”

I wished I had the guts to come out and ask if he’d written the song for me—for us—but I just couldn’t. Not with everyone sitting there. With one look at Carly, whose eyes held a distinct “What’s up with you?” expression, I lost my nerve and shut up. Which, as any of the girls could tell you, doesn’t happen very often.

Danyel launched into another song—some praise thing that everyone knew but me. And then another, and then a cheesy old John Denver number that at least I knew the words to, and then a bunch of goofy songs half of us had learned at camp when we were kids. And then it was nearly midnight, and Kaz got up and stretched.

He’s a tall guy. He stretches a long way. “I’m running the mixer for the early service tomorrow, so I’ve got to go.”

Danyel got up, and I just stopped my silly self from saying, “No, not yet.” Instead, I watched him sling the guitar over one shoulder and yank his board out of the sand. “Are you going to early service, too?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said, sounding a little surprised. “I’m in the band, remember?”

Argh! As if I didn’t know. As if I hadn’t sat there three Sundays in a row, watching his hands move on the frets and the light make shadows under his cheekbones.

“I just meant—I see you at the late one when we go. I didn’t know you went to both.” Stutter, bumble. Oh, just stop talking, girl. You’ve been perfectly comfortable talking to him so far. What’s the matter?

“I don’t, usually. But tomorrow they’re doing full band at early service, too. Last one before all the turistas go home. Next week we’ll be back to normal.” He smiled at me. “See you then.”

Was he looking forward to seeing me, or was he just being nice? “I hope so,” I managed.

“Kaz, you coming?”

Kaz bent to the fire and ran a stick through the coals, separating them. “Just let me put this out. Lissa, where’s the bucket?”

“Here.” While I’d been obsessing over Danyel, Lissa had run down to the waterline and filled a gallon pail. You could tell they’d done this about a million times. She poured the water on the fire and it blew a cloud of steam into the air. The orange coals gave it up with a hiss.

I looked up to say something to Danyel about it and saw that he was already fifty feet away, board under his arm like it weighed nothing, heading down the beach to the public lot where he usually parked his Jeep.

I stared down into the coals, wet and dying.

I couldn’t let the night go out like this.

“Danyel, wait!” The sand polished the soles of my bare feet better than the pumice bar at the salon as I ran to catch up with him. A fast glance behind me told me Lissa had stepped up and begun talking to Kaz, giving me a few seconds alone.

I owed her, big time.

“What’s up, ma?” He planted the board and set the guitar case down. “Forget something?”

“Yes,” I blurted. “I forgot to tell you that I think you’re amazing.”

He blinked. “Whoa.” The barest hint of a smile tickled the corners of his lips.

I might not get another chance as good as this one. I rushed on, the words crowding my mouth in their hurry to get out. “I know there’s something going on here and we’re all leaving on Tuesday and I need to know if you—if you feel the same way.”

“About . . . ?”

“About me. As I feel about you.”

He put both hands on his hips and gazed down at the sand. “Oh.”

Cold engulfed me, as if I’d just plunged face-first into the dark waves twenty feet away. “Oh,” I echoed. “Never mind. I guess I got it wrong.” I stepped back. “Forget about it. No harm done.”

“No, Shani, wait—”

But I didn’t want to hear the “we can still be friends” speech. I didn’t want to hear anything except the wind in my ears as I ran back to the safety of my friends.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Rose House" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Tina Ann Forkner


Ahhh, women's fiction at its best. Tina has proven to be a master after only two books. Ruby Among Us was fresh, moving and gripping - but she has surpassed my expectations with Rose House. She brings us back to a familiar setting with a few familiar characters (Kitty is back and better than ever!) and throws in some new characters (Hello, Lillian!) a new scenario and a mystery that is in need of being solved. Tina deals with relationships (sister and romantic), mystery (who killed Lillian's husband and kids and who is after her), forgiveness and grief all wrapped up in a package with one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen. Fans of women's fiction should not miss this book!


Tina Ann Forkner writes contemporary fiction that challenges and inspires. She grew up in Oklahoma and graduated with honors from CSU Sacramento before settling in Wyoming. She lives with her husband, their three bright children and their dog and stays busy serving on the Laramie County Library Foundation Board of Directors. She is the author of Ruby Among Us, her debut novel, and Rose House, which recently released from Waterbrook Press/Random House.


A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting, and one woman’s search for hope

Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.

She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.

What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.

A captivating novel rich with detail, Rose House explores how the brushstrokes of pain can illuminate the true beauty of life.

If you would like to read an excerpt from HERE

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Lucy's Perfect Summer" 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:

Lucy's Perfect Summer (A Lucy Novel)

Zonderkidz (May 1, 2009)

Finally! A great new YA series that is really designed for younger YAs. This is a book that was fun and wonderful and I am happily passing on to my 12 year old! Lucy is a tomboy that loves soccer, lives for soccer, dreams soccer and plays soccer. During a bad storm her team's soccer field gets destroyed (mysteriously). Then her team gets to go to a soccer camp and she gets pulled out to be on the girl's select team. But has she deserted her team? How will she cope with these new girls, especially the one trying to make everyone's lives miserable? Back at home her dad's housekeeper, Inez, is teaching her about Queen Esther. Nancy Rue cleverly parallels Esther and Lucy and Lucy uses the lesson of Queen Esther to solve her dilemma at soccer camp. This is the beginning of a really good YA series and I look forward to seeing more of Lucy!


Nancy Rue has written over 100 books for girls, is the editor of the FaithGirlz Bible, and is a popular speaker and radio guest with her expertise in tween issues. She and husband Jim have raised a daughter of their own and now live in Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $7.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714524
ISBN-13: 978-0310714521


Why My Life Is Just About Perfect

School is out for the summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lucy would have made more exclamation points, but Lollipop, her pot-bellied kitty, was watching from the windowsill above the bed, her black head bobbing with each stroke and dot. She’d be pouncing in a second.

Lucy protected the Book of Lists with her other arm and wrote…

2. Aunt Karen is taking her vacation to some island so she won’t be coming HERE for a while. YES!!

3. We have a soccer game in two weeks, thanks to Coach Auggy. A for-REAL game, with a whole other team, not just our team split up, which is always lame since we only have 8 players to begin with. I cannot WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lollipop twitched an ear.

“Forget about it,” Lucy said to her. She’d only just discovered the joy of making exclamation points from Veronica. Veronica was a girly-girl, but she did have her good points. Lucy snickered. “Good points, Lolli. Get it?”

Lollipop apparently did not, or else she didn’t care. She tucked her paws under her on the tile sill and blinked her eyes into a nap. Lucy slipped a few more exclamation marks in before she continued.

I get to hang out with J.J. and Dusty and Veronica and Mora any time I want, not just at lunch or soccer practice or church. Okay, so I already got to hang out with them a lot before summer, but now it’s like ANY time, and that’s perfect. Except we’re still stuck with Januarie. If she weren’t J.J.’s little sister we could just ditch her, but she needs a good influence. We’re a good influence. Well, maybe not Mora so much.
Lucy glanced at her bedroom door to make sure it was all the way shut. The Book of Lists was private and everybody else in the house—Dad and Inez the housekeeper nanny and her granddaughter Mora—knew to keep their noses out of it. Still, she always had to decide whether it was worth risking discovery to write down what she really, really thought.

“What do you say about it, Lolli?” she said.

There was an answering purr, though Lucy was pretty sure that was more about Lollipop dreaming of getting the other three cats’ food before they did than it was about agreeing with her. She went for it anyway.

Januarie still thinks Mora is the next best thing to Hannah Montana. Even though Mora got her in way a lot of trouble not that long ago she would probably give a whole bag of gummy bears just to have Mora paint her toenails. And that’s saying a lot. Januarie loves gummy bears. And Snickers bars. And those chocolate soccer balls Claudia sells down at the candy and flower shop. Which reminds me—

5. We can go buy candy in the middle of the day, or have breakfast at Pasco’s café or take picnics to OUR soccer field, because, guess what? It’s SUMMER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Something black whipped across the page, and Lucy’s pen flew into space, landing with a smack against the blue-and-yellow toy chest. Knocking down the ruler Lucy always kept there to hold it open, in case Lollipop needed to jump in and hide, the lid slapped shut, and Lolli sprang into an upside down-U before she leaped after it and skidded across the top with her claws bared. She glared indignantly at Lucy.

“You did it, Simplehead,” Lucy said. “Wait! I’ll open it for you.” But before she could even scramble off the bed, Lolli dove under it. A squalling fight ensued with Artemis Hamm, who had obviously been sleeping beneath the mattress.

“Break it up, you two!” Lucy said. But she didn’t dare stick her hand under there. One of them would eventually come out with a mouth full of the other one’s fur and it would be over.

“What’s going on in there?” said a voice on the other side of the door.

Lucy stuck the Book of Lists under her pillow. It was Dad, who couldn’t see anyway, but she always felt better having her secrets well hidden when other people were in the room.

“Come on in—if you dare,” Lucy said.

She heard Dad’s sandpapery chuckle before he stuck his face in. She cocked her head at him, her ponytail sliding over her ear. “What happened to your hair?”

He ran a hand over salt-and-pepper fuzz as he edged into the room. “I just got my summer ‘doo down at the Casa Bonita. Is it that bad?”

“No. It’s actually kinda cool.”

“What do I look like?”

“Like—did you ever see one of those movies about the Navy SEAL team? You know…before?”


“You look like one of those guys.”

“Is that good?”

“That’s way good.”

Dad smiled the smile that made a room fill up with sunlight. She could have told him he looked like a rock star and he wouldn’t have known whether she was telling the truth or not. But she liked for the smiles to be real, and she did think her dad was handsome. Even with eyes that sometimes darted around like they didn’t know where to land.

He made his way to the rocking chair and eased into it. It would be hard for anybody who didn’t know to tell he was blind when he moved around in their house, as long as Lucy kept things exactly where they were supposed to be. She leaned over and picked up her soccer ball, just escaping a black-and-brown paw that shot from the hem of the bedspread.

“Keep your fight to yourselves,” Lucy said.

“What’s that about?”

“Exclamation points! It’s a long story.”

“Do I want to hear it?”

“No,” Lucy said. Not only because she didn’t want to tell it, but because she could see in the sharp way Dad’s chin looked that he hadn’t come in just to chat about cat fights. She hugged her soccer ball.

“Okay, what?” she said. “Is something wrong? Something’s wrong, huh?”

“Did I say that?”

“Aunt Karen’s coming, isn’t she? Man! I thought she was going out in the ocean someplace and we were going to have a peaceful summer.” She dumped the ball on the floor on the other side of the bed.

Dad’s smile flickered back in. “What makes you think I was going to talk about Aunt Karen?”

“Because she’s, like, almost always the reason you look all serious and heavy.”

“You get to be more like your mother every day, Champ. You read me like a book.”

“Then I’m right.” There went her perfect summer. She was going to have to redo that list.

“But you’re in the wrong chapter this time,” Dad said. “I’m serious, but it isn’t about Aunt Karen. Last I heard, she was headed for St. Thomas.”

“He’s going to need to be a saint to put up with her.”

Dad chuckled. “St. Thomas is an island, Luc’.”

“Oh.” She was doing better in school now that Coach Auggy was her teacher, but they hadn’t done that much geography this year.

“I just want to put this out there before Inez gets here.”

His voice was somber again, but Lucy relaxed against her pillows. If this wasn’t about Aunt Karen coming here wanting to take Lucy home with her for the summer, how bad could it be?

“So, you know Inez will be coming for all day, five days a week.”

“Right and that’s cool. We get along good now.” Lucy felt generous. “I don’t even mind Mora that much any more.”

“Good, because I’ve asked her if she’d be okay with Mr. Auggy also coming in to do a little home-schooling with you.”

Lucy shot up like one of her own freaked-out kitties.

“School?” she said. “In the summer?”

Dad winced like her voice was hurting his ears. “Just for a few hours a day, and not on Fridays.”

“Dad, hello! This is summer time. I have a TON of work to do to get ready for the soccer games if I want anybody from the Olympic Development Program to even look at me. School work?” She hit her forehead with the heel of her hand. “Why?”

“You’ve improved a hundred per cent since Mr. Auggy started teaching your class—”

“Yeah, so why are you punishing me by making me do more work? I don’t get it.”

She wished she could make exclamation points with her voice.

“You’ll get it if you let me finish.”

Dad’s voice had no punctuation marks at all, except a period, which meant, ‘Hush up before you get yourself in trouble.’ Lucy gnawed at her lower lip. She was glad for once that he couldn’t see the look on her face.

“You ended the school year in good shape, but Champ, you were behind before that. That means you’re still going to start middle school a few steps back.”

“I’ll catch up, Dad, I promise! I’ll study, like, ten hours a day when school starts again and I’ll do all my homework.”

Dad closed his eyes and got still. That meant he was waiting for her to be done so he could go on with what he was going to say as if she hadn’t said a word. She was in pointless territory. It made her want to crawl under the bed and start up the cat fight again. It seemed to work for them when they were frustrated.

“Your middle school teachers are going to expect your skills to be seventh-grade level,” Dad said. “Right now, Mr. Auggy says they’re about mid-sixth, which is great considering what they were in January.”

If she had been Mora, she would have been rolling her eyes by now. What was the point in telling her how wonderful she was when she was going to have to do what she didn’t want to do anyway?

“So here’s the deal,” Dad said.

Lucy sighed. “It’s only a deal if both people agree to it, Dad.”

“You haven’t even heard it yet.”

She stifled a “whatever,” which was sure to get her grounded for a least a week of her already dwindling summer.

“You’ll work with Mr. Auggy until you get your reading up to seventh-grade level. That could take all summer, or it could take a couple of weeks. That’s up to you.”

Lucy looked at him sharply. “What if I get it there in three days?”

“Then you’re done. We’ll check it periodically, of course, to make sure it stays there.”

“It will,” Lucy said. But she hoped her outside voice sounded more sure than the one that was screaming inside her brain: You can’t do this! What are you thinking?

There weren’t enough exclamation points in the world to end that sentence.

"Beyond Corista"

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:

Beyond Corista (The Shadowside Trilogy)

Zondervan (May 1, 2009)

Look for my review of this entire set of 3 books (Trion Rising / The Owling / Beyond Corista) coming soon - I finally have all 3 and am getting ready to read and review them all - they look so good!

Robert Elmer is the author of more than forty novels for young readers. He is a full-time writer, living in Idaho with his wife, Ronda. They are the parents of three young adults.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714230
ISBN-13: 978-0310714231


Because you are the last asylum, spread the light so they will hear beyond Corista—even where the Trion is but a faint glimmer in the night sky.

~ Codex 101:3

Chapter 1

“They’re right on our tail!” announced Margus.

His announcement roused Oriannon Hightower of Nyssa from her fitful nap. Who could sleep in a tinny little transport shuttle, anyway? Especially not when it was taking her farther and farther away from the only world she had ever known.

“Who?” As she slipped up behind her friend in the co-pilot’s seat she did her best to keep her voice down, tried to let her Owling friend Wist sleep the hours away. Perhaps dreams—and a little time—would help smooth the jagged raw edges of the nightmare they’d just been through.

“There, see?” Margus pointed at his long-range scanner. But at first Oriannon couldn’t make out anything unusual. Just a swirling green globe of energy with them in the middle, turned this way and that to give a three-dimensional view of this parcel of space, now distant from the planet Corista, and yet still far distant from the Asylum waystation to which they were bound. Nothing unusual? Oriannon shook her head.

“I still don’t see anything,” she told him, and for a moment he paused. A red warning light blinked, then went out.

“Hmm. I thought for sure I saw something.” He bent closer, fiddled with the scale, and brought it in closer. In and out. Still nothing.

“Well, let me know,” she told him. “But don’t wake everybody else up.”

It would not help to disturb her father, not if he was going to recover from the beating he’d suffered back at the death camp. He had to rest, as well, and not be wakened by every random announcement from Margus Leek who, from the front of the shuttle, pretended he knew how to pilot this craft through space.

An hour ago: “Look, Oriannon, there’s Corista, disappearing behind us.” And had she ever seen their planet from that far away?

No, of course she hadn’t. Margus knew that without asking.

Thirty minutes ago: “Hey, Ori, remember that field of solar reflectors that almost fried us when we flew through it by accident? There it is!”

Yes, she remembered, though she wished she didn’t.

And then fifteen minutes ago: “Well, looks like we’re home-free, now, Ori. It’s been three hours and no Security ships have come after us so far.”

So far? First of all, she’d told him, ‘so far’ wasn’t exactly a huge encouragement, in their situation. And second of all, “home-free” was not the kind of expression she would have used, unless by that he meant that they were free of their home, and that didn’t sound very good at all. In fact it sounded as if he was saying they were homeless, which they technically were, since escaping from Corista.

But who wanted to be reminded of that fact? Sometimes she wished she could act as cool as Margus did, even when everything looked completely and absolutely terminal.

Besides that, Oriannon could think of no one she wanted less with them on this crazy voyage than Sola Minnik, former security advisor to the Ruling Elders of Corista, former dictator. The fiery woman who had deceived and then nearly killed her father and all the other six Elders. Well, in fact, had any of the others survived?

But the same woman now sat on the cold stainless floor in the corner of the shuttle’s main crew chambers, her face tucked between her knees, her shoulders stooped and defeated, alternately sleeping, shivering and (Oriannon thought) crying.

Oh, she was probably sorry, all right. Sorry they had caught up with her and destroyed the death camp, where hundreds and thousands of the Owling people had been imprisoned. After all the work she and her Security forces had put into setting it up, Sola would naturally be very sorry about that. At this point maybe she’d also be sorry they’d saved her life by pulling her up off the shuttle landing ramp at the last minute, while they were taking off from the chaos of the camp, with probes blowing up all around them. Certainly she would be very sorry the flash bomb had exploded in her face, blinding her.

Blind or not, though. Sola could apparently still cry. And now over the background hum of the shuttle Oriannon heard a soft sobbing from the once-powerful leader.

Strange how things had worked out. But now an insistent buzzer drew Oriannon’s attention back to the shuttle’s controls.

“There it is again! See it, this time?” Margus rested his finger at a tiny yellow blip on the screen, and she might not have noticed had he not pointed it out. But yes, there it was—something, or a couple of somethings. Margus tapped another button to increase magnification, and again. This time there was no mistaking.

“Three of them?” she whispered, looking over her shoulder to be sure no one else heard—especially not Sola.

“At least four.” Margus shook his head gravely as he focused in on the blips, still thousands of kilometers away but growing larger ever second. He tapped his finger on a navigation touch screen and spoke into a small microphone mounted in front of him, below the view window.


The screen blinked twice before the unwelcome answer came back at them in the familiar metallic female voice.

“Corista Security cruisers, four, class CS-x, third revision, configured to—”

“That’s enough,” said Margus. They could skip the technical description, already. It was enough to know who was chasing them, and that it wasn’t just some phantom of Margus’s imagination. “Specify time until interception.”

The voice command would understand exactly what he meant, just as clearly as Oriannon understood. In an instant, everything had changed. So how long did they have before this escape was all over, before they were recaptured and dragged back to Corista, to be executed as rebels?

How long before her father would be taken away and killed for what he had tried to do, as well?

Of course the metallic voice couldn’t say “I’m sorry, kids” or “I wish I could help,” nor did she want it to. She just wished someone could have said it. Margus repeated his question, tapped impatiently on the command touch screen.

“At present speed,” reported the nav system’s voice, “zero hours, thirty-one minutes, thirty-seven seconds.”

Margus looked at her with a question in his eyes—a question she knew she could not answer.

“What do we do, Ori?”

Oriannon’s heart fell to the faintly humming floor, where the constant thrum of ion boosters told her they were likely pushing along as fast as the little vessel would go. She looked over to where Margus had set the faintly glowing Pilot Stone, black and polished and guiding them—or so she had thought—toward a safe haven.


She reached over to touch it, felt its warmth flowing up her hand and arm, flooding her entire body with the far-off songs of another place and another time. Jesmet’s songs, from ancient times.

But not just the songs. When she touched it she felt its overwhelming sense of direction, almost a physical thing, as if she could know without a doubt the right direction to travel, like a spiritual GPS. She might have a hard time explaining the stone’s power, but there was no mistaking its pull. And despite the raw fear that had popped up on the nav screens, despite what she saw with her eyes and understood with her mind of the approaching mortal danger, she smiled.

At a time like this, she smiled.

“We keep going,” she finally answered, reluctant to let go of the Stone. But she had to go check on her father and Wist, especially her father. Because while Tavlin Hightower rested in the back room, she could not actually be sure he would wake. With one last sigh she turned away—only to come face-to-face with Sola Minnik.

“Oh!” Oriannon caught her breath in fright, still not used to seeing what Sola had become. The young woman’s eyebrows and eyelashes had been singed completely away, while her once full head of red hair had been reduced to ugly, twisted wisps here and there. In an instant she had gone from someone who had always prided herself on her well-kept good looks to a snarling, helpless apparition.

Worse yet, her face looked as if someone had blackened it with a blowtorch, while angry red blisters rose across her nose and cheekbones, framing sightless eyes still wet with rheumy, coagulated tears.

Of course, considering the flash bomb that had blown up in her face, perhaps she had escaped with comparatively minor injuries. It could have been worse. Before Oriannon could duck to the side, though, Sola blindly reached out and grabbed Oriannon by the collar of her blouse.

“I heard what’s going on over here!” hissed Sola. “They’re coming for me, aren’t they?”

“Zero hours, thirty minutes,” came the voice of the nav screen. “And—“

“Cancel!” Margus jabbed at the screen, but too late to change what it had already told them. Sola straightened out with a smile before she found Oriannon’s cheek with one hand and patted her roughly.

“That’s all I needed to know.” Her jaw tightened and her voice hardened. “So do you know what’s going to happen to you in two hours and thirty minutes? Do you know what’s going to happen to all of you?”

Oriannon tried to wriggle away but the injured woman’s grip tightened now on her shoulder, sharp claws digging through the fabric of Oriannon’s blouse and into the thin skin of her neck. The strength of Sola’s hands made her cringe, and she would have cried out in pain, but could not. Even so, Oriannon would not be drawn into the pit of Sola’s vengeance—not any more, and not the way she had once been.

“You should let us help you,” Oriannon finally managed. “At least let us put something on those sores.”

But that only set the woman off even more, and she shook her head violently.

“No, no, no! Just a few minutes, and it won’t matter for you, any more. And if you try to resist, or even think of holding me captive, I’ll have them destroy the entire ship.” She paused, then released her grip with a savage flip of her wrist. In the process her fingernail scratched Oriannon’s cheek, drawing blood. Sola Minnik, though, only laughed.

“You think I wouldn’t do that? Hmm, well maybe I don’t care, any more. Maybe everything’s changed, now. Maybe you’d like to find out how much it’s changed?”

Oriannon looked over to see Margus standing beside her, his fists clenched. He might have done something stupid, too, if she hadn’t held him back with a wordless shake of her head.

No, Margus. She mouthed the words. Sola stood off a step or two, a wicked smile playing at her lips.

“Go ahead, Mr. Leek.” She taunted him as if she could see his face turning red and his eyes widening with fury. Perhaps she could smell his anger. “Let’s see how much damage you can do to a poor old blind lady. You only have what, twenty-eight minutes, now? Let’s see how brave you are!”

She waited a moment for effect, then laughed again as she would have done when she was still in control of their home world. They watched as she turned slowly and held her hands out in front of her as she returned to her spot in the corner. With an almost uncanny instinct she found her way to the exact spot where she had been sitting just minutes before, crying. As she lowered herself back to the floor she smiled and muttered that this was “much better, now.”

Perhaps it was, with four Security vessels on a course to overtake them in…

“Zero hours, twenty-seven minutes.”

Margus couldn’t seem to shut off that horribly annoying voice, though he punched button after button on the touch screen. And now with Sola listening Oriannon no longer felt free to speak, so she glanced at the Pilot Stone and hoped Margus would understand.

“We stay on this course,” she whispered. “Right?”

Now Margus didn’t look so sure, as he frowned and shook his head.

“Look, that’s all very good and everything.” He focused on the 3-d display showing specks of Coristan Security vessels growing larger and larger. “But if I don’t figure out a away to take it to manual, we’re never going to escape. It may already be too late.”

“That’s right, Mr. Leek.” Sola called out from her spot on the floor. “It’s already too late. Why don’t you just leave it on your nice autopilot, there, and enjoy what little time you have left?”

“Shut up!” Margus yelled her direction, though Oriannon tried to hold him by the arm to quiet him down. “Why don’t you just shut up and mind your own business?”

“Oh, but that’s just it.” She returned a crooked smile in the direction of his heated voice. “This is my business. That’s exactly why we’re being pursued, and that’s why this little game is going to end in my favor. Because it’s my business, and it always was.”

By this time Wist had no doubt been awakened by all the noise. Now the short-statured Owling girl came stumbling forward, wiping the sleep from her eyes and looking from them to their unwelcome passenger with a puzzled expression.

“Is this your little Owling friend, Oriannon?” asked Sola. Naturally Oriannon had no intention of answering, but Sola probably expected that, as well. “I should say thank you for saving my life, back there on the planet. I did get a good look at both of you, before the explosion. But then, you’re probably already regretting what you did for me, aren’t you?”

“Oriannon?” Wist looked to her for help, but Oriannon didn’t know what to say as Sola went on with her tirade.

“In fact, by this time you’re probably thinking, I should have let just that monster drop off the plane, back when we had a chance. Isn’t that what you’re thinking, sweetheart? Well, perhaps you should have, but it appears to be a little late for that change of heart. Even if you dumped me now, you still can’t get away, and I imagine that must be a lovely feeling. Tell her how much time you have, Mr. Leek.”

This time Margus pressed his lips together and said nothing, though by now it was obvious to anyone with eyes that the four Coristan Security vessels were catching up, and fast. Probably even Wist, who was unfamiliar with such things, could see and understand. She took one look at the screen and her face fell, but she stood by the others for the next several minutes. If this escape was coming to an end, they would face it together. But then the ship lurched as a flash of light hit them like a bolt of lightning.

“Whoa!” Oriannon waved her hands for balance, nearly hitting Wist in the face. She caught a handhold and looked to Margus. “What was that?”

“I… I don’t know.” Margus shook his head, but everything looked the same as before. “That was weird. I thought I saw…”

His voice dropped off as he rechecked his instruments, but then shrugged and shook his head. Whatever he’d seen wasn’t there now, or never was.

So Oriannon looked again out the viewport just to be sure, but could make out nothing new except the distant stars—brilliant and piercing but all of them so many light years afar. Whatever had hit them—or whatever they had hit—was nowhere to be seen. Sola brushed herself off in the corner and faced them with that annoying look on her face.

“For a moment,” she said, “I thought my ships had caught up with us ahead of schedule.” The tone of her voice matched her expression. “Are you still learning how to pilot this ship, Mr. Leek?”

He glanced over at the Pilot Stone, which still glowed as it should. His nav screen still glowed steady, apparently as they should. He shook his head and didn’t answer her. Perhaps that was the only way to deal with Sola Minnik for now.

“You can ignore me all you want.” Once again she settled back down. “It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. Maybe I’ll just rattle on and listen to my own voice, while you try to pretend I’m not here.”

They would probably do that, Oriannon thought. Unfortunately, now they could not ignore the nav screen, where four large blips had nearly descended on their position.

“We’re going as fast as we can,” Margus told her in a soft voice, still working his controls. “But we just can’t keep ahead of them.”

Sola smiled to herself as they continued on, their engines humming steadily. But Sola didn’t need to remind them that this race, as their instruments told them, was already lost.

* * *

“We should be almost to Asylum 2 by now,” Margus broke the silence nearly a half-hour later. He pointed to a new dot on the nav screen, a green-colored oasis in the middle of empty space. “We’ll try and dock there as soon as we can.”

“Wonderful idea!” shouted Sola. “Hide on an Asylum station, as if they can’t find you there, too. That is, if we make it there before my people catch up. Which isn’t likely, is it, now?”

How did Sola know so much even being blind? Oriannon supposed she could count the minutes as well as anyone.

“Will we make it in time?” whispered Oriannon. She couldn’t tell from the nav screen. Margus shrugged and shook his head, not looking terribly hopeful. That meant, probably not. Finally Wist motioned with her eyes for Oriannon to follow her to the back room again, probably to get away from the acid tongue of Sola Minnik.

“What’s going to happen when they catch us?” Wist asked, as soon as they had stepped far enough away so that Sola could no longer hear them. That was when, not if. Oriannon swallowed hard, searching for the right words.

“We’re going to be okay,” she answered. “Jesmet’s not going to abandon us, now. No matter where we are. No matter what happens, good or bad.”

She thought she believed her own words. But even as she spoke, their small craft jolted as if they had glanced off a solid wall, throwing both girls off their feet and setting off multiple alarms. This was much more than the gentle bump they’d experienced earlier. Wist screamed as sparks showered down on them from a short circuit in an overhead control panel.

Oriannon could only hold on as the shuttle spun out of control.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Ruby Unscripted" 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:

Ruby Unscripted

Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)


Here is a good addition to the growing number of young adult books entering the market right now. I would say that this should be considered edgy inspirational because God is a strong character in the book, but it also deals with some difficult issues. Ruby is moving from small town (read as "hick") Cottonwood to high end, rich town Marin County because her mom just inherited her aunt's house. She doesn't want to move, but doesn't have much choice. She leaves behind her school, friends, Dad and stepmom and brother Carson. Her first friend at the new snobby school is gay, so the homosexual issue is brought up but not ever really dealt with. Ruby's best friend Kate gets in trouble of her own back in Cottonwood and that is dealt with more thoroughly but it is tough to deal with teen sex honestly without limiting some of the young adult crowd. My 12 year old daughter isn't ready for this book, but I loved it and read it in a day. Ruby is a character that I could really get behind and root for as she went through a lot of teen angst without being overly dramatic. I'm hoping that Ruby comes back to see us again.


Cindy began writing around 1988, working on story ideas and writing plays. Her first book was contracted in 1998. Since that time she's written 8 novels, 1 nonfiction and over 100 articles, short stories, and curriculums.

Her critically acclaimed novels have been nominated for the Christy Award and Reader's Choice Award (Romantic Times), and chosen for the List of Best Books of 2004 by Library Journal.

Her first three novels have been translated into Dutch, German, and Norwegian.

Her newest novel is now a bestseller! ORCHID HOUSE

Cindy is the co-owner of METHOD 3AM WRITING & MEDIA SERVICES a newly created media service company ( She offers both aspiring and experience writers services in book doctoring, content editing, manuscript review and critique.

For the past ten years, Cindy has been speaking and teaching in different locations nationally and internationally. Her roles include conference leader, featured speaker and workshop leader at numerous women's gatherings, retreats and writers conferences most notably Litt-World 2004 in Tagaytay City, Philippines.

Monthly, she co-leads and teaches a workshop at Quills of Faith Writers Group in Northern California.

Look for Cindy on Facebook and on Twitter!

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595543562
ISBN-13: 978-1595543561


“Now he likes me?” I say aloud as I drop my phone to my lap and my heart does a strange little tuck and roll within my chest.

My ten-year-old brother, Mac, gives me a strange look from the seat beside me. With the top down in my aunt’s convertible, he can’t hear my words that are cast into the air to dance with the wind.

The orange towers of the Golden Gate Bridge loom toward us, with the darkening blue of sky and water filling the spaces between. Aunt Jenna is driving, with Mom talking beside her.

So it’s finally true.

Nick likes me.

I think I’m happy. Everyone will expect me to be happy. It’s not been a secret that I’ve liked him for . . . well, ever. Or at least for a few months.

And yet I have a very good reason for being completely annoyed about this.

The text stating Nick’s indirect admission of love, or at least “like,” arrives as we’re leaving an afternoon in San Francisco behind. But we aren’t driving the four hours home to Cottonwood. We’re driving toward our new life in Marin County.

Everyone at school knew that Nick liked me for a long time. His friends and my friends knew it. I knew it. But Nick apparently didn’t know his own feelings. Why can’t guys just trust others on these things?

I pick up my phone and reply to Kate’s text.

ME: Is Nick still standing there?

KATE: No. I think it freaked him out to wait for your response. The guys went to play Alien Hunter III before the movie starts. So what do you think? Patience paid off.

ME: I’m trying not to think that guys are really as dumb as most of us say they are.

KATE: Huh?

ME: Really now. I mean NOW. He says this on the day I move away?

KATE: Well you’ll be home most every weekend so it’s not that bad.

ME: But think about it. What made him decide today?

KATE: Who cares? He finally figured out he can’t live without you.

The car cruises along the bridge, and I stare up at the massive orange beams over our heads. Then I catch sight of a sailboat as it dips and bows on the evening waters of San Francisco Bay.

My brother is shout-talking to my mom and aunt. And with one earbud pulled out, I catch bits of the discussion being tossed around the car as the wind twists my hair into knots. The topic is “If you had one wish, what would you wish for?”

What poetic irony. Five minutes ago I would’ve wished that Nick would like me . . . and like some psychic genie working even before I wished it, the text arrived from Kate: “Nick said . . .”

So Nick likes me after I move four hours and a world away.

He likes me the day after I say good-bye to him and all my friends in Cottonwood.

I scroll back through my saved texts to find what he sent me after we said good-bye.

NICK: I wish you weren’t moving.

NICK: Next time you’re up visiting your dad let’s hang out.

NICK: How often will you be back?

NICK: So you don’t have a date for prom?

Men. I mean seriously.

So it’s like this. I’m moving to one of the coolest areas of California—Marin County. I’m going to live in this cool, quirky cottage that my aunt Betty gave us after she headed off on an extended Mediterranean honeymoon with the man, now her husband, she found online.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to live near San Francisco. Aunt Betty’s house was one of my favorite places. Kate and I plan to attend college down here. So now I get to live my dream sooner than expected.

Mac taps my arm, but I watch the little sailboat lean toward the open Pacific and wonder at its journey ahead, far or near, some California marina or faraway exotic isle.

My brother taps on my arm persistently. “Ruby-Ruby Red.”

I really dislike it when he calls me that. Then he reaches for my earbud, and I push his hand away.

“What?” I ask loudly, wiping strands of hair from my face. The sun falls easily into the cradle of the sea. It’s eventide—that time between sunset and darkness, a peaceful time of wind and bridges and dreams except for one annoying brother and an incoming text that could disrupt the excitement of a dream coming true.

“What do you wish for?” Mac asks earnestly.

My phone vibrates again, and I nearly say, “Don’t bug me, and don’t call me Ruby-Ruby Red,” but Mac’s sweet pink cheeks and expectant eyes stop me. I rub his hair and tickle him until he cries for mercy.

He laughs and twists away from my fingers, then asks me again what I wish for.

“Wait a minute,” I say, and he nods like he understands.

KATE: He said he’s been miserable since he said good-bye last night.

ME: So why didn’t he like me before?

KATE: He says he always did, he just kept it to himself.

ME: Or he kept it FROM himself.

Everyone said Nick said I was hot, that I was intelligent, that he’d never met a girl like me—which can be taken as good or bad. Everyone told him to ask me out, but he just didn’t. No explanation,

no other girlfriend, just nothing. For months. Until today.

KATE: He’s never had a girlfriend, give the guy a break. I always thought he’d be the bridge guy! Maybe he will be!

I rest the phone in my hands at that. Nick has been the main character in my bridge daydream—only Kate knows that secret dream of mine.

We’ve crossed the bridge into Marin County with signs for Sausalito, Corte Madera, San Rafael. The names of my new home, and yet I’m still between the old and the new.

“What are you smiling for?” my brother asks.

“Nothing,” I say and give him the mind-your-own-business look.

Mac stretches forward in his seat belt toward the front seat, and I’m tempted to tell him to sit down. But for once I don’t boss him around. He’s so happy about this wishing talk, with his wide dimpled smile and cheeks rosy from the wind. His cheeks remind me of when I loved kissing them—back when we were much younger.

“Remember, no infinity wishes. That’s cheating,” Mac shout says to Mom and Aunt Jenna, but he glances at me to see if I’m listening.

“This is really hard,” Aunt Jenna yells back. She points out the window to a line of cyclists riding along a narrow road parallel to the highway. “I bet those guys wish for a big gust of wind to come up behind them.”

Mac laughs, watching the cyclists strain up an incline.

Now they’ll probably start “creating wishes” for everyone they see.

I bet that car wishes it were as cool as that Corvette.

I think the people in that car wish they had a fire extinguisher for that cigarette . . .

Mom and her sister often make up stories about strangers while sitting outside Peet’s Coffee or, well, just about anywhere people watching is an option.

My phone vibrates in my hand, and then immediately again.

KATE: Hello?? No comment on Nick being your mysterious bridge guy?

ME: Nope

JEFFERS: So beautiful, are you there yet?

ME TO KATE: I just got a text from Jeffers.

KATE: LOL He’s sitting beside me and saw me talking to you.

JEFFERS: When can we come party in Marin?

ME TO JEFFERS: Almost there. Ten minutes I think. Uh party?

JEFFERS: Yeah, party! How could you leave us, I mean what could be better than us? You’ll be too cool for gocarts and mini golf after a month w/ the rich and sophisticated.

ME: I hate mini golf.

JEFFERS: See? One day and already too good for mini golf.

KATE: You’re having us all down for a party?

ME: Uh, no

JEFFERS: Kate’s yelling at me. Thx a lot. But bye beautiful, previews are on with little cell phone on the screen saying to turn you off.


KATE: Write you after. Bye!

It’s a significant moment, this.

One of the most significant in my fifteen years.

Not the “wish discussion” between Mac, Mom, and Aunt Jenna; not the text messaging back and forth; not the music playing in one of my ears; not even Nick liking me.

The significance comes in crossing bridges. Not the bridge in my dream, but the ones that take me into Marin. The many bridges that brought my family here with my dad still in Cottonwood, and my older brother, Carson, driving soon behind us. And though we can turn around and drive back to the small

town I’ve always lived in, I wonder if, once you cross so many bridges, you can ever really go back.

The music in my one ear and the voices of my family in the other make a dramatic backdrop for this moment—one that will shape the rest of my life.

I feel a sense of wonder, but also of fear. It’s beautiful, this time of long evening shadows. The sky in the west where the sun has fallen turns from a subtle to defined sunset of red and orange.

The hills of Marin County rise to the nighttime with their myriad dots of light. The salty breeze is cool coming off the Pacific.

“What’s your wish?”

I jump as Mac shouts at me, leaning to get his face close to mine. I nearly throw my phone out the open rooftop.

“Mac! Mom!”

“Mac, leave your sister alone. She needs time to think,”

Mom calls back with a worried glance in my direction. She was more worried than I was about this move to Marin . . .well, until I said all the good-byes this week and especially now. I realize it’s the last remnant of what is, taking us from the past and what has been to the new place, the new life, and the what will be.

“Do you know what I wish?” Mac says in a loud whisper that only I can hear.

The innocent expression on his face soothes my annoyance.

He motions for me to lean close.

“I wish I was six again.”


“Promise you won’t tell Mom or Austin or Dad and Tiffany, ’cause I don’t want to hurt their feelings . . .” He waits for me to agree. “I wish I was six ’cause Mom and Dad were married then. But then that would make Austin and Tiffany go away, and I don’t really want them to go away, but I sort of wish Mom and Dad were married still.”

I nod and glance up toward Mom, who is staring out toward the bay. “Yeah, I know, Mac. But it’ll be all right.”

“So what do you wish for?” he asks again.

We’re almost there now, and I still have no singular wish. How do you make such a choice when your whole life is upended—for the good and the bad? I wonder if San Francisco Bay is like one giant wishing well, and in the coming years I can toss as many pennies as I want into the blue waters and have all the wishes I need.

I hope so. And maybe wishing that the bay would become one giant well breaks Mac’s rule about infinity wishes. But regardless, this is what I wish my wish to be.

It was my choice to move to Marin with Mom. But now I wonder if these bridges are taking me where I should be going. Or if they’re taking me far, far away.

“I wish for infinity wishes!” I say and kiss Mac on the cheek before he protests. “No one can put rules on wishes.”

And this is what I truly want to believe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Ulterior Motives" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Mark Andrew Olsen


I am over half way through this book and will probably finish it tonight because I doubt I'll be able to sleep until its done! One thing that I loved about Mark Andrew Olsen's writing is that he is not afraid to approach spiritual warfare in a fresh and new way and here he does just that. Not to mention tackleing the subject matter of Muslim extremeist terrorism and America's answer to that. The scenario? What would we do if the leader of a radical Muslim group that is planning a terrorist attack on America on New Year's Day is captured but won't release any information. With thousands of lives hanging in the balance and time counting quickly down, what would you do? Captain Delia is in charge of the mission and she remembers an off the wall interrogation style she heard about. Only to be used when the reason the subfect won't cooperate is for religious reasons. She gets approval to try this and decides Greg Cahill is the perfect person to befriend the terrorist and try to convert him... it's much more complicated than that - and is so wonderfully played out that I am just loving it! I am going to stop telling you about it now and go finish it for myself - if you want a great, edge of your seat summer read, this is it!


MARK ANDREW OLSEN whose novel The Assignment was a Christy Award finalist, also collaborated on bestsellers Hadassah (now the major motion picture: One Night With the King), The Hadassah Covenant, and Rescued. Two of his last books were the supernatural thriller The Watchers, and The Warriors.

The son of missionaries to France, Mark is a Professional Writing graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Colorado Springs with their three children.


When an al-Qaeda email is intercepted, threatening an attack on America, it leads to the capture of the group's leader. Yet even under fierce interrogation, the terrorist clings to his jihadist beliefs and refuses to divulge any information. Desperate, the Army resorts to extreme measures--a controversial protocol designed to break a subject's resistance. But the attempt must be masked as an offer of clemency and rely on an outside party, someone who is unaware of the protocol's aims.

They find that someone in Greg Cahill, a disgraced soldier who now serves in a prison ministry. Lured by the chance to restore his reputation, Greg befriends a man the entire country despises. And the result proves combustible, the two men having to flee for their lives. With both in need of redemption, they set out to prevent a major catastrophe...

If you would like to read the first chapter of HERE

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Gold of Kings" 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:

Gold of Kings

Howard Books (May 12, 2009)

Indiana Jones meets James Bond. Does it get any better than that? Davis Bunn has done it again, last year his book "All Through The Night" was brilliant, funny, edgy and special ops all rolled into one. This year with "Gold of Kings" we follow Storm Syrrell as she copes with her grandfather's death (ie, murder) and all the weird things that start happening after his death. The lawyer that shows up with a safety deposit key, the treasure hunter that appears to be there to protect her and the invisible man who keeps trying to kill her. Her grandpa's art dealership is bankrupt and being liquidated and what does that leave Storm? It turns out that it might just leave her with a mystery and a treasure hunt that her grandpa started and obviously wanted Storm to finish. So she sets out to do just that, and as she gets closer and closer she gets in more and more trouble. This is a fast paced book that took me all over the world as Storm tries to figure out just what her grandpa wanted her to find. Excellent!


Davis Bunn is the author of over nineteen national bestsellers, and his books have sold over six million copies in sixteen languages. The recipient of three Christy Awards, Bunn currently serves as writer-in-residence at Oxford University.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (May 12, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416556311
ISBN-13: 978-1416556312


The rain pelting Seventh Avenue tasted of diesel and big-city friction. Sean Syrrell stared out the limo’s open window and let the day weep for him.

Sean gripped his chest with one hand, trying to compress his heart back into shape. His granddaughter managed to make the end of the block only because her aunt supported her. They turned the corner without a backward glance. Not till they were lost from view did Sean roll up his window.

Storm’s survival demanded that she be cut loose. He had fired her because it was the only way he could protect her. Sean knew the enemy was closing in. He had felt the killer’s breath for days. Storm was his last remaining hope for achieving his lifelong dream, and establishing his


But the knowledge he had been right to fire her did little to ease the knife-edged pain that shredded his heart.

The driver asked, “Everything okay, Mr. Syrrell?”

Sean glanced at the young man behind the wheel. The driver was new, but the company was the only one he used ever since the danger had been revealed. If the enemy wanted a way to monitor his movements in New York, he’d handed it to them on a platter. “Why don’t you

go for a coffee or something. I’d like a moment.”

“No can do, sir. I leave the wheel, they pull my license.”

Sean stared blindly at the rain-streaked side window. He could only hope that one day Storm would understand, and tell Claudia, and the pair of them would forgive him.

Unless, of course, he was wrong and the threat did not exist.

But he wasn’t wrong.

“Mr. Syrrell?”

Sean opened his door and rose from the car. “Drop my bags off at the hotel. We’re done for the day.”

Sean passed the Steinway showroom’s main entrance, turned the corner, pressed the buzzer beside the painted steel elevator doors, and gave his name. A white-suited apprentice grinned a hello and led him downstairs. Sean greeted the technicians, most of whom he knew by

name. He chatted about recent acquisitions and listened as they spoke of their charges. The ladies in black. Always feminine. Always moody and temperamental. Always in need of a firm but gentle hand.

Among professional pianists, the Steinway showroom’s basement was a place of myth. The long room was clad in whitewashed concrete. Beneath exposed pipes and brutal fluorescent lights stood Steinway’s most valuable asset: their collection of concert pianos.

All but one were black. The exception had been finished in white as a personal favor to Billy Joel. Otherwise they looked identical. But each instrument was unique. The Steinway basement had been a place of pilgrimage for over a hundred years. Leonard Bernstein, Vladimir

Horowitz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leon Fleisher, Elton John, Glenn Gould, Alfred Brendel, Mitsuko Uchida. They all came. An invitation to the Steinway basement meant entry to one of the world’s most exclusive musical circles.

Sean Syrrell had not been granted access because of his talent. As a pianist, he was mechanical. He did not play the keys so much as box with the music. He lacked the finesse required for greatness. But fifteen years ago, he had done Steinway a great favor. He had located and salvaged the grand that had graced the White Palace, summer home to the Russian czars.

After the Trotsky rebellion, the piano had vanished. For years the world believed that Stalin had placed it in his dacha, then in a drunken rage had chopped it up for firewood. But Sean had found it in a Krakow junk shop the year after the Berlin Wall fell, just one more bit of communist flotsam. He had smuggled it west, where Germany’s finest restorer had spent a year returning it to its original pristine state. It was now housed in the Steinway family’s private collection.

The basement was overseen by Steinway’s chief technician. He and an assistant were “juicing” the hammers of a new concert grand. Sean spent a few minutes listening and discussing the piano’s raw tones. Then he moved to his favorite. CD‑18 was more or less retired from service after 109 years of touring. Occasionally it was brought out as a favor to a special Steinway client. The last time had been for a voice-piano duet—Lang Lang and Pavarotti. For fifteen years, Van Cliburn had begged Steinway to sell him the instrument. Yet here it remained.

Sean seated himself and ran through a trio of exercises. His hands were too stubby for concert-quality play, his manner at the keys too brusque. Added to that were his failing ears, which had lost a great deal of their higher-range tonality. And his strength, which these days was

far more bluster than muscle. And his heart, which still thudded painfully from firing Storm.

This time, it took a great deal longer than usual to leave the world behind. He hovered, he drifted, yet he was not transported. The tragic elements of his unfolding fate held him down.

When peace finally entered his internal realm, Sean switched to an étude by Chopin. It was a courtly dance, even when thumped out by his bricklayer’s hands. The instrument was bell-like, a radiant sound that caused even his antiquated frame to resonate.

Between the first and second movement, his playing transported him away from the realm of business and debt and his own multitude of failings. He knew others believed he harbored an old man’s fantasy of playing on the concert stage. But that was rubbish. He was here because twice each year, for a few treasured moments, an instrument brought him as close to divinity as Sean Syrrell would ever come. At least, so long as he was chained to this traumatic ordeal called life.

Sean detected a subtle shift in the chamber’s atmosphere. He was well aware of what it probably meant. He shut his eyes and turned to his favorite composer. Brahms was so very right for the moment, if indeed he was correct in thinking the moment had arrived.

Brahms above all composers had managed to form prayer into a series of notes. Yet Brahms had always been the hardest for Sean to play. Brahms required gentle eloquence. Normally Sean Syrrell played with all the gentleness of a drummer.

Today, however, Sean found himself able to perform the melody as it should be performed, as a supplicant with a lover’s heart.

Then Sean heard a different sound. A quiet hiss, accompanied by a puff of air on his cheek.

Sean opened his eyes in time to see a hand reflected in the piano’s mirrored surface, moving away from his face. It held a small crystal vial.

Sean’s cry of alarm was stifled by what felt like a hammer crashing into his chest. He doubled over the instrument, and his forehead slammed into the keyboard. But he heard none of it.

His entire being resonated with a single clarity of purpose, as strong as a funeral bell. He had been right all along.

Sean did not halt his playing. Even when his fingers slipped from the keys, still he played on.

His final thought was of Storm, which was only fitting. She was, after all, his one remaining earthbound hope.

He was carried along with notes that rose and rose until they joined in celestial perfection, transporting him into the realm he had prayed might find room for him. Even him.