Monday, August 31, 2009

"Surrender All" Book Review

"Surrender All"
Joni Lamb

Your answer to living with peace, power and purpose

Sometimes it seems like it is difficult to find genuine people in the public eye. In Joni Lamb's book she talks about what she and her husband Marcus went through to bring the vision God gave them of Daystar Television Network to life. She tells of stepping out in faith and almost falling, of the trials and tribulations of the attacks of the enemy. The embarrassment of having the Dept of Revenue seize the equity of their home when they had done nothing wrong, of having to put their necks on the line over and over. The amazing thing is that she never whines or complains or says "Woe is me, look what I went through!", she just tells it like it is and it is beautiful and simple. My faith was stirred up just be reading about her testimony of what God did for her and Marcus. Oh, did I mention... that is just the introduction!

Joni has a way of telling stories that are relevant and charming that really drew me into her story. She doesn't lecture at you, she sits down with you for a cup of tea and what comes out is this intimite conversation that stirs your soul and warms your heart.

Joni shows you chapter by chapter how to surrender all areas of your life, some that you are probably already struggling to surrender and some areas that you may not have even thought of turning over to God yet.

Sometimes I struggle to get through non-fiction books, slogging through points and catch phrases and rhetoric. I didn't slog through Joni's at all. What a joy to read! Highly recommended.

Published by Waterbrook Press, get yours on today!

Friday, August 28, 2009

"The Knight" Book Review

Killer is on the Loose with an Ancient Manuscript as His Guide
New thriller from critically acclaimed novelist takes
readers on a shocking rollercoaster ride to stop
this violent killer before it’s too late.

Steven James is one of the nation’s most innovative storytellers—with a Master of Arts in Storytelling degree to prove it. For the past decade, he has been crafting compelling and evocative stories that pull readers into the thick of his brilliant, mind-bending plots, and his latest creative endeavor is no different: The Knight, the third installment in his bestselling series of thrillers, is full of the chilling twists and adrenaline-laced action that readers have come to expect from James.

The Knight picks up in The Bowers Files series, starring FBI criminologist Patrick Bowers, who is assigned to tracking the country’s most dangerous killers. But when he is called to his most disturbing crime scene yet, Bowers begins to realize that this criminal mastermind has actually been tracking him.

To get to the bottom of this cold-blooded case, Bowers uses his cutting-edge investigative techniques to decipher the evidence and discovers that the murderer has been using an ancient manuscript as a blueprint for his crimes. This sends Bowers on a race against time to stop the killer before he takes his next victim in another grisly crime.

But even as he is working to crack the clues of this bloody trail, Bowers finds himself stumped by another matter: An old murder case haunts him, causing him to question himself and wonder which is more important—truth or justice. The answer might set a killer free or change Bowers into a criminal himself.

Keeping readers guessing until the very end, James has earned rave reviews from the likes of Publishers Weekly, which called his thrillers “a wild ride with a shocking conclusion.” The Knight offers readers more of the same, as the satisfying follow-up to his previous bestselling psychological thrillers in The Bowers Files series, The Pawn and The Rook.

“Heart-pounding excitement…Once the last page is turned, you’ll be tempted to flip back to the beginning to see where you missed vital clues.
Top-notch suspense!”
— Romantic Times review of The Knight

Whoa! If ever there was a book written that is just itching to be made into a movie - it is definitely "The Knight" by Steven James. Without even reading books #1 and #2 in the Patrick Bowers Thriller series I would say that this could be the next great trilogy of movies! I am literally sitting on the edge of my bed, my eyes skimming the pages as fast as possible because the writing is so tight and intense that I fear I'm going to miss something! Is the killer going to succeed before Pat gets there? The amazing thing is that at no time can you just assume as a reader that Pat will stop the killer, he has killed so many times already that no body is sacred and anyone could die at anytime. I was actually holding my breath! I will absolutely not giveaway anything that would spoil a moment of this book for any of you readers out there so I will not talk plot line at all, I will only emphasize that this is one of the single best suspense thrillers I have ever read. Do you love Brandilyn Collins? You'll love Steven James. Do you enjoy Colleen Coble? You'll love Steven James. Does Ted Dekker bring you to the edge of your seat? Add Steven James to your keeper shelf right next to Ted Dekker, he totally deserves to be there!

The Knight by Steven James

ISBN: 978-0-8007-3270-7

August 2009

$13.99(also available in hard cover)
Available August 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

"Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love" 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:

Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love

WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)

It takes a special gift to be able to bring a group of 6 special gals to my attention and then have them equally share in the storyline without any one of them stealing the spotlight. I think ensemble books are incredibly hard to write, generally one character takes the lead while showing or telling what is happening in the lives of the others. Beth Patillo has a true talent for ensemble writing. "Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love" is book #2 in the Sweetgum Ladies series and while I really enjoyed the first book, this second book was a sheer delight to me. The way she balanced telling about the lives of these 6 ladies who were connected once a month by their book club and knitting group and yet by so much more was amazing to me.

Eugenie, the librarian who has finally found her first love again. Esther, who has just lost her first love. Merry, the young wife and mother who only thinks she knows that love is overwhelming. Hannah, the youngest of the group at 13 who has experienced more of life than some of the grown-ups already. Camille, who's life has been all about sacrifice and is now about solitude since the death of her ailing mother. And now the newest member of the group, Maria, who is trying to find where she fits in.

These ladies quickly become old friends and I really wanted to see how everything would play out for them. The ending was beautiful and bittersweet, not everyone gets their lives wrapped up with a red bow (good for Beth!) and yet I was so satisfied at the end. You do not have to enjoy knitting to enjoy this book, a truly pleasureable read.


RITA Award–winning Beth Pattillo combines her love of knitting and books in her engaging Sweetgum series. An ordained minister in the Christian Church, Pattillo served churches in Missouri and Tennessee before founding Faith Leader, a spiritual leadership development program. Pattillo is the married mother of two children. She lives and laughs in Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073952
ISBN-13: 978-1400073955



Every Tuesday at eleven o’clock in the morning, Eugenie Carson descended the steps of the Sweetgum Public Library and made her way to Tallulah’s Café on the town square. In the past, she would have eaten the diet plate—cottage cheese and a peach half—in solitary splendor. Then she would have returned to her job running the library, just as she’d done for the last forty years.

On this humid September morning, though, Eugenie was meeting someone for lunch—her new husband, Rev. Paul Carson, pastor of the Sweetgum Christian Church. Eugenie smiled at the thought of Paul waiting for her at the café. They might both be gray haired and near retirement, but happiness was happiness, no matter what age you found it.

Eugenie entered the square from the southeast corner. The Antebellum courthouse anchored the middle, while Kendall’s Department Store occupied the east side to her right. She walked along the south side of the square, past Callahan’s Hardware, the drugstore, and the movie theater, and crossed the street to the café. The good citizens of Sweetgum were already arriving at Tallulah’s for lunch. But Eugenie passed the café, heading up the western side of the square. She had a brief errand to do before she met her husband. Two doors down, she could see the sign for Munden’s Five-and-Dime. Her business there shouldn’t take long.

Before she reached Munden’s, a familiar figure emerged from one of the shops and blocked the sidewalk.

Hazel Emerson. President of the women’s auxiliary at the Sweetgum Christian Church and self-appointed judge and jury of her fellow parishioners.

“Eugenie.” Hazel smiled, but the expression, coupled with her rather prominent eyeteeth, gave her a wolfish look. Hazel was on the heavy side, a bit younger than Eugenie’s own sixty five years, and her hair was dyed an unbecoming shade of mink. Hazel smiled, but there was no pleasantness in it. “Just the person

I wanted to see.”

Eugenie knew better than to let her distaste for the woman show. “Good morning, Hazel,” she replied. “How are you?”

“Distressed, Eugenie. Thoroughly distressed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Eugenie truly was dismayed, but not from worry over Hazel’s discomfort.

“Yes, well, you have the power to calm the waters, ”Hazel said with the same false smile. “In a manner of speaking, at least.”

Since Eugenie’s marriage to Paul only a few weeks before, she’d learned how demanding Hazel could be. The other woman called the parsonage at all hours and appeared in Paul’s office at least once a day. Although Eugenie had known Hazel casually for years, she’d never had to bother with her much. Eugenie couldn’t remember Hazel ever having entered the library.

“How can I help you?” Eugenie said in her best librarian’s voice. She had uttered the phrase countless times over the last forty years and had it down to an art form. Interested but not enmeshed. Solicitous but not overly involved.

“Well, Eugenie, you must know that many people in the church are distressed by your marriage to Paul.”

“Really?” Eugenie kept the pleasant smile on her face and continued to breathe evenly. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh, not me, of course,” Hazel said and pressed a hand to her ample chest. “I’m perfectly delighted. But some people… Well, they have concerns.”

“What concerns would those be?” Eugenie asked with measured calm.

Hazel glanced to the right and to the left, then leaned forward to whisper in a conspiratorial fashion. “Some of them aren’t sure you’re a Christian,” she said. Then she straightened and resumed her normal tone of voice. “As I said, I’m not one of them, but I thought I should tell you. For your own good, but also for Rev. Carson’s.”

“I see.” And Eugenie certainly did, far more than Hazel would guess. Eugenie wasn’t new to small-town gossip. Heaven knew she’d heard her share, and even been the target of some, over the last forty years. She’d known that her marriage to Paul would cause some comments, but she hadn’t expected this blatant response.

“I’m mentioning it because I don’t think it would be difficult to put people’s fears to rest,” Hazel said. Her smug expression needled Eugenie. “I know you’ve been attending worship, and that’s a wonderful start.” Hazel quickly moved from interfering to patronizing. “The women’s auxiliary meets on Tuesday mornings. If you joined us—”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Eugenie answered. She was determined to keep a civil tongue in her head if it killed her. “I have to work.”

“For something this important, I’m sure you could find someone to cover for you.”

Eugenie tightened her grip on her handbag. In an emergency, no doubt she could arrange something. But this wasn’t an emergency. It was manipulation.


“Particularly at this time,” Hazel said, barely stopping for breath. “With all the losses we’ve had in these last few months… Well, our community needs leadership. Our church needs leadership.” She gave Eugenie a meaningful look.

Eugenie paused to consider her words carefully. “It has been a difficult summer,” she began. “Tom Munden’s death was so unexpected, and then to lose Frank Jackson like that. And now, with Nancy St. Clair…”

“So you see why it’s more important than ever that you prove to church members that their pastor hasn’t made a grave mistake.”

“I hardly think that my attending a meeting of the women’s auxiliary will offer much comfort to the grieving.” Nor would it convince anyone of her status as a believer. Those sorts of people weren’t looking for proof. They were looking for Eugenie to grovel for acceptance.

Hazel sniffed. “Don’t be difficult, Eugenie. You’re being unrealistic if you expect people to accept you as a Christian after forty years of never darkening the door of any sanctuary in this town.”

“I’ve always felt that faith is a private matter.” That was the sum of any personal information Eugenie was willing to concede to Hazel. “I prefer to let my actions speak for me.”

“There are rumblings,” Hazel said darkly. “Budget rumblings.”

“What do you mean?”

“People need to have full confidence in their pastor, Eugenie. Otherwise they’re less motivated to support the church financially.”

Eugenie bit her tongue. She couldn’t believe Hazel Emerson was standing here, in the middle of the town square, practicing her own brand of extortion.

“Are you threatening me?” Eugenie asked, incredulous.

Hazel sniffed. “Of course not. Don’t be silly. I’m merely cautioning you. As a Christian and as a friend.”

Eugenie wanted to reply that Hazel didn’t appear to be filling either role very well, but she refrained.

“I’ll take your concerns under advisement,” she said to Hazel with forced pleasantness. “I’m sure you mean them in the kindest possible way.”

“Of course I do. How else would I mean them?”

“How else, indeed?” Eugenie muttered under her breath.

“Well, I won’t keep you.” Hazel nodded. “Have a nice day, Eugenie.”

“You too, Hazel.” The response was automatic and helped Eugenie to cover her true sentiments. She stood in place for a long moment as Hazel moved past her, on her way to stir up trouble in some other quarter, no doubt. Then, with a deep breath, Eugenie forced herself to start moving toward Munden’s Five-and-Dime.

She had known it would be difficult, stepping into this unfamiliar role as a pastor’s wife. Paul had assured her that he had no expectations, that she should do what she felt was right. But Eugenie wondered if he had any idea of the trouble Hazel Emerson was stirring up right under his nose.

True, she hadn’t attended church for forty years. After she and Paul had ended their young romance, she’d blamed God for separating them. If Paul hadn’t felt called to the ministry, if he hadn’t refused to take her with him when he went to seminary, if she hadn’t stubbornly insisted on going with him or ending their relationship…

Last year she and Paul had found each other again, all these decades later, and she’d thought the past behind them. But here it was once more in the person of Hazel Emerson, raising troubling questions. Threatening Paul. Forcing Eugenie to examine issues she’d rather leave unanswered.

As the head of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, Eugenie had taken on responsibility for the well-being of the little group several years before. Since Ruthie Allen, the church secretary, had left for Africa last spring to do volunteer work, the group had experienced a definite void. It was time for an infusion of new blood, and after careful consideration, Eugenie had determined that Maria Munden was just the person the Knit Lit Society needed. What’s more, Maria needed the group too. The recent loss of her father must be quite difficult for her, Eugenie was sure. And so despite having had her feathers ruffled by Hazel Emerson, Eugenie walked into Munden’s Five-and-Dime with a firm purpose.

“Good morning, Maria,” Eugenie called above the whine of the door. For years she’d been after Tom Munden to use a little WD-40 on the hinges, but he had insisted that the noise bothered him less than the idea of a customer entering without him knowing it.

“Eugenie! Hello.” Maria straightened from where she stood slumped over the counter. She had red marks on her forehead from resting her head in her hands, and her nondescript shoulder length brown hair hung on each side of her face in a clump. Eugenie had come at the right time. Maria was in her early thirties, but her father’s death seemed to have aged her ten years.

Maria came around the counter. “What can I help you with today?”

“Oh, I’m not here to buy anything,” Eugenie said, and then she was dismayed when disappointment showed in Maria’s eyes. With the superstores of the world creeping closer and closer to Sweetgum, mom-and-pop shops like Munden’s were living on borrowed time. Even if Tom Munden had lived, the inevitable day when the store closed couldn’t have been avoided.

“What did you need then?” Maria’s tone was polite but strained.

“I have an invitation for you.”

“An invitation?”

Eugenie stood a little straighter. “On behalf of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, I’d like to extend an invitation to you to become a part of the group.”

Maria’s brown eyes were blank for a moment, and then they darkened. “The Knit Lit Society?”

“I can’t think of anyone who would be a better fit.” Eugenie paused. “If you don’t know how to knit, one of us can teach you. And I know you enjoy reading.” Maria was one of the most faithful and frequent patrons of the library. “I think you’d appreciate the discussion.”

Maria said nothing.

“If you’d like some time to think—”

“I’ll do it,” Maria said quickly, as if she didn’t want to give herself time to reconsider. “I know how to knit. You won’t have to teach me.”

“Excellent,” Eugenie said, relieved. “Our meeting is this Friday.”

“Do I have to read something by then?” Lines of doubt wrinkled Maria’s forehead beneath the strands of gray that streaked her hair.

Eugenie shook her head. “I haven’t passed out the reading list for this year. This first meeting will be to get us organized.”

Relief eased the tight lines on her face.

“We meet at the church, of course,” Eugenie continued. “Upstairs, in the Pairs and Spares Sunday school room. If you’d like, I can drop by here Friday evening and we can walk over together.”

Maria shook her head. “Thank you, but that won’t be necessary.” She paused, as if collecting her thoughts, then spoke. “I’m not sure why you asked me to join, Eugenie, but I appreciate it.”

“I’m delighted to have you. The others will be as well. ”Mission accomplished, Eugenie shifted her pocketbook to the other arm. “I’d better be going. I’m meeting Paul for lunch at the café.”

Like most of Sweetgum, with the possible exception of Hazel Emerson, Maria smiled at Eugenie’s mention of her new husband. “Tell the preacher I said hello.” Maria moved to open the door for Eugenie. “I’ll see you at the meeting.”

Eugenie lifted her shoulders and nodded with as much equanimity as she could. After years of being the town spinster, playing the newlywed was a novel experience. She hoped she’d become accustomed to it with time—if she didn’t drive away all of Paul’s parishioners first with her heathen ways.

“Have a nice afternoon,” Eugenie said and slipped out the door, glad that at least one thing that morning had gone as planned.

After Eugenie left, Maria Munden halfheartedly swiped her feather duster at the back-to-school display in the front window. Hot sunshine, amplified by the plate glass, made sweat bead on her forehead. What was the point of dusting the same old collection of binders, backpacks, and two-pocket folders? She’d barely seen a customer all day. She turned from the window and looked around at the neat rows of shelving. The five symmetrical aisles had stood in the same place as long as she could remember.

Aisle one, to the far left, held greeting cards, gift-wrap, stationery, office and school supplies. Aisle two, housewares and paper goods. Aisle three, decorative items. Aisle four, cleaning supplies and detergent. Aisle five had always been her favorite, with its games, puzzles, and coloring books. Across the back wall stretched the sewing notions, yarn, and craft supplies. Everything to outfit a household and its members in one small space. The only problem was, no one wanted small anymore. They wanted variety, bulk, and large economy size with a McDonald’s and a credit union. Not quaint and limited, like the old five-and- dime.

From the counter a few feet away, Maria’s cell phone buzzed, and she sighed. She knew without looking at the display who it would be.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Maria, you have to do something about this.” Her mother never acknowledged the greeting but plunged into a voluble litany of complaints that covered everything from the state of the weather to her older sister Daphne’s management of the farm.

“Mom?” Maria tried to interrupt her mother’s diatribe. “Mom? Look, I’m the only one in the store right now. I’ll have to call you back later.”

“Where’s Stephanie? She was supposed to be there at nine.”

“I don’t know where she is. ”Maria’s younger sister, the baby at twenty-five, was AWOL more often than not.

Maria heard the shop door open with a whine of its hinges, not too different from her mother’s tone of voice. She looked up, expecting to see her younger sister. Instead, a tall, dark-haired man entered the store. He took two steps inside, then stopped. His eyes traveled around the rows of shelves, and his lips twisted in an expression of disapproval. The hairs on Maria’s neck stood on end. The stranger saw her, nodded, and then disappeared down the far aisle, but he was so tall that Maria could track his progress as he moved. He came to a stop in front of the office supplies. Someone from out of town, obviously. Probably a traveling salesman who needed paper clips or legal pads. Maybe a couple of blank CDs or a flash drive. Maria had dealt with his type before.

“Bye, Mom,” she said into the phone before clicking it shut. From experience, she knew it would take her mother several moments before she realized Maria was no longer on the other end of the line. Such discoveries never seemed to faze her mother. She would simply look around the room at home and find Daphne so she could continue her rant. Maria tucked the cell phone under the counter and moved across the store toward the stranger. “May I help you?” Upon closer inspection, she could see that his suit was expensive. So were his haircut, his shoes, and his aftershave.

His head turned toward her, and she felt a little catch in her chest. His dark eyes stared down at her as if she were a lesser mortal approaching a demigod.

“I’m looking for a fountain pen,” he said. He turned back toward the shelves of office supplies and studied them as if attempting to decipher a secret code.

A fountain pen? In Sweetgum? He was definitely from out of town.

“I’m afraid we only have ballpoint or gel.” She waved a hand toward the appropriate shelf. “Would one of these do?”

He looked at her again, one eyebrow arched like the vault of a cathedral. “I need a fountain pen.”

Maria took a calming breath. A sale was a sale, and the customer was always right—her father’s two favorite dictums, drummed into her from the day she was tall enough to see over the counter.

“I’m sorry. Our selection is limited, I know. Which way are you headed? I can direct you to the nearest Wal-Mart. You might find one there.”

At her mention of the chain superstore, the man’s mouth turned down as if she’d just insulted him. “No, thank you. That won’t be necessary.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” she said, practically gritting her teeth. She resisted the urge to grab his arm and hustle him out of the store. Today was not the day to try her patience. In two hours, assuming Stephanie showed up, Maria was going to cross the town square to the lawyer’s office and do the unthinkable. At the moment, she didn’t have time for this man and his supercilious attitude toward Sweetgum.

“I need directions,” he said, eyeing her dubiously, as if he thought she might not be up to the task.

“Well, if you’re looking for someplace nearby, I can tell you where you need to go,” she said without a hint of a smile.

He looked away, as if deliberating whether to accept her offer. Honestly, the man might be extraordinarily good-looking—and wealthy, no doubt—but she would be surprised if he had any friends. He had the social skills of a goat.

The hinges on the door whined again. Maria looked over her shoulder to see another man entering the shop.

“James!” The second man grinned when he caught sight of the stranger at Maria’s side. “You disappeared.” The newcomer was as fair as the first was dark. “We’re late.”

“Yes,” the stranger replied with a continued lack of charm.

“But I needed a pen. ”He snatched a two-pack of ballpoints from the shelf and extended them toward Maria. “I’ll take these.”

Maria bit the inside of her lip and took the package from his hand. “I’ll ring you up at the counter.” She whirled on one heel and walked, spine rigid, to the front of the store.

“Hi.” The second man greeted her with cheery casualness. “Great store. I haven’t seen anything like this in years.”

It was a polite way of saying that Munden’s Five-and-Dime was dated, but Maria appreciated his chivalry. Especially since his friend obviously didn’t have a courteous bone in his body.

“Thank you. ”Maria smiled at him and then stepped behind the counter to ring up the sale on the ancient register. She’d pushed her father for years to computerize their sales—not to mention the inventory—but he’d been perfectly happy with his tried-and-true methods. Unfortunately, while he’d been able to keep track of sales and stock in his head, Maria wasn’t quite so gifted.

The tall man appeared on the other side of the register. “Three dollars and thirty-two cents,” she said, not looking him in the eye.

He reached for his wallet and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. Maria refused to show her frustration. Great. Now he would wipe out all her change, and she’d have to figure out a way to run over to the bank without anyone to watch the store. She completed the transaction and slid the package of pens into a paper bag with the Munden’s logo emblazoned on it.

“Hey, can you recommend a place for lunch?” the blond man asked. He glanced at his watch. “We need a place to eat between meetings.”

“Tallulah’s Café down the block,” Maria said. Even the tall, arrogant stranger wouldn’t be able to find fault with Tallulah’s home cooking. People drove from miles around for her fried chicken, beef stew, and thick, juicy pork chops. “But you might want to go soon. The café gets busy at lunch.”

“Thanks.” His smile could only be described as sunny, and it made Maria feel better. She smiled in response.

“You’re welcome.”

The tall man watched the exchange impassively. Maria hoped he’d be gone from Sweetgum before the sun went down. Big-city folks who came into town dispensing condescension were one of her biggest pet peeves.

“C’mon, James,” the blond man said. “I have a lot of papers to go over.” He nodded toward his friend. “James here thinks I’m crazy to buy so much land in the middle of nowhere.”

Maria froze. It couldn’t be.

“Oh.” She couldn’t think what else to say.

“We’d better go,” the tall man said, glancing at his watch. “Thank you. ”He nodded curtly at Maria, letting her know she’d been dismissed as the inferior creature that she was.

“But I thought you wanted—” Before she could remind him about his request for directions, the two men disappeared out the door, and Maria’s suspicions—not to mention her fears— flooded through her.

She should have put two and two together the moment the first man had walked into the store. A stranger in an expensive suit. In town for a meeting. Looking for a fountain pen to sign things. Normally Maria was good at figuring things out. Like where her father had put the quarterly tax forms and how she and Stephanie could manage the store with just the two of them for employees.

What she hadn’t figured out, though, were the more complex questions. Like how she had come to be a small-town spinster when she hadn’t been aware of time passing. Or how she was going to keep the five-and-dime afloat even as the town’s economy continued to wither on the vine. And she certainly had no idea how she was going to tell her mother and sisters that she, as executrix of her father’s will, was about to sell their farm, and the only home they’d ever known, right out from under them.

“Welcome to Sweetgum,” she said to the empty aisles around her, and then she picked up the feather duster once more.

"The Frontiersman's Daughter" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Frontiersman’s Daughter

Revell (September 1, 2009)


Laura Frantz

Ahhh, sweet peace in my soul... that is what I'm experiencing in the wake of closing the back cover of "The Frontiersman's Daughter" after finishing the last page. A sense that all is right with the world because Lael Click is going to be alright. How is it that in just a day I can care about a Lael so much that it matters to me that she is going to be okay? It is possible because Laura Frantz has penned a beautiful historical epic that sent me back in time to get familiar with Lael as she is growing up in the wilds of Kentucky (Kentucke) starting at age 13. The book ends with her a mere 21, but she has lived and loved a lifetime by then. I can't begin to explain the story without spilling more than I should and I don't dare say something that would take any joy out of you delving into this precious story yourself. If you like historical fiction with some romance, then this book needs to join your keep shelf at home so you can enjoy this book again and again.


I was born and raised in Kentucky and my love of history goes deep - way back to the 18th-century when my family first came into the Bluegrass State. It will always be home to me, even though I now live with my husband, Randy, and my sons, Wyatt and Paul, in the misty woods of northwest Washington. I go back as often as I can to visit family and all the old haunts that I love.

I grew up playing on the original site of Fort Boonesborough and swimming in the Kentucky River and climbing the Pinnacle near Berea and watching the great outdoor dramas of the early settlers. Often my cousins and brother and I would play in my Granny's attic and dress up in the pioneer costumes she made us and pretend to be Daniel Boone, Rebecca, Jemima, or the Shawnee.

As I grew up I began to write stories and they were always historical, filled with the lore I had heard or read about. It's no accident that my first book (which is actually my fifth book - the others were practice!) is about those first Kentucky pioneers.

I feel blessed beyond measure to write books. My prayer is that you are doubly blessed reading them.

Note: Laura Frantz credits her 100-year-old grandmother as being the catalyst for her fascination with Kentucky history. Frantz's family followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky in 1792 and settled in Madison County where her family still resides. Frantz is a former schoolteacher and social worker who currently lives in the misty woods of Washington state with her husband and two sons, whom she homeschools.


Lovely but tough as nails, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father's former captivity with the Shawnee Indians, as well as the secret sins of her family's past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded.

Though she faces the loss of a childhood love, a dangerous family feud, and the affection of a Shawnee warrior, Lael draws strength from the rugged land she calls home, and from Ma Horn, a distant relative who shows her the healing ways of herbs and roots found in the hills.

But the arrival of an outlander doctor threatens her view of the world, God, and herself--and the power of grace and redemption. This epic novel gives readers a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians, all through the courageous eyes of a determined young woman.

Laura Frantz's debut novel offers a feast for readers of historical fiction and romance lovers alike.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Frontiersman’s Daughter, go HERE

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Surrender the Wind" Book Review and Giveaway!

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Surrender The Wind

Abingdon Press (August 2009)


Rita Gerlach

This was a very interesting book to me. I loved the time period it was set in (post American Revolution) and the scenario (a patriot has to go to England to claim his inheritance and deal with all the hard feelings of the English there). There are a lot of elements to the storyline - mystery, murder, kidnapping, death, deception and love. But something about the book just didn't read smoothly to me. Like maybe there were too many elements to the book and so they weren't all able to develop fully. The romance between Seth and Juleah didn't develop it just happened as did the love story between Caroline and Michael Bray. I liked the overall book, it was really unique, the ending was great and can I just say that the cover is beautiful. A good historical romance from an era not much written about.
For a chance to win this book leave a comment telling me what intrigues you about this book. Be sure to leave an email address or you won't be entered. Good luck!


Rita Gerlach has published three historical novels plus articles in Writers Gazette, Write to Inspire, Will Write 4 Food, and The Christian Communicator.

She also is the editor of Stepping Stones Magazine, an online website focused on writing, marketing, and promotion for writers. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and The Western Maryland Writers Guild.

She currently lives in Frederick, Maryland. You can also visit her at her Blog


Seth Braxton, a patriot of the American Revolution, unexpectedly inherits his loyalist grandfather's estate in England. Seth is torn between the land he fought for and the prospect of reuniting with his sister Caroline, who was a motherless child taken to England at the onset of the war.
With no intention of staying permanently, Seth arrives to find his sister grieving over the death of her young son. In the midst of such tragedy, Seth meets Juleah, the daughter of an eccentric landed gentleman. Her independent spirit and gentle soul steal Seth's heart. After a brief courtship, they marry and she takes her place as the lady of Ten Width Manor, enraging the man who once sought her hand and schemed to make Ten Width his own. From the Virginia wilderness to the dark halls of an isolated English estate, Seth and his beloved Juleah inherit more than an ancestral home. They uncover a sinister plot that leads to murder, abduction, and betrayal--an ominous threat to their new life, love, and faith.

If you would like to read the Prologue of Surrender The Wind, go HERE

Watch the trailer:

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Truth or Dare / All That Glitters" Book Reviews

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 books:

Truth or Dare

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009) )


All That Glitters

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)

When I was younger we had the "Choose your adventure" books where you would be reading the story and then periodically you would make a choice about what was happening in the book and then go to a corresponding page to see what the results of that decision were. I loved those books. My husband did too. They don't make those anymore. Now Nicole O'Dell has come along with something even better for my daughters! She is developing this series of books called "Scenarios" where she has a wonderful storyline in each book with great characters and then about 9 chapters into the book the main character is presented with a dilemma and they have to make a choice. You are then instructed to make your choice and then turn to the corresponding page. You then read the next three chapters where the consequences are played out accordingly. Then there are 3 more chapters with the alternate ending.

I love these books! In the first one there are 4 best friends starting 8th grade and having weekly Friday night sleepovers. They start playing Truth or Dare every week and eventually Lindsay is dared to do something she knows she shouldn't. One of the friends says she has to do it or she's out of their group. Does she risk her morals or her friends?

In the second book we have identical twin sisters Drew and Dani starting 9th grade and Drew desperately trying to find her identity apart from her sister. Just how far will she go to prove she's an individual and will she destroy her relationship with her sister in the process?

Fantastic! My oldest daughter just started the first one and I'm really curious to see what she thinks. I looked them up on and they are $7.97 and on they are only $5.99. These would make great gifts for the middle school/junior high girls in your life!


Nicole O’Dell lives in Illinois with her husband and six children—including triplets! Nicole has a heart for young girls and a special passion for the relationships between mothers and daughters as they approach the teen years. Her new book series, Scenarios Interactive Fiction for Girls, is designed to help girls develop sound decision-making skills and debuts in August 2009 with the release of the first two books. Her writing also includes devotionals and Bible studies for women of all ages.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

Truth or Dare:
List Price: $7.97
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602603995
ISBN-13: 978-1602603998

All That Glitters:
List Price: $7.97
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602604002
ISBN-13: 978-1602604001


Truth or Dare
Scenarios—Interactive Fiction for Girls

Nicole O’Dell

Chapter 1

Rule the School

The first bright, yellow light of day was starting to peek through the blinds covering her window. Lindsay Martin stretched and yawned as she slowly woke up. After tossing and turning much of the night, she was still sleepy, so she turned over and pulled the puffy pink comforter up to her chin and allowed herself to doze off for a few more minutes, burying her face in her pillow.

But wait. She sat up quickly, remembering it was the first day of school. With no time to waste, she jumped out of bed.

She had carefully selected her clothes the night before, and the khaki pants and screened-print tee were still hanging on her closet door just waiting to be worn. But, after thinking about it, they seemed all wrong. Frantically plowing through her closet for something different to wear, Lindsay pushed aside last year’s jeans and T-shirts, and found the perfect outfit: not too dressy, not too casual, not too anything. As an eighth grader, she wanted to look cool without looking like she was trying too hard—which was the fashion kiss of death. Confident she had selected the perfect outfit, she padded off to the bathroom to get ready to face the day.

Happy with how she looked—jeans with just the right amount of fading down the front, a short-sleeved T-shirt layered over a snug, long-sleeved T-shirt, and a pair of sunglasses perched atop her blonde hair—she bounced down the stairs, slowing as she reached the bottom. Just wanting to get out of the house and be on her way, Lindsay sighed when she recognized the smell of bacon coming from the kitchen. “Mom, I’m really not hungry, and I have to go meet the girls!”

“Now, you know I’m not going to let you head off to school without breakfast, so at least take this with you.” Mom held out Lindsay’s favorite breakfast sandwich: an English muffin with fluffy scrambled eggs, cheese, and two slices of bacon.

Lindsay wrapped it up in a napkin so she could take it with her and gave her mom a quick kiss before rushing out the door. “Thanks, Mom. You’re the best!”

Hurrying toward the school, Lindsay munched on her sandwich along the way. Nerves set in and, halfway through her sandwich, her stomach wouldn’t allow her to finish it; so she tossed what was left into a nearby trash can where it fell with a thud.

After her short walk down the tree-lined streets, she arrived at the meeting spot—a large oak tree in the front yard of the school—about fifteen minutes early. Shielding her eyes from the sun and squinting in eager anticipation, Lindsay watched the street for the first sign of her three best friends. She expected Sam and Macy to arrive by school bus—they lived too far away from the school to walk, so they generally rode the bus together. Kelly didn’t live too far away, but her mom usually dropped her off before heading to her job as an attorney in the city. Lindsay was thankful she lived so close to the school. She loved being the first one there to greet her friends each morning. Since her mom didn’t have to leave for work, and Lindsay didn’t need to catch the bus, she had a bit more flexibility and could save a spot for them under their favorite tree.

The bus pulled into the driveway, squealing as it slowed. It paused to wait for the crowds of students to move through the crosswalk. When it finally parked, the doors squeaked open and students began to pour off the bus just as Kelly’s mom pulled up to the curb right in front of Lindsay.

“Bye, Mom!” Kelly grabbed her new backpack out of the backseat and jumped out of the car. At almost the same time, Macy and Sam exited the bus after the sixth and seventh graders got off.

Excitedly, the four girls squealed and hugged each other under their tree, never minding the fact that they had been with each other every day for the entire summer. They shrieked and jumped up and down in excitement as if they had been apart for months. They were eighth graders. This was going to be the best year yet. With eager anticipation, each one of them could tell there was something more grown-up and exciting about the first day of eighth grade, and they were ready for it.

With a few minutes to spare before the bell rang, the girls stopped and leaned against their tree for a quick survey of the schoolyard. It was easy to identify the sixth graders. They were nervous, furtively glancing in every direction; and, the most telltale sign of a sixth grader, they had new outfits and two-day-old haircuts. The girls easily but not fondly remembered how scary it was to be new to middle school and felt sorry for the new sixth graders.

The seventh graders were a little bit more confident, but still not nearly cool enough to speak to the eighth graders. Most students, no matter the grade, carried backpacks and some had musical instruments. Some even had new glasses or had discarded their glasses in favor of contacts.

“Look over there.” Kelly pointed across the grassy lawn to a student. A new student, obviously a sixth grader, struggled with his backpack and what appeared to be a saxophone case. Two bigger boys, eighth graders, grabbed the case out of his hands and held it over his head. They teased him mercilessly until the bell rang, forcing them to abandon their fun and head in to the school. The girls shook their heads and sighed—some things never changed—as they began to walk toward the doors.

Kelly and Sam both stopped to reach into their backpacks to turn off their new cell phones before entering the school—it would make for a horrible first day of school if they were to get their phones taken away.

“You’re so lucky,” Macy whined as she watched Kelly flip open her shiny blue phone, carefully decorated with sparkly gems. Sam laughed and turned off her sporty red phone, slid the top closed, and dropped it into her bag. Macy’s parents wouldn’t let her have a cell phone until high school.

“When did you guys get cell phones?” Lindsay asked.

“I got mine yesterday, and Sam got hers on Saturday,” Kelly explained. “My mom wanted to have a way to reach me in the case of an emergency and for me to be able to reach her. I’m not supposed to use it just anytime I want to.”

“Same with me. I might as well not have it. I can call anyone who has the same service or use it as much as I want to on nights and weekends, but that’s it,” Sam complained.

“It’s still way more than I have. You’re so lucky,” Macy said emphatically.

Lindsay sighed and agreed with Macy while she smeared untinted lip gloss onto her lips. “I have no idea when I’ll ever get to have a cell phone. My mom thinks that they are bad for ‘kids.’” She rolled her eyes to accentuate the point that she not only thought she should have a cell phone, but that she definitely disagreed with the labeling of herself and her friends as kids. “She won’t even let me use lip gloss with any color in it. She thinks I’m too young.”

With cell phones turned off, backpacks slung over shoulders, lip gloss perfectly accenting skin tanned by the lazy days of summer, and arms locked, the four best friends were ready to enter the school to begin their eighth-grade year. Seeing their reflection in the glass doors of the school as they approached it, Lindsay noticed how tall they’d all become over the summer. Four pairs of new jeans, four similar T-shirts, and four long manes of shiny hair—they were similar in so many ways, but different enough to keep things interesting.

Kelly Garrett was the leader of the group. The girls almost always looked to her to get the final word on anything from plans they might make, to boys they liked, to clothes they wore. She was a natural leader, which was great most of the time. Her strong opinions sometimes caused conflict, though. Sam Lowell, the comedienne of the group was always looking for a way to entertain them and make them laugh. She was willing to try anything once, and her friends enjoyed testing her on that. Macy Monroe was the sweet one. She was soft-spoken and slow to speak. She hated to offend anyone and got her feelings hurt easily. Then there was Lindsay. She was in the middle, the glue. She was strong but kind and was known to be a peacemaker. She often settled disputes between the girls to keep them from fighting.

Amid complete chaos—students talking, locker doors slamming shut, high-fives, and whistles—the first day of school began. There was an assembly for the eighth graders, so the girls head toward the gymnasium rather than finding their separate ways to their first classes.

Unlike the younger students who had to sit with their classes, eighth-graders could choose where they wanted to sit. The girls filed into the bleachers together, tucking their belongings beneath their feet carefully so that they wouldn’t fall through to the floor below. The room was raucously loud as 150 eighth graders excitedly shared stories of their summers and reunited with friends.

The speakers squealed as the principal turned on his microphone and tried to get everyone’s attention. “Welcome back to Central Middle School. Let’s all stand together to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Conversations slowly trailed off to a dull roar as teachers attempted to create some order in each row. The eighth-graders shuffled to their feet and placed their right hands over their hearts to recite the Pledge, and the principal began, “I pledge allegiance to the flag. . .”

Lindsay joined in, but her mind wandered as she looked down the row at each of her best friends. She remembered the great summer they had. They spent many days languishing in the hot sun by Kelly’s pool. She remembered the day when Sam got a bad sunburn from laying on the tanning raft for hours and not listening to the girls when they suggested she reapply her sunscreen. She wanted a good tan, and she paid the price. Kelly had the bright idea of using olive oil and lemon juice to take away the sting—she thought she had heard about that somewhere—but all it did was make Sam smell bad for days along with the suffering that her burns caused.

They also had gone shopping at the mall whenever Sam’s mom would pile them into her SUV and drop them off for a few hours so they could check out the latest fashions and watch for new students—boys in particular. Their favorite mall activity was to take a huge order of cheese fries and four Diet Cokes to a table at the edge of the food court so they could watch the people walk by.

They had a blast burying each other in the sand at the beach whenever Macy’s dad took a break from job-hunting to spend the day lying in the sun. One time, they even made a huge castle with a moat. The castle had steps they could climb, and the moat actually held water. It took them almost the entire day, but the pictures they took made it all worth it.

They had also shared a weeklong trip to Lindsay’s Bible camp. It was a spiritual experience for Lindsay, who used the time to deepen her relationship with God. She enjoyed being able to bring her friends into that part of her life—even if it was just for a week. Macy, more than the others, showed some interest and said that she’d like to attend youth group with Lindsay when it started up again in the fall. All four girls enjoyed the canoe trips—even the one when the boat capsized and they got drenched. They swam in the lake and played beach volleyball. The week they spent at camp was a good end to what they considered a perfect summer.

Although there was a certain finality to their fun and freedom with the arrival of the school year, there was excitement too, as they took this next step toward growing up together. Lindsay took a moment to imagine what it would be like in the future. Next year, they would start high school. After several years, they would head off to the same college and room together as the plan had always been. At some point, they would each find someone to settle down with and get married. They had already figured out who would be the maid of honor for whose wedding. That way, they each got to do it once. And they would each be bridesmaids for each other. Then, they would have children. Hopefully, they would have them at around the same time so they their children could grow up together too. Beautiful plans built on beautiful friendships. . .what more could a girl ask for?

“…One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The Pledge of Allegiance ended, and all of the students sat down to hear about the exciting new school year.

All That Glitters
Scenarios—Interactive Fiction for Girls

Nicole O’Dell

Chapter 1

Time for a Change

A fancy sports car on one side and a shiny, brand-new SUV on the other, Mrs. Daniels slid her car into a parking spot at the mall. More than any other year, shopping for school clothes this year was a very important task. Dani and Drew, identical twins, were starting the ninth grade—freshman year, the first year of high school. They knew full well how important their first impression was— well, at least Drew did. She had spent most of her summer planning and researching fashion trends, hairstyles, and makeup tips by reading fashion magazines. Not that it would do her much good, she often thought. Their parents didn’t allow them to wear makeup; and her long, straight, dark hair looked just like her sister’s and was cut and styled in the same style they had always had.

“Mom, I think it’s time for a change,” Drew announced as they walked through the parking lot toward the mall.

“What kind of change?” Mrs. Daniels asked hesitantly.

“You know, change isn’t always a bad thing.” Drew thought her mom might need some convincing before she tried to state her case. “Change can just be a part of growing up and a sign that a girl is secure and comfortable with herself.”

“Yes, Drew, I’m aware of that. Why do I have a feeling that I’m not going to like what you’re about to suggest?” Mrs. Daniels sighed good-naturedly and looked at Drew’s twin sister, who shrugged her shoulders not knowing anything about the big change that her twin was proposing. “Well, let’s have it. What have you got cooked up?”

“Oh, it’s really not a big deal, Mom. I’d just like to get my hair cut.” Drew pulled a picture of a hairstyle out of her pocket and showed it to her mom.

Mrs. Daniels could see immediately that the softly layered style would cascade to a very flattering place just below Drew’s shoulders. She looked at Dani and raised her eyebrows. “Do you want your hair cut like that?”

“No, Mom, you don’t understand.” Drew interrupted with a slight whine, nervous that she wasn’t getting her point across. “If Dani cuts her hair like that too, then I don’t want to. This is how I want to look. . .by myself. I want to make a change, even just a slight one like my hairstyle, to separate myself from just being ‘one of the twins.’ I want to be an individual; I want to be Drew.”

“Ah, I see, now.” Mrs. Daniels knew that this would happen one day and, she had to admit, high school was a reasonable time for this to occur. It pained her to think of her baby girls reaching such an independent place, though. “How do you feel about that, Dani?”

“Well, to be honest, I really don’t want to change my hair. And I like being ‘one of the twins’ as Drew put it. I guess I don’t see how that’s a bad thing. Why would changing your hair to look like a picture of someone else make you an individual anyway?” She asked pointedly, turning to Drew.

“It just gives me the chance to express myself and be different than I have been.”

“As long as you really mean ‘different than you have been’ and not just that you want to be different than me.” Dani tried not to be hurt, but it was difficult.

“Aw, Sis, I love you. Nothing can change that we’re twins. That will always be a part of us. We’re just talking about a haircut here.”

“I guess you’re right.” Dani laughed. “Let’s go get your hair cut so we can all get used to it while we try on clothes.”

First stop: Shear Expressions for a new hairstyle. The bell above the door jingled as they entered the store. Luckily, there wouldn’t be a wait because Drew was too excited and impatient to wait. She took her seat in the shampoo chair, and the stylist began to lather up her hair. After the shampooing was finished, she patted Drew’s hair dry and moved her to the station where she would be cutting her hair.

Drew struggled to get her hand into the front pocket of her jeans so she could show the stylist the picture of the haircut that she wanted. “Um, Drew, I didn’t realize that your jeans were getting so tight. We’re going to have to be sure to buy some new jeans today.”

“Mom,” Drew laughed. “This is how I bought them. I want them this way.”

Mrs. Daniels looked at the stylist, obviously a mom herself, and shrugged her shoulders. “I know,” the stylist said, “it looks uncomfortable to me too.”

“This is what I want.” Drew showed her the picture, ignoring the comments about her jeans.

“Oh, that’s going to be easy enough and beautiful too. We’ll just take this hair of yours and cut some layers into it. We’ll probably need to take off about three inches, but you have plenty of length so it won’t even be that noticeable. Are you doing the same cut?” The stylist turned to Dani.

“Nope, not me. I’m staying just like this.”

“All right then, let’s get started.”

Thirty minutes later, with dark hair in little piles all over the floor around her, Drew was staring into the mirror in front of her, getting her first look at her new self. She was stunned with what she saw. After looking at her sister for so many years, she was used to having a walking mirror right beside her. But now, as they both gazed into the mirror and took in the changes, they realized that a simple thing like a haircut signaled major changes afoot. Dani was sad when she saw the differences between them, but Drew was thrilled with her new look.

“I love it!” She spun around to the right and then to the left and watched her hair bounce in waves around her shoulders. “It moves, and it’s free.” She didn’t miss the long, thick straight locks a bit. “It has personality. Thank you so much. You did a perfect job,” she said to the hairdresser.

“I’m so glad you like it. I think it looks great too.” Both the hairdresser and Mrs. Daniels were a bit more reserved out of sensitivity to Dani.

“Mom, what about you? Do you like it?”

“You look beautiful, dear. Very grown up.”

“Now I’m ready to shop.” Nothing was going to contain Drew’s excitement as they left the salon; she was thrilled.

* * * * *

“We need to be wise now, girls. There is a limit to today’s budget. My question is whether you want to split the budget and each get your own clothes—or do you want to pick things out to share and get more that way?”

Drew was trying to be more of an individual, but even she could see the logic behind pooling their resources and sharing the clothing allowance; and she knew that Dani would agree. But Drew did have one trick up her sleeve that she decided to save for later in the day.

They spent the day trying on clothes. It helped that both girls were exactly the same size and basically liked similar things. By the end of the day, they had successfully managed to supply their wardrobe with all of the basics they would need for ninth grade, including new winter jackets, jeans, tops, sweaters, belts, socks, pajamas, undergarments, accessories, and shoes. They were exhausted by the end of the shopping trip, and Mrs. Daniels was more than ready to go home.

As they were walking toward the exit door, Drew said, “Mom, you mentioned that you have grocery shopping to do. Would it be all right if Dani and I stayed here and meet you when you’re finished? I have a few things I still want to look for.”

“I suppose that would be okay, but I’m done with dishing out money today. So what are you looking for, and what will you do once you find it?” Mrs. Daniels laughed.

“I brought some of the money I saved from babysitting this summer, and I really want to use some of it to get a few unique shirts or something that will be just mine—you know, signature pieces. I promise I won’t spend it all, Mom.”

“Oh, I see. This is part of your search for individuality? Is that it?” At Drew’s nod, she continued, “I don’t see anything wrong with that. But, Drew, just remember what your dad and I allow and how we expect you to dress. No super-tight jeans, no shirts that show your belly, nothing with a saying or advertisement that your dad and I would find inappropriate. Think of it this way: nothing that I wouldn’t let you wear to youth group. Deal?”

“Got it, Mom. Thanks, you’re the best.”

After they discussed their meeting time and location, Mrs. Daniels left the girls to their shopping. They hit all of their favorite stores again. Dani wasn’t too happy about it, though. “Why couldn’t you have done this while we were shopping earlier?” She asked Drew.

“Because, I wanted to finish the shopping for our stuff and then I would know what I still needed.”

“Oh, Sis, there’s nothing else that you need.”

“I know, that’s what makes this part so fun. It’s all about what I want.”

Dani sighed and suggested they get started before they ran out of time. With her own money, Drew selected two snug, plaid shirts to wear over a tight black T-shirt that she found. The flannel shirts barely reached her waistband, but the T-shirt was long enough, so she thought it would pass. She also selected a cropped denim jacket that was covered in studded rhinestones. Dani liked the jacket, but it wasn’t really her style at all. Drew also picked a few cropped sweaters that, if worn alone, would be way too short for Mrs. Daniels approval, but with a T-shirt or tank underneath, would probably get by. Her favorite and most expensive purchase was a black leather belt with a big silver buckle covered in rhinestones in the shape of a big rose. Drew thought that it was unique enough to become her signature piece.

“Well, one thing you won’t have to worry about,” Dani assured her, “is that I won’t be bugging you to borrow any of the things you bought. They’re all yours.”

Their time was up so they hurried to the exit door to find Mrs. Daniels already waiting there for them. As they slipped into the car she asked, “Well, was your search successful?”

“Oh, yeah! Mom, I found some really cute things,” the ever-excited Drew told her mom.

“Yeah, real cute,” Dani said, rolling her eyes.

Sensing from Dani’s reaction that there might be something she needed to see in those bags, Mrs. Daniels said, “Great. Then we can have our own private fashion show when we get home.”

“Sure, Mom. No problem.”

* * * * *

After dinner, Mrs. Daniels remembered that she hadn’t checked out Drew’s purchases yet. “Drew, why don’t you get those things that you bought so we can make sure that everything is acceptable for you to wear.”

“Mom, I know the rules and I followed them. I don’t see what the concern is.”

“There’s no real concern, honey; but I’d appreciate if you don’t argue with me and just humor me. I am only looking out for your best interests.”

“Okay, Okay, I’ll go get them.” Drew left to get her bags from her room. She stomped down the hall, careful not to be disrespectful but made sure that they knew she wasn’t too happy.

Plopping her bags down on the couch, Drew waited for the verdict. Her mom wasn’t too happy at all when she saw how small and short some of the shirts were. Drew said, “Hold on, Mom. Before you say no, let me try them on.”

Skeptically, Mrs. Daniels agreed to reserve her judgment until she had a chance to see the items on Drew.

After Drew had the first outfit on, Mrs. Daniels realized that they were layering pieces and that the shorter items were worn on top to reveal the layers beneath. “Well, now, that’s not so bad. But, Drew, you have to promise me that I’m not going to catch you wearing those clothes alone or in anyway that shows your belly.”

“I already know that, Mom.”

Mrs. Daniels raised her eyebrows, waiting.

“Okay, I promise, Mom. Really.”

“Well, then, everything is fine; and I especially like the belt you bought. It’s definitely a unique piece.”

Dani had been sitting quietly on the other side of the room, watching the process and waiting for the verdict. She quietly got up and went to her room, softly closed the door, and got ready for bed. She wasn’t too happy, but she didn’t really know what it was that was bugging her.

“Too many changes,” she whispered as she drifted off to sleep.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Kathryn's Fountain" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Kathryn's Fountain

Cladach Publishing (November 8, 2008)


David Claassen

I was intrigued by the concept behind this book and really enjoyed seeing how it all played out. We meet Kathryn who is living out her days in a nice retirement home, watching life from her wheelchair. One day something almost magical happens, a miracle, and then it happens again, and again. The struggle is Kathryn trying to decide why the miracle is happening... it's happening TO her, but is it happening FOR her? I loved the way everything worked out - not a beautiful red bow at the end, but with a bittersweet ending that loops back to the beginning. I enjoyed this book a lot and found it to be a welcome break from the same old, same old - and the fact that it made me think and question why miracles happen along with Kathryn was a big bonus. Wonderful story.


I'm a follower of Jesus Christ and seek to live my life to please Him and for His glory. I'm walking this journey with my life's partner, Diann. We've been married since 1972 and have two grown children. Our daughter Julie serves as a missionary with her husband Victor in Mexico in a ministry they founded called Fishers of Men. Check their ministry out at Our son Dan is married to Teri and he's a detective in a police department in a suburb of Indianapolis.

I have pastored the Mayfair-Plymouth Congregational Church of Toledo, Ohio since 1975, having just celebrated 33 years at the church. You can check out the church at You can also visit me at my blog, where I add material about every other day or so.

I enjoy photography, that's why I'm treating you with a different photo of mine each week on the web site. Over three hundred of my photos are for sale at

I'm also a ventriloquist, of sorts, and treat the children of my church with a "visit with Ricky" every third Sunday of the month in the morning worship services.

Raising white homing pigeons is another of my hobbies. I enjoy watching them soar overhead.

That's just a little bit about me. Thanks for visiting. God bless you!


Kathryn is resigned to living out her last days at Victorian Manor, a beautiful old home for senior citizens. Then one day a miraculous experience happens to Kathryn at the garden fountain, and she begins living an adventure beyond her wildest dreams. Love and sacrifice take on new meaning as she involves a social worker and a police detective in carrying out what she believes to be her calling -- to rescue a street child named Jasmine.

Kathryn's Fountain celebrates the gifts that the generations can bring to each other. The conclusion is a resounding affirmation that it's never too late to make a difference.

If you would like to read an excerpt from Kathryn's Fountain, go HERE

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Life this week...

Monday our youngest daughter, Paige got her first pair of glasses - she looks so cute!

Yesterday I helped my oldest daughter, Sarah, celebrate her 13th birthday. I am now officially the mother of a teenager - really??? Am I that old? Of course I had just turned 21 when she was born, but still... I love it though!

Today I am celebrating my 14th anniversary, sans husband. He got sent to Cinncinati this week for a life insurance conference and while he has been learning a lot, he has missed 3 big milestones. So we wished each other a happy anniversary over the phone a couple hours ago and we'll go out to dinner and a movie Friday night (the Time Traveler's Wife!) I don't know how some of the amazing single parents I know manage so well. I am missing my husband a lot this week. This is the only anniversary we've ever spent apart and we've had some doozies...

Anniversay #1 - in the hospital after having our baby girl Sarah the day before

Anniversary #2 - went to dinner and both got food poisoning... proceeded to puke our guts out repeatedly for 24 hours (I was pregnant with Philip at the time)

Anniversary #3 - decided to play it low-key as we did not want a repeat of #2!

So on and so forth... #14 might be lonely, but I'm still blessed to be celebrating 14 wonderful years! And my daddy brought me flowers since my hubby wasn't home (aahhh!)

"North! Or Be Eaten" 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:

North! Or Be Eaten

WaterBrook Press (August 18, 2009)

FINALLY! More Toothy Cows, Igiby children, Peet the Sock Man, nasty Fangs and so much more. The sequel to "On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness" is finally here and it has been worth waiting for. I will say that like in the first book, it takes a few chapters to get into the amazingly unique world Andrew Peterson has created. To understand the characters, the land, the animals and the culture of the world and also to get into the wonderfully quirky writing style Andrew has - it is sheer genius, but very original. Once in the groove of the book, you can not put it down. I love this series.

I do not have a copy to giveaway (mine is staying on my shelf!) but I know of 2 other wonderful ladies that are giving away copies so I want to steer you to their blogs...
Carly and Melanie
I'd love it if you left a note here for me that you entered one or both of the giveaways those gals are doing. Enjoy!


Andrew Peterson is the author of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats. He’s also the critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter and recording artist of ten albums, including Resurrection Letters II. He and his wife, Jamie, live with their two sons and one daughter in The Warren near Nashville, Tennessee.

Visit the author's website and website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (August 18, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073871
ISBN-13: 978-1400073870


The Lone Fendril

TOOOOTHY COW!” bellowed Podo as he whacked a stick against the nearest glipwood tree. The old pirate’s eyes blazed, and he stood at the base of the tree like a ship’s captain at the mast. “Toothy cow! Quick! Into the tree house!”

Not far away, an arrow whizzed through some hanging moss and thudded into a plank of wood decorated with a charcoal drawing of a snarling Fang. The arrow protruded from the Fang’s mouth, the shaft still vibrating from the impact. Tink lowered his bow, squinted to see if he had hit the target, and completely ignored his grandfather.

“TOOOOOTHY—oy! That’s a fine shot, lad—COW!”

Podo whacked the tree as Nia hurried up the rope ladder that led to the trapdoor in the floor of Peet the Sock Man’s tree house. A sock-covered hand reached down and pulled Nia up through the opening.

“Thank you, Artham,” she said, still holding his hand. She looked him in the eye and raised her chin, waiting for him to answer.

Peet the Sock Man, whose real name was Artham P. Wingfeather, looked back at her and gulped. One of his eyes twitched. He looked like he wanted to flee, as he always did when she called him by his first name, but Nia didn’t let go of his hand.

“Y-y-you’re welcome…Nia.” Every word was an effort, especially her name, but he sounded less crazy than he used to be. Only a week earlier, the mention of the name

“Artham” sent him into a frenzy—he would scream, shimmy down the rope ladder, and disappear into the forest for hours. Nia released his hand and peered down through the opening in the floor at her father, who still banged on the tree and bellowed about the impending onslaught of toothy cows.

“Come on, Tink!” Janner said.

A quiver of arrows rattled under one arm as he ran toward Leeli, who sat astride her dog, Nugget. Nugget, whose horselike size made him as dangerous as any toothy cow in the forest, panted and wagged his tail. Tink reluctantly dropped his bow and followed, eying the forest for signs of toothy cows. The brothers helped a wide-eyed Leeli down from her dog, and the three of them rushed to the ladder.

“COWS, COWS, COWS!” Podo howled. Janner followed Tink and Leeli up the ladder. When they were all safely inside, Podo heaved himself through the opening and latched the trapdoor shut.

“Not bad,” Podo said, looking pleased with himself. “Janner, next time you’ll want to move yer brother and sister along a little faster. Had there been a real cow upon us, ye might not have had time to get ’em to the ladder before them slobbery teeth started tearin’ yer tender flesh—”

“Papa, really,” Nia said.

“—and rippin’ it from yer bones,” he continued. “If Tink’s too stubborn to drop what he’s doin’, Janner, it falls to you to find a way to persuade him, you hear?” Janner’s cheeks burned, and he fought the urge to defend himself. The toothy cow drills had been a daily occurrence since their arrival at Peet’s tree house, and the children had gradually stopped shrieking with panic whenever Podo’s hollers disturbed the otherwise quiet wood.

Since Janner had learned he was a Throne Warden, he had tried to take his responsibility to protect the king seriously. His mother’s stories about Peet’s dashing reputation as a Throne Warden in Anniera made Janner proud of the ancient tradition of which he was a part.1 The trouble was that he was supposed to protect his younger brother, Tink, who happened to be the High King. It wasn’t that Janner was jealous; he had no wish to rule anything. But sometimes it felt odd that his skinny, reckless brother was, of all things, a king, much less the king of the fabled Shining Isle of Anniera.

Janner stared out the window at the forest as Podo droned on, telling him about his responsibility to protect his brother, about the many dangers of Glipwood Forest, about what Janner should have done differently during this most recent cow drill. Janner missed his home. In the days after they fled the town of Glipwood and arrived at Peet’s castle, Janner’s sense of adventure was wide awake. He thrilled at the thought of the long journey to the Ice Prairies, so excited he could scarcely sleep.

1. In Anniera the second born, not the first, is heir to the throne. The eldest child is a Throne Warden, charged with the honor and responsibility of protecting the king above all others. Though this creates much confusion among ordinary children who one day discover that they are in fact the royal family living in exile (see On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness), for ages the Annierans found it to be a good system. The king was never without a protector, and the Throne Warden held a place of great honor in the kingdom.

When he did sleep, he dreamed of wide sweeps of snow under stars so sharp and

bright they would draw blood at a touch.

But weeks had passed—he didn’t know how many—and his sense of adventure was fast asleep. He missed the rhythm of life at the cottage. He missed the hot meals, the slow change of the land as the seasons turned, and the family of birds that nested in the crook above the door where he, Tink, and Leeli would inspect the tiny blue eggs each morning and each night, then the chicks, and then one day they would look in sad wonder at the empty nest and ask themselves where the birds had gone. But those days had passed away as sure as the summer, and whether he liked it or not, home was no longer the cottage. It wasn’t Peet’s tree house, either. He wasn’t sure he had a home anymore.

Podo kept talking, and Janner felt again that hot frustration in his chest when told things he already knew. But he held his tongue. Grownups couldn’t help it. Podo and his mother would hammer a lesson into his twelve-year-old head until he felt beaten silly, and there was no point fighting it. He sensed Podo’s rant coming to an end and forced himself to listen.

“…this is a dangerous place, this forest, and many a man has been gobbled up by some critter because he weren’t paying close enough attention.”

“Yes sir,” Janner said as respectfully as possible. Podo grinned at him and winked, and Janner smiled back in spite of himself. It occurred to him that Podo knew exactly what he’d been thinking.

Podo turned to Tink. “A truly fine shot, boy, and the drawing of the Fang on that board is fine work.”

“Thanks, Grandpa,” Tink said. His stomach growled. “When can we eat breakfast?”

“Listen, lad,” Podo said. He lowered his bushy eyebrows and leveled a formidable glare at Tink. “When yer brother tells ye to come, you drop what yer doin’ like it’s on fire.” Tink gulped. “You follow that boy over the cliffs and into the Dark Sea if he tells you to. Yer the High King, which means ye’ve got to start thinkin’ of more than yerself.”

Janner’s irritation drained away, as did the color in Tink’s face. He liked not being the only one in trouble, though he felt a little ashamed at the pleasure he took in watching Tink squirm.

“Yes sir,” Tink said. Podo stared at him so long that he repeated, “Yes sir.”

“You okay, lass?” Podo turned with a smile to Leeli. She nodded and pushed some of her wavy hair behind one ear. “Grandpa, when are we leaving?”

All eyes in the tree house looked at her with surprise. The family had spent weeks in relative peace in the forest, but that unspoken question had grown more and more difficult to avoid as the days passed. They knew they couldn’t stay forever. Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang still terrorized the land of Skree, and the shadow they cast covered more of Aerwiar with every passing day. It was only a matter of time before that shadow fell again on the Igibys.

“We need to leave soon,” Nia said, looking in the direction of Glipwood. “When the leaves fall, we’ll be exposed, won’t we, Artham?”

Peet jumped a little at his name and rubbed the back of his head with one hand for a moment before he spoke. “Cold winter comes, trees go bare, the bridges are easy to see, yes. We should grobably po—probably go.”

“To the Ice Prairies?” asked Janner.

“Yes,” said Nia. “The Fangs don’t like the cold weather. We’ve all seen how much slower they move in the winter, even here. Hopefully in a place as frozen as the Ice Prairies, the Fangs will be scarce.”

Podo grunted.

“I know what you think, and it’s not one of our options,” Nia said flatly.

“What does Grandpa think?” Tink asked.

“That’s between your grandfather and me.”

“What does he think?” Janner pressed, realizing he sounded more like a grownup than usual.

Nia looked at Janner, trying to decide if she should give him an answer. She had kept so many secrets from the children for so long that it was plain to Janner she still found it difficult to be open with them. But things were different now. Janner knew who he was, who his father was, and had a vague idea what was at stake. He had even noticed his input mattered to his mother and grandfather. Being a Throne Warden— or at least knowing he was a Throne Warden—had changed the way they regarded him.

“Well,” Nia said, still not sure how much to say.

Podo decided for her. “I think we need to do more than get to the Ice Prairies and lie low like a family of bumpy digtoads, waitin’ fer things to happen to us. If Oskar was right about there bein’ a whole colony of folks up north what don’t like livin’ under the boot of the Fangs, and if he’s right about them wantin’ to fight, then they don’t need us to gird up and send these Fangs back to Dang with their tails on fire. I say the jewels need to find a ship and go home.” He turned to his daughter. “Think of it, lass! You could sail back across the Dark Sea to Anniera—”

“What do you mean ‘you’?” Tink asked.

“Nothin’,” Podo said with a wave of his hand. “Nia, you could go home. Think of it!”

“There’s nothing left for us there,” Nia said.

“Fine! Forget Anniera. What about the Hollows? You ain’t seen the Green Hollows in ten years, and for all you know, the Fangs haven’t even set foot there! Yer ma’s family might still be there, thinkin’ you died with the rest of us.”

Nia closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. Peet and the children stared at the floor. Janner hadn’t thought about the fact that he might have distant family living in the hills of the Green Hollows across the sea. He agreed with his mother that it seemed foolish to try to make such a journey. First they had to get past the Fangs in Torrboro, then north, over the Stony Mountains to the Ice Prairies. Now Podo was talking about crossing the ocean? Janner wasn’t used to thinking of the world in such terms.

Nia opened her eyes and spoke. “Papa, there’s nothing for us to do now but find our way north. We don’t need to go across the sea. We don’t need to go back to Anniera. We don’t need to go to the Green Hollows. We need to go north, away from the Fangs. That’s all. Let’s get these children safely to the prairies, and we’ll finish this discussion then.”

Podo sighed. “Aye, lass. Gettin’ there will cause enough trouble of its own.” He fixed an eye on Peet, who stood on his head in the corner. “I suppose you’ll be comin’ with us, then?”

Peet gasped and tumbled to the floor, then leapt to his feet and saluted Podo. Leeli giggled.

“Aye sir,” he said, mimicking Podo’s raspy growl. “I’m ready to go when the Featherwigs are ready. Even know how to get to the Icy Prairies. Been there before, long time ago—not much to see but ice and prairies and ice all white and blinding and cold. It’s very cold there. Icy.” Peet took a deep, happy breath and clapped his socked hands together. “All right! We’re off !”

He flipped open the trapdoor and leapt through the opening before Podo or the Igibys could stop him. The children hurried to the trapdoor and watched him slide down the rope ladder and march away in a northward direction. From the crook in the giant root system of the tree where he usually slept, Nugget perked up his big, floppy ears without lifting his head from his paws and watched Peet disappear into the forest.

“He’ll come back when he realizes we aren’t with him,” Leeli said with a smile. She and Peet spent hours together either reading stories or with him dancing about with great swoops of his socked hands while she played her whistleharp. Leeli’s presence seemed to have a medicinal effect on Peet. When they were together, his jitters ceased, his eyes stopped shifting, and his voice took on a deeper, less strained quality.

The strong and pleasant sound of it helped Janner believe his mother’s stories about Artham P. Wingfeather’s exploits in Anniera before the Great War. The only negative aspect of Leeli and Peet’s friendship was that it made Podo jealous. Before Peet the Sock Man entered their lives, Podo and Leeli shared a special bond, partly because each of them had only one working leg and partly because of the ancient affection that exists between grandfathers and granddaughters. Nia once told Janner that it was also partly because Leeli looked a lot like her grandmother Wendolyn.

While the children watched Peet march away, a quick shadow passed over the tree house, followed by a high, pleasant sound, like the ting of a massive bell struck by a tiny hammer.

“The lone fendril,” 2 said Leeli. “Tomorrow is the first day of autumn.”

“Papa,” said Nia.

“Eh?” Podo glared out the window in the direction Peet had gone.

“I think it’s time we left,” Nia said.

Tink and Janner looked at each other and grinned. All homesickness vanished. After weeks of waiting, adventure was upon them.

2. In Aerwiar, the official last day of summer is heralded by the passing of the lone fendril, a giant golden bird whose wingspan casts entire towns into a thrilling flicker of shade as it circles the planet in a long, ascending spiral. When it reaches the northern pole of Aerwiar, it hibernates until spring, then reverses its journey.